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charlie, computer cat

November 2017

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kitn ninja

Things you learn while waiting for a long process to complete, number 1 in a series of, oh gosh, loads, probably.

Queen Elizabeth will surpass Queen Victoria as the UKs longest lived monarch on the shortest day this year, according to the Wikipedia article about Victoria (the article on Elizabeth confirms it).

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things you learn...

Gosh. What it is to live in an age of good plumbing and good medical care.

I thought of you whilst reading a little postwar history of the House of Commons, by the way. The author draws a parallel between the Long Parliament chiding Cromwell's general, Hampden, "in much the same fashion as their successors did Neville Chamberlain after his reverses just three hundred years later." (It was the use of the word 'just' which I thought you might appreciate.)

It also has part of Cromwell's dismissal speech (1653) which ends with "Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!"(also used against Chamberlain, by Amery). But it has some supreme invective, and you have a fine sense of language, so here is the quotation as i have it:

"It is high Time for Me to put an End to your Sitting in this Place, which you have dishonoured by your Contempt of all Virtue, and defiled by your Practice of every Vice ... Is there a single Virtue now remaining amongst you? is there one Vice ye do not possess? Ye have no more Religion than my Horse! Gold is your God: Which among you have not bartered your Conscience for bribes? Is there a Man amongst you that has the least Care for the Good of the Commonwealth? Ye sordid Prostitutes, have you not defiled this sacred Place ... by your immoral Principles and wicked Practices? Ye are grown intolerably odious to the whole Nation; You were deputed here to get Grievances redressed; Are not yourselves become the greatest Grievance? I command ye, therefore, upon the peril of your Lives, to depart immediately out of this Place... ye venal slaves, begone! So take away that shining Bauble there, and lock up the Doors."

(The bauble was the Mace, which disappeared; the one in use is 'new', from 1660.)

It was Charles I's marching into the House, sitting in the Speaker's chair, and demanding that Speaker Lenthall turn over the five anti-Royalist leaders of the resistance, which led to the law that the monarch is not permitted to enter the House of Commons, and that even Black Rod has to knock three times before entering. The role of the Speaker - which is constitutionally fascinating - was defined by Lenthall when, on his knees, he replied to Charles thus: "May it please your Majesty, I have neither eyes to see nor tongue to speak in this place, but as this House doth direct me, whose servant I am." That seems to me to be very brave, given that Charles could have risked dragging him away and beheading him.

I kind of assume you're republican (?) - so the declaration, one week after Charles's execution, passed by the House that monarchy was "unnecessary, burdensome and dangerous" might come as a refreshing message from the past. They were keen on abolishing the Peers, as well. Funny how much modern history comes from this period, "just three hundred" (and fifty) years ago. And of course Oxford was Catholic, Romantic, and Wrong, where Cambridge was Protestant, Dull, and Right, according to 1066 and All That. Are you allowed to quote from that book for your essay?

Lindsay, M. (1957) The House of Commons. Collins, London.

Re: things you learn...

Are you allowed to quote from that book for your essay?

Well, you could to add colour to the text but you'd have to be careful about which quotes you picked :)

I just got through revising this period, and although you do see some of the ideas and language of democracy to day emerging, you have to be quite careful about ascribing modern meanings to things that were said. For example, there was almost no support for a wider franchise amongst the parliamentarians. Also, the whole thing quickly degenerated into rule by the army after Prides Purge, partly because the politicians had not been keen to try & kill Charles, but rather to negotiate and get consessions from him for a constitutional monarchy of the sort that eventually emerged with the restoration.

Re: things you learn...

It's certainly a gross error to apply the values or meanings of the present day to the past: it is a far country, and they do things differently there. A wider franchise (as you say) wouldn't have had any chance of emerging in that society; one has to take "Parliamentary democracy" in a very different sense than one would take it today, you are quite right.

It's interesting to speculate, though, how much the dictatorship was mediated by Cromwell as an individual versus Cromwell as the tool of the rest of the army, and how Parliament was able to keep hold on the purse-strings after the dictatorship collapsed.

I think the evolution of modern Parliamentary processes (in contrast to other aspects of democracy) was hastened during this period, perhaps moreso than in any other. Just as the mechanisms of the European Commission have tremendous effects on Euro-democracy, so did the mechanisms of Parliament. And the example of both sets of leaders and followers - venial though many may have been - seem to me to have modern echoes, and to have given a number of different cultures (India, for example) an interesting set of patterns to discuss and to some extent emulate, when they wanted to initiate a regime change.