Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Stuart London

Stuart London

The history of Stuart London almost kicked off with a real bang. Catholic conspirators planned to blow up the Houses of Parliament when they opened on November 5, 1605, hoping to kill the new king, James I.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on your sympathies, the plot was discovered, and a conspirator named Guy Fawkes was discovered in cellars beneath Parliament with kegs of explosives. This event, called the Gunpowder Plot, is commemorated each year with the celebration of Bonfire Night on November 5.

London water was pretty foul in those years, so you can imagine the delight of Londoners at the completion in 1613 of the New River Head at Finsbury. This was a massive engineering project collecting clean water from 40 miles away and bringing it to large cisterns at Finsbury before final delivery to the city in "pipes" made of hollowed elm trunks.

In the early Stuart years the landscape of London was changed by the extraordinary work of the self-taught architect, Inigo Jones. In 1631 Jones designed Covent Garden piazza, the first purpose-built square in the city. Jones' other important work in this period was at Queen's House (Greenwich), Banqueting Hall (Whitehall), and Queen's Chapel.

In 1637 Charles I, in one of the few gestures of his life that may have swayed public opinion his way, opened the royal reserve of Hyde Park to the public. This was the first royal park to be made public. More on London's parks here.

If Charles was looking for support, he didn't get it from Londoners. The City helped finance the Parliamentary war efforts in the English Civil War, and Charles was eventually beheaded outside Inigo Jones' Banqueting House in Whitehall.

The Protectorate and Commonwealth that followed Charles' death saw a concerted effort by Puritan extremists to quench Londoner's appetite for the bawdier aspects of life. Theatre was banned, as was dancing and just about anything else enjoyable. Churches had their organs and choirs removed.

But when the Restoration of the Monarchy brought Charles II to the throne in 1660 the pendulum swung back the other way with a vengeance. Riotous entertainment was once more in fashion. Theatre was not only admissible, it even earned royal approval - Theatre Royal Drury Lane gained the royal warrant in 1665.

The city entered on a period of extensive building development, and new residential squares were laid out for the aristocracy to live in. St. James Square was the first of these, and the districts of St. James, Mayfair, and Marylebone became areas for the well-heeled to settle.

The Stuart period is sadly dominated by two disasters, the Great Plague and the Great Fire. In 1665 Plague broke out in the city, brought by ship from Holland. London had been no stranger to the plague since the Middle Ages, but this was something different - a strain so virulent that sufferers could catch it and die within hours. The city descended into a state of panic.

Sufferers were locked in their houses, along with their families. It was thought that dogs and cats spread the disease, so the Lord Mayor ordered them all killed. Thus, with one stroke, the natural enemies of the rats who were the true carriers were decimated.

Throughout the very long, dry summer of 1665 the plague raged in London. The court fled, most doctors and priests followed, and anyone with the means to leave, left quickly. Although the worst of the plague died by autumn, it was not until the next great calamity cleansed the filthy streets of London that the plague was truly over. Estimates of the death toll range from 70,000 to well over 100,000 lives.

The second calamity was the Great Fire. On the night of September 2, 1666 a small fire, perhaps started by the carelessness of a maid, started in the shop of the king's baker in Pudding Lane. Fanned by a strong wind, the fire soon became an inferno. For four days the fire raged through the close-packed streets of wooden houses, until the wind died.

The toll of the fire was immense. Although only 8 lives were lost, fully four-fifths of the city was completely destroyed, including 13,000 buildings, 89 churches, 52 company halls, and old St. Paul's Cathedral.

Within days, Christopher Wren presented a plan for rebuilding the city with broad boulevards and open squares replacing the warren of alleys and byways. Wren's plan, though, was simply too costly, and people being people, new buildings were built along the same street pattern as before.

Wren was, however, given the task of rebuilding the churches, including St. Paul's Cathedral. Most of the churches in London today are Wren's work, and it is difficult to find churches that date to the period before the fire.

What to See:
Queen's House, Greenwich
Banqueting Hall, Whitehall
Hyde Park
The Monument
St. Paul's Cathedral

The later Stuarts

Stuart England - the later Stuarts

James II
James II. Charles II was succeeded by his brother James II (1685-88). James was a Catholic, and he made several awkward attempts to re-establish the rights of Catholics, which succeeded only in allying the Whigs and Tories against him.
In 1685 Charles' illegitimate son, the Duke of Monmouth, launched a rebellion with the support of the farmers and labourers of Somerset. The Pitchfork Rebellion ended at the Battle of Sedgemoor, often called the last battle fought upon British soil. The aftermath to the Monmouth's Rebellion was a speedy and savage series of trials of those who had supported him. These were the Bloody Assizes, presided over by the infamous Judge Jeffreys, who condemned hundreds of men to death.
Popular opinion grew against James after a son was born to him, raising the prospect of a Catholic dynasty. Parliament extended an invitation to the firmly Protestant William and Mary of Orange (modern Holland) to take the English throne. James fled to France, where Louis XIV set him up with a Stuart "court".
William and Mary (1689-1702) ruled England jointly. Parliament ensured that they would never again have to deal with the like of James, by passing the 1689 Bill of Rights, which prohibited Catholics from ruling. In 1694 another watershed was reached, when a group of merchants willing to loan the government money banded together to form the Bank of England.

Queen Anne
Queen Anne. William outlived Mary, and he was followed by the second daughter of James II, Queen Anne (1702-14). For the first part of her reign Anne was under the influence of Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, and her husband, John Churchill, ancestors of you know who. Churchill was head of England's forces in the War of the Spanish Succession on the continent.
His spectacular successes, notably at the Battle of Blenheim, prompted Anne to provide the land and the funds for the erection of the magnificent (or grotesquely gaudy, depending on your architectural sensibilities) Blenheim Palace at Woodstock, Oxfordshire.
Great Britain. In 1707 the Act of Union brought together Scotland and England to form Great Britain. The Union Jack was adopted as the new national flag, incorporating the crosses of St.George (England) and St.Andrew (Scotland). In 1713 hostilities in Europe took a short break, and the Treaty of Utrecht gave England a host of new territories, including Newfoundland, Acadia, St.Kitts, Minorca, and Gibraltar.

The end of the Stuarts. Anne had seventeen children, all of whom predeceased her, so on her death the throne went to the Bavarian, George of Hanover.

Oliver Cromwell and the Restoration

Oliver Cromwell and the Restoration
The Commonwealth. The next eleven years saw the rule of the Commonwealth (1649-60). Ostensibly Parliament was in control, but the real power lay with Cromwell and the army. It was just as well that the army was still standing, for Charles' son landed in Scotland, had himself declared Charles II, and invaded England. He was defeated by Cromwell at Worcester (1650) and forced to hide in a tree to avoid capture, before successfully fleeing to France.

The Protectorate. Eventually the conflict between Cromwell and Parliament came to a head with Cromwell establishing the Protectorate (1653-58). This was essentially a monarchy by another name, with Cromwell at its head. His rule was a time of rigid social and religious laws on radical Protestant lines.

Cromwell's government divided the country into 11 districts, each under a major general, who were responsible not only for tax collection and justice, but for guarding public morality as well. Church attendance was compulsory. Horse racing and cockfights were banned, plays were prohibited, gambling dens and brothels were closed, as were many alehouses. Drunkenness and blasphemy were harshly dealt with. People being people, these measures were extremely unpopular.

Cromwell had a bodyguard of 160 men during the Protectorate. In the end he was just as dictatorial and autocratic as Charles and James had been. He called Parliament when he needed money and dismissed it when it argued. On Cromwell's death his son, Richard, tried to carry on as Lord Protector (1658-59), but he was not the forceful character that his father had been.

The results of the Commonwealth and the Protectorate confirmed in the English a hatred of military rule and the severe Puritanism associated with it. From this point on Parliament opposed Puritanism vigourously.

The Restoration. In 1660 Parliament offered to restore the monarchy if Charles would agree to concessions for religious toleration and a general amnesty. Charles was not as hard-headed as his father, and he agreed to the proposals. He returned to London on a wave of popular support to be crowned Charles II (1660-85).

Charles' closest five advisors had initials which formed the word "Cabal", which came to mean a secret association because they were suspected to be the real power behind the throne.

The Restoration was notable for a relaxation of the strict Puritan morality of the previous decades. Theatre, sports, and dancing were revived. Charles' court was notable for its revelry and licentiousness.

While Charles was enjoying his new court, he was less than successful internationally.
The English fought a losing naval war with the Dutch, and England's presence on the high seas had never been so low.

London at the time of the Great Fire
Plague and Fire. Things on dry land weren't all that much better. In 1665 the Great Plague hit London, decimating the population.The following year the Great Fire burned 450 acres and left large parts of the capital in ruins. The fire is said to have started in a bakehouse at the bottom of Pudding Lane. Today, the height of Christopher Wren's London Monument in King William Street is the distance from that point to the site of the bakehouse. The best description of this period of English history comes from the meticulous diaries of Samuel Pepys, a high official in the naval office.
Wren and the Building of St. Paul's. One of the positive consequences of the London Fire was that Old St. Paul's Cathedral, which had been badly in need of renovation, was damaged beyond repair. Within days of the fire, architect Christopher Wren presented the king with a plan for a new cathedral. With some alterations this became the magnificent church that stands today (click here for St. Paul's Cathedral). Wren was master of works for the construction of the cathedral for the rest of his life, in addition to being responsible for scores of other churches and the Royal Naval College at Greenwich.

Changes in Government. Under Charles II there was a general move towards a cabinet style of government. Groups formed which were the fore-runners of the later Tories (the court party, supporting royal prerogative), and the Whigs (the country party, supporting Parliamentary rights in moderation). The name "Whigs" came from the Whiggamores, Scottish rebels against the king, while the "Tories" were named after Catholic royalist rebels in Ireland.

Titus Oates
revealing the Popish Plot
The Popish Plot. In 1678 an unsavory character named Titus Oates alleged a Catholic plot to murder Charles and establish Catholicism. In the wake of the Popish Plot Catholics were excluded from Parliament, some were arrested, and some were killed. This was only one of a series of real or alleged Catholic plots against the king.
On the judicial front, the Habeus Corpus Act (1679) made justice officials responsible for the welfare of prisoners in their care, provided for a speedy trial, and ensured that a person could not be tried twice for the same crime.
Social conditions during the 17th century were abysmal. Laws were harsh, and religious non-conformists and Catholics faced heavy discrimination. On the other hand, things were so much better in England than elsewhere in Europe that England was an example of model government to such continental commentators as Voltaire and Montesquieu. Perspective is everything.

Oliver Cromwell

Oliver Cromwell
Oliver Cromwell was born on April 25, 1599, in Huntingdon, near Cambridge. His father Robert was the younger son of a knight, which in those days meant that he had very little property. Cromwell grew up in genteel poverty; not quite a member of the nobility, yet not a commoner either. In 1620 he married Elizabeth Bourchier.

Oliver Cromwell
For the early part of his adult life, Oliver scraped along, barely making ends meet on the scraps he had inherited from his father. Then in 1630 the failure of his business caused him to move to St. Ives and begin again as a yeoman farmer. However in 1637 he inherited a modest income and property when his mother's brother died without heirs.
Despite Cromwell's impoverished circumstances, he had many opportunities to interact with powerful figures at court. His grandfather lived in state at his house outside Huntingdon, where he frequently entertained royalty and court officials. And through his wife's father, Sir James Bourchier, Cromwell was brought into contact with London merchants and leading Puritan figures.
In 1630 Cromwell suffered what we would today term a mental breakdown. At the same time he underwent a powerful religious conversion to the Puritan cause. He afterwards said that he felt as though he was waiting for God to give him a mission.
In the meantime Cromwell was elected as a member of Parliament for Huntingdon, a post he owed more to patronage and aristocratic connections than to any great merit. He attended the Parliament of 1628-9 (and was likely the poorest MP there). He seems to have been overawed by his elevated status, and hardly made any contribution to the Parliamentary sessions.
However, in 1640 Cromwell was back in Parliament, this time representing Cambridge. And this time he had quite a lot to say! He was one of the most outspoken critics of royal policies and of the established Anglican church. He also advocated increased Parliamentary powers, calling for annual sessions of Parliament, and for Parliament, not the king, to have the power to name army generals.
When fighting finally broke out in 1642, Cromwell was named a captain of horse (a minor cavalry commander). But now his military leadership qualities came to the fore. Within a year he was Lieutenant General of Horse for the Army of the Eastern Association (essential equivalent to modern East Anglia).
In 1645, the three largest Parliamentary armies were combined. Parliamentary leaders could not agree on who should lead the cavalry of the new army, so they appointed Cromwell as temporary commander for 40 days. The temporary appointment was renewed many times over until finally becoming permanent in 1647.
In the meantime Cromwell led his cavalry in some of the most vital battles of the Civil War. His horsemen were responsible for major contributions to the victories at Marston Moor (1644) and Naseby (1645).
It is easy to regard Cromwell as a fire-breathing radical, but that assessment is not a fair one. To be sure, he roundly castigated Parliamentary leaders who advocated a negotiated settlement with the king. Cromwell wanted to settle for nothing less than total victory over the Cavaliers.
On the other hand, Cromwell rigorously opposed the religious intolerance of the Presbyterians, and the political intolerance of the Levelers. He seems to have made a genuine effort to work within the existing forms of government and negotiate in good faith with King Charles for governmental and religious reforms.
Cromwell's resolve towards tolerance was tested in 1647 when Charles prompted a Scottish rising. He put down the royal allies at Preston, and Yorkshire. Though he felt betrayed by Charles, Cromwell held out against a trial, and when he agreed it was with the idea that Charles would abdicate in favour of one of his sons. But Charles was obstinate to the last, and refused to step aside. Once it became clear that the king would not be swayed, Cromwell became one of the most vocal supporters of regicide.
After the death of Charles, further rebellions in favour of the future Charles II arose in Ireland and Scotland. Cromwell dealt with Ireland first, and his ferocious retribution for Irish actions earned him a reputation for cruelty. Scotland was next, and finally Cromwell defeated the younger Charles at the Battle of Worcester in 1651.
Cromwell then participated in the debates of the "Rump Parliament", which sat until 1653. Finally, tired of the continuous bickering and lack of real desire for reform, he dissolved the Rump by the crude expediency of armed force. He tried to work with religious leaders to " to design a blueprint for a godly commonwealth", but once again his efforts were done in by the inability of the various parties to work together.
Finally, and probably with a sense of exasperation, Cromwell himself took up the reigns as Lord Protector, head of an executive council. Several efforts were made to have him named king, but this Cromwell resisted firmly. His rule was a time of rigid social and religious laws on radical Protestant lines.
On September 3, 1658, Oliver Cromwell died and was buried at Westminster Abbey. After abortive attempts by his son, Richard Cromwell, to govern as Lord Protector, Charles II was called back from exile to resume the monarchy. In 1661 Oliver Cromwell's body was exhumed from its grave and hung at Tyburn. Then his head was cut off and put on public display for nearly 20 years outside Westminster Hall.

The Early Stuarts and the English Civil War

The Early Stuarts and the English Civil War

James I

James I. Elizabeth was followed to the throne by James VI of Scotland, who became James I of England. James believed in the absolute power of the monarchy, and he had a rocky relationship with an increasingly vociferous and demanding Parliament. It would be a mistake to think of Parliament as a democratic institution, or the voice of the common citizen. Parliament was a forum for the interests of the nobility and the merchant classes (not unlike today, some would say).
The Gunpowder Plot. James was a firm protestant, and in 1604 he expelled all Catholic priests from the island. This was one of the factors which led to the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. A group of Catholic plotters planned to blow up Parliament when it opened on November 5. However, an anonymous letter betrayed the plot and one of the plotters, Guy Fawkes, was captured in the cellars of the Houses of Parliament with enough gunpowder to blow the place sky high. Most of the plotters were captured and executed. (See our in-depth examination of the Gunpowder Plot here).
The Rise of the Puritans. During James' reign radical Protestant groups called Puritans began to gain a sizeable following. Puritans wanted to "purify" the church by paring down church ritual, educating the clergy, and limiting the powers of bishops. King James resisted this last. The powers of the church and king were too closely linked. "No bishop, no king," he said. The Puritans also favoured thrift, education ,and individual initiative, therefore they found great support among the new middle class of merchants, the powers in the Commons.
James' attitude toward Parliament was clear. He commented in 1614 that he was surprised his ancestors "should have permitted such an institution to come into existence....It is sedition in subjects to dispute what a king may do in the height of his power".
The King James Bible. In 1611 the King James version of the Holy Bible was issued, the result of seven years of labour by the best translators and theological minds of the day. It remained the authoritative, though not necessarily accurate, version of the Bible for centuries.
Charles I (1625-49) continued his father's acrimonious relationship with Parliament, squabbling over the right to levy taxes. Parliament responded with the Petition of Right in 1628. It was the most dramatic assertion of the traditional rights of the English people since the Magna Carta. Its basic premise was that no taxes of any kind could be allowed without the permission of Parliament.

Charles finally had enough, and in 1629 he dissolved Parliament and ruled without it for eleven years. Some of the ways he raised money during this period were of dubious legality by the standards of the time.

Between 1630-43 large numbers of people emigrated from England as Archbishop Laud tried to impose uniformity on the church. Up to 60,000 people left, 1/3 of them to the new American colonies. Several areas lost a large part of their populations, and laws were enacted to curb the outflow.
Ship Money. In 1634 Charles attempted to levy "ship-money", a tax that previously applied only to ports, on the whole country. This raised tremendous animosity throughout the realm. Finally Charles, desperate for money, summoned the so-called Short Parliament in 1640. Parliament refused to vote Charles more money until its grievances were answered, and the king dismissed it after only three weeks. Then a rebellion broke out in Scotland and Charles was forced to call a new Parliament, dubbed the Long Parliament, which officially sat until 1660.
Civil War. Parliament made increasing demands, which the king refused to meet. Neither side was willing to budge. Finally in 1642 fighting broke out. The English Civil War (1642-1646) polarized society largely along class lines. Parliament drew most of its support from the middle classes, while the king was supported by the nobility, the clergy, and the peasantry. Parliamentary troops were known as Roundheads because of their severe hair style. The king's army were known as Cavaliers, from the French for "knight", or "horseman".

Oliver Cromwell

The war began as a series of indecisive skirmishes notable for not much beyond the emergence of a Parliamentary general from East Anglia, Oliver Cromwell. Cromwell whipped his irregular volunteer troops into the disciplined New Model Army.
Meanwhile, Charles established the royalist headquarters in Oxford, called his own Parliament, and issued his own money. He also allied himself with Irish Catholics, which alienated some of his supporters.
To the poor, the turmoil over religion around the Civil War meant little. They were bound by tradition and they supported the king, as they always had. Charles encouraged poor relief, unemployment measures, price controls, and protection for small farmers. For most people, life during the Civil War went on as before. Few were involved or even knew about the fighting. In 1644 a farmer at Marston Moor was told to clear out because the armies of Parliament and the king were preparing to fight. "What?" he exclaimed, "Has them two fallen out, then?"
Marston Moor. The turning point of the war was probably that same Battle of Marston Moor (1644). Charles' troops under his nephew Prince Rupert were soundly beaten by Cromwell, giving Parliament control of the north of England. Above the border Lord Montrose captured much of Scotland for Charles, but was beaten at Philiphaugh and Scot support was lost for good.

The Parliamentary cause became increasingly entangled with extreme radical Protestantism. In 1645 Archbishop Laud was executed, and in the same year the
Battle of Naseby spelled the end of the royalist hopes. Hostilities dragged on for another year, and the Battle of Stow-on-the-Wold (1646) was the last armed conflict of the war.

The death of a king. Charles rather foolishly stuck to his absolutist beliefs and refused every proposal made by Parliament and the army for reform. He preferred to try to play them against each other through intrigue and deception. He signed a secret treaty which got the Scots to rise in revolt, but that threat was snuffed out at
Prestonpans (1648). Finally, the radical core of Parliament had enough. They believed that only the execution of the king could prevent the kingdom from descending into anarchy. Charles was tried for treason in 1649, before a Parliament whose authority he refused to acknowledge. He was executed outside Inigo Jones' Banqueting Hall at Whitehall on January 30.

The Tudor and Stuart Monarchs and some of the main events of thier reign

The House of Stuart Chronology

The House of Stuart