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The Personal Rule of Charles II, 1681-85

The Personal Rule of Charles II, 1681-85

Grant Tapsell
Volume: 5
Copyright Date: 2007
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 250
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  • Book Info
    The Personal Rule of Charles II, 1681-85
    Book Description:

    This book is concerned with political culture, government, and religion during the personal rule of Charles II, the period between the dissolution of his last English Parliament in 1681 and his death in 1685. The author argues that the nature of this phase of Stuart personal rule was different to that of Charles I in 1629-40. He discusses the nature of whig and tory politics during this crucial period in their formation as political parties, showing how they coped with the absence of a parliamentary forum. He also examines political life in the English localities, the growing importance of news dissemination in political life, and the politics of religious persecution and toleration. Scotland and Ireland are included in this analysis of Charles's rule, setting the discussion in a "Three Kingdoms" context. GRANT TAPSELL is Lecturer in Modern History at St Andrews University.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-580-2
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-xi)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. xii-xiv)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-18)

    Sir John Holland’s extraordinarily long life covered almost all of the seventeenth century.¹ Born in 1603, the year that James VI inherited the English throne, and an MP at various times from 1640 to 1679, he lived to see one king executed, and another driven from his realms, to be replaced by a Dutchman whose military campaigns in Europe had changed the face of the English state by the time of Holland’s death in 1701. He also had the misfortune to live in Norfolk, whose ‘precociously fevered’ political life during the Restoration period caused him no end of anxiety. So...

  6. 1 The shape of the period
    (pp. 19-30)

    Charles II dissolved his last parliament at Oxford on 28 March 1681. It had sat for just seven days. Heated elections had produced a House of Commons at least as fractious as in the two preceding parliaments. A majority of MPs again favoured the extraordinary course of legislating to change the line of succession, excluding the king’s brother and heir to the throne James, duke of York from his birthright on the grounds of his avowed Catholicism. The Oxford Parliament was intensely dramatic: MPs and peers arrived in stage-managed groups, armed and anxious. The two Houses quickly fell to wrangling...

  7. 2 Political partisanship and government without parliament
    (pp. 31-63)

    This chapter will extend and deepen the characterization of the ‘personal rule’ period offered in the first. In particular, it will offer two main arguments of central importance to the remainder of this study. First, that the absence of sitting parliaments did not automatically signal their demise in the English political imagination. Expectations of another parliament helped to maintain a high political ‘temperature’ and partisan tensions. Secondly, that we should be wary of exaggerating the extent to which government in this period decisively changed in character. The messy realities of day-to-day governance ensured both that whigs could remain unmolested in...

  8. 3 The politics of religious persecution
    (pp. 64-91)

    This chapter builds on earlier comments about the significant interpenetration of religious and political life in this period. If – as the previous chapter noted – one key perceived characteristic of this period in the historiography has usually been a change in the character of government, another has been an alleged shift in attitudes towards dissent. After very patchy enforcement of the penal laws through much of the 1670s, the first half of the 1680s has been seen as the crowning moment of seventeenth-century English religious intolerance. Whilst this chapter will not dispute the severity of persecution in many areas,...

  9. 4 News and partisan politics
    (pp. 92-122)

    Having set out the key underlying themes fuelling partisanship during the personal rule in the last two chapters, the next two will turn to examine the means and style of expressing that partisanship. As this chapter will show, a news culture that extended far beyond London helped to bind the country together in terms of political knowledge and awareness. Paradoxically, this shared awareness was enormously important as a means of maintaining and deepening political divisions. Partisans were able to appropriate events in localities distant from their own as means of heightening fears locally, and binding together like-minded men and women....

  10. 5 Print and polemical politics
    (pp. 123-158)

    This chapter will complement the last by moving from the nature of the news culture that existed in this period to the content of the printed works that did so much to fuel the fires of partisanship. In so doing it will seek to plug a gap in historical writing about the period by exposing the wealth and variety of printed polemic that continued to be produced during the personal rule. Although the balance of press output did shift – especially by 1684 – from primarily whig to primarily tory, the content of a range of pamphlets, periodicals, and sermons...

  11. 6 Partisan politics in the British monarchies
    (pp. 159-190)

    Although the focus so far has overwhelmingly been on England, this chapter will argue that a significant dimension of the struggle between whigs and tories is best understood in a ‘British’ or ‘Three Kingdoms’ context. Certainly contemporaries thought so, with contrasting whig and tory perspectives on Stuart/Stewart rule in Scotland and Ireland. This is not crassly to argue that political life was the same in each of the three kingdoms. Rather that the shared awareness of political and religious issues helped not just to define the partisan struggle in England, but also to nurture and shape divisions in Scotland and...

  12. Conclusion
    (pp. 191-198)

    Making political predictions has always been a risky business. When James II was proclaimed king of England in February 1685 one observer noted that ‘the whole Nation has conceived an assurance of the most glorious reign that ever was in this kingdom’.¹ However misguided such a claim may now appear, its author was far from alone in prophesying great things from the reign of ‘James the Just’.² A few days after Charles II’s death, the earl of Strafford could comment with satisfaction that the new king’s reign ‘begins so auspiciously’.³ In Oxford, Anthony Wood wrote in his diary that James...

  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 199-226)
  14. Index
    (pp. 227-235)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 236-236)