Category Archives: Seventeenth Century

Mary of Orange – first Princess Royal

mary stuart.jpgThe eldest daughter of Charles I and his queen, Henrietta Maria was born in 1631. In France it was the norm for the eldest daughter of the king to be called Madame Royale.  Charles gave his daughter the title Princess Royal starting a new English tradition in 1642 that the ruling monarch may give this title to his/her eldest daughter but the caveat is that the title remains with the holder for life and no one else can have it during that time.

Mary Henrietta was married off to William II of Orange in 1641 when she was nine and William was fifteen.  It wasn’t an auspicious event.  Charles I would have preferred her to marry in to the Spanish royal family whilst her mother regarded William as rather beneath the Stuarts and it didn’t help that her cousin, the eldest son of Elizabeth of Bohemia, thought that she was going to marry him. The celebrations were rather muted, as well, because the country was already sliding towards war.

The following year, in February 1642 a month after Charles I had made his botched attempt to arrest the speaker of the House of Commons,her mother took Mary to Holland. She was just ten and Mary was the excuse the queen needed to go abroad in order to raise loans, purchase armaments  and recruit mercenaries. Henrietta Maria would return to England in 1643 via Hull but by that time Charles had raised his standard in Nottingham and the king was at war with rather a lot of his subjects.

But in 1642  when mother and daughter sailed from Dover it is hard not to feel some sympathy for Charles as a parent if not a king.  He galloped along the white cliffs keeping the boat that carried his daughter in view for as long as he could.  It would be the last time he saw Mary but he kept her portrait, the one at the end of this post, with him even when he was in captivity.

By the time she was nineteen Mary was a widow and her family were in exile.  William II had been a pretty indifferent husband by all accounts. A week after William II died her son was born. Life was not easy for Mary because although she was named co-regent of her young son who now became William III her mother-in-law, Amelia von Solms-Branfels, with whom she did not get on held more power than her.  In part the dislike sprang from the fact that Amelia and Elizabeth of Bohemia were arch-rivals.  The Dutch weren’t terribly keen on Mary either because she refused to speak  Dutch, was a tad on the snooty side and also tried to help her brothers whilst they were in exile during the Commonwealth period which was not in accord with Dutch politics.

mary-stuart2She was in England in 1660 because she’d pawned her jewels and returned home.  Sadly she caught small pox and died on 24 December – I did try to find a cheerier metaphorical advent image but the pretty little girl that Van Dyck captured in oils didn’t really have a happy ever after. For more about the picture of Mary, aged five or six at the time, which can be viewed at Hampton Court, click here.

And that brings me to the end of the History Jar’s historical advent calendar.  All that remains is for me to wish you a Happy Christmas.  I shall be back before the New Year with the Wars of the Roses whilst 2017 will bring Edward IV; Jane Shore; the Princes in the Tower (I obviously like living dangerously); more on Margaret Beaufort and the rise of the Tudors; the skulduggery of the Seymour brothers; Lady Jane Grey and her sisters – and, of course, more from the files of Thomas Cromwell.

 

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23 December – Of Samuel Pepys, three nuns, a turkey and that man Cromwell.

pepysWith only two days of my metaphorical advent calendar to go I really should be getting a bit more festive – so with no further ado allow mw to introduce the turkey – property of one Samuel Pepys. In 1660 Mrs Pepys was troubled by the art of spit roasting the aforementioned bird. In fact you can read every single 23rd December that Pepys ever recorded should you feel the urge by following the link:

http://samuelpepystoday.com/?day=1123

 

A swift search of the net reveals that in the UK ten million turkeys are eaten each Christmas. I had thought it was a relative new comer to the Christmas table. After all, you only have to think of Ebenezer Scrooge and the prize goose that graced the Cratchets’ table to realise that the turkey has not always been the bird of choice but apparently, and I really am sorry about this because I had hoped to avoid him today, that the first turkey arrived in England in 1526 and, yes, the first monarch to eat turkey was Henry VIII though it was Edward VII who made them into a popular festive meal.  For more about festive birds read the History Extra article here.

Since it’s proved impossible to bypass the terrible Tudor I should probably also mention that Dr Legh, one of Cromwell’s monastic visitors, was wandering around Huntingdonshire on his way north on the 23 December 1535. He took it upon himself to visit Hinchinbrooke  Priory.  Sadly the prioress, Alice Wilton, was very unwell and the sight of Legh was enough to finish her off.  Legh promptly took charge of the keys and the money coffers before asking Cromwell what he should do next.

There being only three nuns in addition to the prioress and it being a poor establishment the priory was swiftly suppressed. Ownership passed on to Richard  Cromwell who was the son of Morgan Williams who married Katherine Cromwell, Thomas Cromwell’s sister. Richard took his uncle’s name and benefited from his uncle’s patronage to the tune of several large chunks of monastic land including Hinchinbrooke Priory and Ramsey Abbey.  Hinchinbrooke was to become famous as the birthplace a couple generations down the line of  Oliver Cromwell.
‘Henry VIII: December 1535, 21-25’, in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 9, August-December 1535, ed. James Gairdner (London, 1886), pp. 340-350. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/letters-papers-hen8/vol9/pp340-350 [accessed 6 December 2016].

‘Houses of Benedictine monks: The priory of Hinchinbrook’, in A History of the County of Huntingdon: Volume 1, ed. William Page, Granville Proby and H E Norris (London, 1926), pp. 389-390. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/hunts/vol1/pp389-390 [accessed 7 November 2016].

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Mary of Modena

mary_of_modena_pieterszToday’s figure is Catherine of Modena, James II’s wife because it was on the 9th December 1688 that James II lost the Battle of Reading which marked the moment when his son-in-law William of Orange effectively deposed the hapless Stuart with the help of his people. James  having deposited his wife and son with his French cousin Louis XIV returned  and the whole sorry matter dragged on for a while longer  as he tried to hang on to the throne. He was caught by his son-in-law there was some umming and ahhing whilst the English worked out what to do with him and then they just quietly let him go rather than having to go through the tricky business of trying and executing him as they had done with his father.

 

We’re often taught at school that it was because of James II’s catholicism that the political elite of England toppled the second of Charles I’s sons to wear the crown but actually his lack of popularity was not for his personal beliefs alone. It was due to the laws he passed from 1685 onwards which offered religious toleration to everyone whether they were Catholic or Quaker. Other factors in the unrest included James’ links to France.  James was not so good at dissimulating about a french pension as big brother Charles had been. There is  also the fact that he didn’t have Charles II’s ability to juggle the different factions around him with good humour – his personality was a bit on the prickly side.

 

On the 10 June 1688 Mary of Modena gave birth to a boy – Charles Edward Stuart a.k.a. ‘The Old Pretender.’ This added to James’ woes because up until that point folk were prepared to tolerate him knowing that upon his death the throne would go to his eldest daughter Mary (if only  she’d been called something different this would have been a far easier post to write) by his first wife Anne Hyde (James should have married a princess rather than the daughter of  his brother’s leading minister but James had made Anne pregnant and had to be forced to the altar by his exasperated brother and future father-in-law). Mary (James’ daughter) was the protestant wife of the staunchly protestant William of Orange. Mary and her sister Anne conspired with one another to suggest that their half-brother wasn’t actually their half brother thus giving William the excuse he needed to accept the invitation to take the English crown. I’m not sure how Mary (daughter) squared that particular circle in her mind given that she was supposed to be friends with her slandered step-mother.

 

By December 1688 there had been anti-Catholic riots, plotting aplenty and rumour. James dithered. This was followed on the 9 December by the Battle of Reading, which James lost, and it was off to France for Mary of Modena the following day.

 

So who was she apart from James II’s second queen? Mary Beatrice d’Este, born 1658, was related to everyone important in Europe – the Bourbons and the Medicis. Her great uncle was the hugely influential Cardinal Mazarin. Her mother was very pious and little Mary grew up the same way.

 

Mary’s father died when she was just four. When she was eleven she contemplated becoming a nun  but it was evident that a child with so much important ancestry wasn’t going to be allowed to do that.  The Papacy, the French and even her own mother, who was acting as regent for her brother until he came of age, wanted to ensure the best and most beneficial marriage for themselves. Mary found herself being married off to Prince James a.k.a the Duke of York as the result of the usual diplomatic intriguing that went into most royal marriages the negotiations were strained. The pair eventually married by proxy and Mary, by now fifteen, left Italy to meet her new husband in 1673.

James was twenty-five years older than her, widowed with two daughters who weren’t terribly keen on their new step-mother. James was very admiring of his new bride but when she finally met him she is said to have burst into tears. Things probably didn’t get any better when James introduced her to her new step-daughters with the words “I’ve brought you a new play fellow.”  Mary (the new duchess of York) was four years older than Mary (James’ daughter) and some six years older than Anne. She did try to befriend Anne by playing with her.

 

Elsewhere in the country even though as an individual it is clear that Mary was a hugely sincere and likeable person (Charles II regarded her highly) the population called her ‘The Pope’s Daughter” and muttered darkly – so darkly in fact that Charles II sent his brother and bride out of London to let the matter cool down.

 

Gradually the resentment became an undercurrent. The problem seemed to be one that would resolve itself in time.  Charles II died. Prince James the duke of York became King James II.  Mary’s relationship with her step-daughters had resolved itself into dislike by Anne and warmth with Mary.  Mary had no real nursery to tend. Young Charles Edward was actually one of seven but all of them had died either at birth or before they reached the age of five up until that time – one little princess died as the result of illness caught from half-sister Anne. It can’t have helped Mary that there were plenty of other little Stuarts kicking about as James II had the same problems with fidelity as his elder brother.

Then came the Glorious Revolution of 1688.

So, where does that leave Mary?  Louis XIV provided the royal fugitives with a home, the Chateau de Saint- Germain-en-Laye just outside Paris and a pension. Mary bore James another child, the Princess Louisa Mary (one of England’s forgotten princesses) but she died of smallpox when she was nineteen.

 

James made a number of attempts to reclaim his throne. Mary’s jewels had to be sold to finance the ventures. Gradually James sank into bitterness and then, it has been suggested, senility before dying in 1701.

Mary who’d cried at first sight of her husband had grown to love him over the years. She wore black for the rest of her life and became increasingly withdrawn to the contemplative life that she’d hoped for as a child in the company of the nuns of the Convent of the Visitations. She died in 1718 in poverty and was buried by the nuns.

 

Her only surviving child – the so-called “baby in the bedpan” after the claim that the royal child was stillborn and a substitute smuggled into the royal bedchamber – proclaimed himself King James III. If you feel the urge you can still see the bed where Charles Edward Stuart was born or emerged from the bedpan. http://www.hrp.org.uk/exhibition-archive/secrets-of-the-royal-bedchamber/the-royal-beds/#gs.hTi2n=Y

 

I think that Mary was the only Italian queen England has had. She was also England’s last Catholic queen as the 1689 act of succession, or more correctly Bill of Rights, which invited William and Mary to become joint sovereigns, identified the order of succession specifically excluding potential catholic heirs. The 1701 Act of Settlement which identified where the crown would go after Queen Anne popped her clogs specified that no one married to a catholic could become monarch either.  This was confirmed in 1714 when George, elector of Hanover was invited to become King George I.

That’s not to say there might never be another catholic queen.  The Crown Act of 2013 ended those restrictions along with the system whereby a younger son displaces an elder sister from the succession – now the first born is the heir to the crown irrelevant of their gender or the gender of any siblings they may subsequentially acquire.

 

There’s even a biography freely available if you feel the urge:

https://archive.org/details/queenmaryofmoden00hailuoft

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Sir John Gell – Parliamentarian

Sir_John_Gell_original.jpgOne of the things I like about the summer is the opportunity to get sidetracked, which is exactly what I’ve done in this post. I mentioned in my last post that Sir John Gell besieged Royalists holed up in Lichfield Cathedral in March 1643. John Gell was born at Hopton Hall, near Wirksworth in Derbyshire. Hopton Hall today is known for its snowdrops, its roses and its undulating crinklecrankle garden walls.

The Gells were a wealthy family with their flocks of sheep and lead mines. John was born in 1593. Shortly after John’s birth his father died and his mother Millicent, pregnant with John’s brother Thomas, married John Curzon of Kedleston Hall. In addition to John’s younger brother Millicent also provided a half-brother rather confusingly also called John. Gell raised at Kedleston followed the career path of a young gentleman of his era. He went to university but did not take a degree. He married into the local gentry and then proceeded to create a family and get a reputation for womanizing. He is recorded as saying that he never meddled with women unless they were handsome! No one thought to ask his wife her opinion on the subject nor did it seem to interfere with Gell’s Presbyterianism.

 

Our story really starts in 1635 when Gell was appointed sheriff of Derbyshire and given the unpleasant task of collecting Charles I’s ship money. This tax was usually raised in coastal locations to build, outfit and crew ships to fend off pirates….there isn’t much call for sea-going vessels in Derbyshire which rather explains why Charles I’s little wheeze to raise taxes without having to call a Parliament caused consternation across the country. Gell collected the money in Derbyshire rather enthusiastically. It caused huge resentment not least when Sir John Stanhope was charged twenty-four pounds ship money which he refused to pay. Stanhope happened to be the brother of the Earl of Chesterfield. This together with some earlier cause for dislike resulted in a long-standing feud between Gell with Sir John Stanhope and his brother the earl of Chesterfield.

 

Gell became a baronet in January 1642 presumably for his efficient way with the collection of taxes but supported Parliament on the outbreak of civil war when the king raised his standard in Nottingham that same year. It might be possible that it wasn’t religion that caused Gell to side with Parliament, or his connection with Parliamentarian inclined Derby (as a general rule of thumb, to which there are exceptions, towns tended to be more Parliamentarian in outlook whilst the countryside was more Royalist). What else could it be? Well, it could have been concern that Parliament might have wanted a word about those pesky ship taxes or it could have been the fact that the Stanhopes declared for the king – and Gell, if you recall, did not like the Stanhopes one little bit.

 

Gell threw himself into his new role when he was commissioned by the Earl of Essex to secure Derbyshire for Parliament. He went to Hull where he took charge of a company of London volunteers. They returned with Gell to Derby which became a center for infantry and cavalry regiments. Unfortunately, Derby had no castle or walls. It was Gell who ordered the construction of defensive earthworks.

 

One of the first things that Gell did was to order the siege of Bretbey House – it was owned by Philip Stanhope, Earl of Chesterfield. More famously he also besieged Wingfield Manor but by then he had settled his squabble with Stanhope. Lord Chesterfield took Lichfield for the king in 1643. Gell and his men joined Lord Brooke there in March. Brooke was killed early in the siege so Gell took over command and when the Royalists surrendered a few days later, the rank and file were permitted to leave without their weapons but Philip Stanhope, Lord Chesterfield was dispatched to London in chains where he remained in captivity until his death in 1656.

 

Many of the Royalists who were allowed to march away from Lichfield sought a new army to join. They made for Stafford which was at that time in Royalist hands under the command of the earl of Northampton.  Gell joined forces with Sir William Bereton of Cheshire. The resulting battle at Hopton Heath near Stafford which has nothing to do with Hopton in Derbyshire was indecisive but the Earl of Northampton was killed.

 

Gell now did something that would earn him the lasting enmity of Charles I. Gell asked for the artillery that he had lost at Hopton Heath to be returned. He also asked the earl’s son for the money that Gell had laid out to have the earl embalmed. Both requests were declined. In response, Gell who had removed the earl’s body from the battlefield had Northampton’s body paraded through the streets of Derby before it was buried.

 

The following year, and after the death of his first wife in October 1644, he married Mary Stanhope, the widow Sir John Stanhope. The marriage was swiftly dissolved. Your guess is as good as mine as to whether that was a match made in Heaven.

 

Gell seems to have become a steadily more  loose canon after 1644. He appointed his friends and family to important positions; allowed his troops to plunder and ignored Fairfax’s order that his troops should join with Fairfax at Naseby. His actions were so suspicious that Parliament believed that Gell was thinking of changing his allegiance. This thought was probably also voiced the following year at the siege of Tutbury Castle when Gell offered different, and rather more lenient, surrender terms than those offered by his fellow commander – Bereton who you will recall had been with Gell at the Battle of Hopton Heath.

 

Rather bizarrely Gell tried to gain a pardon for his role in the war from Charles I during his imprisonment at Carisbrooke Castle by offering to lend him £900 in gold.  In 1650, he was found guilty of plotting against the Commonwealth. Charles II planned to return to his kingdom via Scotland but wanted to be sure of having an army to command.  His council wanted to ensure that parliament didn’t know where the king was going to pop up.   Blank commissions were sent secretly to England with a view to raising divisions of men but the Commonwealth tracked many of these commissions and in so doing unearthed more than one royalist sympathiser. Gell was lucky not to be hanged like the unfortunate Dr Lewen who was found with several of these commissions. Instead, Gell was imprisoned in the Tower of London until 1652 when he was freed. He lived in London rather than returning to Derbyshire.

 

Charles II pardoned him for his role in the civil war and granted him a position at court, where he remained until his death in October 1671. His body was returned to Derbyshire. He is buried in Wirksworth.

 

 

Brighton, Trevor (2004) Sir John Gell. Oxford DNB.

Stone, Brian (1992) Derbyshire in the Civil War. Cromford: Scarthin Books

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Lichfield Cathedral: a prince and duchess and rather a lot of gunpowder

DSC_0049Lichfield Cathedral was besieged not once, not twice but thrice during the English Civil War.

On the first occasion in March 1643 the Royalists found themselves holed up in the cathedral surrounded by a parliamentarian force. Lord Brooke, Parliamentarian in charge of dislodging them went to take a look at the close and was shot and killed by a sniper firing from the central spire of the cathedral – a remarkable feat of marksmanship by John “Dumb” Dyott – so called because he was deaf and dumb. It was remarkably unlucky for Brooke who had only recently arrived in Lichfield.  Depending on your viewpoint Brooke died, shot through the eye,  either at the hands of a thoroughly bad lot or expired still spouting hatred with his last breath.  The event is recorded on a plaque on Dam Street.

DSCF2410.JPG

The Parliamentarians were reinforced by Derbyshire men led by Sir John Gell of Hopton Hall near Wirksworth in Derbyshire. In addition artillery arrived and in a decidedly dastardly gesture the Parliamentarians used the relations of the Royalists as a human shield. The first siege came to a close when the royalists negotiated surrender. Their leader the Earl of Chesterfield found himself in the Tower whilst his men, although disarmed, were free to go and find themselves another army.

 

It was at this point that the Parliamentarians demonstrated their thuggish tendencies by destroying much of DSCF2382.jpgthe stained glass, defacing the sculpture and destroying much Lichfield Cathedral’s library. Together with the destruction of the third siege in 1646 the only text that remains of the original cathedral library is one volume of the eighth century Lichfield Gospels which was either found or given into the care of Frances, Duchess of Somerset who owned property in the area (her father was Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex and former favourite of Elizabeth I executed for treason in 1601. Her mother was Frances Walsingham daughter of Francis Walsingham.) She returned the gospels along with a further thousand books from her husband’s collection.  Today the gospels are on display in the Chapter House together with the Lichfield Angel, a wonderful piece of eighth century carving.

 

If I had been describing a football match I would describe the lull after the first siege as a half time interval with a change of ends. The Parliamentarians made the most of their time when not breaking glass and sharpening their swords on centuries old grotesques to strengthen their defences and make good some of the holes in cathedral’s medieval close walls.

 

The match resumed on 7 April 1643 with the arrival of Prince Rupert of the Rhine. The Parliamentarians withdrew from the town of Lichfield to the cathedral and the close. Rupert and his men bounced cannonballs from the cathedral, attempted to scale the walls with ladders and then mined the fortified close. The cannon weren’t really up to the job and it can’t have helped Rupert’s temper when the commander of the Parliamentarians offered to lend him a barrel of powder. Rupert is described as “bellowing at the defenders like a lion” (Gaunt: 138). The prince turned to his mining tactics and the Parliamentarians counter-mined.  A tower in the wall collapsed.  The defenders ultimately negotiated terms and marched off into the sunset leaving a rather sadly battered Lichfield Cathedral in the hands of the royalists for the next three years.

 

In March 1646 that all changed. The war wasn’t going well for the royalists who prepared for a siege. The parliamentarians duly arrived along with their artillery and duly blew up the central spire that fell into the nave and the choir. The garrison didn’t surrender until July when they received a letter from the king telling them to make what terms they could.

The Royalists marched out with their heads held high but the cathedral was in, what can only be described as, a right state.  The local Roundheads decided that the best use for the building was as a pigpen, a calf was baptised and Parliament decided that the best thing to do was to demolish the cathedral given that it was so badly damaged.  It was suggested that if the lead was removed from the roof it wouldn’t take long for the whole structure to collapse (Spraggon: 197).  It was the eighteenth century before the cathedral was restored.

 

Gaunt, Peter. (2014) The English Civil War: A Military History. London: Tauris & Co

Spraggon, Julie. (2003) Puritan Iconoclasm During the English Civil War. Woodbridge: Boydell Press

Double click on the picture below for a new window and a much more detail insight to the three sieges of Lichfield Cathedral as well as the people who were involved with events.

IMG_7740.jpg

 

 

 

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Lord Roos, the Lakes and a Jacobean scandal

frances cecil.jpgLady Anne Clifford recorded her thoughts about this particular scandal in her diaries.  She wasn’t impressed.  These days the story is little known, paling as it does beside the case of Frances  Carr nee HowardLady Somerset and the murder of Thomas Overbury.

Anne Lake, daughter of Secretary of State Sir Thomas Lake married William Cecil, Lord Roos or de Ros in February 1616. William Cecil was the grandson of Thomas Cecil who was the son of William Cecil (Lord Burghley – Queen Elizabeth’s advisor). It wasn’t a happy marriage from the outset not least because of William’s belief that Anne had been turned against him by her mother Mary Lake.

 

It wasn’t long before William’s wife and mother-in-law were blackmailing William about his alleged impotence in an attempt to get him to sign his land over to the Lakes. By August 1616 Cecil had become sufficiently fed up with his new family to flee to foreign parts – Italy if you want to be precise. The couple were separated.  Sir Thomas now demanded a settlement for his daughter suggesting lands at Walhamstow that were already mortgaged to him.  It wasn’t happy and worse was to come.

 

Frances Cecil (born Brydges)  pictured at the state of the post at a later time and from the National Portrait Gallery collection was William’s step-grandmother. She and William were virtually the same age. Mary Lake accused Frances of an incestuous and adulterous affair with William (even though they weren’t related by blood they were related by marriage). Then just for good measure said that she had tried to poison Anne because she knew about the relationship.

 

The matter ended up in front of James I who passed it on to the Star Chamber to deal with. The earl of Exeter, Thomas Cecil – husband of Frances, grandfather of William accused the Lakes of slander.

 

If that wasn’t enough Anne’s brother Arthur had become involved in the fracas. He apparently attacked Cecil due to Anne’s wounded honour and there was a plan for the two men to fight a duel but it never happened. Instead, Arthur nearly had to fight a duel with a couple of other nobles on account of hearing them joking about sister Anne. And no wonder they were the ballad mongers and poetry makers of the period had a field day with the scandal. Follow the link to find out more about five scurrilous poems of the period featuring the Lake ladies http://www.earlystuartlibels.net/htdocs/lake_roos_section/J0.html .

The case was ultimately judged in 1619 after Lord Roos had died in the aforementioned foreign parts.   It turned out that the Lakes had done a spot of letter forging  to ‘prove’ the incestuous relationship and a had been leaning on people to get them to support their claims. The Lakes were flung into the Tower,  Anne Lake’s parents fined  £5000 each and required to ask pardon of the king and Frances Cecil. Anne did what was required in 1619 but it was May 1621 before Mary Lake fulfilled the need to ask pardon.

Perhaps Sir Thomas wasn’t overjoyed when his wife was released.  His biography on the History of Parliament website imparts the fact that there were rumours that he was the victim of husband battering.

And just when you think it can’t get any more scandalous Arthur found himself being accused on incest with Anne – presumably on ‘there’s no smoke without fire’ basis. Arthur’s wife Lettuce died just after this juicy little piece of gossip came to the forefront of public scandal. It should be noted that Lady Anne Clifford was very sympathetic to Lettuce’s plight. She’d died as countless other women did at that time of complications in giving birth however gossip declared that she’d died of syphilis.

Happy days…

 

http://www.historyofparliamentonline.org/volume/1604-1629/member/lake-sir-thomas-i-1561-1630

Love, Lust, and License in Early Modern England: Illicit Sex and the Nobility

By Johanna Rickman

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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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Gunpowder, treason and plot

 Remember, remember!
The fifth of November,
The Gunpowder treason and plot;
I know of no reason
Why the Gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot!

king-james1Actually there’s every reason why the plot might have been forgotten!  There were at least four plots against James I during the early years of his reign. Yet it is Guy Fawkes, a York boy, who is remembered.  This post is about two earlier plots and the wonderfully named Sir Griffin Markham.

Sir Griffin, the eldest son and heir of Thomas Markham, of Ollerton in Nottinghamshire, served as a soldier under the Earl of Essex in an expedition sent by Queen Elizabeth to the assistance of Henry IV of France. He was knighted during the siege of Rouen in 1591. He afterwards served in Ireland but there was a problem for this soldier that got worse with the passage of time. Sir Griffin was a Catholic at a time when being Catholic was a cause for suspicion and an impediment to power.

In the Parish Register of Mansfield it is stated that Griffin Markham was at the Market Cross in Mansfield and other gentlemen of the region for the proclamation of the accession of James I (pictured at the start of this post). Catholics had every reason to hope that persecution, which they faced during Elizabeth’s reign, might ease – after all, James’ mother and wife were Catholic. Yet, it appears that within a very short time of James’ accession Sir Griffin wasn’t a happy man. Four months later he was arrested on a treason charge – he’d become involved in a plot that history knows as the Bye Plot or the Treason of the Priests. (Ironically, Jesuits who were concerned that the Bye Plot was a harebrained scheme that would result in major difficulties for English Catholics revealed the conspiracy to Cecil.)

During the course of investigations into the Bye Plot a second plot, which became known as the Main Plot, was uncovered. The two were separate but involved many of the same people!

Sir Griffin Markham, Lord Grey (a radical puritan), Lord Cobham and George Brooke found themselves incarcerated in the Tower along with a couple of catholic priests- William Watson and William Clarke. They were charged with a plot to kidnap James and his Privy Council and then force them to make concessions to the Catholics including the repeal of anti-Catholic legeslation…like that was going to happen and with only three hundred men – not that there is any evidence of Sir Griffin being able to round up a posse that size. This was the Bye Plot.

arbella_stuart_15881At the same time Sir Walter Raleigh found himself under arrest on account of a slightly different plot called the ‘Main Plot’ to depose James (‘the kyngge and his cubbes’) and replace him with Arbella (Arabella) Stuart, the grand-daughter of Bess of Hardwick through her daughter Elizabeth Cavendish and Charles Stuart Earl of Lennox – who was the son of Margaret Douglas who in turn was the daughter of Margaret Tudor, eldest daughter of King Henry VII of England.

It is probable that Raleigh was caught in the net of the Main Plot because of his friendship with Lord Cobham who’d been travelling around Europe have shady chats with Spanish types looking at bankrolling the venture. The problem for Raleigh was that Cobham travelled home via Jersey where Raleigh was governor and clearly stopped off for a chat with his old friend. Cecil put two together, or so it would appear, and found an opportunity to rid himself of a political adversary. There’s another theory that says that Raleigh played his old friend along playing the role of agent provocateur and then managed to get caught in Cecil’s net – whichever way you look at the Main Plot it seems hard to believe that Raleigh would plot with the Spanish. There’s a third view that Raleigh himself spoke of at his trial which was that he thought that he was being offered a pension – not treasonable and something that Cecil was in receipt of himself!

The common denominators between the Main Plot and the Bye Plot were George Brooke and Lord Cobham who were, incidentally, brothers.

The Bye Plot conspirators including Lord Cobham were tried in Winchester and found guilty. A scaffold was built especially for the occasion in Winchester Castle. The warrant was signed on the 7th December and Sir Griffin went to his fate on the 9th complaining bitterly that his confession had been given on the promise of leniency. It was only as he was just about to lay his head on the block that a member of the King’s household arrived with another warrant from James I giving him an extra two hours of life. The same grisly process awaited Lord Grey who prayed for half an hour before the sheriff issued the stay of execution and then Lord Cobham. All three mounted the scaffold, thought their last moments had come only to be given a short reprieve at the last moment – sounding suspiciously like someone somewhere had a very nasty sense of humour or someone in authority wanted to entrap Raleigh through a pre-execution confession from his fellow conspirators.

Each of the three men also believed that the other two men had been executed until they were all bought back to the scaffold for a piece of Jacobean theatre contrived by the king for the news that they were to be spared death but banished from the kingdom. Brooke was the only one to be executed in Winchester, even though he might have reasonably expected leniency being married to Lord Cecil’s sister (talk about a family embarrassment).

Raleigh spent the next thirteen years in The Tower and Parliament passed an act called the ‘Statute Against Catholics’ banishing Catholic priests from England was passed into law as a result of the Bye Plot. Sir Griffin ended his life in continental poverty. According to some stories it is said that he often donned disguise and returned home, and that he assisted in the attempted escape of Arabella Stuart.

Fraser, Lady Antonia. (2003). The Gunpowder Plot: Terror and Faith in 1605. London: (Phoenix) Orion Books

Orange, James. (1840) History and Antiquities of Nottingham Vol II. London: Hamilton, Adams and Co. pp733-745

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Benn. Aphra Behn. Neither shaken nor stirred.

article-1277341-09581352000005DC-485_634x528Aphra Johnson is one of England’s foremost literary ladies. She wrote plays and poems and even a book on botany but I first heard of her because she was an early novelist and spent a grim week wading through her novel Oroonoko – though to be fair Eighteenth Century Studies was by far the grimmest of the courses I followed many moons ago at university and I didn’t know the extent that she was drawing on her experiences and coming to think of it she had nothing to do with the eighteenth century!

Her own life story reads like an adventure novel. She was born near Canterbury in 1640 at Wye. Some accounts identify her father as a barber from Canterbury others identify her father as John Amis – there being a world of difference in the status of the two men.

What we can be sure of is that at that time that area was full of Huguenot refugees and Dutch emigrees. The Huguenots were famously silk weavers but the Dutch left a legacy of linen thread making – meaning that the fields of Kent weren’t necessarily full of hops but flax.
At some point Aphra travelled to Dutch Guiana or Surinam as it was then known in the company of her parents- her father had been made lieutenant-general of the colony but he died en route.

During the two years she was in Surinam, Aphra became friends with William Scot, the son of a convicted and executed regicide. It is possible that they became lovers but the evidence is sketchy.

When she returned to London in approximately 1664 she married a Dutch- or possibly German- merchant – or possibly sea captain- who seems to have promptly died of the plague leaving her somewhat financially challenged. It has also been suggested that for some reason Johan Behn may well have been a product of her imagination as no evidence of him can readily be found.

Fortunately her mother had a friend who was a groom of the king’s bedchamber called Sir Thomas Killigrew. He managed to get her an introduction at court. The next thing you know Aphra found herself working as a spy with Killigrew as her handler in Flanders and the Netherlands during the Anglo-Dutch wars (1652- 74). In part she was selected for the role because a certain William Scot was now in the Low Countries. One of Aphra’s jobs was to convince him to support Charles II – the man who’d signed the death warrant for his father. She was to offer him a pardon which proved lamentably slow in its arrival.

Before she returned home Aphra warned her London spymasters that the Dutch were planning an attack up the Thames. Her warnings were ignored and the fleet burned on the Medway raid that saw the flagship the Royal Charles captured.

Aphra should have checked Charles II’s record for paying his staff. Back in London, where she’d managed to miss the Great Fire, she found herself in debtors’ prison and never did get paid for her work. In order to extract herself from this rather unpleasant situation she picked up her quill and started writing. She became England’s leading female writer and earned a place in Westminster Abbey. The truth, is as they say, stranger than fiction.

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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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