Category Archives: English Civil War

Banning Christmas

puritans-690x360It was inevitable that the Puritans would come up somewhere in my festive posts. Unfortunately for the Christmas loving inhabitants of Parliamentarian England the holy day was deemed to smack of popery. Admittedly there was rather a lot of drinking, dancing and general merriment and that wasn’t a good thing on account of the fact that it encouraged folk towards sinfulness.  Puritans felt that really and truly that rather than games, morris dancing, Yule logs and eating too much that the population should aim for a more mediative approach to the day involving fasting and prayer or just going about their business as usual. In January 1645 the Directory of Public Worship stated that ‘Festival days, vulgarly called Holy days, having no Warrant in the Word of God, are not to be continued’.

 

In June 1647, following Parliamentary victories, an ordinance banned Christmas, Easter and Whitsun.  The same ruling decreed that the second Tuesday of every month should be declared a holiday for students, servants and apprentices.  Unfortunately not everyone, particularly the students and apprentices,  were terribly keen on the idea.  Parliament was then required to spend rather a lot of time working out how to prevent Londoners from celebrating Christmas. It ordered that shops should remain open as usual, church services were observed – priests offering up a Christmas Sermon found themselves at the end of an unfestive arrest warrant.

In Ely a puritan minister tried to keep a low profile but his traditionally-minded parishioners informed him that if he didn’t preach a sermon they’d get someone else to do the job so the priest agreed for the sake of peace and quiet.

 

The people of Canterbury found themselves at loggerheads with the authorities that year as well. Eating mince pies was declared to be illegal and shops were to be kept open.  The mayor took it upon himself to enforce the rules that shops should open as usual.  Dissatisfaction was expressed through the so-called Plum Pudding Riots which began with a shopkeeper being put in the stocks for refusing to open his shop. A game of football ensued through the streets of Canterbury that saw several puritan windows broken and the mayor was forced into hiding whilst his home was looted…nothing like a spot of goodwill in December. It was only when a band of Parliamentarian soldiers were dispatched to Canterbury in January 1648 that order was restored but by that time the people of Kent were up in arms against Parliament.

 

The unrest wasn’t just confined to Kent the good burghers of Norwich and Ipswich weren’t particularly happy about the disappearance of Christmas either, although in Ipswich the ringleaders of the unrest didn’t make it much beyond Boxing Day before they were rounded up.  In London apprentices took up flower arranging – holly and ivy stuck on the water conduits at Cornhill – which didn’t go down very well with the authorities.

Needless to say that in addition to Christmas services and mince pies, carol singing had been also been banned by that point (just as well there weren’t shops playing carols from October onwards in the seventeenth century or the ban might have proved rather more popular.)

It was only with Cromwell’s death and the restoration of Charles II that Christmas was allowed back into the calendar.

 

http://www.historytoday.com/chris-durston/puritan-war-christmas

http://idler.co.uk/article/the-christmas-riots/

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Princess Elizabeth (Stuart)

 elizabethPrincess Elizabeth was born on 28 December 1635.  She was the second daughter of King Charles I and Queen Henrietta Maria.  The princess, a sickly child, died in her fifteenth year after being caught in a shower on the bowling green at Carisbrooke Castle. Her sad end completed the turmoil of her life. She was a prisoner of Parliament, albeit a well cared for one, from the age of six along with her brother Prince Henry – Duke of Gloucester until her death.

Parliament ensured the children were educated as befitted their rank and Elizabeth demonstrated a flair for languages and religion while she was separated from her family. Numerous academics took to dedicating books to the princess and there are accounts of her growing beauty.  In addition, she was known within her family for her tolerance and kindness.  This fairy tale princess didn’t see her father from 1642 until 1647. Elizabeth and two of her brothers spent two days with the king but then he fled to the Isle of Wight. This ultimately led to his trial and execution. Henry and Elizabeth were permitted to see their father for one last time without hope of any happy ever afters.   Elizabeth, aged thirteen wrote an account of the meeting that ought to move the hardest of hard-hearted Parliamentarians which was found with her possessions after her death. “He told me he was glad I was come, and although he had not time to say much, yet somewhat he had to say to me which he had not to another, or leave in writing, because he feared their cruelty was such as that they would not have permitted him to write to me.”  The king had to ask whether Elizabeth would be able to remember everything he said to her because she was crying so hard but she assured her father she would remember everything – clearly she wrote it all down in order to help keep her promise to her father.  It is from this source we see that Charles was aware of the role that some Parliamentarians might have had in mind for his captive son. “Heed, my child, what I say: they will cut off my head and perhaps make thee a king. But mark what I say. Thou must not be a king as long as thy brothers Charles and James do live; for they will cut off your brothers’ heads when they can catch them, and cut off thy head too at the last, and therefore I charge you, do not be made a king by them.’ At which my brother sighed deeply, and made answer: ‘I will be torn in pieces first!’ And these words, coming so unexpectedly from so young a child, rejoiced my father exceedingly.”

Prince Charles, the penniless eldest son of King Charles I who’d sought refuge n the Low Countries was now a penniless king in the Low Countries but Parliament could not rest easy especially when the aforementioned king arrived in Scotland in 1650 and got himself crowned King of Scotland. Elizabeth was now an important pawn in a desperate political game. She was moved from the English mainland to Carisbrooke Castle on the Isle of Wight where her father had been imprisoned and where he’d failed to escape not once but twice. The Princess was not well when Parliament ordered this move but Parliament did not heed her pleas to be left alone. According to legend she was caught in a shower on the bowling green and this led to a chill which in turn led to pneumonia but it is possible that she was already ailing.

(c) Carisbrooke Castle Museum; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

(c) Carisbrooke Castle Museum; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation.

Romantic accounts say that Elizabeth was discovered with her head resting on a Bible which her father had given her during their last meeting. It was this story that the Victorian artist Cope recorded in his picture “The Royal Prisoners.” The picture in this blog was accessed from http://www.bbc.co.uk/arts/yourpaintings/paintings/the-royal-prisoners-16672 (14th July 2015 at 20:01).  In the image Prince Henry and a guard discover the dead princess with her head on the open Bible and a miniature of her father in her hands.  Her learning is signified by the books around her and her love of music in the lute that is also pictured.  The open bird-cage is symbolic of the flight of Elizabeth’s soul.  Henry’s hands are clutched in those of the guard who has dropped his still smouldering pipe.  Parliament quickly buried the princess in the parish church of Newport in a largely unmarked grave. She was rediscovered in 1793 during building works and was reburied with a plaque to mark her resting place. Prince Henry was finally released into the care of his family in 1652.

That might have been the end of it but in the next century Queen Victoria was horrified to discover that her distant relation had not received a burial befitting to a princess. The princess was disinterred from her resting place in St Thomas’s Church and a suitable monument erected. Whilst building work was being completed the mortal remains of the princess were kept in a locked shed. A local Doctor- Ernest Wilkins- decided that the skeleton should be examined in the interests of science. He deduced that the princess suffered from rickets and having made his research departed from the shed with a rib and some of the princess’ hair which shortly, to the horror of the citizens of Newport, found themselves on public display in a curio shop owned by a certain Mr. Ledicot according to the June edition of The Isle of Wight Life.

Ledicot refused to remove them from public display despite a deputation asking him to think of propriety. He changed his mind rather rapidly when he received a visit from a distinctly unamused Queen Victoria and Princess Beatrice who took the grisly artefacts no doubt amid much bowing and scraping. The rib was returned to Elizabeth’s grave but Victoria kept Elizabeth’s faded locks of hair, which can be seen in the Carisbrook Castle museum.

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Charles I in York

 

stwilliamscollegeyorkKing Charles I stayed in the King’s Manor, York in 1633 and again in 1639.  The building which had formerly been part of St Mary’s Abbey was in the aftermath of the Reformation turned into the residence of the President of the Council of the North. Charles’ father stayed there on his journey from Edinburgh to London.

The 1633 visit that Charles made followed his journey to Edinburgh to be crowned King Charles I of Scotland.  Six years later Charles arrived in York on his way to make war with the Scots because they refused to accept Archbishop Laud’s Prayer Book.  The resulting war, known as The Bishop’s War was ultimately a disaster for Charles.

The King’s Manor where he stayed on both these occasions  is now part of the University of York  but Charles’ coat of arms can still be seen above the door  near to the art gallery– but not seen in this blog because I focused on the bricks around it rather than the heraldry when I took my photograph (not once but thrice): don’t ask me why!

In any event York was to become the stage on which King Charles I played once more in March 1642.

Charles attempted to arrest five MPs  at the beginning of January 1642.  The unrest that followed disturbed him so much that the king fled with his family first to Hampton Court and from there to Windsor on the 10th January.

The Royal family split up soon afterwards.  Queen Henrietta Maria escorted her eldest daughter Princess Mary to Holland. Mary had married William of Orange the previous year. Charles accompanied his wife and daughter to Dover. It is said that the king was in tears when he said his farewells to Mary whom he never saw again. The queen, in addition to ensuring her daughter was settled into her new home also had other business in Holland.  She had a selection of the crown jewels in her luggage which she intended to sell in order to pay for men, munitions and weaponry as civil war looked inevitable.

 

Charles meanwhile travelled north to York with his court.  He remained there for the next six months.  What this effectively meant, given that Charles I governed by personal rule, was that if anyone wanted anything done that required the king’s attention then they had to travel to York.

York became England’s capital city if not in fact then in practice. A procession of officers of state, petitioners, foreign ambassadors and even a parliamentary committee arrived in the city to keep an eye on the king, although officially they were there to keep the channel of communications open. Unfortunately the king’s supporters were also gathering so occasionally the communications involved fisticuffs  as well as hard words.

 

A printing-press was set up in St. William’s College (more recently it featured in the recent adaptation of P.D. James’ Death Comes to Pemberly as the location for the trial scenes). The press enabled Charles to issue declarations and to send messages around the country in a bid to increase his support. The country was not at war yet but the war of words was well under way. Propaganda was an essential part of the war effort for both king and parliament.

 

As winter turned into spring  and then into summer more and more men arrived in York to offer their swords to their king. Other men came to the city in a bid to persuade Charles that negotiation with Parliament was the only way forward.

 

Charles held two important meetings in York; one in the castle on 12 May 1642 and the other on Heworth Moor on the 3rd June. Charles summoned over 70,000 lords and gentry of Yorkshire. Not everyone attending the meting was sympathetic to the Charles. Lord Ferdinando Fairfax petitioned the king to stop raising troops against Parliament and was virtually ridden over for his pains when the king refused to accept the petition.

Events took yet another turn for the worse when Hotham (who was Governor of Hull) refused Charles entry to the city.

Fortunately for York although Charles talked about raising his standard which would in effect be a declaration of war on his own parliament he didn’t do so until August by which time he was in Nottingham.

 

The image in this blog depicts the gateway to St William’s College.

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