In June 1660, John Hutchinson, one of the Parliamentary army’s ‘flinty colonels’, faced mortal danger. As his signature was on the death warrant of Charles I, he was now looking at the prospect of being hanged, drawn and quartered.
Happily for him his wife, Lucy, a Latin scholar and translator of Lucretius, one of a number of formidable women in Charles Spencer’s book, was sister to Sir Allen Apsley, who had been a Royalist cavalry officer during the Civil War. After being captured, he had faced a crippling fine to secure his release. Prompted by his wife, Hutchinson had successfully petitioned to have this drastically reduced. After the king’s execution Apsley left for the Netherlands, where he became one of the exiled Charles II’s closest drinking companions. Consequently, he was well placed to repay the favour when, after the Restoration, his brother-in-law in turn faced jeopardy. Apsley’s influence, along with a detailed apology urged on him by his wife, saved Hutchinson’s life.
Spencer’s story, which starts with the trial of Charles I in 1649 and then moves on to the vengeance of his son after he was restored to the throne in 1660, is one of tables being turned, as those who had sat in judgement now faced retribution themselves. The first