Posts tagged ‘Anglo-Dutch wars’

08/12/2010

Charles II: The Power & The Passion (Parts 1&2)

Charles II: The Power & The Passion (2003)  Director:  Joe Wright  Screenplay:  Adrian Hodges  Starring: Rufus Sewell, Rupert Graves, Martin Freeman, Charlie Creed-Miles, Shirley Henderson, Helen McCrory, Christian Coulson, Ian McDiarmid, Shaun Dingwall, Emma Pierson, David Bradley, Eddie Marsan, Diana Rigg, Tabitha Wady, Anne-Marie Duff, Thierry Perkins-Lyautey, Jochum ten Haaf, Alice Patten

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You know, when I set out on this course of reading I knew very little about the Restoration, and I find myself surprised at the amount of knowledge I’ve managed to absorb just by trying to make head or tail of the literature of the day; enough, as it turns out, so that I can spot when the makers of Charles II: The Power & The Passion start tampering with the facts.

This mini-series has been broadcast here at least three times, although for some reason I never watched it properly before. (Probably because I had no interest in the Restoration, ha-ha.) I did catch bits and pieces of it, though, which from what I can gather puts me in more or less the same boat as the American viewers of this series, who got a significantly cut-down version of a drama that is, in my opinion, far too short to start with.

However, the good news here is that, whatever the series’ faults, its production values of are truly excellent. (Finding Kate Harwood’s name in the opening credits was immediately reassuring.) The casting of Rufus Sewell as Charles was a bit of a no-brainer, I guess, but he’s really very good, capturing the mixture of character traits that drove so much of the era’s upheaval. We see Charles’s obsession with his father’s death, and his consequent determination not just to hold the crown, but to revive its divine attribution – and sacrifice anything or anyone that might interfere with his goal.

It is on this point alone that Charles is steadfast, however: in all else he is facile in a way that is occasionally admirable, and frequently dismaying. We see a spirit of compromise and tolerance, particularly in matters of religion, completely out of step with the times; we see also the unfortunate habit of being swayed by just the wrong person at just the wrong time; and above all we see that he is, when it comes to the ladies, a complete putz.

Part 1 opens with the execution of Charles I, which turns out to be the younger Charles’s nightmare (complete with sitting bolt upright in bed – tsk). We find Charles and his entourage in Antwerp – for simplicity’s sake, I imagine, they keep the peripatetic prince fairly stationary – where he is advised and supported by Sir Edward Hyde (Ian McDiarmid), and passes his time in company with his lifelong friend, George Villiers, the Duke of Buckingham (Rupert Graves). The latter is bored and frustrated with his position – and Charles’s poverty – and begins to counsel compromise with Cromwell, to Charles’s outrage. At length, Buckingham reveals that he has been invited back to England under promise of forgiveness by Cromwell and with the offer of an advantageous marriage. He accepts, initiating a growing rift between himself and Charles that will ultimately find Buckingham amongst the leaders of Charles’s opponents.

We also have a first glimpse of religious discord, ominously enough within Charles’s own family, as he and his mother, the coldly Catholic widow Henrietta Maria (Diana Rigg), clash over the religion of Charles’s younger brothers: Charles is adament that it is only as the Protestant king of a Protestant country that he can regain his father’s throne; that Parliament will accept nothing else. The queen counters that he would not need Parliament if, as a Catholic king, he joined with Louis XIV, and shared his bounty and his armies. She also recommends the re-Catholicisation of England by the simple expedient of burning all the Protestants at the stake.

Charles soon finds some consolation for his various woes, however, when he encounters one Lady Palmer – aka Barbara Villiers (Helen McCrory), the first and longest-lasting of many, many, many royal mistresses, who would bear Charles five (acknowledged) children, but whose increasing promiscuity and debauchery would eventually see her supplanted and evicted from Whitehall. This series also posits an ongoing affair between Barbara and Buckingham, who was – I think – her half-cousin, and has her seducing the young Duke of Monmouth (Christian Coulson), and encouraging his ambitions. It is via Barbara that we here learn that Buckingham, far from finding the expected pardon in England, has been consigned to the Tower of London by Cromwell.

In the wake of Cromwell’s death and the resignation of Richard Cromwell, the question of the restoration is broached. Her we are introduced to the Earl of Shaftesbury (Martin Freeman), who reveals Charles’s intentions to Parliament – including, typically, a promise to reopen the theatres and allow music and dancing. It also includes an offer of amnesty for those who opposed him; and offer that does not (and did not) extend to those who signed Charles I’s death warrant. The beginning of Charles’s reign is marked by the bloody execution of the condemned (and oh, how these historical dramas love to dwell upon the horror of hanging, drawing and quartering!); although here it is implied that, sickening of the slaughter midway through the process, Charles pardoned those still alive.

Under Barbara’s influence, Buckingham is restored to favour. Barbara further exhibits her power over Charles after the birth of their first child when, as Monmouth looks on in startled admiration, she throws a monumental tantrum from which she emerges triumphant as Countess of Castlemaine. Mistresses and bastards aside, Parliament is already considering the question of Charles’s marriage to Catherine of Braganza (Shirley Henderson), whose dowry outweighs her Catholicism, at least to some. We get the first scuffle here between Charles and Shaftesbury, as the latter protests Catherine’s religion. Charles voices his determination to pursue a policy of religious tolerance: perhaps the noblest of all his intentions and, alas, like most noble intentions at the time, one which came to nothing.

I’m going to make a concerted effort here not to append the word “unfortunate” to every mention of Catherine, but I’m not sure how far I’ll succeed – particularly not in the face of her unkind reception by a snickering royal household, provoked by her appearance, her lack of English, and her outrageous request for a cup of tea; nor in that of the terror with which she prepares herself to submit to her wedding-night: a terror so evident that Charles suggests they postpone things for a while. There’s certainly a careless sort of kindness in this, but at the heart of it, he simply doesn’t find her attractive. The marriage remains unconsumated until a day when Charles, catching Catherine off-guard, dressed in boys’ clothes, her hair loose and romping with a dog, is caught off-guard himself.

There’s a certain detached humour in this series, particularly in the way it views Charles himself, and we get a taste of it here. Upon her arrival in England, it is discovered that Catherine speaks not a word of English; yet before much longer, having become only too well aware of Barbara Villiers, she is throwing the furniture at Charles and screaming about, “Your whore!” She learned that word quickly enough, of course. (“I suspect the queen still has some reservations over Lady Castlemaine’s appointment to the household,” deadpans Sir Edward.)

Meanwhile, James, Duke of York (Charlie Creed-Miles) and Buckingham are agitating for war against the Dutch, against the counsel of Sir Edward Hyde and Shaftesbury. Swayed by James’s muttered aside that the monetary spoils of war would free him from Parliament’s grip, Charles votes yes. Now, we’ve already considered just how bad an idea this was apropos of Henry Neville’s The Isle Of Pines. It also gives us one of the series’ odder glitches, at it places the Battle of Medway before the Great Fire.

Actually, James is having quite a run of outs, as it is now that his affair with Ann Hyde (Tabitha Wady) becomes public due to her pregnancy. The series takes the stance that James was essentially trapped into marriage, whereas there seems reasonable evidence that, despite urgings that no-one expected him to keep the promises he made before the Restoration, he insisted on going through with it. If so—well, no good deed goes unpunished, I guess: it would of course be a child of that marriage to whom James would eventually lose the throne. The script here takes the opposing view chiefly, I imagine, to give us an early scene of Charles refusing to interfere with the succession in any way: having Parliament dissolve James’s marriage and declare his child illegitimate would be setting far too dangerous a precedent.

Part 2 opens with the court gathered around a telescope, as Halley’s Comet passes. Charles tells Catherine that it means nothing, but Sir Edward comments quietly that many see it as a portent: “They foretell disasters and catastrophes before the year is out.” (Possibly this is why they moved Medway.) For Charles himself, the year certainly starts disastrously, with his pursuit of Lady Frances Stewart (Alice Patten) finishing – gasp! – unsuccessfully. (The sorely harrassed young woman had to find ways to hold him off until she could arrange to elope with her lover, the Duke of Richmond.) Elsewhere, the unfortunate Catherine (yeah, I know…), after three childless years, is taking the waters at Tunbridge Wells, which were believed to help with conception; while James is taking Catholic instruction…

For a time it seems that the former, at least, will end well, but Catherine’s joyfully announced pregnancy ends in miscarriage. In her misery, the unfortunate woman (sorry…) wanders into the royal nursery, staring in agonised bewilderment at Barbara and her illegitimate children. “What did you do…to warrant such a sign of Grace…?”

In the wake of Catherine’s miscarriage, Charles recalls James from sea, where he is leading the war against the Dutch in his position of Admiral of the Fleet. James is outraged, but Charles tells him flatly that with only his infant daughters to follow him, his life cannot be risked.

When it becomes apparent that Catherine will never bear a child, an odd evolution takes place in her position at court. In her despair, she becomes one of the few people who will speak the truth to Charles without hesitation; and over time she slowly transforms into Charles’s friend and counsellor – quite a ruthless counsellor at times – but one, perhaps the only one, he can trust completely. It is to Catherine he confides the secret of James’s conversion, predicting that it will bring everything to ruin. Interestingly, Charles’s attitude is entirely secular: he views James’s choice as selfish and ultimately destructive, but there is no hint he sees it as dividing him from his brother forever; as his mother would certainly see it. Whether this is a sign of Charles’s fundamental irreligiosity or his fundamental Catholicism is unclear.

As Part 2 moves towards its conclusion, we get two very strange choices from screenwriter Adrian Hodges – one of them, indeed, unforgiveable. With the outbreak of the Great Plague, a horrified and sickened Charles is taken through the streets of London by the magistrate Sir Edmund Berry Godfrey (David Bradley). Berry Godfrey is best known as the magistrate who took Titus Oates’ deposition, his “final” version of the events of the Popish Plot – and who was murdered soon afterwards. To many, the murder was proof positive of the truth of Oates’ accusations – while some say it was Oates and his people who had the magistrate murdered for just that reason. When the character of Sir Edmund turned up at this point in the series, I assumed it was to prepare for these later events – but he never appears again. Odd.

The other mystifying plot-thread concerns debate over Charles’s supposed marriage to Lucy Walter and Monmouth’s legitimacy. Barbara has been pushing this bandwagon, as well as trying to convince Charles to divorce Catherine – mostly because of personal emnity, we imagine; while she and Buckingham are both busy poisoning Charles’s mind against Sir Edward Hyde, who has too much influence for their liking. The question of the Test Act has already created a rift between Charles and Sir Edward, and in the wake of the Battle of Medway, Hyde’s enemies see their chance, with Buckingham calling for his impeachment. Buckingham’s outspokenness sees him back in the Tower for a time, but he emerges triumphant. For a time it seems that Hyde’s enemies will bring about his death, but Charles commutes the sentence: the most loyal of his counsellors is instead sent into permanent exile. Here we have the first of a long line of moments in which Charles averts his eyes from a friend, murmuring that someone must take the blame…

Meanwhile, according to the script, it was not Lucy Walter at all who owned a black box containing proof of her marriage to Charles, but Charles himself! Repeatedly, Charles denies his marriage and declares Monmouth illegitimate; but a silent scene has him producing a hidden black box, him taking a paper from it and destroying it…

This is an absolutely bewildering touch – particularly in light of the series’ depiction of Charles’s stance on the succession. Think about it: what he’s doing here is destroying the proof that he has a legitimate Protestant heir: an heir that would have solved all his problems; an heir that would have solved EVERYONE’S problems. The hell – !?

Okay, I guess they just wanted to work the famous black box into it somehow… And they as good as admit the tampering, too: we never actually see what the paper is. And really, perhaps it was just the symbolism of it they were after; because, as Charles drops that mysterious paper into the fire, we cut from those flames to the Great Fire of London…

09/10/2010

The Isle Of Pines (Part 3)

“You would have blessed yourself to see how the naked islanders flocked unto us, so wondering at our ship as if it have been the greatest miracle of nature in the whole world.”
— Henry Cornelius Van Sloetten

Truthfully, trying to work out the religious implications of The Isle Of Pines is as difficult as trying to work out Henry Neville’s own religious attitudes. We do know that he scorned the idea of the Divine Right of Kings, and that he was charged with atheism and blasphemy, although his accusers couldn’t make it stick. We also know that while in exile in Italy, he became close friends with Cosimo III, the Grand Duke of Tuscany, with whom he held a long correspondence; and that when he returned to England, even while involving himself in the Exclusion Crisis, Neville campaigned for greater tolerance for English Catholics and an end to the scapegoating of the Catholics by the government.

The deployment of religion in The Isle Of Pines seems finally more about Neville’s attitude to monarchy and governance than it does about religion itself. Under the benign, unstructured “rule” of George Pine, there is peace on the island. There may or may not be religion: it is not mentioned until near the end of George’s life. At that time he institutes monthly (not weekly) Bible readings, but not until he has already ordered the dispersing of his descendants to all corners of the island, so we may infer that not everyone is receiving instruction. While overtly this dispersal is partly to do with the increasing population, and partly to work against the continuance of incestuous relationships, there is also an amusing sense of “hey, you kids, get off my lawn!” about it, with an ageing and cranky George Pine commenting, “I liked not the wanton annoyance of young company.”

But in fact, George has always been about leaving his children to fend for themselves, even from a scarily young age: the first babies born to him and his “wives” are simply abandoned, with George explaining, “When they had sucked, we laid them in moss to sleep, and took no further care of them; for we knew, when they were gone more would come.” This hair-raising attitude to parenting is, I think, best read metaphorically: Neville was against an absolute monarchy and in favour of power being dispersed amongst the people, who he believed to a large extent should be left to govern themselves. Thus, under the indirect and unstructured rule of George Pine, the island flourishes; but with the passing of control to “King Henry” Sparks Pine, everything starts to go wrong.

While George Pine exhorts his children to follow the tenets of Christianity, it is a very Old Testament set of laws finally introduced by King Henry. It was upon the authority of the Old Testament that England’s monarchs made their claim for a Divine Right, and based their refusal to recognise any earthly bounds to their power.  Here, Neville seems to be offering a sardonic reminder that, after all, a king is just a man: even backed by the Old Testament, the power of the island’s monarchy grows ever weaker, as we see in the unexplained descent in the status of the ruler from “king” to “prince”, and in the fact that ultimately, Prince William cannot control his people, but must beg help from outsiders.

The Isle Of Pines must be read in the context of the humiliations suffered by the English at the hands of the Dutch. Whatever pretexts were found, the wars between the two nations were all about dominance in trade and colonisation. Henry Neville was, in this respect, very much a man of his time: he was all for an aggressive foreign policy and the expansion of England’s territories, by force of arms if necessary, and he despised Charles II for what he perceived as his failures and weaknesses in this respect.

However, within the text of The Isle Of Pines we find evidence that Neville recognised that certain dangers were inherent in being a colonising nation. The most unpleasant aspect of the story is its handling of Phillippa, the slave – which becomes no less unpleasant if viewed as a manifestation of “coloniser’s anxiety”. There’s no work to do on the island, so Phillippa is technically no longer a slave. Nevertheless, she is treated at all times as a thing apart, something less human than the island’s other denizens. Their first night on land after the shipwreck, while the white people fall into an exhausted sleep, Phillippa is left to keep watch – “the blackamore being less sensible than the rest”. Later, it is she who pursues George for sex, and although she is referred to as one of his wives, he treats her as he would an animal, mere breeding stock. Always resorting to the cover of darkness to quell his disgust at sleeping with her – otherwise, “my stomach would not serve me” – George has sex with Phillippa less often than any of the others, since she invariably gets pregnant after one coupling, and he doesn’t touch her while she is. She suffers no pain at all during her labours. Over time she bears George twelve children, but as soon as she reaches menopause, “I never meddled with her more.” All of this is capped by Phillippa’s casually abrupt dismissal from the story: “After we had lived there twenty-two years, my negro died suddenly, but I could not perceive anything that ailed her.”

The most curious aspect of Phillippa’s story is that her children are white – at least on the outside: her first is “a fine white girl” who is “as comely as the rest”. But throughout the story, it is Phillippa’s overtly white, covertly black descendants who are responsible for the island’s violent and sexual upheaval – or who are blamed for being so. In the time of King Henry, the island is beset by “whoredoms, incests, and adultery”; and although the transgressions are widespread, the only guilty party named is, “John Phill, the second son of the Negro-woman”. Convicted of rape, he is executed. That being done, “the rest were pardoned for what passed”. A generation later, Prince William must beg for Dutch help to quell a rebellion led by, “Henry Phill, the chief ruler of the tribe or family of the Phills”, who has betrayed the authority granted him by his monarch, under which he is meant to be keeping order amongst his people and ensuring that they practise their religion, and has “ravished the wife of one of the principal of the family of the Trevors”.

There is something more here, I think, than just the usual racist slurs about sexually insatiable black men with a yen for white woman. The point is that you can’t tell the Phills from anyone else, except by their actions. This seems to be an expression of the dangers of colonisation, whereby “superior” English blood  might be diluted – polluted – resulting in a people that look English but whose “inferior” native blood will inevitably betray them. If colonisation is to succeed, then, the local population must be separated, contained and ruled; there cannot be integration.

There are many ambiguities in The Isle Of Pines, but the aspect of the story wherein there is no question whatsoever of Henry Neville’s intentions is the involvement of the Dutch. Written in the wake of the humiliating conclusion of the second Ango-Dutch war, the tale is a clear denunciation of the direction of England under the Stuart monarchy.

Such is the bounty of the island that George Pine and his descendants do nothing to cultivate it further. They never explore their surroundings, or domesticate the wildlife, or attempt to grow crops. They make use of the supplies tossed ashore by the shipwreck and when they are gone, simply do without. By the time the Dutch get there, the Pines have become a race of English-speaking savages, running naked on the shore and gaping in astonishment at the Dutch ship. “You would have blessed yourself to see how the naked islanders flocked unto us, so wondering at our ship as if it have been the greatest miracle of nature in the whole world,” comments Henry Cornelius Van Sloetten.

And it goes from bad to worse. The Dutch end up treating the Englishmen exactly as they did the native population of St Lawrence, making them gifts of implements such as knives, shovels and axes – “Of which we thought they had great need,” observes Van Sloetten. He’s right: the axe salvaged by George Pine has since been cast aside as useless, with no effort made to resharpen it. Burial on the island consists of covering the body with rocks, as no tool has been fashioned for digging the soil. Although living on an island, the descendants of George Pine have no idea what a ship is – they’ve never conceived of such a thing. (And George, we infer, content in his sexual paradise, didn’t bother to teach them.) The whole is a picture of sloth and degeneration.

In contrast, the technologically advanced and efficient Dutchmen spend their time on the island doing what civilised people are supposed to do. They communicate with the locals through a translator and learn the history of the island, obtaining George Pine’s account of its founding in the process. They think about how the land might be cultivated. They explore and map the island, taking inventory of its flora and fauna. In the process, they frighten the natives by shooting one of the small, goat-like beasts. “These poor naked unarmed people, hearing the noise of the piece and seeing the beast tumbling in his gore, without speaking any words betook them to their heels, running back again as fast as they could drive,” reports Van Sloetten. We have all of us, of course, read and seen in movies any number of scenes that played out just like this, the superior white people terrifying and bewildering the ignorant savages with their advanced technology and greater intelligence. Such scenes, we imagine, were nothing new even in Henry Neville’s day. What is new is that the “ignorant savages” are Englishmen.

The final humiliation comes with the rebellion of Henry Phill. Prince William is powerless to deal with the situation, finding “his authority too weak to repress such disorders”, and he must beg the Dutch for their help. The Dutch, ready to depart the island, duly arm themselves and go back ashore to intervene. The rebellion is quelled in a matter of moments – “For what could nakedness do to encounter with arms?” Van Sloetten shrugs. Henry Phill is captured, tried, and executed by being thrown off a cliff, this being “the only way they have of punishing any by death, except burning.” It seems that even when it comes to carrying out judicial sentence, the English are embarrassingly backwards.

No, there’s not much doubt about what Henry Neville intended by all of this. The Isle Of Pines is a dire warning about the fate of England should the country continue on its Stuart-(mis)guided path, and of the extent of the threat posed by the Dutch to English commerce and expansion. (Neville’s admiration for the Dutch is evident, even as he recognises the danger they represent.) The question is, rather, whether Neville’s intention was clear to the first readers of his pamphlets. I can find little evidence that it was so. Under the laws of the day there was a real danger to Neville in publishing at all, and it was to get around the laws and to protect himself that he disguised his cautionary tale as a sexually-charged travelogue. He may have disguised it too well: the first pamphlet caught public attention by its sexual situation, and the whole was recognised soon enough as a sham – but upon being so, it was apparently tossed aside in disappointment. As far as it was analysed by its readers, The Isle Of Pines seems to have been perceived only as a crude joke, one probably perpetrated by the Dutch themselves, insult added to injury in the wake of the Battle of Medway. As far as we can tell, Henry Neville’s warning missed its mark altogether.

Of course, the real joke here is the ultimate survival of The Isle Of Pines, which out-lived countless thousands of contemporary publications and finally reached an audience capable of reading the text as Neville intended – a few centuries late, granted, but better late than never. The irony is that what hid Neville’s purpose in the pamphlet’s own time, the daring central premise of George Pine and his “several wives”, is also what ensured that the story would still be finding readers more than three hundred years later.

It’s kind of sad, when you think about it.

05/10/2010

The Isle Of Pines (Part 1)

Let’s see, what’s next on the list…

Seventeenth-century pornography? Lucky me!

It’s all Kate Loveman‘s fault. She’s the one who brought The Isle Of Pines to my attention, and made it sound so interesting that I put it on The List, even though it violated my self-imposed cut-off by being published in 1668.

It think I’ve discovered a corollary to “may you live in interesting times”: “may you read an interesting book”.

As discussed in Reading Fictions, Henry Neville’s The Isle Of Pines was one of the numerous “shams” perpetrated during the time of the Restoration. It was one of the more successful ones, if not in terms of how long people were fooled, then for how widely it was read: in addition to a huge print run in England, The Isle Of Pines was published in translation in at least four other countries. It would be nice to be able to report that it was the literary merit of the work that made it so successful, but it seems that its main attractions lay rather in its premise – that of an Englishman cast away on an uncharted island in company with four young woman, who with great enthusiasm set about populating their new home.

Neville’s tale was published as a series of pamphlets in the middle of 1668. The first part, issued in June, was the self-narrative of George Pines, written shortly before his death seventy-four years after he and his companions were cast away. The second part, which followed in July, is another first-person narrative, this time of a Dutch sea captain, Henry Cornelius Van Sloetten, who with his crew were driven upon the same island some eighty years later, and found it populated by a contradiction, apparent savages of European descent who “speak English and yet to go naked”. Van Sloetten receives from the current leader of these people, George Pines’ grandson William, George’s written history, which he carries back to Europe. The third pamphlet, released in early August, interpolated Pines’ narrative into Van Sloetten’s, and also appended two letters from a merchant in Amsterdam to a “credible person in Covent Garden”, in which it is agreed that the tale is “a fabulous story”, but one that should be believed, as issuing from reliable sources.

Documents from the time make it clear that people did believe the story, although not for very long: the sham appears to have been exposed as early as the end of August. Many people suspected it to be a hoax perpetrated upon the English by the Dutch, and it was much resented upon that account. No-one seems to have seen The Isle Of Pines as more than, on one hand, a silly joke, or on the other, a bit of smut. This attitude persisted, for the most part, well into the 20th century. In 1920, the American historian and bibliophile Worthington Chauncey Ford reprinted Neville’s work in its entirety, accompanying it with an essay that was predominantly an account of the tale’s confusing publishing history, but also contained some ruminations on its possible influences and meanings – as well as an embarrassed apology for its salacious nature.

As time passed, however, the sexual content of The Isle Of Pines became nothing to get worked up about, and critics were finally able to look past its prurient surface to see what else was going on. At this point, an amusing truth about previous attempts to analyse The Isle Of Pines became evident: that most of them were skewed because they only considered the first part of the story, George Pines’ narrative – because after the initial time of publication it was only that section of the story that was reprinted and reissued, while the framing devices were allowed to fall into obscurity. The Isle Of Pines may not be pornographic in the contemporary sense – it’s more intent upon who did what to whom, and how often, than what they did it with and how – but its sexual frankness, and the nature of its sexual content, still serve to distract the modern reader from what might have been Henry Neville’s deeper intention.

However – in order to understand that intention, we first have to understand its author, and the events of his lifetime. This is one story that needs to be read in its context.

Henry Neville was one of a long line of Henry Nevilles, most of them politicians, as well as travellers and scholars; he is often distinguished from the other members of his family by being called “the satirist”. (His grandfather, who was Elizabeth I’s ambassador to France, is, I see, the latest person to be credited with “writing Shakespeare”.) Neville entered Parliament in the wake of the English Civil War. He was a staunch republican who quickly began to look upon Cromwell with suspicion, and broke with him altogether after Cromwell used armed forces to “dissolve” the Parliament in 1653. Neville had already by this time published various satirical pamphlets, as well as some more serious efforts, and now he began to use his pen again, publishing Shuffling, Cutting and Dealing, in a Game at Piquet, Being Acted From the Year 1653 to 1658, by Oliver, Protector, and Others. Much too blunt about Cromwell’s manoeuvring, this effort saw Neville exiled from England until after Cromwell’s succession by his son, Richard, in 1658. Neville then not only returned to England, but was re-elected to Parliament. Accusations of atheism and blasphemy were brought against him in an effort to exclude him, but the tactic failed.

In any event, Richard Cromwell soon had more important things to worry about than Henry Neville’s pen. He was forced to abdicate in May of 1659, and England began a slow but inexorable journey back to monarchy. This put Neville in a bind: much as he had battled the Cromwells, he most assuredly did not want the Stuarts back, and he fought against the Restoration up until the last moment. Neville was subsequently involved in various subversive, anti-monarchic activities, and accused of others. In 1663, he was arrested and held in the Tower of London on suspicion of having been involved in the Farneley Wood Plot, an anti-Royalist rebellion by the members of a former parliamentary community in Yorkshire. (Supposedly. No-one seems to know what really did happen with respect to this failed revolt, but twenty-six people were executed in its aftermath.) Neville was eventually released due to lack of evidence, and this time he didn’t wait to be asked, but spent the next four years in self-imposed exile in Italy.

During the 17th century, the English were spasmodically at war with the Dutch, who at that time posed a genuine threat to England’s colnies and trade. The first round of the Anglo-Dutch wars was fought during the Interregnum and was largely inconclusive. Both sides eventually ran out of steam, and a peace treaty was signed in 1654. The Dutch had hung on to their position as the world’s preeminent trading nation, however, and antagonism between the two nations remained close to the surface.

At this time, the Dutch, learning from past mistakes, set about building up its navy; while in England, the monarchy was restored, releasing a surge of patriotic feeling that (as patriotic feeling often will) led to war. The second Anglo-Dutch war started well for the English with victory in the first battle, but after that the tide turned towards the Dutch. England was already in financial difficulties, and in the wake of the twin blows of the Great Plague and the Fire of London, Charles II began a series of attempts to negotiate peace.

However, the continuing hostilities culminated in “the English Pearl Harbour”, the Battle of Medway. Due to their financial inability to maintain their fleet, the English had withdrawn their heavier vessels to dock at Chatham. In June 1667, the Dutch broke through the fortifications at the mouth of the Thames and attacked the immobile fleet. Fifteen ships were destroyed and the navy’s flagship, HMS Royal Charles, was captured and towed back to the Netherlands. Charles II again sued for peace, and a treaty was ratified at the end of July 1667.

And in 1668, Henry Neville returned to England, and published The Isle Of Pines.

[To be continued…]