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More Stuarts, more plague, a Great Fire and a Glorious Revolution

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1650: First coffee house opens its doors

Queen's Lane Coffee House in Oxford is still open for business if you'd like to visit!

A Cup of Tea

1651: The English Dancing Master

Collected by John Playford, a publisher, this book contains the music and instructions for English Country Dances. An invaluable resource for later composers and a wonderful snapshot of England at that time.

16 Oct 1651: Charles II leaves for France

Charles II was crowned by the Scots in return for accepting their Covenant (see 1638) but after another unsuccessful invasion beaten off by Cromwell, he is forced to flee. Legend has it that Charles hides in an oak tree, the Royal Oak, to avoid detection by Parliamentary soldiers.

20 Apr 1653: "Rump" Parliament dissolved

The Rump Parliament was the name given to the Long Parliament after the purge of 1648. It consisted of about 50 independent MPs and had unprecedented powers – being bound by neither King, nobility or bishops. Cromwell dissolves it, however, because there was too much discussion of how the new Parliamentary system should work and nothing, such as paying the army, was getting done. It is succeeded by a series of constitutional experiments.

16 Dec 1653: Cromwell becomes Lord Protector

The Instrument Of Government is drawn up, which is the first English constitution. It sets out a kind of limited monarchy, where the Lord Protector rules England, Scotland and Ireland with the advice of a council.

1655: Jews allowed to return to England

Dutch rabbi Manasseh ben Israel petitions Cromwell to allow the Jews to return to England

1657: First chocolate house opens

Opened by an anonymous Frenchman in the City of London, this chocolate house introduced this hot, bitter beverage to the English. Adding milk and sugar later made it very popular.

A Cup of Tea

25 May 1657: Humble Petition and Advice

This is the Second Constitution of the Protectorate, defining the role of the Protector in more detail, and offering Cromwell the Crown. He refuses but retains the right to name his own successor.

03 Sep 1658: Oliver Cromwell dies

Cromwell nominates his son, Richard, as his successor.

25 May 1659: Richard Cromwell resigns

Unable to control Parliament, Richard resigns and goes into exile. General George Monck, with the help of the army, sets about the restoration of Charles II.

01 Jan 1660: Samuel Pepys begins his diary

In order to protect his privacy, Pepys wrote his diary in a secret code that was not cracked until 1825. Once it could be read it was realised that this was a fantastic record of daily life in the 1660s, a time of great change in London. At its first publication, the most personal sections were censored, but it is now possible to read it all.

25 May 1660: Restoration of the monarchy

Charles II assumes the throne. After the austerity of life under the Puritan Commonwealth, Charles's reign ushers in an era of playfulness and excess.

1662: Royal wedding introduces tea to UK

The daughter of the King of Portugal, Catherine of Braganza, brought tea-drinking with her as a habit when she married Charles II. She also brought with her the tea-producing lands of Mumbai and Tangier as part of her dowry, enabling the East India Company to establish a permanent base in India.

A Cup of Tea

09 May 1662: "Birthday" of Mr Punch

In his diary, Pepys describes watching a performance of a Punch and Judy show in Covent Garden on this day.

Punch and Judy

1664: England seizes New Amsterdam

Over in North America, the English seize the Dutch territory of New Amsterdam. Its name is changed to New York.

1665: Micrografia published by Hooke

Micrografia is a collection of observations made by examining objects through a compound microscope designed and built by Robert Hooke himself. Famous for coining the biological word "cell", Hooke is a competitor with Newton to be the foremost scientist of the age.

12 Apr 1665: Great Plague in London

Another outbreak of the bubonic plague (see Black Death 1348), this epidemic claimed the lives of 15% of the city's population. Daniel Defoe's semi-documentary Journal Of The Plague Year is a fascinating, if gruesome, read.

Nov 1665: First newspaper published

The first "real" newspaper (more than a newsletter) was called The Oxford Gazette. Published in Oxford because that is where the Royal Court was, due to plague in London, the newspaper changed its name the following year.

02 Sep 1666: Fire of London

Famously started by an unattended oven in Pudding Lane, the fire spreads quickly through the densely-packed wooden buildings of the City of London and rages for days. Overall, four-fifths of the City is totally destroyed. Out of the ashes rose the vision of a new city by Sir Christopher Wren, including the St Paul's Cathedral we recognise today.

1667: Milton publishes Paradise Lost

An epic poem describing the Fall of Lucifer and the war between Heaven and Hell. Milton inspired many poets and is credited as inventing the first "anti-hero", Satan. Blake made watercolour illustrations to Paradise Lost in 1808. The words to Jerusalem by Blake are taken from a long poem which is a tribute to Milton.


29 Mar 1673: Test Act passed

This Act prohibits Catholics from holding military or civil office. Along with the Clarendon Code (aimed at ending toleration of the Puritans), this marks an important stage in the re-establishment of the Church of England. On the death of Charles, this act was used against his Catholic brother James, who became King.

1677: The birth of the museum?

Tradescant's Cabinet of Curiosities is given to the University of Oxford, founding the Ashmolean Museum. Tradescant's collection was a wonderful mixture of objects (including stuffed animals and a mermaid's hand) from all over the world. Such a collection was part of the drive to understand, categorise and control nature, an encyclopaedic project to encompass the whole of knowledge. The catalogue of 1656, written by Tradescant Jnr, was the first document of its kind in the world.

06 Sep 1678: Titus Oates reveals a Popish Plot

Oates, an Anglican priest, tells of a Jesuit plot to kill the King and establish Catholic James in his place. In this atmosphere of suspicion he is believed and several Catholics are executed. But was Oates making it all up?

21 Mar 1679: Exclusion Crisis

The Exclusion Crisis comes about because Charles is unwilling to pass the Exclusion Bill, which would ban his brother from the succession in favour of Charles' own illegitimate son, the Duke of Monmouth. The crisis, which lasts for some years, prompts the emergence of organised political parties: Tories (who are pro Catholic James) and Whigs (who are anti).

1681: Sanctuary offered to the Huguenots

Charles II welcomes Protestant Huguenot refugees fleeing persecution by the Catholics in France. The Huguenots were skilled weavers and merchants who worked mainly with silk. Their arrival transformed fashion and they became an important, and wealthy, group in society.

06 Feb 1685: Charles succeeded by Catholic James

Charles II, who has no legitimate heir, is therefore succeeded by his brother James, who is Catholic.

16 Jul 1685: Duke of Monmouth beheading botched

Duke of Monmouth (Charles II's illegitimate son) is beheaded for rebellion at the Tower of London. The execution is botched by drunken executioner Jack Ketch. Ketch is the name of the executioner in Punch and Judy shows.

Punch and Judy

05 Jul 1687: The apple, and the penny, drops

Sir Isaac Newton publishes Mathematical Principles Of Natural Philosophy including laws of motion and universal gravitation

05 Nov 1688: Glorious Revolution

Protestant William of Orange lands in England, invited by Parliament to save the nation from a Catholic King

c.1689: Dido And Aeneas

Henry Purcell composes his opera, Dido And Aeneas, containing the haunting air "When I am laid in earth".

22 Jan 1689: Bill of Rights

This invites William and Mary to accept the throne and establishes constitutional Royalty.

12 Jul 1690: Battle of the Boyne

Protestant King of England William III defeats Catholic, former King James II at the Battle of the Boyne, decisively marking the victory of Protestantism over Catholicism in England.

13 Feb 1692: Massacre at Glencoe

Members of the MacDonald clan are slaughtered by the Campbell soldiers, ostensibly for refusing to sign an oath of allegiance to English King William. There was, of course, much more to the story than that. The callousness of the murders shocks both nations.

1693: John Aubrey's Monumenta Britannica

Although it was not published during his lifetime, the prospectus for this book details Aubrey's investigations at Stonehenge in 1648 which led to his discovery of the 56 holes that were named in his honour in the 1920s.


27 Jul 1694: Bank of England founded

The Bank of England is the central bank and note-issuing institution in Britain. It safeguards the pound, manages the public debt and is the depository of public funds. When founded by William Paterson, it is was a commercial enterprise, with a capital of £1.2 million.

02 Dec 1697: First service in the new St Paul's

Although the building wasn't officially completed until 1708, services begin this year. The famous London landmark was designed by Sir Christopher Wren, one of 50 churches built to replace those destroyed by the Fire of London. St Paul's survived the Blitz bombing of London in 1940 and became a symbol of Londoners' resistance.

Jan 1698: Palace of Whitehall burns down

The original Holbein mural of Henry VIII is lost in the fire.

Holbein's Henry VIII