I read Peter Ackroyd’s History of England for diversion not learning. Historians now talk of the Wars of the Three Kingdoms rather than the English Civil War, as one cannot understand the wars in England without considering engagements in Ireland and Scotland, and local interests; but Ackroyd’s book is called Civil War, with a picture of Oliver and Charles on the cover. A powerful bloc in Scotland were revolutionaries, seeking to wrest control from the king, yet wanting a king controlled rather than a republic, turning to fight for him when he might have been deposed- but there is no hint of that in this book. “Scots” do one thing or another. Colonists set sail for North America-“When they cross the Atlantic, they are lost from the purview of this history”, he says, airily. His interest is London, and its apprentice boys, bourgeois and gentry.
Ackroyd portrays the Stewart kings as fools, concerned for their own interests not their kingdoms’, but vacillating and silly, unable to see those interests. There is not enough in the book to judge whether the English interest would have been better served by supporting the Netherlands (including parts of modern Belgium) against France, but the king’s personal interest was in supporting Louis, because of the subsidy of £210,000 a year Louis promised him from 1670. There was no distinction between court and government, so money needed for the navy might be diverted from taxes to the costs of the court, or his own gambling debts.
Charles II made a treaty secretly with Louis XIV, that the king of England, being convinced of the truth of the Roman Catholic religion, is resolved to declare it, and to reconcile himself with the Church of Rome as soon as the state of his country’s affairs permit…But as there are always unquiet spirits who mask their designs under the guise of religion… (he) will avail himself of the assistance of the King of France, who, on his part, promises to pay to the King of England the sum of two million livres tournois… In addition, the King of France undertakes to provide, at his own expense, six thousand troops for the execution of the design.
In the Thirty Years’ War, James’ pursuit of the Infanta to marry his son prevented him from supporting his son in law Frederick as ruler of then-Protestant Bohemia. Ackroyd suggests that an English ultimatum might have prevented the Spanish attack in 1620. The Spanish Ambassador quickly sent a message to Philip III that he could invade Frederick’s territories without risk of a war with England. Thus began the Thirty Years’ War. Ackroyd’s direct quote of James’ words appears on Google only as a Google Books result for Ackroyd’s book.
Reading of these kings is enough to make me Republican. I want the historic link to these fools, traitors and murderers severed.