The Kings Beheading and Prides Corner, Maine
On 6 December 1648, at the end of the English Civil War, Colonel Thomas Pride and his soldiers stood outside the entrance to St Stephen's Chapel in the House of Commons of England and, as the Commons convened that morning, arrested 45 Members and excluded a further 186 Royalists. It is known in history as "Prides Purge". On 6 January 1649, the remaining members of parliament, called the rump parliament, established a court to try Charles I for high treason. The court later executed the King, beheading him in public in front of Whitehall as Oliver Cromwell and thousands of others looked on. The identity of the executioner, hidden in a hood, wig, and grotesque fake beard, is officially unknown.
A decade later, in 1658, General Thomas Pride, Knighted Grandee of Oliver Cromwell's New Model Army, and member of the House of Lords, died. After the English Restoration of King Charles the 2nd in 1660, his body was ordered dug up and suspended on the gallows at Tyburn along with those of Oliver Cromwell, Henry Ireton and John Bradshaw, though it is said that the sentence was not carried out because his corpse was too far decayed. The Royalists thereupon attempted to hang his son, Joseph Pride, who barely escaped.
Joseph Pride's son is buried in Portland, Maine, and his son Joseph is referred to in an article noting the death of "Old Man Pride" that year (1747). (No graves of anyone survived from the late 1600's in the then wilderness of Maine). The backward looking article from 1895 cites "The Joseph Pride to whom this tract of 100 acres was granted was 'most likely' the first person of the name in the area", and somewhat mysteriously that "he 'probably' was in mid life when he emigrated to this vicinity, but that persons of that name still reside, having acquired their homes by inheritance from ancestors who have long been domiciled with our present town limits". It also states that "On April 12 1726 Joseph and Sarah Pride had a son Joseph born in Falmouth" (Thomas, Joseph, Joseph, Joseph, Joseph's, Joseph). The Joseph born in 1726 would go on to become Captain Joseph Pride in George Washington's Army where he served with his son Joseph Pride Jr, and his youngest teenager, John Pride.
According to Prides corner family legend the escape had a dramatic and ironic twist.
Red Coats hot on his heels,... Joseph ran down a hill, out a dock, and dove into the sea and swam to a longboat that had already departed the Dock. As luck would have it, it was the last longboat to the ship which was setting sail to the New World.
Joseph is presumed to have spent some time with relatives who first arrived in 1637, but as the world wide hunt by the Royalists progressed, fled to the wilderness. His son registered the parcel of land in Falmouth/Westbrook now known as Prides Corner Maine. But the article cites "no evidence the elder pride ever lived there". The explicit notation of absence in light of the history is notable.
He was the unidentified King Killer, the single most hunted of all the King Killers, his existence remained hidden from all official records, his actions secret from all but direct Family until long after it mattered, and had become unprovable. Family legend says it was Joseph in the Hood that day on the high scaffolding in front of the Banqueting House in Whitehall. Joseph delivering the vengeance and justice demanded with such passion by the soldiers of the New Model Army. Joseph beheading the man who lead the country, in puritan theology, in defiance of Gods Will (the second civil war). Joseph executioner, agent of God, enforcer of Gods will on "that man of blood". This was the reward for his father Thomas's Actions in Prides Purge which set the trial and execution of the King in motion.
The Pride lineage of Prides Corner, is one Joseph Pride after another, every generation for two centuries. It is the Pride family's silent testimony to its history, the only safe testimony possible for such a hunted figure at first, and as decades passed,... for a forgotten one. The 1790 Census for Falmouth, Maine for example lists Henry, Joseph, William, and a second Joseph, a Joseph for each generation when you count the infant Joseph Pride who died on December 12, 1686 in Falmouth Maine, presumed first grandson of the King's executioner.
The 1820 census gives a tantalizing glimpse into the family secret listing both a Thomas, another Joseph, and another Henry and William. Multiple second born Thomas, Henry, John, and William Prides occurring over the 200 years of Josephs are noted. They are, without exception for 200 years the same Family Names. Grandee Thomas Prides sons were Thomas, William, John, Samuel and Joseph, his father was William Pride, his uncle Henry. This puritan revolutionary family's determination to leave a mark over multiple generations of Joseph always first, not General, Grandee, and Knighted, Sir Thomas is a powerful statement of determination by multiple generations. One that also breaks the normal father grandfather name usage customary at this time.
The probability of another family exactly matching all these names on every name for 200 years is definitely remote. This Joseph is the son of puritan Grandee Thomas Pride. Every member of the Prides Corner Prides is a direct descendant of the perpetrator of the only recorded military coup d'état in English history and are here by its cause and as a result of its ultimate failure. The escape story makes sense in this light. The preference of the name Joseph over one of the greats of your religion and cause,... lends credence to the rest.
Great effort was taken to hide the identity of the executioner. Many guesses were later made, most naming prominent puritans like Hugh Peters. But all were accounted for. Soldiers lined the platform to obscure the view, the executioner was obviously somebody they wanted to protect. The executioner wore a wig and a grotesque fake beard. The executioner held the head aloft but flubbed his lines and forgot to say the traditional "behold the head of a traitor", and then unceremoniously dropped the king's head into the crowd (a strong indicator of inexperience). The fake beard and the flubbed performance may support the story further. From the evidence we have, Joseph was still a boy in 1649 and it may have been necessary to hide his lack of a beard to avoid recognition. His actual birth date is unknown, but the evidence we have indicates he was at most 12 or 13 years old in 1649.
But if he indeed was that young, how could such a decision be arrived at? The circumstances offer a possible explanation and a very strong validating hint. They left a clue for posterity and now we know what it was.
Firstly, you are dealing with the religious zealot Oliver Cromwell here. Second the impetus would had to have originated with the boy Joseph. The regular puritan executioner refused £200 pounds to do it, no one wanted the job. They all knew the wrath of the royalists would follow the axe man all his days. Colonel John Hewson was given the task of finding an executioner and he offered 40 soldiers the position of executioner or assistant in exchange for £100 and quick promotion, though none came forward.
The puritans make no secret of the denial by 40 soldiers for an executioner or assistant, they actually seem to promote it even. It would seem an odd point for them to put into history*, but then there is this...
Twice a day for 40 days, morning and evening, Goliath, the champion of the Philistines, comes out between the lines and challenges the Israelites to send out a champion of their own to decide the outcome in single combat, but Saul is afraid.
The first army of the living God had declined to fight 40 times in pairs (morning and evening), so it seems did the army of Oliver Cromwell (executioner or assistant). Both Goliath and Charles were alike accused of defying the armies of the living God. Only the boy David stepped forward to represent the first army of the living God, and only the boy Joseph for the second ? Did at this point the boy make an impassioned plea to be the David of the Age, to step forward where no other would?
The religious parallels at the most religious of moments for the puritans would have been an intoxicating brew for the devout. It is the only possible path by which to arrive at such a selection... and the pieces fit so well.
1 Samuel 17:25 The king will give great wealth to the man who kills him. He will also give him his daughter in marriage and will exempt his family from taxes in Israel.”
(£100 and quick promotion)
King Charles 2nd reputedly told his life long mistress, Louise de Kérouaille, Duchess of Portsmouth, the executioner was "Pride" but it is unclear what was said. For over three hundred and fifty plus years now, it has always been assumed he meant Thomas Pride. However, because Thomas was known to have been in attendance and visible, the comment has been rejected and ignored with distain. But it is unknown if he actually said Thomas Pride or just Pride ? Its hard to believe he did not know something. Charles 2nd's soldiers detained, jailed, and tortured or executed almost the entire puritan leadership, and made deals with the rest for clemancy. Any candidate for executioner, it would seem, needs to address the reason for the Crowns silence on what it knew. Joseph was not listed formally as a Regicide,.. so why did (in the increasingly credible family legend) British soldiers chase him with such enthusiasm that he decided to swim for it? Ten years on with the flush of numerical revelations well in the past, the question has to be asked which of the parties standing would have a motivation to reveal the truth in the year 1660 ? Does the David 2 story burnish the rejected puritan rule, or sound more like child murder ten years later? Does the Crown want it known it was a child that finished a King? Worse in a still largely puritan England does Charles 2nd want to promote a myth with Charles 1st in the role of Goliath and the new David still on the loose ? In 1660 all parties have strong motivations to not disclose the truth and the situation does not change thereafter. The reasons for the Crowns silence are now clear, the truth was both a challenge to the very concept of monarchy, a child killing a King, and a personal threat to Charles II himself, casting him in the role of usurper to the new David.
The remains of the original Pride Farm, depicted on an early 1700's painted plate, is located somewhere off Duck Pond Road and Old Farm Road. The painted plate was handed down through the generations, along with the story, and still exists today. The site of the farm depicted on the plate is against a gentle slope in a field. To my knowledge, it has not yet been archaeologically excavated. Maybe something will turn up :)
Of the twelve regicides who fled England in the spring of 1660, the fate of three in the US is officially known. Geoffe, Whaley and Dixon were actively hunted in various episodes until 1689 throughout Massachusetts and New Haven (some 40 years later). One attempt included a contingent of 450 British Redcoats. They escaped with the assistance of widespread puritan support. In a very real sense the American Revolution was simply a continuation of the British Civil War on new ground. In 1775 British soldiers, 135 years later, made a point of seeking out and spitting on Dixwell’s stone. They eventually found safety in the wilderness in western Massachusetts just beyond the western edge of civilization, far away from towns and possible gossip, and survived.
It is fascinating to note the pervasive influence in the Prides Corner, Falmouth area of the British Civil War and the Puritans. Falmouth Maine was named for the Battle of Falmouth and the rolls of the New Model Army that fought there read like the town registers. Levolor names predominate. A Rainsborough cut my hair as a child, another was my teacher, as was Mr Graves, a Winslow trained my fathers race horses, and a Richards drove them, our neighbors... Frye, Moody, Potter, Butler and Bailey. The list of New Model Army names that matched my childhood was stunning. I can imagine how strong the mythology must have been through the revolutionary war years and much later. The ongoing puritan character of the area would go far to explaining the second century of Josephs and the uniquely puritan twist of private pride and public shunning on a topic like Regicide and Execution in the family tree (especially without proof). Even as late as the 1950's Oliver Cromwell was oft quoted in my family circles. "Warts and All" was a common favorite.
The Reason the plot of 100 acres is deeded in 1726 is due to the conclusion of the Casco treaty after years of negotiation in 1725. Once the treaty was signed many plots in the area were registered that year to establish rights to properties already long occupied and worked. The nearby presumpscot river falls, little more than a mile or so away, by water, was the first area of settlement activity with fishing and trading beginning in 1623. Presumpscot river falls had been superseded by 1660, by what later became Portland Maine. Given the decades long world wide campaign to execute the Regicides and the level of settlement in the area around presumpscot river falls in the 1660's, the location, just beyond the northern edge of civilization, far away from towns and possible gossip, actually makes sense if you don't want to get hung drawn and quartered. It was the same solution as the others, just a different direction.
Joseph Pride was Thomas Prides son, brother in-law of Oliver Cromwell's nephew, and brother-in-law of Thomas Monks daughter, definitely Puritan Royalty :) The man who landed here was at the very center the puritan movement, and it turns out, its history.
*Contemporary accounts reveal any levolor would have seemingly gladly hefted the axe,... so the statement is a sore thumb for all to see on its face. I am of the opinion, awaiting evidence, a universal decline (except for Joseph) probably did happen, almost would have had too, bumping it into the supernatural realm for its participants anyway, leading to the 40 and phrasing of its result. But the religious, spiritual and moral aspects of the decision which is being noted here are difficult to discern. Did Cromwell, upon finding no volunteers, initiate a survey of 40 ? (shame shame Oliver,... tho shalt not test...). Worse possibility, did he ask none or reject all, and sponsor adolescent murder to use in the manufacture of allegory to support his contention that he lead the second army of the living God ? Of course, it also could have been 40 arrived at without guile, which almost certainly would have lead to the same result by the power of its allegory alone. Its not a number a puritan would have missed.
John Lewis in his 1968 pamphlet "The early history of Prides Corner" missed much and purposefully ignored the oral reports of the Pride Family at the time. He also did not have the capabilities of the internet. His statement that the Prides arrived in 1726 is refuted by the birth and death of a Joseph Pride in 1686 in Falmouth Maine, a short 26 years after the restoration of the British King Charles 2nd. His source, a three word reference in "The History of Portland" by Willis was written 203 years after these events, during the american civil war. It sites no source of its own for the reference, but is by its phrasing ("first of the name") obviously referencing the first legal records appearing for the name, the formalization of ownership after the Casco treaty in 1726. Willis's entire work is a 900 page tour de force of the historical legal record, mixed without clear boundary with large amounts of gossip, and sloppy gossip. For example, the footnote on the same page as the Pride reference reads "Mr Smith says he (Joshua Woodbury) built a handsome house and barn and was a man of great substance". Prides first arrived in Massachusetts in the second wave of puritans in 1637 and again several times leading up to the British Civil War. I recall overhearing gripes about Mr Lewis and his pamphlet around my sophomore year at North Yarmouth Academy. I am left with the impression it was a hit piece against my grandmothers claims by a personal adversary of hers. A former Womans Christian Temperance Union member and leader, she "never hid her light under a bushel" :)
Ironically, It was My Grandmother's (Inez Pride) irritation with John Lewis and his pamphlet "The Early History of Prides Corner" that caused her to shake her finger at my father and insist he tell me the story in 1968. BG (my father) was a skeptic. He said everybody's been claiming this since day one, I am supposed to tell you so... and afterward shrugged and says who really knows, but with a smile added "heck of a good story tho." I heartily agreed, I was as you can imagine floored. He also dutifully told me to tell my kids and to tell them to tell theirs. Despite his doubts, when he added that there was a deep seriousness in his demeanor unlike anything else I ever witnessed from this honorable citizen, community leader and all round wonderful human being. My dad. It made the impression he intended. In response to my specific query he traced his sources back as far as his grandfather Byron Pride born in 1847 (pictured above - note the distinctly puritain appearance), his father Merritt born in 1888, and several others whose names I did not recognize, long dead by the fall of 1968. My Great Grandfather Byron, the legends oldest direct source, was alive during the living memory of the last Joseph.
Recently this article is getting support from several authoritative sources. The following is a recent post from the Author of "In the Name of the Crown" which was a published work about the flight of the regicides.
The title of Cromwells Buffon is a play on the characterizations of the bitter Royalists in the centuries that followed. It is an unfortunate label for those who do not read the text. The text makes it very clear Sir Thomas was completely the opposite of the royalist characterization. He was a successful and very capable individual, one who was obstinately independent to the point of opposing Cromwell on some important occasions. He was active in civic life, a leading london businessman in the decade before the war, a central figure in the New Model Army, a central figure in building the British Fleet, and a leader of charitable agencies for aging soldiers and the poor in his senior years and much more. He changed the world forever for the better with his actions. He single handedly, apparently by his own decision, changed the entire sweep of British History with Prides Purge and abolished absolute monarchy for us all. Right Man, Right Place, Right Time.
by Dan Pride
The Last Pride in Prides Corner