Seventeenth Century Memorabilia
I’m sure I’m not alone in being put off by the profusion of commercial products and memorabilia that seem to swamp the world. Movies, sports events, royal weddings, natural disasters – all result in a flood of t-shirts, coffee mugs, action figures, etc.
The defeat of Charles II at the Battle of Worcester on September 3, 1651, set off one of the most astonishing episodes in British history – Charles’ desperate six-week odyssey to reach safety in France, which came to be known as the Royal Miracle because he narrowly escaped discovery and capture so many times. Until Charles finally sailed from Shoreham near Brighton on October 15, he was on the run, sheltered and helped by dozens of people – mostly simple country fold and very minor gentry – who could have earned the enormous reward of £1000 offered for his capture, but instead put their lives in jeopardy to help him.
|Charles Coronation Plate|
Charles was restored to the throne in 1660, miraculously without bloodshed, invited to return from exile by an England weary of the experiment of a country run by Parliament without a monarchy. His subjects welcomed him with joy, and probably by the time he rode into London on May 29, 1660 – his thirtieth birthday – souvenirs were available for the joyous throngs who crowded the streets. Pottery items with the king’s picture on them were popular.
Before Charles had even set foot on English soil, he began telling the story of his adventures. He recounted the tale to Samuel Pepys on board the Royal Charles as he sailed from The Hague – and for the first time he could name those who had helped him without endangering them. And others also told their stories, so that very shortly, the astonishing Royal Miracle became well known. Both the Restoration and the Royal Miracle were the subject of numerous ballads and broadsheets – illustrated papers that were sold on the street – which served some of the same functions as combination of newspapers, TV news, YouTube, and blogs.
Some of the broadsheets and ballads produced shortly after the king’s return included “His Majesty’s Miraculous Preservation by the Oak, The Maid and Ship,” “The Five Faithful Brothers, A True Discourse Between Charles II and the Five Brothers at His Escape from Worcester, with Mrs. Lane’s Conveying His Majesty Through All His Difficulties,” The Royal Oak, or the Wonderful Travels, Miraculous Escapes, Strange Accidents of King Charles the Second,” and “The Wonderful and Miraculous Escape of our Gracious King from that Dismal, Black and Gloomie Defeat at Worcester.”
|Royal Oak Pottery|
One of the more entertaining events in Charles’ escape was the day that he spent hiding in an oak tree behind Boscobel House in Shropshire, sleeping with his head on the lap of another fugitive from the Battle of Worcester, Colonel William Carlis. Soon souvenir-hunters were cutting off bits of the Royal Oak, as it came to be known, and using the wood to make plates, boxes and other mementoes. Of course this killed the tree before long, and a sapling sprouting from it subsequently came to be known as the Royal Oak.
|Salver containing part of the Royal Oak|
Charles’ coronation took place on April 23, 1661 – the feast day of St. George, the patron saint of England, and this too, was celebrated with mugs and broadsheets. And now that he was really a king, Charles needed a queen. He married the Portuguese Infanta, Catherine of Braganza, in 1662 – and the royal wedding – like that of Prince William and Catherine Middleton – was cause for more national celebrations and souvenirs.
Of course the volume of all this seventeenth century merchandise was nowhere near what our century produces. ON the other hand, while broadsheets and such paper ephemera were rarely kept, and pottery broke easily, some carefully made mementoes, like those made from bits of the Royal Oak, were handed down to succeeding generations – not something likely to happen with that lunchbox from the latest Disney movie or presidential campaign t-shirt.
Gillian Bagwell’s second novel, The September Queen, the first fictional account of Jane Lane, an ordinary Stafforshire girl who risked her life to help the young Charles II escape after the Battle of Worcester, was released on November 1. Please visit her website, www.gillianbagwell.com, to read more about her books and read her blog Jane Lane and the Royal Miracle www.theroyalmiracle.blogspot.com, which recounts her research adventrues and the daily episodes in Charles’ flight to freedom.
You can find The September Queen on Amazon.com
You can find The Darling Strumpet on Amazon.com
And what a gift the pair would make for the historical fiction lover in your life!
So it seems the human desire to remember an event is not recent….
I would like to thank Gillian for this entertaining and informative guest post. One lucky reader will get to read The September Queen as I have a copy to give away! You can see my review HERE.
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Disclosure: I received a copy of The September Queen gratis. Any opinions expressed are my honest opinions and were not impacted by my receipt of the free book. I received no monetary compensation for this post.