This short article is soon to be expanded and turned into a short book
Sometime in 1649, in the ancient town of St Albans two unfortunate people were being prepared for execution. John Palmer and Elizabeth Knott had somehow found themselves accused of witchcraft and not surprisingly were found guilty. Once accused their fate was almost inevitable, as it took little time for the ruthless and professional witch-finders to extract a confession or find reasons for their guilt. John and Elizabeth’s misery was soon ended when they were publicly hung for their “crimes”. Two years earlier the infamous and self styled “Wichfinder General” Matthew Hopkins had hung his last witch. History is uncertain as to what fate Hopkins befell but it is fairly certain he died rich from the highly lucrative business of witch-finding. However, there were plenty of others eager to follow his speciality in trying to save the population from the scourge of witchcraft and their master, the devil.
At around the same time in the centre of London a real general had his sights set on the execution of what he believed to be a real “devil”, only this devil was an English king. Charles Stuart of England was a king who firmly believed he ruled by divine right and that within his realm, he alone was at the top of the decision making process. His view was that his word was the word of God and therefore he answered to no one and that include an elected parliament. It was Charles’s constant need to get his own way that ultimately led to his downfall. Instead of concentrating on running the country, he constantly used the common people as a club to gain control over parliament. After eleven years of bloody civil war, due to Charles’s arrogance and enforced religious reforms and financial ineptitude, Parliament and the Army had had enough. At the time a majority within Parliament (who had a vested interest) were happy to keep Charles as monarch as long as he played by the rules; but Charles together with his French Catholic wife, were just not able to stop causing trouble by scheming and intrigue. He went back on promises and secretly organised a third civil war by inviting both the Scots and Irish to invade England. This was the final straw; those in parliament that had managed to live through the slaughter of the last eleven years were now in no mood for forgiveness and so laid their plans to rid themselves of what they saw as a tyrannical megalomaniac. They believed that whilst ever Charles lived there would be no peace in England.
And now we are entered into the year 1648/49: his Majesty being at St. James's House, in January of that year, I begun its observations thus:
‘I am serious, I beg and expect justice; either fear or shame begins to question offenders.
So it was, during the Christmas holidays of 1648, that we find a rather puzzled gentleman hurrying through the cold London streets for an auspicious meeting. The gentleman was William Lilly; England’s most famous and successful astrologer and he had with him some fateful papers. Below is an account of that meeting taken from his autobiography “The Life of William Lilly, Student in Astrology”.
In Christmas holidays, the Lord Gray of Grooby (Note 1) and Hugh Peters (Note 2) sent for me to Somerset-House, with directions to bring them two of my Almanacs. I did so; Peters and he read January's observations.
'If we are not fools and knaves,' saith he, 'we shall do justice:' then they whispered. I understood not their meaning till his Majesty was beheaded. They applied what I wrote of justice, to be understood of his Majesty, which was contrary to my intention; for Jupiter, the first day of January, became direct; and Libra is a sign signifying Justice; I implored for justice generally upon such as had cheated in their places, being treasurers, and such like officers. I had not then heard the least intimation of bringing the King unto trial, and yet the first day thereof I was casually there, it being upon a Saturday; for going to Westminster every Saturday in the afternoon, in these times, at White-hall I casually met Peters; 'Come, Lilly, wilt thou go hear the King tried?' 'When?' said I. 'Now, just now; go with me.' (Note 3) I did so, and was permitted by the guard of soldiers to pass up to the King's-Bench. Within one quarter of an hour came the Judges, presently his Majesty, who spoke excellently well, and majestically, without impediment in the least when he spoke. I saw the silver top of his staff unexpectedly fall to the ground, which was took up by Mr. Rushworth: and then I heard Bradshaw the Judge say to his Majesty,
'Sir, instead of answering the court, you interrogate their power, which becomes not one in your condition'--
Later, Lilly talks about another meeting he had:
The week, or three or four days before his Majesty's beheading, one Major Sydenham, who had commands in Scotland, came to take his leave of me, and told me the King was to be put to death, which I was not willing to believe, and said, 'I could not be persuaded the Parliament could find any Englishman so barbarous, that would do that foul action.' 'Rather,' saith he, 'than they should want such a man, these arms of mine should do it.' He went presently after into Scotland, and upon the first engagement against them, was slain, and his body miserably cut and mangled (Note 4).
Lilly mentions the well known, but seemingly trivial incident where the silver top of Charles’s walking stick falls off when he prodded the prosecutor Cook in the back and was considered an ill omen. It should be remembered that Charles the King had hardly ever picked anything up in his life, so as the top of his cane rolled around the hushed courtroom floor, he waited expectantly for Cook to retrieve it for him; but Cook ignored him and continued with his opening declaration. This was the quintessential moment when Charles realised just how powerless he was, and that this time his opponents meant business. In those few chilling seconds Charles was lost for words as it now dawned on him that, just like the top of his cane, his own head could soon be rolling around the floor. Some historians embellish the story by stating that Charles was humiliated by having to retrieve it himself, this sounds dubious due to Charles being on the other side of the dividing screen from Cook. During his trial in 1660, Sir Thomas Hubert would attempt to ingratiate himself (and to try to save his own life) by stating he attempted to pick up the wayward item. It would seem that Lilly’s offhand comment is nearer the truth and that it was one of the courts clerks, Mr Rushworth that retrieved it and handed it back to Charles.
It would therefore appear from Lilly’s account that the date for the King’s execution was already being decided upon, and that it was based on an astrological judgment. The purpose of is article is try to prove if this was true or not, and unravel the logic applied to that decision.
Before I go any further, an important side issue needs to be explained regarding the dates given here and the English calendar in use at that time. People that have seen the death warrant of Charles I will know that the date clearly states, February 1648, yet history records the year of his execution as 1649. The answer to this inconsistency is that in Lilly’s day the year officially started on 25th March (Lady Day). Therefore, caution needs to be exercised with dates between 1st January and 25th March as you might have the wrong year. As I’m sure most of you know the change over from the Julian or Old Style (OS) to the Gregorian or New Style (NS) calendar removed a number of days from the year it was introduced, but the year that this happened and so the number of days removed (due to leap years) was not applied universally. For instance, most Catholic countries used the Gregorian calendar from 1582, but England and its colonies (and that included most of the eastern American states under British rule) did not change until 1756.
Space prevents me from describing the changes to the calendar between 1582 and 1756, and its impact on the study of astrology in that period. The Regiomantus house system has been throughout, in keeping with the system most used at the time.
The problem is that “Histrologers” may find themselves confused by the fact that most (if not all) astrology programs presume the Gregorian calendar universally started in 1582. The Swiss Ephemeris at www.astro.com simply computes dates as OS until 31st Dec 1581 and then confusingly starts as NS from 1st Jan 1582. Those of you that have studied Lilly’s judgments in “Christian Astrology” will be aware of the problem and can make the appropriate alterations, as there are copies of the actual charts with which to compare. If you’re using Nicholas Campion’s book “Born to Reign” for reference on Royal dates, then be careful. For instance, the birthday for Richard III (2nd October 1452) is Julian (os) and any astrology program will compute it correctly as it’s before 1581, but the birthday for Charles I (16th Nov 1600) is also a Julian date, but it will be computed as Gregorian (ns) by most astrology programs. It is worse if you want to study Queen Elizabeth I (1553 to1603) or ‘Mary Queen of Scots’ (1542 to 1587), who both start life with Julian dates and end with Julian and not Gregorian as most computer programs would have you believe.
Unfortunately, histrologers like myself are at the mercy of historians, who from my own experience are notoriously inconsistent in how they deal with dates. Most, but not all, will rectify the start of the year from March to January but leave the actual day as Julian and this also applies to computer programs. Some authors will ‘modernise’ the date from Julian to Gregorian, whatever the time era and some will give the wrong date altogether. This applies equally to both the printed word and the internet; both are just as inconsistent unless the author is particularly meticulous. If you have the time, money and resources you can consult the source material, bearing in mind that you will still have the problem of just what date to input the computer to obtain the “correct” chart. At worst you can obtain dates from a variety of sources and use your own judgment on a case by case basis, but remember plagiarism is rife, both on the internet and the written word, both are just as bad. I will not say anything else here about this problem other than to point readers to Ref. 1, where the full horrors of this subject are laid out for fellow astrologers to weep over.
There are however, a number of tricks that can be used to give you confidence that the data is either OS or NS. One of the most useful clues is to find the day of the week for the event as this is usually the most reliable i.e. the conversion from OS to NS will change the date but not the day of the week. However, there might be a slight problem with some dates being out by a day. Another clue is where information on an event such as an eclipse is mentioned, it is easy to see this on a chart if the Sun and Moon are both close to the nodes or go to the NASA eclipse website for confirmation of the date (http://sunearth.gsfc.nasa.gov/eclipse). However, be aware that this resource also starts the Gregorian calendar from 1582. If you want to apply fixed stars to these charts then you will have to take about 4° of arc from their present position i.e Algol, 2005 = 26° Taurus, 1650 = 22° Taurus
The Gathering Storm
'The lofty cedars begin to divine a thundering hurricane is at hand; God elevates men contemptible’.
‘Our demigods are sensible we begin to dislike their actions very much in London, more in the country’.
After King Charles was defeated at the battle Nasby an augment raged between Parliament and the army as to what to do with him. Charles was confident that his divine authority could not legally be challenged and that nobody could or would harm their anointed King. For this reason he continued to play off one fraction against another, at the same time secretly planning yet another Civil War. The Scottish backed Presbyterian MPs wanted a treaty with the King, but at the same time they turned down the army’s grievances. The army frustrated at being so shabbily treated after the civil war and believing that their sacrifices had been for nought, decided to take matters into their own hands. The army entered London on the 2nd December (os) 1648 and four days later, on the day of an eclipse, Colonel Pride banned or arrested a large number of MPs. Known as ‘Pride’s Purge’ it removed those MPs known to opposed both the army and for bringing the King to trial, the man who advised Pride on whom to remove was Lord Gray. With most of the opposition removed, the “Rump Parliament” sat to vote on the Kings fate.
We can now look in detail at the information that Lilly said he gave Lord Gray and Hugh Peters before the King’s trial. From the discussion it would appear that Gray and Peters had read Lilly’s book, “Christian Astrology” and were applying Lilly’s definition of Jupiter to Justice and the King in general. Lilly states that on the 1st January (os) Jupiter was in Libra and appears to imply that it had turned direct on that day. This is not exactly correct, Jupiter was indeed in Libra but was already going direct on the1st January, it would not be until the 13th January (os) that it would go retrograde. At this time the Christmas holidays extended from Christmas to 6 January (os) (Candlemass), the Puritan Parliament regade Christmas as any other working day and had sat on Boxing day. So I believe that Gray and Peters probably met Lilly on Monday the 1st January 1648/9 (os), the day Parliament met to issue the indictment against the King. It is therefore possible that Lilly is actually referring to this date and not the date that Jupiter ‘went’ direct.
But, this talk of Jupiter is I think a slight red herring in this discussion. At the time Jupiter was about to form a Trine with Mercury and Mercury in turn was forming a trine with Saturn. The resulting, almost exact Grand Trine was spoilt by Saturn about to go retrograde and it is this, rather than the placement of Jupiter, that I believe was of more importance for the date of Charles’s execution. Experienced astrologers will know that particular aspects between a planet and the Sun will signify that the planet is about to, or has just passed, a standstill or retrograde point, but for most natal astrologers simply looking at a chart for a set time will only ever give you a snapshot image of what is happening. To fully understand and appreciate mundane charts you need an ephemeris to see the build-up and culmination of an event.
King, Charles could not be legally tried for a crime, especially treason against himself, so throughout January parliament was kept busy with a number of legal manoeuvres to bring him to trial. The first act was to declare that the people of England were the supreme power and that, that power was represented by the elected Parliament. Next Parliament exchanged the supreme power of the King to Parliament and at the same time established a High Court of Justice to try the King. All this was passed on 6th January together with the order for a new seal. Next, with its new legal powers, parliament proposed to abolish the monarchy, and this was framed in a bill on 7th January; it was however not passed in law until 17th March. Once these measures were in place, parliament was legally able to bring Charles to court. Had they not done so, Charles could have legally dismissed parliament and ignored the court set up to try him.
Another astrologer taking an interest in the goings on in parliament at this time was Lilly’s rival and Royalist supporter, John Gadbury. In Ref 2, Gadbury states that Charles was “deprived of all his honour, power and dignity” on 4th January. In fact this is the time of the first reading of the act and was not legally passed until the 6th. However, this is also a somewhat overly emotional statement, what was removed was the kings absolute power over Parliament, Charles still remained the king of England. Ref. 1 goes on to give Gadbury’s rather confusing statement “Saturn was lord of the seventh cusp square to the Sun, Moon and tenth house, and opposed to the ascendant“ and Campion points out that this is incorrect. Personally, I think Gadbury was not referring to the actual chart for this event but was describing a composite chart of the 4th January, the King’s nativity (Note 5) and the King’s coronation chart.
In actual fact the 6th January 1649 (os) can be considered as significant with regards the English Nation and the English Monarchy, the law has never been repealed and to this day Parliament has the supreme power to make the laws of England.