Wednesday, 7 November 2012

The History of England from 1625 - 1689

Portrait of Charles I
by Anthony van Dyck
In 1625 James I of England is succeeded by his son Charles I. If the Scottish James did not understand the English, his less intelligent son understands neither the English nor the Scots. Moreover, he has Catholic sympathies, marries a Catholic princess, and favours the High Church party of William Laud. This puts him into conflict with an increasingly Puritan Parliament. The king argues with Parliament, and for eleven years from 1629-40 dispenses with Parliament altogether. Laud persecutes the Puritans and many seek refuge in New England where they found Massachusetts and Connecticut. When Charles tries to impose the Laudian Church on Presbyterian Scotland the Scots rebel and occupy parts of northern England. Parliament meanwhile passes a series of Acts to limit the power of the crown and make it financially dependent on Parliament. Then Parliament introduces the Militia Bill transferring the control of the military to Parliament. Charles tries to arrest leading members of the House, but they escape and train-bands rise in support. 
Charles is put on trial
A week later the king flees his palace and the Civil War begins. At first things go the King’s way. Then Parliament makes a covenant with the Scots, and in 1644 a combination of Scots, Roundheads and Cromwell’s new cavalry defeat the Royalists at Marston Moor. Parliament then enlists a 20,000 force New Model Army commanded by Sir Thomas Fairfax and Cromwell, and in 1645 it routs the Royalists at Naseby and Langport. Charles surrenders to the Scots and is handed over to Parliament. The king tries to sow dissension among his enemies, but is seized by Cromwell, and a Second Civil War begins pitting Cromwell against an unlikely alliance of English Presbyterians, Scots and Royalists. Cromwell quickly defeats his opponents and purges Parliament of its Presbyterians, leaving only a Rump of sixty Independents. Charles is tried for treason and executed on 30 January 1649. But the regicide is a political blunder. Parts of the army mutiny, there is foreign hostility, Ireland rebels, and the Scots proclaim Charles II as their king. Cromwell responds with ruthless efficiency, shooting mutineers, crushing the Irish, and routing the Scots. He builds a naval fleet to secure the colonies and makes 
Charles II in Coronation robes
by John Michael Wright
England mistress of the seas. Except for Catholics and High Churchmen, there is greater religious freedom, but Cromwell argues with the Rump and military dictatorship follows. Cromwell dies in 1658 and England falls into the hands of rival generals. But General Monk marches from Scotland and occupies London, and a newly declared free Parliament restores the monarchy. In 1660 Charles II returns from his long exile, putting an end to the Puritan Republic, in which theatres and other popular entertainments were banned, but which allowed free expression of thought without fear of persecution by Church or state, a privilege enjoyed to this day. Charles is a fun-loving, unscrupulous libertine. But his Catholic sympathies put him in conflict with Parliament, which also wants to retain its control of taxation. But the first decade of Charles’s rule is 
marked by disasters. In 1665 the ‘grievous Visitation’ known as the Great Plague decimates the population of London. In 1666 the Great Fire of London destroys the capital, including the Gothic cathedral of St. Paul’s. And in 1667 the Dutch sail up the Thames in the final act of the Anglo-Dutch naval war which ends in an English defeat. Also in the 1660s Admiralty Clerk of the Acts Samuel Pepys begins writing his famous Diary. In 1672 another Dutch war begins, and in the same year Charles issues a Declaration of Indulgence granting tolerance to all including Catholics. This is too much Parliament, particularly as the heir to throne is Charles’s brother James, the Duke of York, and a Catholic. The king is forced into a U-turn, and for the first ever a monarch has to accept a minister from Parliament, the Earl of Danby, a staunch Anglican who had arranged the marriage between the Duke of York’s Protestant daughter Mary, to William of Orange, Charles’s nephew. In 1678 the informer Titus Oates swears to have uncovered a Popish plot to murder the king and put the Catholic Duke of York on the throne. Innocent Catholics lose their lives as a result of Oates’s 
Period playing card
depicting the execution of
the Duke of Monmouth
treachery. Parliament passes the Habeas Corpus Act, and a Bill to prevent James’s succession. But the House of Lords rejects the Bill and the king dissolves Parliament. Civil war looms once more. Meanwhile the age of experimental science has begun. Christopher Wren is Professor of Astronomy at Oxford, and Isaac Newton Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge. Then in 1685 Charles dies and his brother is crowed James II. A forlorn rebellion led by the Duke of Monmouth is ended at Sedgemoor, the site of the last battle ever to be fought in England. The new king permits Catholics into the army and introduces a Declaration of Indulgence that gives toleration to Catholics. Then James’s Catholic wife gives birth to a son thus assuring a Catholic succession. Disenchanted Whigs and Tories ask William of Orange to save England. William lands at Brixham in November 1688 and James is forced to flee to France. William is crowned king in 1689 and England once more has a Protestant monarch. 

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