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Culture and Politics at the Court of Charles II, 1660-1685

Culture and Politics at the Court of Charles II, 1660-1685

Matthew Jenkinson
Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: NED - New edition
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 310
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  • Book Info
    Culture and Politics at the Court of Charles II, 1660-1685
    Book Description:

    The reconstitution of the royal court in 1660 brought with it the restoration of fears that had been associated with earlier Stuart courts: disorder, sexual liberty, popery and arbitrary government. This book - the first full examination of its subject - illustrates the ways in which court culture was informed by the heady politics of Britain between 1660 and 1685. In political theory and practice the decades that preceded and included Charles II's reign witnessed profound interrogation of British kingship. Individuals at the heart of royal government - court preachers, poets, playwrights, courtesans, diplomats, and politicians - were assertive participants in this scrutiny. This book looks beyond the prurient interest in the sexual antics of Restoration courtiers that has characterised previous works. It engages in a genuine and sophisticated attempt to show how the complex dynamics of Charles II's court culture ran beneath the surface of show and ceremony. Ultimately it shows that the attempts to stabilise and strengthen the Stuart monarchy after the Restoration of Charles II were undercut by the cultural materials emanating from the royal court itself. MATTHEW JENKINSON completed his PhD at Merton College, Oxford.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-907-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vi-viii)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. Abbreviations and Conventions
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  6. 1 Approaches and Contexts
    (pp. 1-20)

    In April 1686 the Royal Society received the first part of one the most significant works in the history of science: Isaac Newton’sPhilosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica(1687). This manuscript was not delivered by Newton himself, but by Dr Nathanael Vincent, Fellow of Clare Hall, Cambridge and Rector of Blo Norton in Norfolk, and also one of the least famous early Fellows of the Royal Society.¹ Vincent is an obscure figure, in part, because throughout his career he was eclipsed by figures whose contributions to British history were much more significant, and whose names consequently feature more prominently in studies...

  7. 2 Court, City and Restoration
    (pp. 21-74)

    These lines were heard by Charles II within the first year of his return to England.Welcom Royal Maywas composed by Matthew Locke and performed before the restored king and his courtiers on 29 May 1660 or 1661. The final line, which juxtaposed Charles and the law, implied a natural alliance between the two, a commitment of the former towards the latter, and maybe even the precedence – if only to satisfy a rhyming scheme – of the law. The celebrations of 1660–1 were not only for the return of the person of Charles II and the monarchytout court,...

  8. 3 Sermons at Court
    (pp. 75-106)

    So Charles II reflected to his sister in February 1664 on the turgid sermons at the court of Louis XIV. But the king’s flippant assessment detracts from the lively culture of his own Chapel Royal, a theatre for early modern monarchical devotional performance.² The return at the Restoration to frequent and regular public royal worship was part of the symbolically potent reconstitution of the Stuart court in London. The sermons delivered during that worship engaged with the politics of the Restoration period, with changes in royal religious policy, the difficulties and dangers presented by Protestant Nonconformity, Roman Catholicism, political disloyalty...

  9. 4 The ‘Understanding’ of Calisto
    (pp. 107-133)

    John Crowne’sCalisto, rehearsed and performed at court between September 1674 and February 1675, was one of the most spectacular dramatic productions of the late seventeenth century. During this six-month period there were more than twenty rehearsals, some of which were open, and two official full-scale performances (sig. a2v).² At an estimated cost of £5,000, excluding the thousands of pounds’ worth of jewels that adorned the costumes of the principal actresses, it was by far the most expensive theatrical project to grace the Restoration stage. It featured over a hundred performers, and it required the assistance of nearly 180 backstage...

  10. 5 The Court Wits and Their King
    (pp. 134-166)

    Few could have summarized Charles II’s kingship with the instinct, wit and incisiveness of John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester. In this one sentence he alluded to the king’s elusiveness, the questionable divinity of kingship and recognition of royal weakness, whether spiritual, sexual or physical. Rochester and his libertine companions penned and distributed, in manuscript and print, a plethora of meditations on Restoration kingship. These meditations were coloured by the wits’ experiences of civil war and Restoration, their easy familiarity with the king, their complex and slippery political allegiances and their penchant for cutting satire. This chapter shows how the wits...

  11. 6 John Dryden and His King
    (pp. 167-180)

    A number of figures associated with the court were at the vanguard of the Tory reaction. It was during the Exclusion Crisis and its immediate aftermath that the government, encouraged by Francis North, Lord High Keeper, went most conspicuously on the print offensive. This offensive was manifested primarily in royal declarations, Roger L’Estrange’sObservator, loyal addresses in theLondon Gazetteand in other literature associated with the court, especially that by John Dryden, the most prominent poet at court during the early 1680s. This chapter looks at the conceptions of indefeasible hereditary right, divine-right kingship, incentives for loyalty and the...

  12. 7 Court Culture and the Tory Reaction
    (pp. 181-211)

    Purcell’sGive sentence with me, O Godmay, in its Exclusion Crisis context, be ‘consonant with the … image of an embattled king, unprotected save by faith and courage’.² Even court anthems, which are usually considered to have been a vehicle for the glorification of monarchy,³ could reflect tensions between the king and some of his subjects. Whatever Dryden may have hoped at the conclusion toAbsalom and Achitophel, Charles’s dissolution of the Oxford Parliament in 1681 did not lead to the disappearance of the Whig party or to the vanquishing of direct threats to the king and the peaceful...

  13. 8 Conclusion
    (pp. 212-240)

    The sexual mores of Restoration courtiers and courtesans were, and are, well known. The king and his more notorious courtiers indulged in priapic pursuits with a number of mistresses and Charles himself begat a panoply of bastards. In the process the king wasted vast amounts of money² and it seemed that he made himself vulnerable, largely through the pillow-talk influence of the Duchess of Portsmouth, to the nefarious influence of Louis XIV.³ One (not atypical) attack on Portsmouth listed twenty-two charges relating to treason and high misdemeanour which included: cohabiting and keeping company with Charles; working to introduce Popery and...

  14. Appendix I. Nathanael Vincent’s translation of Confucius’s ‘Great Learning’ (1685)
    (pp. 241-241)
  15. Appendix II. Court Officers associated with the Chapel Royal, 1660–1685
    (pp. 242-242)
  16. Select Bibliography
    (pp. 243-286)
  17. Index
    (pp. 287-294)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 295-295)