Sunday, 22 June 2014

Period Style Guide: The Restoration and Later Stuarts

An Introduction to Charles II and events during his reign

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
In May 1660, Charles signed the Declaration of Breda, which included amongst other things a pardon for many of his father's enemies and to pay arrears of army pay. Parliament then proclaimed that Charles had been the lawful king of England since the execution of his father. King Charles II left The Hague on 23 May and landed at Dover on the 25th. His 30th Birthday was on 29 May, and it was on this day that Charles II entered London. 

Charles II
In August 1660 the Act of Indemnity and Oblivion was passed which pardoned all the past treason against the Crown, amnesty was granted to most of Cromwell's supporters, however, the Act specifically excluded those involved in the trial and execution of Charles I. Over 50 people were specifically involved in the trial, some had died since then, including Cromwell, but there were still over 30 people alive who had been involved in the King's trail and execution. Eventually 9 of those were charged with regicide and executed for treason, the bodies of Cromwell, Henry Ireton and John Bradshaw were all exhumed. they were tried and decapitated posthumously!

The King and his Queen
Charles II was officially crowned King at his coronation on 23 April 1661 at Westminster Abbey. Charles married Catherine of Braganza in 1662. Together they produced no legitimate heirs, however, as the original Merry Monarch, Charles did have a number of illegitimate children (he acknowledged at least 12 of them) borne by his many mistresses.

Catherine of Braganza
It would be nice to think that after so much bloodshed and upheaval during the Civil Wars that the country could enjoy a period of peace and ease. Puritanism lost its momentum with the new King. Theatres reopened after having been shut down by the Protectorship. The bawdy shows from that time became known as Restoration Comedies. Charles II was a great patron of the Arts and of science. The King granted royal patents to William Davenant and Thomas Killigrew. With their monopoly over London theatre the two theatre companies were able to restore and rebuild new theatres in the city, including the Theatre Royal at Drury Lane and the Duke's Theatre. These theatres were also the first to allow Women to act on the stage. the new theatres allowed for more elaborate stage sets and special effects. It was during the Restoration that opera began to grow in popularity in England. Henry Percell wrote his first opera Dido and Aeneas in 1680.

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. 

At 2.00am on 2 September 1666 a workman for the Kings Baker, Thomas Farynor, reported to his master that he could smell smoke in the bakery. The bake house was on Pudding Lane. Fire was discovered and the baker's family fled across the rooftops of neighbouring buildings, all except the one of the maid servants too scared to climb across the roofs. She, and the family business,  became the first victims of a fire that would rage across the city of London for four days destroying 373 acres of the city, burning over 13,000 houses and 84 churches, including St Paul's Cathedral. 

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
Charles II also admired the French king's court and his great wealth, money was always tight in the English monarchy by comparison. But France, and it's King, Louis XIV, were Catholic, the Anglican Parliament in England would always be suspicious of the French. However, Charles' wife and Queen of England was Catherine of Braganza, a Catholic. Charles had sympathy with the Catholics, but had to take care not to offend the Anglicans of the English Parliament. 

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
To re-establish his own Protestant credentials; particularly in light of his brother James' marriage to Mary of Modena, another Catholic royal from Europe; Charles Married his niece Princess Mary to William of Orange, from the Dutch House of Orange (this was to have a large impact on later Stuart rule in England). 


  1. Hi Andy! This is so fascinating to read! I have always had a love of history.... so I already know some of the bits like the plague and the fire... but to put it all in a chronology and add the parts about things like newspapers and theaters and women actors is just so much more revealing about the era! And the paintings and illustrations you include are such a bonus as I would never have access to seeing most of them! I really look forward to reading more! (I also don't know where the Time has been going.... to think it has been Months since I worked on the Tree House...!!! I am getting back to it soon!)

    1. Hi Betsy, I see you have done some work on the Tree House! Yay!! I will be doing a lot more about the Great Fire and its aftermath in a later post, it completely transformed the way London looked!

  2. Thank you very much for all the work you've put into this... it was absolutely interesting!


    1. Pleased you enjoyed it Birgit, good to hear from you

  3. I always look forward to these posts and didn't realize it had been so long, either! I've had the Restoration on the brain, lately, after having just seen the movie Stage Beauty on TV the other day. I love the clothing and interior decoration of this period. Too bad all the Puritans left your country and came here to the US --you can have them back! XOXO John

    1. Ah! all those lovely Puritans with their open minds and all embracing attitudes! You don't fancy taking all our UKIP supporters over to your country now do you? I'll be getting on to the fashion, architecture and interiors for this period soon, and they are among some of the best things we ever produced in England!


  4. So interesting, and the pictures are great.
    Hope you are both well, Andy. Can't wait for the next history post.
    Si x

    1. Hi Simon, working on the next post now, won't be long!! ;)

  5. ¡Maravilloso post, Andy! Me encanta que retomes de nuevo este tipo de post sobre historia, me encantan! Espero que no tardes tanto tiempo en volver a escribir otro.

    ¡Un abrazo enorme!

    1. Hi Pedrete, thanks for your comments!


  6. Hello Andy,
    It is wonderful to read a new period post. I missed them a great deal. as always it was such a great read. So many references are made in movies and British comedies that I never understood, now thanks to your post it is clear. Always a pleasure to read your posts Andy...please don't stay away so long for the next one.
    Big hug,

    1. Hi Giac, I wonder if you are including the Monty Python film 'Holy Grail' where they have a scene early on with filthy peasants a cart and the words "bring out your dead'? I remember thinking, that's not the right period for that, but plague was around a lot in the past!!

      The next post will be out soon! ;)

  7. Well Andy, I am Dutch but I never knew that.
    I probably didn't pay much attention when we had history lessons in school.
    But while reading your posts I can visualize and that to me finally makes history interesting. Thanks!
    Hugs, Gee

    Have you been doing anything miniature lately?

    1. Hi Gee, I am pleased you found the post interesting, I'd hate to scare people away with lots of dull, boring facts!!

      Only a tiny amount of miniature work recently! will get around to posting about it soon!

      Andy x

  8. Andy, you have put a lot of work in this blog post, thank you so much: it was very interesting!!
    Hugs to both of you!

    1. Hello Ilona, good to hear from you, Pleased you enjoyed the post, Both David and I are fine thanks, hope you are well too!

      Andy xxx

  9. You're certainly back with a bang! An excellent post Andy - hard to believe it's been so long since the last one. As always, full of excellent historical detail. The time you put into these posts is appreciated.

    1. Hi Irene, yes, back with a bang, when I can get onto my blog! still a few technical hitches with my Vintage Mac, not funny anymore either!! I enjoyed catching up on your blogs too!

      Andy x