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CÚsar de Saussure: Letters from London, 1725-1730 Notes

Henry VIII (b1491 r1509-1547 d1547)  married six times. His first wife, Catherine of Aragon, gave him a daughter, the future Queen Mary, in 1516, but failed to produce a son and heir, and he contrived to have his marriage anulled after more than 20 years, breaking with the Church of Rome in the process. He married Anne Boleyn in 1533, who soon afterwards gave birth to a daughter, the future Queen Elizabeth I. But Boleyn was implicated in various indiscretions with courtiers, and beheaded in 1536. He married Jane Seymour soon afterwards, and she produced a male child, the future Edward VI, in 1537, but died in childbirth. He then married Anne of Cleves in 1540 on the strength of a portrait by Holbein, but on seeing her, refused to consummate the marriage. He next married Catherine Howerd, whose (sexual) indiscretions led to her execution in 1542. He finally married Catherine Parr, who had already buried two husbands, who became a nurse to him and a mother to his three children, and succeeded in outliving him. 

Edward VI
(b1537 r1547-1553 d1553) was only 10 years old when his father, Henry VIII, died. Though provision had been made for a council of Regency, his uncle, Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford, seized power, establishing himself as Protector of the Realm and sole guardian of his nephew, who created him Duke of Somerset. Under the guidance of Somerset, and Thomas Cranmer, England became more staunchly Protestant. But Somerset was outmanoeuvred by the Earl of Warwick (who became the Duke of Northumberland in 1551), sent to the Tower and finally executed. Under the influence of his tutors, Edward VI became a more extreme Protestant, but was evidently sick. Northumberland attempted to change the succession in favour of Jane Grey, persuading the dying king to sign a document to that effect and marrying her to to his son, Guildford Dudley, but, on Edward's death, the attempt failed, Lady Jane Grey was executed, and Edward's sister, Mary, took the throne.

Mary I  (b1516 r1553-1558 d1558) was the daughter of Henry VIII by his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, and staunchly Catholic. She married Philip II of Spain in 1554, but their marriage produced no children, and she began to feel deserted by her husband, who had married primarily to secure the support of England for his Continental ambitions, and who had responsibilities elsewhere to the government of Naples, Spain, the Netherlands and Milan. She began to believe that her problems were a punishment from God for the heresies of the English people. The Bishop of Gloucester, Archbishop Cranmer, and Bishops Ridley and Latimer were burnt at the stake, and many Protestants fled to Geneva or Zurich to escape persecution. England entered a war with France on the side of Spain, but suffered the loss of Calais in 1558. Mary died later the same year.

Elizabeth I (b1533 r1558-1603, d1603) was the daughter of the second wife of Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, and attempted to steer a middle course in religious matters, but was rather pushed to extremes by her Secretary, William Cecil, Lord Burghley, who became her Lord Treasurer and de facto head of the government, and by the action of the Pope in issuing a bull in 1570 deposing her and absolving her subjects from their allegiance. She survived various plots against her life, generally centred around her cousin, Mary Queen of Scots, whom she kept in captivity after Mary's flight from Scotland to England in 1568. Mary was finally executed for her involvement in the Babbington plot in 1587. In 1588, Philip II of Spain (the one time husband of Mary I) sent an armada against England, but a combination of resistance from the English navy and bad weather defeated the attempt. She was courted by a variety of English and foreign lords, including Robert Dudley, Christopher Hatton, Walter Ralegh, the Duke d'Alencon,  and the Earl of Essex, but never married and left no heir.

James I (b1566 r1603-1625 d1625) was the first of the Stuart kings of England. He was the son of Mary Queen of Scots and came to the Scottish throne at the age of thirteen months in 1567. Despite the fact of his mother's execution by Elizabeth I, he did he best to remain on good terms with the English monarch in the hope of succeeding her, which he did in 1603. After the death of Sir Robert Cecil, Earl of Shaftsbury, in 1612, his government became dominated by his favourites, particularly George Villiers, created Duke of Buckingham in 1623. His reign was characterised by increasing friction between King and Parliament.

Charles I (b1600 r1625-1649 d1649) upheld the position of George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, as royal favourite after the death of his father, James I. Villiers organised ill-fated military expeditions against Spain and the French Huguenots, and Parliament attempted to impeach him, but his influence was only terminated on his assassination by a disgruntled naval officer in 1628. Charles had married Henrietta Maria, the sister of Louis XIII of France in 1625. Her Catholicism exacerbated the conflicts between the King and his largely Protestant Parliament, which also objected to Charles' methods of raising money by forced loans, his billeting of soldiers, the imprisonment of subjects without cause shown and his 'innovations' in religion. From 1629 until 1640 Charles attempted to rule without Parliament. In 1633 he appointed Archbishop Laud to the See of Canterbury. Together, they tried to impose the Book of Common Prayer on the Scottish Church, to bring uniformity to religious worship in Scotland and England, but the Scots turned against the King, and swore to uphold a Covenant against the changes. Charles raised an army and marched into Scotland, but was unsuccessful in imposing his will, and it was to raise funds for a second campaign that he recalled Parliament in 1640. But this Parliament (called the 'Short Parliament') would not vote funds until their grievances had been heard, and he dissolved it after a few weeks. He managed to raise a second army nonetheless: it was sent against his Scottish subjects, and this time was conclusively beaten. He called another Parliament (called the 'Long Parliament'), which moved to impeach Charles' ablest minister, the Earl of Strafford. When the trial for treason faltered, Charles was pressured into signing a bill of attainder, and Strafford was put to death without trial. Charles visited Scotland in the summer of 1641 in an attempt to negotiate with the Scots, but without success. When he returned to London, he attempted to arrest the five leading members of Parliament, but they were forewarned of his intentions, and fled. The King himself left London and both sides prepared for a Civil War, in which the Royalist cause was defeated and, in 1647, the King himself became a prisoner of the victorious Roundhead army led by Oliver Cromwell and Thomas Fairfax. The Scots now concluded an 'Engagement' with the King, in return for mainly religious concessions, and invaded England in 1648 (the Second Civil War), but were defeated by Cromwell's army, while Fairfax overcame a Royalist insurrection in South East England. The King was put on trial for waging war against his own people and, on 30th January 1649, he was publicly executed in Whitehall.


Charles II (b1630 r1660-1685 d1685) acted as commander-in-chief of his father's armies in the West at the age of fourteen, but was forced by the successes of the Parliamentary army to leave England in 1647. He took command of the warships which mutinied against Parliament in 1648 (during the Second Civil War), and, in 1651, led a Scottish army into England, but was defeated by Cromwell at the battle of Worcester. It was only in 1660, after the death of Oliver Cromwell, that he was invited to return to England. He married Catherine of Braganza, the daughter of the King of Portugal, in 1661, but had no issue, other than the 14 children he fathered on other women. England became involved in a war with the Dutch States, which was mainly about commercial and naval rivalries, and which ended inconclusively. He signed a secret treaty with France in 1670 at Dover, by which he undertook to once again take up arms against the Dutch and, at the appropriate time, to declare himself a Roman Catholic. In return the French government gave him financial subsidies and, when the war had been won, promised to award him Dutch ports. Parliament became increasingly anti-French and anti-Catholic, and Charles was forced to agree the Test Act, which effectively excluded Roman Catholics from all public office. He was also induced to agree to the marriage of his niece, Mary, to the Dutch Captain-General, William of Orange. It became apparent that his brother, James, had converted to Roman Catholicism when he resigned all offices after the passing of the Test Act. A bill was brought forward in Parliament to exclude James from the succession, which Charles successfully opposed.

James II (b1633 r1685-1688 d1701) was the second son of Charles I, who was taken prisoner at Oxford during the Civil War, but escaped to Holland. He became an officer in the French army until the French government came to an agreement with the Protector (Cromwell), after which he served the Spanish against the French and English. Whilst in Holland, he had signed a marriage contract with Anne Hyde, the daughter of the future Earl of Clarendon, who was to become Charles II's Lord Chancellor. By her he had two daughters, Mary, who was to become the wife of William of Orange and Queen, and Anne, who was also to become Queen. He commanded the Navy during the Dutch War, inflicting a defeat on the Dutch at the battle of Lowestoft. He converted to Roman Catholicism in 1668, but continued to attend Anglican services until 1676. On the passing of the Test Act, he resigned his offices. He married secondly the Catholic Mary of Modena, and was sent into exile by his brother, Charles II, first to Brussels, then Edinburgh. He returned in 1682, and effectively resumed his office as Lord High Admiral, succeeding to the throne in 1685. He at once openly attended Mass, and proceded to attempt to introduce religious toleration and civic equality for Catholics. The Duke of Monmouth, the eldest illegitimate son of Charles II landed in the West of England with a small force, but the rebellion was quickly put down. James proceded to appoint a commission to prevent the Anglican clergy preaching against the tenets of Roman Catholicism and brought a test case before the High Court to establish his right to dispense with the law in individual cases, having purged any judge who disagreed. This enabled him to admit Roman Catholics into the Privy Council and army. A Declaration of Tolerance was drafted, and the Anglican clergy were ordered to read it from their pulpits. He was petitioned by the Archbishop of Canterbury and six other bishops to withdraw his order, but James had the bishops arrested, sent to the Tower and put on trial for seditious libel, of which charge they were acquitted to general acclamation. Mary of Modena gave birth to a son, and it therefore became likely that a Catholic dynasty would be established on the throne of England, at which point the Bishop of London and six laymen invited William of Orange to come over to England to protect his wife's right to succeed, it having been rumoured that the birth was suppositious. The army failed to fight for the King, and the Navy defected to William. James left London, but was captured and returned, then allowed to escape again. He was replaced on the throne by his daughter, Mary and her husband, William of Orange. With French assistance he was enabled to land in Ireland where he raised an army, but was defeated by William at the Battle of the Boyne in 1692. 

William III (b1650 r1688-1702 d1702) and Mary II (b1662 r1688-1694 d1694). William was appointed Captain-General of the Dutch Republic in 1672 after the overthrow of the Francophile John de Witt, and successfully resisted the armies of Louis XIV of France for the following six years. He married Mary, the elder daughter of James, Duke of York, later James II of England, in 1677 and, when invited to England in 1688, took the throne of his father-in-law when he fled the country.  He agreed to a Declaration of Rights, which specifically condemned the way in which James II had used the prerogative to dispense with laws, in effect establishing a limited monarchy: subsequent bills were introduced to allow nonconformist freedom of worship (but not Roman Catholics), the summoning of Parliament every three years, the prevention of the employment of a standing army in peacetime without the consent of Parliament, Parliamentary control over the King's expenditure and an act specifying that future monarchs should be members of the Church of England. He defeated James at the Battle of the Boyne in Ireland in 1692, and continued to oppose the forces of Louis XIV in Europe.

Anne (b1665 r1702-1714 d1714) was the second daughter of James II . She gave birth to seventeen children, but not one survived beyond childhood. She was initially much influenced by Sarah Churchill, wife of the future Duke of Marlborough, who successfully continued to oppose the armies of Louis XIV in Europe, with notable victories at Blenheim and Ramillies. Political life came to be increasingly dominated by the party system of Whigs and Tories, the former standing for restrictions to monarchical power and toleration of non-conformity of religious belief, and the latter for monarchical power and conformity of religious belief. Public opinion was assiduously courted and formed by numerous gazettes and great energy and resources expended on electioneering. It was the Whigs who dominated the first years of her reign, pursuing the war against France, but in the election of 1710 the Tories won an overwhelming victory, enabling the party leaders, Harley and Henry St John Viscount Bolingbroke to pursue a treaty of peace with France.


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