Early America, Yellowstone (Joys of a Dissertation)

Regicides in New England

While I would like to narrow my dissertation topic as quickly as possible, I have been instructed to decompress after the thesis and simply read broadly on Early Modern Europe. This is sound advice and allows me simply to enjoy History for awhile. At present, I am finishing Huizinga’s beautifully written and translated The Waning of the Middle Ages. It is taking me far longer than intended, mostly because it is so delicious that I am savoring it. For instance, Huizinga says of allegory, “medieval literature had taken it in as a waif of decadent Antiquity.”

The expectation at present is that my topic will fall somewhere in Early Modern England. My first thought, given my background in Puritan New England, is the English Civil War. I find particularly fascinating the regicides who fled England after the Restoration of the Monarchy.


Hanging in the Forbes Library, this painting depicts regicide William Goffe saving Hadley, MA, in an attack during King Philip’s War. The legend of Goffe as the ‘Angel of Hadley’ goes as follows:

Goffe “leads a successful defense of the town and then vanishes as quickly as he had appeared, never to be seen again. While the grateful townsfolk were sure the man had been sent as an angel of God to save them, supposedly the real story came out years later as the pastor of Hadley, John Russell, lay on his death bed. It was only then that he admitted to harboring the English regicides, William Goffe and Edward Whalley, both with prices upon their heads for being the ruling judges in the decision to execute King Charles I. Allegedly they were hidden in a secret room in Russell’s home, where they both eventually died. Goffe emerged only that once to warn the town of the imminent attack of the Indians.”

This succinct telling of the legend comes from the Forbes Library. There isn’t much truth to the legend, but the flight of the regicides fascinates me. Many were captured, hanged, drawn, and quartered. Others spent the rest of their lives in prison. Some, however, escaped to the Continent and to New England, where they ended their days in hiding, some under false names.