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Richard brandon

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Richard Brandon (died 20 June 1649)[a] was the common executioner of London from 1639 to 1649, who inherited his role from his father Gregory Brandon and was sometimes known as Young Gregory.[2] Richard Brandon is often named as the executioner of Charles I, though the executioner's identity is not definitely known.[3]

Brandon was born in London, at an unknown date, son to the common executioner of London, Gregory Brandon, and his wife Alice. Gregory Brandon had become executioner in 1611, and was then living with his family on Rosemary Lane, Whitechapel (now known as Royal Mint Street).[4] Though little can be ascertained of Brandon's early years, rumours abounded of his gruesome upbringing as the son of London's executioner. He was rumoured to have decapitated stray cats and dogs, in training for his future position.[5] Brandon's father, Gregory, found himself on the wrong side of the law in January 1611, when he was convicted of the manslaughter of one Simon Morton, though he was not punished thanks to a bizarre pleading of the benefit of clergy.[6] In 1617 Gregory was the butt of a practical joke played by the members of the London College of Arms, wherein he was granted "the royal arms of Arragon, with a canton of Brabant" and thereby made into a gentleman. This joke was taken up by the people of London, who elevated Gregory to esquire, a satirical title that passed down to his successors as London's hangman. This resulted in the imprisonment of the members responsible, including the Garter Principal King of Arms, William Segar.[7][8][9]

Brandon worked with his father in his later years, and succeeded him around 1639, ostensibly obtaining the position through inheritance.[10] In 1641 he was imprisoned at Newgate Prison for bigamy, though he was cleared of this charge on two occasions. At this time he was living at the same address, Rosemary Lane, with his wife Mary (whether she was the allegedly bigamous wife of Brandon's or not is not recorded).[11] As the common hangman of London, Brandon was responsible for several notable executions through the English Civil War, including Charles' advisor Thomas Wentworth, 1st Earl of Strafford, on 12 May 1641 and Archbishop of Canterbury William Laud on 10 January 1645.[12][13]

Brandon was the Common Hangman of London in 1649 and he is frequently cited as the executioner of Charles I. The royalist losses of the English Civil War had led to Charles I's capture. Upon his trial, the High Court of Justice sentenced him to death for his tyrannical rule as King of England. The execution of Charles I occurred on 30 January 1649 outside the Banqueting House in Whitehall; the executioner and his assistant were hidden behind false wigs and beards, with crude masks covering their faces. Because of this, contemporary sources disagreed with each other and misidentified the executioner (one French source reported that Thomas Fairfax and Oliver Cromwell had personally executed Charles) and the precise identity of the executioner remains unknown. The execution of Charles I was done expertly, with a single clean cut to Charles' neck, possibly suggesting that the executioner was experienced, and pointing towards someone like Brandon who had much pride in his use of an axe.[14][15] He is also reported to have received £30 around the time of the execution.[16] He had also executed other royalists before Charles and after, including Thomas Wentworth, William Laud, and Lord Capel, indicating few moral qualms over executing political criminals.[17] Despite this, a contemporary letter reports that he refused £200 to kill the king,[18] and he continually denied having committed the act, even until his death in June 1649.[12]

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