The man who made priest holes

DSC_0094.jpgYesterday I found myself in the garderobe, sliding into a small space, ducking my head to avoid a low beam and then straightening to find myself in a priest hole.  Fortunately for me no one was going to slam the lid back into place and leave me in total darkness until it was safe for me to emerge or I was discovered and dragged off to the Tower.  I was enjoying a sunny afternoon at Oxborough Hall.

 

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During the reign of Elizabeth I Jesuits priests were feared as enemies of the state and hunted down by pursuivants.  Catholic priests moved from Catholic household to catholic household, often purporting to be cousins or other distant relations.  Wealthy families built hiding places in their homes so that when the priest hunters came calling there was somewhere to hide their illicit guest.

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The most successful priest holes were built by Nicholas Owen – not that he built the hole at Oxborough. Owen, an Oxfordshire man, was born in 1562.  He had three siblings one was a Catholic priest and another printed illegal Catholic books.  The brothers’ father was a carpenter and Nicholas in his turn was apprenticed to a joiner.  By the time he was in his mid twenties he was working for Father Henry Garnet and had become a lay brother in the Jesuit order.  He suffered from ill health including a limp from a poorly set bone and a hernia. Despite his physical frailty he travelled from house to house constructing priest holes.   Most of the people he worked for didn’t know his real name – to them he was Little John.  He worked by night in total secrecy to create his hiding places.  Many of the priest holes were so well concealed that they were only discovered in later centuries when houses underwent renovation.  Unfortunately the occasional hole is still found with its occupant still in situ.

 

Owen’s favoured locations seem to have been behind fireplaces and under stairs.  The pursuivants were men who could judge if an interior wall looked shorter than an exterior wall so Owen had to be very careful as to where he located his priest holes.

 

Nicholas was a man strong in faith.  He was eventually captured in 1606 at Hindlip Hall in Worcestershire in the aftermath of the Gunpowder Plot.  It is thought he allowed himself to be captured in order to distract attention from Father Henry Garnet who was hiding nearby.

There were rules about torturing people with disabilities but this didn’t stop Robert Cecil from demanding that Owen be taken to the Tower and taxed about his knowledge by Topcliffe.  He was racked.  This caused his intestines to bulge out through his hernia.  Topcliffe ordered that they be secure by a metal plate. This cut into the hernia and he bled to death in his cell. He died rather than give away his secrets and the lives of the men who depended upon him keeping them.  The State announced that he had committed suicide.

St Nicholas Owen was canonised in 1970 and is the patron saint of illusionists and escape artists.

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Hogge Alice.  God’s Secret Agents

Reynolds, Tony. (2014) St Nicholas Owen: Priest Hole Maker

https://soul-candy.info/2012/03/mar-22-st-nicholas-owen-sj-d-1606-martyr-artist-builder-of-hiding-places-for-priests/

Illegitimate but loyal – the FitzJames family

220px-Arabella_ChurchillArabella Churchill was the mistress of the Duke of York for about ten years as well as being one of Anne Hyde’s ladies-in-waiting.  Arabella had four children by James.

Henrietta was the eldest of the siblings.  She married Henry Waldegrave, the son of a cavalier in 1683.  He was the Comptroller of James’ household.  Unlike her legitimate half-siblings Henrietta was raised as a Catholic and accompanied her father into exile along with Henry Waldegrave who died the following year.  She eventually married for a second time to Piers Butler, Viscount Galmoye but not before she’d had a fling with one of Ireland’s  wild geese. Through her first marriage she is an ancestor of Princess Diana.

Henrietta’s brother James, the most famous of Arabella’s FitzJames children, was raised in France and entered the service of Louis XIV.  He returned to England where he became an officer in the Blues at his father’s instigation.  In fact he was due to replace the protestant Earl of Oxford – an example of James’ strategy of giving key roles to Catholics – a strategy which helped to trigger the Glorious Revolution of 1688.  When men like John Churchill deserted James at Salisbury and went over to William of Orange, James remained loyal to his father and went to Ireland where the fight for the Crown continued before going into exile in France where he rejoined Louis XIV’s army.  His was a complicated life given that he found himself on the opposite side to his uncle, John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough.  Henry became a marshal in the french army and counselled his father not to trust John Churchill.  At one point he was captured by another his Churchill uncles and only released when exchanged with a French prisoner.  He became the Duke of Berwick but its a Jacobite title rather than one recognised by the English peerage.  He was killed in 1733, aged 63, by a passing cannon ball having refused to take part in the Jacobite rising of 1715. The Dukedom of Alba continued as a Spanish title.

A second Fitzjames boy, Henry, died in 1702 in France whilst the youngest FitzJames sibling, called Arabella born in 1674 opted to become a nun in Pontoise.  She took the name Ignatia.

Arabella Churchill married Charles Godfrey circa 1674.  She went on to have forty years of happy married life and three more children.  Godfrey was a colonel and a Whig – so anti-Jacobite.  In an already complicated family it is perhaps not surprising to learn that the FitzJames’ stepfather was one of the first men to join with William of Orange.  He would serve in various positions within the royal household as well as becoming an MP. Arabella outlived him by some sixteen years dying at the age of eighty in 1730.

 

John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough – a smooth man

220px-John_Churchill_Marlborough_porträtterad_av_Adriaen_van_der_Werff_(1659-1722)Winston Churchill, from Devon, was a Cavalier – which wasn’t good news for John born in 1650 as Winston had spent the family money on the king.  However, John received an education at St Paul’s before acquiring a job as a page in the household of the Duke of York.  The methodology was very simply – his sister Arabella was one of James’ ladies.  This was despite the fact that she was deemed a rather plain girl who was a baton the thin side.   In fact there were four little FitzJames’ in the family.

John rose under the patronage of James, then Duke of York but was still short of cash.  This was remedied by a distant relation of his – Barbara Villiers – who also happened to be one of Charles II’s ladies.  Now, Barbara was not what be described as monogamous.  In 1667 when she became pregnant Charles denied paternity as he claimed that he hadn’t been anywhere near the lady at the required time.  Anyway, John was apparently rather a good looking young man and apparently Barbara wasn’t expecting a royal visit so retired for the evening with John only for the king to come a knocking on her door – yes, its the classic lover under the bed story.  Only in this instance to save the lady’s “honour” and possibly his own hide John made a rather daring leap from a first floor window.  Barbara very gratefully handed over £5000.  There is another version of the story that sent John scurrying for a handy cupboard where the king discovered him.. John threw himself to his knees.  Charles is said to have called John a “rascal” but pardoned him his actions because he knew the young man only did it for his “bread.”  Choose the version you prefer.  It is true that Barbara was generous with her young men.

For John though advancement came through his soldiering and his bride.  Young Sarah Jennings came from St Albans.  She came to court when she was about thirteen and living as she did in the household of the Duke of York came into contact with John who fell head over heels in love with the striking red head.  There was a secret marriage – his family required him to marry an heiress but Sarah’s family was not only large it had also been impoverished during the civil war.  The pair only confessed their marriage when Sarah became obviously pregnant.

Meanwhile Sarah had shown Princess Anne kindness during the Earl of Mulgrave scandal and Anne known for her somewhat obsessive friendships drew closer to Sarah.  Sarah’s influence together with Churchill’s victories during the Spanish War of Succession made the couple the wealthiest ex-commoners in the land.  When Sarah Churchill was finally banished from court in 1710 they were drawing an enormous £64,000 from the public purse and their total income was somewhere in the region of £94,000.

Holmes, Richard. (2009)  Marlborough:  Britain’s Greatest General: England’s Fragile Genius

The scandalous earl, a leaky boat and a Stuart princess

buffsjohnsheffield.jpgJohn Sheffield, the 3rd Earl of Mulgrave was born on the 7th April 1648.  He inherited his title when he was a child.  When he was eighteen he joined the fleet to fight against the Dutch in the Second Anglo Dutch war.  He went on to command his own ship, the Royal Katherine, and was also made an infantry colonel having raised a regiment of foot.  In 1680 he was sent to relieve the garrison of Tangiers.

All of which sounds like the usual “blah” until you realise that history says that he was sent off in a leaky boat to Tangiers for having looked a bit too closely at Charles II’s mistresses or else for having the audacity to look to marry James of York’s youngest daughter (it depends on the source but it was more likely the mistress than the princess given the date of his commission to relieve Tangiers which was before the princess scandal.)  Samuel Johnson mentions “some resentful jealousy of the king,” he also comments that since Mulgrave resumed his duties at court as a courtier on his return that perhaps Charles II had never been angry at all – making the whole story a Stuart red herring.

On his return from Tangiers Mulgrave became noted for his support of James of York. He was one of the men who helped to bring about the disgrace of the Earl of Monmouth (Charles II’s illegitimate but protestant son.) Not unreasonably Mulgrave may have expected a little gratitude from Monmouth’s uncle James, Duke of York.

 

fe6f287740b51454df7a553b40e9e0ae.jpgHowever, his desired reward was not forthcoming!  In 1682 Mulgrave was sent away from court for putting himself forward as a prospective groom for seventeen-year-old Princess Anne – the gossip mongers claimed that he’d progressed rather further with his courting than either James of Charles II liked. Mulgrave was thirty five at the time and had a reputation as a rake (hence the leaky Tangiers bound boat.) He was quick to report that he was “only ogling” the princess (charming) but at the time it was understood that he had written letters to the princess that were rather too personal.  When he was banished from court in November 1682 speculation about Anne’s possible seduction was rife. There were plenty of risqué songs on the subject in London’s taverns.

 

A description of the attempted disposal of Mulgrave by his dispatch to Tangiers can be found in an anonymous source in Cibber-Shiels, Lives of the Poets of Great Britain and Ireland (1753) 3:285-300. Which may be accessed from http://spenserians.cath.vt.edu/BiographyRecord.php?action=GET&bioid=35802

This account is more probably true, than the former when it is considered, that by sending the earl to Tangier, a scheme was laid for destroying him, and all the crew aboard the same vessel. For the ship which was appointed to carry the general of the forces, was in such a condition, that the captain of her declared, he was afraid to make the voyage. Upon this representation, lord Mulgrave applied both to the lord admiral, and the king himself: The first said, the ship was safe enough, and no other could be then procured. The king answered him coldly, that he hoped it would do, and that he should give himself no trouble about it. His lordship was reduced to the extremity either of going in a leaky ship, or absolutely refusing; which he knew his enemies would impute to cowardice, and as he abhorred the imputation, he resolved, in opposition to the advice of his friends, to hazard all; but at the same time advised several volunteers of quality, not to accompany him in the expedition, as their honour was not so much engaged as his; some of whom wisely took his advice, but the earl of Plymouth, natural son of the king, piqued himself in running the same danger with a man who went to serve his father, and yet was used so strangely by the ill-offices of his ministers.

Providence, however defeated the ministerial scheme of assassination, by giving them the finest weather during the voyage, which held three weeks, and by pumping all the time, they landed safe at last at Tangier, where they met with admiral Herbert, afterwards earl of Torrington, who could not but express his admiration, at their having performed such a voyage in a ship he had sent home as unfit for service; but such was the undisturbed tranquility and native firmness of the earl of Mulgrave’s mind, that in this hazardous voyage, he composed (a) poem.

The poem I should add is described by Johnson as licentious.

 

Mulgrave remained in England after  King James II fled in 1688.  He even protected the Spanish ambassador from the London mob. His political career nose dived during the reign of William and Mary.

He remained on very good terms with Anne. He became the Lord Privy Seal after she became queen  and in 1703 was created Duke of Buckingham and Normanby. When in London he lived in Buckingham House which overlooked the Mall. He was furiously Tory in his sympathies throughout his life which was a bit of a problem whilst Sarah Churchill held the queen’s ear as she was a Whig.  It’s somewhat ironic that Sarah Churchill met Anne when they were children but it was only after the Mulgrave scandal that the two became close.

 

Just a reminder –  the final short summer class in Derby entitled Queen Anne- fact and fiction- starts on Tuesday 25th June.  There are still spaces.  Follow the link to find out more. https://thehistoryjar.com/derby-classes/

 

Bills of Mortality 1665-1666 …charting the Great Plague

Plague scenes Wellcome.jpgBills of Mortality , or the weekly list of deaths and their causes, were published in London during the final years of Queen Elizabeth I. Then from  1603 they were published continuously by the Worshipful Company of Parish Clerks.

2378023r_page_011There were 130 parishes in London.  The weekly list gives historians an insight into the statistics of the period not to mention some of the mechanisms of the Grim Reaper.  In the week commencing August 15 1665 8 people died from “winde,” another from “lethargy” whilst 190 were carried away by “fever and purples” which sounds downright unpleasant not to mention suspiciously like the bubonic plague. A total of 3880 souls were listed as having died from Yersinia pestis as the bacilli carried by fleas should be more correctly known.

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From the Bills of Mortality it is possible to chart the progress of the disease.  The earliest outbreak was in the parish of St Giles in the Fields.  It was a poor parish so no one paid a great deal of attention.  Gradually the numbers increased and the plague moved inside the city walls.

London lost roughly 15% of its population with the numbers peaking during the hottest months of the year.  In one week in September the number of deaths from bubonic plague was listed as 7,165.

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While a total of  68,596 deaths were recorded in the city, the true number was probably over 100,000.

 

Those who could left the city and took the disease with them. Charles II and his courtiers left in July for Hampton Court and then Oxford.  Court cases were also moved from Westminster to Oxford. The poor had no option but to remain, shut in to their homes by officials if they or a member of their family caught the disease; discovered by searchers when they died and buried in pits such as the one unearthed by the construction of Crossrail.

As for the Bills of Mortality it turns out that the Guildhall Library in London holds the most complete collection of the documents.  They, along with the story of the plague, can be viewed at the City of London’s online exhibition about the Great Plague which can be found by clicking on the link and opening a new window. https://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/things-to-do/guildhall-library/events-exhibitions/Pages/great-plague-online-exhibition.aspx

Bills of Mortality may be viewed on line at https://wellcomecollection.org/

https://www.historytoday.com/great-plague-1665-case-closed

Bills of Mortality August 15 -22, 1665. Credit: Wellcome Collection. CC BY

Chart of distribution of the Great Plague, 1665. Credit: Wellcome Collection. CC BY

Title page to a statistical analysis of mortality during the plague epidemic in London of 1665. Etching, 18–. Credit: Wellcome Collection. CC BY

Plague in London, 1665. Credit: Wellcome Collection. CC BY

Sir Charles Lucas -parole breaker or royalist martyr?

charles lucas.jpgCharles Lucas was one of Margaret Cavendish’s brothers.  An anti-Royalist mob sacked their home in 1642.  This was when Madge was sent off to Oxford to live with her sister.  She gained a place as one of Henrietta Maria’s ladies in waiting and went into exile with her.

Charles meanwhile as a younger brother was Cambridge educated but expected to make his own way in the world.  Like so many other younger sons he spent much of the 1630s on the Continent fighting in the Thirty Years War.  When Charles I declared war on the Scots in 1638, Charles returned home to fight in the so-called Bishop’s War.  He commanded a troop of horse under his brother Sir John Lucas’s command.  As a consequence he was knighted by the king and for those of you who like a Yorkshire link was made Governor of Richmond in 1639.  During the civil war itself Charles was part of Prince Rupert’s cavalry.  Later he transferred to the army of the Marquis of Newcastle – who Charles’ sister Madge would marry in 1645 in exile in Paris.

Eventually in 1646 Charles was taken prisoner at the Battle of Stow-On-The-Wold.  He gave his parole to Sir Thomas Fairfax that he would lay down his arms and go home.

Lucas went back on his word in June 1648 when Lord Goring, fresh from the rebellion in Kent, arrived in East Anglia.  Lucas occupied his home town, Colchester, in the name of the King.  The intention was to raise support in East Anglia but instead of which Thomas Fairfax surrounded Colchester and settled in for a siege.  Things were somewhat complicated by the fact that Fairfax absolutely refused to negotiate with Lucas – who had broken his parole. Lucas was executed – by firing squad (a fact which I couldn’t remember this morning.)  He and Lord Lisle were excluded from the terms that ended the siege because they had gone back on their words.  This may not have been strictly legal.  His tomb states that he was barbarously murdered.  The portrait of Sir Charles Lucas at the start of this post can be found in Colchester Castle.

 

I have posted abut the Siege of Colchester before.  That post can be found here: https://thehistoryjar.com/tag/charles-lucas/

The Putney Debates- one man, one vote…or not.

putney-debatesAt the end of the First English Civil War in 1647 the men who had fought against the king found themselves in disagreement.  One group of politicians wanted to reach a settlement with the king other groups wanted more radical reforms.  It is safe to say that none of them trusted one another much by the end of 1647. The Putney Debates, held at St Mary’s Church Putney in the autumn of 1647 presented the views of different factions within the army.

On one side of the argument were the so called Grandees.  These were officers who came from the landed gentry. Unsurprisingly they did not share the Levellers’ desire for a redistribution of land.  Oliver Cromwell, Henry Ireton and Thomas Fairfax were the most influential of the Grandees as well as being respected military commanders.  These men were initially prepared to negotiate terms with Charles I as the war drew to an end.

On the other side of the argument were men such as Colonel Rainsborough who after four years of war had been radicalised.  The men who represented the radical groups and rank and file had been first appointed as agitators or “new agents” elected to take the grievances  of the soldiery to the Grandees when the news of Parliament’s desire to disband the New Model Army had first been aired in 1647.  Initially men wanted to know when they would receive their back pay, receive indemnity from actions carried out during the war and dispute the way in which they were being drafted to Ireland.

In October 1647 five particularly radical regiments selected new agitators and issued a manifesto contacting their viewpoint.  This was endorsed by civilian levellers as well as radicals within the army.  They wanted universal male suffrage, two-yearly parliaments, reorganisation of constituencies, equality of law and freedom from being pressed into military service – all of which seems very reasonable to modern eyes but were the cause of concern to the Grandees who saw a world turned upside down in the Levellers’ Agreement.

The debates began on the 28th October 1647 and were initially recorded.  Essentially the Levellers argued they had rights as Englishmen to a say in how the country was run.  The Grandees thought that it would result in chaos.  A compromise was arrived at with the Grandees saying that soldiers who fought in the civil war should be entitled to a vote and the Levellers conceding that if a man was in receipt of alms or a beggar that he should not have the franchise.

However on the 8th November Cromwell ordered the agitators back to their regiments.  The opportunity to present the manifesto to the Army Council and from there to Parliament would be denied to the Levellers.  Another manifesto was drawn up by army officers and this was the one presented to the Army Council.    The men of the New Model Army would not have a large meeting and a vote.  Instead they would be offered three smaller reviews.  Knowing that they were being cheated of their manifesto there was nearly a mutiny at Corkbush Field on the 15th November 1647 ending with the execution of Private Richard Arnold, one of three ringleaders who had been forced to draw lots.

The beginning of the Second English Civil War in 1648 and divisions with the Scots saw the army close its ranks for the time being. The Grandees disgusted with the perfidy of Charles I were no longer prepared to negotiate whilst the Levellers found themselves mutinying in 1649.  Anger over the failure of Parliament to pay back wages not to mention the way in which men were selected for service in Ireland led to a number of regiments refusing to obey their officers.

 

Political discord – 1647 style

charles i full lengthIn January the Scots handed King Charles I over to the English.  He had surrendered to the Scots int he hope that they would treat him better than the English and as a strategy for sowing political disharmony amongst his enemies.  The Scots sold him to the English for £40,000.

On the 15th March Harlech Castle surrendered after a ten month siege.  The constable of the castle had been in post since 1644.  His name was William Owen who originated from Shropshire. Harlech itself had always been in the possession of the king.  Perhaps because it wasn’t readily accessible to artillery it remained unchallenged until the final months of the civil war. This was probably just as well as Owen’s garrison comprised just fifteen men.  Owen took himself off to Scotland and after the Royalist defeat found himself in Nottingham Castle.  He was required to pay a fine of £400 before being allowed home. However he wasn’t required to pay one tenth of his income in tax as many other Royalists were required to do.

 

All that remained was to negotiate a settlement with the King and set up a series of laws for the good governance of the three kingdoms – even though no one could accuse what was happening in Ireland of being peaceful.  Generals Ireton and Lambert drafted something called the Heads of Proposals.  Essentially England would become Presbyterian, Parliament would have control of the armed forces and Royalists would not be allowed to hold office for five years.

Oliver_Cromwell_by_Samuel_CooperMany army officers and soldiers were unhappy about the fact that Parliament would even consider negotiating with the king. It was one of the causal factors that led to the Putney Debates.  The so-called “Grandees” who had negotiated with the king were seen as having failed the Parliamentarian cause.  By August five radical cavalry regiments had elected agitators to state their views.  One of their demands was for universal male suffrage, i.e. a levelling.  The Grandees, Cromwell amongst them, invited the radicals to debate their demands – resulting in the Putney Debates which started on the 28th October and lasted for three days.

Unfortunately Cromwell became alarmed at the extent of the radical ideas expressed so the debaters were ordered back to their regiments. A document was drawn up to replace the one which the Levellers had presented.  This did not go down well in the radical regiments. On the 15th November there was almost a mutiny which had to be suppressed before matters got out of hand.

Meanwhile – in June Parliament decided that Christmas was a nasty superstitious sort of event.  They also banned Easter and Whitsun. As a result when Christmas came around rather than conforming with the new rules there were riots in Kent which swiftly evolved into the Second English Civil War.

The king had decided that he didn’t like the turn of events, the Levellers’ plan didn’t leave much room for a king and he became convinced that he would be assassinated. So he decided to escape Parliament.  There was also the small matter of a constitutional monarchy.  On November 11th Charles escaped from Hampton Court in the direction of the New Forest – where he became lost.  He had aimed to make for Jersey but ended up on the Isle of Wight where he was recaptured.

The Glorious Revolution

The revolution of 1688 is also called the Bloodless Revolution. Basically James II inherited the throne from his brother Charles II on 6th Feb 1685.  Three years later he was turfed out.  James aside from being Catholic himself appointed Catholics to the army and in 1687 suspended anti-catholic laws – in Ireland Protestant officers were replaced with Catholic ones.  To be fair Protestant non-conformists also benefited from the change in laws. The problem was that in the seventeenth century religious bigotry was alive and well. The approximately ten percent of the English population who remained Catholic were at best regarded with suspicion.

James having Protestant children – Mary and Anne- was tolerated because he would be succeeded by people with the right kind of religious credentials. James’ first wife Anne Hyde was the daughter of Charles II’s minister Edward Hyde who became Lord Clarendon.  The pair married in 1660 when pressure was exerted on James to do the right thing – their child was born two months later!  Anne converted to Catholicism but the children of the marriage were raised as Protestants.  It wasn’t a popular marriage as there was concern that Edward Hyde would gain to match political power from the match.

The trouble was that Anne died in 1671 and James married for a second time to Mary of Modena – who was Catholic.  In June 1688 she gave birth to a a baby boy.  This triggered seven leading political figures to write to James’ son-in-law William of Orange inviting him to invade England.  William arrived on the 5th November.

Even James’ other daughter Anne joined William.  Across the country James discovered that the nobility and gentry were declaring their allegiance to William and Mary.  He panicked and fled from London

Apologies for the lack of picture – apparently the imps in the ether aren’t pedalling hard enough this evening!

The Book of Sport V The Player’s Scourge

prynneThe Book of Sport was issued initially by James I.  It identified the need to go to church in the morning and enjoy yourself in the afternoon.  Charles I reissued it in 1633.  The Norton Anthology of English Literature states that Charles probably republished the text in response to William Prynne’s Histrio-Mastix.

Histrio-Mastix was subtitled the Player’s Scourge or Actor’s Tragedy.  It had taken Prynne the better part of ten years to write the book which was essentially an attack on the theatre, Christmas and dancing.  Prynne was not complimentary about women actors – in particular French ones and unfortunately this was taken as an insult on Henrietta Maria rather than french actresses.  Prynne was hauled up in front of the Star Chamber on charges of seditious libel in 1634.

I’d like to say that the judges in the case were measured.  Unfortunately Prynne found himself being pilloried – twice.  He was imprisoned for life, fined £5,000, his book was burned by the hangman, chucked out of his university, had his ears cut off and was stopped from being a lawyer.

Unfortunately despite the heavy hint to stop writing Prynne continued and wrote a series of anonymous pamphlets which his friends arranged to have published for him.  When it was discovered that he had been writing inflammatory things about the Church and Archbishop Laud the rest of his ears were cut off and  his cheeks were branded with the letters SL and his nose was slit.

And where does the Book of Sport fit in?  Charles was essentially saying that by conforming to the Church of England and going to church in the morning you were entitled to enjoy yourself in the afternoon in appropriate and proper pursuits.   The Book goes on to suggest that if Puritans didn’t like English laws and the Church’s canons that they were free to clear off elsewhere.

The list of approved actives included:

“such as dancing, either men or women; archery for men, leaping, vaulting, or any other such harmless recreation, nor from having of May-games, Whitsun-ales, and Morris-dances; and the setting up of May-poles and other sports therewith used: so as the same be had in due and convenient time, without impediment or neglect of divine service: and that women shall have leave to carry rushes to the church for the decorating of it, according to their old custom; but withal we do here account still as prohibited all unlawful games to be used upon Sundays only, as bear and bull-baitings, interludes, and at all times in the meaner sort of people by law prohibited, bowling.”

I must admit to being slightly puzzled by the inclusion of bowling – never having considered it a hot-bed of sinfulness for the “meaner sort” but perhaps I missed something.  The Puritans of whom Prynne was one, as you may have already deduced, declared the Book of Sports to be The Devil’s Book as all recreation, presumably including bowls, was sinful.

For Puritans, and Presbyterians come to that, strict observance of the Sabbath was politicised.  Some non-conformists chose to leave the country, others chose to write pamphlets on the subject. Prynne’s first trial didn’t make many waves but his exile to the Channel Islands in 1637 caused a bit of a furore as did his return in 1640.  The second trial when his writings against Laud had been punished had turned him into a Puritan martyr.

Helmer, J. Helmers. (2016) The Royalist Republic: Literature, Politics and Religion in the Anglo-Dutch Public Sphere, 1639-1660