Saturday 14 June 1662

Up by four o’clock in the morning and upon business at my office. Then we sat down to business, and about 11 o’clock, having a room got ready for us, we all went out to the Tower-hill; and there, over against the scaffold, made on purpose this day, saw Sir Henry Vane brought. A very great press of people. He made a long speech, many times interrupted by the Sheriff and others there; and they would have taken his paper out of his hand, but he would not let it go. But they caused all the books of those that writ after him to be given the Sheriff; and the trumpets were brought under the scaffold that he might not be heard.

Then he prayed, and so fitted himself, and received the blow; but the scaffold was so crowded that we could not see it done. But Boreman, who had been upon the scaffold, came to us and told us, that first he began to speak of the irregular proceeding against him; that he was, against Magna Charta, denied to have his exceptions against the indictment allowed; and that there he was stopped by the Sheriff. Then he drew out his, paper of notes, and begun to tell them first his life; that he was born a gentleman, that he was bred up and had the quality of a gentleman, and to make him in the opinion of the world more a gentleman, he had been, till he was seventeen years old, a good fellow, but then it pleased God to lay a foundation of grace in his heart, by which he was persuaded, against his worldly interest, to leave all preferment and go abroad, where he might serve God with more freedom. Then he was called home, and made a member of the Long Parliament; where he never did, to this day, any thing against his conscience, but all for the glory of God. Here he would have given them an account of the proceedings of the Long Parliament, but they so often interrupted him, that at last he was forced to give over: and so fell into prayer for England in generall, then for the churches in England, and then for the City of London: and so fitted himself for the block, and received the blow. He had a blister, or issue, upon his neck, which he desired them not hurt: he changed not his colour or speech to the last, but died justifying himself and the cause he had stood for; and spoke very confidently of his being presently at the right hand of Christ; and in all, things appeared the most resolved man that ever died in that manner, and showed more of heat than cowardize, but yet with all humility and gravity. One asked him why he did not pray for the King. He answered, “Nay,” says he, “you shall see I can pray for the King: I pray God bless him!”

The King had given his body to his friends; and, therefore, he told them that he hoped they would be civil to his body when dead; and desired they would let him die like a gentleman and a Christian, and not crowded and pressed as he was.

So to the office a little, and so to the Trinity-house all of us to dinner; and then to the office again all the afternoon till night. So home and to bed. This day, I hear, my Lord Peterborough is come unexpected from Tangier, to give the King an account of the place, which, we fear, is in none of the best condition. We had also certain news to-day that the Spaniard is before Lisbon with thirteen sail; six Dutch, and the rest his own ships; which will, I fear, be ill for Portugall.

I writ a letter of all this day’s proceedings to my Lord, at Hinchingbroke, who, I hear, is very well pleased with the work there.

19 Annotations

First Reading

A. De Araujo  •  Link

"all of us to dinner"
Gotta have a strong stomach,or is this just after Theater dinner?

Cumgranissalis  •  Link

Sam be interested to see "'wot 'appens to those that x's the royals" as Vane be a former Navy treasurer, and there be many that had even used their good offices to come to the defence, but it be said
"Charles II to remark that Vane was "too dangerous a man to let live". He was found guilty and sentenced to death". We have come a long way in removing the opposing thought.
Then, as indicated between the lines, He got to see his mourners before departing, and deliver his own eulogy [panegyric]. He got the A list choice of departure, the beheading rather than the old cart down the streets to the old oak tree at Tyburne
and all the mourners grabbing anything of value like his socks.

JWB  •  Link

Chas. Dickens:
" When he came upon the scaffold on Tower Hill, after conducting his own defence with great power, his notes of what he had meant to say to the people were torn away from him, and the drums and trumpets were ordered to sound lustily and drown his voice; for, the people had been so much impressed by what the Regicides had calmly said with their last breath, that it was the custom now, to have the drums and trumpets always under the scaffold, ready to strike up. Vane said no more than this: 'It is a bad cause which cannot bear the words of a dying man:' and bravely died."

Mary  •  Link

The Spaniard is before Lisbon

Spain and Portugal were at war between 1641 and 1668. At this point the Spanish were short of men-'o-war and augmenting their fleet with Dutch vessels, sometimes merchant ships re-fitted for fighting.

JonTom Kittredge  •  Link

"After Theatre Dinner..."
Having followed this blog for two and a half years, I've gotten somewhat familiar with how different attitudes were then, especially about executions. Still, this entry brings it home to me once again forcefully. SP is not there as a sympathizer of Vane -- he supports the current order -- nor is he there out of a burning desire to see vengance on the republican -- SP seems to respect Vane's courage and integrity.

No doubt he went partly because it was expected. Still, I'm struck by a couple of details: that (apparently) the Navy Board crew had arranged for a room with a good view; and that, even so, Pepys complains they couldn't see the beheading itself. It's hard for me to avoid thinking that it was indeed largely entertainment for him and the rest.

David Ross McIrvine  •  Link

In 1662 appeared George Sikes's *The Life and Death of Sir Henry Vane the Younger*, which included the following poem. John Milton's Sonnet number 17, we call it, with cancelled title in manuscript reading "To Sir Henry Vane the younger."
I think it was only published in the Sikes book, during Milton's life.

Vane, young in yeares, but in sage counsell old,
Then whome a better Senatour nere held
The helme of Rome, when gownes not armes repelld
The feirce Epeirot & the African bold,

Whether to settle peace or to unfold
The drift of hollow states hard to be spelld,
Then to advise how warr may best, upheld,
Move by her two maine nerves, Iron & Gold

In all her equipage; besides to know
Both spirituall powre & civill, what each meanes,
What severs each, thou 'hast learnt, which few have don

The bounds of either sword to thee wee ow.
Therefore on thy firme hand religion leanes
In peace, and reck'ns thee her eldest son.

david mcirvine  •  Link

I should note that the poem was written in 1652.

Tom Burns  •  Link

After Theatre Dinner
After spending several months reading Sam's most intimate thoughts, I doubt that the execution was entertainment for him, tho' I can certainly see a good bit of morbid curiosity in him. I don't doubt there was also a good bit of "There but for the grace of God, go I."

Dave Bell  •  Link

It seems clear that Sam is behaving with a touch of circumspection; look at how he describes the board meeting, and seems to be standing to one side of the argument about the victualling bills. But this isn't yet the time when a Civil Servant can be politically neutral. Though Sam has reached the level where, even in modern times, a change of government could lead to a change of job.

Mickey  •  Link

I think there's an element of obligation in his attendance, as JonTom suggests. He works for the King, and is expected to support the crown. The current political stream was to punish the regicides, and he was in no position to show sympathy to that cause now. It was in his best interest to be seen as a royalist, and that meant attending the execution of the regicides. There's also a bit of the historical interest I'm sure, as suggested by Cumgranissalis.

A. Hamilton  •  Link

Vane's execution

Sam gives as closely observed and overheard an account as possible-- a long passage for the diary. He was obviously impressed, as am I.

Second Reading

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"it pleased God to lay a foundation of grace in his heart, by which he was persuaded, against his worldly interest, to leave all preferment and go abroad," -- I.e. to Massachusetts (1635-7), where he served in 1636 as Governor. (L&M)

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"The King had given his body to his friends"

L&M: This was probably because his brother Sir Walter (in 1664 made envoy to Brandenburg) had been a royalist.

Terry Foreman  •  Link

" This day, I hear, my Lord Peterborough is come unexpected from Tangier, to give the King an account of the place"

June 30. 206. Francesco Giavarina, Venetian Resident in England, to the Doge and Senate.
From Plymouth where he landed the earl of Peterborough came post to Court. He at once saw the king and queen and gave an account of the state in which he had left the place. The reasons for his coming are said to be merely to inform his Majesty of affairs there, to receive fresh instructions and to take back his wife and family. But those who profess to know the secrets of the Court declare that his chief object is to ask for means of subsistence and to represent the calamitous condition of the garrison, mostly perished of hunger and by the sword of the Africans, as some squadrons which went out to seek food in the country were set upon by the barbarians, who laid an ambush, so that they not only failed in their intent, but only a few escaped, the rest falling victims to the inhuman ferocity of those who only rejoice in the blood of Christians. Although the Court does not let these particulars be known, there is no doubt about there being some trouble. This is shown clearly by the chancellor, going late to Hampton Court the day before yesterday, which causes great intrigue and talk among the speculative. Time will disclose the truth.
'Venice: June 1662', Calendar of State Papers Relating to English Affairs in the Archives of Venice, Volume 33: 1661-1664 (1932), pp. 146-158. URL:…

Sasha Clarkson  •  Link

It's worth mentioning that, despite the odd comment here, Vane was NOT a regicide, else he had already been despatched by a less honourable and more barbarous method.

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"This day, I hear, my Lord Peterborough is come unexpected from Tangier, to give the King an account of the place, which, we fear, is in none of the best condition."

L&M: Peterborough's 'unexpected arrival' was commented on by the Venetian resident (see above). Instead of a thriving port Tangier turned out to be a liability: most of the Portuguese traders there chose to leave rather than to live under English rule, and the Moorish warlord immediately attacked the garrison and was with difficulty bought off by an insecure truce. See Routh, ch. ii.

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