Presented by: Jim and June Barns
Review written by: Sheila Twine
Forty members and guests crowded in to hear Jim Barns present the second of his lectures on British history. This entertaining and informative session encompassed the time in Scotland from Robert II in the 14th century to the last of the Stuarts with the death of Queen Anne without issue in 1714. (Dr Jim Leavesley read about Queen Anne’s 17 disastrous pregnancies from his own book Mere Mortals.)
The role of parliament in government grew in the latter decades of Stuart rule. Important developments here include the accession to the throne of William and Mary and the Bill of Rights in the Glorious Revolution of 1688 — 1689. Also important was the Act of Succession of 1701, for it was parliament that decided that the monarch could not be a Roman Catholic. Anne’s death in 1714 led to the importation of George I, a Hanoverian who spoke no English and had to appoint a Prime Minister.
Back to the Stuarts and Mary Queen of Scots. Jim Barns was joined in his presentation by Ena Garden who read the last letter of Mary Queen of Scots written just before her execution in 1587, in which she affirmed her “God-given right to the English crown”. Jock Fyfe read pieces written by James VI and I about the Divine Right of Kings when it was considered treasonous to question the King’s judgement. June Barns then gave us a graphic description of James – plump with thin legs, who dribbled, suffered from piles, picked his nose and over-ate. He was however a learned man who authorised his King James bible published in 1611 and endeavoured to curb the use of tobacco through higher taxes.
Jim Barns took us all through the execution of Charles I in 1649, ‘hard by his own Whitehall’, followed by 11 years of Puritan rule led by Oliver Cromwell, when theatres and inns were closed, Christmas was banned and misery prevailed. 1660 saw the restoration of the monarchy with Charles II on the throne and gaiety, theatres and revelry returning to the country.
After the Stuart dynasty had come to an end, there were the ‘come backs’. The old Pretender, James Edward Stuart, son of James II briefly made an unsuccessful grab for the throne in 1715. He was followed by his son Bonnie Prince Charlie in 1745. Ena Garden gave us a description of that disastrous time for Scotland culminating with many deaths on Culloden Moor in 1746 and Charlie’s subsequent escape to Skye.
Thank you Jim for a most complete session on the Stuart dynasty and the rulers who came just after them. We all look forward to next month’s session of British History.