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About this book

This indispensable introductory guide offers students a number of highly focused chapters on key themes in Restoration history. Each addresses a core question relating to the period 1660-1714, and uses artistic and literary sources – as well as more traditional texts of political history – to illustrate and illuminate arguments. George Southcombe and Grant Tapsell provide clear analyses of different aspects of the era whilst maintaining an overall coherence based on three central propositions:
• 1660-1714 represents a political world fundamentally influenced by the civil wars and interregnum
• the period can best be understood by linking together types of evidence too often separated in conventional accounts
• the high politics of kings and their courts should be examined within broader social and geographical contexts.

Featuring chapters on the exclusion crisis, Charles II and James VII/II, as well as the British dimension, restoration culture, and politics out-of-doors, this is essential reading for anyone studying this fascinating period in British history.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Why Study Restoration History?

Abstract
Charles II’s reign was ‘a disgrace to the history of our country’. Such was the verdict of Charles James Fox in the early nineteenth century. Fox had peculiar insight into the rule of a duplicitous, libertine king. He had been named after the ‘Merry Monarch’ and was a direct descendant of the king on his mother’s side. The similarities between the two Charleses did not end with their names or shared ancestry. Fox became a Regency rake of some infamy and his own moral dissoluteness means that his assessment of Charles II, while that of a hypocrite, was based on an understanding he had gained from direct experience.1 A century later the Tory Oxford academic C.R.L. Fletcher, who stood at the very opposite end of the political spectrum from the arch-Whig Fox, painted an even more damning portrait of James VII and II. James was ‘a bad, cheap copy’ of Charles I, one who lacked ‘the dignity and courage of his father in adversity’ and was just ‘bad, unromantic and a fool’.2 Both Fox and Fletcher were writing within a venerable historical tradition in which ethical lessons were drawn from the past, and in which great figures were described in order to provide either exemplars or warnings to the authors’ contemporaries. The warning offered by the later Stuarts was stark. Their example demonstrated with exceptional clarity the dangers posed to a nation by the prevalence of vice within its political elite.
George Southcombe, Grant Tapsell

Chapter 1. What was Restored in 1660?

Abstract
In 1644, the poet and polemicist John Milton wrote of how he saw in his ‘mind a noble and puissant Nation rousing herself like a strong man after sleep, and shaking her invincible locks’.1 The civil war had opened up opportunities for England to awaken and fulfil God’s purpose. Milton would later write defending the execution of Charles I, asserting the legitimacy of an act which removed the country from the bondage of tyranny. But in 1660, the hopes which had been raised to dizzying heights in 1644 lay broken, and Milton did not seek to conceal his contempt for most of the English people. Overtaken by a ‘deluge of … epidemic madness’ they threatened to bring England to ‘a precipice of destruction’. Even the few for whom he retained any hope seemed to be ‘chusing them a captain back for Egypt’.2 He wrote these words in a pamphlet designed to propose a remedy, to halt a process which his own imagery suggested was inexorable. He failed. The captain he feared, Charles II, was restored to the thrones of England, Scotland, and Ireland soon after he published.
George Southcombe, Grant Tapsell

Chapter 2. Why were Dissenters a Problem?

Abstract
On 9 January 1661, Samuel Pepys was awoken in the morning at around ‘6 a-clock by people running up and down’ saying that there were armed fanatics in the streets of London. He rose from his slumber and went down to the street where he found his neighbours ‘in arms at the doors’. Noting this, he went back into his house and retrieved his sword and pistol, not because he was feeling particularly courageous, but because he did not want to appear scared in front of his fellow Londoners. It is a good thing that he was not called to action, because although he marched out with a gun, he did not have any charge for it.1 So what caused Pepys to wave his curiously pacifist pistol? The answer is a Fifth Monarchist rising led by a cooper called Thomas Venner. The Fifth Monarchists had been prominent for a period during the interregnum. Their understanding of the prophecies in Daniel and Revelation had led them, in common with other millennial thinkers, to expect the imminent establishment of the 1000-year Fifth Monarchy of Christ on Earth. But unlike these other thinkers, they posited a key role for human agency in wiping away the corrupt powers that be and in ushering in the millennium.2
George Southcombe, Grant Tapsell

Chapter 3. What was at Stake in the Exclusion Crisis?

Abstract
There is no strong reason to believe that MPs in the seventeenth century were any less vain and pompous than their twenty-first century successors. So we should not be surprised to find sweeping statements and hyperbole issuing naturally from their mouths. In November 1680, many MPs were quite clear about the signal importance of what they debated when considering a bill to exclude James, Duke of York, from the succession to the throne on the grounds of his avowed Catholicism. According to Sir Nicholas Carew, ‘I think all is at stake’. Hugh Boscawen articulated the opinion of many when arguing that, ‘we are now come to that pass, that we must be either Papists or Protestants’. Colonel Titus poured scorn on the notion that the House of Commons should proceed ‘moderately’ by investigating legal expedients to limit James’s future regal powers rather than exclusion. He vehemently pressed the widespread view that Catholics under a future Catholic king would not act moderately towards Protestants: ‘For our souls, we are heretics, they will burn us, and damn us. For our Estates, they will take our lands, and put Monks and Fryars upon them. Our Wives and Children must beg, and this is the Moderation we are like to expect from them.’
George Southcombe, Grant Tapsell

Chapter 4. Was Charles II a Successful ‘Royal Politician’?

Abstract
To play the king was an exceptionally demanding role in early modern Europe. The difficulty sprang from the pressure of satisfying three distinct audiences: a monarch’s own subjects; his royal peers in other states; and posterity. This was the harsh reality facing any king but the scale of the challenges facing Charles II was unusually high. For all the initial jubilation surrounding the Restoration the task of maintaining the regard of a people deeply divided by 20 years of chronic political crisis, bloody civil war, and bewildering constitutional changes would have taxed even the most brilliant ruler. Once a thousand years of monarchy had been temporarily eclipsed by a republic could its appearance of timeless invulnerability ever be rebuilt? As the Anglican cleric John Glanvill opined in 1667 with the aid of a homespun analogy:
Though government may be fixed again upon its foundations and laws turned into their ancient channel after the violence they have suffered, yet they lose much of their reverence and strength by such disestablishment. And the people that have rebelled once and successfully will be ready to do so often. As water that hath been boiled will boil again the sooner.1
George Southcombe, Grant Tapsell

Chapter 5. Why did James VII and II Lose his Thrones?

Abstract
Chapter 3 began by analysing a print published in early 1681 illustrating dire predictions for the imminent future. This one takes as its starting point a print produced in early 1689 that reflected on the recent past. There is a clear overlap of interpretative frameworks between ‘A Prospect of a Popish Successor’ (Figure 4) and ‘England’s Memorial’ (Figure 7). The first predicted ‘popish villany’; the latter rejoiced in its defeat. Church buildings representing the whole Church of England are prominent in both prints. In the first ‘tantivy’ clergy are shown riding the church towards Rome, in the second the anthropomorphised building tells us that in clear sight of the eye of divine providence ‘I breath[e] again’. Armed Catholic priests are closely associated with devils by both artists, and in both compositions the centre refers to the religious character of the state. In 1681, anxious Whigs dwelt on two closely connected monstrous figures representative of a Catholic future, the violent Irish Catholic devil ‘Mack’, and the deceitful clerical ‘Church Papist’; in 1689, William of Orange’s propagandist presented the prince — punningly depicted as an orange tree — as the guarantor of a Protestant state’s security.
George Southcombe, Grant Tapsell

Chapter 6. How Important was the ‘British’ Dimension to Restoration Political Life?

Abstract
In the later seventeenth century, as in other periods, the English despised the Scots, the Scots loathed the English, and nobody liked the Irish. (The Welsh were sufficiently beneath contempt that few wits even bothered to mock them.)1 Yet these generally antipathetic peoples were all ruled by the same kings who had the unenviable task of establishing systems of government strong enough to hold them together. Their record was distinctly chequered. Scotland and Ireland played immensely important roles in the fall of the Stuart monarchy in the 1640s. Scottish armed rebellion from 1639 left Charles I looking dangerously weak, whilst the well-publicised massacres of Protestants by Ulster Catholics in October 1641 further escalated a truly ‘British’ crisis in which the king was deeply tarnished in many Protestants’ eyes by his use of Irish troops. But the Stuarts’ non-English kingdoms were also vitally important in restoring them again in 1660. Charles II was proclaimed in Dublin before London, and the military intervention of General George Monck, commander of the New Model Army in Scotland, that ultimately ensured the return of the king was possible because Monck realised the strength of royalist sentiments North of the Border in 1659/60.2 These basic facts were not lost on Charles or his leading ministers. Nor were the ‘British’ aspects of the continuing complexities of government in church and state.
George Southcombe, Grant Tapsell

Chapter 7. What was the Importance of Politics Out-of-Doors in this Period?

Abstract
Political activity, as we have shown in previous chapters, was not confined to the enclosed spaces of the King’s court, Council chamber, and Houses of Parliament. In fact, politics out-of-doors was widespread and vibrant in this period. It took place in a variety of different locations and was manifested in a wide range of actions. Three initial examples demonstrate this variety.
George Southcombe, Grant Tapsell

Chapter 8. Why Study Restoration Culture?

Abstract
On 23 November 1658, three writers — John Dryden, Andrew Marvell, and John Milton — walked together in Oliver Cromwell’s funeral procession. This is yet another reminder of how profoundly the Restoration, and in this case specifically Restoration culture, was to be affected by the experiences of the interregnum. The divergent paths these three men took in the Restoration form part of the subject matter of this chapter but this is only one aspect of a larger enterprise.1
George Southcombe, Grant Tapsell

Chapter 9. What were the Main Forces for Change and Continuity in the Post-Revolutionary World, 1688–1714?

Abstract
Viewing the immensely volatile European scene of the 1830s and 1840s from the safety of London, by then the hub of a worldwide empire, Thomas Babington Macaulay — the most popular historian of the age — was unshakeable in his belief that ‘It is because we had a preserving revolution in the seventeenth century that we had not a destroying revolution in the nineteenth’.1 The British could rejoice that 1688 had seen a ‘sensible revolution’, one that had clipped the wings of over-ambitious rulers and established the basic framework for constitutional monarchy, representative government, and economic prosperity that led ultimately to the high noon of British imperial dominance in the Victorian era.2 Several generations of scholars have since largely destroyed this complacent view and established beyond doubt that William II and III’s position in his new kingdoms was actually vulnerable until at least 1692, when the threat of imminent French invasion was averted by the great naval victory at La Hogue. Even after that William’s monarchy was beset by problems right through to his death in 1702, a year after the demise of James VII and II and the bellicose recognition by France of James Francis Edward — the ‘Old Pretender’ — as King James VIII and III.
George Southcombe, Grant Tapsell
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