Thursday, November 03, 2005


Recognizing the need for a fundamental reorientation of policy, Charles turned to a figure whose reverence for Church and Crown struck a chord with most MPs. Thomas Osborne (1632-1712), a Yorkshireman, created 1st earl of Danby was a protégé of Buckingham. He first came to politics as joint treasurer of the navy in 1668 and sole treasurer in 1671. In June 1673 he succeeded Clifford as Lord Treasurer and was created earl of Danby in June 1764. His policies were (a) to restore the royal finances and (b) to establish permanently good relations between crown and parliament by pursuing the ‘Cavalier’ policies of hostility to France and support for the Church of England.

(a) During his tenure as lord treasurer, England, the total revenue of the crown increased dramatically. England withdrew from the third Dutch War, and there was an improvement in the collection of the three major branches of the revenue: the hearth tax, the excise and the customs, the last two caused by a trade boom. But the increase in royal expenditure, caused by Charles’s extravagance, meant that the crown could not profit from this. As a result it continued to be dependent on parliament.

(b) He attempted to manage parliament by using his patronage powers to the utmost; some MPs received pensions, others were appointed customs commissioners or officials of the Irish revenue. But he also lost support through political clumsiness; for example, his ban on coffee houses had to be revoked. His greatest asset was that he shared the ‘Cavalier’ prejudices of the Commons, and shared their prejudices against Catholic and Dissenters and their distrust of Louis XIV. In 1674 he released plans for the rebuilding of St Paul’s.

Yet he faced two fundamental problems. (a) He never possessed the king’s unequivocal support (who did?) and (b) he proved unable to manage Parliament.

Even when Charles II told Parliament in January 1675 that, contrary to rumours, there was no secret treaty with France, relations remained poor. Parliament’s suspicions were well-founded as Louis paid Charles a secret subsidy of £112,000 in 1676, and in August 1677, under severe pressure from Charles, Danby secretly negotiated a French grant of two million livres, on condition that Parliament would remain prorogued and that England would not go to war against France.