British history lessons in a nutshell: Charles II, the court of Charles II and Parliament
Compiled by: Alexa Williamson
Compiled on: 19 October 2012
In my travels, meanderings and adventures (mainly around London). I have learned many things. Some of the things I have learned – about British history – are succinct, intriguing and well-written.
Because I have found them amusing and informative, I share them now.
NB: There are likely to be more so this is number 1!
From The Wild, Beautiful and Damned exhibit that was at Hampton Court Palace from March-September 2012…
Quotations from the exhibition…
During Charles II’s time:
“The court was the hub of fashionable society. After the enforced sobriety of the Commonwealth, the late 17th century saw a new culture of magnificence, hedonism and partying. The public theatres were reopened, new pleasure gardens established and grand balls became the order of the day.”
After Charles II:
“When Queen Anne died in 1714, the Stuart dynasty was also extinguished. Their Hanoverian cousins brought in a different set of customs to court life. Britain could now get on with the business of trade and making money. The new sober nation was expressed through the Act of Union of 1707, which brought England and Scotland together. The pursuit of Beauty was replaced by the Quest for Empire.”
Learned at the Parliament exhibit at The Jewel Tower (run by English Heritage):
Quotations from the exhibit:
* “The wonderfully decadent Charles II’s (nb he was a Stuart) cabinet… was called Cabal . And, it got its name because the members were named: Clifford, Arlington, Buckingham, Ashley, Lauderdale.”
* “Sir Robert Walpole was considered the first Prime Minister as George I stopped attending the Cabinet after 1714.”
* “Charles II died without a legitimate child to succeed him. His brother James II took the throne. James II was a Catholic and his efforts to restore the Catholic religion antagonised most sections of the country. In 1668, a secret letter was sent by seven Parliamentarians to the Dutchman William of Orange (married to James’ Protestant daughter Mary), suggesting he come and rescue the religion and the Nation.
William of Orange landed at Torbay on 5 November 1688. James fled and was captured and fled again. On 18 December William entered London. A specially summoned Parliament had agreed to offer the crown jointly to William and Mary together with a declaration of Rights – one of the most important documents in British Parliamentary History. The events of 1688-89 came to be known as the Glorious Revolution.”
Learned at Frederic Lord Leighton’s House in Holland Park, W11:
Dorothy Dean, Lord Leighton’s main model, was also the inspiration for George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion.
Random facts about England’s Parliament, learned at The Jewel Tower in Westminster, London, SW1
The Jewel Tower, which was built around 1365 to house Edward III’s treasures and the King’s Privy Wardrobe and is “one of only two buildings from the medieval Palace of Westminster” to survive the fire of 1834.
The fire was, interestingly, witnessed by the painter JMW Turner and then painted by him in several paintings including The Burning of the House of Lords and Commons (1835).
Interesting quotes on the fire:
“The fire was caused by the destruction of tally sticks.
Dickens wrote: “…it took until 1826 to get these sticks abolished. In 1834 it was found that there was a considerable accumulation of them; and the question then arose, what was to be done with such worn-out, worm-eaten, rotten old bits of wood? The sticks were housed in Westminster, and it would naturally occur to any intelligent person that nothing could be easier than to allow them to be carried away for firewood by the miserable people who lived in that neighborhood. However, they never had been useful, and official routine required that they should never be, and so the order went out that they were to be privately and confidentially burned. It came to pass that they were burned in a stove in the House of Lords. The stove, over-gorged with these preposterous sticks, set fire to the panelling; the panelling set fire to the House of Commons; the two houses were reduced to ashes; architects were called in to build others; and we are now in the second million of the cost thereof.”
The responsibility for disposing of the tally sticks fell to Richard Whibley, the Clerk of Works at the Palace. He decided against burning them on a bonfire out in the open, as he feared such an action would upset the neighbours. The decision was made to burn the sticks in the underfloor coal furnaces that heated the House of Lords chamber. On the morning of October 16, Whibley assigned the task to two workmen, Joshua Cross and Patrick Furlong. The work went on all day; witnesses recalled seeing the men throw great handfuls of sticks onto the fires, despite the risk of the burning wood overheating the copper-lined brick flues.
The first indication that something was wrong came that afternoon when the housekeeper at the palace, Mrs. Wright, was showing round a party of visitors. She complained that the House of Lords’ Chamber was full of smoke; whilst her visitors noted the exceptional amount of heat coming up through the floor. Nonetheless she did not pursue the matter any further. Cross and Furlong clocked off in the late afternoon, having completed their task. Mrs. Wright locked up the Lords chamber at 5pm. Within an hour it was discovered to be ablaze. It is believed the over-stoked furnaces heated the flues to such an extent that their copper linings collapsed, causing the exposed brickwork to heat up, and bursting through the stone floor of the chamber above. This allowed the fire to spread to the vast range of combustible wooden and fabric furnishings inside the Chamber itself.[page needed]
The fire was the biggest conflagration seen in London since the Great Fire of 1666, and an enormous crowd flocked to Westminster to witness the spectacle, including Lord Melbourne, the prime minister, and many of his cabinet.”
Further information, from Wikipedia on the Burning of Parliament in 1834.
On James VI of Scotland (ie James I of England…. and Ireland)
I had read a little about James at The Wild, The Beautiful and The Damned exhibit. I learned even more just now on Wikipedia… he sounds like he was a great king and leader and a lot happened during his reign. 22 years of harmony (I think) in all the kingdoms. Cool.
From Wikipedia and I quote:
“James VI and I (19 June 1566 – 27 March 1625) was King of Scotland as James VI from 24 July 1567 and King of England and Ireland as James I from the union of the English and Scottish crowns on 24 March 1603 until his death. The kingdoms of England and Scotland were individual sovereign states, with their own parliaments, judiciary, and laws, though both were ruled by James in personal union.
He became King of Scotland at the age of thirteen months, succeeding his mother Mary, Queen of Scots, who had been compelled to abdicate in his favour. Four different regents governed during his minority, which ended officially in 1578, though he did not gain full control of his government until 1583. In 1603, he succeeded the last Tudor monarch of England and Ireland, Elizabeth I, who died without issue. He continued to reign in all three kingdoms for 22 years, a period known as the Jacobean era after him, until his death in 1625 at the age of 58. After the Union of the Crowns, he based himself in England (the largest of the three realms) from 1603, only returning to Scotland once in 1617, and styled himself “King of Great Britain and Ireland”. In his reign, the Plantation of Ulster and British colonisation of the Americas began.
At 57 years and 246 days, his reign in Scotland was longer than any of his predecessors. He achieved most of his aims in Scotland but faced great difficulties in England, including the Gunpowder Plot in 1605 and repeated conflicts with the English Parliament. Under James, the “Golden Age” of Elizabethan literature and drama continued, with writers such as William Shakespeare, John Donne, Ben Jonson, and Sir Francis Bacon contributing to a flourishing literary culture. James himself was a talented scholar, the author of works such as Daemonologie (1597), True Law of Free Monarchies (1598), and Basilikon Doron (1599). He sponsored the translation of the Bible that was named after him: the Authorised King James Version. Sir Anthony Weldon claimed that James had been termed “the wisest fool in Christendom”, an epithet associated with his character ever since. Since the latter half of the twentieth century, however, historians have revised James’s reputation and have treated him as a serious and thoughtful monarch.
King James VI of Scotland/James I of England – Wikipedia information
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