Great paintings framed by tragedy

Van Dyck’s great portraits of Charles I on display at the RA exhibition show how out of touch with political reality the King was in his prime. Just as Inigo Jones’s outstanding Banqueting House was both one of the Stuart triumphs and the stage set for Charles’s death, so the large equestrian portraits of the King fixed for ever an image of a would be autocrat with so little understanding of his people.

Charles wished to part of the privileged and cultured elite of royal Europe. He married a well connected French Princess with good links to the Pope, having failed to marry the daughter of the Spanish Catholic King. This was only some thirty years on from the Spanish attempted invasion of England by an Armada out to enforce conversion to Catholicism on a heretic nation. He spent large sums he could ill afford on a grand collection of great art, and commissioned large paintings from the best painters of contemporary Europe. Rubens was persuaded to portray the Apotheosis of James I on the Banqueting House ceiling. The effect was to remind visitors of the newly found imperial power of the united thrones of Scotland and England, with Charles as the heir to the achievement of his father. Van Dyck became the main court painter, producing many images of the King that make him unforgettable to the generations that have followed.

There are several portraits of Charles in armour sitting on horseback. It is these images that would have been unsettling to his Parliamentary critics. A man who probably rightly ended wars with Spain and France early in his reign, was to turn his armour and his military power against his own people in a prolonged civil war. He may have loved Van Dyck’s flattering portrayal of him as a powerful King and horesman, armed for a fight, but it turned out to represent a power Parliament did not want him to have and a military endeavour planned against the wrong people. Instead of him coming over as a loved father of the nation, feared by our country’s enemies, he increasingly came over as an autocrat who did not understand the growing role of Parliament and the importance of listening to grievances of subjects as voiced by their MPs and peers. His Catholic Queen added to his unpopularity in an age of unpleasant and often violent religious intolerance. England and Scotland were by and large protestant and expected their monarch to represent the majority view.

It is true we see very regal and authoritative images of Henry VIII and Elizabeth, though not usually dressed in armour. Their images come across as representing England. Both of those powerful monarchs allowed Parliament to meet and to argue with them. Henry VIII relied on Parliament to legislate for his religious revolution to give it greater authority. Elizabeth knew she had to appeal to her Parliaments to grant her the money she needed for the conduct of government. Charles thought for a decade he could rule without Parliament, resorting to ever more annoying ways of raising money without consent to meet his extravagant lifestyle. He was a good connoisseur of art, but it came at a heavy price. The costs of his new Palace buildings and the many paintings increased the strains with his spurned Parliament.

Seeing all these paintings together in one exhibition is a feast of great art. I came away with a reinforced understanding of just how worrying the King’s elite lifestyle and sympathy for the authoritarian monarchs on the continent would have been to the Protestant in the street or the puritan in Parliament. It was no wonder he ended his life in such tragedy. Parliament took its dislike of Charles following victory on the battlefield to the extreme and contentious decision to kill the King himself. The painting traditions of the more democratic and commercially successful Netherlands make a stark comparison to Charles’s taste. In the Netherlands still life, cameos of the day to day and portraits of many successful merchants and Councillors stood in contrast to the imposing regal portraits and the extensive allegories of the grand canvasses and tapestries favoured in Whitehall, in Madrid and in Paris.

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106 Comments

  1. Mark B
    Posted March 28, 2018 at 5:43 am | Permalink

    Good morning

    Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

    Life at the time of Charles II was very different from the one we have today, but the pursuit of power has not. We must also not forget the terrible use of the so called, Star Chamber. A court used by the King against his enemies. On that score it seems this abuse of power has not changed.

    What parliament offers is the oppotunity to replace those we dislike. Unfortunately it is a system with many flaws and needs radical change. England cannot continue as a nation without a parliament of its own. One therefore only conclude that this is the plan.

    The power of the PM is far too great and must be either reigned in or, a permanent separation between the legislator and the Executive made.

    The EU parliament is nothing but a fig leaf covering the fact that it is a dictatorship in all but name. There were those that supported Charles II and his right to absolute power, just the same as there are those that support the FIVE presidents of the EU and theirs.

    There those here that are content for us to remain under both an EU dictatorship and a sham democracy, I am not.

    • acorn
      Posted March 28, 2018 at 7:01 am | Permalink

      Doesn’t your last paragraph contradict the third from last?

      A UK PM has more executive power than the President of the USA. The latter can sign executive orders that can be taken apart by Congress. The UK PM has none of these restrictions.

      • Lifelogic
        Posted March 28, 2018 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

        Unfortunately the current dithering PM Mrs Brexitina May has a compass that is 180 degrees out and seems to want J Corbyn & Mc Donnall to follow her. Perhaps PMs having loads of executive power is not such a good thing?

        Certainly PMs, the establishment and Parliament should never again be allowed year after year to sign away the countries democracy and sovereignty to a foreign power without any authority from the people to whom it belongs.

        May has ruled out a “points based immigration policy” so what pray her proposal? Nothing it seems.

        • zorro
          Posted March 28, 2018 at 7:09 pm | Permalink

          Well, she operates one at the moment, and there is a Tier 3 which has not been used which would be adequate to cover this issue. She probably doesn’t want an WP system either, so will do the usual T May dither and do nothing of any consequence and fail miserably to control immigration. Does that sound right?

          zorro

          • Stred
            Posted March 29, 2018 at 7:52 am | Permalink

            They have given up on the lorry park near Dover and Folkestone. So not only will the M20 be blocked every time the French go on strike but if they don’t check lorries fast enough when transition ever eds, there will be a 20 mile queue. So transition will not end.

    • JoolsB
      Posted March 28, 2018 at 8:06 am | Permalink

      “England cannot continue as a nation without a parliament of its own. One therefore only conclude that this is the plan.”

      That is indeed the plan. John and his colleagues in the UK Parliament want to deny England it’s own parliament because to do so would mean a dilution of their powers and a huge cull in their numbers. Instead they are hellbent on balkanising our great nation of England into regions instead. Why the English put up with this is a mystery.

      • Hope
        Posted March 28, 2018 at 9:16 am | Permalink

        Well said Mark. The Tories have failed to deliver on their key pledges to us. May is currently being allowed to reneged on her key note Lancaster speech including how the extension would take place, every red line, every promise she made about laws, borders and money. For what in return: to talk about trade. Nothing has been given back by the EU and nothing secured that the UK could not get from leaving on WTO and a clean break. How does the capitulation on territorial waters and fishing stock give any certainty whatsoever to the fishing industry. it ha created the exact opposite not knowing if the UK will be uncharge of it its own fishing stock policy! he Uk might get consulted on its own waters after leave! No deal better than a badder; JR? How could you trust anything she says let a lone another fake assurance after so many broken over the last year!

        May should be ousted and the UK walk away, this is a bad deal or rather a very poor embarrassing capitulation. Davis is coming across as a baffoon and has not explained whether the cost is either £100 billion per his answer to Priti Patel in parliament or £40 billion to Marr on TV.

        No other country in the world would give so much to trade with another country. Did Canada, give the EU a $100 billion to talk about trade, accept mass immigration without a voice, accept ECJ applying over their court system for EU citizens living there, accept EU regulatory alignment forever, give away their territorial waters and fishing stocks without a voice? It is so stupid to be even entertained as a serious discussion. The all the threats, retainers allowed to intervene with Barnier, fake reports and deals by the civil service, May even prepared to give away or annex Northern Ireland unless the DUP intervened! Perhaps Canada would give up the Northern Territories! May wants more alignment in other projects and give away billions more!

      • Bob
        Posted March 28, 2018 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

        @JoolsB
        After years of indoctrination in the “education” system and the broadcast media they’re conditioned to accept it like sheep to the abattoir.

      • mancunius
        Posted March 28, 2018 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

        Actually, Jools, JR has written (Guardian, Sep. 19 2014) and spoken eloquently and passionately (HoC, 2017, the Art. 50 debate, a speech I heard myself) in favour of the establishment of a parliament for England. Your strictures may perhaps justly apply to other MPs, but certainly not to him.

        • JoolsB
          Posted March 28, 2018 at 11:26 pm | Permalink

          No mancunias, unfortunately John does NOT support the establishment of an English Parliament do you John?

          • mancunius
            Posted March 29, 2018 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

            Well, unless he’s changed his mind since the on-the-record statements I’ve cited, he does. Perhaps JR might comment?

    • A.Sedgwick
      Posted March 28, 2018 at 8:38 am | Permalink

      The Governance of England is very much unfinished business, whether it ever will be finished is unlikely. Our membership of the EU is still being promoted by the elite/established coterie and they are still doing their utmost to frustrate the will of the majority. The next dragon is devolving England, making the Commons the English Parliament, the other place a proportionally elected senate for the UK and reducing the English Council structure, turning it into more self run/financed operations e.g. local sales tax. All this would demote the main officers of state, Treasury and permanent civil service, so it won’t happen within a century, the culture we have is too ingrained.

      • acorn
        Posted March 28, 2018 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

        The UK is the most centrally taxed member state in the EU. Sub-Westminster (local) government, spends circa 25% of all government spending, circa £180 billion.

        Council Tax will raise about £32 billion directly for local government; Business Rates circa £30 billion, is a central government Tax, distributed, in part, to local government. The rest of local government financing comes from a multiplicity of “penny packet” formula grants from central government and local fees and charges.

        The UK’s Sales Tax is VAT, which will raise £136 billion this tax year. Income Tax will raise circa £182 billion; National Insurance circa £133 billion.

    • RDM
      Posted March 28, 2018 at 11:27 am | Permalink

      You are assuming Devolution will last, when we have left the EU, and that those of us, English, Welsh, Irish, or Scot, who see themselves as British first, and only on a sporting field anything different, will accept any further dilution of our Parliament, the British Parliament!

      For example; BBC Wales poll, after poll, show support down to 10%, at times, for the Welsh Assembly!

      It is a Labour Party hiding place, hoping to survive until Corbyn gets in!

      The Welsh referendum was illegal! Only 40% turn out! And by the 1974 Referendum Act, enacted at that time, clearly states that for a Constitutional referendum to be legal, a turn out of 70% is necessary!

      Or, as Tony Blair put it, in his Book, I had to “Foist” it on to them (the Welsh) to protect the peace agreement, NI had to have a power sharing mechanism, it’s own assembly.

      And, it is still not accepted!

      Besides, the amount of overheads and structural rigidity [all devolution] creates, makes it a real burden on GB economy, and [in my opinion] will not survive when we move back to an Open Free Market Economy, we need to be flexible and be able to where the work is, for example!

      My opinion, of course!

      Regards,

      RDM.

    • margaret howard
      Posted March 28, 2018 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

      The EU is a trading bloc, not a nation. Brussels’ powers are strictly to do with regulating trade, not the affairs of member states.

      • forthurst
        Posted March 28, 2018 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

        …and of course like any self-respecting ‘trading block’, the Brussels regime quite legitimately requires an army for the obvious reason that…

      • NickC
        Posted March 28, 2018 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

        Margaret Howard, Do you seriously believe that, or are you just attempting to be cunning? Read the Lisbon Treaty – most of it is about building a political entity, the EU, not about trade.

        For example, Norway has signed up to the EEA agreement, making it part of the EU’s Single Market. It is estimated that Norway thus has to swallow about 20% of EU laws. That means up to 80% of EU rules are not about trade.

        Declaration 17 states that EU law has primacy over members’ law. Consequently the EU is very much about controlling the affairs of member states.

      • ian wragg
        Posted March 28, 2018 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

        What a load of cobblers. Working Time Directive, Ports Authority legislation, waste recycling directives and on and on and on.
        EU defence force, EU embassy staff etc.
        Wake up please.

      • Mark B
        Posted March 28, 2018 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

        What utter rubbish.

      • Andy
        Posted March 28, 2018 at 9:36 pm | Permalink

        I suggest you read the Lisbon Treaty.

      • David Cockburn
        Posted March 29, 2018 at 6:09 am | Permalink

        Is this sarcasm?

    • Peter D Gardner
      Posted March 29, 2018 at 7:25 am | Permalink

      There is a big difference. Many believed the divine right of kings and absolutist monarchy was perfectly right and proper. Parliamentary democracy was established in England by military force leading to a change in the law: the 1689 Bill of Rights. France never achieved a similar state. It still had an absolute monarch until 1830 (Charles X), then Napoleon III until 1871. France supported the absolutist Jacobite cause, a Scottish, Irish and English rebellion defeated only in 1746 at Culloden. As for Germany, Greece, Spain et al. Democracy is very new to all of them.

      The EU is quite different. It pretends to be democratic because it knows and has known since its foundation on the principle of supra-national government by Monnet et al that its project to be unacceptable to the people so it cannot be democratic. Therefore the EU had to proceed by stealth and deceit ab initio if it was to succeed. It will let go of the deceit only when there is such a crisis that completing political union is seen to be the least bad option. By arming it – an act of supreme folly – we allow the EU to become a true dictatorship by committee.

  2. duncan
    Posted March 28, 2018 at 5:47 am | Permalink

    You appear to confuse the official role of monarch with the person occupying that office. The two are entirely separate.

    Cromwell and his government didn’t execute the King, they executed the person occupying the official role of British monarch

    We have a Prime Minister. We have Theresa May. The former is different from the latter. The former is the official title of the head of HMG’s UK government. The latter is a mere politician without principle

    Charles I occupied the role of British monarch. He was also unprincipled, dictatorial and claimed ownership over all things over which he reigned. He broke the law because he believed he was the law. How wrong he was

    Cromwell was probably one of the most important British politicians of the last 500 years. He morphed into an autocrat but his original purpose was a moral one. Neither was he a republican. He was a staunch monarchist but believed a monarch was human not a divine entity on earth. His actions were entirely suited to the time

    Churchill, Thatcher and Cromwell represent the indomitable spirit of the British people. Independent of thought and brave enough to acknowledge that necessary change involves risk and danger.

    • jerry
      Posted March 28, 2018 at 6:38 am | Permalink

      duncan; “Cromwell and his government didn’t execute the King, they executed the person occupying the official role of British monarch”

      It is you @duncan who is getting confused, Cromwell not only allowed the execution of King Charles I but he also allowed the dissolution of the monarchy, hence the “Restoration” of 1660 under King Charles II after Cromwell’s death.

      • acorn
        Posted March 28, 2018 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

        That’s where the British went wrong jerry. They had a Republic in 1649 but were too dumb to develop it, like most other emerging nations. They threw it away in 1660 and ended up with the Dutchman William of Orange running the show and kicking James II’s arse back to France at the Battle of the Boyne. 329 years later, the Ireland legacy remains a problem as if it all happened yesterday.

    • steveL
      Posted March 28, 2018 at 8:25 am | Permalink

      Duncan- that’s right! actors all- and we’re paying for it

    • forthurst
      Posted March 28, 2018 at 9:51 am | Permalink

      Cromwell executed the King because that was part of his agreement with the money-lenders of Amsterdam who funded his treason.

    • Andy
      Posted March 28, 2018 at 11:57 am | Permalink

      That is quite incorrect, and John’s version of events is wrong. It was Parliament that leved War against their lawful King, and that is what Charles was for all his faults. When they brought him to ‘trial’ they did so as King, but to do so ignored totally the Law. They charged him with High Treason but that can only be under the 1351 Act which is still Law today. As the King said ‘I would know by what authority, what Lawful authority, I am brought hither. . .’ They couldn’t answer because it was unlawful.

      There are echos today. The powers of the Sovereign were not those of Parliament and vice versa, and we saw how in the Article 50 argument how the latter have no respect for the rights of the former.

      • Edward2
        Posted March 29, 2018 at 12:18 am | Permalink

        A Parliament elected by us voted by a huge margin to trigger Article 50.
        Straightforward democracy in action.

      • Peter D Gardner
        Posted March 29, 2018 at 7:49 am | Permalink

        Andy, quite a few people commenting here seem not to understand that the divine right of kings was both popular and legitimate; being corrupt only by today’s mores. It lasted on the continent long after it was replaced in England in 1689 by Parliamentary democracy. The Jacobites – mainly Scottish -supported the divine right of kings (so long as they were Roman Catholic) and rebelled against the Parliamentary democracy of England until finally defeated at Culloden in 1746.
        One wonders whether the Scots preference to remain in the EU stems from that belief in unelected supremacy of government.

        • Pragmatist
          Posted March 30, 2018 at 12:00 am | Permalink

          “One wonders whether the Scots preference to remain in the EU stems from that belief in unelected supremacy of government.” No, just common stupidity.

    • Ed Mahony
      Posted March 28, 2018 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

      There is a connection between the English Civil War (and the Reformation) and socialism / Marxism / Anarchism.

      Many of the Protestant non-conformists such as the Diggers (and Levellers), including during the English Civil War, were anti the monarchy (in principle), the aristocracy and were in favour of radical restructuring of land. They even wanted to go as far as the abolition of private property.

      One of the reason behind the medieval killing of heretics (which i totally oppose and which Pope John Paul II apologised for) under Catholic Europe wasn’t so much or just for theological errancy but also, and often, for radical political errancy.

      I strongly oppose the burning of heretics (and any torture and killing), but I certainly support the Catholic rulers in the past who opposed the radical political trouble-makers, from heresies who were often precursors of later Protestant sects, like the Diggers – and their political trouble-making, and how they were precursors of later radical political movements such as socialism, Marxism and anarchism.

      And the Reformation also helped give rise to an ugly form of inward-looking nationalism, like we saw in Nazi Germany. Where as it was the Catholic Church who give rsie to the healthy concept / virtue of patriotism (love of country, kind and family – but always putting God first, and the rules and principles and spirit of The New Testament).

      For God. Country. Queen. And Family.

  3. Richard1
    Posted March 28, 2018 at 6:15 am | Permalink

    Good observations, it’s a great exhibition. Funny how the worst Kings, Charles I & George IV, also had the best taste in art and did most to increase the royal collection.

    Matt Ridley made an interesting speech recently in which he likened the refusal of some Continuity Remain high-ups to acccept the result of the referendum to the 1690s Jacobins, whose efforts to reverse the 1688-89 revolution continued well into the C18th. I thought of this when I saw the clip of Lord Patten’s contemptuous refusal to listen to or debate with Jacob Rees-Mogg the other day.

    • Andy
      Posted March 28, 2018 at 10:17 am | Permalink

      Don’t worry. Us ‘continuity Remainers’ won’t need to carry on for hundreds of years. We’ll overturn your pensioner Brexit within a couple of decades at most.

      Many Leavers will be dead by then anyway – and of those who are left all but the most obtuse won’t be able to avoid the fact that it failed.

      Demographics will get you in the end. Shame.

      • Edward2
        Posted March 28, 2018 at 11:46 am | Permalink

        If as you claim demographic changes will over turn Brexit as older people die and more young who you claim want to remain become a larger group then in the time since the referendum you might have expected a trend of reducing Brexit majority in polls.
        This has not happened.

      • L Jones
        Posted March 28, 2018 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

        You are very narrow in your both your reading and your understanding, Andy. You are hell-bent on insulting those of us who are young and hard-working and who believe in our country and a good future for our young children.
        My parents and the rest of my generation in our family are all believers in our sovereignty and the success of our country, as are nearly all of our friends. I have no doubt at all that my children will grow up to be glad of our leaving the execrable EU – just in time.
        You etc ed

      • mancunius
        Posted March 28, 2018 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

        No, Andy, demographics will get you. Unless you are planning to do a Sleeping Beauty act.
        In two decades, Andy, you will be precisely 64 years old, old like the majority of the voters. More sceptical about windbag ideals that use up your taxes. Will the younger voters still need you or feed you? Will your greying contemporaries be as keen on the EU by then as they are now? Will anybody inside the EU be keen on the EU? Keen on its sclerotic growth, protectionism, corruption, waste, self-harming nicey-nicey snowflakery?
        Will the EU in fact still exist? (If the eurozone still exists, the EU will by then have turned into a crypto-fascist anti-democratic bloc held together by an occupying army of EU-militia along the lines of the Warsaw Pact.)
        Ah yes, those pesky demographics…
        “The share of those aged 80 years or above in the EU-28’s population is projected to more than double between 2016 and 2080, from 5.4 % to 12.7 %.
        During the period from 2016 to 2080 the share of the population of working age is expected to decline steadily through until 2050 ”
        Do you know who in 2016 made those statistical predictions, Andy?
        The EU.
        So much for your future ‘pro-EU majority’.
        You lost, Andy – and like many Remainers, you can’t see that any re-run will make you lose by a wider margin.

      • NickC
        Posted March 28, 2018 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

        Andy, You have drawn your conclusion based on both errors of fact, and your phobia of “pensioners”.

        Your pensioner phobia is distasteful and bigoted. It certainly isn’t an adequate reason to eulogise the EU. The pivot point for majority Leave voting was about the 40-44 year old band, not 65 as you imply. So you will be dead alongside your hated Leave voters.

        You have also overlooked the fact that people in general get wiser as they get older, hence why many young people who voted in the 1975 referendum to stay in the “Common Market” reversed their opinions and voted to leave the EU in 2016.

        There are 196 recognised nations on the planet, 28 in the EU, so 168 aren’t. Are all those “failed” nations? And have they “failed” because they aren’t in the EU? Somehow I doubt it.

      • Richard1
        Posted March 28, 2018 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

        I doubt you are much younger than me and I fear the splenetic tone of your posts doesn’t augur well for your health. It is again revealing that you have no arguments, just invective.

        5 years from now, so long as the Marxists have been kept out, the U.K. should be in fine shape, with free trade deals around the world and out of the EU’s ever closer political union with its stifling harmonisation and over-regulation, and of course the transfers and cross-guarantees which will be required to keep monetary union in existence.

      • Turboterrier.
        Posted March 28, 2018 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

        Andy

        Your ignorance of life knows no bounds. All of us were once rebels fighting against the establishment, family, politicians and parliament. But as you grow older and experience changes to our own personal responsibilities and your position in the pecking order be it at work, social or even family you wake up one morning and realise that, all the things you wanted in your younger days are no longer relevant and when you hear the youngsters you will cringe and rail up against them.

        Sadly for you all this is going to happen. It is like Brexit. Get used to it , it’s called life, real life.

      • Dreamer
        Posted March 28, 2018 at 11:00 pm | Permalink

        Andy you seem to have caught a European virus. You speak of Europe as though it has a future.No I’m not speaking of the EU which clearly to the intelligent has none. But Europe.. It exists only on maps and as a concept.

        It does not make it real. The old concept of Africa with a capital A. Dreams of students..many from various counties in Africa. It seems….obvious looking at a map until you realise that say, the African Central Republic, alone, has 74 dialects of people who regard themselves as differing… to say the least.
        Europe has seen the dream of Nazis and Communists and Socialists and Religious people alike. They have created between them only DEATH.Unity in death. We are separate peoples. Accept it and live. Stop dreaming. There is nothing wrong with difference except to Amber Rudd, an idealist, yet over 25 years of age. Weird, too young of mind and, therefore, dangerous.

      • Peter D Gardner
        Posted March 29, 2018 at 7:52 am | Permalink

        Andy, your preference to remain in the EU probably stems from a belief in unelected supremacy of government that is not very dissimilar from the divine right of kings.At least then they claimed the authority of God. You and your elites of the EU claim no higher authority than your own opinions.

  4. eeyore
    Posted March 28, 2018 at 6:38 am | Permalink

    Despite JR’s assertions, Charles was not the aggressor and Parliament did not kill him. He was murdered by a kangaroo court surrounded by soldiers. Then a military strong man purged Parliament out of existence and England fell under a bullying and rapacious military dictatorship.

    This was no triumph for freedom, as the English well knew at the time. The royal martyr paid in full for his errors, but 11 years later his son was restored to the throne, the people wept for joy and the conduits ran with wine.

    Does all this matter nowadays? Well, that’s what happens when a priggish and fanatical puritan minority, convinced of its own moral superiority and by no means scrupulous about its methods, seizes control. Ring any bells?

    • NickC
      Posted March 28, 2018 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

      Eeyore, Yes, it does ring bells. The Remain faction has had this country in its grip for 45 years. Thankfully we are in the process of restoring the sovereignty of the people. Hopefully the misguided or Quisling politicians in the UK Parliament, and the civil servants, who handed our sovereignty over to the EU will be extirpated.

    • percy openshaw
      Posted March 28, 2018 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

      I agree with every one of your points, eeyore.

  5. formula57
    Posted March 28, 2018 at 6:51 am | Permalink

    Say what you like about Charles but for a while he was offering strong and stable government.

    Has the artist been chosen who will paint T. May on horseback? :innocent face:

    • mancunius
      Posted March 28, 2018 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

      Never mind the painter, has any horse volunteered yet?

      • Mark B
        Posted March 28, 2018 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

        Post of the day

        🙂

      • formula57
        Posted March 28, 2018 at 8:02 pm | Permalink

        A most apposite question.

        Rumour, I understand, has Modestine in the frame, the stubborn, manipulative donkey known to Robert Louis Stevenson from his travels in parts of Europe and whom he could never quite master!

        • mancunius
          Posted March 29, 2018 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

          Ah yes, the donkey who’s always trying to turn round and go in the opposite direction unless restrained…

  6. Sakara Gold
    Posted March 28, 2018 at 6:58 am | Permalink

    Is not the real tragedy the fact that, having undertaken a vicious and bloody civil war over the issue of the absolute and divine right of kings to rule and having executed the king, 11 years later Parliament “restored” the monarchy?

  7. Lifelogic
    Posted March 28, 2018 at 7:02 am | Permalink

    People in power can indeed become totally out of touch. Given the sort of people they are usually surrounded by this it not that surprising.

    Theresa May even thought (or was persuaded) that it was a good idea to hold an early election brandishing a “vote for us and we will kick you in the teeth manifesto”, cowardly failing to appear in the TV debate and repeating the phrase “strong and stable government” like a demented Darlek.

    This government gives the impression that it only ever listens to the people bureaucrats and people who work for the state sector. Giving us more and more taxation, more green crap and endless expensive & misguided regulations. They seem to lack any understanding of how competitive business actually works.

    I see that 93% of state sector have defined benefit pensions yet only 13% of the private sector. Hammond attacks on the tax cap discriminate further against these largely private sector money purchase pensions relative to DB ones. What is his justification for this blatant unfairness in the tax system, perhaps he could explain what he has against them? Is it just that MPs have a very generous DB scheme? Or is it a general hatred of the 80% cash cows who work in the competitive sector?

    May’s “I am a daft socialist like Corbyn (but not quite as bad) approach” is a big mistake. Her let’s cave in to the EU on everything and pay them a fortune too approach is also a huge mistake. Will the Tories follow her over the cliff, in the John Major way this time too?

    • NickC
      Posted March 28, 2018 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

      Lifelogic, Yes it is odd, isn’t it? Part of the continuing example that Governments lose elections rather than Oppositions winning elections.

  8. Nig l
    Posted March 28, 2018 at 7:10 am | Permalink

    Yes, bravery is important in any walk of life from the person setting up their own business to people officiating in sport. However brave a PM is they have to deal with egos, ambition, treachery etc firstly in their cabinet and then their MPs not forgetting Sir Humphrey more interested in a risk free status quo and their K.

    Not easy and we should give TM a lot of credit now for keeping this disparate group together making Brexit look more certain in the face of fierce establishment and EU opposition and begin to make the Tory party re electable.

    Of course she has made mistakes, who hasn’t and we may not like some of the outcomes but again that is a life lesson, you never get everything you want but in my book if there is more above the line than below that is a success.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted March 28, 2018 at 10:07 am | Permalink

      Setting up a business in the UK with socialist like May in charge, Corbyn waiting in the wings and Philip Hammond’s highest (and most complex) taxes for 40 years might indeed be brave but there are many more sensible places to invest. Places where the state does not think everything you own should really belong to the state and it should decide how much you pay and almost everything else.

      Places with cheaper energy, cheaper houses, more relaxed planning, better banks and fewer daft regulations and no or little IHT, stamp duty and other taxes.

      • WA Laugh
        Posted March 28, 2018 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

        So, LL, when do you go to pastures new? Or is Guernsey not as bad as Britain proper?

  9. Zorro
    Posted March 28, 2018 at 7:55 am | Permalink

    Good points JR, and it’s not too difficult to see your underlying message. Funnily enough, I was walking down Whitehall the other day and my attention was drawn to the little statue of Charles 1, as I was considering how the government is risking a lot in its current stance in the EU negotiations. They need to remember from whom they derive their power in a representative democracy. No amount of distraction techniques or Russia baiting will deflect from their failure. How much did it cost to get half of the EU countries to support her evidence free stance…. 40 billion pounds?….. Probably a good deal in Theresa’s eyes.

    Zorro

    • Hope
      Posted March 28, 2018 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

      Rudd will not support May’s immmigration target to cut to tens of thousands when questioned by the select committee today, yet she wrote a letter inviting all EU families to the U.K.! Will she be sacked? Why is she not supporting govt policy and your party’s manifesto, x2?

      Gauke refused to take a Judicial Review on Warbouys now embarrassed by the High Court’s decision to overturn the Parole Board and keep him in jail. Will he resign or be sacked for is utter failure in this matter? Allegedly Gauke told us his decision was based on legal advice, suggest he gets better advice the Govt can afford it!

      • Hope
        Posted March 28, 2018 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

        £100 billion, do not let the false spin figure hide the truth.

      • Lifelogic.
        Posted March 28, 2018 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

        Well legal advice is a very wobbly thing indeed. Rather like valuations, he who pays the piper (and chooses the “expert”) tends to get the “expert” opinion they seek.

        Especially if lots more profitable instructions might well follow.

      • The Prangwizard
        Posted March 29, 2018 at 9:01 am | Permalink

        Do Ministers not have minds of their own? They often fall back on this ‘I took advice…’? How many sources? If only one they are wrong. It’s a cop-out. If they operate like thay what are they for?

  10. MIke Stallard
    Posted March 28, 2018 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    Well noticed, Mr Redwood. Not bad for an MP!
    :0)

  11. stred
    Posted March 28, 2018 at 8:22 am | Permalink

    Oh dear. Today’s news to P us of is that Michael Gove is being very green and virtuous and we will have to pay a deposit on plastic bottles and take them back to the shop to put them in a machine and get a token to be spent in the shop. We already recycle plastic bottles, most of which are then burned or tipped. A few are made into insulation and other stuff. Scientists have said that, after a long study, 99% of plastic in the ocean comes from 3 rivers in Asia and Africa because countries there do not have good landfil or disposal.

    Our bottles stand hardly any chance of finishing up in the sea. When they do it is usually because councils like Brighton hand out water to marathon runners who then chuck them and no-one picks them up and they then blow into the sea.

  12. Tim Benett
    Posted March 28, 2018 at 8:28 am | Permalink

    Thank you for a thoroughly illuminating and thought-provoking article. I am going to the Royal Academy exhibition next week and much looking forward to seeing the art collection. You have added a very interesting – and I think historically justified – perspective to add to how I shall engage with the exhibition.

    • eeyore
      Posted March 28, 2018 at 10:34 am | Permalink

      “Illuminating and thought provoking…” and indeed our host is always so. I envy Tim Benett the chance to see these noble works. Charles was the greatest royal collector in our history. The Commonwealth never did a sadder nor a stupider thing than when it flogged off his masterpieces for buttons.

      Revolution, philistinism and vandalism ever go hand in hand.

      Le Sueur’s equestrian statue of Charles at the head of Whitehall is one of the few works to survive the iconoclastic holocaust. The tradesman charged with destroying it buried it instead (no small task, I think, and a brave one too), and at the Restoration proudly presented it to Charles II.

  13. Adam
    Posted March 28, 2018 at 8:34 am | Permalink

    Leaders exist only while followers consent.

    • agricola
      Posted March 28, 2018 at 9:18 am | Permalink

      George 111 by forgetting the lesson of Charles 1 lost America in 1776. The critical teaching of history should be compulsory, lest we forget the lessons of the past.

  14. Norman
    Posted March 28, 2018 at 8:45 am | Permalink

    It’s The Bible what did it!

  15. BOF
    Posted March 28, 2018 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    There is an analogy here with the present. But Parliament is fearful of bringing down an over mighty Prime Minister who is invariably wrong on policy, taxation, energy, immigration etc.

    Above all wrong on her dealings and exit strategy with the EU so ultimately it will be down to the electorate to bring her down. More likely she will have gone and the Conservative Party will bear the brunt of their anger and frustration and all because the will was not there to remove a failing Prime Minister.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted March 28, 2018 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

      That is indeed the very sad thing.

      T May is indeed invariably wrong on policy, taxation, energy, immigration, the green crap, the gender pay drivel, how to win elections, on Brexit, on control of our border through being out of Schengen, on following the European model, on fishing, on “building on EU worker rights”, on not having a points based immigration systems, on having the highest taxes for 40 years, on the size of the bloated state, on the NHS, on religious schools, on paying a huge fee to the EU for nothing, on employing Hammond, on being robotic, on being an electoral disaster, on the economy, on minimum wage laws ……

      Even when she is very occasionally right, on say Grammar Schools and Hunting – these are politically not really possible anyway. Especially after she threw away her majority.

      As with John Major “no change no chance” and the alternative of Corbyn is even more dire. The daft Tory MPs voted to go over the cliff with John Major by 218 to only 89 for JR. Let us hope she does the decent thing fairly soon or they might even repeat the mistake. Can we be saved this time please?

    • John Downes
      Posted March 28, 2018 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

      “the Conservative Party will bear the brunt of their anger and frustration and all because the will was not there to remove a failing Prime Minister.”

      Just like in 1995, when Major resigned. And the sycophants and toadies amply represented among the Parliamentiary Conservatives voted the bloody fool back in again. And as a result, within a few months we got Blair. The moral is… Stick with a dud PM and you will be thrown out. It could so easily happen again.

  16. Epikouros
    Posted March 28, 2018 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    Charles I is an example of the dangers of political power being in the hands of individuals or groups or institutions. Everyone of which will believe in their own righteousness, that they benignly rule us in our best interests and save us from ourselves by not allowing us to behave in a manner that their superior wisdem deems appropriate. The era of the absolute monarch ended with Charles I as the fallacy of rule by an individual by his actions was exposed so that type of rule could no longer be tolerated.

    His power was passed to parliament and the era of democracy was established. A step in the right direction but falling far short of removing all of the iniquities of absolutism as power is still not fully in the hands of the ruled. It may no longer reside in one individual but now in a collection of powerful individuals and groups. Who are only constrained by the popular vote of ordinary people which unfortunately only achieves limited success. Still a long way short of practicing true democracy. A state of affairs that we begrudgingly accepted as being the most practical way to be governed fearing alternative means as being worse.

    However we have gradually been abandoning the liberties and meagre democratic process that we gained by defeating and beheading Charles I. By giving more power back to the state and finally giving it all away to an institution that does practice a modern day form of absolutism. The EU.

    • Ed Mahony
      Posted March 28, 2018 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

      You’re right about the political side of the EU. It is wrong. And needs to be curbed / reformed (but we’ve never really tried that – just to get concessions which is a different thing).

      However, the UK has to have a proper plan to do that (that’s just good, old British common sense). It doesn’t. We’re rushing things (and led by people such as Boris Johnson who has never done a business plan in his life and doesn’t even really believe in Brexit apparently).

      And you don’t do that by throwing the baby out with the water (the great benefits we enjoy from being closely linked to Europe economically, culturally and in terms of security, and global politics overall).

      So Brexiters are half right. And half wrong. Same for Remainers. But we’ve gone for the lazy, unimaginative, commonplace, black-and-white option (instead of being really ambitious and daring of trying to reform and EU and/or planning properly to leave the EU – not rushing it).

    • Peter D Gardner
      Posted March 28, 2018 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

      You have missed a few steps! William & Mary accepted the crown on the invitation of parliament and on condition they consented to the Bill of Rights, duly enactedin December 1689. Only then did democracy grow and flourish. Too many people today think democracy is just about votes. It works only if grounded in the rule of the law of the land of the people and rule is by the consent of that people. That is why real democracy cannot work beyond the nation state. The EU knows this, which is why, having no demos of its own, it suppresses the nation state. It is also why multiculturalism doesn’t work.

      • Stred
        Posted March 29, 2018 at 8:22 am | Permalink

        May’s EAW, forced through the Commons without debate, is being used to extradite the Catalan education minister to Madrid to face imprisonment for organising a referendum without permission. May supports the Spanish constitution and presumably this action.

  17. ian wragg
    Posted March 28, 2018 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    Good article John. You allude to many features of today, particularly the way the “Establishment” are treating Brexit.
    History is bound to repeat itself especially as the born to rule class ignore precedents.

  18. Royalist
    Posted March 28, 2018 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    Councillors of my Town Hall took it in turns as Mayor,too mean and envious to elect one for longer and miss out.The walls inside got huge ornate paintings of each in Charles I style. Schools and roads named after them. One had a tea-caddy beautifully embossed with his image, presented to the tenants of every new Council House (1949- 1950 ) . HM The Queen and HM The Duke of Edinburgh used to be on them but the Labour Party thought he was better.

  19. Old Albion
    Posted March 28, 2018 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    Bored today JR?

    • Adam
      Posted March 28, 2018 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

      Evidently not so, Old Albion.

      The artistry exhibited made its mark visually, & the written piece has aroused vivid reflections in others’ perspectives.

      • L Jones
        Posted March 28, 2018 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

        Well said, Adam. What many of us were thinking, in fact.

      • Old Albion
        Posted March 28, 2018 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

        Do what?

    • Daffy Duck
      Posted March 28, 2018 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

      Albion .
      Of course JR is duty-bound as MP for Wokingham to have a blog and keep everyone in the whole world thoroughly engaged. Not other MPs’ blogs! They are SO “comprehensive” aren’t they!
      Have you clicked into “Map of Visitors” on his blog? Noted the numbers from Russia, China and elsewhere?
      People sometimes remind me of the young woman who was in a studio berating in person Mr Gates of Microsoft for not giving away..giving away.. his billions in precisely the areas she would prefer.
      Tread carefully and thankfully when persons are making us an absolute unparelleled gift!
      But yeah he does get it wrong sometimes 🙂 🙂 Sometimes he gives the aura of being human. Odd aint it!?

  20. Royalist
    Posted March 28, 2018 at 9:47 am | Permalink

    The present Leader of the Council is a Sir and a salary twice that of a MP. We consume so much democracy in my town we are feeling quite full and sick

  21. Corin Vestey
    Posted March 28, 2018 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    Parliament forced the monarchy to kneel to it. Now the People must force Parliament to kneel to them.

    The English Civil War is not yet over. Power and sovereignty has passed from the monarchy and church by way of the nobles to Parliament. It must now pass to the public directly, at least on crucial issues such as immigration and citizenship. Parliament is too eager to give away its power and tie its own hands in pursuit of causes the British people are in opposition to. This is not sustainable.

    • Adam
      Posted March 28, 2018 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

      The Public has power via its collective intent. Efficient communication enables groups to organise & act in their own ways, effectively & fast. Leaders determine what is to happen & willing followers deliver results.

      If a Govt becomes unworthy, others could change it without its rules. Boycotts & non-compliance alone may be softer, yet decisive means.

      Most Govts engender fierce opposition. Our present UK Govt makes well-reasoned decisions & generally acts with high quality standards & good intent. Opinions may vary according to what others intend.

    • Mark B
      Posted March 28, 2018 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

      I agree.

  22. Sage and Union
    Posted March 28, 2018 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    I find it a problem knowing what really happened way back.
    We only know what we now read written then by few. Their expressions self-censored out of fear with an eye for praise-poetry of sorts gaining favour. Flattery works. The reverse gains favour also with alike enemies of the target. Always our modern perspective im-prisms-us.
    Was anyone genuinely noble and good? If so how come their descendants and everyone really are at best quite mediocre? Look at the leaders of the opposition parities for example. They’re not going to pull up any trees for sure. Weak! Lacking energy!

  23. Newmania
    Posted March 28, 2018 at 11:50 am | Permalink

    Single entendre ….?

    Sigh …. the reformation was a European movement , lets just take baby steps form there shall we.

  24. percy openshaw
    Posted March 28, 2018 at 11:52 am | Permalink

    I think you whitewash the Tudors. They didn’t rely on parliament so much as coerce it. Charles tried the same trick but time had told against the crown by then. That’s the only difference. Henry no more represented England than his successor did. The Reformation was deeply unpopular and imposed with considerable force – the putting down of the Abbeys was accompanied by judicial murder – see the Abbots of Colchester, Reading and Glastonbury – and the mass execution of those who resisted – the Pilgrims of Grace. Then there was the suppression of the Prayer Book rebellion. Mary Tudor’s three hundred victims were fewer in number than all that and the country rallied to her in 1553 partly because it was sick of imposed Protestantism. Elizabeth had to impose the Reformation all over again in 1559 (not to mention 1569) and many scholars – even those unsympathetic to the claims of Rome – reckon that England was broadly Catholic in popular feeling until at least the 1580s, by which time older generations who knew and hence missed the old world had died off. I fear you are retailing Macaulayan myths, here.

  25. ale bro
    Posted March 28, 2018 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

    because the establishment hates wales

    • Eh?
      Posted March 28, 2018 at 8:44 pm | Permalink

      Eh?
      Where’s the reference to Wales? Why would the Establishment hate Wales? I’ve not met anyone in my life who even dislikes Wales or the Welsh even a bit.

  26. Ed Mahony
    Posted March 28, 2018 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

    ‘As well as the Europe of the Reformation’

    – I mean the Europe of the Renaissance (and later on, including at the time of Mozart – Roman Catholic, in fact Mozart, Shakespeare and Leonardo daVinci were all Catholics).

    And don’t forget, even during Protestant England, Catholicism still threw up some amazing people – take the 20th century: Elgar, Evelyn Waugh, Graham Greene, General Slim (greatest English general of WW2), David Stirling (founder of the SAS), Lord Lovat (founder of the Commandos).

    • Ed Mahony
      Posted March 28, 2018 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

      Catholicism has produced some great men and women who have contributed to British and world life over the ages, but I don’t want to forget those as well who contributed to spirituality and looked after the poor, in particular, saints like the lovely, charming St Francis of Assisi (and the Franciscans were important in looking after the poor in Medieval England when no-one else would look after them, and in developing Oxford University and more).

  27. Ed Mahony
    Posted March 28, 2018 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

    Europe should not be a political organisation.

    But history shows well how countries from around Europe can thrive under close economic ties – look at the Hanseatic League.

    And history shows how countries from around Europe can thrive under close educational and cultural- Europe’s great medieval universities, as well as its great composers, writers and artists all working closely together and learning from each other (Shakespeare heavily influenced by Renaissance Italy).

    And history shows how countries from around Europe can thrive under close military cooperation to challenge countries that become overly nationalistic for example, France under Napoleon and Germany under Hitler.

    We need to get the balance right between patriotism (good) nationalism (bad), anti-patriotism (bad – and our great country is rife with anti-patriotism right now). And between being a country that has close economic, cultural, education and security links with Europe but not political ones (Europe needs reforming). Lastly, don’t forget patriotism is a Catholic virtue that Protestant Europe, including the C of E borrowed from (and don’t forget how many non conformist Protestants were anti patriotism).

  28. Ed Mahony
    Posted March 28, 2018 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

    Don’t forget there have been some really good kings.

    Look at Saint Louis IX of France (1214 to 1270), for example – both a Catholic and Anglican saint.

    Every political leader and politician should read his life. That political leadership based on the pragmatic and principled wisdom of The Holy Spirit makes our country (and international affairs) more ordered, interesting, beautiful and strong.

  29. Edwardm
    Posted March 28, 2018 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

    I’ve seen the exhibition and was impressed. I was particularly awed by the large portraits of Charles I.
    Your commentary putting Charles I collection into context is interesting and adds meaning, with parallels today with our rejection of the EU’s wielding of arbitrary power over us.

  30. margaret
    Posted March 28, 2018 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    The move from autocracy to democracy has been slow , but many of the trappings are still with us. Great wealth goes to, is kept in works of art and is created by the presence of the monarchy, however Elizabeth 2nd cannot be compared to any other monarch. I have little interest in paintings ( even though it was probably my best subject at school) . Photographs can be just as artistic, although I can appreciate the time it must have taken to create these paintings. Arts’ intrinsic merit is a man made concept which leads me to simply think about the tastes of the more powerful having influence over others. Its historical log is something different and the way the portrait is portrayed gives us an insight into the ego of the powerful.

    • Miss Brandreth-Jones
      Posted March 29, 2018 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

      When you look at Reuben’s paintings of women you realise that obesity is not just a modern problem.

  31. mancunius
    Posted March 28, 2018 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    I would also recommend the Charles II pictures exhibited at the Queen’s Gallery. Charles II also became unpopular with his subjects, having secretly signed a Treaty with the French, by which he was given a personal income of £230,000 annually by Louis XIV in return for Charles’s promise to a) raid England’s taxes for financial and military support to the French against the Dutch and b) become a Catholic and announce to the English people that they all ought to do the same. Should there ever be an uprising in protest, Louis promised to send a special army of 6,000 French troops to put down any resistance.

    (Any resemblance with politicians or European institutions living or dead is entirely unintentional.)

  32. John
    Posted March 28, 2018 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

    ‘Their images come across as representing England.’

    That being Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. Yes and whilst Henry turned into a total tyrant we benefit and are enriched still today by his building legacy.

    Fred Dibnah exuded enthusiasm for the quality of past craftsmen and women. Those crafts and results were only afforded to the wealthy. Their legacy remains in our historic buildings and works like St James’s and Hampton Court Palace. Working class crafts people from and of this land creating works that we admire and visit today. In contracts to Charles 1st.

  33. Peter D Gardner
    Posted March 28, 2018 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

    Whatever one might say about Charles I, or any of the absolutist monarchs, they were more open about their divine right to rule Europe and their sense of entitlement was no greater than the plain suited elitists of the EU.

  34. formula57
    Posted March 28, 2018 at 8:07 pm | Permalink

    O/T Although as you know I am not one to complain (and I actually like the modest challenge presented by Captcha) I note with regret that the useful spelling check here (the red underlining when composing) seems to follow American English rather than the true and honest version. I thought you should be made aware.

  35. Cis
    Posted March 28, 2018 at 8:10 pm | Permalink

    Being “more democratic and commercially successful” didn’t stop the Dutch fighting a niggling war with us, mostly in naval battles and land raids, even though their leader’s mother was a Stuart and he eventually married another one. Nor did it stop the post-restoration power-brokers deposing Charles’s legitimate heir and inviting the Dutch to try again, this time standing down the navy and the army so that they met no resistance, rather than risk James threatening their privileges. They even conned the country into labelling it “The Glorious Revolution”, rather than “The Dutch Invasion”, which is what it really was.

  36. Cis
    Posted March 28, 2018 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

    PS – both the RA and the Queens Gallery exhibitions are worth a visit. But don’t bother with the audio guide at the first: it is banal beyond belief, no more informative than the exhibition panels, and delivered by someone auditioning for a job on a shopping channel. The RA did a wonderful job to reunite so much of Charles I’s collection, so it’s a shame they didn’t trust their visitors with a more intelligent commentary.

  37. Ron Olden
    Posted March 28, 2018 at 8:57 pm | Permalink

    I would also take John Redwood’s analogies back as far as the William the Conqueror and beyond. As far even, as the Roman Conquest.

    It was, after all, the Roman Colonisation of what is now England and Wales, which created the divisions between what are now England, Scotland, and Ireland.

    By 1066 however, England (the first Nation State in the World), was already united, and was more ‘democratic’ in the manner in which it chose its’ King, than it ever became again, until the time of the Restoration. The abiding political culture (which, in hearts and minds never went away), was already deep rooted.

    But in 1066, England suffered occupation by foreign dictator, (basically a gang leader), who’s descendants went on to colonise the rest of the British Isles. The Norman Conquest and subjugation of Britain, was more complete and thorough than the Nazi occupation would ever have been, had we lost World War Two.

    And it wasn’t ‘England’ which waged war on the lands we now call ‘Scotland’, ‘Wales’, and ‘Ireland’. It was the Norman/Angevin/Plantagenet Empire, which subjugated them, just as they had subjugated England.

    Before 1066 the recently unified England, (subject to a few potential border disputes), was secure and content, within the borders it had settled upon for itself.

    Most of the subsequent issues relating to Scotland and Ireland (Wales was settled by overwhelming force of arms relatively easily), relate to the ambitions of continental monarchs, most of whom had little or no connection with either Scotland or Ireland. The just saw them as back door bases from which to threaten England.

    Henry VII, the founder of the Tudor and Stuart dynasties which replaced what was left of the divided Plantagenets, invaded Britain from the continent, via Wales.

    Following the Restoration, Charles II returned after having been harboured by France and Mary Queen of Scots, right down to the ‘pretenders’ who followed Charles II were also continental or continental backed.

    But importantly, and like today, they were the agents of continental elites, not specifically of continental ‘Nations’.

    Ever since 1066 Britain has been ruled by Kings and Queens who were foreign to some degree or other and when dynasties have become intolerable, or we’ve merely run out of heirs a foreigner has either seized power, or we’ve gone abroad to find another one.

    Perhaps we like the idea of having someone who isn’t quite sufficiently legitimate to claim too much authority by right of birth, or too associated with internal factions and also like making it quite clear that they are only here at all as long as they do as they are told..

    People tend to think of internal British ‘nationalisms’ as a new threat. They are not. It just happens that today’s older generation’s family memories, only extend back to the relatively short interval, starting in late Hanoverian and Victorian times when these nationalisms were temporarily on the wane.

    But the reason they went into slumber, was because the Industrial Revolution and the expansion of Empire were occupying the minds of the Governing classes, and various big wigs, and Scots in particular, went off to run the Empire.

    Scots were also more concerned about the threat of Roman Catholicism emanating from Rome than they were about Scotland itself.

    Following the Second World War however, the relative decline of the UK as a world economic power, and the end of religion as a dominant force in mainland Britain’s politics, left space for them to resurface wholly intact.

    The best living relic of the UK’s real political history in the centuries since Tudor and Stuart times, is present for all to see in Northern Ireland. And the unnecessary controversy over the Northern Ireland Border (a row over something which for all practical purposes can be easily solved), is a remaining relic of Britain’s uncomfortable relationship, with the continent.

    We are far too different from the continent to be part of it politically or to share a currency with it. But we are far too close to it, and its’ fortunes, to be as detached from it as is, (say) Australia.

    We’d be much more politically content as part of the United States of America, than we would be as part of a United States of Europe. Apart from our language and political culture being more compatible with the USA, than it is with the EU, our trade patterns and currency movements are much closer as well.

    Hopefully Brexit will result in the settlement with Europe which has eluded us for the past centuries. It can hardly be much worse that the wars, threats, and periodic bouts of subservience to Europe, that we’ve had during that time.

    This might finally be sorted out once and for all, and both Europe and we, will be much happier for it.

  38. Rien Huizer
    Posted March 29, 2018 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

    An interesting perspective, Mr Redwood. Have you l;ooked at Charles’ contemporary and father of the husband of Cherles’ daughter Mary (and, with Charles, grandfather of William III who married another of Cherles’ granddaughters), Frederik Hendrik of Orange, Stadholder of the Dutch Republic. The Oranges were middle ranking German noblemen who played a role similar to the condottiere of renaissance Italy. Charles was a hereditary king constrained by Parliament, Frederik Hendrik a professional soldier who wanted to be king and was always at odds with the true power in the Republic. All the other kings even the pettiest ones, were more autonomous than Charles and Frederik Hendrik. And they both lowed grandeur. Although Frederik Hendrik was a military genius according to his contemporaries, who might have made a great warrior-king, like his grandson, William III. I wonder why Cromwell is not more appreciated in England. The Dutch (in my youth) considered him a hero who deserved a better country.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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