At the eastern end of the Banqueting House –
which the deposed tyrant Charles Stuart had had
the architect Inigo Jones design
with its Rubens ceiling centre piece –
wooden steps were constructed from the stone floor
to the window sill, and wide enough so that
the condemned and two soldiers might climb abreast.
The scaffold was built against the outside wall,
and level with the sill so the long windows
could be opened like a pair of doors.
The platform extended almost half way
across the street so that all could clearly see
what it meant to kill a king, to be
no longer bound subjects but free citizens.
On that January Tuesday the poet,
Andrew Marvell, attended the beheading:
He nothing common did or mean
Upon that memorable scene,
But with his keener eye
The axe’s edge did try;
Nor call’d the gods with vulgar spite
To vindicate his helpless right,
But bowed his comely head
Down as upon a bed.
Charles’s head was severed with one blow.
It was lifted by its hair and shown
to the crowd, as custom dictated,
by the masked executioner, who threw it
to the soldiers below.