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Notable Family Members
Notable Phelps Anson Green Phelps, Merchant and philanthropist Austin Phelps, Congregational clergyman, theologian and author Chance Russel Phelps, Private, USMC Charles Edward Phelps, Congressman, Judge, Author Delos Porter Phelps, Lawyer and U.S. Assistant Treasurer Edward John Phelps, Lawyer, educator Dr. Francis Phelps, Representative and Senator Francis G. Sanburn, Pioneer Resident of Knoxville, Illinois George M. Phelps, Master telegraph instrument maker and inventor Dr. Guy Rowland Phelps, Founder, Connecticut Mutual Life Insurance John Phelps, Clerk of the Court at the trial of King Charles I Judge James Phelps, Judge and Congressman Judge John Jay Phelps Judge, merchant, and entrepreneur. Judge John Phelps, Constitutional Convention Signatory from Connecticut John Wesley Phelps John Wolcott Phelps, Brigadier General, United States Volunteers Mary Ann Phelps Rich, Latter-day Saints Pioneer Mary Phelps Jacob, Inventor of the Brassiere Noah Phelps, A Patriot of 1776 and Revolutionary War Spy Oliver Phelps Merchant, Revolutionary War veteran, Representative, Senator land promoter Rev. Philip Phelps First President, Western Theological Seminary Richard Phelps, Bell-founder for Churches Throughout England John Smith Phelps Lawyer, Repesentative, Governor Samuel Shethar Phelps, Jurist, Congressman, and Senator Samuel Phelps, English Actor.html Stephen Sumner Phelps, Illinois Pioneer and Origin of the Hawk Eye State Name Thomas Stowell Phelps, Rear Admiral and Civil War Veteran William Walter Phelps, Congressman, Ambassador, and Judge William Wines Phelps, Judge, Latter-day Saint, Publisher and Writer William Lyon Phelps, American educator, author and critic

Notable Phelps Family Members

John Phelps, Court Clerk at the Trial of King Charles I

Excerpted from The Phelps Family of America and Their English Ancestors, (Save $200 by ordering through us.) By Oliver S. Phelps and Andrew T. Servin. (Get an updated index here.)(Vol I, p, 8, 22, 54-57)

Clerk and Registrar of the Committee for Plundered Ministers

John Phelps was born in about 1619 in Salisbury, County Wilts, England. In 1648-49, he was called by England's "Rump Parliament" to serve as Clerk of High Court at the trial of King Charles I. On 14 May 1660 the House of Commons voted the arrest of Phelps and his fellow clerk Broughton. Phelps evaded pursuit and was at Lausanne, Switzerland in the company of Ludlow, one of the regicides.

Reference is made in our English correspondence to John Phelps, clerk of the court that convicted Charles I.

Says Harper's Pictorial History of England, edition of 1849, 111-377, "The name was anciently spelled 'Phyllypes,' but has always been pronounced 'Phelps.' After the time of Edward IV, the superfluous letters were dropped.

The family has been for a number of centuries in the county of Stafford, England. John Phelps, who dwelt upon the Nether Teyne in England, the soil of Francis Phelps, who died in the reign of Edward IV, left with other issue at his decease, in 1641, Anthony, William and John.

This family opposed the High Church, the Prerogative Party of Stafford, and Bishop Laud. The British church and government under Charles I was becoming insufferably hieratic, tyrannical, and tax-hungry. Common resentment among the English people led soon to the English Revolution beginning in 1642. Agents intercepted his secret invitations to foreign kings and armies, that they invade England, crush Parliament and the English Constitution, massacre his English opponents, and restore Charles to his pretended "Dei gratia" royal privileges. This eventually led to the beheading of King Charles for treason in 1649. Charles Stuart incorrigibly continued to hold his dynastic interest separate and above those of Parliament and the British people, and ultimately Parliament had no alternative but to end his conspiracies, par coup de hache ("by blow of axe").

John Phelps became private secretary to [Opens external site in new window] Oliver Cromwell, and in the print which has been preserved of the trial of Charles I, is represented as serving in the capacity of clerk of the court on that occasion. (Note: The print below with a picture of the trial of Charles I may be found in the British Museum, Nalson's Record of the Trial of Charles I, 1668, and a copy of the same is herewith given.)

From Nalson's Record of the Trial of Charles I, 1688 in the British Museum.

The Trial of Charles I

  1. The King sitting in a large Elbow Chair covered with Crimson Velvet.
  2. The Lord President Bradshaw. [Younger son of a minor gentry family from Cheshire. Educated at Gray's Inn and appointed Chief Justice of Cheshire and North Wales in 1647. With some reluctance, he accepted the office of President of the High Court of Justice when other prominent lawyers and magistrates declined. Bradshaw presided over the King's trial and pronounced the sentence of death. He was richly rewarded with lands and property. Appointed first president of the Council of State 1649, but he opposed Cromwell's moves towards personal power and was almost alone in protesting at Cromwell's dissolution of the Rump 1653, for which he lost his office of Chief Justice for Cheshire. Bradshaw died in October 1659 and was buried in Westminster Abbey. His body was exhumed after the Restoration and hung in chains at Tyburn. ]
  3. John Lisle, sitting on the right hand of the Lord President. [Younger son of a knight in the Isle of Wight, educated at Oxford and the Middle Temple. Married the daughter of Lord Chief Justice Hobart, then on her death married another rich heiress (who as Alice Lisle became a famous martyr for aiding the rebels in Monmouth's Rebellion). MP for Winchester during the Short and Long Parliaments and active in the creation of the Committee for Both Kingdoms. Lisle was one of Bradshaw's assistants at the King's trial but not a signatory of the death warrant. Later appointed a commissioner of the Great Seal and a member of the Council of State. Escaped to Switzerland at the Restoration where he was murdered in 1664 by an Irish Royalist.]
  4. William Say, sitting on the left hand of the Lord President. [Educated at Oxford and the Middle Temple, acquired the sequestered estates of Lord Abergavenny during the Civil Wars. Acted as temporary president of the High Court of Justice before the arrival of John Bradshaw and assisted him during the trial. Drafted the King's death warrant and reported the proceedings to Parliament. Escaped to Holland at the Restoration.]
  5. Andrew Broughton, one of the two clerks appointed to attend the court. [Clerk of the High Court of Justice. Escaped to Switzerland where he died 1688.]
  6. John Phelps, the second clerk appointed to attend the Court, being seated at the feet of the said Lord President, under the Covert of his Desk. (Journal, page 12.)
  7. The Table placed before the said clerks, whereon some times lay the commonwealth's mace and sword of state or justice: Sometimes, I say, for at other times, the said sword was advanced in the head of the guards, with partizans standing in the court, on the right hand of the king, as he sate, and the said mace was some times handed by their sergeant-at-arms on the outside of the bar, nigh the king on his left hand. But in this they are to be pardoned, it being the first time they had kinged it, and therefore it was not to be expected that they should be so ready and exact in their ceremonies.
  8. The scale of benches.
  9. The achievement of the Commonwealth of England.

(This continues to Z, occupying in the whole, two closely printed folio pages.) P. 11 Die Veneris, 12 Januarii, 1648 Painted chamber.

Says the late John Lloyd Phelps, Esq., "In an old guide book of Switzerland and Savoy, I find, speaking of Vevey Cathedral, 'In this church are buried Edward Ludlow, the regicide, and Andrew Broughton, who read the sentence of death on Charles I, and also somewhere that Mr. Phelps was with Ludlow. These men sought refuge here at the restoration [of Charles' crown].

In Clarendon's correspondence with the Lord President, 1685-6, Wealsman, "John Phelps of Vevey, ill reputation and sheriff thereof." Answer: "Mr. Phelps is so far from being of ill reputation that there is not any man in the county, nor in the army, under a better character. He is son of a loyal gentleman, Col. Edward Phelps, and brother of Sir Edward Phelps of Somerset."

The plate [above] is from Nalson's Record of the Trial of Charles I above referred to: and the following is an explanation of the same.

"Extracts from a True Copy of the Journal of the High Court Of Justice for the Tryal of K. Charles I."

Taken by J. Nalson, L. L. D., Jan.4th, 1688 London, 1684, folio.

Monday, January 8th, 1648.

Page 7. And in order to the more regular and due proceedings of the said Court, they nominate officers, and accordingly chose Mr. Aske, Dr. Dorislaus, Mr.Steel and Mr. Cooke, counsel, to attend the said Court. Mr. Greaves and Mr. John Phelpes, clerks, to whom notice thereof was ordered to be given.

P. 9. A description of the picture [above] .

P. 12. Mr. Andrew Broughton attended according to former order, and it was thereupon again Ordered, That Andrew Broughton and John Phelpes be, and they are hereby constituted clerks of the said Court, and injoyned to give their attendance from time to time accordingly.

P. 122. Painted Chamber, Feb. 2nd, 1648.

The commissioners being met. (Various orders were made after which)

P. 123. Attested per John Phelpes, clerk to the said Court. (At end of all.)

Examined and attested to be a true copy from the original. by me. John Nalson

Memorial to John Phelps
Monument to John Phelps In St. Martin's Church, Vevey, Switzerland, "may be seen this black marble monument, erected in 1882, though the liberality of the late Hon. William Walter Phelps, of Teaneck, New Jersey, and the Hon. Charles A. Phelps, M.D. of Massachusetts." Arms—A Lion Rampant, Gorged with a Plain Collar, and Chained.

In Mermoriam Of Him who being with Andrew Broughton joint clerk of the Court which tried and condemned Charles the First of England, had such zeal to accept the full responsibility of his act, that he signed each record with his full name John Phelps. He came to Vevey, and died like the associates whose memorials are about us, an exile in the cause of human freedom. This slab is placed at the request of William Walter Phelps of New Jersey, and Charles A. Phelps of Massachusetts, descendants from across the seas.

William Walter Phelps was later the United States Ambassador to Prague, Czechoslovakia.

The following is also from Mr. Beadham:

From this time forward, John Phelps was a prominent man in the party to which he had attached himself, as is amply proved by the records of his time. He was clerk and registrar of the Committee for Plundered Ministers, and had chambers in the Old Palace in which the committee sat. On October 14, 1652, he was appointed clerk to the committee of Parliament which had been named to confer with deputies from Scotland. He was to be allowed a clerk assistant, and it was ordered that a request be made to the first-named committee to dispense with his attendance in the meantime. Note here how mindful of their own comfort were the members of this committee of Parliament, for Phelps was particularly enjoined to give instructions for matting the room in which they were to meet, and for fitting it up so that it might be very warm. At a later period Mr. Scobell, clerk of Parliament, was required to deliver to John Phelps all papers and books returned from Scotland touching delinquents and sequestrations.

A petition having been presented to the Council of State by John, Earl of Crawford, order was made September 1, 1653, that Mr. Phelps examine his books as to what was done by the Commissioners who had then lately been sent into Scotland as to whether any order was given by them for allowing the Earl's wife the fifth part of his estate for maintenance of herself and children. Shortly afterwards, October 8, in the same year, three persons, of whom Mr. Phelps was one, were appointed to sort the Scotch records in the Tower, to report to the council, and in the meantime not to permit any records to go to Scotland but what should be particularly viewed by them. It is, however, in 1654, that we have the most interesting of all the references to John Phelps.

He had purchased the manor and royalty of Hampton Court on the banks of the Thames, part of the inheritance of the Crown, with which those who were then in power arrogated to themselves the right to deal. But this property in every way so desirable, was not to remain with John Phelps, for the first among them had set his heart upon it, and his wish must be gratified. The matter was worked out in due form and, by a committee, negotiations were opened with Phelps, the upshot being that an agreement for repurchase at £750 was concluded and the attorney-general was to direct the preparation of such assurances as would settle the property to "His Highness' " use, that is, to the use of Oliver, Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England. There was no attempt to push the price to an extreme figure Phelps was too shrewd a mail for anything of that kind seeing that of two valuations, one was higher by £266 than the price he had agreed to accept.

The affair was concluded when, August 8, 1654, a warrant was directed to the Commissioners of Excise to pay to Phelps the stipulated sum. It appears incidentally that John Phelps was well up in shorthand, which must have helped him more than a little, for he took in that way all the evidence adduced on the trial of three persons for endeavoring to raise forces against the Protector. Not long before the overthrow of his party, an order in Parliament was made May 13, 1659, that £50 be given to John Phelps for his services as clerk of Parliament, and the money was paid soon afterwards.

Ample evidence has thus been adduced that Phelps was very useful to his party, and was not only willing but able to serve it in important capacities, whilst his continued employment show that, so far, his services were understood. This on the one side, and on the other not a word has been found which suggests that he was unduly recompensed, so that he is not to be numbered amongst the many whom, at the public cost, the Cromwellites rewarded with a lavish and unsparing hand, far beyond anything that was legitimate.

Both clerks Andrew Broughton and John Phelps later found it expeditious to leave England when King Charles' successors sought to prosecute them for their actions. In England, a special court was appointed and in October 1660 those Regicides who were still alive and living in Britain were brought to trial. Ten were found guilty and were sentenced to be hung, drawn and quartered. John Okey, one of the regicides who signed the death warrant of Charles I, was brought back from Holland along with Miles Corbet, friend and lawyer to Cromwell and John Barkeshead, former constable of the Tower of London. They were all imprisoned in the Tower. From there they were taken to Tyburn and hung, drawn, and quartered.

Andrew Broughton and John Phelps were fortunate to live out their lives in exile in Vevay, Switzerland. American descendant Wlliam Walter Phelps and another descendent later erected a monument to John Phelps. John Phelps is buried alongside Edward Ludlow, one of the judges who condemned Charles I, and his fellow clerk Andrew Broughton.

In August 1660, following the Restoration of King Charles II, the Act of Indemnity and Oblivion was passed as a gesture of reconciliation to reunite the kingdom. A free pardon was granted to everyone who had supported the Commonwealth and Protectorate, except for those who had directly participated in the trial and execution of King Charles I eleven years previously.

A special court was appointed in October 1660 and the surviving Regicides were brought to trial. Ten were condemned to death and publicly hanged, drawn and quartered at Charing Cross or Tyburn, London, in October 1660: Thomas Harrison, John Jones, Adrian Scroope, John Carew, Thomas Scot, and Gregory Clement, who had signed the King's death warrant; the preacher Hugh Peters; Francis Hacker and Daniel Axtel, who commanded the guards at the King's trial and execution; and John Cook, the solicitor who directed the prosecution. A further nineteen were imprisoned for life.

Oliver Cromwell, Henry Ireton, Thomas Pride and John Bradshaw were posthumously attainted for high treason. Because Parliament is a court, and the highest in the land, attainder is a legislative act declaring a person guilty of treason or felony rather than using a regular judicial process of trial and conviction. In January 1661, the corpses of Cromwell, Ireton and Bradshaw were exhumed and hung in chains at Tyburn.

In 1881, President John A. Garfield named William Walter Phelps minister to Austria-Hungary, but he held this post for only a few months, resigning after Garfield was assassinated. It was apparently while serving in Austria-Hungary that William W. Phelps traveled to Vevery, Switzerland, where he and the Hon. Charles A. Phelps, M.D. of Massachusetts, commissioned a memorial to their ancestor John Phelps.