We had a civil war?

It’s long been a frustration of mine that people know so little about the English Civil War (or ‘wars’, if we’re to be entirely accurate). Some don’t even know there WAS a civil war in the 17th century, or its massive consequences that we live with to this day. Everyone and their dog knows the Americans had a civil war, but ask about this particular one in Britain  and you’re likely to get either blank faces, or a comment such as ‘wasn’t that the one with Oliver Cromwell in it?’ The fact that a) we executed our king, b) the conflict changed forever the political and monarchical system in the country, and c) killed so many people that it is claimed a higher percentage of the population died in this conflict than were lost in WWI, seems to be lost between the education system and the publishing industry that makes an awful lot of money every year pushing out book after book on Anne Boleyn.  Yes, the Tudor period was important, and yes,  with the Reformation and Henry VIII splitting from Rome it was an incredibly important and turbulent century also, but it sometimes feel as if the Tudors were the ONLY royal family we ever had, that fat Henry was the only King of England, and that British history effectively stopped with the death of Elizabeth I.

But why? The 17th century was arguably as conflicted as the 16th, and I think the dissolution of the monasteries and Henry VIII’s quarrel with the Pope were just as devastating for the British Isles as Charles I’s quarrel with his Parliament and the consequences of regicide and Commonwealth that followed. Maybe the Tudors just tap into a more modern sense of voyeurism than the Stuarts do?  Henry VIII’s antics, from  wife-swapping  to wife-chopping, not to mention his tantrums and violent retributions, would seem far more appealing to the Game of Thrones generation than the complicated political and religious arguments that went on a century later under Charles, yet for my money the mid-17th century conflict is as much an essential part of our historical education as the Tudors are.

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2 Comments

  1. I’m flabbergasted and horrified – the Civil War is almost unknown in England?

    I can understand it here in Australia, where we’re in danger of becoming the 51st state, but this is seriously depressing. Takes me back to the 70s, when a lackwit teacher – yes TEACHER – thought I meant the US war when I explained to him I was reading a novel about the Civil War.

    ::headdesk::
    ::headdesk::
    ::headdesk::

    Liked by 1 person

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  2. Depressing is the word for it! Sadly school education here doesn’t seem to have much interest in this period, as far as I’m aware, and if you ask the average person on the street you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who could give you the name of the king involved, or the century in which it happened. Bookshops have got better at stocking Stuart literature, but it wasn’t too long ago you’d be lucky to find just one heavily-academic and almost unreadable tome on the ECW squeezed in between the shelves about the Tudors, Georgians and Victorians. It’s a bit better now, but it’s a bit like pulling teeth!

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