After Queen Elizabeth I’s death, in 1603, without heirs, the throne of England passed to the Scottish family of the Stuarts and they reigned over Great Britain until 1707.
The first Stuart king in England was James I. After his death, he was succeeded by his son, Charles I, with whom England lived very tumultuous years, ended with the sovereign’s execution.
In this lesson we want to talk about his son: Charles II, who became king of England in 1660, at the age of 30, after many vicissitudes.
One of the first things he did as king was to summon a new Parliament, which imposed a strict Anglicanism: those who wanted to hold public office had to belong to the Anglican Church and all clergymen had to be ordained by an Anglican bishop.
Parliament did so not because of religious interests, but only to defend its privileges and to get rid of the danger of a Catholic conspiracy.
Charles II was not officially a Catholic, even though in his heart he felt so. For this reason he would actually preferred to be tolerant towards Catholics.
Some time later a new Dutch war broke out, and England was defeated.
So, England decide to make a “triple alliance” with Holland and Sweden against France.
But Charles II made a secret treaty with the king of France, by which Charles was supposed to publically announce his conversion to Catholicism. This would put England under the control of France.
When Parliament knew that, it introduced the “Exclusion Bill” to exclude Charles II’s brother – the Catholic James - from his succession to throne and give it instead to James’s daughter – Mary -, married to William of Orange.
As answer to this, king Charles dissolved Parliament, that was already divided into two parties: Whigs – that were against James - and Tories – that sided with him.
After his death, however, he was succeeded by his brother James.
James was a Catholic, and being so he wanted England and Scotland to become Catholic again. For this reason there were lots of rebellions in the country, and lots of people were killed.
The situation was really critic.
Beside that, in 1700 King Charles II of Spain had died without having children, making the French Duke of Anjou – Philip, grandson of Louis XIV of Franc e- his heir. England realized that this would have made France too strong and powerful, creating a dangerous situation in Europe.
But James had two Protestant daughters and for this reason the people of England really hoped they could bring peace and Anglicanism back after their father’s death.
But when James had a son from his second wife, the English called William of Orange to be their king. Therefore James fled to France.
The war between France and England broke out: according to the English, France was to be challenged and defeated once for all.
William of Orange thus became king of England but his reign was marked by war.
The terrible fight against France ended just some time later, with the “Peace of Utrecht”.
Literature and poetry
In that period literature was marked by a new spirit.
Imagination was replaced by reason. Writers began to follow new models, like the great classics of the past and French authors. Most of them were very famous also in England, like Pascal and Molière. In fact France had become an inevitable point of reference.
For what concerns prose, the development of English literature started with the use of a more clear and concise language, also on imitation of the language used by science. Moreover the way of writing became simpler and more accurate.
The famous writers of that period were divided into two groups: the philosophers and the diarists.
The two main philosophers of the Stuarts Age were Hobbes – who wrote “Leviàthan” in a concise style - and Locke – who thought that experience and perceptions were the only source of knowledge.
One of the most famous diarists was instead Samuel Pepys.
A diary is usually a book in which someone writes his private thoughts in a simple style and in a familiar language. But it can also become very important in literature if his author speaks not only about himself, but also about the historical events of his time or that he happens to live himself, thus becoming a useful source of historical information.