Sunday, April 25, 2010

Fever, Fire, Catholics, & C-C-Cold

W/ the Merry Monarch setting the tone, court was a hoppin' venue w/ lots of action to be had. His pal Rochester (he was an excellent poet, John Wilmot was BTW, but a lot of em ya gotta know the history to realize how funny & satirical they really are) said of him in verse:

God bless our good & gracious king
Whose promise none relies on
Who never said a foolish thing
Nor ever did a wise one

To which Charles replied, too true, b/c my words are my own, but my actions are my councilors' LOL Anyhow, there was so much fun to be had in Restoration London that the Frenchie pox went around rather well & Rochester eventually demised of it.  Twas quite sad as he had such a bad case of it that he was only in his mid-30s when he died, but he'd also given it to his wife, & she passed it along to their son, who was then born w/ birth defects & demised young whilst Rochester had to watch & know twas all his fault & he'd kilt his own son via his sexual excesses.

Rochester also once wrote a long & hugely amusing poem entitled Satyr on Charles II, & ended up being kicked out of court for a while when Charles found it going round, as it made fun of him, his mistresses, & his own licentious habits.  An infamous couplet from it says:

Restless he rolls about from whore to whore,
A merry monarch, scandalous and poor.

And that's the cleanest part of it ROFL  The bit about Nelly striving to bring Charles to full attn is priceless.

Charles II as a cute little innocent lad

Charles II as a dirty old man

2 major events kinda curtailed the fun for a while. The 1st was known as the Great Plague. Everyone was all RUN AWAY RUN AWAY when this started making the rounds. London turned into a ghost town. Carts went round each morning ringing bells & calling, "Bring out your dead!" & they would just hurl corpses into a huge pit.

"Bring out your dead!"

If there was a plague victim in your house then a red cross was painted on your door & sometimes, if the peep doing so was literate, they'd add "May God have mercy on us" to it.  A nurse was sent, a guard was posted & wasn't no one allowed to come out, even if they weren't sick.  Ya gotta wonder how many extra peeps either starved to death or mayhap kilt the guards to get out for food.  The peeps who took the positions of nurse & guard were of the lowest classes & sometimes robbed & murdered the plague-stricken peeps so they could move on to the next place & collect more pay, esp if there were no rellies present to stop them.  The nurses had no formal training whatsoever & not a clue what they were doing.  This sucker was virulent & had a high contagion & mortality rate. Tis usually spread by flea bites from fleas off infected rats that came in on ships from places that had the plague.

So the 2nd thing cured the Great Plague.... crisping all the fleas.

Great Fire of London

This was the Great Fire of 1666, which started on a September Sunday morn in a street called Pudding Lane & spread like crazy. St Paul's Cathedral (where Cath & Art had been wed) went up in it along w/ close to 14,000 houses.  The current domed St Paul's was designed by architect Sir Christopher Wren (he also designed the Governor's Palace in Williamsburg VA) to replace the burnt one.  

contemporary drawing of St Paul's going up in flames

Charles & James got right out there in the thick of it & fought the blaze along w/ the regular peeps, creating firebreaks in hopes of containing it.  This is when you leave enough barren space btwn the fire & other buildings so that it has naught to burn but the ground & will eventually go out on its own.  There was no fire dept, but there were peeps in neighborhoods that volunteered for sich things when they occurred & had things called firehooks to rip down building walls.  Twas soon clear this & the usual bucket brigades were not good enough for this blaze.  Peeps saw it was getting out of control & started going RUN AWAY RUN AWAY & pretty soon London's narrow lanes were clogged w/ refugees. 

another view of the Great Fire;
London Bridge to the L & the Tower to the R

The Lord Mayor of London stood there w/ his mouth open going O SHITE & wasn't much good at organizing, so Charles had to smack him out of the way & take over b/c the raging conflagration was going in the direction of his fav palace of Whitehall (formerly Wolsey's London palace of York Place, which he'd handed over to Henry VIII).  Bro James went & got the militia peeps to help out & took charge of them.  Twas quite windy, which didn't help matters.  

drawing of Whitehall Palace
all that's left of it today is the Banqueting House

Whole blocks were dynamited for the firebreak attempt, using gunpowder stored in the Tower.  Twas inching toward it & if it got there the Tower would've blown up in a spectacular fashion & the thing would've really gone out of control.  Finally, after 3 days of this nonsense, the wind changed direction & started blowing the flames in the direction of the Thames until it had naught left to burn & then it rained some, which helped w/ all the smouldering.  Cost a lot of groats to fix this mess lemmee tell ya; they estimate round a billion in today's currency.

Betcha w/ all tis pestilence & fire peeps thunk twas the start of the Apocalypse, huh? Of course not. They just blamed everything on those darn Catholics.  Of course there was the usual mutterings about suspecting Catholics or foreigners of starting the fire on purpose, so in the midst of the fire there were some beatings & lynchings; anyone sans a proper English accent or carrying a rosary ran & hid posthaste. Afterwards some Catholic peep who was said to be not right in the head confessed to starting it & was hanged, but his story kept changing details & historians think twas merely just an accident in the bakery where it began.

Despite how much the Catholics were hated, James had decided to become one & he was Charles's heir-presumptive b/c the queen wasn't breeding.

James, Duke of York

Charles & Catherine tried harder, but there was just another cpl miscarriages. Peeps were getting antsy about the possibility of a Catholic king, plus James just had 2 legit girls. So his elder daughter Mary was betrothed to their sis Mary's son, William of Orange, who was Protestant, to stop the muttering.

Mary of York

William III of Orange

Meanwhile, Charles had a little war w/ the Dutch over trade stuff, established Carolina Colony & the Hudson's Bay Company in the New World, & the British East India Company was bringing in lots of goodies from Bombay, esp the tea peeps enjoyed so. Things would be going well were it not for that pesky succession thing.

And natch, those darn Catholics! There was a plot to poison the king headed by a peep named Titus Oates. He didn't even get his name on it like the MQOS plotting peeps did. Peeps just sneered & called it the Popish Plot LOL Charles was enraged when Parliament pulled the same thing on him that they'd threatened to pull on Daddy & called for a vote on if the Catholic queen should be banished forthwith after the Popish Plot. Luckily not enough peeps voted OK on it.

Catherine of Braganza

But they did start muttering that 4 miscarriages in 8 yrs was not a good thing when the queen was past 30 & when the heir-presumptive was Catholic & mayhap Charles should pull an Unks the VIII & get a nice divorce. The Anglican Church would sign off on it lickety-split, none of this bribing popes & waiting 11dy6 yrs anymore. Then Charles, who was pushing 40 already, could find a nice new fertile wench 1/2 his age & commence breeding legit heirs instead of all those illegit heirs they had to support along w/ all the mums. There was no time to lose w/ Catholic James standing btwn his Protestant girls as the next set of heirs. Ya gotta like Charles for his classiness in the matter b/c he said um NO. The queen stays.

FINE, his peeps growled, tho nobody got why he wanted to stay married to a homely, unfertile Catholic wench. Charles didn't even have to be like Henry VIII & go HA HA tis Cath's fault not mine b/c he had brats galore every time he turned around.

Barbara Fitzroy, the Duchess of Cleveland's youngest;
acknowledged by Charles as his bastard, but possibly the daughter
of John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough

Charlotte Fitzroy, Countess of Litchfield;
bastard daughter of Charles & Barbara Villiers

Charles Lennox, Duke of Richmond & Lennox;
bastard son of Charles & Louise de Kerouaille

James Scott, Duke of Monmouth
bastard son of Charles & Lucy Walter

His peeps edged in closer & said well, just b/c he has cojones don't mean we necessarily require your bro, tisn't as if he done his legit breeding duty very well, either.

James Fitzjames, Duke of Berwick;
bastard son of James & Arabella Churchill

Why dontcha just skip over James & pick your own successor peep, like Henry & Edward done? Charles rolled his eyes & said, yes, & THAT worked out so well, didn't it? Quit bugging me!

So Anthony Ashley Cooper (there's rivers in South Carolina named for him), the Earl of Shaftesbury, intro'd a bill into the House of Lords just banning James from the succession outright! It didn't pass, either, but Anne Hyde started hacking up a lung.

The youngest member of the royal family was little Minette. 

Henrietta Anne AKA Minette, Duchess of Orleans

She married Philip, Duke of Orleans (rumor had it he not only batted for the other team but also played dress-up, which had been applied to one of Elizabeth's former Frenchie suitors as well, her Frog's bro Henry). 

Philip, Duke of Orleans

Minette demised suddenly at Chateau St Cloud just a fortnight after assisting Charles w/ successfully negotiating the Treaty of Dover, a seecrud defensive alliance w/ France. At 1st twas rumored Minette was poisoned, as all sudden deaths were, but there was a post-mortem & YUCK, she died of peritonitis from a perforated stomach ulcer. OUCH. I reckon if your DH was stealing your bestest dresses & makeup to wear for his BFs, it might give ya an ulcer, huh?

Rumor had it Minette got back at DH tho by having some snuggle time w/ whatever Louis was on the throne HA HA & mayhap both her daughters, Marie Louise & Anne Marie, were the king's. Twas 10 days past her 26th BD.  It was less than a yr since Henrietta Maria cocked up her toes, also in France & eeriely on the same day her son Henry of Gloucester had died, so not a good yr for the remaining Stuarts personally, alas. HM & Catherine of Braganza BTW had the same BD LOL Who wants their BD shared w/ the MIL?

Catherine of Braganza;
have ya noticed NONE of this chick's portraits look alike?  WTF?

Peeps were mighty irked when the Duchess of York then demised, groaning, WRONG ONE! If it had been Queen Catherine, then Charles could've gotten himself a fresh womb, but noooo, it had to be James's wife who demised!

And of course he wanted a nice nubile Catholic princess to take Anne's place, settling on 15 yo Mary of Modena, even worse than imagined b/c she was not only Catholic but Italian. And over 20 yrs younger than James, putting him into dirty old man territory by modern standards. Charles was all jeez, can't ya just wed one of your GFs, like maybe that Churchill wench? She's a nice Protestant girl. Then he found out she was related to the d'Este banking family & had a fat dowry, so he shrugged & said OK bro, as long as I get my cut, but methinks ya'd best watch your back b/c peeps aren't gonna like this.

Mary of Modena

O just for politicial party trivia purposes, when Shaftesbury intro'd the bill to keep James out of the succession, those who didn't like it were termed "the abhorrers" & somehow this got mangled to Tories. They still got those anymore? Those who DID like it scanned the new Duchess of York's waistline anxiously whilst muttering that those darn Catholics gave their kids 11dy6 names b/c in all its glory hers was Maria Beatrice Eleanora Anna Margherita Isabella d'Este. Yeah, & you thunk Charles Philip Arthur George on the current POW was a lot LOL Methinks b/c she already has a stepdaughter named Mary, I shall just call her by the 1st 2 to avoid further confoozledness so Mary Beatrice she is.

Mary Beatrice got pregnant right quick but produced another pair of York girls, (yawningly) Catherine & Isabella. Catherine demised right after Isabella was born, just shy of age 2, & twas written down as convulsions, which covers a wide range of pediatric ailments & is most unhelpful. But the next yr Mary Beatrice produced a healthy lad, Charles James, Duke of Cambridge.

Peeps were O SHITE WE'RE GOIN' TO THE CATHOLICS AFTER ALL! James was all chuffed & Charles whacked him on the back & said 'bout time, but the common peeps had a case of the mutters. It didn't last long b/c apparently CJ had none of that natural immunity from the mother thing going on & he caught smallpox & demised when he was just 5 wks old.

So Mary of Orange was still the Protestant heir, but her Daddy just kept breathing & breeding, tho Mary Beatrice's next cpl kids were stillborn & then another daughter, Charlotte, demised of that convulsions thing. Must've been something nasty in the collective gene pool. And then Isabella demised age 5 of that annoying smallpox thing (no wonder peeps worked to figure out a vaccination for it) & the Yorks had no kidlets left at all. I just thunk I'd mention all this tedious childbearing Mary Beatrice was up to for yonks b/c no one ever does & it makes it seem like what eventually happened was some kinda scam when she was sighing & pushing out kidlets for England all along.

Ya'd think w/ the sanitizing fire & just how cold it was in England in the 1600s woulda kilt some of the germs.

There are not all that many occasions on which the River Thames has frozen solid b/c of how cold it was, but 4 of these occurred during Charles IIs reign so talk about your global freezing, huh? There's this adorable little book called The Frozen Thames where the author writes a brief short story for every yr the river froze, depiciting some of what went on when it did. Remember it froze when Matilda fought Stephen, & it also froze the last winter Anne Boleyn was alive & she went sleigh-riding w/ Henry (so you KNOW this ice was rock-solid LOL) on it b4 the unpleasantness began.

By Charles's day & b/c it was happening so frequently in the 1600s, they had a system all worked out & held what they called a Frost Fair right on the ice. I mean these peeps ran out & set up bldgs & booths for groat-making purposes b/c natch everyone wanted to venture onto the thick frozen surface so they could brag about it, so there was actual taverns & meat-pie booths & picnic tables & sleigh rides & ice skating rentals, a nice boom for the common peeps' economy, except for the ferrymen, natch. Once a ship got stuck in it, so they anchored to the nearest tavern LOL & became a part of it for a while (unfortunately there was a sudden thaw & the tavern got yanked into the river when the boat started shifting in the middle of the night). Even Charles got suckered out of some pennies by a guy who dragged his printing press out on the ice & sold little souvenir cards what said stuff like "Charles II King of England procured this card on the ice of the frozen River Thames, January 25, 1678" or whatever (I don't recollect the exact yrs save that one of em was the winter Charles demised & bet he was ticked he never got to see spring b/c that was the coldest one so far). If ya Google this stuff there's a HUGE map that shows how the Frost Fair was laid out in Charles's time, which I did after I read the aforementioned book. Tis pretty chill stuff LOL but alas even the cold wasn't killing the germs as I said.

When it was nice & warm, Charles & James enjoyed horse-racing & this is when the Newmarket tradition was established.  Everyone knew the bros Stuart would be at Newmarket for the races & there devolved the Rye House Plot, where some peeps decided it would be a splendid idea to ambush the royal party & assassinate both the king & the Catholic Duke of York.

Charles was shocked to discover one of the peeps involved was his 1stborn son Jamie, the Duke of Monmouth, who was supposed to replace Daddy as king. There was a bit of OFF WITH HIS HEAD (tho one of the dudes cheated the axe by slitting his own throat w/ a razor in his Tower cell), but Jamie was banished to the continent. Tis said he was always Daddy's fav.

Uncle James looked at him sideways & hmmm'd there's a peep I gotta watch out for, b/c Jamie, born when Daddy was just 19, was a grown man, married to a nice heiress & breeding up brats of his own, & he possessed Charles's charisma & somebody's good looks LOL Peeps liked him & there were some murmurings that if they couldn't get Charles to set aside the queen, them mayhap Monmouth could be legit'd & they could set aside James.

Charles said um NO. Peeps glared at him but public opinion had turned on Parliament since that bidness w/ trying to get rid of the queen...OK she didn't do her heir duty but she was a nice chick for a Catholic & the king was fond enough of her to keep her, so what bidness did Shaftesbury have trying to throw out bills to send her off on a slow boat to LIsbon? So Charles hardly had any issues w/ Parliament at all like his Daddy had HA HA & he pretty much ran the joint as he pleased & nobody objected.

Charles came back to Whitehall on what would become Scarlet's BD after checking out the latest Frost Fair & sighed & said yknow I ain't feelin' so perky atm.

Charles II in his early 50s

The next day, Candlemas, Charles had what was noted as "an apoplexy". This could be ANYTHING b/c it was noted for things like heart attacks, strokes, & your general convulsive fits. I'm gonna guess stroke b/c he immediately developed what was noted as "uremic poisoning", a catch-all term for dude's got sumfin amiss w/ his kidneys, & my PCP thunk when my BP shot up for no reason (has since calmed down nicely so barring unforeseen calamity the royal fun can continue LOL) that twas from a kidney infection b/c one's ureters behave in a similar fashion to one's arteries & if they're having trouble functioning it can raise one's BP alarmingly & induce a stroke. Mine was asymptomatic, but the usual symptoms are back pain (& who in their 50s ain't got that?) & pain urinating (which Charles coulda just thunk, if he had such, o shite, did I get me a case of that Frenchie pox b/c Barbara was notorious for cheating on him).

So there was Charles all lollygagging in bed w/ the swells & chills & fever, hardly able to pee, & still cracking jokes even tho he must've felt like death warmed over b/c kidney infections ain't fun, telling his peeps it was taking him too long to demise his good self. Methinks the actual words were sumfin along the lines of sorry to be taking such a time a-dying here. He told bro James "Let not poor Nelly starve", so see, she prolly was his fav GF. He'd been about to create her Countess of Greenwich but alas for Nell, he demised b4 signing off on it, so she never did get a title or the castle to go w/ it. Rumor had it that at the last min, to cover all his bases, he converted to Catholicism & recvd the Last Rites on urging of James & Catherine, but some peeps think he wasn't conscious & they just had it done anyway b/c they were concerned he might be going to the hot place w/o Extreme Unction. Charles demised at age 54 on Feb 6th, 1685, & had one of the fastest royal funerals on record, as he was entombed in Westminister Abbey on Valentine's Day.....

1 comment:

  1. Scarlet, enjoying it, is the next installment due soon. I hope so.Thanks.....Shawk