The trial of Charles I in January 1649 was one of the defining events of the seventeenth century. The image above depicts the masses of people who crowded into Westminster Hall. Amongst those present during the trial were a number of journalists, who reported on the proceedings in their newspapers.
The king’s trial highlighted the difficulty which weekly newspapers had in keeping up with rapidly changing events. A number of journalists responded by producing special issues after each day’s court proceedings had ended. Such reports also offered evocative verbatim accounts of the heated courtroom exchanges between the king and his prosecutors.
The 1640s also witnessed the emergence of increasingly radical political ideas which were well represented in newspapers like Gilbert Mabbott’s The Moderate. Mabbott had strong ties to the parliamentarian army, and perhaps even to groups on the radical republican fringe, such as the Levellers.
Government interest in the newspaper industry was evident from the work of men like Walter Frost, who had been involved in intelligence gathering and pamphlet-writing for Parliament during the Civil Wars. Frost was employed as secretary to the Council of State, and his newspaper was produced by Parliament’s official printers. These favors helped to ensure his reputation as an official “newshound.”