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Thomas Wentworth: Famous Last Words

Posted in Famous Last Words on Thursday, 31 March 2011

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Thomas Wentworth was a major political figure in the period leading up to the English Civil War, serving in the Parliament of King Charles II.

picture, Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Strafford, execution

Thomas Wentworth, the Earl of Strafford, on his way to his execution. Illustration after Hippolyte

As Lord Deputy of Ireland, he instigated a harsh rule, and was made Earl of Strafford by the King in 1640. However, he was later impeached for “high misdemeanours” over his conduct and sent to the Tower of London. Strafford exploited the weakness of the prosecution case to make the impeachment fail.

Parliament then passed a bill of attainder which in effect meant that Strafford could be executed simply because Parliament wanted him to die. Strafford was unpopular with the public and this helped sway the House of Lords (of which Strafford was a member) to pass the attainder. The final hurdle was the King to whom Strafford had been extremely loyal. Strafford, in a final act of loyalty, absolved the King of any guilt over signing his death warrant, saying it was necessary in order to reconcile the King and his people.

On the scaffold, before a crowd of 200,000, Strafford said:

I know how to look death in the face and the people too. I thank God I am no more afraid of death, but as cheerfully put off my doublet at this time as ever I did when I went to bed.

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