John Bradshaw (judge)

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Lord President Bradshaw, who was present, though by long sickness very weak and much extenuated, yet animated by his ardent zeal and constant affection to the common cause, upon hearing Col Syndenham's justifications of the proceedings of the army in again disrupting parliament, stood up and interrupted him, declaring his abhorrence of that detestable action, and telling the council, that being now going to his God, he had not patience to sit there to hear his great name so openly blasphemed; and thereupon departed to his lodgings, and withdrew himself from public employment. [11]

He died on 31 October 1659, aged 57. He was buried with great honours at Westminster Abbey. The eulogy was given by John Rowe. [2] On his deathbed Bradshaw said that if called upon to try the King again he would be "the first man in England to do it".

Posthumous execution

Charles II returned to power in 1660. On 30 January 1661, the twelfth anniversary of the regicide, the bodies of Bradshaw, Cromwell and Henry Ireton were ordered to be exhumed and displayed in chains all day on the gallows at Tyburn. At sunset, the three bodies that had been displayed publicly as those of the three judges being executed posthumously were all beheaded. The bodies were thrown into a common pit and the heads displayed on pikes at Westminster Hall. [7] Samuel Pepys wrote in his diary that he saw the heads there on 5 February. The body of Bradshaw's wife was also exhumed from Westminster Abbey and, along with the remains of other Parliamentarians buried at Westminster, reburied in a common pit at St Margaret's, Westminster.

Jamaica connection

Some sources claim that the body of Bradshaw had previously been removed by his son, James or John Bradshaw, [12] [13] who re-buried his father's remains on a hill near Martha's Brae on Jamaica and marked the spot with a cannon. A location now known as "Gun Hill" is 2.5 miles south-west of the northern port city of Falmouth, in Trelawny Parish. One of the three men had children who removed to Highland County, Virginia. James Bradshaw acquired the land in Jamaica where his father's remains were buried. Several sources recorded an inscription with the cannon found on Gun Hill, Jamaica, and attribute the quote Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God to John Bradshaw. [14]


While some political philosophers have defended Bradshaw, [15] most legal authorities have taken the view expressed in 1999 by Michael Kirby (then a Justice of the High Court of Australia) that the High Court of Justice for the trial of Charles I, of which Bradshaw was president, was illegal. [16] However, in his 2005 book The Tyrannicide Brief (a biography of John Cook, the prosecutor at the trial), Geoffrey Robertson Q.C. put forward the argument that while the court was illegal due to the political settlement reached at the Restoration of the monarchy in 1660, the trial anticipated the developments in humanitarian law in the second half of the 20th century, and that the leading participants in the trial are to be admired rather than condemned. [17] [18] [19]


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 "John Bradshaw". Westminster Abbey. Retrieved 13 July 2018.
  2. 1 2 3 4 "Bradshaw, John". The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. VIII, 1921. The first edition of this text is available at Wikisource:  "Bradshaw, John (1602–1659)"  . Dictionary of National Biography . London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.
  3. Esme W. Stratford, King Charles the Martyr, 1643–1649. Westport, CT: Greenwood P, 1975, p. 318–342.
  4. "CONGLETON" at
  5. 1 2 3 4 William L. Sachse, "England's "Black Tribunal": an Analysis of the Regicide Court", in: The Journal of British Studies 12 (1973), p. 69–85.
  6. Colbran, John (1840). Colbran's New Guide for Tunbridge Wells. Cornhill, London: A H Bailey & Co. p. 333. Archived from the original on 12 October 2017. Retrieved 10 December 2010.
  7. 1 2 C. V. Wedgwood, A Coffin for King Charles. New York: The Macmillan Co., 1964, p. 183.
  8. "The spirit of Christmas past". Retrieved 22 August 2023.
  9. Wedgwood, Josiah C. (1920). Staffordshire Parliamentary History. William Salt Archaeological Society. pp. 98–99.
  10. 1 2 3 Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Volume 7. Oxford University Press. 2004. p. 241. ISBN   0-19-861357-1.
  11. Ludlow 1894, pp. 140–141.
  12. Bridges 1828, p. 446.
  13. Urban 1784, pp. 833–835.
  14. From WikiQuote for Rebellion
  15. Bowden & Davis 2008, pp. 57–60.
  16. "The trial of King Charles I was, by legal standards, a rather discreditable affair. The 'Court' had no legal authority. It was the creature of the power of the army." ( Kirby 1999 , p. 7)
  17. Robertson 2005.
  18. Robertson 2008.
  19. Devereux 2005.

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Lord President of the Council of State
John Bradshaw
John Bradshaw, George Perfect Harding.png
19th century engraving of John Bradshaw by George Perfect Harding
President of the Council of State
In office
12 March 1649 29 December 1651
Legal offices
Preceded by
Sir Thomas Milward
Chief Justice of Chester
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Gilbert Gerrard
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
(Commissioner 1653–1654)

Succeeded by
Preceded by Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
Succeeded by