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1600-1650

Elizabeth I dies, replaced by the early Stuarts (and the Gunpowder Plot and the King James Bible); and the Civil War makes England a Commonwealth

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1600: "Spitfire" enters English language

The word is first recorded in this year, meaning a fiery-tempered person easily aroused to anger (or spit fire). It became the name of the most famous plane in military history.

The Spitfire

31 Dec 1600: East India Company set up

Elizabeth I grants a Royal Charter to the East India Company, giving it the right to trade in the East Indies for 15 years, but the charter was extended indefinitely by her successor, James.

A Cup of Tea

1603: Elizabeth I succeeded by James I

James was the son of Mary Queen of Scots and, just at the last minute, became her appointed successor. He had been James VI of Scotland since 1567.

14 Jan 1604: Hampton Court Conference begins

The Conference was called to settle disputes between the Church of England and the Puritans. The main result of the political in-fighting that occurred was a commission from James I to produce a new translation of the Bible. This became known as the "Authorise" Version or the "King James Bible".

The King James Bible

04 Nov 1605: Gunpowder Plot is foiled

A Catholic plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament at the opening ceremony, thereby killing the King and all the key figures in the English government, is foiled when Guy Fawkes is arrested in the cellars below. Fawkes and a number of the other conspirators were executed, a fact remembered by the burning of a "guy" each year on Bonfire Night.

1607: The "Plantation" of Ulster

James I seizes six counties in Ulster for English Protestant rule. This division of Protestant Northern Ireland from Catholic Southern Ireland is one of the roots of the political unrest that has dogged Anglo-Irish relations for centuries.

c.1608: Tradescant visits Europe

John Tradescant the Elder collects trees, bulbs, plants and fruit trees, which have never been grown in England. He designs beautiful gardens for Hatfield House with orchards, elaborate fountains, scented plants, water parterres, terraces and herb gardens.

1610: First performance of The Alchemist

This satirical play by Ben Jonson tells the story of Subtle, a fake alchemist and astrologer and his variety of victims. Like all Jonson's "city comedies", it is a lively look at contemporary London society

1611: King James Bible

The publication date of the newly translated King James Bible named after the king who commissioned it. The language of this Bible had a profound impact on the development of the English language itself and continues to inspire writers and artists to this day.

The King James Bible

1613: Globe Theatre burns down

During a performance of Shakespeare's Henry VIIIa canon ball lodged in the thatch and the whole building was burned to the ground. The theatre was rebuilt the following year but demolished in 1644. The Globe now standing on the Thames at Bear Gardens is a full-sized reconstruction of the Elizabethan building as nearly authentic as anyone can make it. Open for performances during the summer months - pay a visit!

16 Sep 1620: Mayflower sets sail from Plymouth

The Mayflowercarries 102 men, women and children, mainly Puritans, bound for the New World in search of religious freedom. These settlers are known as the "Pilgrim Fathers" because they formed the first permanent colony of Europeans in New England, the foundation for an independent United States some 150 years later.

1623: Shakespeare's First Foliopublished

Shakespeare's colleagues, Heminges and Condell, were responsible for collecting together his plays into Mr William Shakespeare's Comedies, Histories and Tragedies. This book is important because it is the first time some of Shakespeare's plays appeared in print, for example Macbeth.

1624: First cricketing fatality

Jasper Vinall is killed when he is hit by a bat while trying to catch a ball in Horsted Green, Surrey.

1624: "No man is an island…"

John Donne publishes Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions. Meditation 17 includes the famous passage "No man is an island, entire of itself… any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee." Donne was the Dean of St Paul's from 1621-1631 and was an extraordinary poet.

1625: James I succeeded by Charles I

Charles is the second son of James. Weak and sickly as a child, he soon becomes a strong, wilful leader.

23 Aug 1628: Duke of Buckingham assassinated

George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, was Charles I's favourite, as he had been his father's before him, but was despised by the people of England. Pamphlets distributed before his death read: "Who rules the Kingdom? The King. Who rules the King? The Duke. Who rules the Duke? The Devil." When he is stabbed by John Felton, a disaffected soldier who had been let down in one of Buckingham's campaigns, the nation rejoices. Felton is hanged at Tyburn.

02 Mar 1629: Charles dissolves Parliament

Charles proceeds to rule for 11 years without the inconvenience of a Parliament telling him what to do. This is the kind of behaviour that led to the Civil War.

1630: Covent Garden developed

The Earl of Bedford commissions architect Inigo Jones to create a Piazza on land which was previously the Convent Garden of Westminster Abbey. It is the first experiment in town planning. Jones was a classical architecture enthusiast, particularly the Palladian style, and the buildings of the Piazza and perfect grid of streets reflected this. An eye-opener for Londoners.

1631: Error in the King James Bible!

In the 1631 edition of the Bible the commandment in Exodus 20:14 reads "Thou shalt commit adultery."

The King James Bible

1633: Church of England endorses football

The Church of England officially endorsed the game as a blameless activity.

The FA Cup

28 Feb 1638: National Covenant signed

Charles attempts to introduce an English-style prayer book into Scotland as a step towards bringing Scotland more tightly under English control. The Covenant signed in Edinburgh is an act of rebellion, binding all those who sign to resist the imposition of Anglican practices on the Scottish Church, and furthermore demands change in the way Scotland is governed. The people who signed it are known as the "Covenanters".

13 Apr 1640: Short Parliament

So-called because it is dissolved by Charles I after only three weeks. It had failed to vote him funds for fighting the rebellious Scots (fighting what is known as the Bishops' Wars against the English on the Borders).

Oct 1640: Treaty of Ripon

This treaty forces Charles to allow the Scottish Church to reform itself, not be imposed on by the Church of England.

03 Nov 1640: Long Parliament meets

So-called because officially this Parliament remains sitting until 1660. Charles called it in order to raise money to pay off the Scots according to the Treaty of Ripon, but found a number of his key people under threat of impeachment from Parliamentarians. One of these men, the Earl of Strafford, is found guilty on trumped-up charges of treason and Charles is forced to sign his death warrant.

04 Jan 1642: "All my birds have flown"

Charles attempts to have five prominent Members of Parliament arrested because he is so frustrated at their constant opposition to his plans. The men are tipped off in advance and Charles arrives to an empty room.

22 Aug 1642: Royal standard raised at Nottingham

The disputes between Charles and Parliament finally descend into military action. The Civil War begins.

1644: Hopkins begins witch hunting

Matthew Hopkins earns the title Witch-finder General after his interrogation of one-legged Elizabeth Clarke of Manningtree results in the conviction of her and 31 others for witchcraft. During his career at this time of suspicions and unrest, Hopkins was responsible for the execution of up to 400 people. The classic English horror movie Witch-finder General dramatises this story and Caryl Churchill's play Vinegar Tom portrays similar events.

14 Jun 1645: New Model Army's first victory

The New Model Army was a professional army set up by the Parliamentarians to decisively win the war. Ability rather than social class was the key to preferment. Commander in Chief was General Fairfax and Oliver Cromwell was in charge of the cavalry, which was the key to their success. The Battle of Naseby, the NMA's first proper outing, proves their steely efficiency by routing the Royalists and leaving 1,000 of them dead.

05 May 1646: Charles I surrenders to the Scots

Charles escapes in disguise from the besieged town of Oxford and flees to Scotland. He hands himself in and begins discussions with them about his future.

1647: Demolition of the Charing Cross

The Charing Cross was one of 12 Eleanor Crosses which marked the stopping points of the procession carrying the body of Queen Eleanor from Lincoln to London. Her husband, Edward I, ordered the crosses to be made as a memorial to his beloved Queen. Only three of the original crosses survive today - the one outside Charing Cross station is a highly imaginative Victorian reconstruction.

30 Jan 1647: Scots hand Charles over

The Scots hand Charles over to Parliament, at which point he tries to string out negotiations to give the Scots time to change their minds and help him. They don't.

28 Oct 1647: First of the Putney Debates held

The Putney Debates are a series of meetings by the Army Council on how to proceed with Charles and the matter of running the country. The real revolutionaries, the Levellers, push for universal male suffrage but are tempered by Cromwell and Henry Ireton.

30 Jan 1649: Execution of Charles I

It is said that Charles wore two shirts the day he climbed the scaffolding. Because it was January he was worried he might shiver and the crowd might mistake it for a shudder of fear.

17 Mar 1649: Abolition of the monarchy

Not only the monarchy but the House of Lords and the Anglican Church went, too.