John Bradshaw (judge)

John Bradshaw (judge)

John Bradshaw (1602-October 31, 1659) was an English judge. He is most notable for his role in the trial of King Charles I.

Early life

John Bradshaw (spelt with a final "e" in contemporary documents) the second son of Henry Bradshaw and Mary Marbury was born in 1602 at Wibersley Hall or Peace Farm,Marple,(his father farmed at both) and baptized on December 10th in Stockport Church. As a child he attended the free school at Stockport, as well as schools in Bunbury, Chesire, and Middleton."Bradshaw, John". "The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. VIII, 1921.] According to tradition he wrote the following inscription on a gravestone at either Macclesfield or Bunbury in Cheshire: :"My brother Henry must heir the land,:My brother Frank must be at his command;:Whilst I, poor Jack, will do that:That all the world will wonder at!"Esme W. Stratford, "King Charles the Martyr, 1643-1649". Westport, CT: Greenwood P, 1975, p. 318-342.]

He was articled as clerk to an attorney in Congleton. After studying law in London, he was called to the bar at Gray’s Inn on April 23rd, 1627. He served on the provincial bar of Congleton until he became mayor in 1637. John Milton wrote highly of Bradshaw’s aptitude during his public service, saying that “All his early life he was sedulously employed in making himself acquainted with the laws of the country; he then practiced with singular success and reputation at the bar.”William L. Sachse, "England's "Black Tribunal": an Analysis of the Regicide Court", in: "The Journal of British Studies 12 (1973), p. 69-85.]

At some time between 1640 and 1643, Bradshaw moved from Congleton to Basinghall Street in London. In 1643, he was elected judge of the London sheriff’s court. He maintained the post until his death.He was appointed a serjeant-at-law by Parliament and in 1648 Chief Justice of Chester and North Wales.

Trial of the King

In 1649 he was made president of the parliamentary commission to try the king. Other lawyers of greater prominence had refused the position.

Bradshaw was a controversial choice as Lord President, and opinions of his efficiency as a judge varied. Bulstrode Whitelocke believed that he was “learned in his profession,” but Thomas Fuller dismissed him as a man “of execrable memory, of whom nothing good is remembered.” The King himself, as well as much of the court, professed to having never heard of him.

Bradshaw himself did not attend court until the third session after his appointment, apologizing on the grounds that he had been out of London and disavowed his ability to perform “so important a task.” While he served as the Lord President, he was flanked by an impressive personal guard and carried a sword at his side. He wore scarlet robes and a “broad-brimmed, bullet-proof iron hat, which he had covered over with velvet.” King Charles refused to recognise the authority of the court and would not plead. After declaring Charles I guilty as a “Tyrant, Traitor, Murderer, and a public enemy,” Bradshaw did not allow the king any final words. Under English law, a condemned prisoner was no longer alive and therefore did not have the right to speak, and Bradshaw followed this tradition strictly.C. V. Wedgwood, "A Coffin for King Charles". New York: The Macmillan Co., 1964, p. 183.]

Commonwealth and Protectorate

On 12 March, 1649 Bradshaw was elected President of the Council of State, which was to act as the Executive of the country's government in place of the King and the Privy Council. After wars in Scotland and Ireland the Long Parliament had still not dissolved itself or called for re-elections.On 30 April 1653, Oliver Cromwell declared Parliament and the Council dissolved and soon assumed rule as Lord Protector calling elections for a new Parliament himself.

Since 1 August , 1649, Bradshaw had also held the post of Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. After 1653, he served as commissioner of the Duchy, jointly with Thomas Fell, until mounting differences with Cromwell culminated in this resignation in 1654. Bradshaw, though an ardent Republican, became an opponent of the Protectorate.

After Oliver Cromwell died in 1658, his son Richard succeeded him as Lord Protector and reinstated Bradshaw as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.

In 1659, Bradshaw moved to Westminster after falling dangerously ill, and died on 31 October of the same year. He was buried with great honours at Westminster Abbey. The eulogy was given by John Rowe. On his deathbed Bradshaw averred that if called upon to try the King again he would be -"the first man in England to do it".

Posthumous execution

Charles II was restored to his throne in 1660. On January 30th, 1661 - the twelfth anniversary of the regicide - the bodies of Bradshaw, Cromwell and Henry Ireton were exhumed and displayed in chains all day on the gallows at Tyburn. At sunset the bodies were beheaded. The bodies were thrown into a common pit and the heads were displayed on pikes on top of Westminster Hall.


External links

* [ Biography of John Bradshaw] British Civil Wars website
* [ Biography of John Bradshaw]

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