350 Charles’ Inheritance

In March 1625 Charles came into his inheritance on the death of his father. Was it a poison chalice or the holy grail? What sort of man accepted the chalice and duty and would place his hands on the tillers of the Three Kingdoms?

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Now then this is exciting! Bit I feel a bit of a pause for reflection is both desirable and necessary at this point, because who is there in the world that does not profit from pausing and reflecting? Unless possibly you are Jimmy Bond with 2 ½ seconds to save the world from certain destruction. And even then, investing ½ second in planning would probably be time well spent.  But more materially, as I sit writing it is August 9th and the last episode on politics was released waaaay back in the mists of time when heroes roamed the earth on 8th May, so if you are keeping pace with me, I would think you need a refresh. If you are not of course, your eyes will probably be roll at this point, and there may even be tutting. But look – bear with me. It is important to set proper expectations I have found, and today there’s going to be a certain amount of state of the nation kind of material probably not a lot of forward movement, but to understand where you are going you need to understand where you are coming from I would argue. Weakly possibly, but then I have found confident assertion can stand in quite effectively when reasoned argument fails.

The place we reached was the death of James VI and I in March 1625, leaving Buckingham and Charles sobbing inconsolably over the loss respectively of friends and Master, and father. Buckingham reigns supreme in the world of politics and patronage, and there is no sign that will change with the arrival of Charles, who appears thoroughly bowled over with this charismatic elder brother type figure, though not to the loss of all sense of his own duty, it should be said. An alliance has been constructed with France, and a marriage ceremony held in France with Henrietta Maria, the sister of Louis XIII. Henrietta Maria, who is just 15, is expected anytime soon in England – she’ll probably bring a few close friends with her to boot. This rapprochement with La France Glorieux has come about partly because they were the only nation left standing who could pay a dowry worth the candle, but mainly because Charles and James’ previous policy – the Spanish Match – had crashed and burned. Charles needed friends to achieve his most compelling foreign policy objective – to put his sister Elizabeth and her hub, Frederick, back on their throne of Bohemia, from whence they’d been turfed by the HRE.

Charles, and even Buckingham, were as popular as they have ever had been – and probably as popular, without wanting to spoil the story, as they will ever be. Because in switching to an Anti Spanish policy, they had filled their subjects’ collective breasts with joy; though possibly for not entirely contingent reasons. Their subjects were more focussed on the religious aspect than the dynastic, though they would accept the King’s right to be interested in the might and reputation of nations too, right enough.  Charles and Buckingham had rather been enjoying slipping on the wetsuits of populism, climbing abroad the soft top of politics and riding the wave of peoples approval. That is my attempt to be down with the kids in the use of surfing slang. How’d I do? Charles’ father was more clear sighted and had warned them they would live to regret their populist bit of fun, and specifically the use of impeachment to remove Buckingham’s enemies, and using popularity in parliament to agitate against government policy. That was not what an early modern parliament was for – it might be now, but it was categorically not back then. Parliament was an occasional meeting, called by the monarch to connect and build consensus with his people, hear and address their grievances and ask for money if required at rimes of crisi. It was not for policy formulation – that was the job of the king, his Privy Council and court, even if the king might ask parliament for their view every now and again, it definitively wasn’t a right or requirement.

So that’s where we’d got to. The period we are entering is a brightly coloured and frankly over furnished 5 year period from 1625 to 1630, as over furnished as a Victorian boudoir. It’s a particularly fascinating period not just because it’s packed with incident- which is you know, normal; but because it’s round about here where we all start rootling around looking for causes – cause of the Armageddon that’s going to follow. What happened to kick things off? Had it already started? Specifically there are a let’s say three themes we should cover; the various pathways which foreign policy leads Charles; the religious settlement that emerges from the start of the reign – though don’t expect any great acts of parliament or something, it’s not like the Elizabethan Settlement, it’s quieter than that, more subtle. And then there is all the constitutional politics in parliament. Wherein we ask the hill of beans question; obviously it sounds quite exciting what goes on in parliament, but do we constantly over egg that particular pudding? Once parliament is not sitting anymore, people just seem to get on with things so maybe the verbiage it produces when it is sitting is not all that important? Meanwhile, there is Henrietta Maria also to bring into the story. So there are our themes for the next few years

Right now it is at this this point that I find myself impaled on some horns – I’m imagining some sort of shaggy cattle who raised its head to look at this walker that has appeared in its field, and caught me by accident, no malice intended, but the horns of his tbeast, let us call it ‘dilemma’ are none the less uncomfortable. I want to introduce Charles properly and talk about what he’s like because I don’t really think I have introduced him specifically although it’s entirely possible I have forgotten. But talking about all his successes and failures but that does seem a little like putting the cart before the horse. That is to say, it might be best to let his character emerge from events as we go along. So, I’ll keep things minimal for the moment, and talk about what we do know in 1625, and we can let the rest emerge as we go.

The first thing that has always occurred to me since I started taking an interest in these sorts of things, which was some time ago I should add, is that Charles I is an unlikely villain. I mean villains come in all shapes and sizes I guess, you can’t always spot them by the bloody, severed body parts they carry around in their lunchbox, but I mean Charles surely doesn’t come across as a material for a blood soaked tyrant. He will be very much a family man; Ok, he and Henrietta Maria struggle a but early doors as we’ll hear, but they both make a magnificent recovery after a dodgy kick off, and end up looking rather cute, and he doesn’t play away unlike most kings. He is careful, controlled and correct to the point of fastidious. So; we had a discussion a while back about how the royal court was supposed to be a model of moral behaviour and religious rectitude, and how under James’ louche, wildly informal and sexually heterogenous leadership, it looked anything but that to the censorious country. Well that changes under Charles. On a personal level, he divides up his day into coffee spoons, he has impressive self control; not for him a snack attack at midnight with an illegal bowl of cornflakes and a mountain of milk & sugar he divided his day into early rising, prayers exercises, audiences, business, eating and sleeping, he waters down his wine, ladies and gents, he waters down his wine. He expected a similarly high level of propriety from his court; the sweariness and informality of his father’s day was gone. And indeed, to a degree, the financial incontinence.

And he’s a cultured sort of chap; I mean one observer says this creates a distance between monarch and subjects; Charles is an informed and discerning collector of art in a way that was quite out of the ordinary even for the elite. But isn’t that what people wanted from a monarch they saw as semi divine? You don’t want him to be just like the guy round the corner who’s much given to passing wind during the parson’s sermon and looking round at the rest of the congregation for applause do you? I put it to you that you want some magnificence, decorum, difference and finery – certainly the Tudors had gone for that big time, from Henry VII onwards and it seemed to work for them right enough.

Just to break off, this period we are going into seems to present a couple of characters we find very, very difficult to evaluate; both Charles I and Cromwell remain somehow beyond our grasp. For example, Austin Woolrych, whose Britain in Revolution I commend unto you, say’s absolutely flatly with some relief as one of the things he can safely say, that Charles was totally humourless. Well, Mark Kishlansky come straight back at that with a couple of examples of great Charles I gags. I mean, to be fair rib ticklers they ain’t but that famous line when arrested by Cornet Joyce is surely not bad. That’s the one where Joyce comes to arrest him without being able to produce any documentation, and Charles looks at the grisly looking troopers around him and says that

His instructions were in air characters and legible without spelling

I mean you know – not going to top the Music Hall billing, but shows a sense of humour I would opine, if opining is something anyone should ever give into.

Anyway does that count as digression? So, he’s controlled and expects a good decorous behaviour from his court, court becomes a beacon of culture and morality; although to be fair it does remain alarmingly religiously pluralistic, which we might applaud now, but which was not a matter for applause to your 17th century citizen of any religious persuasion.  Clarendon wrote of him – admittedly Clarendon, or Edward Hyde that is, was something of a fan that he was

Of the most harmless disposition and the most exemplar piety, the greatest example of sobriety, chastity and mercy that any prince has been enbued with

But while Teddie Baby may be biased, the Venetian ambassador had no such inclination, and yet he wrote home that Charles

Showed signs of being temperate, moderate, and of exchanging all the prodigality of the past for order and profit.

Charles was of course a Scot, born in Dunfermline Castle in 1600, though he was in England from 1603 to 1633 before going to the land of his fathers so Anglicised pretty thoroughly though he would always be deeply conscious of his dignity as a king of Scotland and retain Scottish counsellors around him, and manage Scottish affairs separately to English. He had rickets when young and apparently late to walk – ooh and wasn’t he stolen by a monkey when a baby and get into a scrap in the garden with a young Cromwell? No to the last two by the way. He was five foot four, and famously had a stammer; which didn’t seem to make him an ineffective speaker. He just compensated by keeping it brief, which parliamentarian listeners seemed to rather appreciate after enduring rambling from his predecessor; and they will suffer rambling from this successor as Protector also it must be said.

As his people would expect, he was deeply religious. The structure of his religious beliefs will be a bit of a problem actually, which we’ll come to in its proper hour, but there was no lack of commitment to what he saw as the true church of England and personal piety. His relationship with his folks seems also a matter of debate; a relationship with Anne described at once as loveless and indulgent. Well Philip Larkin reminded us of what parents inevitably do to their children one way or t’other, but exactly how they achieve that is anyone’s guess in this particular case. But he seems to have taken James’ very high views on the extent of royal authority to heart.

I think it is fair for me to say this early on that Charles is very conscientious. Oddly in terms of his approach to business this is very disputed another one where Charles Carleton flatly describes him as lazy; essentially that Charles would hand out orders well enough, but lacked the attention to detail to drive it through to a conclusion. Whereas Austin Woolrych writes that he worked harder at the business of government than his father would ever have done; there’s none of the tearing up and down to find the king because he was too busy hunting to do his work. Maybe he should have been in receipt of one of those horrid aphorisms business inflicts on us, about working smarter rather than working harder, who knows.

Maybe it’s too early to move on to the duplicitous thing – maybe that’s something that should emerge either way, but I feel moved to comment now. Charles shows none of that most unattractive tendency to blame someone else for his faults. I mean you can argue, very powerfully I think, that this is partly because he doesn’t recognise egregious errors that stand out more dramatically than Cromwell’s wart as such, but he doesn’t hide behind his ministers, and as easily throw them to the wolves like a Henry VIII or his Dad. So when there’s a deal of military crashing and burning going on off the holiday island of Rhe, for example, he takes it on his chin, fronts up good and proper, it’s a most attractive personal quality. Whether it’s wise or not is an entirely different matter. Maybe the answer is in the 180 degree difference between the king vs Cromwell thing in Henry and Charles. I’ll leave the inflexible, unwilling to compromise thing of which he is accused because that is a poser; whether he compromise effectively or in the right place is very moot, but he does at various points compromise. Such as when he does, to his undying personal sense of shame, throw Strafford to said wolves.

So we will see whacha think, but there is a line of argument I ask you to at least keep in mind as we place our collective foot on the first step of this pathway that goes that Charles may not be our worst monarch, he may just be our most unlucky one. The contemporary William Lilly, an astrologer and as someone who can read the stars obviously an expert wrote

For my part I do believe he was not the worst, but the most unfortunate of kings

Obviously ‘not the worst’ doesn’t look great on the end of term report either, but another contemporary puts it more positively

Wisdom and reason were not wanting in that noble king; Fortune was

So that’s the king and what I think we might safely say at this point.





What about his situation, the problems he had to deal with? Was he handed a poison tankard and all he had to do was touch his divinely appointed lips to the rim to fall down dead, or really was he quite safe to draw deeply on the real ale of life? Am I stretching a metaphor here? I might point out that I come to this from a slightly different angle than I might have done. I glory, of course, in Anglo centricity, hence the very title of my podcast and determination to use the illegal phrase English Revolution which is enough alone to consign me to the deepest torture chambers of history hell, but it just so happens that I produce a history of Scotland. Have I mentioned that? All you have to do is pay a paltry membership free, and there is a History of Scotland available to you from pre-zip to 1660. Go and fill up your boots via the history of Scotland .co.uk

Anyway, the material point apart from tawdry self advertisement is that I have been through the wars of Three Kingdoms already; and if you would like a book that brings over the complexity of that very well in not a lot of pages, you might try The Wars of the Three Kingdoms, 1642–1649 by David Scott. I can tell you – the complexity of dealing with three kingdoms all of them very different in different ways is mind bending; I mean you do one thing here, that inevitably means this thing over there will fall over if you are in the kinging business; at very least the job spec should include the requirement for flexibility that would make Nadia Commenci look like a plank. Having said that, to then take a step back and look at the state of the nations, that probably does not mean the job was undo-able.

Historians love developing new frameworks and Grand Unifying Theories, not for the sake of neatness I don’t believe, but because they can produce interesting new insights. And after all rewriting history is literally the job of the historian. One of these theories is the idea of a general crisis of the 17th century that afflicted all the major states of Europe, and it’s a 5 minute job to tot up all the disasters that afflict the French, Hapbsburg, German, Danish Swedish and Eastern European states and entities during the century – it is a difficult time. Which is one of the things that makes Clare Jackson’s book ‘Devil Land’ such a hoot – the marketing blurb is all about what a train smash continental observers think the British Isles are – well, look in the mirror guys, 30 Years war and all, look in the mirror, motes planks and all that sort of thing. It’s a fun book though.

Anyway, general crisis. Despite the complexity of 3 Kingdoms, James’ bequest to his heir doesn’t look as though it’s in crisis. And it is worth reflecting that the complexity is not particularly unique to the Northern Archipelago, nor the outcomes any more or less bloody. There will be a horrendous death rate through the civil wars, particularly in Ireland and England, but also Scotland – less so in Wales maybe; but Spain has all the problems on integration particularly with Catalonia and the revolt there between 1640 and 1652; France has enormous complexity across its regions with feudal rights of self government, and the violent upheaval of the Fronde, and the revival of the religious wars. And then the horrendous millions of deaths in Germany, as we have covered in the past. So – complexity and violence, fun times, the northern archipelago has its own flavour, some of which famously we are still living with, but the challenge Charles faced was not necessarily exceptional.

And it must be said he had some advantages. England and Wales in particular was a model of political unity, with a shared administrative system with almost none of the complexity of France and Spain, with their local institutions and franchises – Thomas Cromwell had swept those way the clever chap, such as they had remained from the chaos the Normans had imposed on the beauty of Anglo Saxon England. Never too late to get a Norman Yoke jibe in. There was none of the problems the French monarchy had with over mighty subjects – the Tudors again had dealt with all of that, there were none of the judicial and feudal magnate rights as existed in France and Scotland. One of the wrinkles here is that the nobility in England was tiny compared to France; many landowners that would qualify as nobility on Franc or indeed Scotland were in England merely commoners, Gentry, and therefore not even the residual rights of the old feudal nobility. Not that in England even those amounted to much; unlike France where nobility were exempt, the English nobility paid taxes. Though to be fair, they were pretty good at using their local influence to duck them sometimes.

If you want a breakdown of numbers, which can be handy, here come some stats for you – paper and pencil happy? Though remember transcripts are available at the history of England.co.uk. So, taking 1633 as our baseline[1]:

Total population about 4.75 million

Lay peerage in England, barons up to Dukes about 122 families. The idea that they were in terrible financial and hereditary trouble by the way, espoused by Lawrence Stone, has effectively been exploded – they are doing fine with those groceries, poor lambs.

Then there’s the Gentry, who themselves have various flavours, from the 300 or so Baronet families, those who could afford to buy into James’s little money-making wheeze, 1,500 knights, then 7-9,000 squires. Esquires had annual landed income averaging around £500; and agricultural labourer might generate about £10 a year, to give you a handy point of reference. Most MPs came from these classes. And then there are the 10-14,000 ‘gentlemen’ a poorly defined category, mainly landed too though often with mercantile or professional roots – or still just mercantile. A gentleman and gentlewoman as a definition might not be tightly described, but in Jacobean England, you’d know, on the looks like, walks like, smells like principle. And we’ll talk about Lawyers at some point, which was one major route for this.

I think I am repeating old ground here, but it’s worth keeping fresh I suppose, and worth reminding you that despite the growth and success of the gentry class financially over the last century, there’s no great sign of a nation wide split between old and new gentry – there were fallers and risers, and compared ot French society because these folks are all commoners, it’s all relatively fluid there are leavers and joiners, though it could take a generation or two for a husbandman’s family to become accepted into the gentlemen’s class.

Husbandmen belong to that ‘middling sort’ the slightly unsatisfactory term for small farmers, craftsmen, shopkeepers and so on who also have done relatively well, though probably not flourishing quite to the degree they were in the Netherlands, but still doing OK, generally very literate now, and politically engaged and aware, especially in the larger towns…and London of course. Just to finish the story, as you know the preceding century had not been kind to the smaller tenant farmer and wage labourer, who were hit by rising prices and population, and therefore under employment. Maybe the best that can be said, although it’s a reasonably low bar of satisfaction, are two things; however reluctantly and patronisingly paid sometimes, England and Wales had a more generous and structured provision of poor relief than any other European country; and the economy had developed enough sophistication and flexibility that now, did they but know it, there would be no more famines in England and Wales. The last was in 1623, and was regionalised. This was not the same in Scotland, or France.

One further thing though; England & Wales’ still a minnow Europe wise; I did a chart for 1600 I’ll pop up again on t’internet; France is the gorilla at 18.5m, Spain and Portugal 11m, Italy 13m, Germany 15m before the 30 years war. The Netherlands about 3m I think. So we’re about mid table – safe from relegation, to use a useless and frankly misleading metaphor.

I feel I have spoken too long on that. Um; state of the nation. A few other general observations Austin Woolrych makes which seem relevant here. One is to remind you all of the way England and Wales were governed, through a rather delightful system of partnership directly between crown and locality, local government at the king’s command, the monarchical republic of the parish. The gentry and middling sort governed their parishes and regions; I think we covered this back in episodes 282 & 3. The knights and higher gentry ran the regional organisations such as being local magistrates and MPs, and interacted with agents of the centre in the form of assize judges, and generally tried to behave in line with the Orders they were sent by central government, Lords Lieutenant managed local militia. The system had enormous strengths – it was as cheap as chips, it built high levels of local engagement in the business of governance and a feedback mechanism between centre and court.

Buy it had major drawbacks if you happened to be in the process of kinging too. It required very high levels of consent for it to work; quite difficult for the monarch to just go off on one and bully everyone into doing it because you know – they were a bit open to the immortal ‘OK so fire me then’ line ‘after all you don’t pay me.’ Secondly, ironically it helped keep the Monarch poor; while France was developing a nationwide system of royal intendants and a standing army to enforce the power of the centre over the regions, the Tudors and Stuarts were not, and had less justification for developing taxation – also Elizabethan frankly ducked the challenge, she couldn’t claim Cecil hadn’t told her she needed to reform the antiquated taxation system. So English monarchs were as poor as church mice.

Plus the big one – they possessed no big stick. They had the velvet glove – but not the iron fist. On the continent, there were standing armies all over the place now, because they were kicking the bejesus out of each other regularly, and technology being what it now was a core professional army was now the absolute entry requirement. The cry of the English are coming the English are coming would raise little more than a giggle in the war councils of France, the English spoke with a soft voice and carried a small twig, you know what I am saying – with the possible exception of the navy. But we have just seen a good example of the mighty expedition of English arms under Cunt Mansfield – which ended up simply dying. So the English monarchy was poor and had no means of repressing their people or fighting effective foreign wars, and much of the fault of that was parliaments.

Shall we talk about the other kingdoms, Ireland and Scotland then? I don’t want to over flog this particular horse again because I know we have spoken but the super summary is that they are all different. The population of Ireland, around 1.4m in 1600 but growing fast to 2.1m in 1641, as frequently discussed, is still to an extent divisable into Gaelic Irish or Old Irish, Old English, and New English. But the reformation has thrown the cards up in the air again so those simple divisions are not quite as useful as they once were and that will be a feature of the Irish Revolt – because there will be trouble ahead, I can promise that much. The Old English were less and less trusted by the centre with their persistent Catholicism, and the growing concentration of power into the hands of the New English of the Pale and migration alienated the Old English too. The Church of Ireland was proving most ineffective at spreading the word, and became effectively an organisation concentrated on supporting the Pale rather than evangelising. Meanwhile the plantations in Ulster and elsewhere had introduced a new element – 100,000 English and Scottish protestants, and the displacement in Ulster of many though not all, of the traditional families. So there are new loyalties and alliances possible and appearing.

Scotland, with the smallest population of about 1m, was different again. Unlike Ireland, whose parliamentary institutions were legally subservient to Westminster and England, Scotland was an entirely independent kingdom, always had been, and was very conscious and proud of their 300 year of unbroken succession under the Stuarts. Their institutions of government and law were entirely independent and different too those of England. However, they were protestant though the reformation had followed very different lines; a bottom up, lairdly and noble inspired reformation forced through against the wishes of the crown through rebellion. The influence of reformers like John Knox and Andrew Melville, and philosophers like George Buchanan had produced an interesting dynamic; the theory of two kingdoms, of God and of the King, and the one was not to interpose with the other. The idea and structure of a Presbyterian religious structure had sprung up, encouraged by the weak position of Queen Mary, the long minority of James. The Presbyterian structure meant management of the church by local church elders, with the bishops either marginalised or effectively removed; at one stage during James’ minority, although the diocese remained in principle as part of the church – there were no bishops actually in place.  So powerful became the idea of the two kingdoms, that Reformation historiography claimed that the reformed Scottish church had never had bishops. Actually this was not true; it was not until the 1580s that the presbyterians decided Bishops were not compatible with the bible. After all they were the monarch’s agents, and now according to the radical protestants, the king had no role in the management of the church that lay with the annual General Assembly.

Scotland, however, was far less unified than England and Wales. Even in lowland Scotland, magnates held enormous local power; judicial power through the control of courts, hereditary sheriffs and regal rights as well as through landownership. Although the influence of the lairdly class was growing they were still very much under the influence of the peers; remember that while the lairds were in a sense equivalent to the English gentry, they were nobles, holding their land from the monarch. Even more significant though, were the regional differences, between the lowlands and the western isles and Highlands. The same might once has applied to the Northern Isles as well; but there, lowland lairds were in the process effectively of competing its colonisation, and so their points of difference were far less, though not nothing.




But the Highlands and Western isles were something else. Continual half hearted attempts had been made to integrate the highlands int a combined Scottish polity, based on the lowland model broadly; and changes had been created that ate away at the Gaelic, clan based laws and landownership model – James IV had partially introduced a contract basis for landholding from the monarch, for example, that competed uneasily with Gaelic notations of clan-based land ownership. In the 15th century, famous the power of MacDonalds. The great lords of the Isles had been broken; but never effectively replaced. So the MacDonalds kept resurfacing; and meanwhile one of the Magnates set up by the crown to be their eyes and ears in the Highlands and Islands – the Campbells were so powerful, they were rather like the MacDonalds. I’ll come back to the Campbells and to their northern comperes, the Gordons.

I hate to warble on about this, but it’s important. The differences went deep them into the very basis of lordship and society. Highland societies were still managed through old runrig arrangements, where much of the land was held and managed in common, quite similar to open field farming. The Lowlands, like England, had been going through the commercialisation process of enclosure and reduction in commons – lowland versions of the wildly notorious later clearances in the Highlands. There’s a strongly held idea that the highlands remained Catholic; the truth is a bit more complicated. Essentially like Ireland, the process of evangelisation didn’t really happen; and so when the old church was removed, there’s a confused interregnum. Where the lords like the Campbell were powerful and protestant, Calvinism spread successfully; where they were not it did not; sometimes Catholic practice survived, in some cases weird hybrid’s appeared in what was a vacuum.

The reason why evangelism did not take place, was that the lowland Scots viewed the gaelic highlands with suspicion and often fear; it was physically a weird place without major roads and difficult communications. They had their own language of course, and the last monarch to speak it was James IV. So while the strength of the Gaelic tradition in Scottish history was still acknowledged, as the roots and origin of the nation their was a major split between high; and lowland in language, culture, religion and identity; where Calvinism was a core part of early modern lowland Scottish identity, in the highlands it wasn’t.  The Scottish Parliament had even proposed that the Gaelic language should be abolished; James VI had tried setting up plantations in the island with lowlanders – they were soon driven out. James rather retreated; under the Statute of Iona, in 1609 he laid down in law that Gaelic noblemen should have their eldest taught in England. But the failure of a consistent and active policy of integration meant that during the 16th and early 17th centuries, the differences actually grew between highland and lowland, and the bards sang freely in the halls of the Gaelic lords.

I should boil all that down and make it relevant. First of all, regional magnates were hugely powerful, especially in the Highlands. The most powerful, and a real mover and shaker were the Calvinist Campbell Earls of Argyle, as close as the highlands and islands came to replacing the MacDonald Lords of the Isles. But the way they had usurped MacDonald power was widely, deeply and furiously hated; there would be a reckoning. Meanwhile the Gordon Earls of Huntly around Aberdeen in the north wee also very powerful as the Monarch’s identified replacement of the MacDonalds in the Northern Highlands; and they were also fiercely Catholic. Finally, links between Gaelic Scotland and Gaelic Ireland were close – it’s only a hop skip and a jump between the two. So there’s that.

So to summarise; the unity of Scotland is intimately tied up with the Stuart monarchy to a degree wildly in excess of England; and indeed the same applies to Ireland of course. Loyalty to the monarch was the most powerful thing. Other potentially unifying institutions like law or parliament had little veneration to compare; the church had a similar hold, but only in the lowlands of Scotland.  Whereas in England – Common Law was revered, and parliament widely identified more and more with the defence of rights ad identity, even in opposition to the monarchy.

So there is something of a mix across the Three kingdoms, and indeed connections. Religion wise it’s a bit of a mix. So just to state the obvious; if you try and impose a Scottish style, Calvinist religion in Ireland there’ll be trouble. If you try to big up bishops in Scotland there’ll be trouble. If you suggest that Catholicism has good bits we should really revive in England, there’ll be grief. So – sensitivity required. Ireland has its own proud ruling elite; Scotland is an entirely different country with its own form of governance the king is the only thing common to both it and England & Wales.  My head explodes just thinking about it. But here’s the big question – is this therefore just a train smash waiting to happen?

And well now, the answer is, no one said being a king was easy, or indeed a bowl of cherries. But in none of the kingdoms was there much sign of rebellion. In Ireland, the violence of the 9 Years War had been brought to a conclusion; and despite the resentment you would absolutely assume would be boiling away from the plantations and the restrictions on Catholic involvement in public life, there was actually not much sign. Part of the reason for this was the foot was off the pedal of Catholic persecution; in practice, Catholics pursued their religion in relative openness – the great families employed priests who carried out services in the communities, evangelising from Protestants was little to be seen; the Old English and Gaelic lords who had made their peace with the crown dominated local politics and even the slowly expanding English institutions of shires, courts and JPs. Clearly such ignoring of basic inequities was no great basis for national unity, but there was apparently no burning platform.

In Scotland James had proved a highly effective ruler; he managed parliaments superbly, he had a talent for establishing a relationship with his peerage; based on a deep respect he held for the institutions and traditions of nobility. He filled all the vacant posts of the Bishoprics, and re-established monarchy at the heart of church governance, building on an alliance with moderate ministers who regarded the monarch’s traditional role as perfectly reasonable; and he’d banished the radical Andrew Melville to the continent. He’d made a misstep with the Five Articles of Perth, which tried to impose practices like kneeling for communion which enraged Calvinist heartlands, but no matter – he and the Bishops let it ride, and didn’t implement the provisions. James had managed to rule Scotland extremely effectively from a distance; Charles had Scottish advisers around him like the Earl of Mar Marquess of Hamilton to provide advice for his Scottish Privy Council.

In England, as we’ve heard, despite the tos and fros with parliament, James’ reign had ended on something of a high with his last parliament, especially since the Spanish Match had become the Spanish Natch; and James had created and maintained a careful balance in the church – separatists were a tiny, tiny, squeeky voiced minority, the Calvinist Bishops largely ruled the roost and the Elizabethan Settlement seemed as secure as ever, despite the appeals of Arminianism.

So it was not easy – but all that was required was a deal of statesmanship, flexibility and balance; the kind of thing that the louche and apparently chaotic James had managed rather well; including the ability to shelve pet projects – like amalgamating the three kingdoms into one polity under the same law and religion and Calling it all Great Britain, such as James had wanted to do. And anyway – what were the chances of all three kingdoms cutting up rough at exactly the same time? As long as control was maintained in 2 out of three lets say, the monarch would have the resources to ride out trouble you’d think.  The king of course was the lynchpin to all of this. Lets see how Charles gets on shall we ?


There we go thank you very much for listening everyone, and it’s nice to be back on the hamster wheel of chronology. I have seen a few reviews recently on iTunes & Apple podcasts, and wanted to say thank you for the lovely things people say; I really do appreciate it, it all makes a difference, and it is a joy to get emails from you, and all the comments that pop up on the website. Except from that Prince with all the money he’s trying to give away and which I never receive when I send my small cheque. Apart from him – thank you. Good luck then everyone, and have a great week

[1] Woolrych, A ‘Britain in Revolution’ p11



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