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History of England

While the French King grew more powerful, across the Channel the English monarchy was in difficulty. After the death of Elizabeth I, her cousin James VI of Scotland was crowned James I of Britain. The son of the ill-fated Mary Queen of Scots, James talked about divine right monarchy but backed away from real confrontation with parliament over the question. During his reign, a radical Protestant religious faction within the Church of England, called the Puritans, continued to grow. Appearing in England during the reign of Elizabeth I, the Puritans, imbued with John Calvin's teachings, wanted to "purify" the Church of England of the remnants of Roman catholic ritual and practice.

James I's son, Charles I (1625-1649), a king who took very seriously the theory of divine right, could not escape confrontation with Parliament over money and religion. The royal income could keep up neither with inflation nor with the growing royal expenses. Moreover, Charles antagonised Puritans and other Englishmen by trying to compel religious conformity to the practices of the Church of England and by levying taxes without consent of Parliament. Civil war broke out in 1642, and by 1646 the King was a prisoner. In 1649 Charles I was beheaded, although large parts of the population were against it, the monarchy abolished and the republic, the Commonwealth, proclaimed.

Oliver Cromwell, commander of the New Model Army which had defeated the royal forces, led the Commonwealth and later the Protectorate, a form of military dictatorship, until his death in 1659. Because no Puritan leader could fill Cromwell's place, and with civil war threatening, there was no alternative than to restore the monarchy and to invite the eldest son of Charles I to return in 1660, and who was welcomed in England with great relief by the population, and rule as Charles II. He had taken refuge in France at the court of Louis XIV.

Charles IIThe new monarch, Charles II, brought to England a taste for French styles and a bevy of royal mistresses. Social life of the nobility began to centre more at Court, and London society became the leader in fashion, the centre of the monarchy and of all those forces that were transforming England from a mostly rural medieval state into a modern world power. (There is no better primary source of London life during this period than the Diary of Samuel Pepys.) A witty, shrewd politician, Charles schemed, plotted and bribed to gain absolute power. When success was within reach, he died suddenly in 1685 leaving no legitimate children. His brother James II succeeded to the throne.

Though English restoration clothes followed the style of the French court, they were worn differently: with a casual, sensuous, comfortable elegance unlike the formal silhouette and structured layering of the French costume. A Roman Catholic, but an incompetent politician, James II pursued policies which frightened all political factions. The birth of a son who would be raised in the Roman Catholic faith, led leaders of English political parties to invite William of Orange to come over from Holland and help end the reign of James II. Deserted by his followers at the news that William had landed with a Dutch army, James was allowed to escape to France in 1688.

William and his wife, Mary, the Protestant daughter of James II, accepted the throne offered them by Parliament. During their reign, 1689-1702, Parliament, through the Bill of Rights, limited the power of the monarch and protected the rights of individuals through the Toleration Act, Parliament granted freedom of worship to Protestants, but not to Roman Catholics, nevertheless, religious persecution ended for the English citizens.

France
French History | French Royalty | Aristocratic Etiquette
Louis XIV's Day

England
English History | English Royalty | Aristocratic Etiquette
English Coins 1660-1715 | Charles II | James II | William & Mary | Queen Anne
Food & Drink Stillifes | Meals | Tableware | Recipes | Ingredients
Duke of Marlborough's Blenheim Palace
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Baroque Horses
France


Graphics and Contents Copyright © N. Kipar 1997.