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 Charles II - despot?

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nordmann
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PostSubject: Charles II - despot?   Fri 30 Dec 2011, 11:45

Lord North, English prime minister during the American War of Independence, once said that all that which disrupted and threatened the kingdom from within could be traced back to the monarchy of the restored Stuart king, and all that benefited and blessed it could be traced back to the opponents he created through his deeds. Such a definition, which contained more than a little truth in it in North's time, could probably be applied to any despotic ruler in history.

Should we probably therefore revise the "Merry Monarch" as one of England's "good" kings and perhaps view him with the same critical gaze we focus on Stalin, Robespierre, Pol Pot and Ivan the Terrible (to name but a few who attempted to exercise total prerogative powers)?
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Allan D
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PostSubject: Re: Charles II - despot?   Sat 31 Dec 2011, 05:53

I think what Frederick North, who had some despotic tendencies himself certainly regarding the Americans, was referring to was what became known as the Glorious Revolution which had its origins in the reign of Charles II, particularly in the crisis over the Exclusion Bill, introduced by supporters of Lord Shaftesbury in 1678, to exclude Charles' brother, James, Duke of York from the throne.

Although the attempt was ultimately unsuccessful and caused Charles to revert to the habits of his father and rule without a Parliament for the last 3 years of his reign it nevertheless produced the Whig Party some of whom participated in the Rye House Plot which invited William of Orange to overthrow James after he had become King. From this event stemmed the Bill of Rights of 1689 and the constitutional monarchical system we have today.

However up until the Exclusion Crisis broke Charles had proved a subtler politician than either his father or his brother. He was certainly willing to share power as was shown by the emergence of the Cabinet system during his reign (so named because meetings were held in the Queen's Cabinet room in Whitehall Palace) although the self-selecting nature of the membership and the secrecy of their proceedings coined the word "cabal" - an acronym formed from its 5 members (- Charles himself of course).

The major blot on his reign remains the secret codicils he negotiated with the envoys of Louis XIV where he was prepared to approve the return of England to the Catholic faith, if necessary enforced by French troops, in return for generous subsidies but even here these were promises that were never kept, nor, as Charles probably realised, could be kept whilst the money was actually spent.

So whilst he may have contributed to the car crash that was his brother's reign he kept his own vow "never to go on his travels again" and politics, although often bitter and divisive, never got to the stage of actual physical conflict during his reign. Although Charles had no great love for Parliament (particularly so during the Exclusion Crisis) the Cabinet system provided the first link, other than the sovereign, between the executive and the legislature.

The Restoration marked an end to the repressiveness of military rule under the Commonwealth and Charles respected Cromwell's lifting of the exclusion of Jews dating back to the reign of Edward I. Whilst both Catholics and Nonconformists had civil disabilities imposed on them, often despite rather than because of Charles' wishes, there was nothing like the religious persecution that occurred in France following Louis XIV's Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685.

Judicial independence was generally maintained and whilst there were periods of repression these often originated from hysteria, such as the Popish plot, outside the King's control. The Habeas Corpus Act was passed in 1679 which codified the procedure for one of the most fundamental freedoms in common law and the barrier against an imperious executive - the freedom from arbitrary arrest.

In brief, Charles was no angel when it came to ruling but he falls well short of a despot of the William I, Henry VIII or Mary Tudor variety.
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PostSubject: Re: Charles II - despot?   Sun 15 Jan 2012, 19:29

Allan,

well said as always and put in the right context of his century.

I studied Charles II because of the discussion with Minette on the Beeb, if I recall it well at the occassion of the BBC Charel's II series. Did then again some research about him in my discussion with Poldertijger (also on the Beeb) in the context of my William III thread (concerning a Dutch language book that I read about William III the Stadtholder).

And I have to say that all what you said fits nearly neatly with what I found during my research. And you said it that logical and comprehensive in your usual style...

Kind regards and with esteem,

Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Charles II - despot?   Sun 15 Jan 2012, 19:39

Posted twice. "Something" said: "during your posting someone else posted. Do you want to modify your post?" (or something in that sense). And as my post appeared in some zig zag order, instead of on the normal margin, I said to modify it, put it in the right order again and posted again...and see what happened...

Cheers, Paul.
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ferval
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PostSubject: Re: Charles II - despot?   Sun 15 Jan 2012, 20:02

Paul, when that happens, the new post that someone else has made appears under yours. If you want to change your post on account of what that other person has said, you click 'Modify' and then you can edit your post. I f you still want the post you have written to appear as you wrote it, click 'Save'.
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PostSubject: Re: Charles II - despot?   Sun 15 Jan 2012, 20:39

Ferval,

thanks a lot for your immediate respons. What would I be without you?

Kind regards and with esteem,

Paul.



PS: Not yet found time to answer to you on the Historum thread. Yesterday evening with a whole company (hmm some three...) to see "Ein Abend in Wien" at the Kursaal of Ostend. Although I am fluent in German I didn't understand nearly nothing of their German, although I guess that it were real German speaking ones...And the day before yesterday nearly the whole evening reading about the construction of history from three leading Dutch filosophers of historical writing...some heavy stuff...perhaps to difficult for a simple mind as I...
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ferval
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PostSubject: Re: Charles II - despot?   Sun 15 Jan 2012, 21:08

Thanks Paul. I will have to stop spending so much time on these boards from now on, I have so many other things to do but they are not as much fun!
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Catigern
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PostSubject: Re: Charles II - despot?   Sun 29 Jan 2012, 17:26

I'm with Ron Hutton, Tim Harris, John Callow etc, in regarding Charles II farao as 'the most savage tyrant ever to sit upon the English [sic] throne'. If you take a look at his reign in Scotland, you'll find all the actual physical conflict , repressive military rule, religious persecution, arbitrary arrest (and torture ) you could want (or not), as well as other assorted, state-sponsored atrocities, all of them entirely gratuitous, it seems to me Sad . I'm also convinced by Harris's case for the affairs of the three kingdoms being intimately entwined, and the population of each well aware of, and responsive to, what was going on in Charles's other realms.

What puzzles me confused somewhat is how subsequent generations came to forget all this, allowing the myth of the 'Merry Monarch' to flourish. I don't know how Charles is perceived in Ireland, where he failed to address the grievances arising from the Cromwellian settlemen, but I suspect Irish historians of the 17th century generally have bigger historical fish to fry. Modern Scots seem generally uninterested in what some American Presbyterian historians have called the '50 Years War' (c1638-c1690), prefering instead to look at the long 18th century, often from a hideously pro-Jacobite perspective affraid (which may incline them to turn a blind eye to what the Stuarts had actually been like prior to the Glorious Revolution). My best guess with regard to England is that it was simply easier to blame all those woes of the kingdom that led to the Glorious Rev. on James II, as to condemn Charles II would have been to risk appearing to condemn the Restoration in principle, which might have been taken as an endorsement of the Commonwealth , and hence of regicide. There might be some clues to be found in Blair Worden's 'Roundhead Reputations' study, which I really ought to get round to reading... Embarassed
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PostSubject: Re: Charles II - despot?   Sun 29 Jan 2012, 18:41

Welcome Catigern, good to see you here.
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Charles II - despot?   Mon 30 Jan 2012, 12:28

@Catigern wrote:
...'the most savage tyrant ever to sit upon the English [sic] throne'. If you take a look at his reign in Scotland, you'll find all the actual physical conflict , repressive military rule, religious persecution, arbitrary arrest (and torture ) you could want (or not), as well as other assorted, state-sponsored atrocities, all of them entirely gratuitous, it seems to me Sad . I'm also convinced by Harris's case for the affairs of the three kingdoms being intimately entwined, and the population of each well aware of, and responsive to, what was going on in Charles's other realms.

What puzzles me confused somewhat is how subsequent generations came to forget all this, allowing the myth of the 'Merry Monarch' to flourish.

Couldn't *exactly* the same be said about Henry VIII (substituting "policy" for "reign" in his case), Catigern - yet he is our "Bluff King Hal"? It seems the English like their tyrants.

PS A respectful and humble request - all the smileys make your posts rather difficult to read. Please could you use fewer emoticoms, sir? study

PPS Re the affairs of the kingdoms being "entwined" - is it true to say the nobles of the North at the time of the Pilgrimage of Grace were very interested in what had been happening in Ireland during the 1530s? I suggested this recently in an essay and it was dismissed as irrelevant.
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Catigern
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PostSubject: Re: Charles II - despot?   Tue 31 Jan 2012, 03:38

@Temperance wrote:
Couldn't *exactly* the same be said about Henry VIII (substituting "policy" for "reign" in his case),
Indeed it could, Temperance, and I'm sure it hurt just as much to be tortured in the 16th century as in the 17th. The difference I see is that, whereas Henry was Beastly-Horrid whenever he met opposition, Charles inspired opposition where he was Beastly-Horrid...

Sorry No , but I'm too fond of my emoticons to restrain myself when it comes to using them. If I end up putting you off reading my posts and responding to them, then it will be my loss. I'm sure the Pharaoh one farao was specifically intended for use in threads about Richard III and Charles II - arch-oppressors of the Chosen People... And please don't be so deferrential - let's all be Good Anarchists.

As for the Pilgrimage, I wouldn't let your essay-marker's accusation of irrelevance put you off such thinking - 'irrelevant' may be code for 'beyond my knowledge', as I suspect is the case with Starkey's dismissal of Scotland. The Pilgrimage was such a many-headed beast that outright denial of whatever your precise thesis was seems rather rash to me. Tudor historians have traditionally treated English history and Irish history pretty much as distinct topics, to the detriment of the historiography of both parts of the Tudor state. There was plenty of movement between northern England and Ireland in the reign of Henry VIII, with Irishmen serving on the Scottish frontier and Cumbrians etc being sent to the Pale. It's also perfectly reasonable, I think, to speak of a single 'crisis of 1534' when considering Bluff King Hal's treatment of Dacre and Kildare and the impact it had on noble thinking. If you can show any aspect of the Pilgrimage as being a reaction to the rise of Thomas Cromwell (perhaps, eg, the Pilgrims' targetting of Sir William Musgrave, Dacre's accuser, who was Cromwell's man) then I think you'll have proved your point...

While I'm here, I'll have you know that I was always very decent to my Scouts, and not just because riling them would have been almost as rash as pissing off the Porters, who hold all the real power...
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Charles II - despot?   Tue 31 Jan 2012, 05:20

Thanks for the reply, Catigern - your observation "beyond my knowledge" was interesting.

So the Dacre you mentioned over on Englistory *was* the Dacre of the 1534 acquittal? I thought it was - William, Lord Dacre of the North, who achieved an amazing (possibly unique?) triumph at a Tudor state trial by *successfully* defending himself - in a seven-hour speech?

But this is off-topic - apologies.


Last edited by Temperance on Wed 01 Feb 2012, 18:16; edited 1 time in total
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Catigern
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PostSubject: Re: Charles II - despot?   Tue 31 Jan 2012, 15:13

Yes, Temp, that was the Dacre I meant - sorry not to have confirmed that before.

The reign of Henry VIII is actually on-topic for me at the mo', as, in 'real life', I'm trying to figure out the war aims of James IV and James V of Scots. Seems to me that English monarchs never stopped treating southern Scotland as 'up for grabs', and I'm wondering whether their Scottish counterparts had comparable designs on bits of northern England.

As a special treat for you, I am, on this occasion, going to limit myself to a single smiley - that which says 'border reiver' to me...
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PostSubject: Re: Charles II - despot?   Mon 06 Feb 2012, 22:54

Yo, Temp! Cool

It seems I'm not the only potential sympathiser to your thesis re Ireland and the Pilgrimage...

[Re the Irish rebellion of 1534] 'It was also feared that the adoption of the religious motif as the symbol of "a rebellion against a heretical overlord" might spark insurrection closer to Westminster.' (James Raymond, 'Henry VIII's Military Revolution', London, 2007, p96)

'Fraid there's no primary source cited.
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Charles II - despot?   Tue 07 Feb 2012, 09:25

Thank you, Catigern! I've had a look at bits of that book over on Amazon - £55! Crikey, you academics must be rolling in money!

I'm still mulling over the Pilgrimage of Grace - as you say, a many-headed beast. It was surely only poor, deluded Aske (and a few other decent, simple folk) for whom the rising was religious. Aske - and it was he who popularised the banner with the five wounds of Christ - was a prime example of a man who "trusted too well" - and it was not just the king whom this honest man misjudged. The genuine religious enthusiasm of the few, and the undoubted grievances of the commons, deserve respect, but I was struck by Elton's verdict that the Pilgrimage was a "futile, misdirected and ill-considered venture", and that the true spirit of the rising was actually "sordid, self-seeking and particularist". But then, if the whole thing was, more than anything else, a mighty effort to oust Cromwell (and was Norfolk involved - seemingly acting for the king and Cromwell, but actually stirring like mad behind the scenes?), Elton would say that, wouldn't he?

The more I read, the more confused I get.
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Catigern
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PostSubject: Re: Charles II - despot?   Tue 07 Feb 2012, 14:59

£55 for Raymond?! affraid

I had no idea, having borrowed rather than bought it. It certainly isn't worth £55 - having read it, I intend to criticise it heavily. Like I said, there's no source cited for the comment I quoted in the book itself. However, there's a chance that some reference supporting said comment is offered in Raymond's PhD thesis, of which the book is, so I've been told by one who has read both, essentially just a reformatted version. Raymond did his doctorate at Exeter, under Jeremy Black, so if there were a Devonian scholar study who particularly wanted to pursue the matter, she might well be able to wangle access to the thesis...

I must admit I had no idea that Elton John had sung about the Pilgrimage, but here's a picture of Aske dangling from the walls of York...
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Charles II - despot?   Thu 09 Feb 2012, 10:21

@Catigern wrote:
I must admit I had no idea that Elton John had sung about the Pilgrimage...

I was surprised too, but more so when I had the references Elton made to Whitgift's 1595 endorsement of predestinarianism pointed out to me yesterday. I'd missed that completely back in 1975 - I thought Captain Fantastic was about Thomas Cartwright! Embarassed No wonder I'm not doing very well at this history lark.

But I don't think Elton ever sang much about Charles II, which is a great shame.
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Catigern
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PostSubject: Re: Charles II - despot?   Thu 09 Feb 2012, 21:19

I'm afraid I know virtually nowt of the works of Elton John, SST, so your quips are quite lost on me Embarassed

@Temperance wrote:
No wonder I'm not doing very well at this history lark.

Well, you're clearly doing better study than whoever it was that marked your essay on the Pilgrimage! You just have to jump through a hoop or two until your written work starts being assessed by people who really know what they're talking about.

Incidentally, here's the opening of a review in the English Historical Review regarding what purchasers of that Raymond book get for their £55...


Henry VIII's Military Revolution: The Armies of Sixteenth-Century Britain and Europe, by James Raymond. (London: Tauris Academic Studies, 2007; pp. 321. £57.50).


This is not an easy book to read. The
typeface is tiny, the index is thin and the painting on the cover is
apparently both
misdated and misattributed. The text is repetitive and
dense with quotations from primary and secondary sources. The
punctuation
and syntax often obscure, rather than elucidate, the
meaning, and few of the many misprints are as entertaining or bizarre
as the ‘viscous opening discharge’* of the artillery on
pages 36 to 37 or the ‘blind allies’* the author avoided on page ix.
At many points we …



*I wonder of Raymond is related to our beloved Minette... jocolor
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PostSubject: Re: Charles II - despot?   Thu 09 Feb 2012, 21:44

I suspect Raymond, like all too many authors these days, thinks running a spell check on his text obviates the need for proper proof-reading.
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PostSubject: Re: Charles II - despot?   Sat 10 May 2014, 09:29

@Catigern wrote:
My best guess with regard to England is that it was simply easier to blame all those woes of the kingdom that led to the Glorious Rev. on James II, as to condemn Charles II would have been to risk appearing to condemn the Restoration in principle, which might have been taken as an endorsement of the Commonwealth , and hence of regicide.

Channel 4's recent drama series New Worlds attempted to do just that - i.e. condemn Charles II.
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PostSubject: Re: Charles II - despot?   Sat 10 May 2014, 10:41

@Temperance wrote:

I'm still mulling over the Pilgrimage of Grace - as you say, a many-headed beast. It was surely only poor, deluded Aske (and a few other decent, simple folk) for whom the rising was religious. Aske - and it was he who popularised the banner with the five wounds of Christ - was a prime example of a man who "trusted too well" - and it was not just the king whom this honest man misjudged. 

I had written a post pertinent to Charles II but I hit a wrong button and lost it all.  However I did rather go over what Allan D had said some time back about Charles ruling absolutely after his battle of wills (which Charles won) with the people who were the origins of the Whig Party, but on reflection I think perhaps I did not bring anything fresh to the discussion.

Vis-a-vis Temp's mention of the Pilgrimage of Grace, when I was a teenager I read HMF Prescott's "Man on a Donkey" and did enjoy it. Ms Prescott did have the grace to mention where she had made stuff up (one example she cited was Aske never had a one-night stand with Madge Wildfire and Madge Wildfire didn't have a younger sister who was in love with Aske).  Mind you, since visiting the Edward II blogspot I mentioned on another thread recently, I have discovered that some of the novelists I have liked as writers of good [in my opinion] light reads have bent the facts in their works.  It isn't just a certain lady novelist.  I have read writers who have penned some weighty tomes with a historical fictional setting (I can't say I read every Robert Graves book ever printed but I read and liked some of his books when I was in my twenties and I have read non-fiction history books too, though not for a long time).
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PostSubject: Re: Charles II - despot?   Sat 10 May 2014, 13:20

@Catigern wrote:
 And please don't be so deferrential - let's all be Good Anarchists.


Made me quite sad reading the above posts - how friendly and polite Catty and I were back in 2012. I wonder what went wrong. Trouble with all these clever men is that the moment you stop being "deferential" they get all stroppy with you.

I think we need a forelock tugging or a bobbing a curtsey emoticon so we can show our 'umbleness and respect even when arguing.
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