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The Mayflower

Below is William Halsall’s 1882 portrait of the Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor. It is obviously imagined as the original ship was almost certainly broken up at Rotherhithe in 1624, a more extreme case than 

the “Streatham portrait“, which post-dates it’s purported subject’s death by about forty years. From the spelling of the title, the background is evidently Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts, not Drake’s Devonian city. Halsall, who was originally from Kirkdale in Liverpool, spent most of his working life in Boston.

The Mayflower and the Speedwell met at Southampton in July 1620 as a reaction to the religious situation in England. For the two hundred or so Puritans that travelled on this journey, life was easier in many ways under James VI/ I than it had been during the previous century – they were no longer significantly persecu.ted, although many were financially marginalised. Within thirty years, the next generation of Puritans were to rule Britain with James’ son executed and his grandson displaced, but the Leiden Communion of refugees that left Delftshaven on the Speedwell under Captain Reynolds four hundred years ago today were as unhappy with their place in society as were Christopher Jones’ crew on the Mayflower. Jones appears to have been a Harwich man of about fifty, as this Harwich Society plaque implies (right), although Coggeshall also claims him, having been master and part-owner of the Mayflower for eleven years. The dissenter William Bradford, author of the History of Plymouth Plantation, was one of his passengers

Jones sailed from Rotherhithe to Southampton in mid-July to meet Reynolds’ crew, both ships carrying a number of animals. The Speedwell had sprung a leak crossing the North Sea and needed repair so the ships finally set sail on 5 August and finally sighted land – Cape Cod as it now known – on 9 November. Eighteen days later, being unable to settle in Virginia, some of the party sailed in search of a permanent base. Thus began the permanent settlement of European people in North America, following the attempts of Bartholomew Gosnold.

The Earl of Pembroke’s missing feet….!

Oh, I do love typos. This one is from Wikipedia :-

“…Pembroke though, was much delayed; although he was in Plymouth by May, his feet could not be available until June…”

What a wonderful image this conjures! 

A very busy presenter

Rob Bell seems to be on television a lot at the moment. Although he is an engineer and not quite a historian, many of his programmes go back in time as structures were built. Walking Britain’s Lost Railways, for instance, goes back under two centuries because of the subject matter, but Great British Ships (both Channel Five) has already covered HMS Victory and the Mary Rose, which was built in 1510 and sank in 1545. At the same time, possibly literally, Bell is appearing on BBC1 and BBC4’s (repeated) Engineering Giants, projects which he narrates actively with enthusiasm and technical knowledge, together with an interest in the local culture. For example, he tells viewers of Brunel’s great feats, tries to explain why the Mary Rose sank and walks most of the Dartmoor route from Plymouth to Exeter, although a small stage of this track has re-opened in recent years.

The last episode featured Ruabon to Barmouth via Llangollen, where the Irish Ladies lived.

A new interpretation of 1580s events

We all know that Mary Stuart was beheaded at Fotheringhay on 8 February 1587 and that the Spanish Armada sailed to facilitate a Catholic invasion of England in the following year, leaving Lisbon on 28 May and fighting naval battles in late July, at Plymouth and Portland. The traditional view is that Mary Stuart’s execution and Elizabeth I’s support for the revolt in the Spanish Netherlands provoked Phillip II’s wrath.

It is quite possible that this was not the case and that Phillip had

sought to overthrow his quondam sister-in-law much earlier. Mary, as the daughter of Marie de Guise and widow of Francis II was the French-backed Catholic candidate for the English throne and Franco-Spanish rivalry ensured that Phillip, great nephew of Catherine of Aragon and a Lancastrian descendant proper+, would not act in concert with any of her plots; however her death cleared the way for him, especially as the French Wars of Religion were still to resolve themselves.

We can compare this with the England of 1685-8, as William of Orange allowed the Duke of Monmouth to attempt an invasion first and only asserted his stronger semi-marital claim against James VII/II afterwards. In 1483-5, by contrast, the Duke of Buckingham was legitimately descended from Edward III when he rebelled against Richard III, only for Henry “Tudor”, of dubious lineage, to benefit.

h/t Jeanne Griffin

+ See The Wars of The Roses, Ashdown-Hill, part 4.

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