It's hard for me to comprehend that it has been well over one and a half years since my last Period Style Guide! To save you looking back, it was The Civil War period in England. Scotland and Ireland, with Oliver Cromwell taking charge and eventually declaring himself the Lord Protector. King Charles I was executed and his family forced into exile in Europe. When Cromwell died in 1658, his son Richard was left to lead the country. However, Richard wasn't a good leader and was forced to abdicate in 1659.
Without a head of state, England was in a bit of a quandary, and Parliament seemed to have no idea what direction to take. In late April 1660 a new Parliament was assembled and they invited Prince Charles to return from exile and become the King of England.
|Charles at a ball at The Hague the evening before he sailed to England as its new King|
|The King and his Queen|
|Catherine of Braganza|
|The Dukes Theatre|
Literature also flourished; this was the time of Aphra Behn; John Milton; William Wycherley; John Bunyan and John Dryden among many others, some celebrated the restored court, and some was critical. John Wilmot - 2nd Earl of Rochester is supposed to have said playfully of the new King;
We have a pretty, witty King
and whose word no man relies on
He never says a foolish thing
and never did a wise one
To which Charles is reported to have replied;
'That is true, for my words are my own, and my actions are those of my Ministers!'
Although there were attempts to suppress criticism of the Crown and Parliament, pamphlets, ballads and other cheaply printed matter had been in proliferation for many years. The Oxford Gazette was first published in November 1665, it is said to be the first official newspaper published in England, it was later retitled the London Gazette in 1666 (Scotland had a short-lived newspaper of its own earlier, in 1660, the Mercurius Caledonius). Newspapers were cheap to produce and were widely read in the coffee houses and taverns (more about those in later posts), which sparked widespread political debate in the city.
The Royal Society of London was founded in November 1616. It was granted a Royal Charter by Charles II. The Royal Society was established to promote science and the 'improvement of natural knowledge'.
Sadly, the Restoration also saw its share of war and disaster. In 1665 a plague epidemic swept through the city of London. Known as the Great Plague it killed between 70,000-100,000 people (one-fifth of the entire population). Theatres and sports grounds were closed to prevent the disease spreading. Well over 200,000 domestic and stray cats and dogs were destroyed, as it was thought that these animals were the cause of the disease spreading. Victims, and their families, were shut up in their homes, doors nailed closed and red crosses painted on the doors (sometimes with the words 'Lord have mercy upon us' as a warning sign of infection within. There were actually two strains of plague at work during the Great Plague; the Bubonic plague, spread by fleas living on rats, and Pneumonic Plague an airbourne infection spread by sneezes and the biggest killer of the two, usually dispatching victims within the first 24 hours of infection. The dead were collected at night on carts with the call of 'Bring out your dead!', victims were buried in mass graves known as plague pits.
The poor living conditions and dirt help to spread the diseases, particularly the Bubonic plague, spread by the rats. A very hot summer saw cases of plague increase to a peak in Late August to September. Those who could, including the Royal Court (which went to Oxford) fled the city.
The fleas travelled in fabric, and the disease spread out from London to affect other parts of the country, such as the city of York and the village of Eyam in Derbyshire, whose inhabitants are famous for putting their entire village into quarantine instead of fleeing and thus preventing the disease spreading further in the area. Doctors and scientists did not understand how the infections were spread, or how to prevent and cure the plague. Nosegays, small bunches of herbs and flowers were thought to help ward off disease. Vinegar was also thought to help, and coins were often soaked in vinegar (and sometimes water) by people before handling them, in case they were infected.
The epidemic began to affect fewer people as the weather grew colder, after September 1665 the number of recorded cases began to drop steadily and people who had fled the city began to return slowly. Charles II returned to London in February 1666.
Another disaster the following year is said to have helped clear the last of the plague from the city. This incident was also to have a profound effect on the way the city of London would look in the future.
The official death toll was put at just four, including the Farynors' poor maid, but it is generally thought that the real death toll was much higher, the heat of the inferno being so severe that nothing remained of the victims.
I will give more detail about the Great Fire of London and its aftermath in a later post, as there is a lot to say!!
War and religious intolerance were also a part life during the Restoration and beyond. Charles' foreign policy swung between alliances with the Dutch and the French. The Dutch Republic was a Protestant country in a largely Catholic Europe. The House of Orange lent large sums of money to Charles during the English Civil War. In 1660, to cement diplomatic relations with England and to celebrate the Restoration of Charles II, the Dutch presented the King with a collection of paintings, sculptures , furniture and even a yacht. This became known as the Dutch Gift. However, despite this there was a good amount of commercial and colonial rivalry between the two countries. The Dutch used a system of free trade, their goods were exported around the world and lacked the tax duties that were carried by English goods, so naturally were cheaper and more popular. This ultimately led to what could be described as a trade war between the two countries, Dutch ships were attacked by English privateers. The King's brother James, the Duke of York, convinced Charles that a war with the Dutch would be in the best interests of England, capturing Dutch trade routes and their colonies. In 1664 the English invaded the dutch colony of New Netherland in North America and took control of it. However, the war didn't go well for England overall, they ran short of money which was not helped by The Great Plague or the Great Fire. In 1667 the Dutch sailed towards the mouth of the River Thames and attacked English ships anchored near Chatham Dockyard on the Medway. 'The Raid of the Medway', as it became known was a great shock the the English and a peace deal between the English and the Dutch was signed soon afterwards. The treaty that was signed allowed the English to keep possession of New Netherland, renamed New York in honour of James, Duke of York.
|Artists Impression of the Raid on the Medway, 1667|
When the French attacked the Netherlands in the War of Devolution in 1668, the English allied itself to its former enemy, the Dutch, and Sweden. This Triple Alliance forced Louis XIV return land taken. In an effort to solve his financial difficulties, Charles II agreed the Treaty of Dover in 1670, under which Louis XIV would pay Charles an annual fee of £160.000. In exchange for this Charles would agree to supply troops to the French, and to announce that he would convert to Catholicism 'as soon as the welfare of his Kingdom will permit'. Louis XIV in turn agreed to supply 6,000 French troops to suppress any opposition to the English King's conversion. Naturally, the conditions of this Treaty were kept private. Charles must have known that a conversion to Catholicism would have been insupportable to the Anglican Parliament. However, he did use his prerogative powers to issue a Declaration of Indulgence, which suspended penal laws against Catholics and Non-Conformists in England. The Declaration was short lived, it had fierce opposition from Parliament and Charles was forced to withdraw it in 1673.
|Mary with William of Orange|