The Commonwealth, the Protectorate, and the Restoration of the Stuart monarchy.
Oliver Cromwell and the Restoration
BY DAVID ROSS, EDITOR
Things on dry land weren't all that much better. In 1665 the Great Plague hit London, decimating the population.The following year the Great Fire burned 450 acres and left large parts of the capital in ruins. The fire is said to have started in a bakehouse at the bottom of Pudding Lane. Today, the height of Christopher Wren's London Monument in King William Street is the distance from that point to the site of the bakehouse. The best description of this period of English history comes from the meticulous diaries of Samuel Pepys, a high official in the naval office.
Wren and the Building of St. Paul's
One of the positive consequences of the London Fire was that Old St. Paul's Cathedral, which had been badly in need of renovation, was damaged beyond repair. Within days of the fire, architect Christopher Wren presented the king with a plan for a new cathedral. With some alterations this became the magnificent church that stands today (click here for St. Paul's Cathedral). Wren was master of works for the construction of the cathedral for the rest of his life, in addition to being responsible for scores of other churches and the Royal Naval College at Greenwich.
Changes in Government
Under Charles II there was a general move towards a cabinet style of government. Groups formed which were the fore-runners of the later Tories (the court party, supporting royal prerogative), and the Whigs (the country party, supporting Parliamentary rights in moderation). The name "Whigs" came from the Whiggamores, Scottish rebels against the king, while the "Tories" were named after Catholic royalist rebels in Ireland.
The Popish Plot
On the judicial front, the Habeus Corpus Act (1679) made justice officials responsible for the welfare of prisoners in their care, provided for a speedy trial, and ensured that a person could not be tried twice for the same crime.
Social conditions during the 17th century were abysmal. Laws were harsh, and religious non-conformists and Catholics faced heavy discrimination. On the other hand, things were so much better in England than elsewhere in Europe that England was an example of model government to such continental commentators as Voltaire and Montesquieu. Perspective is everything.
Name the Historic attraction
British Heritage Awards
Celebrate the best of British Heritage in our annual
British History Quiz
The 'Auld Alliance' was between which two countries?
'Auld' is a Scottish version of 'old'
The alliance was finally broken when Scotland became officially Protestant in 1560
This Day in British History
29 March, 1461
Battle of Towton
In the bloodiest battle on English soil, Edward of York defeats a Lancastrian army, forcing Henry VI to flee to Scotland