Back to History of England
- Stuarts were Roman Catholics
- James I of England 1603 – 1625
- Charles I
- In 1625 Charles Stuart, Protestant, marries Henrietta Maria, a Catholic Bourbon princess — The Wars of the Three Kingdoms 1639 to 1652 — Charles’ religious policy and The Civil War — The Trial and execution of Charles I (1649) — Exile of Charles II — Cromwell — Restoration of monarchy 1660
- Charles II 1660-85
- Married Catherine of Braganza, a catholic — Parliament’s Test Act 1673 — Dissolution of the English Parliament in 1681
- James II (1685-1688)
- Brother of Charles II — commanded the Royal Navy from 1660 to 1673 — first (Protestant) wife, Anne Hyde — second (Roman Catholic) wife, Mary of Modena — converted to Catholicism in 1669 — William of Orange, Protestant husband of James’s elder daughter, Mary arrives in England in 1688 — James flies to France –exile in France, dying there in 1701.
- The Glorious Revolution of 1688-89 — Role of the Whigs
- William III (1689-1702) and Mary (1689-94)
- Anne (1702-14) — Scotland and England unites under a common flag in 1707, The 1713 Treaty of Utrecht, , Death of Sophia and Anne in 1714, George I, son of Sophia becomes king
- Princess Sophia, Electress of Hanover
- Next: The House of Hanover (Protestants) – George I, (1714-27) son of Sophia
- The unification of England and Scotland into Great Britain in 1707
- Protestantism in the United Kingdom in the 17th Century
Charles I (1625-49)
Charles inherited not just the English throne but also a war with Spain as well as the religious and financial problems of his father’s reign. James I had left the largest peacetime debt in English history. Without experience in government affairs, Charles relied heavily on a favorite of his father George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham, for advice. But Villiers, who was widely despised, was assassinated in 1628.
After the death of Buckingham, Charles turned for comfort to his wife Henrietta Maria, who, being a French princess, was thoroughly unpopular with the English populace. Although not originally a love match, the royal couple’s relationship deepened to one of genuine affection and loyalty, and together they invested greatly in art and culture. Some historians have considered Charles I one of the greatest connoisseurs of the arts, due in large part to his enthusiastic acquisition of Flemish, Spanish, French and Italian paintings and tapestries.
Yet Charles’s reign was notably marked by intense political and religious turmoil. His rigid adherence to the divine right of kings (the belief that monarchs are chosen by God to rule) meant that he frequently clashed with Parliament over almost every issue. Charles pushed unpopular religious policies and enacted taxes without the approval of Parliament including, most notably, a practice known as ship money, which required counties to provide warships for defense of the realm or pay their equivalent costs in money.
The Wars of the Three Kingdoms, sometimes known as the British Civil Wars, were an intertwined series of conflicts that took place between 1639 and 1653 in the Kingdoms of England, Scotland and Ireland, all under Charles I. He ruled these tumultuous kingdoms dominated by diverse Christian religions: Calvinism in Scotland, Anglicanism in England and Catholicism in Ireland. In 1641, the Irish Catholics revolted, killing English and Scottish Protestants who had settled there. Charles wanted to suppress the Irish rebellion but didn’t have the money to raise troops on his own. He called Parliament, but the members of Parliament refused to give the king money or raise troops for him unless their own problems were addressed — among them, a requirement that the king must call Parliament at least once a year.
He seemed determined to rule without calling Parliament at regular intervals, a habit that bothered many people living in England. By 1642, the tensions between Charles and Parliament erupted into civil war, plunging the entire country into mayhem with those loyal to the king, the Royalists (Cavaliers), squaring off against the Parliamentarians (or Roundheads). Not since the Wars of the Roses (1455-85) had England been so horribly divided. Contemporaries described this time as a “world turned upside down.”
Charles lost the war and — in an unprecedented and historic moment — he was tried and convicted of treason. On Jan. 30, 1649, Charles was beheaded, and onlookers reportedly dipped their handkerchiefs in the king’s blood as a grisly keepsake of the regicide.
Yet not all celebrated his death. After Charles’s death, a cult of mourning grew around him, and his loyal followers began wearing commemorative jewelry with his portrait, beginning the trend of mourning rings.
After Charles’s death, his firstborn son, Charles, did not immediately succeed him. Rather, governance fell into the hands of Oliver Cromwell, the leader of the Parliamentarians who ruled as a de facto king. During this period of parliamentary rule, Charles lived in exile in Europe, spending time at the Dutch and French courts with his mother and siblings.
After Cromwell’s death, it became clear that the best option was the “restoration” of the monarchy and negotiations began to recall Charles. On his 30th birthday, Charles returned to London and was formally crowned Charles II in 1661.
In sharp contrast to his father, Charles II was tall, dark and handsome, impressive in both appearance and personality. He had escaped many close calls during the civil wars and even hid in an oak tree to avoid capture by the Parliamentarians after the Battle of Worcester in 1651.
While living in exile at the French royal court, he developed a taste for all things French — art, food, music, clothing. And when he returned to England in 1660, he brought the French cultural influence with him. He often copied the styles that his cousin King Louis XIV of France popularized, even the trend for red-heeled shoes, which appear in his coronation portrait by John Michael Wright. Yet he was a fashion trendsetter as well. In 1666, he introduced a new style of vest aimed at bolstering England’s wool trade. The new plain vest, which was knee-length and worn under a coat, would gradually evolve into the modern three-piece suit, that is, a jacket, trousers and waistcoat.
Charles II’s reign ushered in a new cultural golden age as he reopened the theaters, lifted censorship of the press and reinstituted the celebration of Christmas. He also promoted the sciences by establishing the Royal Society, which is still in existence today. He is often referred to as the “Merry Monarch,” a title that references his now-notorious affinity for fine food and drink, beautiful women and “merry making.” And the moniker is understandable. The king partied with the lower orders and had several mistresses at any given time. He had at least a dozen children with women he was not married to; he acknowledged five children with his longtime paramour Barbara Palmer, Countess of Castlemaine.
His reign was also marked by intense religious and political problems, including profound anti-Catholic feeling and xenophobia. Such tensions were further exacerbated by the fact that Charles’s younger brother and heir James (the future James II) was Catholic, as many wished to avoid the throne falling to another papist. Charles contended with political scandals, assassination plots and national disasters including the Great Plague from 1665-66 (the last major outbreak of the bubonic plague) and the Great Fire of 1666, which razed parts of London and killed more than 100,000. When Charles died in 1685 at age 55, the throne passed to his brother, who reigned for a mere three years before he was overthrown by his own daughter and son-in-law (Mary II and William III).
After the return of Charles II, the Church of England was fully restored, and in 1662 Parliament authorized a revised Prayer Book. Re-imposing Anglican uniformity was, however, by now hopelessly complicated by the growth of other religious sects or groups which had thrived without hindrance under Cromwellian rule.
Post-restoration Parliaments nevertheless chose firmly to defend the established Church. During the 1660s and 1670s a series of penal laws were enacted which persecuted both Catholics and members of the various nonconformist groups.
Enforcement of these laws unleashed a period of violent religious disturbance and hatred across England, Scotland and Wales.
Under the Test and Corporation Acts, holders of public office – including peers and MPs – schoolmasters, clergy, students of Oxford and Cambridge, members of local corporations and others, all had to swear an oath upholding the position of the King as head of the Church of England.
Those who did not risked losing most of their civil rights. Attending Catholic worship or nonconformist religious meetings was declared illegal and punishable by fine or imprisonment.
Coronation of Charles II
On April 23, 1661, King Charles II of England, Scotland, and Ireland processed through the
streets of London with his royal entourage to Westminster Abbey for his coronation. James Heath, a Royalist historian of the late seventeenth century, recorded the magnificence of the spectacle:
it is incredible to think what costly clothes were worn that day:
the cloaks could hardly be seen what silk or satin they were
made of, for the gold and silver laces and embroidery that were
laid upon them: besides the inestimable value and treasures of
diamonds, pearls, and other jewels, worn upon their backs and
in their hats: to omit the sumptuous and rich liveries of their
pages and footmen; the numerousness of these liveries, and
their orderly march; as also the stately equipage of the esquires
attending each earl by his horse’s side: so that all the world saw
In exile only a year earlier, Charles began his reign with all the splendid pomp andceremony that had been absent during the preceding years of the Interregnum. In drastic contrast to the puritanical style of Oliver Cromwell, Charles’s Restoration reinitiated a cultural shift within England to the absolutist opulence of the Continent’s royal courts. Such a royal garb projected a majestic image of kingly power modeled after Charles’s cousin, the Catholic monarch Louis XIV of France (1643–1715). Charles’s regal dress attempted to convey to the English people that their glorious king had returned, with an absolutist flair, after decades of tumultuous civil war and staunch parliamentary rule.
Charles’s royal court at Whitehall maintained a greater importance and continuity than the Parliament at Westminster as the main center of fashionable social life and the focal point of politics and administration. The men and women of the royal court were visual representations of the English government and thus what Charles’s court did, ate, and wore was especially significant. Charles’s reign began after the death of Cromwell in 1658 and the failed Protectorate of his son Richard (1658–59). The Declaration of Breda in 1660 solidified the return of the constitutional monarchy as Charles inherited an England teeming with numerous conflicting perceptions of political, religious, and cultural identity. The Restoration period experienced the tensions between Whigs and Tories, Protestants and Catholics, and English and Continental powers. Continuous warfare, assassination plots, widespread disease, and a devastating fire exacerbated these tensions throughout Charles’s twenty-five year reign.
Religion under Cromwell
Cromwell was a Puritan. Puritans were Protestants who wanted to purify the Church of England of Roman Catholic practices. They believed that the Church of England was too similar to the Roman Catholic Church, and that the reformation was not complete until it became more protestant. One of the main beliefs of the Puritans was that if you worked hard, you would get to Heaven. Pointless enjoyment was frowned upon. Cromwell shut many inns and the theatres were all closed down. Most sports were banned. Boys caught playing football on a Sunday could be whipped as a punishment. Swearing was punished by a fine, though those who kept swearing could be sent to prison. Sunday became a very special day under he Puritans. Most forms of work were banned. Women caught doing unnecessary work on the Holy Day could be put in the stocks. Simply going for a Sunday walk (unless it was to church) could lead to a hefty fine.
Despite being a highly religious man, Cromwell had a hatred for the Irish Catholics. He believed that they were all potential traitors willing to help any Catholic nation that wanted to attack England (he clearly did not know too much about the 1588 Spanish Armada).
During the period of republican rule between 1649 and 1660 Parliament completed the work begun during the Civil War years of dismantling the official Church. A Presbyterian Church was established in its place, governed by non-hierarchical assemblies – or presbyteries – of clergy and lay elders, rather than by bishops and a supreme head.
Emphasis in worship was placed on preaching from the Bible rather than the set prayer book. In the 1640s the celebration of Christmas and other holy days was restricted.
The Bill of Rights had established the succession with the heirs of Mary II, Anne and William III in that order, Mary had died of smallpox in 1694, aged 32, and without children. Anne’s only surviving child (out of 17 children), The Duke of Gloucester, had died at the age of 11, and William was, in July 1700, dying. The succession had to be decided.
The Act of Settlement of 1701 was designed to secure the Protestant succession to the throne, and to strengthen the guarantees for ensuring parliamentary system of government. According to the Act, succession to the throne therefore went to Princess Sophia, Electress of Hanover, James VI & I’s granddaughter, and her Protestant heirs.
Sophia of Hanover. the grand daughter of James I became the heiress presumptive to the thrones of England and Scotland (later Great Britain) and Ireland under the Act of Settlement 1701. She died less than two months before she would have become Queen of Great Britain.
References 1. https://www.royal.uk/william-and-mary