Monday, May 9, 2011

History of England, Part seven

(note to later arrivers, this is an unauthorized brief history of England compiled for a couple of North American sisters visiting in July)

I don't know about you, but I am getting pretty tired of the British Royals.  Lets dispatch them (literally in one case) as quickly as possible. 

Queen Elizabeth was a great monarch.  Her successors of course suffer in comparison.  Some seem absolutely cartoonish, a feature that may sneak into my narrative.  Maybe its the wigs.

We have already met King James I.  He was ok, but not very charismatic.  His son Charles I had a little more personality, but was always in trouble with Parliament.  Its not all his fault, Parliament was always wanting to do stupid things like go to war over mistreatment of Protestants in Europe.  They would egg King Chuck on until he reluctantly tried to take action, then badger him about money to do so.

Eventually it got so bad that civil war broke out between Parliament and the Royalists.

You don't really need to know that much about the English Civil War.  But it lasted from 1642 to 1651.  It slowed the British settlement of America, although Jamestown and several Charlestowns got started beforehand.  And the two factions were distinguished by their fashion sense.

Supporters of the Royal party were the Cavaliers:

 And for Parliament, the Roundheads, so called for their propensity for crewcuts:


It ended poorly for Charles I, he was captured and beheaded.  England got along ok for a while, being run by Parliament then by a semi dictator named Cromwell.  But after a bit the nation got a nostalgia bug and invited Charlie's son, Charles II to come back and be king.  I guess Chucky II did what he could, he gets points for helping fight the Great Fire of London in 1666, but by now the kings were becoming figureheads.

In fact, after a few lesser editions of the Charles series, England just started outsourcing their Royals, inviting outsiders to marry in.  The first was William, a dutch fellow who became one half of the William and Mary duo.  Later some German princes supplied the George series.

As near as I can tell the job description for monarchs in this era was to be solidly Protestant, look good in a wig, and to stay out of the way.  They spent most of their energies producing illegitimate children.  The apparent record holder in this regard was King William IV, known as Silly Billy, who had at least ten irregular offspring.

It is an interesting question as to how much the female side of the royal family strayed.  There were affairs for certain.  And we have in our historical journey encountered a few kings who would not object to the outsourcing of heir production.  My guess is that the occasional appearance of a competent monarch suggests that there are a few offspring of groundskeepers buried in Westminster Abbey.

The only real standout in the post Elizabeth royal line was Queen Victoria.  She had a whopping great reign from 1837 to her death in 1901.  She was ruler during the salad days of the British Empire, and had good advisers starting with Prince Albert, then several standout Prime Ministers.

Later in life she did form an overly fond attachment to a Scottish groundskeeper named Brown, a relationship portrayed in the film Her Majesty Mrs. Brown.

Brown by the way looks and sounds pretty much like the Simpsons character Willie the Groundskeeper, whose opinions accurately reflect the views of Scotsmen past and present.

After Victoria, well the best you can say is that the Royal Family means well, and that the incidence of Royal hanky panky seems to be down by about 12% since the advent of the tabloid press.  With the recent Royal Wedding bringing in some fresh genetics the current Queen may have reason to hope that at some point in the intermediate future her descendants will have more intelligence and less inbreeding than her Corgis...

January 25, 2012-
The ongoing popularity of this post remains a puzzlement to me.  My apologies to anybody whose search engine sent them here for real information on cavaliers and roundheads.  In atonement I plan on doing a serious post on this topic in the year ahead.

But if you just like pictures of royal corgis, you're welcome. 

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