Historical Context

 Queen Elizabeth I died in 1603, leaving James VI of Scotland, the Protestant son of her Catholic cousin, Mary, Queen of Scots (who had been executed on Elizabeth's orders in 1587), as heir to the English throne, as Elizabeth had no offspring. James VI of Scotland became James I of England and Scotland following the death Elizabeth. The unification of the two kingdoms extended England's control and provided James with more power to exert, particularly as the "New World" joined Europe and Asia on the world stage. During the mid-1600s, crises gripped the monarchy, resulting in the execution of Charles I. Oliver Cromwell stepped in as Lord Protector, ushering in the Commonwealth. In 1651, just two years after Charles I was beheaded, Thomas Hobbes published Leviathan, a work that simultaneously supported and denounced absolute monarchy, which had been the primary form of government before the Commonwealth. The monarchy was restored after the death of Cromwell, with Charles II returning as king. The foundations for Enlightenment thinking was built around this time, with English philosophers such as John Locke proclaiming their ideas of natural laws and freedom. Despite the move towards Enlightened thinking, religious intolerance grew, culminating in the deposition of the Catholic monarch, James II. The power of Parliament increased due to the dissemination of ideas of liberty and representational government. Parliament played a large role in the removal of James II and the placement of Protestants William III and Mary II on the throne. With the accession of William III and Mary II came the Glorious Revolution, further enlightening England to new ideas.

 The House of Tudor:

Queen Elizabeth I (1558-1603) 

The Rainbow Portrait, attr. Isaac Oliver, ca. 1600, Hatfield House 

Queen Elizabeth I was born on September 7, 1533, the daughter of King Henry VIII and his second wife, Anne Boleyn. King Henry VIII broke with the Catholic Church in Rome because of the Church's refusal to grant a divorce for his marriage to Catherine of Aragon and support for his marriage to Anne Boleyn. Hereafter, King Henry VIII was the head of the newly established Church of England, which favored Protestantism over Catholicism. Elizabeth was just two years old, when in 1536, Anne Boleyn was beheaded for treason. After the birth of Edward VI, son of Henry VIII and his third wife, Jane Seymour in 1537, Elizabeth and her half-sister Mary (daughter of Henry VIII's first wife, Catherine of Aragon) were declared illegitimate and removed from the line of royal ascension. In the following years, Mary and Elizabeth lived in exile in separate house in the countryside of England. Henry VIII, under the duress of his sixth wife, Catherine Parr, occasionally brought his daughters to court, often for holidays. Again, under the influence of Catherine Parr, Henry VIII restored Mary and Elizabeth to the rank of Princess and their places in line to the throne. In early 1547, King Henry VIII died, leaving Catherine Parr as regent for Edward VI. Catherine Parr died in 1548, leaving eleven-year-old Edward VI in the care of his uncles Seymour. Edward VI had been a sickly child and his constitution grew worse as he moved into his teenage years. In 1553, at the age of 16, Edward, on his deathbed was persuaded to leave the throne to his cousin, Lady Jane Grey, bypassing his sister, Mary's ascension. Jane Grey was queen for nine days before supporters of Mary deposed Jane and replaced her with Mary I. Whereas Edward VI and Lady Jane Grey were Protestants, Mary I supported Catholicism. Once on the throne, Mary I restored Catholicism as the official religion of England, gaining favor from the Catholic Church and other Catholic monarchs. Reigning for five years, Mary I allied herself through marriage to one of England's rivals, Philip II of Spain, who was also Catholic. The match was unfavorable to the English people, the majority of whom had embraced Protestantism. Mary I earned the nickname "Bloody Mary" for her Protestant purges, burning many at the stake. Mary I died in 1558, leaving the throne to her 26 year old half-sister, Elizabeth. Elizabeth I restored the Church of England, then set about straightening England's affairs, such as removing rivals and restoring England's treasury. Elizabeth I ordered the execution of her Catholic cousin, Mary, Queen of Scots, for treason. One of the greatest accomplishments during Elizabeth's reign was the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588, ensuring Spain's retirement as a world power and enabling England for further progress and expansion. Elizabeth never married, earning the moniker "The Virgin Queen." While Elizabeth had few portraits done in her older years, this painting is dated 1600. Elizabeth I is depicted in traditional Elizabethan garb; a familiar image of a beloved monarch. Another portrait dated the same year, though considerably different from this example can be found here.Through Elizabeth I's patronage of the arts and sciences, this forty-five year era came to be known as the Elizabethan Age. Elizabeth I died in 1603, at the age of 69. She bequeathed her throne to her Protestant cousin James VI of Scotland, the child of her cousin, Mary, Queen of Scots.

The House of Stuart: 

 James VI of Scotland ascended the English throne in 1603 after the death of Queen Elizabeth I, becoming King James I of England and Scotland. While nautical exploration and global expansion had begun during Elizabeth I's reign, both took off during James I's reign. Explorers like Sir Walter Raleigh and Henry Hudson added to England's interests in the Americas through the claiming of land in the Northeast of the present-day United States. The Puritan immigration began in 1620, as a result of perceived lack of religious support from the monarchy and religious intolerance. The Puritans established settlements in the Americas, providing a political and industrial foothold for England. Because of James I's "firm belief in the divine right of kings," the relationship between the monarchy and Parliament was strained. This tense relationship would later become the bane of James I's successor and second son, Charles I's rule.

In the painting to the right, James I is depicted in less detailed finery than his predecessors because of the shift in religious views on outward appearance.  The dark colors are typical for the early seventeenth century, displaying the gravity and reverence accorded to the royalty. Notice the lack of a wig. Compare this portrait with that of his French contemporaries. For a similarly styled and understated work from around the same time, follow the link provided here.

King James I (1603-1625)

John De Critz, the Elder, ca. 1603-1625, National Gallery, London

Paulus van Somer, ca. 1603-1625, Museo del Prado 

 Here James I is shown in much more formal and royal attire. This painting, in comparison to the one featured above, seems more oriented for the depiction of the monarchy's authority. The elaborate dress, including the decorated sword, in combination with rich background and powerful stance sends an authoritative message to the public and to other world leaders. Portraits such as this no doubt contributed to James I's idea of divine rulership.

As Charles I's eldest brother had died before James I had died, Charles I, as the second son, became the heir to the throne. Charles I became the King of England in 1625 with the death of King James I. Charles I not only inherited the throne, but also a number of problems, including unrest in the general public and in Parliament. War abroad had bankrupted the treasury, leaving Parliament anxious and angry. While Charles I was Anglican, his wife was Catholic, creating suspicion amongst religious factions in Great Britian, chiefly amongst the Puritains and the Scots. After dissolving Parliament three times and eventually dismissing the governing body in 1629, Charles I opted to rule alone. During this time, Charles I instituted a higher tax, which angered the people, not only because of the rise in taxes, but also because it was instituted through non-parliamentary means. Also, during this period religious factions, namely the Puritans and Catholics, expericenced pressure from the monarchy, resulting in emigration and immigration to the Americas. Due to unrest in Scotland,  a civil war broke out against the Royalists (supporters of the monarchy) and the Scots and the New Model Army, who were supported by Parliament. The Royalists were defeated in 1646, through the surrender of Charles I, who was later handed over to Parliament. However, Charles I fled to the Isle of Wight, starting the "Second Civil War," lead by Parliamentarian Oliver Cromwell. Charles I was captured,  tried, found guilty, and sentenced to death. On January 30, 1649, Charles I was beheaded.

The portrait to the right depicts Charles in understated, though no less fine, attire, with little lace and symbolic items. Charles I, like his father, James I, displays a noticeable lack of a decorative wig, ostentatious ornaments, and obvious symbols. Once again, compare Charles I with his French rivals. To further contrast the French and English, take a look at the equestrain portrait of Charles I and an equestrian statue of King Louis XIV of France. Compare both to the equestrain statue of Marcus Aurelius. How do the equestrian representations serve as a stronger symbol of authority? With the statue of Marcus Aurelius, one could argue that both Charles I and Louis XIV draw upon ancient Rome to add legitimacy to their rule. Now take this theory and apply it to Charles I and his execution. How effective was this symbol? Compare the symbolism of the equestrian portrait with the woodcut of Charles I's beheading. The publication  and propagation of this woodcut provided the public with a view of their leader, who had previously been thought to have been appointed by God, losing his head. How might this image of a fallen leader inspre a more visceral reaction than that of the equestrian portrait?

King Charles I (1625-1649) 

Anthony van Dyck, ca. 1635-1637

 The Commonwealth Era:

Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell (1649-1658)

Oliver Cromwell was born into a family of minor gentry in 1599. Through diligence and hardwork, Cromwell became a member of Parliament first in 1628-29, representing his hometown of Huntingdon, then in 1640, representing Cambridge. In between 1629 and 1640, Cromwell "experienced a religious crisis." In the end, Cromwell converted to Puritanism and became a Puritan radical bent on "carry[ing] out God's purpose." This purpose was to eradicate all remaining vestiges of Catholicism in England. Because of his staunch belief in Puritanism, Cromwell spoke out in Parliament against Charles I's religious indecision and policies of economic instability. With the outbreak of civil war (Royalists against Parliamentarians) in 1642, Cromwell lead the newly created New Model Army to several victories against the Royalists. Parliament's efforts to regain control of Britain culminated in the successul capture of Charles I and his subsequent execution. Because of Cromwell's position in the military and his role in ending the Second Civil War, he stepped in as the first non-royal "Lord Protector." However, Cromwell experienced continued unrest within Parliament. Cromwell eventually disbanded Parliament, taking the same measures as Charles I had taken ten years earlier. Although facing political turmoil, Cromwell employed a religious tolerance not previously seen in Britain for at least a century. Cromwell died on September 3, 1658, leaving the Protectorship to his son, Richard.

In the portrait to the left, notice Cromwell's lack of ornamentation. Because Cromwell was not born from a royal family, his "lack of ornamentation" is different than James I's and Charles I's "lack of ornamentation"; Cromwell is so understated that his lower-half nearly blends into the background. The background is reminicent of the portrait of James I from above. Also, notice the emphasis on the armor as opposed to traditional embellished garments. How does Cromwell clad in armor send a message of stability? Does he seem more authoritative than Charles I?

In the image to the right, Cromwell utilizes a much-used symbol of authority: the baton, particularly military authority. Again, Cromwell is depicted in armor. Does this image seem more authoritative than the above image? As you move throughout the website, search for the image of the baton and judge whether or not it is used effectively.

Lord Protector Richard Cromwell (1658-1659) 

After Oliver Cromwell's death in 1658, his son Richard took up the mantle of the Protectorship. Richard Cromwell maintained the Protectorship for less than a year before the combination of political, military, and religious unrest, along with the loss of support of the army, brought the Protectorship down. Richard Cromwell was forced to abdicate when the monarchy was restored.

Once more, Richard Cromwell is also depicted along the lines of his father, as in clad in armor. Does this representation inspire a different message than that of Oliver Cromwell's?

 The House of Stuart, Restored:

 The restoration of the House of Stuart brought the close of Republican rule in England. After the death of Oliver Cromwell and the ineffective rule of Richard Cromwell, Parliament reinstated the monarchy, with Charles I's son Charles II as king. In order to prevent further political disruption, Charles II tried to adapt policies of political and religious tolerance. However, early in Charles II's reign, several disasters struck, including another bout of plague in 1665 and the Great Fire of London the following year. Although Charles II leaned towards Catholicism, even signing a "secret" agreement with France's King Louis XIV to convert to Catholicism for support in the Second Anglo-Dutch War, he sought to bolster his image to the Protestants, through the marriage of his niece, Mary, to William of Orange. Once again, Parliament caused problems wtihin the government, causing Charles II to dissolve the body once more. During his reign, Britain's interests abroad were strengthened through the colonization of India and its sea ports, expanded sea trade, and the passage of sea navigation legislation. After dissolving Parliament, Charles II ruled alone for the remainder of his reign. Charles II, did not have legitimate offspring with his wife, therefore, he left the throne to his brother, James II.

In the portrait to the right, Charles II exhibits court dress not unlike his French contemporaries. Charles II is depicted with the crown, the ultimate symbol of   royal authority. This depiction could be in reaction to the restoration of the monarchy, almost as if reminding the viewer of the legitimacy of the monarchy, especially after the failed Republican experiment. Charles II's sumptuous garb, including the exposed legs, are symbols of the power and virility of the king. King Louis XIV of France utilizes the same devices in his official portrait. How does this portrait of Charles II compare to that of Oliver Cromwell's?

King Charles II (1659-1685)

 Charles II in the Robes of the Order of the Garter, Sir Peter Lely, ca. 1675

 Charles II in His Coronation Robes, John Michael Wright, ca. 1661

 The portrait to the left is of Charles II's coronation in 1659. Along with the ceremonial orb, scepter, and crown, Charles II is clothed in ermine (the fur trimming), another symbol of the wealth and power of the monarchy. Is this painting more authoritative than the above portrait? How do they differ? Is the propagandistic message the same?

 After his brother, Charles II died, James II, son of Charles I, ascended to the throne. Like his brother, James II was Catholic, which created tension between the monarchy and Parliament. In 1685, James II dissolved Parliament once more as the strain between the two bodies became more pronounced. James II  sought to continue the policies of religious tolerance as practiced by his brother, culminating in the issuing of the "Declaration of Indulgence." In spite of this, Parliament worried about the line of succession and their religious views. In  order to prevent a line of Catholic monarchs, Parliament urged William of Orange, James II's Protestant son-in-law, to depose James II. After battling for  the throne, William of Orange defeated James II in 1688.

James II was known to be a proficient soldier, commanding the Royal Navy after the return of his brother, Charles II, to power. Knowing this, how does  the message in the portrait to the right change? Does the armor seem less superfluous and gratuitous? Notice in the bottom left corner of the portrait, James II is holding a baton. Knowing that the baton is linked to military authority, does  the significance change? Notice also the lace accents. How does the lace signify wealth and authority, especially when coupled with the armor? Like Charles II, James II has donned a wig. Is this phenomenon caused by only by fashion?

King James II (1685-1688) 

 Artist unknown, ca. 1690, National Gallery, London

The House of Orange and Stuart:

 King William III (1689-1702)

William III, Willem Wissing, ca. 1689-1702, Rijks Museum

 Queen Mary II (1689-1694)

 Queen Mary II, Willem Wissing, ca. 1689-1694

William of Orange, born in  1650, the son of Mary, who was the daughter of Charles I. The Orange family was prominent in the Netherlands, acting as the ruling family until King Louis XIV invaded. The family then became the "stadtholder," almost like a governor, and military commander of the Netherlands. 

Mary II was born in 1662, the daughter of James II. While her father was Catholic, Mary II was raised a Protestant. Mary II married her cousin, William of Orange in 1677 and moved to the Netherlands.

Because of the James II's inclinations to Catholicism, Parliament invited William of Orange to depose the King. William of Orange successfully removed James II from the throne, causing Parliament to place William of Orange on the throne in James II's stead. King William III and Queen Mary II were crowned in 1689 and ruled jointly, ushering in what had came to be known as "The Glorious Revolution," bringing Protestantism back into the monarchy. The two rulers passed "The Bill of Rights of 1689," which banned Catholics from becoming rulers and restricted the power of the monarchy. Mary II died in 1694, leaving William III to rule alone. Since the couple were childless, after William III died in 1702, Mary II's sister, Anne, ascended the throne.

To the left, William III is also depicted in armor and with a baton. Does this portrayal only allude to his illustrious military career, and thereby his legitimacy to rule? While William III is shown in a militant light, Mary II exhibits the symbols of royalty seen in her predecessors, such as the ermine-trimmed robe and the crown. Mary II often served as Regent to William III while he was abroad leading military campaigns. When William III returned, Mary II willingly relinquished power. How does this image contradict her actions? Does she seem like the more legitimate ruler than William III based on these images?

~All dates are dates of reign                                                                                                                                        Format: Title, Artist(s), Date, Current Location (if available)

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