Thursday, 6 May 2010

Don’t write the Restoration out of history

Samuel Pepys, my very favourite lecher, noted in his diary on May Day 350 years ago that London was ablaze with bonfires, that bells were ringing and that the streets were full of men sunk to their knees, drinking the King’s health. Pepys, ever the kettle-coloured pot, moralised that this excess of drinking was, “methinks a little too much”.

Charles II had been declared the rightful King and was on his way home, restoring the monarchy and setting a seal on the brief British republic, that strange and overlooked brush with theocracy and radicalism.

The poorly named English Civil War, which was in reality a British and Irish, many-stranded revolution, is unaccountably missing from our popular history narrative.

Think of revolution, and what comes to mind? Bolsheviks rampaging through the Winter Palace, stripping gilt from the walls? A Frenchwoman, drunk with blood lust, screaming for another aristocratic head to hit the bucket? Revolutions are for foreigners. They get all the glamour and all the turmoil of violent regime overthrow. The gutters of Paris and St Petersburg filled with revolutionary blood, not London’s.

This 350th anniversary of the Restoration is passing with barely a whimper. Our island story, as told in schools, on television, in fiction, seems to skip straight from Elizabeth I to Queen Victoria, from Virgin to Empress, with lots of apologies for slavery and empire en route. When our history meets our culture, only the Queens count. Read more

No comments will be posted without a full name and location, see the policy.

No comments: