Parliament

The Battle of Towton. March 29, 1461

The Battle of Towton took place on March 29, 1461 in the city of Towton, Yorkshire, during the English Wars of Roses. It is now considered by historiographers the biggest and bloodiest battle in English territory with Yorkist victory. Edward had advanced from the west to the outskirts of London, where he joined his forces with Warwick´s. This coincided with the withdrawal of Queen Margaret to the north to Dunstable, and so, Edward and Warwick entered London with their army, where they were greeted with enthusiasm, money and supplies by most people in the city, that were Yorkists. With his brother and father both dead in battle, war was by that time a pure dispute for the crown, as Edward of York could no longer argue that he wanted to free his father from his “bad advisors”. The need for E...

A woman on stage for Shakespeare´s Desdemona. December 8, 1660.

Margaret Hughes became an actress during a period of great change in English drama. English drama had suffered greatly during the English Civil War and the Interregnum, being banned by the Puritan Long Parliament in 1642. This ban was finally lifted upon the Restoration of King Charles II. Charles was a keen theatre-goer, and promptly gave two royal patents to Sir Thomas Killigrew and Sir William Davenant. During the Renaissance women had been virtually banned from appearing as actresses on the stage, resulting in male actors in female roles. One incident occurred when a play which the King was watching suddenly stopped. When he sent servants to see what the problem was, it was found that the male who was supposed to play one of the female parts was still shaving. There were also concerns ...

The Elizabethan Era Begins. November 17, 1558.

The Elizabethan era is the epoch in the Tudor period of the history of England during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I (1558–1603). Historians often depict it as the golden age in English history. The symbol of Britannia (a female personification of Great Britain) was first used in 1572, and often thereafter, to mark the Elizabethan age as a renaissance that inspired national pride through classical ideals and international expansion. This “golden age” represented the apogee of the English Renaissance and saw the flowering of poetry, music and literature. The era is most famous for its theatre, as William Shakespeare and many others composed plays that broke free of England’s past style of theatre. It was an age of exploration and expansion abroad, while back at home, the P...

The Coronation of Bloody Mary. October 1, 1553.

Mary I, also known as Mary Tudor, was the queen of England from July 1553 until her death. She is best known for her vigorous attempt to reverse the English Reformation, which had begun during the reign of her father, Henry VIII. Her attempt to restore to the Church the property confiscated in the previous two reigns was largely thwarted by parliament, but during her five-year reign, Mary had over 280 religious dissenters burned at the stake in the Marian persecutions, which led to her denunciation as “Bloody Mary” by her Protestant opponents. Mary was the only child of Henry VIII by his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, to survive to adulthood. Her younger half-brother, Edward VI, succeeded their father in 1547 at the age of nine. When Edward became mortally ill in 1553, he att...

Cromwell, the Act of Grace. May 5, 1654

After the English invasion of 1650, and the defeat of the Scottish armies at the battles of Dunbar, Inverkeithing and Worcester, Scotland was placed under English military occupation with General Monck as military governor of the country. Up to the date of the Act of Grace the English army had been able to suppress the Scottish resistance to the occupation with relative ease and the occupation, with sporadic but ineffective resistance, would continue throughout the Interregnum up until the Restoration in 1660. Cromwell’s Act of Grace, or more formally the Act of Pardon and Grace to the People of Scotland, was an Act of the Parliament of England that declared that the people of Scotland (with certain exceptions) were pardoned for any crimes they might have committed during the Wars of...

Cromwell´s exhumation and execution. January 30, 1661.

In December 1648, in an episode that became known as Pride’s Purge, a troop of soldiers headed by Colonel Thomas Pride forcibly removed from the Long Parliament all those who were not supporters of the Grandees in the New Model Army and the Independents. Thus weakened, the remaining body of MPs, known as the Rump Parliament, agreed that Charles should be tried on a charge of treason. Cromwell was by that time in the north of England, dealing with Royalist resistance, when these events took place, but then returned to London. On the day after Pride’s Purge, he became a determined supporter of those pushing for the King’s trial and execution, believing that killing Charles was the only way to end the civil wars. Cromwell approved Thomas Brook’s address to the House of...

Saint Paul´s Cathedral. December 2, 1697.

In the Great Fire of London of 1666, Old St Paul’s was gutted. While it might have been possible to reconstruct it, a decision was taken to build a new cathedral in a modern style. This course of action had been proposed even before the fire. The task of designing a replacement structure was officially assigned to Sir Christopher Wren on 30 July 1669. He had previously been put in charge of the rebuilding of churches to replace those lost in the Great Fire. More than 50 City churches are attributable to Wren. Concurrent with designing St Paul’s, Wren was engaged in the production of his five Tracts on Architecture. Wren had begun advising on the repair of the Old St Paul’s in 1661, five years before the fire in 1666. The proposed work included renovations to interior and ...

The Gunpowder Plot. November 5, 1604.

The Gunpowder Plot of 1605, often called the Gunpowder Treason Plot or the Jesuit Treason, was a failed assassination attempt against King James I by a group of provincial English Catholics led by Robert Catesby. The plan was to blow up the House of Lords during the State Opening of Parliament on 5 November 1605, as the prelude to a popular revolt in the Midlands during which James’s nine-year-old daughter, Elizabeth Stuart, was to be installed as the Catholic head of state. Catesby may have embarked on the scheme after hopes of securing greater religious tolerance under King James had faded, leaving many English Catholics disappointed. Fawkes, one of the fellow plotters, who had 10 years of military experience fighting in the Spanish Netherlands in the failed suppression of the Dutc...

William and Mary. November 4, 1677.

Mary, born at St James’s Palace in London on 30 April 1662, was the eldest daughter of the Duke of York (the future King James II & VII), and his first wife, Anne Hyde. Mary’s uncle was King Charles II, who ruled the three kingdoms of England, Scotland and Ireland. She was baptised into the Anglican faith in the Chapel Royal at St James’s, and was named after her ancestor, Mary, Queen of Scots. Although her mother bore eight children, all except Mary and her younger sister Anne died very young, and King Charles II had no legitimate children. Consequently, for most of her childhood, Mary was second in line to the throne after her father. The Duke of York converted to Roman Catholicism in 1668 or 1669 and the Duchess about eight years earlier, but Mary and Anne were bro...

The Declaration of Independence. July 4, 1776.

Believe me, dear Sir: there is not in the British empire a man who more cordially loves a union with Great Britain than I do. But, by the God that made me, I will cease to exist before I yield to a connection on such terms as the British Parliament propose; and in this, I think I speak the sentiments of America. — Thomas Jefferson, November 29, 1775 By the time that the Declaration of Independence was adopted in July 1776, the Thirteen Colonies and Great Britain had been at war for more than a year. Relations had been deteriorating between the colonies and the mother country since 1763. Parliament enacted a series of measures to increase revenue from the colonies, such as the Stamp Act of 1765 and the Townshend Acts of 1767. Parliament believed that these acts were a legitimate means of ha...

Charles I, King of England, Scotland and Ireland. March 27, 1625.

Charles was born into the House of Stuart as the second son of King James VI of Scotland, but after his father inherited the English throne in 1603, he moved to England, where he spent much of the rest of his life. He became heir apparent to the thrones of England, Scotland and Ireland on the death of his elder brother, Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales, in 1612. An unsuccessful and unpopular attempt to marry him to the Spanish Habsburg princess Maria Anna culminated in an eight-month visit to Spain in 1623 that demonstrated the futility of the marriage negotiations. By 1624, James was growing ill, and as a result was finding it difficult to control Parliament. By the time of his death in March 1625, Charles and the Duke of Buckingham had already assumed de facto control of the kingdom. The...

King Charles II of England dissolves the Cavalier Parliament. January 24, 1679.

Although previously favourable to the Crown, the Cavalier Parliament was alienated by the king’s wars and religious policies during the 1670s. In 1672, Charles II issued the Royal Declaration of Indulgence, in which he purported to suspend all penal laws against Catholics and other religious dissenters. In the same year, he openly supported Catholic France and started the Third Anglo-Dutch War. The Cavalier Parliament opposed the Declaration of Indulgence by claiming that the king had no right to arbitrarily suspend laws passed by Parliament. Charles withdrew the Declaration, and also agreed to the Test Act, which forced the public officials to receive sacrament under the forms of the Church of England as well as denounce teachings of the Catholic Church as “superstitious and idolatr...

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