Daniel Axtell, the regicide

One of my ancestors was named Daniel Axtell. Until recently, I understood that he was Daniel Axtell the regicide. A regicide is one who kills a monarch; in this context, the regicides were the 59 judges who signed the death warrant for the execution of King Charles I in 1649, and those who supported them.[1] They were able to enjoy the next eleven years in peace under Cromwell and the Commonwealth, but much to their chagrin in 1660 the king’s son, King Charles II, was restored to the throne. Many people who had been involved in the civil war against King Charles I were granted amnesty, but not everyone – 104 men were specifically excluded from reprieve. Twenty-four of these, including Cromwell, had already died, but their remains were dug up, hanged and beheaded, and, well, had lots of nasty stuff done to them. Others were now tried, hanged, and mutilated, or sent to prison for life, and/or had their estates confiscated. Twenty-one men fled for their lives. Most settled in the Netherlands or in Switzerland, but three escaped to New Haven Colony in New England (Edward Walley, William Goffe, and John Dixwell), where they were shielded by sympathetic Puritan colonists. Colonel Daniel Axtell, an officer of the guard, was tried, found guilty of participating in the regicide, hanged, and drawn and quartered at Tyburn in October 1660.[2]

All things considered, a timely history lesson about the value of a “peaceful transfer of power.”

When I consulted the Axtell sources,[3] however, I found that my Daniel Axtell was a great-nephew to Daniel the regicide. My Daniel’s grandfather, Thomas1 Axtell, brother of the regicide, brought his family to Sudbury by 1644 (which means Thomas was already out of England before his brother helped kill the King). Thomas’s son Henry2 Axtell became a proprietor of Marlborough, and Daniel3 is the one I thought was the regicide – and, just to make things more complicated, Daniel-the-regicide also had a son Daniel1 Jr., who settled in South Carolina, where he became a Landgrave.[4]

Rebecca Axtell, widow of Daniel1 Jr., unofficially adopted my Daniel…

My Daniel3 Axtell (a first cousin to Daniel1 Jr.), who was born in Marlborough, Massachusetts, followed the congregation of Elder William Pratt from Dorchester to South Carolina in 1697, and married his daughter Thankful in 1702. Rebecca Axtell, widow of Daniel1 Jr., unofficially adopted my Daniel because her sons had died (including Daniel2) and the surname had died out in her family. She made Daniel3 manager of her plantation, Newington, and funded a sawmill, tannery, and tar kiln for him to run. Her will of 1720 left 500 acres of property to him and his son [yes, you guessed it] Daniel4.

Daniel3 and Daniel4, who had been born in South Carolina, Thankful, and two sisters returned to Massachusetts about 1707. In 1712 Daniel3 bought a farm in Taunton (the area that became Dighton and Berkley), where he was a “very well-off” landowner. One of his sons was William4, who married Hannah Spooner of Middleborough, and their only daughter Joanna5 Axtell (who lived to the age of 100 years, 1 month, and 15 days) married Bernice Crane. Their oldest grandson was named Silas Axtell7 Crane, whose son John Martin8 Crane named his eldest son Henry Axtell9 Crane. Henry was my mother’s maternal grandfather, and at this writing is the last to have carried that name in my family.

It was so much simpler when I thought my Daniel Axtell was the regicide!


[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_regicides_of_Charles_I.

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daniel_Axtell. Illustration: Daniel Axtell, Regicide, engraving after the 17th-century original by Walter V. Daniell, 1890.

[3] S.J. Axtell, “The Axtell Family in America. First Five Generations,” The New England Historical and Genealogical Register 53 [1899]: 227-34; Carson A. Axtell, Axtell Genealogy (New Bedford, Mass., 1945).

[4] Paul C. Reed, FASG, “A Tale of Two Regicies: Daniel Axtell and Cornelius Holland (and Their Son and Daughter, Who Helped Save the Carolinas),” The American Genealogist 81 [2004]: 81. Landgrave was a “country nobleman in the British, privately held North American colony Carolina, ranking just below the proprietary (chartered equivalent of a royal vassal),” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Landgrave.

About Alicia Crane Williams

Alicia Crane Williams, FASG, Lead Genealogist of Early Families of New England Study Project, has compiled and edited numerous important genealogical publications including The Mayflower Descendant and the Alden Family “Silver Book” Five Generations project of the Mayflower Society. Most recently, she is the author of the 2017 edition of The Babson Genealogy, 1606-2017, Descendants of Thomas and Isabel Babson who first arrived in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1637. Alicia has served as Historian of the Massachusetts Society of Mayflower Descendants, Assistant Historian General at the General Society of Mayflower Descendants, and as Genealogist of the Alden Kindred of America. She earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Connecticut and a master’s degree in History from Northeastern University.

36 thoughts on “Daniel Axtell, the regicide

  1. I share this family with you and thank you for your thoughts and sources. Does their early residence in SC make them eligible ancestors for First Families of South Carolina?

      1. Hello Cousin, I too am a descendant of Thomas Axtell through Henry to Timothy Axtell. Thanks for your research and posting on this family!

  2. Alicia,

    What a fascinating and complicated story! How were you able to determine that your Daniel was unofficially adopted by Rebecca Axtell? Did her will distinctly say he was not her natural son?

    Kind Regards,

    Christine Cochran – Our Provenance, Ltd.

    1. Christine, Lady Axtell simply welcomed my Daniel into her “family” because her own two sons had died. Her legacy to him and his son in her will speaks for her consideration for them, but there was no legal adoption.

  3. Thanks for shedding more light on the regicides. My ancestor, John Goffe, has some folklore relating him to the regicide, William Goffe. I haven’t had any luck tracing John back before 1678 when he was admitted as a freeman in Boston so I don’t know if there’s any connection. Your article provides very clear background on who these men were and why they were in so much trouble in England.

    1. It is not a genealogy, but a recent popular study of the New England Regicides also covers their previous lives in some detail –
      “The Great Escape of Edward Whalley and William Goffe: Smuggled Through Connecticut,” by Christopher Pagliuco, 2012.

  4. Welcome to the confusing world of Daniel Axtells. I’m a sixth great grandson of Daniel(3). My own research suggests that Henry Axtell (d. 1676) is a first cousin of the Landgrave, so Daniel Axtell(3) is a second cousin of the Landgrave’s children.

    As an aside, I think William Axtell, the wealthy New York Loyalist who married Margaret DePeyster and who died in England in 1795, is also descended from the Regicide.

    An interesting article, “Daniel Axtell’s Account Book and the Economy of Early South Carolina,” from The South Carolina Historical Magazine (Oct 1994), available from JSTOR, discusses Daniel(3).

    1. Hi cousin. Well, I never could add very well. Yes, Thomas 1 of Sudbury was brother of the regicide, their sons Daniel Jr. and Henry 2 are first cousins and our Daniel 3 is second cousin to their children. I’m not going to try to figure out what that makes the regicide to Daniel3, I’m quitting while I’m almost ahead.

      1. My mom was doing some genealogy today and Col. Daniel Axtell came up. It’s our understanding he was a relative on my grandmas side of the family (my grandmas made name is Axtell).
        My mom has quite a bit of the genealogy from present and 1800’s but there’s a lot of blanks in the 1700’s.

          1. Thank you. I will share with my mom. I’m just now seeing your reply!
            Take care,

  5. At least according to Wikitree, I share 245 common ancestors in 30 generations with Adrian Scrope, one of the regicides that condemned Charles I. We are 8th cousins 11 times removed. For what it’s worth.

  6. Very interesting findings. It certainly can get complicated when your family uses the same names over and over. My knowledge of the regicides who hid in Massachusetts was gained when I was researching my husband’s ancestor Joseph Hopkins who married Martha Whalley in 1699. A number of sources claim her father Theophilus Whalley was a brother to Edward Whalley. I found the story of “the Angel of Hadley,” when supposedly in 1675, during King Philip’s War, as the town of Hadley, Massachusetts was under attack, a white bearded man with a sword appeared, organized the town militia and helped them repel the attackers before disappearing. Legends abound that it was elderly William Goffe, but some dispute it.

  7. We supposedly also have a king killer. Hugh Peters, who is mentioned in Pepys Diary, was hung as a regicide. He was involved with founding Yale and his brother at Harvard. All this in family history. Someday I hope to get the real, documented history.

  8. It may be a rather gruesome thought, but I am surprised that no one has yet established a hereditary society for those who are direct and collateral descendants of the regicides.

    1. Beat me to it! How about: The Ancient and Honourable Society of the Sons and Daughters of the English Regicides. Motto: Let the Republic Rise UP!

  9. “O horrible murder!” My husband and one of his English professors used to exchange USPS greetings each year around January 30th, featuring this exclamation and a picture of Charles I with his head cut off (with scissors) and positioned near the shoulders. Additionally, one of my husband’s predecessors at the church he currently serves had an elaborate model train assembly, complete with a church named “St. Charles, King & Martyr.” We just had a new bishop consecrated Saturday; in addition to being consecrated on this commemoration, she was elected on the Feast of the Beheading of John the Baptist. We’re trying not to read anything into that coincidence!

  10. Great research story and good lessons, Alicia! Last year I had the privilege of compiling a small family history, with portraits, for a friend whose 19th century English ancestor was descended from three regicides: Sir Hardress Waller (sentence commuted to life imprisonment); Rt. Hon. Sir John Borchier (too ill to be tried as regicide, died 1660); and significantly, Hon. John Bradshaw, Lord President of the High Court of Justice, who presided at the 1649 trial of Charles I. Bradshaw was President of Council of State under Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell, and having died in 1659, was buried with great honors at Westminster Abbey. After the Restoration, he was declared a regicide, and after the Act of Indemnity and Oblivion, subjected to posthumous execution, much as you have described – disinterred, hanged at Tyburn and beheaded. His body was thrown into a pit and the head placed on a spike at the end of Westminster Hall, facing the direction of the spot where Charles had been executed. Diarist Samuel Pepys witnessed Bradshaw’s head on a spike. My friend, who clearly has deep Parliamentarian roots, is also descended from John Hampden, 1st cousin to Oliver Cromwell, and whose arrest helped sparked the English Civil War. From Hampden, the line descends to George Hobart, 3rd Earl of Buckinghamshire, whose wife was Albinia Bertie, a descendant of Sir Thomas Cecil, Sir Edward Cecil, and William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley, as well as various Lords Willoughby and Earls of Oxford. The American immigrant was son of a clergyman and grandson of a bishop who married into this Hobart line.

  11. As a newbie to the genealogy hobby, I just found the vitabrevis website this past weekend and am fascinated by the stories and research being done. The story of the “regicides” made me think if the research done on a topic like this might apply to a particular episode in one of my family lines, the potential linkage of the Boggs family and the Livingstons in Scotland. Material I have found on the internet suggests the line of Boggs that came to America out of Ireland took the name Boggs to remain hidden from the remaining Livingstons. Unfortunately, I cannot find any other records that corroborate this story. Is it common or not to have “exiled” nobility stricken from the family record, or any ideas on ways to fill in this gap.

    1. Hi, Nathan. I am curiously well-qualified to answer this question, as I have written (with Newbold Le Roy) a book on the Le Roy family, which includes at least one Livingston-Boggs marriage, and am writing a book on the Livingston family in Scotland, which does include (or so it appears) Livingstons in Ireland … whom I cannot connect to the Livingston family in New York. I would caution against stories of name changes, which were infrequent; far more common, I think, was claiming kinship with more well-to-do families. As I say, though, a Boggs married a Livingston, and their descendants can be found in the Le Roy book (online at American Ancestors).

  12. thanks. I’m not sure whether it is my family history or my memory that is faulty. I should have looked it up.

  13. I too am related to Daniel the Regicide. My DAR ancestor is Thomas Axtell and his wife was Mary Tuttle Axtell. I also am a member of the the Winthrop Society through the ancestry of Mary Tuttle.

  14. I am William Thomas Axtell the son of Silas Blake Axtell a prominent New York City admiralty lawyer of the last century. He shared you passion for the Regicide topic, did his best to strengthen democracy and justice for seafarers. Notably, he helped with the Carson genealogy (attached above) and sent turkeys to the Axtells in England after WWII. I’m the Thomas Axtell who immigrated to Canada (1966) where only a handful of Axtell’s have ventured.

    1. Interested to read the above as when I was ten years old we went and met Silas Blake Axtell in London for an Axtell Family lunch and reunion.
      Mary Drysdale (formerly Westwood-Axtell)

  15. Colonel Daniel Axtell is in my ancestry and being fairly new to the research of my family it is great that so much information is available. Thank you very much for sharing what you know and for everyone’s contribution. It is apparent that the Colonel was given many serious orders to follow and he followed them with conviction. Obey orders or die was very popular then.

  16. Hi, all,
    I’m also a distant relative of Colonel Daniel Axtell through Henry Axtell, his son Daniel Axtell, and his wife Thankful Pratt. My Axtells settled the Mendham, NJ area, specifically Henry the Blacksmith Axtell, Daniel’s son, and his wife Jemima Leonard, and their children. The Axtell Record is a great source of this NJ branch’s history, for those of you who haven’t yet read it.

    Rebecca Fiedler

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