Daily entries from the 17th century London diary
Jackie has posted 7 annotations/comments since 2 April 2013.
The most recent…
About Wednesday 10 October 1660
The “Dutch invasion” was a unique event. Very few invading armies get greeted by brass bands as they sail on past. Also, due to defections (particularly John Churchill on the eve of what would have been the battle, the only time an English General has defected on the battlefield), no battle was fought at the time. In fact, what was noticeable was that James II’s authority had drained away. His other daughter Ann defected in the middle of this and James II remains the only King in British history to have effectively been deposed by his daughter. James even made a botch of escaping, and it’s clear that William (not wishing to have to kill his own Father-In-Law) then had to organise his successful escape himself! When it did come to a battle, the speed with which James II left the scene was noted at the time. (On the docks at Dublin, James II’s exchange with an Irish Noblewoman “Madam, your countrymen all ran away!” “Sire, it seems you have won the race…”). The overall outcome, however was one which the early supporters of Parliament during the Civil War would have recognised as pretty much what they started out fighting for.
This all goes to show just how extraordinary the events of the previous 20 years had been. Kings had been killed often enough – in battle, in their beds, starved to death in a prison cell etc., but there’d always been a sense of deniability about the process. What happened to Charles I was part of a political discussion which had been a live issue for Centuries in England – the question of whether or not a crowned King was subject to the law of the land, or whether the sacrament of coronation put tem above the law. A question which was behind Magna Carta. Charles I believed that as King he could not be bound by his word to any mere subject, the only oaths which bound him were ones he made to God via his coronation vows. Many of his predecessors believed that, but the ones which regularly tried to act on that basis ended up in the unexpectedly dead category. Charles was different in that he’d been killed following a trial which clearly set a precedent that the King was subject to the law of the land and could experience the same penalties of any subject if he broke those laws. No wonder Charles II, though canny enough not to act too far above the law for most of his reign (he tried to do without Parliament for much of it but kept the show on the road) wanted to expunge that legal precedent and make it clear that those involved in actually putting a King on trial would suffer the consequences. The future James II wasn’t able to juggle the contradictions and got deposed and his successors were presented with a gotcha by Parliament making it clear that they now held their thrones by permission of Parliament and were thus subject to the law from hereon in. 1688 – the year Parliament actually finally won the Civil War.
About Saturday 29 September 1660
Prince Rupert was one of the better Royalist military commanders. At Bristol, he realised that holding the fort to the last man was a waste of time and resources, tying down a substantial army which would be more use in the field, so he surrendered the fort in a deal which allowed him to march away with the entire army which had been besieged in there. Charles I thought this was cowardice and banished him, but it was in fact the most sensible move – at the end of the process he gave up a static position, but still had the army and weapons to use. Also there’s an interesting bit of physics called Prince Rupert’s Drops, which he did study where glass cooled quickly in droplets in water create tear-shaped drops which are incredibly tough and can be hammered on without effect, but if the thin neck is gently snapped, they will disintegrate.
However it’s easy to see how somebody who lacks Courtly diplomacy might well have ended up banished for pointing out something along the lines of “I saved your entire army, you idiot…”
About Monday 23 April 1660
So here we have Montague, formerly a solid Parliament Man happily singing songs dissing Parliament. How times are a changing!
About Tuesday 3 April 1660
The man who translates Montague's cyphers i.e. his most secret stuff almost certainly knows which way the wind is blowing. Sam's proven he can be trusted not to blab.
Suspect his apprehension about his wife is a reflection of just how dangerous the situation is. They're not entirely succeeded in stacking Parliament and if word gets to the wrong people as to what they're all about, they could wind up on a treason charge. They are after all plotting to overthrow the current Government!
About Wednesday 28 March 1660
There they all are delicately taking over the fleet ready for the politically tricky task of fetching the King back to a Country which is to put it mildly divided over whether they want a King at all and the bulk of the Army currently very opposed. In order to do so, people of apparently Republican sentiments are put in command of the Fleet when some idiot starts shouting in favour of the King. Of course they have to be seen to arrest him, otherwise what they’re really all up to becomes obvious, so they make a show of arresting him then treat him nicely, give him a dinner and a chance to sober up before quietly sending him on his way again. Job done.