Wednesday, May 29, 2013

History Corner: Charles II returns from exile via Blackheath and Deptford.

On this day in 1660, King Charles II entered London on return from exile in Holland. Having landed at Dover on May 25th, he spent time at Canterbury and Rochester before making his way into the capital on his 30th birthday, May 29th.  The journey is described in a contemporary pamphlet 'England's Joy or a relation of the most remarkable passages from his Majestry's Arrival at Dover to his entrance at White-Hall' (1660).

While personally I don't think that the restoration of the monarchy was anything to celebrate, the pamphlet is interesting for a number of reasons. For one thing it shows the significance of the road between London and Dover, now the A2/Old Kent Road/New Cross Road/Shooters Hill. Almost all traffic heading from Kent into London passed along that road in the days before railways, which meant that royal processions, peasant insurgents, visitors from the continent etc. all came through Blackheath/Deptford/New Cross. In the case of Charles II, such points along the route were marked with festivities which are vividly described in the pamphlet: 

'he set forth from Rochester in his coach, but afterwards took horse on the farthest side of Black-heath, on which spacious plain he found divers great and eminent troops of horse, in a most splending and glorious equipage; and a kind of rural triumph, expressed by the country-swains in a morrice-dance, with the old music of taber and pipe, which was performed with all agility and cheerfulness imaginable...

... proceeding towards London, there were placed in Deptford, on his right hand (as he passed through the town) above an hundred proper maids, clad all alike in white garments, with scarves about them: who having prepared many flaskets covered with fine linen and adorned with rich scarfs and ribbands ; which flaskets were full of flowers and sweet herbs, strewed the way before him as he rode.
From thence passing on he came into Saint Georges Fields in Southwark, where the Lord Mayor and Aldermen of London in their scarlet, with the Recorder and other City Council, waited for him in a large tent, hung with tapestry'

A 19th century re-imagining of Charles entering London, painted by Alfred Barron Clay
As discussed previously at Transpontine, the restoration was followed up by repression of religious and political dissidents, with hundreds of Quakers, Baptists and Fifth Monarchists rounded up, and reports of planned uprisings at Deptford and elsewhere.

1 comment:

John Anderson said...

A picture exists of Charles 11 inspecting the Coldstream Guards at Black heath. Possibly at this time. I don't have a copy of it but will try to get one.