Sunday, 23 February 2014

A Mother's Obsession

While researching the years of Charles II’s exile, I was always aware that that the widowed Queen Henrietta Maria had attempted to convert her two youngest children to Catholicism. Henriette Anne, raised in France from babyhood, was an obvious candidate, but Henry Stuart, Duke of Gloucester and Earl of Cambridge, her third son with King Charles I, proved far more difficult to persuade.  I didn’t know just how persistent she was until I read Eva Scott’s detailed  account of her intimidation which continued for over a year.

Henry Stuart, Duke of Gloucester 1640-1660
Born on 8th July 1640 at Oatlands Palace near Weybridge, and sometimes known as Henry of Oatland, he was two years old when the English Civil War forced his parents and elder siblings to escape London for Hampton Court. He and his five-year-old sister Elizabeth were left behind in St James Palace, then subsequently moved by Parliament to the White Tower in the Tower of London. As their captivity progressed, they were moved to more comfortable lodgings in Chelsea, St James Palace and Syon House.
Whilst at Syon, their father was held at Hampton Court Palace under house arrest in 1647, where he permitted visits from Henry and Elizabeth. They also spent his last evening at Windsor Castle before his execution, where Charles I exhorted his youngest son not to allow himself to be crowned king.
After their father’s execution, the children were stripped of their titles and Henry was treated as the son of a private gentleman, addressed as ‘Master Harry Stuart.'  Royalist propaganda said Cromwell joked with Henry that he would apprentice him to a cobbler or brewer. The eight-year-old prince was said to have responded that it would be better for Parliament to make some of his dead father’s estates over to him than apprentice him out like a slave. Cromwell replied: ‘Boy, you must be an apprentice, for all your father’s revenues will not make half satisfaction for the wrong he has done the kingdom.’
That Henry should be placed on the throne as a limited, constitutional monarch was also considered, as Cromwell felt Henry was young enough not to have been "corrupted" by the Catholic and absolutist views of his parents. However, the Rump Parliament opted instead for the establishment of a Republican Commonwealth.

Lady Dorothy Percy, Countess Leicester who 
was kind to Elizabeth and Henry
Henry and Elizabeth were sent to Penshurst, Kent under the care of the Robert Sydney, 2nd Earl of Leicester and his Countess, where they were apparently happy and treated well. When rumours began of a new uprising by their brother Charles in 1650, the children were moved to Carisbrooke Castle on the Isle of Wight, a far less comfortable residence. Princess Elizabeth, at fourteen, always sickly with rickets and probably in the last stages of tuberculosis, died there after only a month, leaving Henry alone in the care of Captain Anthony Mildmay, a man of little compassion.

Rumours circulated that Elizabeth had been poisoned, so in January 1653, when he was almost thirteen, Henry was granted a pass to travel to his sister Mary of Orange in Holland, together with four servants and his tutor, Robert Lovel.  Mildmay refused to let him go and confined him in his own lodgings, until Henry appealed to the Council to enforce the order, saying;

‘he refused to accommodate me with a bed or blanket, or any utensil to carry on shipboard, but doth now lock his doors upon me, denying me liberty to walk about the castle, or to enjoy that liberty which you have alwaies granted me.’

Mildmay was overruled, the pass re-issued and with £500 from Cromwell, Henry sailed from Cowes to Dunkirk in mid-February. He was received at Antwerp by Lady Anne Hyde, the wife of Charles’ Chancellor, where Thomas Howard, one of Mary of Orange’s gentlemen waited to conduct him to Holland.
Princess Mary met her brother at Delft, and became immediately devoted to this sad boy who still grieved for his sister Elizabeth. Enchanted by Henry’s handsome looks and bright intelligence, she petitioned Charles for permission to let him stay with her permanently.
Teylingen Castle
During the next two months, Henrietta Maria wrote pleading letters to her daughter insisting Henry be sent to her in Paris, which Charles confirmed. Mary was convinced her mother and Queen Anne of France, had 'Papist designs’ upon her brother and resisted. Secretary Nicholas shared her fears, but neither of them could ignore the King's command, so in mid-April, Mary and Henry parted 'with great passion of sorrow.'  
At The Palais Royal, Hyde wrote to Rochester:   ‘The sweete Duke of Gloucester arrived here on Wednesday last, and is in truth the fynest youth and of the most manly understanding that I have ever known.'
Known as ‘le petit cavalier,’ Henry was spoiled in Paris by the exiled court, including his cousin Prince Rupert, who arrived after an abortive period as a sailor in the Mediterranean.  Henrietta Maria demanded Henry submit to her wish he become a Catholic, but this proud boy, who had not seen his mother since he was a toddler, rebelled fiercely and expressed a wish to be allowed to return to Holland and his sister Mary.
The Dutch States-General had negotiated a new treaty with the English Parliament, a condition of which they agreed not to give protection to their enemies – i.e the Royal Stuarts. This made Henry's return to Holland doubtful, even if Charles could have arranged it. Henry had no money of his own and Charles could not support him financially.
Charles tried to reason with his mother, writing to her from Cologne, where he had been forced to go by the political situation in France. He explained that as a Catholic, Henry would never become king, or be allowed back into England. The queen’s response was that ‘England was finished’ and the only hope for Henry was marriage to a Catholic European princess. The situation wasn’t helped by the fact that the French Court increased Henrietta Maria’s pension by two thousand livres for Henry’s support.
Reports reached a horrified Charles in Cologne – that Henry was as indolent as Charles himself, and could not be induced to study or to write letters, and that he mixed with undesirable ‘French gallants,' who encouraged him to bad behaviour.
Charles sent the Marquis of Ormonde to Paris in order to assess the situation and, if necessary, rescue the Prince from his mother’s clutches. Charles had already failed to have his sister Henrietta raised as a Protestant due being unable to support her. The French royal family had already insisted Henrietta Maria dismiss all her non-Catholic attendants; an order the dowager queen relished in following to the letter and which enabled her to rid herself of some of her son’s friends.
Charles wrote to Henry from Cologne on 10th November 1654

'Deare Brother, I have received yours without a date, in which you mention that Mr. Montague*** has endeavoured to pervert you in your religion. I do not doubt but you remember very well the commands I left with you concerning that point, and am confident you will observe them. Yett the letters that come from Paris say it is the Queen's purpose to do all she can to change your religion, which, if you herken to her, or to any one else in that matter, you must never thinke to see Englande or me againe, ……….

‘I have commanded this bearer, my Lord of Ormonde, to speake more at large to you upon this subject, therefore give him credit in all that he shall say to you as if it were from myself. And if you doe not consider what I say to you, remember the last words of your deade father, which were to be constant in your religion, and never to be shaken in it ; which, if you do not observe this, shall be the last time you will ever heare from your most affectionat brother, CHARLES R.'

When Ormonde arrived ‘late and weary’ at the Palais Royal, he was met by James Duke of York, summoned by a distraught Henry, who told him he had only been allowed to see his brother in the Queen's presence. Robert Lovel had been summarily dismissed and Henry packed off to the Abbey at Pontoise where Walter Montagu planned to have him turned over to the Jesuit College at Clermont for instruction and conversion.
Henrietta informed Ormonde that Lovel had left of his own volition – a blatant lie, and that she acted by the dictates of conscience. That she had not promised the King not to convert Henry, only that she would use no violence to do so.
Ormonde replied gravely that her treatment of Henry looked very like violence.
The next day, Ormonde visited Henry at Pontoise, where he found him upset and frightened but, resolute in his devotion to the Protestant religion. Ormonde started negotiations to have Henry removed from Paris altogether, despite the French court declaring they would not give the boy permission to leave.  Ormonde brought Henry back to the Palais Royale, where Cardinal Mazarin and Anne of Austria both urged Henry to obey his mother, rather than his dead father, claiming him kindly as ‘a child of France.’ A great deal of pressure to put onto a young boy, who, to his credit,  held out against them, refused to return to Pontoise and reported the conversation to Ormonde in writing:

‘My Lord, — I pray let the King know that the Queen of  France spoke to me last night about going to the Jesuits’ College, and obeying the Queen my mother in this, and that I ought to obey her. . . . Pray let him know that Mr. Lovel is very much troubled that (sic) so false a report as that of his complying with the Queen in making me a Papist'

Queen Henrietta Maria
Lord Jermyn warned Ormonde that the French Court would oppose Henry’s removal, but the Marquise was determined and a few days later obtained the queen’s permission for Henry to be taken to Cologne.
Henrietta Maria was nothing if not persistent, and before Henry’s departure, harangued him for over an hour in an effort to convince him to enter the Jesuits' College. When Henry stood firm, Henrietta fell into a rage, shouted at him to get out of her sight, he was no longer her son and that she never wanted to see him again.
Henry fled to James for sympathy, and on the following day, Henry tried to intercept the Queen on her way to Mass asking for her final blessing. She swept by her thirteen-year-old son without a look.
 ‘Where are you going, sir?' Montagu called after him when he stormed off.
 ‘To church!' Henry replied over his shoulder. He and James went straight to house of Sir Richard Browne where they attended Holy Communion according to Anglican rites.
After the service, Henry returned to the Palais Royal, hoping to see his little sister Henriette before the Queen's return from vespers. However, the nine-year-old Henriette was so torn between fear of her mother and love for her brother, she broke into passionate wailing.
So as not to distress Henriette further, Henry retreated to his own room to find it dismantled, the sheets removed from the bed, and his two horses turned out of the stables by the Queen's Comptroller.  Two English court members offered him shelter but Henry, not wishing to bring his mother’s wrath down on them refused.
Anne of Austria and her son, Philippe Duc d’Anjou showed no signs of giving up either. They summoned Henry and promised not to harass him any more if he would just agree to enter the Jesuit College, an interview that turned into a heated argument.
Before leaving Paris, Henry wrote humbly to his mother, begging her forgiveness and asked for her blessing before his departure - she refused to receive the letter.

Reuben's portrait of Queen Anne of Austria
Not everyone shunned Henry. His brother James was unfailingly supportive, as were his exiled compatriots who flocked to congratulate him. Even among the French he was not without sympathisers. James's friend and the Prince of Condé’s adversary, Marshal Turenne, advised him to keep ‘a perfect union’ with his two brothers, and ‘detest all cabals' against the King's counsels. These included the lovely Duchesse de Chatillon, a love interest of Charles’ and, Cesar de Vendome, who openly condemned the whole affair, exclaiming ‘with admiration at the madness of it.'

Ormonde, meanwhile, had been forced to sell his ‘George’ ** to raise money for the journey to Cologne, and had to borrow an additional 500 livres from a merchant.
An overjoyed Henry finally escaped Paris in mid-December, but at Antwerp, he fell seriously ill with a high fever; thus much of Ormond’s borrowed money had to be spent on doctors. Charles despatched his own physician, Dr Fraser, but it was the end of January before Henry could resume his journey.
In the interim the Princess Mary appealed to Charles for a visit from her youngest brother, this request supported by her aunt, Rupert’s mother, the Queen of Bohemia, who protested:

'I am sure our Hoghens Moghens* will take no notice of it, if they be not asked the question, as they were for the King's coming to Breda.' 

Charles was willing to agree, but was anxious for Ormonde, who would certainly have been arrested in Holland. The loyal Ormonde was prepared to take the risk, but as it turned out Henry was conducted to Mary’s country estate at Teylingen by Nicholas Armorer in January 1654.
Princess Mary of Orange
At first, the States-General ignored Henry’s presence, but within weeks, rumours spread of Royalist activity in England combined with Henry’s behaviour, including:  

‘My Henry's royal airs, particularly his habit of mounting his horse at the foot of the staircase, rather than in the courtyard.’

The States asked Princess Mary to dismiss her brother: a message she ignored.  Charles, however summoned Henry to Cologne at the precise moment the States-General were debating Henry’s seizure or banishment.
For weeks the eyes of Europe had been fixed upon the struggle for possession of Prince Henry.  Several princes, including the Elector of Cologne declared against Charles and the Pope himself was offended. This was unfortunate, because Charles had recently reopened negotiations with the Papacy through the Nuncio at Cologne. Charles made overtures of peace to both Lord Jermyn and his mother, though the latter refused to answer Charles’ letter.
Henry joined Charles in Cologne, then subsequently joined the Spanish armies fighting at Dunkirk alongside his brothers. There he met the renegade French military commander the Prince of Condé, an agnostic and a leading defender of the Huguenots, who was leading the Spanish forces. Exiled from France after the Fronde, Condé invited Henry to live at Chantilly away from his mother and even suggesting he marry his niece. Henry distinguished himself in battle, gaining a reputation as one of Europe's foremost Protestant soldiers. When peace was declared between France and Spain, Henry lived at one of Condé's estates.
Henry returned with Charles II when he was restored to the English throne in May 1660 and took up residence at Whitehall. In September he contracted smallpox, dying on September 18th after his physicians predicted a full recovery. In his delirium, Henry called for his mother, but although Henrietta Maria was on a visit to the English court with Mary of Orange at the time, but she refused to see him. Henry was just twenty years old.
Three months later, the same epidemic also struck his sister Mary of Orange, who died on Christmas Eve Aged 29, and was also buried in Westminster Abbey.

Hyde described Henry as ‘in truth the finest youth and of the most manly understanding that I have ever known’. His death was considered a tragedy by Charles and his supporters, for until Charles married and produced legitimate offspring, James, who was suspected to have converted to Catholicism during his exile, was left as the heir to the throne, which didn’t please many of the English at all.

Henry was buried in the Henry VII Chapel in Westminster Abbey on 21st September 1660.

  *A corruption of the Dutch Hoogmogenheiden, 'High Mightinesses', the title of the States-General of the United Provinces of the Netherlands.
** The Order of The Garter thus named because they were presented on St George’s Day
*** Walter Montagu, a son of the Earl of Manchester and convert to the Roman Church was now director of Henrietta Maria’s household.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Witchcraft Persecutions, Women, and Social Change, Part 1

I recently revisited my Senior Paper, written in 1988 at the University of Minnesota. Although some of my sources are *very* dated, most of the actual historical information seems to have stood up to the test of time and, though my focus in this paper was Germany, much of this material seems prescient for what I would later write in DAUGHTERS OF THE WITCHING HILL, my 2010 novel based on the true story of the Pendle Witches of 1612.

One of the most intriguing things I gleaned from my research was the realization that women in the Middle Ages actually had more economic power and independence than they did in the Renaissance and Early Modern Period. I highly recommend Joan Kelly's iconic essay, "Did Women Have a Renaissance?", reprinted in Women, History & Theory: the Essays of Joan Kelly, University of Chicago Press, 1984.

So I thought I would repost my paper here, in digestible chapters. It seems fitting for a blog dedicated to 17th century history to track how the witch persecutions developed and why they reached their horrifying climax in the 17th century, even crossing the Atlantic from Europe to the American colonies.

Keep in mind that I was a college senior when I wrote this paper, not a doctoral candidate, and that I majored in German, so some of my sources are German language. Please note that in the twenty years after I wrote this paper, a great deal of new and exciting scholarship has been done on historical witchcraft studies, and if you are interested in reading more, please refer to the more recent books. I'll try to post a more updated reading list later.  

Witch Persecutions, Women, and Social Change: Germany: 1560 - 1660

Part One

The 16th and 17th centuries were one of the bleakest periods for European women. From roughly 1560 to 1660, the witch hysteria claimed the lives of tens of thousands of people, around 75% of whom were women, many of them older women of the lower classes (Ruether 111). One of the worst areas of persecution at this time was South-west Germany. The question I shall try to answer in this essay is why the witch persecutions often seemed to focus on poor, elderly women. Were these women viewed as a threat to the social order to be violently subdued? What is the historical context for this? How do the persecutions relate to the rise of capitalism, the decline of the domestic economy, the male takeover of traditionally female professions, the tightening moral and religious strictures, and the peasant rebellions? I will begin to try to answer these questions by tracing the development of the witch burnings over history and the status of women in these different historical periods: from the Middle Ages, when there were very few witch persecutions and women enjoyed relative economic and sexual freedom; to the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, when men and women began to compete in the market economy and women were beginning to be perceived as a threat, and the number of witch persecutions significantly increased; to the last half of the sixteenth and the first half of the seventeenth century, when the mass persecutions took place and women were forced into a far more restricted sphere, economically and morally, than they had experienced during the medieval period.

Very little witch persecution took place in the medieval period. Although, by the early Middle Ages, most of Europe had been at least nominally Christianized, many old pagan folk ways survived. Such tradtional seasonal festivities such as Walpurgis (May Eve), Fastnacht (the wild festivities that preceded the solemn fast of Lent), harvest homes, and the like often featured much feasting, drinking, and sexual licentiousness. Church officials did not necessarily condone these activities, but the Church, at this point in history, was content to erect a superstructure of Christianity over this rural plebeian culture (Ibid 93). To a great extent, the Church looked the other way in cases of lapses in sexual morality, and men and women often did as they pleased. Thus, the customs and behaviors which would later be connected with witchcraft were tolerated and often ignored by the early medieval Church (Ibid 99).

During the Middle Ages, beliefs about what constituted magic and witchcraft slowly evolved. During the early medieval period, the Church viewed witchcraft and magic merely as pagan superstition. In the 8th century, for example, Boniface, the English apostle of Germany, declared that believing in witches was unchristian. In the same century, Emperor Charlemagne denounced witch burnings as foul remnants of paganism and initiated the death penalty in newly converted Saxony for anyone who committed this sinful act (Trevor-Roper 92). Having firmly established witch persecutions as pagan superstition, the Church maintained a healthy skepticism in regard to the idea of witchcraft (Midelfort 14). In fact, up until the late 15th century, the Church declared it a sin to even believe in witches (Chamberlin 137). Thus, the medieval period until this point was far more "enlightened" in regard to the subject of witchcraft than the next few generations would be. As we shall see, the witch craze was a phenomenon of the Renaissance, Reformation, and early modern period.

The economic structure of the medieval period until about 1450 was based on the feudal agrarian system, peasant control of production, and a dominant domestic economy. The peasants worked the lord's land and this guaranteed them their livelihood: from the harvest, they took what they needed for survival, while the lord took the surplus. Feudalism necessitated cooperation and interdependence on the part of peasants. For example, the introduction of the heavy plow during Carolingian times made it necessary for the serfs to work together to get a plow and a team of horses or oxen for it. They also decided communally what to plant, where they would plant, which fields to leave fallow, how crops should be rotated, and how the harvest should be divided. Although the landlord benefited the most from this system, the peasants made the major decisions and controlled production. This subsistence economy was a domestic economy: almost all the goods necessary for survival were produced by peasant family units in the household (Ketsch 83).

The domestic agrarian economy and culture allowed women relative economic freedom. Work among the lower classes did not have any rigid gender division at the time. Male and female peasants worked alongside each other in the fields. Male and female servants of the same class often did identical work. The only female-specific work was housework, child-rearing, midwifery, and prostitution. In addition, herbal medicine and the crafts of brewing, spinning, and weaving were thought to be more "female" than "male" professions. Among the lower classes, however there was no specifically "male" work. Rigidly defined gender spheres existed only among the feudal nobility: women were responsible for reproduction and household management, while men took over martial responsibilities (Hoher 14).

No rigid gender division was evident in the market economy at this time, however. Men and women participated on a relatively equal basis in the flourishing craft guilds in the imperial cities. In the 13th through 15th centuries, women were admitted to all guilds. Although, in the early Middle Ages, there had been restrictions regarding independent female masters--that is women masters not married or related to male masters--this situation improved in the 13th century. Women began founding their own guilds and taking part on a more equal basis in the mixed guilds (Hoher 15). A document from a yarn making guild in Cologne in the last 14th century, for example, gives detailed regulations specifically regarding female apprentices and female masters: "Welches Maedchen das Garnhandwerk in Koeln lernen will, das soll vier Jahre dienen and nicht weniger . . . . Und sie soll in den vier Jahren nicht mehr als zwei Frauen dienen." (If a girl wants to learn the yarn making craft in Cologne, she must apprentice at least four years . . . . and in these four years, she should serve no more than two women.) This document also outlines the special provisions made for husbands of deceased female masters. Another guild document gives evidence for both male and female masters working in a bath house: "Kein Meister and keine Meisterin soll eines anderen Badegaeste zu sich bitten, bei einer Strafe von halben Pfund." (Rauer 104). (No male master or female master should solicit someone else's bath guest client, on pain of a fine of half a pound.) Women were also quite acrive in selling and trading, especially in materials commonly used in both medicine and folk magic. (Hoher 16).

From the 12th to the mid 15th century, Europe was underpopulated and the workforce needed women. At this time, there was little economic competition between the sexes and the split between the domestic and the market economy had not yet been fully established (Ketsch 117). So, as we have seen, women were relatively economically independent during this period.

There were also viable alternatives to the domestic sphere of marriage and motherhood during the Middle Ages. Convents attracted noblewomen who wished to free themselves from a life of child-rearing and to devote themselves to religion and learning. Beguinages--urban and secular all female communes--motivated women of the lower classes to leave the country for the city. Some women even became vagabond musicians and mercenary soldiers. There were also a few female hermits: single women who lived on the outskirts of towns and forests, and often practiced herbal medicine. These solitary women would later become victims of the witch hysteria in the Renaissance (Boulding 210-211).

The feudal agrarian system was not to last forever. The landlords' tendency to extract from unfree peasants any handy income above subsistence meant that these peasant were unable to give back what they took from the land. Thus, a combination of bad farming techniques leading to soil depletion, steady population growth, and the over-taxation of peasants by land owners all contributed to the gradual breakdown of the feudal agrarian economy and ecosystem (Marchant 47). As the feudal agrarian and domestic economy wanted, the capitalist market economy grew stronger. This had a profound effect on the socio-economic status of women.

During the years 1450 to 1550, very dramatic economic, social, and religious changes took place that would threaten the status and freedom that medieval women had enjoyed. Up until 1450, both sexes were needed in the economy, but afterwards, competition began to take place between the sexes in the market economy. It is during this period that the sexual division of labor, and the separation between the market and the domestic economy began to develop. As men struggled to gain supremacy in the market economy and to push women, their competitors, out of the guilds and into the domestic economy, which was becoming more and more marginalized, women resisted. Women were beginning to be viewed by men as a threat to the order of society. At the same time, a tightening in the moral and religious strictures in both the Catholic and the newly developing Protestant Churches began. The sexual licentiousness, dancing, and drinking that had been commonplace in the medieval period was increasingly frowned upon. Religious authorities grew more obsessed with morality, and the concepts of the devil and witchcraft than they had been before. During this period, the number of witch persecutions rose significantly. The events that took place between 1450 and 1550, thus, were decisive in laying down the foundation for the later witch crazes of 1560 to 1660.

Boulding, Elise. "Familial Constraints on Women's Working Roles," Women and the Politics of Culture, Zak & Moots, eds., Longman Inc., New York, 1983.

Chamberlin, E.R., Everyday Life in Renaissance Times, Pedigree, London, 1965.

Hoher, Friederike. "Hexe, Maria und Hausmutter--zur Geschichte der Weiblichkeit im Spaetmittelalter," Frauen in der Geschichte (Vol. III), Kuhn & Rusen, eds., Paedagogischer Verlag Schwann-Bagel, Dusseldorf, 1983.

Ketsch, Peter. Frauen im Mittelalter (Vol. I) Kuhn (ed.), Paedagogischer Verlag Schwann-Bagel, Dusseldorf, 1983.

Midelfort, Erik, H. C. Witch Hunting in Southwest Germany 1562-1684: The Social Foundations, Stanford, 1972.

Merchant, Carolyn. The Death of Nature: Women, Ecology, and the Scientific Revolution, Harper & Row, San Francisco, 1979.

Rauer, Brigitte. "Hexenwahn--Frauenverfolgung zur Beginn der Neuzeit," Frauen in der Geschichte (Vol. II), Kuhn & Rusen, (eds.), Paedagogischer Verlag Schwann-Bagel, Dusseldorf, 1982.

Reuther, Rosemary. New Woman/New Earth: Sexist Ideologies and Human Liberation, Seabury Press, New York, 1975.

Trevor-Roper, H.R. The European Witch-Craze of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries, Harper & Row, New York, 1969.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

"Sweet Steenie" - George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham:

Duke of Buckingham
He was described as "the handsomest-bodied man in all of England"* James I called him his "sweet child and wife". He was James’ “Sweet Steenie” (a nickname that referenced St. Stephen, who was said to have had the face of an angel).

George Villiers (1592-1628), was born a commoner - a gentleman for sure, but still a commoner. His ambitious father, a Leicestershire knight, introduced the precocious and by all accounts, devilishly handsome young man to the court in 1614 where he quickly caught the eye of the King. James I was not a prepossessing object of desire. By all accounts he had rotten teeth and rarely bathed and despite his marriage to Ann of Denmark, his interests, it is said, may have lain in other areas. Throughout his reign a succession of handsome young favourites dallied with the King’s affections and George may have been the latest in the long string, had it not been for his own overwhelming ambition.

James I
He returned the aging King’s affections writing such tender words as: "I naturally so love your person, and adore all your other parts, which are more than ever one man had," "I desire only to live in the world for your sake" and "I will live and die a lover of you." He rose rapidly in the court becoming the Duke of Buckingham in 1623, making him the highest ranking noble in England outside of the royal family. James’ patronage gave him enormous power which he wielded in favour of his own family and in the acquisition of land and power in Ireland. The sheer extent of his power and influence did not win him many friends.

Buckingham and his young family
In 1620 he married the seventeen year old Katherine Manners with whom he had two children George (later to become the second Duke of Buckhingham and friend and confidante of Charles II) and Francis (who died young).

Infanta Maria of Spain

In the final years of James’ reign, Buckingham won over Prince Charles with whom he formed a close friendship. Early in his reign, James had concluded a peace with Spain and he hoped to cement relations with an alliance between his son Charles and the Spanish Infanta. Negotiations were delicate and protracted. This led him into direct opposition with Parliament who opposed any alliance with the Catholic Habsburgs. James declared that Parliament had no right to dictate to him on matters of foreign policy and dissolved Parliament. As the negotiations meandered on, Buckingham persuaded the young Prince to take matters into their own hands and they both left England on a hare brained expedition to Spain to woo the Infanta in person. The venture was a disaster. Buckingham’s behaviour in Madrid so outraged the Spaniards that the Spanish Ambassador in London demanded Buckingham’s execution. Buckingham in his turn called for war, a surprisingly popular move with an English population who still remembered the Spanish Armada. With the fall from power of the “Winter King and Queen” (Frederick of Bohemia and his wife Elizabeth, sister of Charles I) see Hoydens and Firebrands:  Thirty Years War Beginners Guide, public sympathy inclined towards war with Spain.

Prince Charles (later Charles I) c1623
Charles married the French princess Henrietta Maria in 1624, a pointed snub at the Spanish. He ascended to the throne on the death of his father the following year. Buckingham was the only man in James’ court to retain his position of power and influence with the new King. He continued to agitate for war with Spain and with Charles’ connivance led an abortive, if not farcical attack on Cadiz followed by a further failed attempt to intercept the Spanish silver fleet. His influence on the young King and his unpopularity began to grow.

Meanwhile in France, Henry Iv’s Edict of Nantes in France had granted a modicum of tolerance to the French Protestants (The Huguenots). The ascension to power of a young Louis XIII in 1610 under the regency of his mother, the formidable Marie d’Medici, anti protestant sentiment began to rise, ultimately exploding into the Huguenot uprising of 1621. A blockade of La Rochelle, a Huguenot stronghold, by the forces of Louis XIII ended in the treaty of Montpellier. A second uprising in 1625 led Louis to declare the suppression of the Huguenots as the first priority of the nation.

La Rochelle
Through the “diplomacy” of Buckingham, English ships were used by the French against the town of La Rochelle in return for French support against the Spanish occupation of the Palatinate. The English Parliament and public sentiment were appalled at the very idea of English protestants being used by French Catholics against fellow Protestants. Buckingham accused Cardinal Richelieu of treachery and in 1627 Charles sent a fleet of eighty ships, under the command of Buckingham to La Rochelle with orders to foment rebellion. Initially the Huguenots resisted the English intervention, only announcing an alliance in September when the first hostilities with the royal troops commenced. The English blockade St. Martin but the blockade was ineffective and they were forced to withdraw with a loss of 4000 out of a force of 7000. At La Rochelle, French engineers isolated the city with entrenchments 12 kilometres long, fortified by 11 forts and 18 redoubts. The surrounding fortifications were totally completed in April 1628, manned with an army of 30,000. English attempts to resupply the city were repulsed.

Back in England, Buckingham’s popularity had hit its nadir. He had only been saved from impeachment by Parliament because Charles had dissolved Parliament. His personal physician, Dr. Lamb was mobbed and killed on the streets.

John Felton, an English Lieutenant who had been wounded at La Rochelle in 1627, held a particular grudge against the Duke. He believed he the Duke owed money and advancement for his loyalty during the Anglo-French war. On 23 August 1628 Buckingham went to the Greyhound Pub in Portsmouth where he planned to start work on a new campaign in France. There Felton stabbed him. Buckingham reportedly gave a cry of “Villain!” and made to pursue his assassin before falling down dead. Felton foolishly believed he would be hailed as a hero and on publicly declaring his guilt was somewhat surprised to find himself arrested. He was hanged at Tyburn on 29 November 1628 and his body sent back to Portsmouth, no doubt to be used as an example. Instead it became an object of veneration and many pamphlets and poems were written applauding his actions.

Where fact meets fiction: The Duke of Buckingham is perhaps best recalled as a fictional character in Dumas’ THE THREE MUSKETEERS, in which he is portrayed as the secret lover of Queen Anne of Austria. The Queen bestows a gift of diamonds on her lover who takes them back to London and it becomes the musketeers objective to retrieve the diamonds before their loss is discovered by a jealous Louis XIII. This they succeed in doing but are unable to prevent the assassination of the Duke through the agency of Cardinal Richelieu and his fictional agent Lady deWinter.

How does history judge George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham? An inept manipulator who used his charm and good looks to pray on two powerful but weak men? What do you think?

*Godfrey Goodman, Bishop of Gloucester, quoted in Gregg, Pauline (1984). King Charles I. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. p. 49. ISBN 978-0-52

(ALISON STUART'S latest book, CLAIMING THE REBEL'S HEART, a historical romance set during the English Civil War, is now available from Amazon and all reputable online book stores)

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Guest Post - Francine Howarth on 17th Century Piracy and Plunder

Shiver me timbers and pieces of eight... garrr..! No it's not "Talk like a pirate Day", it is a very special guest to Hoydens and Firebrands this week, 17th century passionista, Francine Howarth on the subject of Pirates and Plunder and a look at one of the greatest privateers of his day - Henry Morgan. Terrific post, Francine!

Hi, I’m Francine, and first, may I say a big thanks to Hoydens and Firebrands for letting me loose on this fab blog of theirs. The archives hereabouts are a veritable 17th century treasure trove.

17th century piracy and plunder!

The above words, alone, convey the atmosphere of tall ships fully-rigged, canting to the wind, their gunwales kissing the water. It’s all too easy to envisage one vessel given to the chase, the other in flight. Let’s not forget the white skull and crossed bones emblazoned upon a black flag, the very quintessence of a pirate ship one sees at the movies.

When you stop to think, truly think in terms of strategy and the ultimate goal of a buccaneer-cum-pirate captain, it stands to reason that if a pirate ship weaves back and forth across a trading route, it will, eventually, encounter a ship or two, and maybe the captain and crew will strike lucky on worthwhile booty. Ha, all sounds a bit hit ‘n’ miss, though, does it not? And yet, small fleets of pirate ships plying plotted courses often caused mayhem on the Spanish Main. But who were the original buccaneers? The name itself is a loose term applied to pirates in general, and authors across the centuries have attributed the title to almost any man who sailed the seas and plundered ships, ports, and ran the gauntlet in the face of Navy vessels hunting them down.

The original buccaneers (boucaniers) were the native inhabitants of the West Indies, who, over the centuries had discovered they could preserve meat by roasting it on a barbecue and curing it with smoke. The barbecue consisted of a fire pit and grating (a buccan), the meat thus referred to as boucan. Over time, escaped slaves, criminals and indentured servants formed clans of likeminded souls who were hell-bent not only on survival but revenge on past masters. The Caribbean & Bahamas became their base, from which they gained prominence any-which-way they could. Robbery, murder and mayhem on a quayside brought forth fortune with stolen ships and wares, and once they had set sail they sought their own havens amidst the scattered islands. And so the buccaneer had come of age.

On the other hand, the privateer, was indeed a very different kind of pirate, and in some respects, the name pirate was insulting to his self-esteem. He was a man who owned, or had loan of a heavily armed ship, itself manned by officers who were equally commissioned by governments and by kings and queens for war service. Whether as a reader or movie buff - have you ever thought how much plotting, planning, intrigue and spying truly occurred within the world of the privateer? Hence, some pirates and privateers were more successful than others.

In getting away from the extremely famous Elizabethan privateers/buccaneers (Sir Francis Drake et al) and the later notorious 18th century pirates (Blackbeard etc), I’ve always been a little intrigued by the likes of those who were plying the oceans throughout the period of the English Civil Wars and the early years of The Restoration: this being my favoured period in history.

Tredegar House
To name but one - of wealthy lineage - Henry Morgan (Sir), one might assume the knighthood bestowed by Charles II was Sir Henry Morgan’s only claim to sense of wealth and status. After all, he was but a privateer: a pirate! Well, yes, that’s true, but he came from a distinguished family known as the Tredegar Morgans’. It is said the Morgans’ were more of a clan and had cadet branches all over South Wales.

Henry Morgan
Now, is that not a handsome young man of his day?

Indeed, methinks Henry Morgan cut a dash with the best of his ilk. So, let’s start at the beginning with a bit of the Tredegar Morgans’ history. There were once three brothers, Thomas, Robert and Edward: the family thus torn apart by the English Civil Wars.

Henry Morgan’s Uncle Thomas, became Major-General Sir Thomas Morgan, 1st Baronet (1604–79). He served as a Commonwealth/Parliamentarian officer English Civil War (1642-49). He was appointed Governor of Gloucester in 1645. He fought in the Low Countries, and when wounded 1661 he retired to his estate at Kynnersley, Hertfordshire. He was also instrumental in the restoration of Charles II. In 1665 he was recalled by Charles II to become Governor of Jersey, he died at St Helier in April 1679.

Henry Morgan’s father, Robert, (born circa 1615) was the Squire of Llanrhymny, (now Rhymney) which lies three miles from Tredegar. Someone had to run the family firm! Or maybe being the piggy-in-the-middle brother, Robert Morgan couldn’t decide which side of the divide was for him and instead sat on the fence.

Henry Morgan’s Uncle Edward, became Colonel Edward Morgan (born circa 1616) Edward served as a Royalist officer during the English Civil Wars (1642-49). He was Captain General of the Kings forces in South Wales. After the King's arrest and execution, he fled into exile along with Charles II and the royal court.

Many families were torn asunder by the English Civil Wars, sometimes father, sons and brothers were on opposing sides. Henry Morgan was born around 1635, thus by 1650 he was 15 yrs old. His virgin voyage was to Barbados in 1655 as a junior officer of an expeditionary force sent there by Oliver Cromwell. But when did Henry first enlist with the Parliamentarian forces, and was he influenced to do so by his Uncle Thomas, or was he a Royalist spy under the influence of his Uncle Edward (Cavalier)? Well, it seems he enlisted as a Pikeman. He once said in the writings of an official report when serving as privateer under marque from Cromwell and later Charles II: “I have been more used to the pike than the book".

Whatever his ultimate aim, at the time of his enlistment and exploits at sea, he learned fast from his masters, the likes of Venables (General) and Christopher Mings (Commodore). Morgan was a soldier first before becoming a master of the seas. As time passed Morgan found his feet as a captain and was clearly a strategist. Spies became key to successful missions, and let’s be honest Cromwell’s spy network bettered that of the Elizabethan spy network, hence Thurloe (Cromwell’s spymaster) always seemed as though one step ahead of Royalist thinking.

And so it was, after the taking of Jamaica and many other less noted ventures, along with a flotilla of privateers, Santiago (Cuba) was plundered. Morgan also commanded a vessel in the attack on the Mexican coast 1663: their target Campache. In the raid 1100 men who were described as privateers, buccaneers and volunteers sailed more than 1000 miles. Campache was a town defended by two forts and a regular garrison of Spanish troops. The town fell after a day of fighting and fourteen Spanish ships were sailed away from the port.

Henry had his failures, too, embarrassing ones, and his life did indeed seem charmed whilst ashore and threatened when at sea. He often turned disaster into triumph, and being a soldier first over that of his role as a sea captain, he once yomped men 50 miles across land to sack a town, only to return to his ships to discover the Spanish had captured them. Undaunted, he captured two Spanish ships and four coastal canoes and continued on his epic voyage of 500 miles of exploration and plunder. He had one ship blown from beneath him by crewmen who either lit candles or were smoking too close to the gunpowder store, and another ship he lost on a reef.

The above is a scant example of Morgan’s daring adventures. After the sacking of Panama he was recalled to England to account for his actions, re a peace time atrocity. Fortunately, for Henry, Charles II slapped him on the shoulder with a sword and Henry walked away as Sir Henry Morgan.

And of course, ending on a romantic note: after the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, Henry's uncle Edward was sent to Jamaica as lieutenant governor. By then, already famous in Jamaica, Henry courted and married his uncle's oldest surviving daughter, Mary Elizabeth. Henry remained faithful to his wife until his death in 1688. They never had children.

Francine is an avid book reader and one-time professional book reviewer for a Sunday supplement. In her own words: "I started reading and writing at an early age, but you see, the family library became akin to an Aladdin’s cave, where delights abounded, and the higher I could reach the more delights I discovered until old enough to climb the library steps and not get caught reading adult material. From Greek classics to raunchy French novels, the art was in finding the latter, secreting them away and then reading the very naughty ones with a torch in bed: under the bedcovers! In the 1990s I partnered a book publishing enterprise alongside an equestrian business, and now, I'm merely an ex-mainstream erotic/romantic suspense author turned self-publisher of historical romances: by choice, literally. Half my output consists of Georgian/Regency romantic historical murder mysteries. The other half are novels set within the English Civil Wars and the reign of Charles II, referred to as the Royal Series. I prefer penning fiction where my imagination can run wild alongside real-time past events. But again, mystery, suspense and intrigue are part and parcel of the Civil War novels. Of course, it could be said the first book sets the scene for a series of five books, but it’s more than that, it’s about divided loyalties and the trauma of betrayal. The first three are completed and published, the fourth part written, the fifth in draft outline". So that's moi, reader and writer in a nutshell. Other than my writing life, my private life is very private.

Find Francine's books at Amazon