Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Queen Anne: 1 Accession

The following posts will go through Anne's reign chronologically and will be put up as soon as I have time! Please scroll down for the latest posts.

The accession of Anne changed the domestic scene in ways that sharply focused attention upon the party basis of political life. Her reign saw a major war and five general elections: 1702; 1705; 1708; 1710; 1713.

Her accession was greeted with enthusiasm. A staunch supporter of the Church of England (shown in her setting up of Queen Anne’s Bounty in 1704), she took great pains to stress the fact that she was the granddaughter of the martyr, Charles I and she revived the ceremony of the royal touch which had lapsed under William. Her dynastic legitimacy initially took much of the wind out of the sails of English Jacobitism. Those who could not support her claim pinned their hopes on her brother’s succession after her death.

In contrast to William, Anne was a relatively uncontroversial character and, though she identified instinctively with the Tories, she did her best to stand above party. She addressed her first parliament as a patriot queen:
‘As I know my own heart to be entirely English, I can very sincerely assure you that there is not one thing you can expect or desire of me which I shall not be ready to do for the happiness or prosperity of England.’
She modelled herself on Elizabeth I, using her motto of 'semper eadem.' This made it difficult to mount a personal attack on the monarchy or the court. The common belief that she was a weak queen is the result of the duchess of Marlborough’s hostile comments. In reality, until her health collapsed at the end of her reign, she was an interventionist monarch with strong views and firmly in control of her ministers.

At the start of her reign she had close relationships with the duke of Marlborough and his wife (‘Mr and Mrs Freeman’) and Sidney Godolphin (‘Mr Montgomery’) her Lord Treasurer. (Anne called herself 'Mrs Morley'.) Marlborough and Godolphin (the ‘duumvirs’) dominated most of her reign.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Queen Anne: 2 The 'rage of party'

Party politics as an integral and persistent feature of government was established for the first time in this era, yet under William and Anne party alignments were sometimes blurred and ephemeral. Both parties had their own separate reasons to criticise the post-Revolution regime, the Whigs because they were keen to establish a legislative counter-balance to monarchy, the Tories because of their guilt over their betrayal of James II. Under Anne the Whigs were staunch supporters of the Hanoverians. The Tories were more ambivalent.

Smart London society polarized into separate Whig and Tory social circles. A group of elite Whigs formed the Kit-Kat Club (formed in 1696) and immortalized in Kneller’s portraits. Congreve and Addison were members. Tories frequented the Cocoa Tree Chocolate House (founded 1698).

Party strife was exacerbated by the explosion in partisan political journalism and the frequency of elections. Between the Glorious Revolution and the Septennial Act general elections took place on average every two years. Frequent elections were joined by more frequent contests, though the majority of seats were still uncontested. In the 15 general elections between 1689 and 1727 an average of 37% of constituencies were contested (23% in 1689, 53% 1722). The absence of a contest does not mean the absence of fierce political debate. There were always question of who was to take the two seats.

The electorate was growing in numbers and in independence. By the reign of William III it numbered at least 200,000 and by 1722 at least 330,000 (out of a population of c. 5m). This meant 4.3% of the population. The numbers were growing and the voters were becoming better informed.

Analysis of division lists in both Houses and poll books has shown that an overwhelming majority of peers, MPs and electors divided consistently along party lines. Coffee houses also divided along party lines. The Tories argued that no Whig could really be a loyal supporter of the monarchy or the Church of England. The Whigs believed that the Tories were not fundamentally loyal to the Revolution, Toleration or the Protestant Succession.

The leading politicians tried to avoid party labels. The queen, too, was reluctant to be seen as the prisoner of one party, and Godolphin and Marlborough shared her wish to stand above party.
Yet party divisions hindered the progress of the war.

Queen Anne: 3 The Press

Periodicals stood out as new and powerful vehicles of political ideology. In 1662 the government had imposed the licensing of publications, but in 1695 Parliament failed to renew this Licensing Act and in doing so dramatically transformed the nature of the reading public. Some restrictions remained but there was sufficient liberty for a vigorous political press to emerge. Most of the writers of the day were also journalists - Jonathan Swift, Joseph Addison, Richard Steele and Daniel Defoe.

Foreigners commented on the proliferation of journals and newspapers and linked it to political liberty. By 1709 there were 18 privately sponsored newspapers in London. The Post Boy (Tory) sold 300-400 copies per issue between 1704 and 1712. It may have been read by 50,000 readers. The Examiner, which sold 1,600 copies was for more sophisticated Tory readers. The Whigs had The Observator and The Post Man. Addison and Steele’s Spectator (published daily in 1711-12 and 1714), which sold 2,000 copies each set out the ideal of polite society in which party strife was banished in favour of civilized conversation. By 1712 an estimated 67,000 copies of all newspapers were sold each week. As the reign progressed, they became more ambitious in publishing the results of general elections. In 1710 and 1713 they published detailed reports of many individual contests. Pamphlets could sell 10,000 copies. Journalism was becoming a career.

It could also be risky. Defoe was pilloried in 1703 when his Shortest Way with Dissenters was judged a seditious libel. The pamphlet ruthlessly satirized the High church Tories, by purporting to argue for the extermination of dissenters. The publication of his poem Hymn to the Pillory, however, caused his audience at the pillory to throw flowers instead of the customary harmful and noxious objects, and to drink to his health.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Queen Anne: 4 The War of the Spanish Succession

In his will Carlos II he had left his empire (half the Italian peninsula, Mexico, most of Central and South America, the Philippines, the Canaries, much of the West Indies, the whole of the Spanish Netherlands) to his great-nephew, Louis’ grandson the duke of Anjou. Louis decided to uphold the will even though this violated the Second Partition Treaty (signed in March 1700). Furthermore, he insisted (against Carlos’s will) that his grandson should also inherit the French throne and in February 1701 he moved French troops into fortresses in the Spanish Netherlands. This brought Europe to the edge of war. In August 1701 William concluded a further Grand Alliance with the Emperor and the Dutch Republic which committed the three powers to obtaining the Spanish succession for the Emperor. In September Louis added a further provocation when he recognized ‘James III and VIII’. In May 1702 Anne declared war on France.

The War of the Spanish Succession was even more costly than the Nine Years’ War because the theatre of war encompassed the Iberian peninsula as well as the Spanish Netherlands and the Empire. In 1704 Allied forces captured Gibraltar. The most stunning victories were under Marlborough. In the spring of 1704 the French general Tallard marched towards Vienna. Marlborough led 19,000 troops (of whom three quarters were British) on an epic six-week 400 mile march from the Netherlands to Bavaria. This was a breathtaking achievement. Here he linked up with 30,000 the imperial forces under Prince Eugene of Savoy and together they defeated the French at Blenheim on 2 August (13 August NS).

Marlborough’s further victories were in the Low Countries: Ramillies (1706) and Oudenarde (1708). Oudenarde confirmed Marlborough’s reputation as one of the greatest generals of the age. But these victories failed to be decisive and the weak underbelly proved to be Spain, where the duke of Berwick won some spectacular victories. Marlborough and his Whig allies, especially Lord Treasurer Godolphin, held to the principle of ‘no peace without Spain’, but this was an increasingly unrealistic demand.

If you have Real Player you can play two songs from the war, one French, the other British. Even if you can't play the tunes, you can read the words!

Queen Anne: 5 The war turns sour

The Tory commitment to the Grand Alliance was rarely more than carping and half-hearted. Tories argued that England was paying a disproportionate price led them to advocate a ‘blue-water strategy’ rather than the large-scale Continental operations to which Marlborough was committed. The queen’s belief in the need for a firm prosecution of the war made her more dependent on the Whigs and by 1708 she was forced to bring Whigs into office. One of these was Marlborough’s son-in-law, Sunderland, who became Secretary of State for the Southern Department. The general election of July 1708 returned a Whiggish House of Commons.

1708 was a bad year for Anne. She was left desolate by the death of her husband, George of Denmark, in October 1708 and by the cooling of her friendship with the duchess of Marlborough, her Groom of the Stole. She had come under the sway of her bedchamber woman Sarah’s cousin Abigail Hill (who in 1707 secretly married Samuel Masham), and Abigail provided a conduit for her distant relative the Tory politician Robert Harley. Sarah’s resentment at her loss of influence was shown dramatically when she publicly insulted the queen at the Oudenarde thanksgiving service at St Paul’s.

On 31 August (11 September NS) 1709 Marlborough won another victory at Malplaquet. The cost in casualties was probably the highest for the entire eighteenth century (and it followed an exceptionally grim winter in France). No exact figures are known, but it is estimated that c. 24,000 allies were killed and wounded, and c. 15,000 killed and wounded among the French. Marlborough was appalled to have ‘so many brave men killed with whom I have lived these eight years, when we thought ourselves sure of a peace’. The experience shook the allies and led to a great loss of confidence.

Queen Anne: 6 The Sacheverell affair

A key battle ground between Whigs and Tories was the practice of occasional conformity, a practice the Tories constantly but unsuccessfully tried to outlaw. On 5 November 1709, at a time when war-weariness was rising, Dr Henry Sacheverell delivered an inflammatory sermon in St Paul’s cathedral on the text ‘in perils among false brethren’. It was published on 25 November and sold about 100,000 copies. The Commons unwisely decided to impeach him and between 27 February and 20 March 1710 he was tried in Westminster Hall before the Whig-dominated House of Lords, with the young Robert Walpole acting as one of the prosecutors. There were massive popular demonstrations in the country in favour of Sacheverell and on the night of 1-2 March frightening mob violence took place in London and Dissenting meeting-houses were destroyed. It was the worst violence in London until the Gordon riots of 1780.

Sacheverell was found guilty by just 69 votes to 52, suspended from preaching and his sermons ordered to be burned. This made him a popular hero and martyr, and the Whigs suffered politically.

Queen Anne: 7 The Dismissal of Godolphin, Sarah and Marlborough

As war-weariness spread throughout the country, Marlborough’s stock waned and his Tory opponents grew more confident, accusing him of avarice and commenting on the enormous costs of building Blenheim. At some point in late 1709 Anne had decided upon a change in the ministry and that Harley would be the man to carry it out.

On 6 April 1710 Sarah had her last interview with the queen. In June Anne dismissed Sunderland. On 8 August she dismissed Godolphin telling him to break his white staff of office rather than hand it to her personally. A Tory administration was formed under Robert Harley (who became earl of Oxford in 1711). In September Anne dissolved Parliament (a year early), and the Whigs were routed in the general election of October 1710 (the Tories had a majority of 150). The new ministry was committed to securing a reasonable peace.

In January 1711 Sarah Marlborough was dismissed from her offices. By now Harley (Oxford) had reached his political apogee.

In the spring of 1711 the Emperor Joseph died and the empire passed to his brother, Charles, the allies’ claimant to the Spanish throne. This removed much of the rationale for the war: if Charles were to become king of Spain then Habsburg power in Europe would be dangerously enhanced. Now the Tories had no scruple in seeking peace.

In order to forestall Marlborough’s objections to a peace a concerted propaganda campaign was launched against him. In November 1711 Swift published The Conduct of the Allies, in which he questioned Marlborough’s motivation and claimed that he was out to aggrandize the Churchill family. On 31 December Marlborough was dismissed as Captain General and on 24 January the Commons voted by 265 to 155 that his conduct was ‘unwarranted and illegal’ (Robert Walpole was put in the Tower). Marlborough was replaced by the Tory Jacobite Duke of Ormond.
Between December and January Anne created twelve new (Tory) peers, including Samuel Masham, to ensure the passage of peace through the Lords. This was an unprecedented step, though not unconstitutional. The Marlboroughs soon afterwards went into voluntary exile.

Queen Anne: 8 The Treaty of Utrecht

In her eagerness for peace Britain made an agreement with France without consulting the Allies - and earned the name ‘perfidious Albion’. During the negotiations France was allowed to re-conquer Le Quesnoy, Bouchain, and Douai - this forced the Dutch to the negotiating table.

In 1713 the Treaties of Utrecht were finally agreed (March and July)

The Spanish Netherlands became the Austrian Netherlands
The Empire gained Milan and Naples
Philip V was recognized as King of Spain (but Spain was seriously reduced as a great power)
The Dutch frontier was secured by a series of barrier fortresses
France gave up Ypres, Menin, and Tournai and had to dismantle Dunkirk’s defences. It returned to the Empire all lands on the east of the Rhine but kept Alsace and Strasbourg
Britain received Hudson Bay, Nova Scotia, and St Kitts from France and Gibraltar, Minorca and the asiento (slave-trading concession) from Spain. The French retained Cape Breton Island.
France pledged itself to the Hanoverian succession and agreed to expel the Pretender
Because Britain had not succeeded in her fundamental war aim, the peace could be interpreted as a failure. However she was now both a great European power and an imperial power – at the cost of £72m, paid for by an unprecedented mobilization of national resources. The substantive losers at Utrecht were France and Spain.

Queen Anne: 9 The Succession

In September the Tories were rewarded for the peace by a general election victory. But as the issue of the succession became more dominant, they divided among themselves between Hanover Tories and Pretender’s Tories. But the Pretender’s refusal to convert to Anglicanism made the situation very difficult for the Jacobite Tories.

On 23 May 1714 Sophia died aged 84. On 27 July Anne dismissed Oxford and sided with his Tory rival Viscount Bolingbroke. On 30 July she fell seriously ill. Her Privy Council saw to it that the ports were closed; the arms and horses of Catholics were ordered to be seized; troops moved towards London; messages were sent to Hanover requesting the Elector to come quickly, and a naval escort was despatched for his safe conduct. On 1 August Anne died. George I was immediately proclaimed.

The Stuart dynasty was over.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Four deaths

Four deaths dramatically changed the political landscape at home and abroad.
(a) Anne’s only surviving child, the duke of Gloucester (from smallpox), 30 July 1700. (See the post headed Act of Settlement)The Act of Settlement was further cemented by the Union of the English and Scottish Parliaments in 1707, which created the nation of Great Britain and committed both countries to the Hanoverian succession. 40+ MPs and 12 peers came south to Westminster.
(b) Carlos II of Spain, 21 October 1700.
(c) James II, 6 September 1701: Louis XIV immediately recognised his son as James III and VIII. In effect, this was a declaration of war.
(d) William III, 23 February 1702. He was thrown from his horse when it stumbled on a molehill in Richmond Park. He caught a fever and died on 8 March. The duke of Berwick, James II's son by Arabella Churchill, stated: ‘I cannot deny him the character of a great man, and even of a great King.’

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Two new books on the Glorious Revolution (yet another update)

Today's Sunday Times publishes a review by the historian James Sharpe on Edward Vallance's and Tim Harris's books on the Glorious Revolution.

The Daily Telegraph's review is now online. As is the Guardian's.

Harris's book received another Telegraph review, this time from Blair Worden. It's the most interesting review to date because it compares Harris with his great Victorian predecessor Thomas Babington Macaulay.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Literacy in the Seventeeth Century

This post owes a great deal to (among other works ) David Cressy, ‘Literacy in context: meaning and measurement in early modern England’ in John Brewer and Roy Porter (eds), Consumption and the World of Goods (Routledge, 1993), 306.

Literacy was an ambivalent indicator of cultural attainment
(a) It was by no means a necessity. A mark had the same legal standing as a signature. And many activities, particularly rural ones, did not need literacy. Every community contained at least one literate person, who could meet the needs of his illiterate neighbours (Cressy, 310).
(b) The oral and print cultures interacted. Jests and proverbs that originated in folklore appeared in printed editions. Printed ballads were head by illiterate bystanders. Sermons were delivered orally but many of them were also printed. Proclamations were proclaimed as well as posted. The town crier was ‘a walking, shouting bulletin board (Cressy, 311)’ who had to be literate as he had to deliver his information from a text delivered in writing.
(c) There was a spectrum between illiteracy and full literacy, an ascending order of accomplishments from the simple ability to read the letters of the alphabet to full fluency in handling sophisticated texts.
(d) A hierarchy of skill may have developed as readers learned to decipher writing in different forms. The commonest was Black Letter (Gothic) print, used in the ABC horn book, the catechism and much popular literature. Black Letter printing continued throughout the 17th century, especially for ballads, almanacs and publications aimed at the less educated reader. More sophisticated publications used Roman type.

Reading, by its nature, leaves no direct record, so there is no reliable guide to the extent of reading ability within the population. But it seems certain that more people could read than could write. Reading and writing were taught as separate skills and often by separate masters.

Reading was seen as a skill that could be taught by anyone, writing required masters; it also required a high level of manual dexterity and initiation into the arts of cutting quills and preparing ink. Only the more privileged reached this level. Because of this, it is often difficult to assess literacy. A mark had the same legal standing as a signature and a clumsy signature may indicate less writing skill than a highly accomplished trade mark.

Literacy was closely associated with social and economic position and with gender. In the charity schools boys were often taught writing, while the girls learned to sew.

The statistical evidence for literacy comes from personal signatures. For all their problems as evidence, a clear and convincing pattern emerges. The groups that signed their names are the groups we would expect to possess literacy.

In the middle decades of the 16th century only 20% of adult males in England were able to sign their own names and only 5% of women. By the end of the 17th century 50% of men could sign and 25% of women. There was a long-term trend of growing literacy. The most reliable figures show a gradual though not unbroken improvement in male literacy from 10% in 1500 to 25% in 1714 and 40% in 1750.

Within this trend, there was considerable variation. There was an elite of aristocrats, gentry and rich merchants who were almost totally literate by 1600. Shopkeepers were 95% literate by the 1770s. Most labourers could not read at all. The highest literacy levels were in London: female literacy rose from 22% in the 1670s to 66% in the 1720s. Cressy, 314, describes this female literacy as precocious and states that ‘the women of Mrs Aphra Behn’s London were as literate as men in the countryside’. Literacy was higher for City-born women than for immigrants, higher for those born after 1660 and higher for those engaged in needle trades and shop keeping than as servants, hawkers and washerwomen.

A few more figures:
The gentry, clergy, merchants, tradesmen were literate.
Among village artisans: ½ to ¾ could not sign. There was 90% illiteracy among thatchers and miners.
30% of yeomen and 80% of husbandmen could not sign their names.


Chapbooks were cheap literature, selling at between 2d and 6d a copy. (There are four links here. Click under each word separately and follow them through if you've time!). One of the best collections of English chapbook literature is found in the Pepys Collection at Magdalene College Cambridge.

See here for the chapbook story of Bevis of Southampton.

The Act of Settlement

Anne’s only surviving child, the duke of Gloucester (from smallpox), 30 July 1700. This raised the question of the Protestant succession, which was resolved by the Act of Settlement established the succession, on Anne’s death, on the Electress Sophia of Hanover and her heirs.

The Nine Years' War

William’s primary motive for invading England had been to draw the nation into the European coalition against France, and his arrival produced a dramatic transformation of British foreign policy. From 1689 to 1714 it was at war for all but five of these years

In February 1689 the Dutch declared war on France. In May a Grand Alliance was singed between the Republic, England, Spain, Sweden, Savoy and the Holy Roman Emperor. In the same month England and Scotland entered the Nine Years’ War against France.

The war began badly when in May 1690 the French defeated a combined Anglo-Dutch fleet off Beachy Head, which gave them command of the Channel, and highlighted the constant danger of a French backed Jacobite invasion, a threat only partly ameliorated by the defeat of the French in the Bay of La Hogue in May 1692.

The result of the early set-back was a massive ship-building programme. In 1660 the navy comprised 156 ships; in 1688 173; in 1702 224; in 1710 313. By 1713 the British navy was the largest and strongest in the world. The navy supported over 40,000 men. The army comprised 70,000 of which 20,000 were foreigners. Average expenditure on the armed forces reached £2.5 million per annum.

The Nine Years’ War was a war of prolonged sieges fought mainly in the Spanish Netherlands. It was a war of attrition and ended with all parties in a state of exhaustion. It was ended by the Treaty of Ryswick in 1697. Louis recognised William as king of Great Britain (without fully abandoning James’s claims) and abandoned his conquests in the Netherlands and the Rhineland since 1688.

But the treaty failed to resolve the dominating question of late 17th century Europe: what would happen to Spain when Carlos II died. There were three candidates for the throne: the Imperial, the Bavarian, and the French. Two partition treaties of 1698 and 1700 tried to settle the issue by providing for the division of the Spanish Empire after Carlos’s death, but nobody bothered to consult the poor sick king.