BBC Radio 4, 14 July 2013
Charles I (Julian Rhind-Tutt)
faces execution on the morning of January 30, 1649. It's a cold day, but he chooses to wear something warm so as to
prevent people from thinking he is scared of his fate. Death is inevitable; what matters is how he faces up to it.
As he prepares for the occasion,
he looks back on the events that led him to the scaffold; his battles against the Parliamentarians; his meetings with Cromwell;
his relationship with Strafford (Anton Lesser), his once-closest ally whom the King inadvertently sent to the grave; and his
attempts to maintain royal authority in the face of increasing rebellion. Not that he was short of advice: Queen Henrietta
Maria (Vanessa Kirby) in particular wanted him to pursue certain courses of action that he felt he could not carry out.
Jessica Dromgoole and Sasha
Yevtushenko's production portrayed a King whose lofty principles - that he was God's representative on earth and thus could
not be challenged by mere mortals - were undermined by indecision and a belief in human goodness. Charles simply could
not countenance the fact that his rivals, led by Cromwell (Ben Crowe), not only disagreed with him, but had a fundamentally
different, very person-centred approach to power. Everyone, including the King, were equal in the sight of God.
Charles' indecision led him
into some catastrophic mistakes - for example, relying on the Scots to help him fight the Parliamentarians without realizing
that they would want something impossible (both financially and governmentally) in return. He believed - quite
wrongly - that his power was absolute; and thus Strafford could not be executed unless he gave his permission. It was
only at the end that he realized that the country was now ruled "by the mob" rather than by the sovereign.
Yet perhaps Charles could not
be blamed for his shortcomings; he remained a fundamentally good-hearted person, trusting - perhaps too much - in his advisors,
while not realizing that he lacked both the intellectual and physical cunning to triumph over the Parliamentarians.
Walker's script was particularly good at exploring Charles' character and the way he dealt - or failed to deal - with the
situations facing him. Rhind-Tutt's rather diffident method of delivery was contrasted with Lesser's more assertive
tones; although faced with an impossible situation, he knew how to exploit the Parliamentarians' weaknesses. It was particularly
sad that the King could not help him.