Archive for the ‘Print culture’ Category

James II & the Jacobites

January 29, 2006

When Charles II died in 1685 his brother James II inherited the throne. James II was a Catholic and because of this fact just a few years earlier the Whigs had made concerted efforts to exclude him from the succession. This attempt is known as the Exclusion Crisis. Despite this James II inherited the throne without any problems. It was only later in his brief reign when he tried to force through policies improving the situation of Catholics (but not harming Protestants in any way) that opposition seriously built up.

The Declaration of Indulgence was a major turning point in the reign. In 1687 and 1688 the declaration was released proclaiming freedom of worship for Catholics and Protestant dissenters. James II ordered that the Declaration be read in all churches but in 1688 seven Anglican bishops (the Church of England was the country’s official church) submitted a petition against the order. James ordered them to be imprisoned for seditious libel but they were found innocent at their trial. The seven bishops received a great deal of support from the general population and were seen as symbols of the ‘Glorious Revolution’ of 1688.

James II was tolerated because his two daughters (later Mary II and Queen Anne) were Protestants. This meant that the throne would revert to a Protestant heir after James’ death. The situation changed in 1688 when James II’s second wife Mary of Modena gave birth to a Catholic son. As a boy he became first in line to the throne and neither Mary or Anne would inherit unless he died without children. James II’s opponents believed in a rumour that the boy was not James II’s son and that he had been sneaked into the royal bedchamber in a warming pan. This opposition print shows Mary with her baby. The lascivious looking man behind her is one of James II’s Jesuit priests (I forget his name, possibly Father Peter). Of course this is anti-Catholic propaganda that tries to slur the heir’s legitimacy by suggesting that his mother had improper relations with a Catholic priest.

The end of James II’s reign came when seven of his opponents sent an invitation to William of Orange. William of Orange was the husband of Mary, the second in line to the throne, and as her cousin he also had some claim in his own right. James’ opponents were not asking William to depose James II. Instead they wanted William to assume control of the country and persuade the Catholic king to reverse his less popular policies.

It is not known exactly when William of Orange decided to take the crown for himself. James II made matters remarkably easy for him by fleeing to France. It is likely that he did this because he wished to avoid his father’s fate. Charles I had been imprisoned and then executed during the civil war. William and Mary became joint monarchs and were succeeded in 1702 by Mary’s sister Anne. When Anne died she did not have any children so the crown went to distant Protestant relatives in the German Electorate of Hanover.

James II lived in exile in France until his death in 1701. He had tried to regain the throne by invading Ireland with the aid of French troops but they were defeated at the Battle of the Boyne. When Anne died in 1714 James’ son, now James III, attempted to take the crown in the unsuccessful uprising of 1715. Finally in 1745-46 James II’s grandson Charles Edward Stuart made one last unsuccessful attempt to seize the throne by invading Scotland. This In Our Time programme examines the final attempt and asks whether Bonnie Prince Charlie really stood a chance.

The supporters of James II, James Francis Edward Stuart and Charles Edward Stuart are known as Jacobites. They could be found both inside the British Isles and in exile with the Stuart court on mainland Europe. They promoted their cause with propanda texts and images including portrait prints. Further details of the circulation of Stuart portrait prints can be found in Richard Sharp’s The Engraved Record of the Jacobite Movement (1996).


17th-century print culture

January 28, 2006

If you are reading this within a week of 26th January 2006 you still have a chance to download the MP3 of the latest edition of In Our Time. Don’t worry if you are too late because you can find it in the programme archives and listen online. This week host Melvyn Bragg discussed seventeenth-century print culture with Joad Raymond, Kevin Sharpe and Ann Hughes. 

You might wonder why you should care about seventeenth-century print culture more than that of the sixteenth or eighteenth centuries. Well, in Britain the seventeenth century was very important because it witnessed an enormous expansion of printed material. Just two elements of this were the development of the newspaper and the beginnings and rapid growth of the London pictorial print trade.

After listening to the programme you may want to do some further reading. The programme website suggests books by Raymond, Sharpe, Hughes and others, but I’d like to recommend a few more.

The discussion raised the point that news and other information was transmitted in both oral and printed form. For example ballads were printed on paper and also sung out loud. Other people then learnt the ballads by ear and so the songs’ messages spread. Ballads could be about lovers, murders, folk heroes, emigration and other day to day topics. However many were also political and were sung in support of partisan figures such as the Duke of Monmouth, who as the illegitimate son of Charles II (1660-1685) was seen by some as a possible heir to the throne. Adam Fox’s Oral and Literate Culture in England, 1500-1700 is one of the best books around dealing with the transmission of information in written and oral form.

If you want to learn more about ballads you could refer to the work of recent Warwick university PhD graduate Angela McShane Jones. Her 2004 thesis is called ‘Rime and Reason’: the political world of the English broadside ballad, 1640-1689. A further list of her publications can be found here.  

I’m surprised that just one Joad Raymond book appears on the In Our Time reading list. In 1999 he edited News, newspapers and society in Early Modern Britain. He has also written The invention of the English newspaper: English newsbooks, 1641-1649. James Sutherland’s The Restoration newspaper and its development is also an indispensable guide