Tag Archives: Duke of York

Death of Charles II…..and its all downhill from here.

On this day in 1685 Charles II died after a short, sudden illness and was received into the Catholic Church on his passing.

Chas II admitted to Holy Mother ChurchCharles is converted to Catholicism on his death bed…..

And so his brother began his brief and troubled reign as James II and VII. The proclamation of his accession in Scotland was signed on 10th February by the entire Scottish Privy Council, including Bonnie Dundee, with no mention being made of the Covenant, that troubled document which had overshadowed all political and military events in Scotland since 1638.

Although it was in Scotland that Charles had first landed and been proclaimed King in 1649, on the basis that he signed up to the Covenant, he had had little interest in matters north of the border following his eventual Restoration to the throne of the three kingdoms in 1660. So in the following 25 years he made no effort to travel back to the kingdom of his fathers, in much the same fashion as his grandfather, James I and VI, after he acceded to the unified throne in 1603.

Chas II signs up to the Covenant

Charles II signs up to the Covenant

To be fair there were many other matters to demand his attention during this time; the first, second and third Dutch wars,  the Great Plague of London, the Great Fire of London and his determined efforts to achieve some degree of emancipation for English Catholics to name but a few.

great fire of london

The Great Fire of London….amongst Charles II’s concerns

Charles’ good lady wife, Catherine of Braganza, fell pregnant on a number of occasions but sadly none of these ended successfully. And since the fourteen odd illegitimate offspring that the “Merry Monarch” was able to produce could not inherit the throne the succession duly passed to James. If the loyal citizens of Scotland had thought that Charles’ reign had been a disappointment then they would soon find that there were new depths of dismay to be tholed.

If Charles was somewhat disconnected from affairs in Scotland the new monarch was considerably more familiar with matters Scots having set up in residence in Holyrood way back in 1679 when Charles had taken suddenly and seriously ill and a political storm had blown up in England over a Catholic being next in line to the throne. Irony abounds. James had been made a member of the Scottish Privy Council and rapidly came to take a dominant position on this august body which ruled the country on a day to bay basis in the King’s name.

holyrood-640x553Holyrood Palace ..from where the Duke of York headed up the Scottish Privy Council in 1679

Dundee had little involvement with Charles during his reign but had long enjoyed the patronage of James, from when he was first recommended to him by William of Orange following Dundee’s service in the Dutch Army. In due course, Dundee became a friend and close advisor to the then Duke of York. Sadly James took advice from many and was unable to distinguish between the good and the bad.

james-ii as DofY

James II & VII when still the Duke of York


January 24th 1679 – Charles II dissolves the Cavalier Parliament

On this day in 1679 Charles II dissolved the seemingly interminable Cavalier Parliament. This had opened almost 18 years previously in May 1661 but still sat for less time than Charles I’s Long Parliament of 1640 – 1660.

The first act of this august body was to pass the Sedition Act which declared the Solemn League and Covenant null and void and ordered it be publicly burned. 17 years too late in the mind of many, as by then the damage was done. The Solemn League, signed in 1643, was an agreement between the Scottish Covenanters and the English Parliament by which the Scots agreed to provide military aid to the English against their mutual, lawful king, in exchange for their agreement to ensure the extirpation of papacy and prelacy and, ultimately and bizarrely, the imposition of the full weight of dogmatic Presbyterianism on the people of England.

the solemn league

   Solemn League and Covenant – publicly repudiated and burned by order of the Cavalier Parliament

Unsurprisingly there was a host of other legislation passed during this epic sitting and much repealing of legislation passed during the twenty years of the Long Parliament, so rigidly opposed to Charles I. Although at one point Parliament had to adjourn to Oxford to conduct its business due to the Great Fire.

great fire of london                                Great Fire of London – Cavalier Parliament moved to Oxford

This included the Militia Act which placed the command of the armed forces wholly and clearly under the King’s authority. Also the Indemnity and Oblivion Act which pardoned all involved in the regicide of Charles I in 1649 with the exception of those directly involved. Who was to be included on this list was the subject of rancorous debate for some two months as names were added to the original list of seven miscreants and others taken off. John Milton, of Paradise Lost fame, walked free.

John Milton

John Milton – pardoned for his part in Charles I’s regicide

Ultimately only thirteen individuals were executed for this heinousness. Although nineteen were imprisoned for life and a further three, already dead by the time of Charles II’s restoration, had their bodies desecrated.

Also repealed was the Bishops’ Exclusion Act of 1642 which permitted the aforementioned Bishops to resume their temporal positions from which they had been heaved so unceremoniously by the previous regime. And the first licensing of hackney carriages took place.


Hackney cabs – first licensed by the Cavalier Parliament

However, after this promising start relations between the king and his parliament deteriorated. Prejudice against the King’s brother, the Duke of York and future King James II and VII, led to a raft of provocative legislation; requiring the taking of oaths renouncing papal authority, imposing the requirement of parliamentary consent to royal marriages and the threat of charges of high treason against the Duke of York led to a difficult and confrontational atmosphere reminiscent of the situation prevailing under Charles I twenty years earlier.

Ultimately the king’s disastrous foreign intriguing over the Dutch French war, with his foreign secretary Lord Danby, during which it was decided that marrying the Duke of York’s daughter, Mary, to William of Orange would be helpful and constructive step to ensuring the future prosperity of the Stuart monarchy, led to a situation of deep and mutual distrust which was tipped over the edge by the hysterical nonsense of the Popish Plot and Charles was forced to agree the parliament’s dissolution.




11th August 1674: Bonnie Dundee Saves William of Orange’s Life at the Battle of Seneff

On this day in 1674 occurred one of those events in Dundee‘s life which, like many others, is shrouded in uncertainty.

   In 1672, at 24 years old, he had been commissioned as a junior Lieutenant in Sir William Lockhart’s Scots Regiment serving under the command of the Duke of Monmouth in the French Army of Marshall Turenne. With the ending of this war the following year, Monmouth returned to Britain with his forces. Dundee travelled around Europe for some months then, with the outbreak of the Franco-Dutch war, he returned to Holland, volunteering for William of Orange’s personal guard and was given the rank of Cornet.

In the summer of 1674 William led his army south into the territory of Northern France. This area was defended by a French force commanded by the Prince de Conde, one of the ablest captains of the age. For five weeks both armies manoeuvred around each other without engaging in decisive battle. On the 10th of August, William decided to head for Paris in order to force the enemy into fighting.


   Louis de Bourbon, Prince de Conde

Conde sensed his opportunity and detached a force of 500 horsemen to engage the Dutch vanguard near the village of Seneffe, 30 km NE of Mons in modern Belgium. In the meantime, Condé tried to surround the 60,000 allied troops with the 45,000 men at his disposal. His horsemen successfully kept the Dutch vanguard busy, but his attempted envelopment of the main allied force failed. After ten hours of heavy struggle Condé’s force had suffered 8,000 dead or wounded and William’s army 11,000. Both armies retreated from the battlefield claiming victory.

During the course of the battle William’s horse foundered when in close proximity to the enemy. Dundee pulled William onto his own horse and carried him away from danger.  William duly rewarded this personal service by giving Dundee a commission as Captain in his own regiment of Horse Guards. A body of men commanded by the Count de Somes, who subsequently led the Hanoverian van at the Battle of the Boyne.


 William of Orange unhorsed during the battle

This was the last battle fought by Conde in a long and illustrious career and his conduct of it has been heavily criticised. Particularly as on three occasions he personally led cavalry charges against the Dutch forces at great risk to himself. Nonetheless he was subsequently grandly received by Louis XIV at Versailles. An event magnificently captured on canvas by Jean-Leon Gerome.


Reception of the Grand Condé at Versailles following his victory at Seneffe. The Grand                            Condé advances towards Louis XIV in a respectful manner with laurel wreaths on his                            path, while captured enemy flags are displayed on both sides of the stairs.

There is no mention of Dundee’s rescue of William in any contemporary accounts of the battle. And the tale itself has been contemptuously rejected by the erstwhile British historian Thomas Macaulay, who was, unfortunately,  not fully familiarised with all of the primary sources. Nonetheless, it is clear that Dundee did provide William with some significant personal service around this time. The truth of it is acceptable to all but the die-hard who, in Daviot’s words, will be satisfied with nothing less than William’s personal account with the signature twice witnessed. Whether this event took place at Seneff or the later siege of St Omer in 1677, it clearly did happen. Thus demonstrating his courage in battle and ensuring that his mettle was known to the Prince of Orange.

After the Peace of Nimeguen in 1678, the continent was once more at peace and Dundee resigned his commission in the Dutch service and crossed over to Britain taking with him a reputation for courage and ability that at once recommended him to the King and Duke of York for a man likely to be useful in such affairs as they had then on hand.

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