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Fun facts of the kings of England

I discovered some things while researching my prior post on the topic. I'm sure there's lots more.

* Richard I: not just a romantic Robin Hood-era Crusader: he barred Jews and women from his coronation. Suspected of being gay, I forget why, though he did produce a bastard son.

* The Conqueror had made Jews direct subjects of the king; no ties to a lord, but no particular rights other than being the king's property. Edward I expelled them until Cromwell's time; it's estimated there were 2000 at the time. They must have been quite rich to be worth specifically taxing, given such numbers. This matches something I read elsewhere, about early Ashkenazi in Western Europe being few but indeed quite wealthy, unlike the poor villagers of "Fiddler On the Roof."

* Richard III may or may not have killed his nephews or spirited them away or something, but he seems to have been progressive and fair to the poor and northerners. Lemme just quote Wikipedia:

"Richard's Council of the North, derived from his ducal council, greatly improved conditions for Northern England, as commoners of that region were formerly without any substantial economic activity independent of London. Its descendant position was Secretary of State for the Northern Department.

In December 1483, Richard instituted what later became known as the Court of Requests, a court to which poor people who could not afford legal representation could apply for their grievances to be heard.[61] He also introduced bail in January 1484, to protect suspected felons from imprisonment before trial and to protect their property from seizure during that time.[62] He founded the College of Arms in 1484,[63] he banned restrictions on the printing and sale of books,[64] and he ordered the translation of the written Laws and Statutes from the traditional French into English.[65]"

"Richard's reputation as a promoter of legal fairness persisted, however. William Camden in his Remains Concerning Britain (1605) states that Richard, "albeit he lived wickedly, made good laws".[226] Francis Bacon also states that he was "a good lawmaker for the ease and solace of the common people".[227] In 1525, Cardinal Wolsey upbraided the aldermen and Mayor of London for relying on a statute of Richard to avoid paying an extorted tax (benevolence) but received the reply 'although he did evil, yet in his time were many good acts made.'[228][229]"

Sounds like a better king than either of the Henries succeeding him, apart from Henry VII's ability to disarm the magnates and fill the treasury.

* Mary I started fiscal and naval policies Elizabeth got credit for, and chartered John Cabot, explorer of North America.

* I'd always thought of the Glorious Revolution as a major jink in the succession, like the Hanoverians. Nope! As mentioned last time, Mary was James II's daughter and eldest child, and William was his nephew. If you bump James and his newborn son, Mary's the heir and William with his Dutch army is a nice bonus.

* Being royal didn't mean your children survived. Sometimes it did, with some kings having their own Wikipedia pages for listing their descendants. Others... well, James II had 8 kids, and only Mary and Anne survived to adulthood. Mary had a miscarriage and never got pregnant again. Poor Anne had 17 pregnancies, 5 liveborn children, 1 surviving past 2 years, and 0 reaching adulthood. *Ouch*.

* WP again: "As was traditional in the royal family, Anne and her sister were brought up separated from their father in their own establishment at Richmond, London." Really? I knew elites outsourced nursing and tutoring and such, but separate households from birth? Dang. Helps explain all the sons rebelling against their fathers: hard to have filial loyalty to someone who didn't raise you. Mary was loyal anyway and felt guilty about her father's deposition, but she was rather pious, including agreeing that a man shouldn't be subject to his wife and thus that William should be co-monarch and rule ahead of her when not absent on wars. Anne, closer to court affairs and the religious fights, was less loyal.

** Also, Charles II ordered that his brother's children be raised Protestant, unlike James. Interesting family dynamics there.

* Mary was apparently pretty competent when she *did* have to rule due to William being out of range, and WP said Anne went to more cabinet meetings than any of her predecessors or successors. I'm not sure how to take that, given that she didn't rule all that long (twelve years) and some of those monarchs ruled for decades; is that just her immediate fellow monarchs, or all ever? Still, sounds pretty diligent, anyway, especially given that the royal power was pretty curbed by this point. But:

"Professor Edward Gregg concluded that Anne was often able to impose her will, even though, as a woman in an age of male dominance and preoccupied by her health, her reign was marked by an increase in the influence of ministers and a decrease in the influence of the Crown.[205] She attended more cabinet meetings than any of her predecessors or successors,[206] and presided over an age of artistic, literary, economic and political advancement that was made possible by the stability and prosperity of her reign.[207] In architecture, Sir John Vanbrugh constructed Blenheim Palace and Castle Howard.[208] Writers such as Daniel Defoe, Alexander Pope and Jonathan Swift flourished.[209] Henry Wise laid out new gardens at Blenheim, Kensington, Windsor and St James's.[210] The union of England and Scotland, which Anne had fervently supported,[211] created Europe's largest free trade area.[212] The political and diplomatic achievements of Anne's governments, and the absence of constitutional conflict between monarch and parliament during her reign, indicate that she chose ministers and exercised her prerogatives wisely.[213]"

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( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 1st, 2014 04:55 am (UTC)
Suspected of being gay, I forget why

To demonstrate their personal trust and sincerity of their alliance against Henry II, Richard and the French king shared a bed for a night.
Feb. 1st, 2014 08:41 pm (UTC)
The reason Anne chaired more cabinet meetings than any of her predecessors is that the cabinet only came into existence shortly before her reign. The role had been performed by the privy council, however that had gradually become too large and unwieldy, so a sub-committee, the cabinet, replaced it. Her immediate successors, George I and George II, spoke little English and by the time of George III the position of PM had developed to chair the cabinet and run the government. The power had been permanently lost by the monarch.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )


Damien Sullivan

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