Longer articles on broader topics.



Samuel Pepys and Fleet Street

Despite the gap of 340 years, a walk through London today can give you a very real sense of the scale and nature of Samuel Pepys’s world in a way that can genuinely bring his diaries to life. His daily world stretched from Westminster Hall in the south west to the Tower in the east. When he didn’t travel by water, he would walk a regular route up King St (now Whitehall), turning right at Charing Cross, following the Strand and Fleet, past St Paul’s Cathedral and on his way past London Bridge on his right to Seething Lane. While few buildings from his time remain, many of the landmarks (particularly churches) and most of the streets remain in name, if not in timber and stone. By walking in the footsteps of Samuel Pepys, a clear footprint of his world can be discerned.

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The Banqueting House of Whitehall Palace

…and in the Banqueting-house saw the King create my Lord Chancellor and several others, Earls, and Mr. Crew and several others, Barons: the first being led up by Heralds and five old Earls to the King, and there the patent is read, and the King puts on his vest, and sword, and coronet, and gives him the patent. And then he kisseth the King’s hand, and rises and stands covered before the king. And the same for the Barons, only he is led up but by three of the old Barons, and are girt with swords before they go to the King.
20th April 16611

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St Margaret's Church, Westminster

[This is the first of three articles originally posted to the discussion group website.]

St Margaret’s Church was one of the ever-present landmarks of Pepys’s life in London, and was where he married Elizabeth in 1655. Other famous peopled married there include John Milton in 1656 and Winston Churchill in 1908. Edward Montagu (later 1st Earl of Sandwich) was also married there in 16421. Ironically, Pepys’s marriage was a civil rather than a religious affair, with religious ceremonies having been declared invalid in 16531 (a policy presumably reversed at the Restoration).

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The Bedchamber

“But I hear that the Queen did prick her out of the list presented her by the King…” (Diary of Samuel Pepys, 26 July 1662)

Sam’s diary entry referenced above refers to a rather sad black mark in Charles’ reign — the infamous “Bedchamber” incident. Charles’ historians and biographers (Clarendon, Bryant, Hutton, Faulkus, Fraser, Coote, Ollard, Wilson, Ponsonby) and Queen Catherine’s biographers (Strickland, Davidson, Mackay, Sousa, Rau, Casimiro, etc.), all differ somewhat in dates, details, descriptions and interpretations of the events, but most agree that the damage done here set a horrible precedent within the Royal marriage, the ministry, the court, the treasury, and even international relations. This entry is only intended as a general summary of some complex and detailed events so please forgive any deletions, inaccuracies, etc. and consider this for the more “generalists” among the background readers, as opposed to those who strive for exactness. Some slight spoilers may be here but I’ve tried best to keep to the “behind the scenes” view that Sam did not see.

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