A Tale of Dixwell
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No, not Dixwell Avenue, the fellow after whom the street is named, John Dixwell.

In history John Dixwell is usually listed as an afterthought to two more famous late 17th Century figures, Edward Whalley and William Goffe. All three were regicides, members of the British Parliament that, in 1649, presided over the trial of King Charles I, imposing the death penalty.

Of the 59 who signed the death warrant, 41 were still alive when the monarchy (Charles II) was restored in 1660. Recognizing that they were now wanted men, Whalley, Goffe (Whalley’s son-in-law), and Dixwell fled to the colonies, settling in Connecticut. While Dixwell more or less dropped out of sight (living under an alias, James Davids), Whalley and Goffe were mythologized, living on the run, for a short time even living in a cave. The cave came to be called Three Judges Cave, in New Haven (though it’s not clear that Dixwell ever joined the others in that cave).

So what did Goffe, Whalley, and Dixwell do, exactly, that made them worthy of having streets named after them? Beheaded a king. Regicide is the act, but also the title given to the perpetrators of the act, and Goffe, Whalley, Dixwell, and their cohorts, are among the more famous regicides in history.

Louis XVI of France and Tsar Alexander are two other famous monarchs murdered, but they’ve good company. According to an article by Manuel Eisner in The British Journal of Criminology, 1,513 monarchs in 45 monarchies throughout Europe, died a violent death or were the victims of regicide, from 600 to 1800 AD. It would seem it was somewhat unlucky to be a king or queen (let’s not forget Mary Queen of Scots) during those 12 centuries. And, says Mr. Eisner, “the murder of the predecessor and the pre-predecessor increases the risk of homicide for the current monarch.” So if King Gibberish, who preceded you on the throne, was assassinated, make sure someone reliable is tasting your food.

So back to Dixwell.  Is it proper for us to have one of our two major streets named after a regicide? And three of the major streets in New Haven? Don’t get me wrong, being an Irishman, I’m shedding no tears over any British monarch who leaves the throne, no matter the circumstances. And it’s true that Charles I wasn’t exactly a competent ruler. But since Dixwell lived here under an alias, Davids, perhaps Dixwell Avenue should be renamed Davids Avenue?

We here in these former British colonies have eliminated monarchs. No bloodlines, not for us; no, we elect people solely based on their merits, not on their last names. Sometimes.


The Side Bar by Joseph McDonagh is a monthly post of random topics on local interests. Joe is a writer posing as an independent insurance agent. His interests include the Red Sox, healthcare, etymology and linguistics, history, and the cultivation of democracy.