Magazine article The Spectator

A Cavalier Attitude to Monarchy A Cavalier Attitude to Monarchy

Magazine article The Spectator

A Cavalier Attitude to Monarchy A Cavalier Attitude to Monarchy

Article excerpt

The King's Henchman by Anthony Adolph Gibson Square, £20, pp. 394, ISBN 9781908096302 Historians have long been more interested in the Roundheads than in the Cavaliers.

It was the parliamentarians who achieved England's revolution, or the nearest thing the country has come to one. It was they who overthrew the monarchy, the House of Lords and the bishops, they whose insistence on parliamentary rights, and whose attainment of a measure of religious toleration under Cromwell, apparently pointed ahead to modern values.

Now the balance is changing. Historians have become less ardent for progress.

Under their increasingly sceptical gaze the gap between parliamentarian thinking and the outlook of its later congratulators seems ever wider. Besides, over-population has driven students of the parliamentarian cause into neighbouring pastures.

The trouble is that the royalists prove harder to study. They either wrote fewer documents or, fearing prosecution, destroyed records in defeat. The parliamentarians, having driven the king from London, expanded the bureaucracy of Whitehall and voluminously registered its measures. Royalism does have its documentary riches, but distorting ones.

The History of the Rebellion by Charles II's leading counsellor Edward Hyde, Earl of Clarendon, has been the most influential work of contemporary history in the language. A mass of correspondence among Hyde's circle in the years of royalist exile survives. Far less well documented is the rival party, which centred on Henrietta Maria, queen to the first Charles and mother of the second, whose most intimate and longserving adviser, Henry Jermyn, is Anthony Adolph's subject.

The conflict raised the most basic questions about the future of the monarchy, if it were to have one. After the regicide it was Hyde's conviction, which events would vindicate against every appearance of probability, that the nation would come to its senses and restore the Crown unconditionally, provided the exiled court played to the monarchy's strengths: its foundation in law; its partnership with Anglicanism; its Englishness. The queen mother's party asked how an utterly defeated regime could hope to return to power without compromises with the victors. It sought support wherever it could find it, from foreign rulers, from Scotsmen and Irishmen, from Catholics and Presbyterians.

The compromises would be merely tactical, for around Henrietta Maria there were those who wanted absolutism at the point of the sword. Why, they asked, should the Crown be restrained by parliament, that impertinent trade union of the constituencies which demanded expensive policies but refused to pay for them? …

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