Monday, 16 April 2012

Period Style: The Seventeenth Century, Part 1: Jacobean (an Introduction)

Welcome to the second of my Period Style guides. This one focuses on the period immediately following the Tudor era; Jacobean and Caroline. I have split the seventeenth century roughly in half, with events and architecture up to the outbreak of the English Civil War covered in part 1, and will cover the Restoration up to Queen Anne in part 2.

Before I move on to architecture and interiors of the period, I'd like to give you a brief history of England at that time.

James I of England and Ireland; James VI of Scotland
Jacobean: an Introduction

The seventeenth century was to prove an eventful period for England (and to a large extent Scotland too).  It was a century that saw two countries sharing a monarchy; high treason; civil war; a Republic England; a restored monarchy, and a great fire that destroyed much of London, among much else.

Architecture was to change too, as we shall see. The Renaissance finally came to England in this period. There were advances in art, science, music, medical research. The seventeenth century can perhaps be described as bridging the gap between the older medieval country that England was, and the country of Enlightenment and invention it was to become in the following centuries.

Houses would become more comfortable, better heated, with more light, finer furnishings and decoration (at least for the wealthy). And thanks to the Great Fire of London in 1666, the capital would be transformed (but not as much as it might have been; more on that later!!)

James I; Note the building through the window!!
The Jacobean period began in 1603, when Queen Elizabeth I died and her Scots cousin took over the throne. James VI of Scotland was the great-grandson of Henry VIII’s sister Margaret. The two countries were not yet united and James served as king of both countries. In England (and Ireland) he was James I.

The term Jacobean derives from the Latin Jacobaeus for James. Technically, the period after James I’s death in 1625, when he was succeeded by his second son Charles (his first son having died of typhoid fever in 1612), is the Caroline period, again derived from the Latin for Charles.

Anne of Denmark
 James I had married Anne of Denmark in 1589, and she came to England with her husband when he took the throne. When they arrived in England the country was still fairly isolated from the rest of Europe. Antagonistic relationships between France and Spain and religious differences with Rome meant that travel was difficult abroad, and European ideas were slow to be accepted in England. However, Scotland had enjoyed closer relationships with Europe, particularly France, and under James I’s rule the insularity between England and Europe was somewhat overturned. It became possible for wealthy English people to travel in Europe, and examine the art and architecture of the Renaissance. One such tourist was Inigo Jones, and we shall be hearing more about this gentleman soon!

The men behind the Gun Powder Plot
 James I had not been on the English throne for many years before there was a plot to assassinate him. Roman Catholics had long had their religion repressed in England, and hopes that this would ease under James I were short lived. A plot was developed to kill the king by blowing up the Houses of Parliament on the state opening of Parliament on 5th November 1605, by a group of Catholic gentlemen.

The original letter Informing Lord Monteagle of the Gun Powder Plot
However the group were betrayed when an anonymous letter was sent to William Parker; Lord Monteagle, He, along with the Lord Chamberlain (Thomas Howard; the Earl of Suffolk), went to the Houses of Parliament on the night of 4th November and caught Guy Fawkes with barrels filled with gun powder. The Gun Powder Plot, as it became known, was foiled; and Guy Fawkes, along with the other plotters, was tried for High Treason. The plotters were executed by the rather gruesome method of hanging, drawing and quartering. The anniversary of the discovery of the Gun Powder Plot was celebrated with special sermons in church and the ringing of church bells. The 5th November is still celebrated in England today, with bonfires and fireworks, and you might still see the odd effigy of Guy Fawkes being set alight on the bonfire!

The gruesome end of Guy Fawkes and his co-conspirators
Another long lasting legacy of James I’s reign was the Authorised Version of the Bible, completed in 1611. Also known as the King James Bible; it was to become the standard version of scripture for English speaking scholars.

The King James Bible
King James tried, unsuccessfully, to marry his son Charles to the daughter of Philip III of Spain, the Infanta Maria Anna of Spain. This arrangement went against the wishes of the English Parliament, and Maria Anna wasn’t too impressed by the prospect either. This situation was to leave a bitter taste in the mouth between the Monarchy and Parliament in England. Charles was later married to Henrietta Maria of France in 1625.

Henrietta Maria of France

1625 was also the year that James I died and Charles became King. Charles I’s reign was beset with quarrels with his Parliament. The Monarchy and Parliament had different opinions on foreign policy, and the King’s apparent sympathies with Catholicism were widely condemned in England. Charles built up large debts, and levied heavy taxes without the consent of Parliament. Charles was brought up to believe that his Royal Prerogative had been ordained by God, and could not be questioned. Many English subjects saw Charles as a tyrant and were unhappy with his taxes and religious interference with the Churches of England and Scotland. The struggle for power between Monarch and Parliament was to come to a head in 1642 when Charles attempted to overrule Parliamentary Authority.

Charles I
The Royal Family, with Prince Charles (later Charles II) by his father's knee.

The battles that followed became known as the English Civil War, where Charles and subjects loyal to the King fought with the forces of the English and Scottish Parliaments. The first battle was at Edgehill in 1642 was inconclusive, with both the Royalists (sometimes known as the Cavaliers) and the Parliamentarians (sometimes known as the Roundheads, after the helmets that they wore) claiming a victory. There were subsequent battles in 1643 and 1644 until the balance tipped in favour of Parliament at Naseby in 1645. 

 However, this was not the end of the Civil War. Charles was held under siege at Oxford, until he escaped in 1646 and gave himself up to Scottish troops. The Scots delivered Charles back to the English Parliament. Charles was held prisoner in various parts of the country before ending up confined in Carisbrooke castle on the Isle of Wight, where Charles was able to draw up a bargain with Scotland.

By promising church reforms to the Scots, Charles was able to drum up support from them to invade England and restore him to the throne there. This led to the Second Civil War in 1648, culminating in a victory for Parliamentarian troops led by Oliver Cromwell, at the Battle of Preston. 

Oliver Cromwell: I think he looks like a character from the board game Cluedo in this picture!
In 1649 an Act of Parliament was passed which allowed the trial of Charles. After the first Civil War, Parliament accepted the notion that the king, had perhaps been able to justify his fight, and that he would still be entitled to limited powers as King under a new constitutional settlement. However, it was now felt that by provoking the second Civil War, even while defeated and held in captivity, Charles was responsible for unjustifiable bloodshed. His secret treaty with the Scots was considered particularly unpardonable and any further negotiations with the King were no longer supported.

The indictment held against the King was that “[he was] guilty of all the treasons, murders, rapines, burnings, spoils, desolations, damages and mischiefs to this nation, acted and committed in the said wars, or occasioned thereby.”

Charles was declared guilty and sentenced to death for High Treason in 1649. He was beheaded on 30th January 1649 and England became a Republic, known as the Commonwealth of England. The rest of the Royal Family were forced to live in exile in Europe.

The execution of Charles I. Again, note the building behind the action.

Oliver Cromwell (so I'm told) at the coffin of Charles I


  1. Hi Andy
    Another epic Post, well done and thank you. I love reading about the history and you have outdone yourself this time. I'm sitting at my desk at work desperately trying to find something else to do so was more than happy when I found this new post.
    Great text and great pics, thanks again
    Simon x

    1. Hey Si,

      Good to hear from you!! Glad I was able to keep you amused on a boring day at work! I hope you'll find the next part about Jacobean buildings interesting too!


  2. Interesante entrada, muy educativa y didáctica. Gracias por compartir todos estos hechos históricos . Besos y feliz semana

    1. ¡Hola! Gracias una vez más, estoy muy contento de que hayas disfrutado de este puesto, y esperamos que disfrute de la próxima entrada de los edificios jacobeos!

      Andy x

  3. Hi Andy,

    How nice to have this post! -- I was missing them and you. The history lesson, the pics are all great. -- Poor Charles, I guess it wasn't a fun or easy life after all!


    1. Hello Iris, how very kind of you to say so! I've been keeping an eye on your latest mini adventures!! Glad you enjoyed this post. Yes, Charles was really a victim of his own stubborn pride, If he had accepted less power, he probably would have kept his royal status and his head!!

      Still, some historians believe that Britain didn't have the same sort of revolutions that happened in France etc, because we got rid of Absolute Monarchy and after the Restoration (more of that soon)had a less powerful monarchy, but that's only a theory!

  4. I LOVE History, Andy! And you tell the stories so well! I look forward to more!

    1. Hi Besty, glad you've enjoyed this, more to come soon as...

  5. Hi Andy,

    great post! Guy Fawkes is a very special day for us......we got i need to say Fire works.....??????

    Such a lot of work in this Andy and all the images help set the scene so well.I just love Henrietta's dress, it never ceases to amaze me how elaborately they dressed.

    You might want to check out my latest post.......; )

    Fi xx

    1. So funny about the fireworks, it made me chuckle x

    2. Hi Fi (and Si!!)

      What a day to get married, I dare say there were PLENTY of fireworks that night!! Just glad you didn't end up chucked on top of a great pire!!

      There are some lovely dresses from this period, it really does start to get glam in the seventeenth century!

      Ah sweet! I hardly know David of course, I just felt sorry for him!! ;oD He was thrilled with your little plug! If any one else thinks some of his work is weird, you're not alone!! ;)

  6. You've done it again, Andy! Great work!

    1. Hey John!

      cheers mate!

      I think you'll like the next few posts too, I might even post a picture of a stage costume from the period that reminds me very much of your little figurine!!

      only if your a very good boy though!! ;)

    2. Question?

      "cheers mate!" In which country are you living?

  7. Hi Andy,
    I hope you don't mind, but I plan on printing all your informative blogs and keeping them together in a binder. I just love your posts. They are so full of information, well written, and everything is always clear. I said it once before, but anytime I should want to start a new project I'm going through your Period Style posts first. I think your blog will help many people along the way!
    Big hugs my friend,

    1. Hi Giac, you are such a lovely chap!

      I don't mind at all, please feel free to use what ever you like for future projects. I was worried this post might get too wordy, particularly regarding the Civil War, I re-edited several times before settling for what is above, hope it's all clear. I'm working on the architecture post right now, and got some lovely examples to show you all, so hope fully more dolls house inspiration to come!!

      Hugs to you too

      Andy xxx

  8. Yet again, another marvellous post (I've said it before probably and in exactly the same way!) You always include such interesting details and they're very well writen too.

  9. Hi Irene,

    I wasn't to sure how the Civil War went down in Scotland, I know they were heavily involved. I was hoping to add more about Scotland in this period, but I don't have many books which mention architecture from this period north of the border.

    Glad you enjoyed the post, hope you find the next one interesting too!

    Much love
    Andy x