Thursday, 23 April 2009

Green Ribbon Club

James II as Duke of York

The Kings Head Club was so-called because they met at the King's Head Tavern at Chancery Lane End. Founded around 1675, it was a resort for Whig political party hostile to the court, specifically James Duke of York, due to his Catholic persuasion. The members wore a bow, or bob, of green ribbon in their hats, as a badge useful for mutual recognition in street brawls.

In 1679, the name was changed to the Green Ribbon Club. The 'Green Ribbon' being the badge of The Levellers in the English Civil Wars in which many of the members had fought.

Club members were the extreme faction of the country party, those who supported Titus Oates and his anti catholic rantings. They were also concerned in the Rye House Plot and Monmouth's rebellion. According to the playwright, John Dryden, drinking was the chief attraction, and the members talked and organized sedition over their cups.

Apart from the Duke of Monmouth himself, and statesmen like Halifax, Shaftesbury, Buckingham, Macclesfield, Cavendish, Bedford, Grey of Warke, Herbert of Cherbury, writers such as Scroop, Mulgrave and Shadwell, with remnants of the Cromwellian régime like Falconbridge, Henry Ireton and Claypole, profligates like Lord Howard of Escrick and Sir Henry Blount, and those ‘scoundrels’ such as Thomas Dangerfield and Oates.

The members went about in silk armour, supposed to be bullet proof, in which any man dressed up was as safe as a house, 'for it was impossible to strike him for laughing;' while in their pockets, for street and crowd-work, they carried the weapon of offence invented by Stephen College and known as the Protestant Flail.

The pope-burning processions in 1680 and 1681, on the anniversary of Queen Elizabeth's accession, were also organized by the club. They ended by the lighting of a huge bonfire in front of the club windows that proved an effective means of inflaming the religious passions of the populace.

The failure to carry the Exclusion Bill, followed by the flight of Lord Shaftesbury was a blow to its influence, as was the discovery of the Rye House Plot, in which many of its members were implicated.

In 1685 John Ayloffe, who was found to have been a dubber at the King's Head Tavern and a green-ribbon man, was executed in front of the premises on the spot where the pope-burning bonfires had been kindled; and although the Kings Head Tavern was still in existence in the time of Queen Anne, the Green Ribbon Club which made it famous did not survive the accession of James II.


Alison Stuart said...

A very interesting post, Anita. You had me scurrying for the books to see if there was a connection between the GRC and the original 'CABAL' but the CABAL consisted of Clifford, Arlington, Buckingham, Ashley and Lauderdale. Maybe that can be the subject of a future post???

streona said...

I think the GRC needs to be seen in the context of the Secret Treaty of Dover in which, in return for a huge bribe, Charles II agreed to turn the country to Roman Catholicism. Ashley (Shaftesbury)knew of this, although it was not public knowledge until the 19th century. This was because Clifford - who negotiated it with Danby - told him. Ashley resigned from the CABAL as a result & set up the GRC in order to campaign against plans to forcibly convert England to Catholicism. The Popish Plot was real in that sense but it was not to assassinate Charles. He was the Popish Plot but nobody could say so directly without fear of treason. Titus Oates' victims were only scapegoats for the real plot. charles knew this - he sussed out Oates when he found discrepancies in questioning about Jesuit seminaries he claimed to have visited, but he let the whole process carry on.
Silk armour is interesting.The South Korean Police tested it and found that it has similar properties to Kevlar at a quarter the price. It can in fact stop a .22 bullet at close range.

Joe Woods said...

Anita Davison's account is interesting. However, I wonder at the veracity therein - Henry Ireton died before the walls of Limerick in 1651 and whilst Anita may not like him, he could not have been in the Green Ribbon Club, having been dug up from his grave in Westminster Abbey by the Oh- so-pious followers of Charles II in 1661 and his long dead body hanged and quartered with that of Oliver Cromwell.