Driven by an unexpected urge to read about English history, I found myself at the end of Tudor Queen Elizabeth 1st’s reign in 1603 wondering about the possible future of a Catholic or Calvinist England and the origins of Great Britain, and genuinely not knowing the answers. It felt like the ultimate whodunit really. When the “virgin queen” Elizabeth allowed Mary, Queen of Scots’ execution, she pretty much signed over the English crown to the young James (Stuart) VI, King of Scotland, as she was the last Tudor.
I was dying to know what happened next, and it can be crudely summarised like this:
James VI (Scotland) became King James I of England (you know – the King James bible? Yeah that guy!). He was a great talker, but not much of a doer, and was much unprepared on entry into England for the complexity of the English Parliament and governmental Administration.
Succeeded by son Charles I, who was quiet and economical with his words, and who ruled for 24 years before a Civil War between an increasingly hostile Parliament (steered by Pym) and Oliver Cromwell’s New Model Army and the King’s Loyalists began. He was eventually captured by the Scottish army and was handed over for trial and execution.
Oliver Cromwell took over as Lord Protector (wisely refusing to be named King) for 11 years before the “Restoration” began, and Charles’ son in exile Charles II was restored to the position on Cromwells death.
Charles II was a popular and at times ruthless King who restored the Anglican Church to it’s former glory (from Cromwell’s Puritans) and ruled for nearly 25 years before suffering a stroke, and was on his death bed received by a Catholic priest.
His son James II didn’t last long – was Catholic and sought to place fellow Catholics in high positions in Parliament and in the Church. Was attacked on English soil by William of Orange (the Dutch husband of his sister!) and forced out of England into exile in Catholic France.
William and sister Mary Stuart ruled as King and Queen for 13 years before he died in a horse accident and the Stuart lineage ended in James II’s daughter Queen Anne.
And that takes me up to 1714. Time for the Hannovers.