Monday, December 20, 2010

November 1660 Guest Post by Gillian Bagwell Author of The Darling Strumpet

November 1660
By Gillian Bagwell
On October 30, King Charles, his brother James, the Duke of York; his sister Mary of Orange; and his cousin Prince Rupert had met his mother Queen Henrietta Maria and his sixteen-year-old sister Henrietta Anne, affectionately known as Minette, at Dover.
Mary of Orange

They were all that remained of the King’s immediate family, and it’s unlikely they had ever been together in the same place before, as Minette wasn’t even born when Mary, accompanied by her mother, had left England in 1642 to join her new husband William of Orange. The Queen had not been at Whitehall since then, and in the interim, everything had changed. That journey had turned into a long exile, her husband had lost the throne and been executed, her young daughter Elizabeth had died a prisoner of the Commonwealth, and her youngest son the Duke of Gloucester had died of smallpox only a few weeks earlier.

On November 2 diarist Samuel Pepys saw “the boats going very thick to Lambeth, and all the stairs to be full of people: I was told the Queene was a-coming, so I got a sculler for sixpence to carry me thither and back again; but I could not get to see the Queen.” But he noted that later “I observed this night very few bonfires in the City, not above three in all London for the Queenes coming; whereby I guess that (as I believed before) her coming doth please but very few.”

The Queen’s first days on English soil were full of events the significance of which would be echoed throughout Charles’s reign. She was Catholic, and at the welcoming banquet her chaplain Father Cyprien said a second grace as soon as the first was done, recording that some people “were highly astonished at the liberty which I took to make it thus publicly at the table of a Protestant king.” In the morning he said mass, with the doors open, to the fury of many.

The Queen, though, had more immediate matters on her mind. She had left Paris with a head of steam at the news that Anne Hyde had born a child to the Duke of York and that the couple was now married. Anne was not only Protestant, she was a commoner, she had been one of Mary’s ladies in waiting, and she was not at all the bride that the Queen had in mind for her second son, who was at the moment the heir to the throne.

Though Charles had accepted James’s marriage and pronounced Anne Duchess of York, the Queen refused to receive her daughter in law or acknowledge her title, and was in a cold fury at Anne’s father Edward Hyde, who Charles had recently made Baron Hyde of Hindon.

Powerless to do anything about the Duke of York, the Queen threw herself into matchmaking for her other children. Louis XIV of France wanted Minette to marry his brother the Duke of Orleans, and a French envoy had not had much luck in getting the consent of Charles, so his mother went to work on him, and by the middle of the month he had agreed to his sister’s marriage to her satisfactorily royal and Catholic cousin Philippe.

London was charmed by gentle Minette, the baby of the family. The House of Commons voted her a gift of £10,000, and later in the week received her letter of thanks. She had lived all her life in France and prettily “excused herself that she could not do it so well in the English tongue, which she desired to supply with an English heart,” evoking echoes of Princess Katherine’s capitulating to the wooing of Shakespeare’s Henry V.

The Queen also had her sights set on a possible bride for Charles – the fourteen-year-old beauty Hortense Mancini, favorite niece of Cardinal Mazarin, chief minister of France. Charles had asked to marry Hortense a year earlier, but since at the time he was penniless and the prospects of his ever sitting on the throne seemed remote, the Cardinal had turned him down. Now the Cardinal was not only willing to marry his niece to the King of England, he offered a dowry of five million livres. But now it was Charles who held the power, and he balked.
Hortense Mancini

The question of religion, and how much tolerance should be extended and to whom, had been a burning issue throughout the first months of the King’s reign. The times were changing. On Sunday, November 4, Pepys went to church and his minister “began to nibble at the Common Prayer by saying, ‘Glory be to the Father,’ &c after he had read the two psalms. But the people have beene so little used to it that they could not tell what to answer.”

Parliament reassembled on November 6, and a bill was introduced to give effect to the Worcester House Declaration, the watered-down version of the promise of religious freedom that Charles had wanted. The emboldened Commons prepared a declaration to put in effect all the laws against Catholics that had existed under Queen Elizabeth sixty years earlier, but this Charles could not stomach, and the Lords did not take the matter up.

The King also had no taste for more blood, and nothing further was done about the regicides whose sentences had been suspended. On November 19, a friend told Pepys “that if the law would give leave, the King is a man of so great compassion that he would wholly acquit them.”

The disbanding of the army had continued, and by mid-November only eight regiments remained to be paid off. Pepys was working hard on the business of the Navy Board, and on November 5 he was “at the office at night, to make up an account of what the debts of the 19 of the 25 ships that should have been paid off is increased since the adjournment of the Parliament.”

The Convention Parliament had been formed solely to handle the nuts and bolts of the restoration of the monarchy. Now that work was almost done, and in late November Charles announced that the dissolution would take place on December 20, and elections for the new Parliament would be held early in the New Year.

As usual, the month was not all work for Charles. He was looking forward to and planning his coronation, which was tentatively planned for January. In early November diarist John Evelyn recorded that he had had the privilege of viewing the many curious objects in “his Majesties Cabinet and Closset of rarities,” which included “rare miniatures … after Raphael, Titian & other master… a Landskip of Needleworke, formerly presented by the Dutch to K Charl… a vast book of Mapps in a Volume of neere 4 yards large: a curious Ship modell, & amongst the Clocks, one, that shewed the rising & setting of the son in the Zodiaque, the Sunn, represented in a face & raies of Gold upon an azure skie, observing the diurnal and annual motion, rising & setting behind a landscap of hills, very divertisant.” On November 23 Evelyn was at Whitehall, “his Majestie carying my Wife to salute the Queene & Princesse, & then led her into his Closet, & with his own hands showed her divers Curiosities.”

November 1660 saw major steps forward in the return of theatre to England. On Friday, November 2, Elias Ashmole noted “This day was kept solemnly at the Middle Temple and after the auncient manner. The Lord Chancellor, Judges and Sergeants that were of the Society dined in the Hall, after dinner they had a play, viz., Wit Without Money.” This was almost certainly the King’s Company, which had split off from the united company that had been performing at the Cockpit in Drury Lane.

The company roster included Theophilus Bird, Charles Hart, Michael Mohun, John Lacy, Nicholas Burt, William Cartwright, Walter Clun, Richard Baxter, Robert Shatterel, William Shatterel, Marmaduke Watson, Edward Kynaston, William Wintershall, Thomas Bateman, and Nicholas Blagden, many of them big guns from the pre-Cromwell playhouses. William D’Avenant’s company, according to the November 5, 1660 articles of agreement, included Thomas Betterton, Thomas Sheppey, Robert Noakes, James Noakes, Thomas Lovell, John Moseley, Cave Underhill, Robert Turner, and Thomas Lilleston, but they were not yet performing.
Guy Fawks and conspirators

On Bonfire Night, Pepys wrote “This 5 of November is observed exceeding well in the City; and at night great bonfires and fireworks.” No doubt the annual commemoration of Guy Fawkes’s plot to assassinate James I in 1605 was more rowdy and full voiced than under Cromwell.
The date marked an important step for theatre, as on Monday, November 5, the King’s Company gave their first official performance, performing Wit Without Money by Beaumont & Fletcher at the old Red Bull at the top of St. John Street in Clerkenwell, one of the remaining Jacobean theatres, the stage in an innyard, surrounded by galleries on three sides, and open to the wintry air.
Vere Street Theater

The run at the Red Bull continued with James Shirley’s The Traitor on Tuesday, November 6 and The Beggar’s Bush by John Fletcher on Wednesday. On Thursday, November 8, the King’s Company opened their new home in the Vere Street theatre, just off the southwest corner of Lincoln’s Inn Fields, with Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part One. Literally overnight, the players had left behind Elizabethan performance conditions and moved into a new era in English theatre.

On November 20 Pepys wrote, “I to the new Playhouse near Lincolnes Inn fields (which was formerly Gibbons’s tennis-court), where the play of Beggars’ bush was newly begun…. It was well acted (and here I saw for the first time one Moone [Mohun], who is said to be the best actor in the world, lately come over with the King); and endeed it is the finest playhouse, I believe, that ever was in England.” (In the picture accompanying this article, Gibbons’s Tennis Court can be seen running diagonally in the middle of the clump of buildings just off the southwest corner of Lincoln’s Inn Fields, at the lower left of the picture. Lisle’s Tennis Court, shortly to be the home of the Duke’s Company, is the long building extending from the houses along the southern side of the square, near the center of the picture.)

The King’s Company must have been rehearsing relentlessly over the previous weeks or months, because they opened in full swing. During their first three weeks in the new theatre they played The Merry Wives of Windsor, The Silent Woman (Epicoene), Love Lies a Bleeding, Love’s Cruelty, The Widow, The Mayd’s Tragedy, The Unfortunate Lovers, The Scornful Lady, The Elder Brother, The Chances, The Opportunity, and The Humorous Lieutenant.

On November 19, they also performed The Silent Woman at court. When Pepys went to meet his patron the next morning he found him still in bed, “he having been with the King, Queene, and Princesse at the Cockpitt all night, where Gen. Monke treated them; and after supper, a play – where the King did put a great affront upon Singleton’s Musique, he bidding them stop and bade the French musique play – which my Lord says doth much out-do all ours.”

The November 19 performance of The Unfortunate Lovers had unfortunate consequences. Edward Gower wrote to Sir R. Leveson, “Yesternight at the Fleece Tavern … the gentlemen were discussing the play, which they came from…. At the latter end of the play there was a duel upon the stage; which, they, discounting upon, drew their swords in jest to show wherein they failed.” In this demonstration, Sir Robert Gaskoll was wounded in the hand and fell over at the same time the man who had wounded him tripped and fell forward, running Gaskoll through with his sword. He died half an hour later.

On November 22 Pepys got to take his wife to court. He thought the Queen was “a very little plain old woman and nothing more in her presence in any respect nor garbe then any ordinary woman. The Princesse Henriettee is very pretty, but much below my expectation – and her dressing of herself with her haire frized up short to her eares did make her seem so much the less to me.”

The bustling social life and entertainment scene was creating a problem that sounds very familiar – heavy traffic and parking problems -- and the King enacted a seventeenth-century version of the congestion charge, proclaiming that “no Person of what estate, degree, or quality soever, keeping or using any Hackney Coaches, or Coach-Horses, do from and after the 6th of November next, suffer the said Coaches and Horses or any of them to remain in the Streets or Passages of the Cities of London or Westminster there to be hired, but that they keep them within their respective Coach-houses, Stables, or Yards.”

Sources and further reading:
The Diary of Samuel Pepys -
1660: The Year of Restoration, Patrick Morrah (Beacon Press, 1960)
The Commonwealth and Restoration Stage, Leslie Hotson, (Cambridge Harvard University Press, 1928)
The Diary of John Evelyn, ed. Guy de la Bédoyère (Boydell Press, 1995; First Person Singular, 2004)
The London Stage, 1660-1800, A Calendar of Plays, Entertainments, and Afterpieces Together with Casts, Box-Receipts, and Contemporary Comment, Part I, 1660-1700, ed. William Van Lennep et al. (Southern Illinois University Press, 1963)
Pepys’s Diary, Volume I, selected and edited by Robert Latham (Folio Society, 1996)

Gillian Bagwell is the author of the upcoming novel The Darling Strumpet, based on the life of Nell Gwynn, who rose from the streets to become one of London’s most beloved actresses and the life-long mistress of King Charles II.

This is the seventh in a series of articles chronicling the events from May 1660 through January 1661, in commemoration of the 350th anniversary of the Restoration of the English monarchy, the reopening of the playhouses, which had been closed for eighteen years under Cromwell, and the first appearance of an actress on the English stage, in contrast to the old practice of boys playing women’s roles.  
For links to the other articles and information about Gillian’s books, please visit her website,

Giveaways Going On Now

The Darling Strumpet: A Novel of Nell Gwynn, Who Captured the Heart of England and King Charles II 
footer sig


  1. This book sounds fascinating. I would love to read it.
    Thanks for the post

  2. Pricilla, I can not wait to post my review. I power wrote it when I finished it. I love the cover art too it is by far one of the best for Nell I have ever seen.

    Carrie, it is another must read for 2011. I can not wait to tell all of you about it. But... it will have to wait a little bit longer.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...