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John Bradshaw

John Bradshaw, lawyer, politician and regicide, was born at Wibersley in Cheshire in 1602, a son of Henry Bradshaw (d.1654) and his wife Catherine (Winnington). His elder brother was Henry (d.1662), an army officer. John was called to the bar in 1627 and built up a lucrative career. On 3rd January 1638 he married Mary, daughter of Thomas Marbury. Bradshaw became an eminent judge and on 10th January 1649 was appointed lord president of the high court of justice set up to preside at the trial of King Charles I (who was beheaded in Whitehall on 30th January 1649). On 25th January John was granted a lease of the Deanery at Westminster and he made many improvements there (much of this medieval house was destroyed in the 1941 blitz). He also used a small room in the triforium at the south west end of the Abbey. It is from here that his ghost is said to walk every year on the anniversary of the king's execution. He died at his house on 31st October 1659, possibly of malaria, and was buried on 22nd November with his wife, who had pre-deceased him, in Henry VII's chapel. No children survived and he left his estates to his nephew Henry.

Re-burial

When Charles II was restored to the throne the bodies of all regicides were ordered to be dis-interred. The House of Commons voted on 4th December 1660 that the bodies of Oliver Cromwell, Henry Ireton and John Bradshaw were to be exhumed from the Abbey and drawn to the gallows at Tyburn and hung up there in their shrouds. John's body had not been embalmed like the others and it was "green and stank". The hanging took place on 30th January 1661 and the heads were displayed on spikes on Westminster Hall and the bodies were buried beneath the gallows. Bodies of the other regicides or followers of Cromwell buried in the Abbey, including Mary, were re-buried in a pit in St Margaret's churchyard and a plaque on the wall of this church records their names. It was not until 1866 that a stone was inscribed over the vault in the Abbey in which they had been buried. This is in what is now the Royal Air Force chapel and the stone just records the names and dates of burial, when known.

Further reading

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

"God's battleaxe. The life of Lord President John Bradshaw" by R.L. Bradshaw, 2010

Died

31st October 1659

Buried

22nd November 1659

Field

Politician; lawyer

Location

Lady Chapel

Memorial Type

Stone; tablet

John Bradshaw
John Bradshaw

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2018 Dean and Chapter of Westminster

Related Commemorations

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