A very English conflict

A VERY ENGLISH CONFLICT- the Warwick University Files affair – a personal note from a participant- Trevor Fisher

 

 A note giving the context to the account of the Warwick Files Affair published as Warwick University Ltd Ed E. P.Thompson, published by Penguin Books in Spring 1970 and republished with new introduction by Spokesman in 2014. Early in the affair the students elected a Commitee of Seven to represent their interests. I was one of those elected.

 

When students at the University of Warwick returned to their studies in the New Year of 1970, they returned to a campus lacking the buzz of activity of today’s university. There were only a tenth of the current number of students – the university opened in 1965, and only about 500 undergraduates were admitted every year.  After the first students had graduated in 1969, around 1500 undergraduates plus 300 post graduates made up the student cohort.,  Many students had been attracted by the pioneering spirit of a new university and realised the university was still developing and realised  they were working in a building site. However the development of the university raised more questions than answers about its identity.

 

The first year when students and staff crammed into the East Site with considerable camaradarie, was history once the move to the main site was completed. By New Year 1970 any students who thought in terms of a community of scholars and dreaming spires realised this was not the model Warwick was following. When tiles began falling off the virtually new library building – and the contract was traced back to the brother of the Vice Chancellor, Jack Butterworth (check) – a growing cynicism was detected among students, with muttering about business involvement in the highest levels of university governance..

 

Nevertheless, most complaints were relatively mundane. The price of food was an issue, especially as getting off campus involved a trek to catch a bus down the A46. Entertainment was limited, no arts centre as had been promised, and above all only a social building. The main space was dubbed the Airport Lounge as the architects had worked on airports and it felt like designers thought we would be flying off in a couple of hours.  The university had granted a students union but not a building in which to house it.

 

However keenly felt, isolation and boredom did not make for a revolutionary consciousness. The myth of ‘Red Warwick’ (1) is overstated. While student General meetings in the Airport were attracting increasing numbers of students and gave a  constitutional basis for the sit ins which echoed developments elsewhere, the radicals paying their dues to the Socialist Society never commanded majority support among students. Indeed the biggest meetings in the Airport prior to the Files Affair were to watch The Magic Roundabout on children’s TV, with the cartoon characters  Florence and Zebedee having more followers than Marx and Engels.

 

A WINTER OF DISCONTENT

 

Warwick was affected by the international student protests following the events of 1968, but the big issues like the Vietnam war had only indirect effect.. The first sit in took place in the library in support of LSE students protesting steel gates installed in the university buildings. We thought that the paranoia that sought to restrict movement in a university was more akin to a prison than a place of scholarship. And this concern for academic freedom was a core value for students at Warwick. The Socialist Society showed maturity in keying in to what the student mainstream valued and avoiding leftist rhetoric. I personally was a member of the (Old Pre Lib Dem) Liberal party and had just finished a year as Political Vice Chair of the  Union of Liberal Students.

 

The lack of a students union building was the key issue for most students. Frustration at stonewalling from the administration led to a token occupation of the Registry on February 2nd, which failed to change anything. Students then voted for an indefinite occupation on February 11th. The sit in was planned to be a genteel affair. The Assistant Vice Chancellor Walter Coutts struck a deal with the sit in leaders that if they promised no damage would be done the the adminstration would not order the porters to bar access. Thus the outer offices were left open to be occupied (not all the offices as WUL suggests (p50) ). The deal allowed a peaceful occupation, albeit over a relatively minor issue. While rumours of dodgy dealings at the top of the university had been  rife for some time, porters had removed boxes of files once news of the vote to occupy reached East Site.. I could see no point in occupying empty offices and with Finals a few  months away, went to the library with a friend  to finish an essay.

 

THE LAW OF UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES.

 

However the law of unintended consequences then operated with startling effect. The adminstrators had removed boxes of files, but one compromising letter – the Montgomery letter – had been left in the rush to evacuate the Registry. This mistake, and the accidental discovery of the letter, changed the climate. By 9pm the letter had reached not only EP Thompson but the bar of the social building, and there was an immediate evacuation of concerned and angry students heading up the hill to the East Site. When we got there, we entered a surreal . The Sitters In, already combing the rest of the files in the open offices and finding nothing suspicious, were discussing whether to break into the locked inner sanctum and go through the vice chancellor’s files. It was unanimously agreed to do so.

 

While as this book shows, the files did contain very dubious material, it is worth noting what a gamble this was. WUL gives the impression the discoveries were inevitable. At the time, this was far from certain. If there had been nothing, the consequences would be very serious. The only justification for breaking into a Vice Chancellors office, searching his files and removing some was that the action was in the public interest. This could only be argued if material of public interest were found.

 

Rumours of dubious practices proved to have substance and by  Thursday 5pm the occupation had the evidence. But as WUL notes (p53), “the dillemma of the evidence had begun”. No one would believe the testimony of students. The files had to be abstracted and made public, but this raised even more serious dangers for the students concerned, especially after the High Court injunction was delivered by loud hailer (possibly uniquely) at 11.30pm.

 

The General Meeting that Friday morning backed the decision and decided to publish the material through a joint committee of staff and students. A Committee of Seven students was elected to do this. But the staff refused to back the students in setting up a joint committee and as WUL notes “the students were isolated. But they decided to continue their efforts to uncover the truth about the University Administration” (p56). This meant a strategy of publish or be damned. It was quite clear that unless the files could be made public, we were to be hung out to dry. Thus photocopies were rushed to London to the offices of the Sunday newspapers as the mainstream press were key to success. In the meantime, the original files were kept in the most secure place anyone could think of.  Without any irony intended, they were kept under a pile of dirty laundry in my wardrobe in Benefactors Hall.

 

That weekend was the crux of the confrontation, but the section of WUL on pages 56 and 57 only sketches the main developments. On Saturday 14th the University senate met and adopted the hard line statement printed on pages 126-127. The tone was set by the attack including the wholly innaccurate accusation of intimidation of staff. There had been none. It clear that when Senate’s reps came to address students, it would be high noon.

 

THE WEEKEND OF 14TH -15TH

 

While some of the Committee of 7 headed for Essex University that weekend to commune with the Red Base established there, (Warwick did not have a Red Base but Essex was a genuinely left wing student body), it was clear that the stakes had risen, and the dillemma of the evidence had to be resolved. The documents were extracted from my laundry basket, taken away and typed up. On the Monday morning every door in the university would have a copy put under to greet the dawn. No one on campus would have any doubt what had been discovered.

 

But this was small beer. The real issue was the national press, and it was with great concern that students read the reports of the Files Affair in the national sunday press – without any mention of the actual documents which had been copied to every national paper. The evidence was missing. Without that, the senate had every right to think they could lay down a hard line at the student meeting called for Monday evening, and split what had been till then a remarkable unity of liberal and left wing students over the academic freedom issues posed by the files. It was not looking good that Sunday.

 

When Monday morning dawned, the documents were taken round the university in the dawn light. The meeting with the  Senators – including the Vice Chancellor, but led by Professor Hugh Clegg, a noted moderate was notably low key. The students heard the administration in silence, but questions became increasingly hostile as the document distributed that morning was referred to without gaining answers from the senators. It seemed they would make no comment pending advice from lawyers: and they could have no doubt their action in securing the High Court injunction had given hostages to fortune. If they hoped to engineer a split in the student body, over 1000 of whom were crammed into the Airport, then had failed. When they left, 850 students voted for a motion which, while regretting ‘distress, fear or anxiety’ inadvertently caused to clerical staff by the sit in, opposed disciplinary or legal action by the university and in rejecting the Senate statement of the 14th called for a full inquiry into the running of the university

 

The press had printed none of the compromising documents, and the Committee of Seven was told by advisors in Fleet Street that the papers had been deterred when the High Court injunction had suddenly and myseriously appeared over the Press Association teleprinters. Lawyers advised that any paper printing material from the Files would be in breach of the High Court. It was effectively a stone wall which escalated the issues from Academic Freedom to Freedom of the Press.

 

The leading newspaper of the West Midlands, took this challenge seriously. The Birmingham Post, on the morning of Tuesday 17th February, drove a horse and cart through the injuction by printing, verbatim, the most crucial evidence taken from the University files. The rest of the press followed suit. It could no longer be argued that concern over the governance of Warwick University was simply a student fantasy.

 

A KIND OF VICTORY

 

The campaign continued to Easter, when Final exams brought an end and students had to accept that they would not get an independent inquiry. The wider issues were never fully resolved, but a line had been drawn under business involvement and vice chancellor power within Higher Education in Britain. The Warwick Spring was unique both in raising these issues, and in achieving at least a hearing for them. No student was ever disciplined or prosecuted over what we did. We had won the moral high ground, and the authorities dared not have the issues aired in open court. And we had created a space for the academics to regain lost ground – for a time.

Trevor Fisher                                                                                                    4th August 2013

 

Revised 4th April 2019

 

(1) Recalled in 2000 as a student legend according to Cal Winslow – see his essay in ALBION’S FATAL TREE Verso 2011 edition pxxiv. The legend was established by the Files Affair. Radicalism did not exist before.

Queen Mary in Staffordshire

Queen Mary in Staffordshire-

Given at Stafford Place Library 20th March 2019-website version

What I want to do tonight is to look at Mary Stuart’s time in Staffordshire, largely unknown though she was four times at Tutbury, Twice at Chartley and arrested at Tixall. I will be looking at why she spent so much of her time in the North Midlands,  in particular in Staffordshire and why it is important .

The location of her prisons in Staffordshire was important not because Tutbury and Chartley were well known, they were chosen because off the beaten track. In the sixteenth century Staffordshire was a bit of backwater,  an ideal location for a controversial prisoner.

Indeed the only well known feature of Chartley, the castle, is misleading. Indeed the belief about Mary Stuart circulating locally among  the few people who knew she was kept in Staffordshire IS WRONG.

Mary was NOT KEPT IN CHARTLEY CASTLE. This was a ruin by the Tudor period. Chartley Manor House, which was burned down in 1781, was  her place of imprisonment

BUT WE ARE GETTING AHEAD OF OURSELVES THE FIRST QUESTION IS WHY MARY WAS IN ENGLAND IN THE FIRST PLACE – she is not called Queen of Scots for nothing

What the film does not tell us= her early years

 

The current film is of course not about Staffordshire or England at all.  Based on John Guy’s MY HEART IS MY OWN(2004), like Guy’s book the film is largely based on her time in Scotland.  But not about  her upbringing ,vital to understand how her experience as  Scottish Queen  produced the  disasterous history which led to her being expelled from Scotland with  deep rooted hostility meaning she would never be able to return.  But this cannot be covered  in a few minutes.

I would merely state in passing that she had an extraordinarily turbulent upbringing she was brought up virtually with no family to create models of behaviour while being taught the high  expectations of royal status.  She believed she would be able to get her way which she had no ability to achieve – from the early years which  gave her tunnel vision which marked her life. She expected to have her needs met without the give and take of normal human relationships even for an absolute monarch. There is a connection with Elizabeth, neither Queen knowing  their parents closely, but Mary always knew she would be Queen.  Elizabeth did not and living close to the edge in her early years taught caution – and when she dealt with  her cousin she showed a startling  respect for Mary which is puzzling.

Her Upbringinging and its traumas

Mary never knew her father as he died  when she was only six days old.  She knew as a child she was a political pawn, as Henry VIII sought to marry her to Edward his son by force in the English invasions known as the Rough Wooing. She was sent to France to avoid forcible marriage  to the English Edward VI when only five and a half. Her mother stayed behind as Regent. In France she was  married to the Dauphin when only 15, Queen at16 and widowed just short of her 18th birthday. These were tragic events and her strength of character was tested and proved strong – no one ever doubted her courage.

The roller coaster of fate then ejected her from the security of the French court and she returned to Scotland arriving on 19th August 1561 aged just 18 and a half. The country was riven by political and religious conflict, which initially she handled well. However perhaps it was her need for emotional security which led to two disasterous marriages, the first to  Lord Darnley of her own Catholic religion. She had married a violent, drunken bisexual psychopath and while he got her pregnant, the marriage fell apart.

Being banned from the marital bed, Darnley believed she was having an affair with her secretary Rizzio and was part of  a violent gang which broke into her chamber and stabbed him to death. The shock waves from  this incident echoed round the courts of Europe, but worse scandal was to come. Once her child was safely born she was allegedly reconciled to Darnley who came back to Edinburgh apparently  for syphilis treatment, lodged in a house in Kirk o Fields and was blown up with gunpowder and strangled. This appalling  incident put her in the spotlight as she made little attempt to bring the murderers to justice and the prime suspect, the Earl of Bothwell, was acquitted after a farcical trial.


She then married him,  allegedly  because he abducted and raped her, though these events were possibly  staged with her connivance.  Both Catholic and Protestant lords found her behavour impossible to condone and mobilised for war. Bothwell fled into exile, she was forced to abdicate  on 24th July 1567 and was imprisoned in Locheven castle. She escaped on May 2nd 1568 and  only 11 days later lost the battle of Langside to her half brother James Stuart,  the Earl of Moray and fled to England, arriving on 16th May without any warning to the English Court  which was only just digesting her forced abdication.

It is at this point that the film ends, with Elizabeth discussing her future with her. In reality they never met, and Mary misunderstood her future prospects. She expected Elizabeth Tudor to provide an English army to invade Scotland to defeat the Rebels. Elizabeth was a fully paid up member of the trade union of annointed monarchs, and as her greatest nightmare was that she would be overthrown by rebels, maintaining  Mary on the Scots throne against rebellion was a high priority.  But she became aware it would be deeply unpopular in England for a protestant Queen to put a Catholic back on the Scottish throne against Protestant rebels. She sent her ultra loyal aide Sir Francis Knollys to put Mary  under house arrest and considered the options.

Elizabeth knew  that the  protestant ministers in Scotland  could plausibly claim that Mary had at least turned a blind eye to the murder of her husband Darnley, a claim which became stronger when  she married Bothwell. There would be no English support for her until the allegations over Darnley’s murder were answered.  The English government  set up an inquiry into the allegations, though it was not even handed – Mary’s defenders rightly point to the bias in banning her from attending to defend herself.

Mary in England in 1568

Mary was moved to Bolton Castle in Wensleydale, 13th July 1568, home of Lord Scrope, the government official for the north west.  This was in the  Border region which  had many Catholics, and Mary may have been contacted by potential rebels though for obvious reasons there are no records of discussions about plans which would be  treason .  Though  this was house arrest, it was very comfortable. Lady Scrope was a Catholic and sister of the Duke of Norfolk – and may have suggested that  a marriage to her brother could gain support  from English aristocrats,  Mary would be  hedging her bets to secure English support.  The idea may also have been put to the Duke by one of Mary’s advisors, as the Duke chaired the inquiry into the allegations the Queen was involved in Darnley’s murder,  but despite his legal role he was attracted by marrying  an annointed queen.  It is only fair to say Norfolk had always considered the rebellion and  forced abdication a blow against the principles of monarchy and  aristocracy, and as we will see when we come to the Ridolfi plot he saw his priority as to restore Mary as Queen. A marriage was attractive.

The inquiry failed to come to a conclusion. James Stuart offered letters proving Mary at least knew about the threats to Darnley, but these may have been faked.  No verdict was reached,  which meant the English could not support Mary  going back to Scotland, though this remained Elizabeth’s choice.  Mary stayed in England although  her imprisonment when not convicted was unjust. But locking her up was self preservation for the English protestants, who could not take the risk of Mary leading a  foreign invasion, and the English decided to move her to a secure fortress which would be easy to defend.

The Exile in England – the choice of Tutbury Castle.

In January 1569 Elizabeth’s government moved Mary  to  a place of confinement which was proof against Catholic plots and foreign rescue attempts – which meant it had to be in the Midlands, well south of the main Catholic areas in the North of England, and away from the coastal ports and the areas in the south east where political intrigue around the court took place. The choice of Tutbury Castle was logical – Etwall village 5 miles away is thought to be the furthest place in England from the sea, and the castle was owned by the Crown as a Duchy of Lancaster property. It had been a major mediaeval fortress partly because commanding crossroads in the middle ages east west and north south  and had been a major property of John of Gaunt. It  was rarely a permanent place of occupation, and by 1569 was mainly used as the location of the Royal stud- suitable for horses maybe, but not for Royalty.

As no-one was living there permanently and was a fortress on a hill easily defended, this was where Mary was placed, arriving there on February 3rd 1569. Her arrival in a fortress guarded by troops made her aware this was a place of captivity. This was one major reason for her hating it, the other being its poor facilities. It was cold, being exposed to winds on its hill above the River Dove, extremely damp and with a marsh under the wall into which sewers drained, creating a punishing smell.  Elizabeth sent beds, bedding and carpets, but Mary constantly complained the wooden walls of the living apartments let in wind and draughts and unlike Bolton Castle it had no luxuries or even warmth.

Her jailer was the Earl of Shrewsbury, George Talbot, an enormously rich aristocrat with seven properties in Derbyshire and South Yorkshire. He was well aware that the Castle was not a place of permanent residence and was alarmed when Mary fell ill – she was soon bedridden with rheumatism and a fever.  He could not take the risk of her illnesses becoming fatal and as soon as she recovered enough to travel moved her to his property Wingfield Manor,  and later to Chatsworth  owned by his wife, Bess of Hardwick, both in Derbyshire. These were aristocratic dwellings not fortresses and were hard to defend but Mary was treated as a Queen and the fort was not a regal dwelling. It was an option for a crisis but in the summer of 1569 an attack  did not seem likely despite rumoured unrest in the northern counties, long a catholic stronghold.  Pressure was however building

The Northern Uprising

The Catholic nobility drew support from other old style nobles who resented being marginalised by William Cecil the chief minister and other new men. This resentment was focussed by the treatment of Norfolk  when in September his marriage with  Mary was vetoed by Elizabeth Tudor.  He left the Court without permission, and the government feared he would  form a rebel army and  march to Tutbury to free his intended bride, or join a northern uprising the government realised was being planned. In fact he had no intention of doing either and sent a message to the  three northern Lords -Lord Dacre, and the Earls of Westmorland and Northumberland urging them not to rise believing  he would be executed if they did so.

The Northern rebels were not impressed when Norfolk went back to the court on being ordered to do so by the Queen and was locked up in the Tower of London.  However they themselves received orders to go to York to explain what they were doing,  took arms to regain the  Catholic Religion and started  a rebellion despite having no support outside the northern counties.  This seemed futile. What they aimed to do is normally thought not to involve Mary Stuart at all. Antonia Fraser wrote “This rising, ill prepared and ill organised, was more in the nature of a separatist movement on the part of northern catholics than a revolt on behalf of Mary Queen of Scots” (2002 p74). Most writers agree

But Mary could not be left out of a plot to reimpose the catholic religion – as Mary was a Catholic at least she could play a role in recruiting for the rebel army – but proclaiming  Mary was part of the plan while she was in protestant hands would put her at risk so  the aim of  releasing her was never explicitly stated. But the government believed this was a serious threat. Shrewsbury did not have enough troops to guard against a major attack and his houses were vulnerable so on September 22 he had moved Mary back to Tutbury and  he called up  Lord Huntingdon and Viscount Hereford with reinforcements but they had only hundreds, not thousands of troops , while an army of thousands was on the move.

On November 22nd Elizabeth ordered Shrewsbury to move Mary out of Staffordshire across the Trent to Warwickshire and Shrewsbury  rushed her south away from a possible rebel attack. The party arrived in Coventry on  November 25th  to find no accomodation available and she had to be put up in an Inn.  A glamorous celebrity as Mary always was, they needed 400 troops to surround the Inn to keep the locals people away. But the aim was achieved – the rebellion reversed its march and instead of heading south toward Tutbury marched north toward Scotland and the Catholic borders. They captured the port of Hartlepool and may have expected Spanish troops, encouraged maybe by the plotter Roberto Ridolfi. The Spanish did not arrive, but we will hear more of Ridolfi. The Uprising was defeated by a major government offensive and showed that Catholics were unable to challenge Elizabeth’s forces.  Mary  was moved back to Tutbury for a third time on January   2nd 1570 but as she again fell ill  Shrewsbury had permission to move her out of the fortress to his more luxurious homes in Derbyshire and South Yorkshire in May. Tutbury had become a place for a crisis.

A Cuckoo in the Nest

For the next decade and a half Elizabeth could not decide what to do about Mary. The view that Mary was being held to prevent her challenging Elizabeth for the throne is not the story for the early years as Elizabeth was still trying to get a deal to get her sent back to Scotland and – in October 1570 Cecil and Sir Walter Maitland, both Privy Councillors,  went to see her in Sheffield Castle to negotiate, though the Scots Lords had made it clear in 1569 with a decisive 40-9 vote they did not want her back.  Mary  still wanted the marriage with the Duke of Norfolk-  and as neither she nor the Duke had been involved in armed rebellion she thought this was possible. Norfolk was released from the Tower in August 1570 unconvicted  of treason, and though the  hope of a marriage was naive it was still possible to imagine that it could happen as neither had been involved in the Northern Uprising. As Antonia Fraser wrote “As  late as  January 1570 (when she had considerable evidence to the contrary) she wrote…. that their marriage would be generally approved” (AF 2002 p72). Their hopes would not survive protestant hostility after papal excommunication of Elizabeth,  and Mary was always looking to  a quick way to become English Queen by  disposing  of Elizabeth Tudor.

THE RIDOLFI PLOT AND THE PARLIAMENTARY BACKLASH.

In February 1570 the Pope excommunicated Elizabeth Tudor, meaning Catholics were released from their duty of obedience. The move meant that Catholics were now the enemy within and in 1571  Catholics were expelled from parliament. An international anti Protestant plot was then discovered led by a Florentine banker , Roberto Ridolfi, who used his ability to move across frontiers to plot a Catholic  restoration in England  backed by  the Pope. His  plan  required Spain to send up to 10,000 troops to support a Catholic rebellion. This would enable Norfolk to  marry Mary when the protestant government was overthrown. The plot was thin and there was no evidence after the Northern Rebellion was crushed that Catholics would rise, and Ridolfi was so loud mouthed that Elizabeth recieved information about the plot from informants in other countries.

Links with the star crossed lovers emerged as Mary was writing letters which incriminated her, though she stopped short of calling for Elizabeth to be removed. Around 12th April 1571 one Charles Bailly, Ridolfi’s  messenger was arrested at Dover with compromising letters to John Leslie  Bishop of Ross and  Mary’s chief advisor. Even more serious  on 29th August Norfolk was found to be sending gold to Catholic rebels in Scotland, when two of his secretaries were found to be supplying money to fund Catholics north of the border. Norfolk’s house was searched and a coded letter from Mary found. Norfolk was arrested and tried for high treason- plotting against a friendly goverenment was undoubtedly treason. He was found guilty  and condemned to death. At which point Elizabeth chose to ignore the clamour among protestants to execute him, dithering as she always  did when relatives were concerned. Norfolk was a cousin.

After Norfolk was convicted of treason, the 1572 parliament was incandescent with rage. For protestant opinion her link to the Ridolfi plot made Mary  public enemy Number One.  Mary  was not a major mover in the plot, and Elizabeth argued  she could not be put on trial for treason as she was not English.  The MPs wanted Mary tried, and when Elizabeth refused, they proposed she be banned from inheriting the throne. Elizabeth believed the blood line was sacrosanct  and  refused to sign the Bill,  Protestants were outraged and to prevent anger turning nasty Norfolk had to be sacrificed. After twice withdrawing the death certificate, Elizabeth  approved his execution and he was beheaded in July 1572.

The current fashion is to assume that the plot was exaggerated by English politicians, notably Walsingham and Cecil, and even ( as argued by Kate Williams 2018) that it “may all have been a fabrication” (p274), but Elizabeth recieved news from Cosimo Medici in Florence who Ridolfi spoke to, the Queen of  Navarre who discovered Spanish despatches, and Lennox the Regent in Scotland by 1571 who captured the castle of Dumbarton and found evidence of a plot to put Mary back on the Scottish throne promptly sent to Elizabeth. This was no fabrication but an international plan backed by Spain and the Pope for a catholic uprising to  put Mary on the two thrones and marry her to Norfolk.

Parliament’s attempts to deal with Mary in 1572 having been vetoed,  it became clear that Elizabeth would do nothing to safeguard herself or her regime, Shrewsbury being allowed to continue the fairly lax imprisonment which applied in his houses – he even allowed her to take the waters at Buxton and built her a secure house to do so. The leading ministers, Cecil and Walsingham, realised that only if Elizabeth were presented with undeniable evidence that Mary had backed her murder would she take action, and this was unlikely to happen – Mary would hardly put in writing  wanting her cousin killed.

The most astonishing aspect of Mary’s time in England when she was NOT in Staffordshire, from 1570 to 1585 is that Elizabeth alone stood against taking any serious action against Mary although she clearly posed destruction to both her life and her regime. The best historians have noted this factor.

 

Antonia Fraser commented “It was the will of Elizabeth not the answers of Queen Mary which stayed the Hand of the Commons from passing a bill of attainder on the Scottish Queen. Instead a bill was passed merely depriving  Mary of her right to succeed to the  English throne*…Elizabeth would not allow this tide of xenophobia to sweep away her “good sister and cousin” in spite of all the revelations of Ridolfi… her preservation of Mary Stuart’s life in 1572 by personal intervention must be allowed to be to her credit”.  (AF 2002 pp86-87).

*The Bill passed the Commons but Elizabeth then vetoed it: Mary remained first in line to the throne.

Sixty years earlier, Conrad Read (Bardon Papers 1909) had written “Elizabeth stood practically alone at this juncture between Mary and Protestant England. This is a fact which deserves emphasis….. loyal Englishmen at large recognised in her an enemy who lacked only the means to destroy themselves, their sovereign and their faith…. But she (Eliabeth TF) would have none of it. Instead she proposed to keep the ‘bosom servant’ a prisoner… behind the walls of a nobleman’s place whence she might encourage discontented Englishmen at home and abroad to rebel…” (ppxxvi- xxvii)

This she did encouraged as J B Black in the Oxford History of England (1959) wrote “Mary remained for the next twelve years the great ‘untouchable’ in English politics – rebellious, defiant, incorrigible in her hope of final victory…  while there was a chance of elevation to power by way of conspiracy, war and revolution,  she would not accept…. a settlement by treaty”.  (p373)


Across the channel, the French king Charles IX watched and said “The poor fool will never cease (from plotting, Jenny Wormald) until she loses her head. In faith, they will put her to death. I see it is her own fault and folly”. (Wormald 2017 p190 OUP 373).

 

It would be a dozen years before Elizabeth realised with the killing of William of Orange that she was vulnerable. It remains an unsolved mystery why she was adamant her cousin had priveleged treatment.

The Road Back to Tutbury

The impasse continued for the next dozen years, while continental  Protestant- Catholic conflict  became increasingly violent . The murder of the protestant William of Orange in July 1584 showed Royalty was not off limits. In October Cecil and Walsingham set up the BOND OF ASSOCIATION by which protestants would swear an oath to defend Elizabeth’s life and the protestant succession.


The key to what was essentially mob law was a clause which pledged “to pursue as well by force of arms as by all other means of revenge” anyone attacking the Queen. More notably the pledge was against not just the actual attacker but to combat any “pretended successor by who OR FOR WHOM any such detestable act shall be attempted or committed” (MY EMPHASIS) Thus actual guilt was not needed for Bond signers to be justified in  killing  a claimant to the throne. This was the heart of a debate in parliament forcing Elizabeth  to consider what to do if she died not from natural causes but murder.  Parliament was no longer prepared to allow the evasions of 1572 to happen again. Mary was Scots, but this did not mean she could plot against the throne. The Queen would be defended.

The ACT FOR THE QUEEN’S SAFETY passed in March 1585 had two provisions, both aimed at Mary. In the first, if a person who had a hereditary right to the throne was involved in violence against the crown, a commission of Privy Councillors, Ministers and judges would decide on guilt and any such person found guilty would be excluded from the succession and any subject might kill them. If the Queen were actually killed, then the claimant and their allies could be hunted down and killed. Elizabeth however forced concessions  limiting mob rule. The Act provided for  a trial of offenders by commission, and while the Bond cited any person who was an ‘heir or successor’, the act insisted they had to have been ‘assenting or privy’ to the plot before they could be subject to its provisions.

Elizabeth was always focussed on who would take over from her – she would never say who this would be. But she did not want the only real candidate killed by a mob on mere suspicion of plotting.

The real candidate was Mary’s son James,  now 19 years old and Elizabeth was now prepared to recognise him as King of Scotland,  de facto  accepting he was the heir to the English throne. Elizabeth would never name her successor. But with the Act having a loophole exempting him from reprisals, he had no reason to plot to get the English throne when he was being offered the key to Whitehall.

 James finally decided that his mother had to be told she could never again be Queen of Scotland – certainly he would not share the throne with her.  Mary now only had the English throne to aim for and  only if from captivity she could secure a successful coup which would rescue her before the Bond of Association could be triggered, Walsingham and Cecil  had to prevent her organising a coup: which meant  as a minimum putting her in quaruntine to stop her sending coded messages to conspirators. This objective meant that Shrewsbury was too lenient to  be her jailer, and she had to be moved back to the fortress which could not easily  be stormed to free her- after nearly fifteen years, January 14th 1585, she went back to Tutbury.

A new jailer, Sir Ralph Sadler replaced the Earl in a move planned before the Bond of Association was announced in 1584, Sadler being appointed in August to take Mary to Wingfield presumably while Tutbury was prepared. There were scandals  involving Sadler, who was not the right man for the job  and Sir Amayas Paulet was announced (according to Guy) on January 4th 1585.  At this stage the plan seemed to be to isolate Mary unable to communicate  so she could not plot. But she would be vulnerable to assassination under the Bond of Association if a freelance killer managed to kill Elizabeth.  Antonia Fraser sums up her position at the start of 1585 brilliantly, suggesting “By the spring of 1585 there was very little that was encouraging to be discerned in the situation of the queen of scots…. her position in England may be compared to that of someone tied unwillingly over a powder keg, which may at any moment be exploded by a match held by an over enthusiastic friend”. (AF 2002 p141).

What Fraser is describing is the attempt of William Parry to assassinate Elizabeth, for which he was executed in 1585. Fraser is right that Mary opposed this – her French agent Thomas Morgan was involved but it was not her plan as it risked her own assassination by the Bond of Association – but it is not the case that Mary was only threatened by enthusiatic friends she could not control. A  properly organised plan involving her release would be different and her mind turned to this.  But she was now seriously ill and the government knew Tutbury was posing a risk she might die. On Christmas Eve 1585 her new jailer, Amayas Paulet, moved her to Chartley  for health reasons. The rigour of her captivity remained in place.

Paulet was a hard line puritan who was determined to seal her  prison  and did so. And yet this was

not enough – the authorities, notably William Cecil, (Lord Burghley)  and the spymaster  Sir Francis Walsingham wanted to have Mary executed, despite Elizabeth’s adamant refusal to put her cousin on trial. How this was to be achieved required a plan of fiendish complexity and phenomenal good luck, involving the murky world of counter espionage. We will sketch what happened and discuss why it worked. But first we need to work out why Mary was moved further into Staffordshire. This was  a healthy rural location, good for Mary’s health  but not the real reason why Chartley was chosen . This

 is a remote hamlet  with few comings and goings. Everything going in and out could be searched,

and Mary did not dare take the risk of sending coded messages. She was totally isolated.

 Letters began to pile up, undelivered, in the French embassy in London. Her French agent Thomas Morgan had run a system which Stephen Alford describes (2012 p195)  describes as two stages, going across the channel to the Embassy and then up to Staffordshire. Under Paulet nothing was getting through to Staffordshire.  And whether this had been planned all along or not, at this point the most brilliant of all Elizabethan double agents emerged. Mary’s supporters needed someone they had total trust in as a Catholic. In December a man appeared who seemed able to  solve the communication problem. He appeared totally trustworthy. His name was Gilbert Giffard (Gifford).

Gifford was the son of the Gifford’s of Chillington and a Staffordshire lad, which was important. The Giffords were a famous Catholic family and in 1575 Elizabeth had personally punished them for their beliefs when visiting Chillington. Their response was to send their son to the English schools at Rome and  Douai to become a Jesuit Priest. While this did not quite work out, he became part of the anti-Elizabeth underground with an impeccable record as a Catholic militant. After hearing of his record, Morgan had no qualms in writing a letter of support reccomending support for Gifford to the  French embassy in London and to Mary herself because Gifford had a plan.

Gifford proposed to use a brewer in Burton on Trent (brewing capital of England) to smuggle letters in and out of Chartley in the weekly delivery of beer. The bung would be hollow to carry the letters and no one would suspect anything unusual. It was a brilliant plan which had only one flaw. Gifford was a double agent working for the spymaster Francis Walsingham, Paulet having hired the brewer when he was still operating out of Tutbury. Everything written by Mary and her supporters was sent to his code breaker, Thomas Phellipes, decoded and made known to the authorities.

Not only was Gifford a double agent, but as he was involved in the anti Elizabeth underground he knew young catholic men who were prepared to kill the Queen, and was the link person to the Babbington plotters. He was able to take the letters from Chartley and Mary to the men involved in the increasingly complex discussions of how to place Mary on the throne – to their eventual destruction, as the plotting was known to Walsingham via Phellipes decodes before the letters were passed on by Gifford to their real  destination. Unlike the Ridolphi plan Babbington could not offer a  foreign invasion project  and success depended on a Catholic uprising bigger than 1569. More important, the plan did involve releasing Mary from Chartley with a 100 men deputed to attack the manor while half a dozen murdered Elizabeth.

As this talk is about Staffordshire, I will leave the Babbington plot aside, it is well covered in the literature. For Walsingham and the ministers of the Privy Council, they waited for the crucial statement from Mary approving the killing  the Queen.  Babbington’s letter of July 14th  made the plan abundantly clear. The watchers, as Stephen Alford calls them, waited the reply. Mary sent it on 17th and while not explicitly in favour of killing Elizabeth and not in her handwriting – her secretaries put the message in code – but leaving no doubt what she was favouring. After deciphering the code, Phillipes sent it on to Walsingham with a gallows drawn on the envelope. For the government, it was the decisive moment. On the 19th July the decript was in the hands of Walsingham.  Gifford, who had been staying in Burton to recieve the coded letters from the brewer, fled to the Continent on the 20th July being aware that the plotters would be arrested and his part in exposing them revealed. In Chartley,  Paulet was ordered to move Mary out of the Manor on the pretext that the house was being cleaned, so her rooms could be searched for evidence of the trial which was now inevitable. She was moved to Tixall near Stafford  to lodge with Sir Walter Aston.

Tixall and the last weeks

While I am not a sympathiser of Mary Stuart, seeing her as selfish, short sighted, and with appalling judgement, there is something genuinely tragic about her last weeks in Staffordshire. She recovered her spirits and her health, was no longer bedridden and was able to move into the open air. She could ride again, and Paulet invited her to a deer hunt. Yet this was based on the illusion that she was about to see a homicidal conspiracy unfold which would see her cousin killed and her own release to preside over a virtual civil war.

The authorities had already taken the steps to ensure this would not happen, but Mary had no idea how effectively she had walked voluntarily into a trap. She did not have to do this and while the idea that she was a victim has taken hold, in fact she had gambled to win believing she had a winning hand. Yet the final moments as the tables were turned are genuinely poignant.

We have now arrived at August 11TH 1586.  Mary  was allowed to watch a deer hunt, on or near Cannock Chase in the vicinity of Tixall. She saw armed men on horseback approaching and believed that this was Babington’s release posse. It was Elizabeth’s men and as the Act of 1585 decreed, there would be no summary justice. She was arrested and taken back to Chartley, before proceeding to Fotheringhay Castle and trial. The rest is history.

It is one of the best known stories in British history, and yet with many  unsolved questions. I have touched on some here, notably the curious leniency with which Elizabeth Tudor treated her cousin. Elizabeth was gambling that fortune would favour her, and it did- courtesy of the security operatives who stopped assassins getting to her.. But we should now  realise that this was a matter of happenstance: Mary kept on her lone crusade because it was possible she could win. That she did not was due to the men who decided they would prevent her from doing so but up to that genuinely sad day at Tixall when her hopes collapsed, Mary could hope to be Queen again.

 It is a little known fact that while the stage where her drama was played out is not critical, that stage was at crucial points places in the County of Staffordshire. The location  of the Mary Stuart story in England is at least easy to establish – and I hope that tonight has gone some way to establishing these aspects of this important and resonant story.

TF        20 3 19

mary stuart in crisis

MARY STUART IN CRISIS

Mary Stuart &  English politics 1568 to 1572

Given at North Staffordshire historians 18th February 2019

 

Mary Stuart aka Mary Queen of Scots was in prison in England from February 3rd 1569 when she  arrived at Tutbury castle Staffordshire (450 years ago this month) to her execution at Fotheringhay on February 8th 1587. She had arrived in England as a fugitive from Scottish rebels on May 16th 1568. Tonight I will be looking at the opening years in England when – without overtly meaning to – Mary Stuart transferred from being a destructive element in Scottish politics to being a destructive element in English politics.

 

I will not be talking about Mary in Scotland or the (2018) film’s focus on Scottish politics because I am not a Scottish historian and the legend of Mary which is so powerful depends on  Elizabethan politics, which are defined by the years between her arrival in England  and the execution of her intended husband, the Duke of Norfolk, four years later on 2nd June 1572.

 

It is well known that Mary had been driven out of Scotland by rebels protesting at the murder of her second husband, Lord Darnley, and her marriage to the man accused of organising his killing, Lord Bothwell. These were sensations which even the sympathetic John Guy agrees “tarnished her reputation for ever, and rightly so. She (Mary TF) made no serious effort to bring Darnley’s killers to justice” (Guy 2018 p314= see the rest of the page for his analysis of the damage). The outome was that she had finally united her famously divided country as Guy concludes “Even the Catholics deserted Mary in her hour of need” (op cit p311). What happened in Scotland is essential background information but reasonably well  known. While the Catholics turned back to her later, as we will see, the legacy which she brought to England was a blackened reputation, and how this played in England raises the issues that I will be talking about.

 

Her arrival in England initially led to a period of  confinement which was not technically imprisonment despite her being close guarded – Guy says Bolton Castle after arriving from Carlisle “may have seemed less a place of imprisonment than a place of refuge ” (op cit p440). Warm physically (it had a primitive form of central heating) and in Lady Scrope a welcoming hostess. As the sister of the Duke of Norfolk she may have put the dangerous idea of marrying her brother into Mary’s consciousness, but certainly the months in the north of England were not really captivity.  Indeed Mary expected to be put back on the Scottish throne  by an English army.  In the months before Tutbury, she did not try to escape as she saw no reason to do so. This changed  when she arrived at Tutbury.

 

The current film sees the relationship of Elizabeth Tudor and Mary Stuart as always hostile, but not only did they never meet  but there was no serious conflict between the two while they were both Queens. Once at Tutbury  Mary  sparked conflict which poses three unresolved issues for historians. Firstly why has the Earls rebellion of 1569 been neglected – it had a clear link to Mary. As we approach the 450th anniversary of the Earls revolt it is time to give it the importance it deserves.

I will look at it in some detail, as it had a connection with Tutbury.

 

Secondly, why was the Marian period a golden age for assassination attempts – not all linked to Mary admittedly but the serious ones certainly were. And thirdly, why was Elizabeth reluctant to take action against Mary when this was the case? Despite Mary being culturally and historically a super star, unresolved questions about her career exist on these  crucial issues.

 

We are accustomed to think of Elizabeth as firmly in control and lasting for 45 years as Queen because popular and politically skilful. She was in fact more insecure than we have come to believe, and the risk that she would be ousted in favour of her younger cousin was far greater than appears in hindsight.

 

Any discussion of her historical role has to recognise there are two viewpoints on her life running in parrallel, one CULTURAL seeing her as Martyr or Victim and largely based on the years in  England. This rests on a partisan view of Elizabeth as her persecutor. Secondly there is a HISTORICAL view which takes into account her handling of power politics before and after arriving in England. For Scotland,  Jenny Wormald thinks this is a period of failure MQOS A STUDY IN FAILURE 1988 while others see the reign more sympathetically. How effectively she handed the political challenges facing her was  of course affected by the constraints of her time -she was  never an absolute monarch in Scotland – and in prison for eighteen years in England. But she was not helpless and was always able to make decisions – not always with good effects.

 

THE MYTH OF TRAGIC IMPRISONMENT

 

An important belief underlying the idea Mary was imprisoned without cause is the idea that she was imprisoned because she posed a threat to Elizabeth’s hold on the English throne. The threat of a Catholic on the throne became an issue, and was a constant in the view of William Cecil (later Lord Burghley) her key advisor, (see GUY 2004/18)  but was not the reason why Mary was detained. Elizabeth was 35 when Mary arrived, was still expected to marry and have children. The longer she did not, the more this became  factor but it was not important in 1568. Mary expected to be returned to Scotland and this belief dominated her attitudes for most of the first three years in England. She did become sympathetic to the Ridolfi plot – as protestant opinion turned violently hostile. Yet two and a half years after her arrival –  October 1570 – English ministers were discussing with her the terms for a return to the Scottish throne (Fraser 2002 p80) and her claim to the English throne was not yet important.

 

When she arrived in England both Queens expected that Elizabeth would give military assistance to Mary to regain the Scottish throne, initially the only condition being that Mary did not seek assistance from the French (AF p 10-11, p13 note14- strange comment by AF). The danger of the Auld Alliance reviving and England again being nut in an international nutracker was initially the major sticking point. However it rapidly became clear Mary could not be supported by England while she was accused by Moray (Murray) her half brother (James Stuart) of complicity in the murder of her second  husband, Lord Darnley.

 

Elizabeth decided that only if an inquiry found Mary  innocent of the charges would she be supported. Moray produced the infamous Casket Letters, which may have been faked  to prove her guilt, but the result was inconclusive: the outcome being a not proven verdict, Moray was left in charge in Scotland as Regent and Mary was blocked from the Scots throne. She found that she was accidentally  a major factor in English politics. This was  certainly not her fault, but  Elizabeth could not allow her to go abroad – the options available were Catholic countries – and the English feared she could become a pawn in a Catholic power play. She was officially a guest, but unofficially under House Arrest.

 

She was therefore sent to Tutbury castle in January 1569 and on arrival realised she was in prison, the Earl of Shrewsbury being her jailer. At this point both Cultural and Historical accounts agree that she was imprisoned without being convicted of anything, and her fate has a genuinely tragic element. Not suprisingly, she plotted to gain her release. She had already told Francis Knollys, her first jailer, in October 1568 though she hoped Elizabeth would back her as Scottish Queen if things  went badly “as a desperate person I will use any attempts that may serve my purpose”, and she kept her promise. She regarded imprisonment as illegal, and after  she was in prison began to explore ways to escape. (Fraser 2002 pp28-29)

 

Once it was clear she would not be supported in going back to Scotland she had appealed to the Spanish for help using her Catholic faith as a bargaining counter. She wrote in early January 1569 for a message to go to the Spanish Ambassador De Spes “Tell the Ambassador that if his master will help me, I shall been queen of  England in three months, and Mass shall be said all over the country” (OUP p130).  The timing was absurdly unrealistic and Spain was unable to invade in 1569 anyway, but De Spes added her call to the conspiracy known as the Ridolfi plot. There was no doubt Mary had concieved the idea of taking Elizabeth’s throne,  the implication clearly being she wanted Elizabeth killed or imprisoned, but while the wish was father to the thought, real action was difficult to achieve.

 

The third historical  issue however is why Elizabeth made so little response to so clear a threat. Mary was motivated by her own agenda- but what was Elizabeth’s?

 

From early 1569 events moved in two directions, both with significant research gaps. One is the projected marriage of Mary Stuart to the Duke of Norfolk, and the other is open Catholic resistance to the Protestant government of Elizabeth. This had been developing in the North of England since Elizabeth took over, as a Protestant monarch, in 1558. The two strands are distinct but are connected in the person of Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk, the premier aristocrat and a man of enormous arrogance but not a lot of intelligence or moral fibre.

 

ENTER THE DUKE.

 

Although the Duke was the chair of the inquiry into the Casket Letters and knew all the allegations against Mary, he was tempted by the thought of marrying a Queen. Possibly the cupid in this affair was the Duke’s sister, wife of Lord Scrope Elizabeth’s representative in the North West, and that the seed was sown as early as Mary’s time in Bolton Castle, (AF 2002 pp78-79) . But neither Fraser nor Guy say much  about Lady Scrope. Being Norfolk’s sister  meant she was  the sister of the Countess of Westmorland, and that points to the Catholic plots which Norfolk’s brother in law the Earl of Westmorland would lead later in 1569. There is however no clear link between the marriage plan and the Catholic uprising. The theory that the collapse of the marriage plan triggered the uprising is a misreading of what happened, though Mary was unwittingly part of the rebellion.

 

A marriage between the Queen in Exile and the nominally protestant Duke of Norfolk was a welcome prospect to many leading aristocrats  as it would secure the succession if Mary had children by an English lord. Her half brother Moray (or Murray) initially favoured it as keeping Mary out of Scotland: but Moray then realised if his half sister did replace Elizabeth and became Queen she could invade Scotland with an English army and impose the Catholic religion.  Elizabeth had been kept in the dark about the marriage which clearly posed a threat to her,  but heard rumours. When the Queen interrogated Norfolk he said “Should I seek to marry her, such a notorious murderess and adulterer? any marriage with her might justly charge me with seeking your crown from your head”. (Ackroyd 2013 pp354-5).  Despite knowing the marriage threatened the Queen and was treasonable, Norfolk ploughed on. When Elizabeth recieved proof of the intended marriage from Moray in Scotland, she banned it  knowing it would effectively make her redundant. Norfolk  knew  perfectly well that planning to marry a woman with Mary’s dynastic claim to the English throne was High Treason and can hardly have been suprised when Elizabeth forbade him to marry Mary.

 

Six weeks earlier the Scots made it clear they were not having her back – the Scottish Lords voted in July at a Convention in Perth 40-9 (AF 73) to reject her return whatever conditions were made about her role. Mary had no future except in England, but had seemed not to pose an immediate threat to the throne. Elizabeth allowed Shrewsbury to move Mary to Wingfield Manor and Chatsworth  in Derbyshire during the summer of1569 though these were not as secure as Tutbury Castle. The political climate then rapidly deteriorated with rumours of a  Catholic rebellion in the north linked to Norfolk’s reaction to having his marriage refused – he left the court without permission in early September and was thought to be on the warpath. This forced Mary’s  return to Tutbury creating a considerable problem for historians, who do not understand the seriousness of the rebellion nor Mary’s unwitting but vital contribution to it.

 

THE NORTHERN REBELLION AND ITS IMPLICATIONS.

 

The Northern or more properly Earls rebellion is the first of the wider failures of historical study involving Mary Stuart. She did not play a direct role, but could not escape involvement in events many miles north of Tutbury, and her passive role is often linked to her intended marriage. What actually happened has to be brought under scrutiny. Few historians have taken the rebellion seriously..

 

The view of Robert Wood introducing a document collection on the rebellion republished in 1975, sums up the state of play at that time by writing  “little attention has been paid to the one pitiful attempt made during her reign by some of her subjects to rebel against her government”.  (Wood 1975) He is right about the lack of attention, and the organisation was indeed pitiful, but this is not the whole story as  the rebellion  has been underestimated, and since he wrote little has changed – despite the publication of K J Kesselring’s THE .NORTHERN REBELLION in 2007. Meticulous and informative, he still adopts the conventional view that the rebellion did not have much to do with Mary Stuart.

 

The two main biographers of Mary Stuart are massively dismissive, Antonia Fraser commenting that the rebellion led by the Catholic Earls of Westmorland and Northumberland “did nothing to improve her lot. … (it was) more in the nature of a separatist movement on the part of northern catholics than a revolt on the part of Mary Queen of Scots” (2002 p74). Guy agrees, giving the rebellion short shrift in a mere three sentences (2004 p463). The dismissive attitude of historian goes back before the First Word War, notably featuring  Conyers Read who in 1909 wrote that while Norfolk was in the Tower at the time  he had some responsibility as “His bolder friends in the North thereupon mustered their forces and broke out in open rebellion. They were repressed almost without fighting. The end of the business, for the moment at least, was a triumphal vindication of Cecil and his party” (Bardon Papers 1909 pxxiv). Only three sentences which set the tone for later writing on the Northern Rebellion, overwhelmingly seen as badly organised – which it was – and therefore unimportant.  The reasons may lie in the misconception this was a re-run of an earlier failure.

It is easy to see the Rebellion as a re-run of the Pilgrimage of Grace of 1536, and therefore also doomed to fail. Certainly the aim was  the same – to overthrow the Protestant Reformation by challenging the government. To do this the Pilgrimage had had the massive challenge of marching badly trained and half starved peasants over 250 miles across the River Trent and overthrowing the government minister in London, Thomas Cromwell who was blamed as  the driver of the new religion. The 1536 revolt got nowhere near crossing the Trent, the geographical dividing line of England in the Tudor period, accepting promises from the King and going home – whereupon Henry VIII broke his promises and crushed the rebellion. If the 1569  rebellion had been simply a restaging of the 1536 revolt it would have indeed been futile – and this did seem to be the original plan. But neither this –

nor the view that its aim was to put Mary on the throne are valid.

 

Ministers had feared that Norfolk would react to his marriage being cancelled by  rebelling and when he left for his Kenninghall estate in Norfolk without permission in early September it was believed he was preparing to mobilise his tenants for rebellion in the old feudal manner. De Spes the spanish ambassador believed this and talked of military aid from Spain, while the OUP says Mary “counselled him to be bold”. Norfolk was anything but bold and surrendered on 24th september. He was taken to the Tower and locked up.

 

It is often thought the rebellion was aimed at forcing the marriage of Norfolk and Mary and putting

her on the throne. For example, J B Black in the Oxford history of England says  “the rebellion should have begun when Norfolk, disappointed of his purpose, left the court in high dudgeon in September” (OUP p157). But Norfolk still hoped Elizabeth would agree to the marriage and wrote to his brother in law the Earl of Westmorland urging the plan be abandoned as he could be arrested for high treason. When Norfolk  surrendered on September 24th it created some confusion in the counsels of the three leaders of the revolt, the Lords Dacre, Northumberland and Westmorland but they were not driven by supporting Norfolk. The actual rebellion, which was purely about religion, went ahead regardless of what he or Mary thought

 

The rebel leaders agreed the aim would be purely to restore the Catholic Church, leaving all issues relating to Mary off the agenda. Historians have noted both the chaotic planning and the neglect of Mary’s position and concluded the subsequent rebellion was  futile and fatally confused. But the 1569 rebellion did not need to  march south of the Trent to confront the government in London. The leaders of the rebellion were well aware there was a vital difference with 1536.

 

Unlike 1536, the rebels of 1569 had an ace in the hole potentially able to mobilise the considerable Catholic support of a country still largely Papist. The ace in the hole was Mary, who was not a prime mover but  was fated to feature in developments.  Tutbury, was over a hundred miles nearer than London and on the northern side of the River. Releasing Mary was an achievable objective. This was not spoken of openly for obvious reasons but the interrogation of the Earl of Northumberland, one of the revolt leaders, after being defeated points to that being the case. And the logic is very clear. If Mary could be released from Tutbury by the rebel army, many Catholics who had been sitting on their hands could join the Rebellion.

 

Kesselring quotes a contemporary writer, stating the rebels when shouting “God Save the Queen… they have plainly showed that it is not our Queen, Queen Elizabeth, that they mean” (Kesselring 2007P159). The original pamphlet was published in 1569, during the rebellion, and there is no doubt that while Mary was not a mover and shaker, a successful revolt depended on her. If she were released, then Elizabeth faced  catastrophe. While historians do not understand this, Elizabeth and her ministers certainly did.

 

The revolt erupted on November 14th when armed men celebrated the catholic mass in Durham cathedral and then marched south. When news reached Tutbury, Shrewsbury wrote to London that he had put an extra 100 guards on the castle, sent mounted scouts to look for rebels, and ordered a search for weapons in the houses around the castle walls. He had already, on 22nd September, welcomed the Earl of Huntingdon and Viscount Hereford (from Chartley), but these did not bring many extra troops. The danger was of a fast moving troop of horsemen heading across country to storm the castle. But whether this was a real threat is not at all clear from the literature.

 

The account of the rebellion in the Oxford history of England almost uniquely notes that the rebels were well placed to attempt such a raid. Sussex the commander of the Royalist forces at York (Lord President of the Council) could not raise protestants to form an army of the north and could only defend York (1959 p139). On the 20th November he wrote to Elizabeth that the rebels were strong in horses, having the reivers of Tynedale and Redesdale in their ranks. This was exactly the type of troops who would be needed for a race across country to Tutbury, and according to Black who wrote the Oxford history, Lord Hunsdon, Elizabeth’s cousin, who was moving north to take Berwick for the Queen found his progress blocked at Doncaster had heard from the men who were holding Doncaster for the Queen the rumour  that the rebels were aiming for Tutbury to release the exile.

 

It is suprising that what happens next is obscure. Black in the OUP cannot work out whether such a raid was attempted, stating that the main rebel army marching from Richmond reached Selby “about 24th November. Whether a swift raid was actually made from here on Tutbury – a distance of  some 50 miles – by a band of horsemen under Northumberland is uncertain but highly unlikely”. (OUP 140)  In the sixty years since Black’s book was published, we have made no progress at all on whether the raid  on November 22nd the Queen ordered Shrewsbury and his two aristocratic assistants to move Mary south of the Trent to Warwickshire (K p76) – to Coventry in fact, which they reached on  November 25th . It is not in my view accidental that immediately  the revolt began to collapse, the rebel army retreating to Richmond in Yorkshire on the 28th November.

 

By this time large numbers of Royal Troops were moving North. To put the mobilisation in context, Jasper Ridley claims that for the Spanish Armada in 1588 the government mobilised 22,000 troops

but for the Northern rebellion Elizabeth mobilised 28,000. THE TUDOR AGE 1998/2002 -p237). Kesselring is more precise, commenting that (p79) the government mobilised 10,000 foot and 700 cavalry to guard the Queen, with 20,000 foot and 2,500 cavalry being mobilised to march into the North to suppress the rebellion. An attack on the Queen was clearly expected and these preparations show they feared civil war. This was a frightened government.

 

In the end the northern army consisted of 14,215 men, a highly impressive total which demonstrated that the notoriously skinflint Queen had no reservations about spending money to repress the rebellion. The Earls Rebellion was taken very seriously by government and demands more attention by historians than it has received to date. Mary was the key factor and moving her to Coventry the decisive act in defeating the rebellion.

 

EXCOMMUNICATION & THE RIDOLFI PLOT

 

Once the rebellion had been suppressed, Catholics kept their heads down and radical Catholic activity  morphed into the insurrection known as the Ridolfi plot, aided by the excommunication of Elizabeth 1 by the Pope. The papal bull was issued in Rome on February 25th (OUP 167) ie before news of the Earls rebellion had reached the Vatican, and was posted in London in May 1570, after the north had been crushed by Elizabeth’s armies, some 900 rebels being hung with their bodies left hanging as a warning for others. What happened in Rome did not counteract the brutal defeat the Catholic rebels had suffered. Instead a pre existing plot re-emerged.

 

Ambassador de Spes had told Philip of Spain about the plot as early as  29th February 1568, having been approached by a Florentine merchant Roberto Ridolfi on behalf of Norfolk and Arundel for a Catholic rebellion supported by Spanish invaders. This went off the radar while the Earls revolt took place, but was revived after the failure of the Earls Rebellion – and Norfolk would again be drawn in. The Bull encouraged murder plots against Elizabeth as a heretic, Ridolfi had used his professional ability as a financier to move across borders  to build a network for a Catholic conspiracy.

Norfolk was released from the Tower in August 1570- his imprisonment being a perfect alibi; no one could accuse him of being a rebel. However  he and  Mary seemed to share the illusion that  their  marriage was  possible, Antonia Fraser commenting that she wrote to Norfolk that their marriage would be approved although “She had had considerable evidence to the contrary” (AF 2002 p72), but  Norfolk realised that this was only possible if Elizabeth was removed, and was open to being involved in the Ridolfi plot.

 

This was to be a three pronged affair: A Catholic Uprising supported by a Spanish invasion using troops from the Netherlands and then the release of Mary who would become Queen after the removal of Elizabeth. It was a fantasy, ignoring  the defeat of the actual Catholic uprising of 1569. But Mary gave it her support, showing again astonishing bad judgement, in letters quoted at Norfolk’s trial

 

The Spanish commander in the Netherlands, Alva, regarded Ridolfi as a windbag, who was so full of himself that he told the Grand Duke of Tuscany of the plot, being unaware that Cosimo di Medici would immediately write to Elizabeth to tell her of the threat to her throne, which is exactly what he did. It was thus by accident Elizabeth’s ministers found that the Plot was well advanced.

 

The government having no police or secret service had no knowledge of the extent of the plot, but in April 1571 Charles Baillie a messenger for Norfolk was arrested at Dover with ciphered messages for continental catholics and forced to reveal the ciphers. The government had another lucky break when. on 29th August 1571 Norfolk’s secretaries asked a Shrewsbury merchant to deliver silver coin to one of his officials in the north of England. Finding the bag contained gold coin and ciphered letters, he handed the find to William Cecil. Norfolk’s London home was searched and a ciphered letter from Mary was found which when deciphered proved to give support to the plot, though not for overthrowing Elizabeth. At this time, Mary was careful not to give hostages to fortune.

 

On 7th September Norfolk was taken to the tower again and confessed to supporting Catholic rebellion in Scotland, to aid Mary regain the throne, which was treasonable action against a friendly country. In the end Norfolk, who was back in the Tower, faced three charges of high treason and was convicted. Mary’s letters read out at the Trial laid her open to the charge of complicity. Protestant opinion was outraged, particularly as excommunication was an open incitement to Catholics to murder Elizabeth, and Norfolk acted after the Bull had been published. While John Guy attacks William Cecil for orchestrating calls for Mary to be tried for treason, he had little need to do so. Protestants expelled Catholics from parliament and in the protestant backlash few politicians had any doubt Norfolk and Mary deserved execution.

 

The refusal of Elizabeth to do so raises the other two major questions from this period of Mary Stuart’s time in England. It was clear that England would now be troubled by conspiracies attempting to remove Elizabeth and reversing protestantism by de facto civil war stimulated by Mary’s presence in England. Yet Elizabeth remained unwilling to put Mary under strict quarantine, and she continued until 1585 and her third jailer Amayas Paulet to be able to plot. Why the regime remained lenient is a question which puzzled Elizabeth’s ministers through out the next decade or more (see Mary- Staffs======) with continual plotting failing for over a decade to provoke a more rigorous confinement of Mary.

 

But even odder than this is Elizabeths’ toleration of a woman who was out get her throne and to do so by having her killed. As Antonia Fraser writes,”it was the will of Elizabeth 1… which stayed the hand of the Commons against her in the summer of 1572. Elizabeth personally prevented the Commons from passing a bill of attainder against her in the summer of 1572… her preservation of Mary’s life in 1572 by personal intervention must be to her credit”. (AF 2002 pp86-87). Indeed, far from persecuting her, Elizabeth kept her alive and in conditions which allowed her to plot regicide. I cannot think of any other example of a monarch keeping a potential killer alive and able to plot in any similar set of circumstances. It remains a deep puzzle of their relationship, still not explained.

There was a price in 1572 for stopping the Bill of Attainder-  Norfolk had to die. He was clearly guilty of treason and was convicted, yet Elizabeth was reluctant  to have the death sentence carried out. Three times she signed the death warrant: twice it was withdrawn. Only when in the summer of 1572 the clamour against the two intended bride and groom had reached dangerous proportions did Elizabeth allow Norfolk to be executed. His death protected his intended bride. Mary survived because of Elizabeth’s refusal to have Protestants martyr Mary, and perhaps for that reason. We do not know. WHat we do know is that by taking this decision, and allowing a relatively lenient regime for the imprisonment of the exiled Queen, she was allowing Mary to plot to kill her.

 

Yet this apparent willingness to flirt which her own killing was not due to Elizabeth not knowing the threat that Mary Stuart posed. In a letter quoted by Ackroyd (but no date) written to Mary, the English Queen wrote

 

ackroyd 2012 quote= Elizabeth to Mary DATE?

 

MARY says she has a secret to tell: “you have caused a rebellion in my realm and have aimed at my own life. \you will say you do not mean these things. Madam, I would I could think so poorly of your understanding. …. you will say you have some mystery which you wish to make known to me. If it be so, you must write it. You are aware that I do not think it well that you and I should meet”.

 

Why Elizabeth would tolerate such an open challenge to her royalty and indeed her very existence is

a deep puzzle. The evidence shows that Mary was not a passive victim, and could not be seen as an innocent abroad at any time since she left France and took control of her fate. Why she provoked so many hostile reactions is the key issue for Biographers, yet to be addressed, but for historians of Elizabethan England the central puzzle is why Elizabeth put her throne at risk.

 

It is a matter of fact that she survived, Mary died on the block and Elizabeth overcame the Spanish attempts to overthrow her by invasion. We should stop thinking that the outcome was inevitable. As the history of Mary Stuart and her attempt to marry the Duke of Norfolk shows, the threat she posed was considerable and teetered on the verge of success. To understand why Mary did not become Queen Mary II of England with all that that would have entailed needs a closer scrutiny of her ability to pose serious threats to the protestant regime than we have seen in the history books written after both Queens were dead- and the challenges start with the first four years of Mary Stuart’s time in England.

Trevor Fisher                                                    18 2 19

Marlowe and Watson

Mark Eccles – Christopher Marlowe & Tom Watson – in Elizabethan London

dell writing matters june 2018 – marlowe -Eccles \CM & Marlowe 1934 web vers     13 09

Notes on –Chistopher Marlowe in London Harvard USA, 1934, Octagon  NY 1967- reprint
Featuring the document on the \Bradley or Hog Lane incident used by Peter Farl Baiey*

This document, in latin- there is currently no English translation –  is the jail delivery document for Thomas Watson published by Mark Eccles in the book dealing with Marlowe’s relation with Watson, discovered by  Eccles when he was undertaking research into Thomas Watson (pp8-9).

The text gives information on Marlowe and the document, which he claims to have discovered  in the Public Record Office He noticed the name Christopherus Morley and had the document photostated. The following commentary is based on reading Eccles book. A translation would be helpful as the commentary depends on this and other documents not always given by Eccles.

Preface

Eccles cites help from J Leslie Hotson, and Hotson sets the scene with a preface in which he asserts that  Eccles has added “a generous chapter to the poet’s life, which confirms our notion of the violence of his character”. (v) and also claims Eccles has discovered a new group of associates, led by  poet Thomas Watson. (vi). Eccles then suggests

“Marlowe’s life… has the fascination of the unknown. Such fragments of it as we do succeed in discovering only intensify the silence and blackness of the rest. Of the six years of his prime (ie 1587-1593, TF), nothing is known beyond a few casual allusions and the charges made at the time of his arrest and death. Between the Privy \Council’s letter on his behalf to the University of Cambridge in 1587 and the warrant which it issued in 1593 for his arrest, only one definite record of Marlowe has been found.  From this record we shall take our start”. (page 4)

The Bail Bond

What is this record? It  is clearly a bail bond –  the sureties being named as Richard Kitchen and Humphrey Rowland, but details of the offence appear missing. Eccles asks

“What breach of the law brought him in 1589 to Newgate? …The bond into which he entered on October 1st of that year …to appear at the next session of Newgate… a document so vague and all embracing provokes our curiosity” p4

This bond is however not reproduced by Eccles. He mentions that J H Ingram has discussed it in his book THE LIFE OF MARLOWE(P51) and discusses Hotston in an article in July 1926 commenting he cannot find anything about the recognizances. The anonymous sureties were however found by Hotson in other documents. Eccles comments that Hotson could not find why Marlowe was charged, asking  ‘he is indicted for felony, is committed to bail. What was his offense? Was he convicted? Nobody knows”. p5-6.

However later (p13) Eccles discusses the bail document and in a footnote points out that J H Ingram provides a facsimile on p149. This does not seem to be reproduced though he comments that it was missed by Jeafferson (cited in a footnote on page 13) along with the 1592 document on Marlowe and the constables, which is reproduced on page 105. This is muddle.

The Goal Delivery – Marlowe & Watson

Eccles indicates he was researching Marlowe’s life and notes that Kyd and Nashe are known to be friends of Marlowe, and thinks Thomas Watson could be a friend so he researches Thomas Watson- he had dedicated Meliboeus to Thomas Walsingham – p8 – and was likely to be in Marlowe’s circle as Walsingham was closely associated with Marlowe. Then Eccles  discovered Chancery Miscellanea, Bundle 68 file 12 No 362 a writ and return into Chancery of a Goal delivery at Newgate reciting the coroner’s request. Patent Rolls for 32 Eliz (part 4) contain also a pardon” (Eccles op cit pp8-9 given in latin pp25-26).

Eccles implies that the Goal Delivery document for which he gives the legal latin original encapsulates the other two, but why these other docs are not given is not clear from the book.  It is unfortunate that the bond which Marlowe gave – and which he presumably signed – is not given – particularly as this would give us a second signature for Marlowe if he did sign it. The lack of signatures for Marlowe has always been a challenge for scholars. The introduction ends, on page 9, with the comment “the story which these records have to tell follows”, and is given in three sections.

Section 1 tells of a street fight based on the coroner’s inquest into William Bradley, who had been fighting Marlowe with swords. Watson tried to defend Marlowe, Bradley fights him and is killed (pp9-11). Eccles then discusses the inquest jury  report (11- 13)  implying he has seen it. He then mentions the bond “for his appearance at the next Goal Delivery” and says the “brief and uncommunicative memorandum of this bond is the only document in the case which has been known up to this time”, and gives a reference for it. (p13- he states a facsimile is given in J H Ingram, Christopher Marlowe and his Associates, p149  – but gives no more information on this book).

Eccles says the recognizance bound Marlowe to appear at the next court sessions and this document was found among the court delivery rolls. He comments on the use or non use of the bond by historians (pp13-14) and asserts that it showed Marlowe was charged with a felony…but does not say  what crime he is charged with. But “the newly discovered documents (plural- referring to his own discoveries TF) give information on ‘what had happened to cause Marlowe’s arrest’ and details of the court case (‘what went on at the hearing of the case’). Since more than one document is mentioned, why only one document is cited is again curious.

Section 2: On the “Goal Delivery of Newgate at which Marlowe and Watson appeared”- the trial was held on Dec 3 in the 32nd year of Elizabeth (which began on November 17 1589)” p14.  Eccles describes the judges noting a connection with Marlowe – Manwood – Chief Baron of the Exchequer- his tomb d 14 12 92 – has an epitaph by CM – Hackington Canterbury. Potentially an important piece of evidence.

P22 THE GOAL DELIVERY (incorporates inquest ) Eccles also gives (p24-25) the pardon for  WATSON 5 months after entering Newgate; this is NOT the bond. It is the PARDON  and is only given in latin.

Section III

Eccles attempts a comparative analysis with other documents. 26-31. Mainly on legal procedure, what counts in getting a not guilty verdict.

CHAPTER 2 IN NEWGATE

Eccles seeks information on Marlowe’s time  in Newgate before getting pardoned. Notes different dates for entering the prison for register of prisoners and coroners inquest, but both dates are in September 1589, p35 raises issue of whether learned to coin in Newgate – the Baines note says he learned coining from Poole- who might be Poley??? – but was only in Newgate 3 days or 13 days, not really enough time to learn. (see 36) –  Discusses prison procedure, first cell Limbo p39-42.

CHAPTER 3; WILLIAM BRADLEY,

P43 – 58 LONG DISCUSSION OF WILLIAM BRADLEYS in the records

p59 The fight with Marlowe. Bradley to Watson – “Art thou now come?” indicates Watson was the real combatant. Eccles contends Bradley had sworn that WATSON not MARLOWE was seeking his bodily injury or death BEFORE A JUSTICE OF THE QUEEN’S BENCH SO MARLOWE WAS NOT THE INSTIGATOR. pp57-58 Eccles gives a discovery by Hotson who found a proceeding of the Queen’s Bench where William Bradley seeks to bind Hugonem Swyft, Johannem Allen and Thomamem Watson to keep the peace against him, the three to appear on November 25th 1589, by which time he was dead. p59. “the fray… was not a sudden or casual brawl in the streets” and  CM was not the cause.

Indications of how the fight started are not given in a confusing discussion of conflicts none of which involve Marlowe.ends p 68- the killing of Bradley was on 18 9 89 p69

CHAPTER IV MARLOWE’S SURETIES

Relates to the bond which has not appeared in this text. Marlowe’s sureties for his bail bond are Richard Kitchen – Humphrey Rowland. On Kitchen some data is available  relating to Marlowe but Eccles assumes ‘friend’ but has no evidence to prove this. 19th page on Richard Kitchen data states he knew host of Mermaid – concludes he knew Marlowe. There are 9 inconclusive pages on Humphrey Rowhlands “even conjecture is hard pressed to imagine how Marlowe is likely to have made his acquaintance”. p100. At the end of this chapter it is not established how the two men standing bail knew Marlowe.

CHAPTER V MARLOWE AND THE CONSTABLES.

Eccles returns to the issue of recognizances (Bail agreements) and states one Jeafferson MIDDLESEX COUNTY RECORDS wrote of the problems with recognizances, and gives what appears to be a recognizance for Marlowe for alleged assault on constables on May 9th 1592 GIVEN ON PAGE 105 DOES NOT APPEAR IN FAREY but what happened when he came to court is not explained.

ONE FROM 1589 IS MENTIONED P 104…. but no details. The 1592 case  seems to be ‘threats against the constables’  – Marlowe should have appeared before the middlesex justices at the Michaelmas Sessions of 1592… p 107

Eccles does not discuss the actual threats to the constables (Hollowell Street is named in the latin document) and discusses whether this is THE christopher marlowe pp108-113. Concludes it is. Eccles has Holywell Street. However spelling is less important than outcome, which is absent.

CHAPTER VI- NORTON FOLGATE

Eccles believes these two documents deal with “an unsuspected conflict with the law in 1592” and “the second definite record of Marlowe’s life as a playwright in London”. (p114) and also where he lived – in Norton Folgate. “The Newgate calendar of 1589 describes Marlowe as living in “the same precinct with Watson, ‘Norton Fowlgate'”- 10 pages on the area given.

p123 “Marlowe as the newly found records of the Middlesex Sessions now make it (sic) evident, inhabited the same theatrical quarter in 1589 living in the liberty of Norton Folgate, and in 1592 assaulting the constables of Holywell Street in Shoreditch”.

Then goes on to Greene, and his mistress, cites Harvey on his burial, Cutting Ball, Tarlton to Francis Walsingham on his son, p125 – godson of Sir Philip Sidney – Ends on Poley. An intriguing insight into the world around the ‘Roaring Boys’ of Elizabethan Theatre.

——————————————————————–

The coverage of Thomas Watson starts here p128

CHAPTER VII Douai 128-144

CHAPTER VIII THE WISE MAN OF ST HELENS 145 -161

exclusive material on Watson ends p161

——————————————————————–

Returns to Marlowe with chapter IX A DEDICATION BY MARLOWE

The dedication is to a poem by Watson AMINTAE GAUDIA 10 11 1592 entered at the stationers register, the dedication commends  the posthumous poem to Countess of Pembrokeshire-  Watson like so many  of the ROARING BOYS died young and was mourned by his friends. The initials at the end of the dedication are CM- this has been dismissed as referring to Marlowe by previous writers on Marlowe but Eccles is justified in thinking this perverse. However the dedication (in latin, translated) ends

“Shall I, whose slender wealth is but the seashore myrtle of Venus, and Daphne’s evergreen laurel, on the foremost page of every poem invoke the as Mistress of the Muses to my aid: to sum up all, thy virtue, which shall overcome virtue itself, shall likewise overcome even eternity

“Most desirous to do thee honour, CM”

This is not obviously Marlovian – I leave it to the experts to decide. Eccles is probably right that Marlowe could be the author asking for Lady Sidney’s patronage of the poem in fulsome language, but the initials CM are not definitively Marlowe.

The rest of the chapter sums up that Eccles has established the link between Marlowe and Watson, and argues the discoveries “at last clears the poet’s reputation from the shadow of supposed felony”. (p170) As he was pardoned, this is fair comment though making Hotson’s earlier comment on Marlowe’s violent character (v) insubstantial.

On page 171 Eccles concludes that Marlowe lived in Norton Folgate in 1589 and three years later attacked or threatened to attack the constables of Holywell Street.

The concluding comment (p171) that “Watson had family connections with two of Sir Francis Walsingham’s adroitest spies” does not make it likely that Marlowe made the acquaintance of Thomas Walsingham through Watson, though it is possible.

There is no bibliography and footnotes were given in the text.

Trevor FIsher                                                                                            13 09 18

*Peter Farey’s list of documents is found at www.rey.prestel.co.uk

Mark Eccles – Christopher Marlowe & Tom Watson – in Elizabethan London

dell writing matters june 2018 – marlowe -Eccles \CM & Marlowe 1934 web vers     13 09

Notes on –Chistopher Marlowe in London Harvard USA, 1934, Octagon  NY 1967- reprint
Featuring the document on the \Bradley or Hog Lane incident used by Peter Farl Baiey*

This document, in latin- there is currently no English translation –  is the jail delivery document for Thomas Watson published by Mark Eccles in the book dealing with Marlowe’s relation with Watson, discovered by  Eccles when he was undertaking research into Thomas Watson (pp8-9).

The text gives information on Marlowe and the document, which he claims to have discovered  in the Public Record Office He noticed the name Christopherus Morley and had the document photostated. The following commentary is based on reading Eccles book. A translation would be helpful as the commentary depends on this and other documents not always given by Eccles.

Preface

Eccles cites help from J Leslie Hotson, and Hotson sets the scene with a preface in which he asserts that  Eccles has added “a generous chapter to the poet’s life, which confirms our notion of the violence of his character”. (v) and also claims Eccles has discovered a new group of associates, led by  poet Thomas Watson. (vi). Eccles then suggests

“Marlowe’s life… has the fascination of the unknown. Such fragments of it as we do succeed in discovering only intensify the silence and blackness of the rest. Of the six years of his prime (ie 1587-1593, TF), nothing is known beyond a few casual allusions and the charges made at the time of his arrest and death. Between the Privy \Council’s letter on his behalf to the University of Cambridge in 1587 and the warrant which it issued in 1593 for his arrest, only one definite record of Marlowe has been found.  From this record we shall take our start”. (page 4)

The Bail Bond

What is this record? It  is clearly a bail bond –  the sureties being named as Richard Kitchen and Humphrey Rowland, but details of the offence appear missing. Eccles asks

“What breach of the law brought him in 1589 to Newgate? …The bond into which he entered on October 1st of that year …to appear at the next session of Newgate… a document so vague and all embracing provokes our curiosity” p4

This bond is however not reproduced by Eccles. He mentions that J H Ingram has discussed it in his book THE LIFE OF MARLOWE(P51) and discusses Hotston in an article in July 1926 commenting he cannot find anything about the recognizances. The anonymous sureties were however found by Hotson in other documents. Eccles comments that Hotson could not find why Marlowe was charged, asking  ‘he is indicted for felony, is committed to bail. What was his offense? Was he convicted? Nobody knows”. p5-6.

However later (p13) Eccles discusses the bail document and in a footnote points out that J H Ingram provides a facsimile on p149. This does not seem to be reproduced though he comments that it was missed by Jeafferson (cited in a footnote on page 13) along with the 1592 document on Marlowe and the constables, which is reproduced on page 105. This is muddle.

The Goal Delivery – Marlowe & Watson

Eccles indicates he was researching Marlowe’s life and notes that Kyd and Nashe are known to be friends of Marlowe, and thinks Thomas Watson could be a friend so he researches Thomas Watson- he had dedicated Meliboeus to Thomas Walsingham – p8 – and was likely to be in Marlowe’s circle as Walsingham was closely associated with Marlowe. Then Eccles  discovered Chancery Miscellanea, Bundle 68 file 12 No 362 a writ and return into Chancery of a Goal delivery at Newgate reciting the coroner’s request. Patent Rolls for 32 Eliz (part 4) contain also a pardon” (Eccles op cit pp8-9 given in latin pp25-26).

Eccles implies that the Goal Delivery document for which he gives the legal latin original encapsulates the other two, but why these other docs are not given is not clear from the book.  It is unfortunate that the bond which Marlowe gave – and which he presumably signed – is not given – particularly as this would give us a second signature for Marlowe if he did sign it. The lack of signatures for Marlowe has always been a challenge for scholars. The introduction ends, on page 9, with the comment “the story which these records have to tell follows”, and is given in three sections.

Section 1 tells of a street fight based on the coroner’s inquest into William Bradley, who had been fighting Marlowe with swords. Watson tried to defend Marlowe, Bradley fights him and is killed (pp9-11). Eccles then discusses the inquest jury  report (11- 13)  implying he has seen it. He then mentions the bond “for his appearance at the next Goal Delivery” and says the “brief and uncommunicative memorandum of this bond is the only document in the case which has been known up to this time”, and gives a reference for it. (p13- he states a facsimile is given in J H Ingram, Christopher Marlowe and his Associates, p149  – but gives no more information on this book).

Eccles says the recognizance bound Marlowe to appear at the next court sessions and this document was found among the court delivery rolls. He comments on the use or non use of the bond by historians (pp13-14) and asserts that it showed Marlowe was charged with a felony…but does not say  what crime he is charged with. But “the newly discovered documents (plural- referring to his own discoveries TF) give information on ‘what had happened to cause Marlowe’s arrest’ and details of the court case (‘what went on at the hearing of the case’). Since more than one document is mentioned, why only one document is cited is again curious.

Section 2: On the “Goal Delivery of Newgate at which Marlowe and Watson appeared”- the trial was held on Dec 3 in the 32nd year of Elizabeth (which began on November 17 1589)” p14.  Eccles describes the judges noting a connection with Marlowe – Manwood – Chief Baron of the Exchequer- his tomb d 14 12 92 – has an epitaph by CM – Hackington Canterbury. Potentially an important piece of evidence.

P22 THE GOAL DELIVERY (incorporates inquest ) Eccles also gives (p24-25) the pardon for  WATSON 5 months after entering Newgate; this is NOT the bond. It is the PARDON  and is only given in latin.

Section III

Eccles attempts a comparative analysis with other documents. 26-31. Mainly on legal procedure, what counts in getting a not guilty verdict.

CHAPTER 2 IN NEWGATE

Eccles seeks information on Marlowe’s time  in Newgate before getting pardoned. Notes different dates for entering the prison for register of prisoners and coroners inquest, but both dates are in September 1589, p35 raises issue of whether learned to coin in Newgate – the Baines note says he learned coining from Poole- who might be Poley??? – but was only in Newgate 3 days or 13 days, not really enough time to learn. (see 36) –  Discusses prison procedure, first cell Limbo p39-42.

CHAPTER 3; WILLIAM BRADLEY,

P43 – 58 LONG DISCUSSION OF WILLIAM BRADLEYS in the records

p59 The fight with Marlowe. Bradley to Watson – “Art thou now come?” indicates Watson was the real combatant. Eccles contends Bradley had sworn that WATSON not MARLOWE was seeking his bodily injury or death BEFORE A JUSTICE OF THE QUEEN’S BENCH SO MARLOWE WAS NOT THE INSTIGATOR. pp57-58 Eccles gives a discovery by Hotson who found a proceeding of the Queen’s Bench where William Bradley seeks to bind Hugonem Swyft, Johannem Allen and Thomamem Watson to keep the peace against him, the three to appear on November 25th 1589, by which time he was dead. p59. “the fray… was not a sudden or casual brawl in the streets” and  CM was not the cause.

Indications of how the fight started are not given in a confusing discussion of conflicts none of which involve Marlowe.ends p 68- the killing of Bradley was on 18 9 89 p69

CHAPTER IV MARLOWE’S SURETIES

Relates to the bond which has not appeared in this text. Marlowe’s sureties for his bail bond are Richard Kitchen – Humphrey Rowland. On Kitchen some data is available  relating to Marlowe but Eccles assumes ‘friend’ but has no evidence to prove this. 19th page on Richard Kitchen data states he knew host of Mermaid – concludes he knew Marlowe. There are 9 inconclusive pages on Humphrey Rowhlands “even conjecture is hard pressed to imagine how Marlowe is likely to have made his acquaintance”. p100. At the end of this chapter it is not established how the two men standing bail knew Marlowe.

CHAPTER V MARLOWE AND THE CONSTABLES.

Eccles returns to the issue of recognizances (Bail agreements) and states one Jeafferson MIDDLESEX COUNTY RECORDS wrote of the problems with recognizances, and gives what appears to be a recognizance for Marlowe for alleged assault on constables on May 9th 1592 GIVEN ON PAGE 105 DOES NOT APPEAR IN FAREY but what happened when he came to court is not explained.

ONE FROM 1589 IS MENTIONED P 104…. but no details. The 1592 case  seems to be ‘threats against the constables’  – Marlowe should have appeared before the middlesex justices at the Michaelmas Sessions of 1592… p 107

Eccles does not discuss the actual threats to the constables (Hollowell Street is named in the latin document) and discusses whether this is THE christopher marlowe pp108-113. Concludes it is. Eccles has Holywell Street. However spelling is less important than outcome, which is absent.

CHAPTER VI- NORTON FOLGATE

Eccles believes these two documents deal with “an unsuspected conflict with the law in 1592” and “the second definite record of Marlowe’s life as a playwright in London”. (p114) and also where he lived – in Norton Folgate. “The Newgate calendar of 1589 describes Marlowe as living in “the same precinct with Watson, ‘Norton Fowlgate'”- 10 pages on the area given.

p123 “Marlowe as the newly found records of the Middlesex Sessions now make it (sic) evident, inhabited the same theatrical quarter in 1589 living in the liberty of Norton Folgate, and in 1592 assaulting the constables of Holywell Street in Shoreditch”.

Then goes on to Greene, and his mistress, cites Harvey on his burial, Cutting Ball, Tarlton to Francis Walsingham on his son, p125 – godson of Sir Philip Sidney – Ends on Poley. An intriguing insight into the world around the ‘Roaring Boys’ of Elizabethan Theatre.

——————————————————————–

The coverage of Thomas Watson starts here p128

CHAPTER VII Douai 128-144

CHAPTER VIII THE WISE MAN OF ST HELENS 145 -161

exclusive material on Watson ends p161

——————————————————————–

Returns to Marlowe with chapter IX A DEDICATION BY MARLOWE

The dedication is to a poem by Watson AMINTAE GAUDIA 10 11 1592 entered at the stationers register, the dedication commends  the posthumous poem to Countess of Pembrokeshire-  Watson like so many  of the ROARING BOYS died young and was mourned by his friends. The initials at the end of the dedication are CM- this has been dismissed as referring to Marlowe by previous writers on Marlowe but Eccles is justified in thinking this perverse. However the dedication (in latin, translated) ends

“Shall I, whose slender wealth is but the seashore myrtle of Venus, and Daphne’s evergreen laurel, on the foremost page of every poem invoke the as Mistress of the Muses to my aid: to sum up all, thy virtue, which shall overcome virtue itself, shall likewise overcome even eternity

“Most desirous to do thee honour, CM”

This is not obviously Marlovian – I leave it to the experts to decide. Eccles is probably right that Marlowe could be the author asking for Lady Sidney’s patronage of the poem in fulsome language, but the initials CM are not definitively Marlowe.

The rest of the chapter sums up that Eccles has established the link between Marlowe and Watson, and argues the discoveries “at last clears the poet’s reputation from the shadow of supposed felony”. (p170) As he was pardoned, this is fair comment though making Hotson’s earlier comment on Marlowe’s violent character (v) insubstantial.

On page 171 Eccles concludes that Marlowe lived in Norton Folgate in 1589 and three years later attacked or threatened to attack the constables of Holywell Street.

The concluding comment (p171) that “Watson had family connections with two of Sir Francis Walsingham’s adroitest spies” does not make it likely that Marlowe made the acquaintance of Thomas Walsingham through Watson, though it is possible.

There is no bibliography and footnotes were given in the text.

Trevor FIsher                                                                                            13 09 18

*Peter Farey’s list of documents is found at www.rey.prestel.co.uk

chartley – a place out of time & a rebellion

Chartley A place out of time published Stafford Newsletter –  5 9 18

In the time of Elizabeth 1, the sleepy hamlet of Chartley on the Stafford-Uttoxeter Road was famous throughout the country. It was the home to one of the oldest families of the aristocracy – the Devereux and was visited by two Queens, though one was the prisoner of the other. Many people know that the  the famous Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned there before her execution. However most people think that Mary was kept in Chartley Castle, including Wikipedia and the Oxford History of England .

Yet Mary never entered Chartley Castle, which was a ruin by the time she made the first of two forced visits to Staffordshire.

 

Her name will always be linked to the half timbered moated manor house, burnt down in 1781 and being a forgotten place despite the Devereux making their home there after the Wars of the Roses. The Devereux men were barons, rewarded for their loyalty to the crown and their fighting qualities, players in political battles resembling Game of Thrones. One Baron backed Richard III at Bosworth, dying a fighting death along with his King. The family then backed the victorious Tudors, successfully. Walter Devereux was made Viscount Hereford by Henry VIII. The  tomb of this Walter is in Stowe church to this day.

 

However the story for which Chartley is still remembered starts with his grandson, another Walter Devereux. This Walter Devereux inherited the title of Viscount as a young man not yet 17, but favoured by fortune and the crown. As a protestant family the Devereux had not served Mary Tudor, and her death in 1558 opened doors to Protestants as Elizabeth 1 favoured the reformed church. In 1561 or 1562 this second Viscount Hereford  married Lettice Knollys, cousin to the new Queen. Lettice was one of the most beautiful women in Elizabeth’s court, and remained attracted to Courtly  glitz and glamour even when living in the Staffordsire countryside. Having had several children by Walter, after several years of marriage rumours began to circulate about a scandalous friendship with the Earl of Leicester. Nevertheless, this did not stop Elizabeth visiting in 1575, with her favourite in tow – the very same Earl of Leicester.

 

The family was well regarded by Elizabeth because of the service shown when Mary Queen of Scots made her first, forced visit to Staffordshire in 1569. Mary Stuart, a catholic, had fallen out so

badly with the protestant Scots that they rebelled, driving her out of Scotland in May 1568, and she only just crossed the border to Carlisle ahead of the Rebels. Having arrived in England, she called upon Elizabeth to provide an army to put her back on the Scottish throne.  The last thing that Elizabeth wanted was to put a Catholic Queen on the throne of a protestant country, and Mary was imprisoned at Tutbury  pending discussions with the Scots, who refused to have Mary back.

 

The result was that Mary was to be kept under House Arrest pending developments while her young son James grew up and was expected to inherit the Scottish throne. However this gave Elizabeth a major headache. Most of England north of the River Trent was still largely Catholic, Protestants living mainly south of the River. Mary provided an excuse to rebel and put a Catholic Queen on the English throne. The government relied on Tutbury being remote from the rebel areas, though it is just north of the River Trent.

 

Catholic plots developed and when the Catholic Duke of Norfolk revealed he wanted  to marry Mary, he brought  matters to a head. Elizabeth, who was unmarried and had not chosen a successor, was well aware Mary was heir to the throne as her cousin. If the two Catholics married they would be able to produce more Catholics to stand in line to the throne so Elizabeth forbade the marriage. To her horror the Catholic  Northern Earls rebelled. Elizabeth did not have a standing army or a police force, and when the Earls mobilised 6000 soldiers it was clear their army could march south unopposed as  Elizabeth struggled to mobilise troops.

 

The rebels occupied Durham cathedral on November 15th and broke the law by celebrating the Catholic mass. Worse, the target of the rebellion was clear. The Rebels were heading for Tutbury, aiming to liberate Mary before Elizabeth could get an army across the River Trent to stop them. A rebel army with an annointed Catholic Queen at its head could become unstoppable. This was Crisis with a capital K.

 

It was at this point that the Devereux loyalty to the Crown became a factor. Walter had been given joint responsibility with the Earl of Huntingdon, his father’s cousin, to keep Mary at Tutbury and ordered to keep a troop of horsemen ready for trouble. What then happened is not clear from the history books, though as Chartley is less than a days ride from Tutbury, it is not difficult to work out. On November 25th Mary was moved south across the River and taken under armed guard to Coventry. The Northern Rebellion collapsed. While the text books do not say who organised Mary’s removal, it is very clear who the Queen thought was responsible for saving her throne. She made Walter an Earl.

 

On 17th June 1571 Walter was also made a Knight of the Garter, the citation saying he was “one of the few peers of the old blood who, during the conspiracy of the Duke of Norfolk, remained faithful throughout to the queen”. Walter had completely removed the blot caused by his ancestor fighting for Richard III against Henry Tudor. And though he would not live to see the final stages in the story of Mary Queen of Scots and her time in Staffordshire, the rest of his family would see the tragedy unfold.

 

———————————————————————————–

Chartley A place out of time published Stafford Newsletter –  5 9 18

 

In the time of Elizabeth 1, the sleepy hamlet of Chartley on the Stafford-Uttoxeter Road was famous throughout the country. It was the home to one of the oldest families of the aristocracy – the Devereux and was visited by two Queens, though one was the prisoner of the other. Many people know that the  the famous Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned there before her execution. However most people think that Mary was kept in Chartley Castle, including Wikipedia and the Oxford History of England .

Yet Mary never entered Chartley Castle, which was a ruin by the time she made the first of two forced visits to Staffordshire.

 

Her name will always be linked to the half timbered moated manor house, burnt down in 1781 and being a forgotten place despite the Devereux making their home there after the Wars of the Roses. The Devereux men were barons, rewarded for their loyalty to the crown and their fighting qualities, players in political battles resembling Game of Thrones. One Baron backed Richard III at Bosworth, dying a fighting death along with his King. The family then backed the victorious Tudors, successfully. Walter Devereux was made Viscount Hereford by Henry VIII. The  tomb of this Walter is in Stowe church to this day.

 

However the story for which Chartley is still remembered starts with his grandson, another Walter Devereux. This Walter Devereux inherited the title of Viscount as a young man not yet 17, but favoured by fortune and the crown. As a protestant family the Devereux had not served Mary Tudor, and her death in 1558 opened doors to Protestants as Elizabeth 1 favoured the reformed church. In 1561 or 1562 this second Viscount Hereford  married Lettice Knollys, cousin to the new Queen. Lettice was one of the most beautiful women in Elizabeth’s court, and remained attracted to Courtly  glitz and glamour even when living in the Staffordsire countryside. Having had several children by Walter, after several years of marriage rumours began to circulate about a scandalous friendship with the Earl of Leicester. Nevertheless, this did not stop Elizabeth visiting in 1575, with her favourite in tow – the very same Earl of Leicester.

 

The family was well regarded by Elizabeth because of the service shown when Mary Queen of Scots made her first, forced visit to Staffordshire in 1569. Mary Stuart, a catholic, had fallen out so

badly with the protestant Scots that they rebelled, driving her out of Scotland in May 1568, and she only just crossed the border to Carlisle ahead of the Rebels. Having arrived in England, she called upon Elizabeth to provide an army to put her back on the Scottish throne.  The last thing that Elizabeth wanted was to put a Catholic Queen on the throne of a protestant country, and Mary was imprisoned at Tutbury  pending discussions with the Scots, who refused to have Mary back.

 

The result was that Mary was to be kept under House Arrest pending developments while her young son James grew up and was expected to inherit the Scottish throne. However this gave Elizabeth a major headache. Most of England north of the River Trent was still largely Catholic, Protestants living mainly south of the River. Mary provided an excuse to rebel and put a Catholic Queen on the English throne. The government relied on Tutbury being remote from the rebel areas, though it is just north of the River Trent.

 

Catholic plots developed and when the Catholic Duke of Norfolk revealed he wanted  to marry Mary, he brought  matters to a head. Elizabeth, who was unmarried and had not chosen a successor, was well aware Mary was heir to the throne as her cousin. If the two Catholics married they would be able to produce more Catholics to stand in line to the throne so Elizabeth forbade the marriage. To her horror the Catholic  Northern Earls rebelled. Elizabeth did not have a standing army or a police force, and when the Earls mobilised 6000 soldiers it was clear their army could march south unopposed as  Elizabeth struggled to mobilise troops.

 

The rebels occupied Durham cathedral on November 15th and broke the law by celebrating the Catholic mass. Worse, the target of the rebellion was clear. The Rebels were heading for Tutbury, aiming to liberate Mary before Elizabeth could get an army across the River Trent to stop them. A rebel army with an annointed Catholic Queen at its head could become unstoppable. This was Crisis with a capital K.

 

It was at this point that the Devereux loyalty to the Crown became a factor. Walter had been given joint responsibility with the Earl of Huntingdon, his father’s cousin, to keep Mary at Tutbury and ordered to keep a troop of horsemen ready for trouble. What then happened is not clear from the history books, though as Chartley is less than a days ride from Tutbury, it is not difficult to work out. On November 25th Mary was moved south across the River and taken under armed guard to Coventry. The Northern Rebellion collapsed. While the text books do not say who organised Mary’s removal, it is very clear who the Queen thought was responsible for saving her throne. She made Walter an Earl.

 

On 17th June 1571 Walter was also made a Knight of the Garter, the citation saying he was “one of the few peers of the old blood who, during the conspiracy of the Duke of Norfolk, remained faithful throughout to the queen”. Walter had completely removed the blot caused by his ancestor fighting for Richard III against Henry Tudor. And though he would not live to see the final stages in the story of Mary Queen of Scots and her time in Staffordshire, the rest of his family would see the tragedy unfold.

 

———————————————————————————–

 

Did Villa score the first League Goal?

Did Villa Score the first League Goal?

As every decent history book says, Aston Villa started the first Football League in the world when Secretary William McGregor called for leading clubs to play together regularly in 1888. That is why his statue is there outside the Trinity Road stand. And until recently we had the record for scoring the first goal on the first Saturday – though it was an own goal.

The own goal is still accepted, but recent research suggests it was not the first goal scored on that first Saturday. In his excellent book THE ORIGINS OF THE FOOTBALL LEAGUE (Amberley 2014) Mark Metcalf has a different story, though it is still true that the first goal scored by Villa in the League was the own goal by Gershom Cox against Wolverhampton, away in a 2-2 draw.

The belief that this was the first ever League goal was because it was reported to have happened half an hour after the kick off at 3pm – other games kicking off later. Metcalf found a researcher, Robert Boyling, at the Newspaper Library in Colindale, who discovered an advert saying the game would start at 3.30 on 8th September 1888. So Cox put through his own goal at 4pm.

In the games at Everton V Accrington and Stoke V Albion did not have goals before half time, but reports in the Bolton and Preston games kicked off at 3.45 and 3.50. The report of the Bolton Wanderers V Notts County game is the key. The reporter wrote that “The County kicked off with the sun at their backs, the visiting right made an attack that was cleared by Bethell but Davenport coming away transferred the play to the other end, and in two minutes from the start Kenny had scored a fine goal for the Wanderers”. Kenny was Kenny Davenport and as Bolton kicked off at 3.45 his first goal was 3.47 so 13 minutes before Cox put through his own net.

Kenny Davenport scored the first goal in League Football in World History and we can forget Cox’s own goal. The Villa – Wolves game ended 2-2.

Trevor Fisher               20 8 18

Did Villa Score the first League Goal?

As every decent history book says, Aston Villa started the first Football League in the world when Secretary William McGregor called for leading clubs to play together regularly in 1888. That is why his statue is there outside the Trinity Road stand. And until recently we had the record for scoring the first goal on the first Saturday – though it was an own goal.

The own goal is still accepted, but recent research suggests it was not the first goal scored on that first Saturday. In his excellent book THE ORIGINS OF THE FOOTBALL LEAGUE (Amberley 2014) Mark Metcalf has a different story, though it is still true that the first goal scored by Villa in the League was the own goal by Gershom Cox against Wolverhampton, away in a 2-2 draw.

The belief that this was the first ever League goal was because it was reported to have happened half an hour after the kick off at 3pm – other games kicking off later. Metcalf found a researcher, Robert Boyling, at the Newspaper Library in Colindale, who discovered an advert saying the game would start at 3.30 on 8th September 1888. So Cox put through his own goal at 4pm.

In the games at Everton V Accrington and Stoke V Albion did not have goals before half time, but reports in the Bolton and Preston games kicked off at 3.45 and 3.50. The report of the Bolton Wanderers V Notts County game is the key. The reporter wrote that “The County kicked off with the sun at their backs, the visiting right made an attack that was cleared by Bethell but Davenport coming away transferred the play to the other end, and in two minutes from the start Kenny had scored a fine goal for the Wanderers”. Kenny was Kenny Davenport and as Bolton kicked off at 3.45 his first goal was 3.47 so 13 minutes before Cox put through his own net.

Kenny Davenport scored the first goal in League Football in World History and we can forget Cox’s own goal. The Villa – Wolves game ended 2-2.

Trevor Fisher               20 8 18

Blair’s legacy is toxic

TOXIC BLAIR

(used Labour List 16 8 18- submitted 29 06 18)

The revelations about rendition and complicity in human rights abuses in June 2018 confirm that the Blair legacy is toxic. Turning a blind eye to American moves in the War Against Terror is not confined to any one government., but the sense that the Blair Regime was not behaving as a Labour government should was clear at the time. Astonishingly, the Blair tendency still shows no sign that it should apologise, and fuels the opposition within the Labour Party which still misleadingly polarises into Blair and anti-Blair factions.

Blair won a massive majority in 1997 creating an opportunity for progressive politics which was largely thrown away in the first two terms. Brown also shares much responsibility for a New Labour Project which having overcome loss of voter support in four elections to 1997 regained it then lost it again. Arrogance and cynicism were at the core of the Blair triangulation project allowing the hard left to still attack opponents for being “Blairite”. In reality the soft left was never Blairite, but suffered from supporting Blair in the 1990s, which the Hard Left never did. The Hard Left were not compromised by what happened after 1997, nor the palpable loss of electoral support which the Blairites still fail to accept.

Blairites assumed, and still assume, that they have a superior grasp of political strategy securing a winning postion. The evidence shows that in the first Blair government the party membership began to drop as members were alienated, so by 2001 the victory was gained by repeating 1997 without having the same levels of street activity. This reinforced the belief of the Projectiles that the Project did not need ground troops and they made no attempt to deal with the problems their own control freakery had created. The next government 2001- 2005 increased voter alienation and despite securing a working majority in parliament the regime failed to notice that it was increasingly unpopular.

It is possible to lose support and still win enough seat, and Blair did so in 2005 getting a working majority on only 37% of the vote – Corbyn got fewer seats in 2017 with over 40% of the votes. But the writing was on the electoral wall with over 50 marginal seats after 2005. Had Blair not resigned for Brown to take over this would have come to haunt him. Brown’s failures in office and the defeat in 2010, with barely 29% of the vote, destroyed his reputation, but the failure in 2010 was not just Brown’s but Blairism and its core policies of triangulation.

In the 2010 leadership election the soft left voted for Ed Miliband to keep out his Blairite  brother David. Miliband proclaimed that the New Labour era was over, but he remained commited to the Project. Of all his mistakes appointing Douglas Alexander as campaign chief was the most damaging. Alexander forfeited the 2015 election and his own Scottish seat in a wipe out of Labour north of the border which left the Party with only one MP. Recognising that the Blair Project was dead in the water should have followed but dogmatism rules.

In the 2015 leadership contest, with the soft Left Andy Burnham leading, Blairites chose to nominate Jeremy Corbyn to let him onto the ballot paper. There was no chance Corbyn could get on the ballot paper with his own level of support. So non Corbynista MPs signed his nomination forms believing that hard left votes might be drawn from Burnham to allow one of their two candidates to come through and win. Instead the soft left membership voted overwelmingly for Corbyn and a decisive end to the New Labour era. This was entirely due to the Blairite stupidity of nominating Cornbyn. If they do not like the result, they know who to blame.

However they still take no responsibility for what has happened in the last twenty years, and continue to run a tight factional machine producing the Progress-Labour First slate for the NEC. They show no sign of regret for their many mistakes or even willingness to accept they made them. This means that a vote for any of that crew is a mistake which could only lead to a return of the bad old days post 1997. Whoever I decide to vote for in the NEC elections, it will not be any on that slate.

The historical facts of New Labour failure have been obvious for many years, but still don’t impact in the world of Progress and Labour First, making it easy for the hard left to target anyone not of their persuasion as ‘Blairite’. Unless there is a soft left revival, a polarised party will continue to favour the hard left bandwagon. The soft left given the choice prefers Corbynism to Blairism.

How long will it take for Blairites to realise their game is up? Phyicist Max Planck once noted that in science, “a new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it”. Its even more difficult in politics for practitioners to see the light. Perhaps we have to wait for the grim reaper to do his work. Certainly the Blairites are showing no sign of accepting that the accomodation with Thatcherism which won them their elections was the Midas touch,.

Trevor Fisher                                                               29 06 18

TOXIC BLAIR

(used Labour List 16 8 18- submitted 29 06 18)

The revelations about rendition and complicity in human rights abuses in June 2018 confirm that the Blair legacy is toxic. Turning a blind eye to American moves in the War Against Terror is not confined to any one government., but the sense that the Blair Regime was not behaving as a Labour government should was clear at the time. Astonishingly, the Blair tendency still shows no sign that it should apologise, and fuels the opposition within the Labour Party which still misleadingly polarises into Blair and anti-Blair factions.

Blair won a massive majority in 1997 creating an opportunity for progressive politics which was largely thrown away in the first two terms. Brown also shares much responsibility for a New Labour Project which having overcome loss of voter support in four elections to 1997 regained it then lost it again. Arrogance and cynicism were at the core of the Blair triangulation project allowing the hard left to still attack opponents for being “Blairite”. In reality the soft left was never Blairite, but suffered from supporting Blair in the 1990s, which the Hard Left never did. The Hard Left were not compromised by what happened after 1997, nor the palpable loss of electoral support which the Blairites still fail to accept.

Blairites assumed, and still assume, that they have a superior grasp of political strategy securing a winning postion. The evidence shows that in the first Blair government the party membership began to drop as members were alienated, so by 2001 the victory was gained by repeating 1997 without having the same levels of street activity. This reinforced the belief of the Projectiles that the Project did not need ground troops and they made no attempt to deal with the problems their own control freakery had created. The next government 2001- 2005 increased voter alienation and despite securing a working majority in parliament the regime failed to notice that it was increasingly unpopular.

It is possible to lose support and still win enough seat, and Blair did so in 2005 getting a working majority on only 37% of the vote – Corbyn got fewer seats in 2017 with over 40% of the votes. But the writing was on the electoral wall with over 50 marginal seats after 2005. Had Blair not resigned for Brown to take over this would have come to haunt him. Brown’s failures in office and the defeat in 2010, with barely 29% of the vote, destroyed his reputation, but the failure in 2010 was not just Brown’s but Blairism and its core policies of triangulation.

In the 2010 leadership election the soft left voted for Ed Miliband to keep out his Blairite  brother David. Miliband proclaimed that the New Labour era was over, but he remained commited to the Project. Of all his mistakes appointing Douglas Alexander as campaign chief was the most damaging. Alexander forfeited the 2015 election and his own Scottish seat in a wipe out of Labour north of the border which left the Party with only one MP. Recognising that the Blair Project was dead in the water should have followed but dogmatism rules.

In the 2015 leadership contest, with the soft Left Andy Burnham leading, Blairites chose to nominate Jeremy Corbyn to let him onto the ballot paper. There was no chance Corbyn could get on the ballot paper with his own level of support. So non Corbynista MPs signed his nomination forms believing that hard left votes might be drawn from Burnham to allow one of their two candidates to come through and win. Instead the soft left membership voted overwelmingly for Corbyn and a decisive end to the New Labour era. This was entirely due to the Blairite stupidity of nominating Cornbyn. If they do not like the result, they know who to blame.

However they still take no responsibility for what has happened in the last twenty years, and continue to run a tight factional machine producing the Progress-Labour First slate for the NEC. They show no sign of regret for their many mistakes or even willingness to accept they made them. This means that a vote for any of that crew is a mistake which could only lead to a return of the bad old days post 1997. Whoever I decide to vote for in the NEC elections, it will not be any on that slate.

The historical facts of New Labour failure have been obvious for many years, but still don’t impact in the world of Progress and Labour First, making it easy for the hard left to target anyone not of their persuasion as ‘Blairite’. Unless there is a soft left revival, a polarised party will continue to favour the hard left bandwagon. The soft left given the choice prefers Corbynism to Blairism.

How long will it take for Blairites to realise their game is up? Phyicist Max Planck once noted that in science, “a new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it”. Its even more difficult in politics for practitioners to see the light. Perhaps we have to wait for the grim reaper to do his work. Certainly the Blairites are showing no sign of accepting that the accomodation with Thatcherism which won them their elections was the Midas touch,.

Trevor Fisher                                                               29 06 18

Bamford & Peterloo

Bamford & Peterloo

Samuel Bamford and the reform movement after Waterloo

Whatever Mike Leigh makes of Peterloo in his forthcoming film (due for release November 2018), he can hardly ignore the autobiography of Samuel Bamford Passages in the Life of a Radical. Bamford was an eyewitness at Peterloo – perhaps giving the best account as he knew the background and was a superb descriptive writer. He was acquainted with the leaders at Peterloo and was a local organiser on the day, leading the Middleton contingent into Manchester after several weeks of rehearsal.

Bamford was much more than just a witness at Peterloo in 1819, and his memoir is a classic of the

post Waterloo period comparable with de Quincey’s Confessions of an English Opium Eater (1821). Both are  rooted in the same historical period though Bamford’s memoir is political where De Quincey’s masterpiece is a study of his personal psychology. Bamford’s view of  the working class politics of the time  is unequalled, for Bamford knew the main players in both the reform movement and the shadowy revolutionary underground. He was elected to the Hampden Club meeting in London in January 1817 as the delegate from Middleton, and was noticed by the journalist William Cobbett as a unknown but valuable contributor. E P Thompson commented on Cobbett’s warm description that  “The ‘sensible and modest man from Middleton’  was Samuel Bamford, the weaver* and – when every criticism has been made – the greatest chronicler of early C19th radicalism” (1)

 

Thompson is correct though he is aware that Bamford’s account is slanted by his middle aged shift away from reformism. However  Bamford was present at many of the key reform activities apart from Peterloo- and was a committed activist who the government tried to remove from the scene and imprisoned after the massacre. Bamford had both connections in the reform movement, which allowed him to take part as a local activist in the preparations for the Demonstration in |St Peter’s Field in 1819, and the revolutionary movement, as is clear from what he wrote in his autobiography. This makes the book unique as the only work which provides a window into both the conspiratorial world of would be post Luddite revolutionaries, and the mass reform movement which culminated in Peterloo.

 

Writing later he did not admit his revolutionary connections and in the memoir claimed he remained in the world of peaceful reform agitation and his imprisonment after Peterloo was a vindictive government act which did not establish that he was involved in physical force agitation. Other evidence suggests he was concealing his real views. It is clear he was trusted by revolutionary activists. In a world where known physical force activism carried a death penalty, Bamford was discreet but said enough to sketch a subversive current active north of the River Trent. This makes him a unique eye witness on what happened at Peterloo, and how far the fears of the authorities of a French style violent upsurge were justified. (2)

 

The politics of 1817

 

Bamford was involved with the Hampden clubs and attended the delegate meeting in London in January 1817 but was mainly active in south Lancashire and acted – if only as advisor – on events in Manchester during 1817 which prefigured Peterloo. Thompson argued that the government attack on the reform movement in the opening months of 1817  is a

 

“Coincidence of persecution and confusion (which) is the background to the tangled story of the March of the Blanketeers, the Ardwick conspiracy, and the Pentridge rising” (3),

 

I have argued elsewhere ** that while the story is tangled, there is no direct link between the events in Derbyshire and those in Manchester, and that there is no evidence to justify Thompson’s claim that “There is a sense in which Peterloo followed directly, and inevitably, on Peterloo” (4). Events in Manchester had a different dynamic to that of the village rebels of the Derbyshire-Nottinghamshire border. Nevertheless there were connections and one of the key links was Samuel Bamford.

 

Bamford posed in his memoirs as a convinced constitutional reformer, but despite being in the Hampden club tradition he met with William Benbow and Joseph Mitchell in London, and back in Lancashire after the collapse of the Hampden organisation kept links with these would be revolutionaries. Benbow visited him in Middleton and tried to get him to support the March of the Blanketeers, but Bamford thought the scheme was bound to fail and Benbow appears to have agreed – Drummond and Baggulley who Bamford did not know emerged to lead the March. Benbow remained a physical force activist into the Chartist era, advocating the General Strike.  Benbow is not portrayed as a  major figure by Bamford unlike the other notable figure in Lancashire’s weak revolutionary movement, Joseph Mitchell. Bamford knew him well enough to defend him when he became the most controversial figure in the post war working class movement. Mitchell left Lancashire, only to become unwittingly the underground contact for William Oliver the government spy who penetrated and betrayed the  Pentridge rising – perhaps as an agent provocateur. Mitchell was suspected of being a spy himself and suffered persecution, but Bamford emphatically exonerated him from this charge. Which, of course, shows that Bamford know how to distinguish between the  revolutionaries and the spies who sabotaged the uprisings in the summer of 1817.

Bamford was frequently  visited by men who wanted direct action, and after the Ardwick plotting fled with the fake doctor Thomas Healy fearing he could be blamed for the conspiracy. When returning home he was arrested and taken to London to be interrogated. No evidence could be found to justify a prosecution but he was for ever afterwards suspect in the eyes of the authorities. With some justification, for as Thompson notes  “Bamford was visited that May (ie after returning from arrest and interrogation TF)… by delegates from Derby, Thomas Bacon and (William TF) Turner, both of whom were to be involved in the Pentridge rising” (5). Bamford knew of the revolutionary network but only dropped hints in the memoir, knowing the activities were seditious and after Pentridge had led to executions and transportation.

 

The revelation of Oliver’s activities by the Leeds Mercury showed that the government knew of the Pentridge plot and could have stopped it. This undermined the government’s case for continued repression – juries would not convict if informers were used to prosecute radicals fearing tainted evidence – and as Zamoyski has argued there was no widespread revolutionary movement in Britain. But though the authorities had to scale down repression in 1818, allowing reform to revive, the fear of working class activity intensified particularly in Manchester as the magistrates became increasingly paranoid, watching workers organise. Bamford remained at the heart of the Middleton reform community, and this led him to be centrally involved in the preparations for the demonstration which has become known as Peterloo and an eyewitness on the day. Bamford’s record is a classic which deserves to be widely known. But while it is the truth, is it the whole truth?

Bamford wrote from personal experience, and this is backed up by many other reports (6) and the casualty lists showing that this was a massacre, the crowd was not disorderly and suffered injuries with a dozen fatalities while the forces of the crown went unscathed: Bishop Stanley records sabre wounds to the heads of special constables, who can only  have been attacked by cavalry running amok. The casualty lists have been closely studied and back up Bamford’s view: this was an unprovoked attack on an unarmed crowd.

 

But Bamford was writing later when he had retired from the radical movement, and his protestations of pure constitutional reformism have to be taken as a very partial account: military style drilling on the Moors had a double thrust. Thompson notes with justified scepticism regarding Bamford’s claims of constitutionalism the report of a spy stating that Bamford was involved in purchasing Pikes for a revolutionary group in November 1891, a few months after Peterloo. Tempers were inflamed in the working class areas of South Lancashire after Peterloo, and understandably radicalism had a sharp edge. But how extensive was the revolutionary underground before the massacre? Bamford not only knew of it but was part of it during the troubled years after the end of the Napoleonic wars. His memoirs are a classic document deserving to be better known. But while an accurate picture of what Bamford saw, it is not the whole picture.

 

Trevor Fisher                                                                                       11 5 18

______________________________________________________________________

 

NOTES

(1) E P Thompson – The Making of the English Working Class, 1963-2013 edition p698

 

(2) Adam Zamoyski in PHANTOM MENACE Collins 2014

 

(3) E P Thompson op cit p702

 

(4) Op cit p736

 

(5) Op cit p 717

 

(6) Curiously Thompson (op cit p755) says of the quotation he gives describing Hunt’s arrest that this is from the testimony of a ‘fair minded opponent’. The witness is Bishop Stanley and he was a neutral observer who gave a chilling account of what he saw – his testimony is given on pp 20-21 of Three Accounts of Peterloo ed F A Bruton, reproduced by www.folkcustoms.co.uk in 2014

 

*silk weaver

 

** See www.trevorfisher.info/history’EPThompson, Manchester & 1817

Bamford & Peterloo

Samuel Bamford and the reform movement after Waterloo

 

 

Whatever Mike Leigh makes of Peterloo in his forthcoming film (due for release November 2018), he can hardly ignore the autobiography of Samuel Bamford Passages in the Life of a Radical. Bamford was an eyewitness at Peterloo – perhaps giving the best account as he knew the background and was a superb descriptive writer. He was acquainted with the leaders at Peterloo and was a local organiser on the day, leading the Middleton contingent into Manchester after several weeks of rehearsal.

 

Bamford was much more than just a witness at Peterloo in 1819, and his memoir is a classic of the

post Waterloo period comparable with de Quincey’s Confessions of an English Opium Eater (1821). Both are  rooted in the same historical period though Bamford’s memoir is political where De Quincey’s masterpiece is a study of his personal psychology. Bamford’s view of  the working class politics of the time  is unequalled, for Bamford knew the main players in both the reform movement and the shadowy revolutionary underground. He was elected to the Hampden Club meeting in London in January 1817 as the delegate from Middleton, and was noticed by the journalist William Cobbett as a unknown but valuable contributor. E P Thompson commented on Cobbett’s warm description that  “The ‘sensible and modest man from Middleton’  was Samuel Bamford, the weaver* and – when every criticism has been made – the greatest chronicler of early C19th radicalism” (1)

 

Thompson is correct though he is aware that Bamford’s account is slanted by his middle aged shift away from reformism. However  Bamford was present at many of the key reform activities apart from Peterloo- and was a committed activist who the government tried to remove from the scene and imprisoned after the massacre. Bamford had both connections in the reform movement, which allowed him to take part as a local activist in the preparations for the Demonstration in |St Peter’s Field in 1819, and the revolutionary movement, as is clear from what he wrote in his autobiography. This makes the book unique as the only work which provides a window into both the conspiratorial world of would be post Luddite revolutionaries, and the mass reform movement which culminated in Peterloo.

 

Writing later he did not admit his revolutionary connections and in the memoir claimed he remained in the world of peaceful reform agitation and his imprisonment after Peterloo was a vindictive government act which did not establish that he was involved in physical force agitation. Other evidence suggests he was concealing his real views. It is clear he was trusted by revolutionary activists. In a world where known physical force activism carried a death penalty, Bamford was discreet but said enough to sketch a subversive current active north of the River Trent. This makes him a unique eye witness on what happened at Peterloo, and how far the fears of the authorities of a French style violent upsurge were justified. (2)

 

The politics of 1817

 

Bamford was involved with the Hampden clubs and attended the delegate meeting in London in January 1817 but was mainly active in south Lancashire and acted – if only as advisor – on events in Manchester during 1817 which prefigured Peterloo. Thompson argued that the government attack on the reform movement in the opening months of 1817  is a

 

“Coincidence of persecution and confusion (which) is the background to the tangled story of the March of the Blanketeers, the Ardwick conspiracy, and the Pentridge rising” (3),

 

I have argued elsewhere ** that while the story is tangled, there is no direct link between the events in Derbyshire and those in Manchester, and that there is no evidence to justify Thompson’s claim that “There is a sense in which Peterloo followed directly, and inevitably, on Peterloo” (4). Events in Manchester had a different dynamic to that of the village rebels of the Derbyshire-Nottinghamshire border. Nevertheless there were connections and one of the key links was Samuel Bamford.

 

Bamford posed in his memoirs as a convinced constitutional reformer, but despite being in the Hampden club tradition he met with William Benbow and Joseph Mitchell in London, and back in Lancashire after the collapse of the Hampden organisation kept links with these would be revolutionaries. Benbow visited him in Middleton and tried to get him to support the March of the Blanketeers, but Bamford thought the scheme was bound to fail and Benbow appears to have agreed – Drummond and Baggulley who Bamford did not know emerged to lead the March. Benbow remained a physical force activist into the Chartist era, advocating the General Strike.  Benbow is not portrayed as a  major figure by Bamford unlike the other notable figure in Lancashire’s weak revolutionary movement, Joseph Mitchell. Bamford knew him well enough to defend him when he became the most controversial figure in the post war working class movement. Mitchell left Lancashire, only to become unwittingly the underground contact for William Oliver the government spy who penetrated and betrayed the  Pentridge rising – perhaps as an agent provocateur. Mitchell was suspected of being a spy himself and suffered persecution, but Bamford emphatically exonerated him from this charge. Which, of course, shows that Bamford know how to distinguish between the  revolutionaries and the spies who sabotaged the uprisings in the summer of 1817.

Bamford was frequently  visited by men who wanted direct action, and after the Ardwick plotting fled with the fake doctor Thomas Healy fearing he could be blamed for the conspiracy. When returning home he was arrested and taken to London to be interrogated. No evidence could be found to justify a prosecution but he was for ever afterwards suspect in the eyes of the authorities. With some justification, for as Thompson notes  “Bamford was visited that May (ie after returning from arrest and interrogation TF)… by delegates from Derby, Thomas Bacon and (William TF) Turner, both of whom were to be involved in the Pentridge rising” (5). Bamford knew of the revolutionary network but only dropped hints in the memoir, knowing the activities were seditious and after Pentridge had led to executions and transportation.

 

The revelation of Oliver’s activities by the Leeds Mercury showed that the government knew of the Pentridge plot and could have stopped it. This undermined the government’s case for continued repression – juries would not convict if informers were used to prosecute radicals fearing tainted evidence – and as Zamoyski has argued there was no widespread revolutionary movement in Britain. But though the authorities had to scale down repression in 1818, allowing reform to revive, the fear of working class activity intensified particularly in Manchester as the magistrates became increasingly paranoid, watching workers organise. Bamford remained at the heart of the Middleton reform community, and this led him to be centrally involved in the preparations for the demonstration which has become known as Peterloo and an eyewitness on the day. Bamford’s record is a classic which deserves to be widely known. But while it is the truth, is it the whole truth?

Bamford wrote from personal experience, and this is backed up by many other reports (6) and the casualty lists showing that this was a massacre, the crowd was not disorderly and suffered injuries with a dozen fatalities while the forces of the crown went unscathed: Bishop Stanley records sabre wounds to the heads of special constables, who can only  have been attacked by cavalry running amok. The casualty lists have been closely studied and back up Bamford’s view: this was an unprovoked attack on an unarmed crowd.

 

But Bamford was writing later when he had retired from the radical movement, and his protestations of pure constitutional reformism have to be taken as a very partial account: military style drilling on the Moors had a double thrust. Thompson notes with justified scepticism regarding Bamford’s claims of constitutionalism the report of a spy stating that Bamford was involved in purchasing Pikes for a revolutionary group in November 1891, a few months after Peterloo. Tempers were inflamed in the working class areas of South Lancashire after Peterloo, and understandably radicalism had a sharp edge. But how extensive was the revolutionary underground before the massacre? Bamford not only knew of it but was part of it during the troubled years after the end of the Napoleonic wars. His memoirs are a classic document deserving to be better known. But while an accurate picture of what Bamford saw, it is not the whole picture.

 

Trevor Fisher                                                                                       11 5 18

______________________________________________________________________

 

NOTES

(1) E P Thompson – The Making of the English Working Class, 1963-2013 edition p698

 

(2) Adam Zamoyski in PHANTOM MENACE Collins 2014

 

(3) E P Thompson op cit p702

 

(4) Op cit p736

 

(5) Op cit p 717

 

(6) Curiously Thompson (op cit p755) says of the quotation he gives describing Hunt’s arrest that this is from the testimony of a ‘fair minded opponent’. The witness is Bishop Stanley and he was a neutral observer who gave a chilling account of what he saw – his testimony is given on pp 20-21 of Three Accounts of Peterloo ed F A Bruton, reproduced by www.folkcustoms.co.uk in 2014

 

*silk weaver

 

** See www.trevorfisher.info/history’EPThompson, Manchester & 1817

Labour’s Forgotten Leader

Remembering Labour’s Forgotten Leader.

Published on Labour List 11th April 2018

Harold Wilson is Labour’s most successful leader. This has long since been forgotten, but the House of Lords began to put him back in the spotlight on March 6th when two politicians who served under him, Bernard Donoughue and Giles Radice, gave lectures remembering him as Prime Minister. Lord Donoughue, drew on inside knowledge  – he was one of Wilson’s “Kitchen Cabinet” after the first 1974 election and set up the Number 10 Policy Unit. Although the term ‘soft left’ had not been coined, Donoughue sees him in that tradition. This partly explains why the Blairites – deliberately – and the Corbynites – accidentally – have forgotten Wilson.

 

The basis of Wilson’s claim to success is his achievement in winning four of the five elections

he fought. As Donoughue says, this is unprecedented. Attlee won one and a half – 1945 followed

by the narrow victory of 1950 when the writing was on the wall – while Blair won two and a half-

the Landslide of 1997 repeated in 2001, followed by the narrow victory of 2005 when the writing

was on the wall. Labour has not won an election since.

 

So what did Wilson have going for him and what lessons can he teach today? Donoughue touches

on several, notably being adored by Labour voters and ‘hated by the Daily Mail, itself a proof of

his great qualities”. The route to being hated by the venemous Mail was his skill in leading the

Labour Party, divided as always between the hard left and the hard right, though Wilson himself

was fond of quoting the maxim “If you cannot ride three horses at the same time, you should not

be in the circus”* – and the divisions were not yet toxic. Wilson came from the soft left which Donoughue defines as “the familiar left wing Tribunite ladder” up which Wilson climbed, based

on the weekly Tribune newspaper – plus the Tribune Group of Labour MPs, which then split with

the hard left Campaign group emerging. But under Wilson the left = right split did not go critical, though the social democratic right which was to form the Social Democrat Party in the 1980s was already visible.

 

For Donoughue, his “most valuable leadership quality was in understanding that the Labour Move-

ment has always contained a coalition of two distinct traditions”, which he defines as the liberal

progressive intellectual elite, and “second the rank and file Blue Labour, including trade unions,

…concerned with the problems facing ordinary working people in everyday life”. Its a simple sketch which needs more work, but Donoughue  is right to seeing that bridging divides in the Party was Wilson’s critical task and his comment that “Neither side should… dominate and neglect the other, this time the Blue Labour core, with dire results in the Referendum”, makes sense.

 

The Blair- New Labour attitude to working people, was toxic, but it would be sensible to note that Wilson’s attitude to what became the Hard Left was dismissive, and Wilson had no time for Tony Benn, who like Wilson and Callaghan has largely vanished from public gaze. But that is partly due to New Labour, and Donoughue is right to suggest that the priority of Wilson as “improving the daily lives of working people from whatever class” seemed to New Labour utterly irrelevant, and this was the root of the rise of UKIP. Working people had been rejected by New Labour and the Referendum of 2016 was pay back time, largely in the old mining areas Thatcher had decimated.

 

As Donoughue said, Wilson healed the Labour split of 1972 over Europe with a referendum which

he used (in 1975) “to unite and not divide”. The first referendum was a massive success, achieved a 2/3 majority against Leaving the EU (the Tories had taken the UK into the European Community

in 1972 using parliament) and put the issue into touch for a generation. It was the behaviour of

the Blair- Cameron elite, dangerously out of touch with small town Britain, which allowed that

consensus to be broken. And the first EU referendum has been forgotten. There cannot be a

second EU Referendum. The 2016 vote was the second.

 

Wilson alas no longer figures in a history written by the victors, namely the Blair New Labourites

of the 1990s. However as Donoughue says, their day is over though they show no signs of under-

standing that the circus has moved on. They patronised the old Labour Right wing, the Unions and

the anti-capitalist and pro public service core of the party. Donoughue argues that “it may be time to move Labour’s policies, as we did in the last election, towards the soft left”. This is the way to move,

and in doing so it is vital to understand the legacy of Harold Wilson. We wait for Giles Radice to

put his lecture into the public arena, but the recovery of Wilson’s remarkable career surely cannot be long delayed.

 

* which the ILP always said was invented by their leader in the 1930s, Jimmy Maxton.

 

The lecture can be found on Lords Speakers Lectures, Harold Wilson, a flawed political genius

Remembering Labour’s Forgotten Leader.

Published on Labour List 11th April 2018

 

Harold Wilson is Labour’s most successful leader. This has long since been forgotten, but the

House of Lords began to put him back in the spotlight on March 6th when two politicians who

served under him, Bernard Donoughue and Giles Radice, gave lectures remembering him as

Prime Minister. Lord Donoughue, drew on inside knowledge  – he was one of Wilson’s “Kitchen Cabinet” after the first 1974 election and set up the Number 10 Policy Unit. Although the term ‘soft left’ had not been coined, Donoughue sees him in that tradition. This partly explains why the Blairites – deliberately – and the Corbynites – accidentally – have forgotten Wilson.

 

The basis of Wilson’s claim to success is his achievement in winning four of the five elections

he fought. As Donoughue says, this is unprecedented. Attlee won one and a half – 1945 followed

by the narrow victory of 1950 when the writing was on the wall – while Blair won two and a half-

the Landslide of 1997 repeated in 2001, followed by the narrow victory of 2005 when the writing

was on the wall. Labour has not won an election since.

 

So what did Wilson have going for him and what lessons can he teach today? Donoughue touches

on several, notably being adored by Labour voters and ‘hated by the Daily Mail, itself a proof of

his great qualities”. The route to being hated by the venemous Mail was his skill in leading the

Labour Party, divided as always between the hard left and the hard right, though Wilson himself

was fond of quoting the maxim “If you cannot ride three horses at the same time, you should not

be in the circus”* – and the divisions were not yet toxic. Wilson came from the soft left which Donoughue defines as “the familiar left wing Tribunite ladder” up which Wilson climbed, based

on the weekly Tribune newspaper – plus the Tribune Group of Labour MPs, which then split with

the hard left Campaign group emerging. But under Wilson the left = right split did not go critical, though the social democratic right which was to form the Social Democrat Party in the 1980s was already visible.

 

For Donoughue, his “most valuable leadership quality was in understanding that the Labour Move-

ment has always contained a coalition of two distinct traditions”, which he defines as the liberal

progressive intellectual elite, and “second the rank and file Blue Labour, including trade unions,

…concerned with the problems facing ordinary working people in everyday life”. Its a simple sketch which needs more work, but Donoughue  is right to seeing that bridging divides in the Party was Wilson’s critical task and his comment that “Neither side should… dominate and neglect the other, this time the Blue Labour core, with dire results in the Referendum”, makes sense.

 

The Blair- New Labour attitude to working people, was toxic, but it would be sensible to note that Wilson’s attitude to what became the Hard Left was dismissive, and Wilson had no time for Tony Benn, who like Wilson and Callaghan has largely vanished from public gaze. But that is partly due to New Labour, and Donoughue is right to suggest that the priority of Wilson as “improving the daily lives of working people from whatever class” seemed to New Labour utterly irrelevant, and this was the root of the rise of UKIP. Working people had been rejected by New Labour and the Referendum of 2016 was pay back time, largely in the old mining areas Thatcher had decimated.

 

As Donoughue said, Wilson healed the Labour split of 1972 over Europe with a referendum which

he used (in 1975) “to unite and not divide”. The first referendum was a massive success, achieved a 2/3 majority against Leaving the EU (the Tories had taken the UK into the European Community

in 1972 using parliament) and put the issue into touch for a generation. It was the behaviour of

the Blair- Cameron elite, dangerously out of touch with small town Britain, which allowed that

consensus to be broken. And the first EU referendum has been forgotten. There cannot be a

second EU Referendum. The 2016 vote was the second.

 

Wilson alas no longer figures in a history written by the victors, namely the Blair New Labourites

of the 1990s. However as Donoughue says, their day is over though they show no signs of under-

standing that the circus has moved on. They patronised the old Labour Right wing, the Unions and

the anti-capitalist and pro public service core of the party. Donoughue argues that “it may be time to move Labour’s policies, as we did in the last election, towards the soft left”. This is the way to move,

and in doing so it is vital to understand the legacy of Harold Wilson. We wait for Giles Radice to

put his lecture into the public arena, but the recovery of Wilson’s remarkable career surely cannot be long delayed.

 

* which the ILP always said was invented by their leader in the 1930s, Jimmy Maxton.

 

The lecture can be found on Lords Speakers Lectures, Harold Wilson, a flawed political genius

Parliamentary sovereignty & the Maiden Tribute

Parliamentary Sovereignty & the Maiden Tribute

 

The rules of British political life are unwritten and obscure. Unlike the USA, Britain has only an “unwritten” constitution and much current practice is based on pre-democratic foundations. Since the 17th century political conflict has revolved around who controls parliament rather than how parliament operates,  and the outcomes of the 17th conflicts revolved around transferring monarchical power to parliament rather than attempting the separation of powers which underpinned the  US constitution when it was drafted in the late 18th century. British political conflicts never involved root and branch constitutional renewal. As critics in the 1980s noted, Britain avoided constitutional debate, and there has never been a constitutional convention across the UK, unlike Scotland before devolution. The outcome has been a Westminster system which is  highly centralised, contains many archaic practices, notably the House of Lords, and is not based on explicit and clearly understood principles.

 

The key issue has long been the central issue of sovereignty, which as the word suggest is based on the power of an individual, the sovereign – initially the monarch. It is not an accident that the oldest text of modern political discourse, Machiavelli’s The Prince derives its model from monarchical regimes (1), though Machiavelli operated during the Florentine republic. Sovereign power is always is some respect monarchical. During the Soviet Era, Stalin was frequently described as a “Red Tsar”. Britain has not been an autocracy since the execution of Charles I resolved that power passed to parliament, but in Britain though the system has for several centuries abandoned the monarchy it has never lost its monarchical trappings. Parliament retains the Queen’s speech at the state opening, for example, though everyone knows the Queen does not write it.

 

The political system emerged after the Glorious Revolution of 1688 as flexible enough to adapt to new circumstances, and control by Westminster satisfied the major interests in a rapidly changing society. However by the late twentieth century an increasingly diverse society found Westminster’s total dominance unsatisfactory with many of the decisions unrepresentative. This forced the development, ad hoc, of referenda the first of which took place in 1975 over the EU. The advisory nature of that referendum did not alter the constitution at that time though the system was blatantly producing unrepresentative governments, and continued to do so even when changes were inevitable.

 

As Bernard Donoughue has written (2), despite being in the Number 10 policy unit, and  had lectured on “the steady decline in electoral support for both of Britain’s main parties” he did not  grasp how changes in society meant “we would move into both a more multi-party system and, from 1979 one in which a single party would dominate government with a minority of the popular vote and the support of barely a third of the electorate”. He was not alone in being suprised, and no politician has ever seen the need for root and branch constitutional reform. While it is a continuing puzzle that Thatcherism did not led to electoral reform, it is not suprising that as governments continued to fail to win majorities among the voters the pressure for direct decision making by the undefined concept of ‘The People’ grew in strength. The key immediate point is the lack of effective debate about the constitutional effects of ad hoc popular votes.

 

The use of referedum in recent years has been driven by the attempt to produce a more representative democracy than a sovereign parliament was providing . The EU referendum of 2016 massively increased confusion about a system which earlier had been called by some  “Elected dictatorship”. However the system by 2017 was no longer able to command even passive consent. Sadly  the use of referenda failed to provide a stable political system, as the Brexit controversy indicates. The most extensive referendum yet did not produce a workable outcome.

 

By January 11th 2018, when Nigel Farage declared his sympathy for another EU referendum, the bizarre situation developed where even the acknowledged victor in the 2016 referendum and main actor in the Brexit scenario no longer believed the referendum he had long campaigned for had delivered a stable outcome. The political system in Britain is in profound crisis which demands intensive scrutiny. What drove recent changes and why has the referendum system come to produce such unsatisfactory results?

 

Referendums, sovereignty and democratic deficit.

 

One reason for the turn to direct democracy via referenda was  a widespread impression by the 1970s, particularly in Scotland but across the UK that parliament was out of touch with public opinion on issues of independence. This lead to ad hoc decisions, initially over the EU. There were increasing pressures to change the form of government, leading to the devolution of powers to national assemblies and the creation of Elected Mayors, all by referendums, but without a systematic agreement on how direct democracy fitted with representative democracy. While the initial EU referendum of 1975 was advisory,  David Cameron decreed binding votes in Scotland and on the EU.. The implications were badly thought through and unlike the 1975 referendum which produced a two thirds majority in favour of the EU  and four decades of relative stability, there has been no settling of the issues as Farage, alone among major politicians, has recognised.

 

The root of the failure to establish clear ground rules lay in the long held assumption that the unwritten constitution is the workable product of brilliant improvisation. The British never seem to have believed there was a need to work from first principles, and for the 2016 EU referendum many assumed that parliament has been removed from the process by referenda, and that a single vote makes parliament irrelevant, or simply a rubber stamp- as Brexiteers argued through 2017 seeking to close the debate on a further referendum as they had – narrowly – won in 2016, until Farage broke ranks.

 

The absence of debate on constitutional issues has prevented discussion on how referenda and representative democracy can mesh. This happens in Switzerland and some US states, but they do not do so easily. While Referendums are new for the British, parliamentary sovereignty remains in place. This decrees that no vote even if a popular one is ever final. Political decisions are reversable, and politics even when popular votes are involved is capable of taking the U turns that politicians dread. This is not however the current political view at Westminster, based on a weak understanding of the history and legal basis of the constitution.

 

Prime Minister Theresa May for example took the view that Brexit decisions once taken are irreversible. She wrote in the Daily Telegraph  that  “We are leaving the European Union on 29th March 2019”, referring to a date set  after the parliamentary vote to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty by the letter sent to the EU in March 2017 notifying the decision to leave. This led to to an attempt by the Conservative government to put the date into law, assuming that this would mean that the decision was irrevocable. The government was then forced into retreating.

 

The Guardian (21st December 2017) reported that “The government has accepted a compromise over its plans to Brexit date into law”, as the attempt to set a fixed date did not survive parliamentary debate. The face saving compromised negotiated by Oliver Letwin MP, in the words of  the Guardian “tweaked the government’s own amendment, leaving the Brexit date (29th March 2019) in the legislation, but giving MPs the power to push it back if the EU27 agree”. Nevertheless the Conservative web site in mid January 2017 claimed as one of three major achievements that financial commitments  would be honoured “So from March 29th 2019 when we formally leave the EU, we can spend that money on our NHS and public services”. (3) The Party and thus the government has never accepted that its decision to write to the EU on March 29th 2019 was not a binding commitment, posing a continuing failure to grasp the constitution and, worrying, suggests that law is not accepted by the  Conservative Party.

 

Nor does it understand the implications of the Lisbon Treaty.  The rigid assumption that the decision

to leave EU was irreversible and embodied in the triggering of Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty had already led to humiliating reversal in the House of Lords in November. The Conservatives had assumed that Article 50 cannot be repealed and thus the decision to leave the EU had been made, removing any role for parliament actioning Article 50. This produced a parliamentary farce.

 

The former diplomat and lawyer Lord Kerr, (John Olav Kerr of Kinlochard, a crossbench peer and former member of the European Commission that drafted the Lisbon Treaty) was widely reported in  the liberal media disagreeing (4). Kerr had given an interview on the Radio 4  Today programme where he reportedly said “At any stage we can change our minds…. The Brexiteers give the impression that because of the way Article 50 is written  having sent in a letter on 29th March 2017 we must leave automatically on 29th March 2019 at the latest. That is not true. It is misleading to suggest that a decision that we are taking autonomously in this country about the timing of our departure, we are required to take by a provision of EU treaty laws”.

 

Lord Kerr’s view had weight because as he said to the BBC “I’m not a politician. I’m just the guy who wrote the Treaty telling you what the Treaty means”. Lord Kerr is an expert in international law, and his statement to the BBC that “These decisions are taken entirely in this country, they have nothing to do with the Treaty, as far as the Treaty is concerned there are lots of options…” had to be taken seriously as a view of European Law.  He is essentially arguing that the principle of parliamentary sovereignty applies. And if the decisions are taken in Westminster they can be reversed in Westminster, though my view is that  approval of a final decision by referendum would be needed.

 

According to the Independent, (9th November 2017) “pressure has been building on the Government to publish legal advice it has received, that is believed to state that Parliament can stop Brexit. The country’s top legal experts are said to have told the Prime Minister that leaving the EU could be halted if MPs judge that a change of mind is in the national interest”. Theresa May had been questioned by journalists on whether this legal advice had allowed the decision on Article 50 to be revoked, but had given no clear answer.

 

Kerr’s intervention removed any doubt, except in government circles. Kerr’s views were raised in the House of Lords, when his views were put to Lord Callanan (Minister of State  in the Department for exiting the European Union) the following Monday. Hansard shows the following:

 

House of Lords 13 11 17 Col 1845

Lord Ridley (Con) “Further to what my noble friend said about fixing the date of withdrawal… can he confirm that the judgement of the Supreme Court in the case brought by Gina Miller confirms in precise terms that article 50 is irreversible, in contrast to what the noble lord, Lord Kerr, has said?”

 

Lord Callanan: “I can confirm that. It is also stated by the European Commission that Article 50, once invoked, is irrevocable unless there is political agreement on it”.

 

Lord Elystan Morgan (Cross Bench)

“My Lords, does the minister agree that the notice given in March this year in relation to Article 50 was not a notice of withdrawal but a notice of intention to withdraw? Does he appreciate that our distinguished colleague, the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, and the vast mass of legal authority, are of the opinion, therefore, that such a notice can be withdrawn unilaterally….?

 

Lord Callanan, (Con)

“My Lords, no, I will not confirm that, because it has been stated by  legal opinion on this side of the water and in the EU that Article 50 is not revocable. It all flies in the face of the results of the referendum…” And Lord Callanan went on to discuss the referendum without understanding that this was governed by the principle of parliamentary sovereignty. Any law can be reversed by parliament unless developments outside parliament have overtaken the decision and the law is irrelevant (a treaty with a country that no longer exists for example).

 

Lord Callanan then had to  return  to the Lords a week later to admit he was wrong. As Hansard records:  House of Lords 20 11 17  –   2.42 PM Announcement:

 

Lord Callanan (Con)

“Last Monday …. I responded to a question from my noble friend Lord Ridley regarding the Supreme Court’s view on the revocability of Article 50. My response to my noble friend was incorrect (emphasis TF)… I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, who highlighted my mistake…..I undertook to check the record… and make it clear that the Supreme Court did not opine on the revocability of Article 50…

“…to reiterate… the Supreme Court proceeded in the Miller case on the basis that Article 50 would not be revoked but did not rule on the legal position regarding its revocability. It was, and remains, the government’s position that our notification of Article 50 will not be withdrawn…..”

 

This statement avoided making a direct comment on whether the statement made by Lord Kerr was correct. But Callanan had specifically stated that Article 50 was not revocable, and Kerr is right. The revocability of Article 50  is of fundamental political and constitutional importance going beyond the immediate issue of how to leave the EU. It is particularly worrying that the Conservative Party have not accepted that the notification can be withdrawn, evading the issue even at Prime Ministerial level, and remain committed to March 29th as a rigid leaving date without accepting that the Commons voted for extending the date if agreed with the EU. The Party believes that there is a fixed situation which has never been the case. Parliament can always change its mind.

 

It is a fundamental principle of the (Unwritten) British constitution that any law can be reversed. The rules appear to have been changed by the 2016 Referendum to require this issue – and possibly others – to be decided by Referendum, but this remains obscure as the European Union Referendum Act, which recieved the Royal Assent on 17th December 2015 was poorly drafted and the parliamentary debate was scandalously unable to clarify issues of procedural importance. However in principle, as this was an Act of Parliament,  both the referendum and its consequences are subject to the unwritten constitutional rules, thus parliamentary votes on EU matters can be reversed. The implications of this principle need to be teased out in the unavoidable situation of a referendum driven politics.

 

 Lessons from history on the fundamentals of the constitution.

 

The bedrock principle is that Parliament is sovereign and can change its mind. This lead from political developments at the end of the Middle Ages  when the  monarch came to consult parliament, allowing  parliament to share the powers of the sovereign. This was pre-eminently the case with Henry VIII who even though an autocrat required his Chief Minister Thomas Cromwell to have his protestant reformation approved by parliament. Henry VIII’s break from Rome required the formal consent of the representatives of  a still overwhelmingly Catholic population – protestant ideology had little appeal even for the King – so gaining the  consent of the population via parliament was a political not a democratic move, aimed to limit opposition from followers of the Old Religion. However the law of unintended consequences then operated.

 

The Henrican Reformation contributed to the development of the formula which became known as the Crown in Parliament. Under this doctrine,  parliament had to approve decisions of the Crown,  and it became clear that sovereignty no longer was exclusively in the hands of the monarch. But  by the end of the Tudor  period the situation had become unstable by creating two power centres – the Court and Parliament. The Catesby conspiracy – the Gunpowder Plot – dramatised political reality by attempting to wipe out King and Parliament in one fell swoop, destroying the two driving forces of the Reformation and starting a Catholic coup, but its failure did not lead to a more harmonious relationship of the two power centres. The following years showed internal conflict between Crown and Parliament become savage, Charles 1 clearly aiming to return to control by absolute monarchy and the removal of parliament. The result that the English Civil Wars – and then the Glorious Revolution of 1688 – resolved by armed force that the balance of power lay with parliament. The settlement has never been questioned.

 

Parliament makes the major decisions, and these decisions are revokable. Statute Laws have certainly been revocable by parliament since the Reformation. For example, the criminalisation of homosexuality as a capital offence was made by the Henrican legislation of 1533, but the capital punishment element was removed in the Victorian period and the criminalisaution of male homosexuality as such revoked by the famous 1967 Law following the Wolfenden report. The pace  intensified in the early nineteenth century as the changes of the industrial revolution demanded laws changed to match the demands of a rapidly changing society. The changes to existing law made after the Napoleonic wars were so many and fundamental that the Oxford History of England volume  (5) dealing with the period is called The Age of Reform (1815- 1870) though laws had been changed before 1815 and after 1870 and continue to be changed. Indeed Brexit itself is an attempt to repeal the laws that took Britain into the EU. It is not the case that Article 50 is not revocable, and the attempt to put the leaving date into laws was farcical.  As far as British politics are concerned,the principle that parliament can revoke laws has never been in question, and to make sense constitutionally must transfer to referenda – which are agreed by statute law.

 

Both international and European laws have now been incorporated into English law by parliament – and Brexit aims to remove the links. This is the heart of the Brexit project, and at the heart of the disputes over how this is proceeding is the constitutional issue of whether the role of parliament has been altered by Referenda. This issue raises other questions about the democratic deficit and whether referenda themselves are revokable. Almost certainly they can and no objection has ever been raised in principle to a further referendum, but as both Houses of Parliament have voted against a further referendum on Brexit the situation raises the question of extra parliamentary politics. If the People Had Decided on Brexit in 2016, the people now being divided how can the conflict within the population be resolved to ensure that the processes do not damage confidence in democracy?

In this context an increasingly pressing question is whether government can be compelled to abolish a law by external pressure rather than party politics, Labour has voted for Article 50 to be invoked and has aligned with the Conservatives in making no admission that this can be revoked. Reform of legislation is usually a feature of party politics in the Houses of Parliament. Even the Conservative Party embraced ‘Reform to Conserve’ under Sir Robert Peel.  But sometimes the impetus has came from outside parliament, as with the Repeal of the Corn Laws. And occasionally it was through a movement with a social message, notably Votes for Women, working over a long period as was the case with the Anti Corn Law movement. The Chartist Movement which worked in the same period as the Anti Corn Law Movement failed to secure its six point charter but five of the points have been made law since its demise. MPs are reluctant to admit that an extra parliamentary movement has compelled it to change the law, but there are historical cases which show that this has happened, without affecting parliamentary sovereignty as such. A telling example, which became obscure almost as soon as it happened as the politicians of the time wanted to forget it, was the campaign to pass the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1885.

 

The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon 1885

 

History books do not record many examples of parliament coming to repeal existing legislation because of a campaign which forces a complete volte face in policy in summary order, and fewer by an alliance of anti-establishment groups (6). One example is the Maiden Tribute campaign of 1885 run by the Pall Mall Gazette, whose pioneering editor W T Stead  used public  pressure, applied to parliamentarians, to force them to change entrenched positions. This was only achieved by producing a public outcry so great that politicians feared for their positions if they ignored public opinion. National politicians concluded in the summer of 1885 this would happen if they did not reverse their decisons on sexual legislation and produce a new statute- the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1885, a law  which aimed to protect women and young girls from sexual exploitation.

 

The events which led to the Act had their roots in a long run campaign by moral puritans and child protection activists to defend girls and young women from sexual exploitation. This was the first campaign for the new Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children which joined the existing Moral Purity lobby to campaign for a new law to protect young females from sexual abuse.

 

A key objective  was an attempt to change  the age of consent, which was 13 in the later Victorian period. The legal limit for sexual activity for girls had been 12 till 1861, despite campaigners arguing, correctly, that with the age of puberty being on average later girls could be forced into sexual activity before they were mature. From 1861 to 1880, political pressure to raise the age to 16 failed despite a concession, passed in 1875 by Disraeli’s Conservatives, raising the age of consent to 13. The Tories then lost interest in further changes. Prostitution in the UK continued to involve immature girls, with the moral puritans demonstrating that girls were detained against their will in brothels in the UK and the continent – but  politicians ignored  the evidence. Despite Gladstone’s evangelical views even Liberal Party MPs resisted change.

 

Gladstone’s Liberal victory in 1880 did offer possibilities for reform as the new government accepted substantial abuse existed, and Gladstone’s cabinet used the House of Lords  to set up a Select Committee. This reported on 10th July 1882 making reccomendations including the key proposal to raise the age of consent to 16. The Liberals had to start a Bill in the Lords as the Commons remained hostile. The next three years would show that the Lords were lukewarm but prepared to support their own Select Committee, but the Commons was opposed  and opposition was shared by both Conservative and Liberal MPs.

 

A first bill passed the Lords in the spring of 1883, but fierce criticism from Conservative peers  led the Liberals to revise it to produce a milder measure in 1884 aiming at a consensus. This was sent to the Commons where it failed to get any debate. MPs would not support a measure which they feared would risk their sons being blackmailed by  girls exploiting an age limit beyond 13. However rising public concern particularly over child abuse meant ministers could not abandon the issue. A third bill was then brought back to the Lords with the age lowered to 15 as a concession. The Lords had no problem passing this, but the MPs were a different matter.

The bill reached second reading on April 22nd 1885 when only 40 MPs bothered to turn up to debate it and the speaker abandoned the debate as so few MPs were interested. Thus the bill to protect young women and children was sidelined, with the Liberals in crisis as the government was struggling to pass a budget.  The budget crisis forced Gladstone to  resign in June 1885 and Salisbury formed a minority Conservative government pending a general election –  the moral puritans realising that the bill having been sidelined would vanish when the election was called. Drastic action was needed, and they turned to the editor of the Pall Mall Gazette, W T Stead, to take up the cudgels hoping for a press campaign that the politicians could not ignore. Stead was both committed to reform of the law affecting young women and girls and prepared to take risks – though he based his campaign on meticulous research of a deeply scandalous situation.

Stead spoke to the head of the Criminal Investigation Department of Scotland Yard, Howard Vincent, who confirmed that the existing law was inadequate to trigger police action to defend even very young girls. Any doubt about this was removed when Stead visited a safe house run by the new National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (founded as the London Society  the previous year, 1884), and was introduced to a girl aged 7 who had been raped in a fashionable brothel, and one even younger, who had been rescued  by Society inspectors after being raped a dozen times. Her assailants had been discharged from court unconvicted. The magistrates ruled that she had to understand the evidence  oath sworn on the bible and was too young to do so. This viscious catch 22 meant young girls could be raped with impunity.

 

Older females could understand the oath but the existing law was inadequate to provide police with powers to investigate, even when it was clear brothel owners used violence to intimidate vulnerable women and prevent them appealing to the police. Vincent told Stead that young women could be bought and taken to brothels for sex against their will, and taken abroad to imprisonment in brothels – the phenomenon of White Slavery – and despite the age of consent being 13 this would not protect them as police were powerless to investigate the trade and take women to safety. For Stead, this was the equivalent of the sacrifice of virgins to the gods of the ancient world, and his campaign would be called The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon.

Stead set out to prove that young females could be traded for sexual purposes by the sensational method of purchasing a girl of 13 and sending her abroad – where she would vanish, but be under the protection of the Salvation Army which agreed to support his move. The girl was Eliza Armstrong, and Stead purchased her from her mother and sent her to a brothel where she was lightly drugged and left alone with Stead. Having proved that he could have raped her, the still virgin Eliza was then taken abroad by the Salvation Army. Stead wrote his story in the Pall Mall Gazette and launched a campaign backed by Moral Purity and child protection groups across the country.

The full story can be read in my book SCANDAL – THE SEXUAL POLITICS OF LATE VICTORIAN BRITAIN (Sutton 1995) and while the particulars belong to the history of morality, the political effects prove without question the rule that legislation can be remade if there is a powerful upsurge of public feeling. The minority Conservative government had no more intention of passing a Criminal Law Amendment Bill into law than the Liberals under Gladstone had been, but the  well organised public campaign in support of pushing the Bill through into law became unstoppable.

 

The wider context aided the campaigners. Stead’s campaign and the actions of the SPCC and moral groups like the Society for the Suppression of Vice occured during a time of political instability, with the Tories and Liberals both planning for a General Election after Gladstone’s resignation. The election could not happen immediately because the extension of the franchise to male labourers, agreed in 1884, was delayed as the new voter lists had not been completed. The gap between Gladstone’s resignation and the election gave the reformers a window of opportunity. They knew that the situation meant that working class men could be persuaded that their daughters were at risk from the lust of rich men, and this message was easily understood, the National Society for the Protection of Children agitating for the age of consent to be raised to 18 – unsuccessfully, but pointedly ensuring the issue could be an election issue.

 

Stead’s sensational story made this unavoidable. Advertised on 4th July 1885, the actual articles at the start of the following week forced the Conservatives to reintroduce the Liberal Bill, and the Conservative Home Secretary R A Cross brought it back to the Commons five days after Stead’s first article. Passing the bill into law and defusing the furore had become an urgent priority for both major parties, and it became law on August 14th.

 

The significance of the 1885 Criminal Law Amendment Act Campaign

 

The historical significance of the Maiden Tribute campaign and the passing of the Act casts a sharp light on the notion of Victorian Morality, which clearly was a fiction before the Act. Prostitution had long been acknowledged as a key element of city life, and tolerated. Sex was umentionable in polite society, but prostitution was openly debated in parliament. However the refusal of MPs to protect young girls from gross exploitation and failure to challenge White Slavery in law – by MPs of both major parties – went well beyond the previously open acceptance of the trade in sex, which had been debated and tolerated for several decades.

 

By 1882 and the Lords select committee report, the existence of gross human rights abuses raised the temperature. There had long been a double standard of morality between men and  women, but what was happening to girls clearly went beyond this. The refusal of male MPs to protect the vulnerable outraged common decency, uniting the morality lobby, the child protection lobby, and the newly emerging feminist movement. Like child employment in factories before the factory act, the refusal to extend legal protection showed political blindness in  a climate where class politics and human rights were both becoming political issues. MPs were out of touch with the new politics of an increasingly democratic society. Nevertheless, they were able to ignore protests till Stead’s campaign.

From a constitutional viewpoint, there was nothing new about the strategy, which drew on the attempts to pressurise parliament of the Chartists and the Anti Corn Law League half a century earlier, though with an unprecented use of press to reach normally a-political citizens.  The key constitutional  issue is that when the pressure was applied by Stead and his colleagues, there were no institutional barriers to changing the law. MPs only had to change their mind. The speed of government reaction was purely due to the fear among politicians, once they were exposed to the campaign in London and other major cities, of a backlash which could have severe electoral consequences in the impending election (though this did not take place till 1886: but the Conservatives had no intention of waiting till it was on the  horizon).

 

Whatever had been said or passed into law before, once the campaign had become a major sensation the political imperative was clear- abandon previous legislation (theoretically parts of the 1861 and the whole of the 1875 Act (7)) and reverse policies and attitudes to produce a whole new settlement. The barriers to changing the law were purely due to attitudes among MPs, and once they feared an electoral backlash they capitulated, totally if  with a bad grace. Parliamentary sovereignty asserted itself, as Stead and his allies knew was possible.

 

While the campaign was crude and Stead himself cut corners, later serving time in prison for a technical offence – he had bought Eliza from her mother: but it was her father, in this patriarchal society, who had control over her and Stead had not asked him. Nonetheless, the substance of the campaign was well founded. The Act, entitled “An Act to make further provision for the Protection of Women and Girls, the suppression of Brothels and other purposes”, became the cornerstone of moral law for several generations. The age of consent, despite recent debates, has remained at 16 ever since 1885.

The Act actually went beyond the topics indicated in the title, notably including the notorious Labouchere amendment (Clause 11) which criminalised gross indecency among men. This was used ten years later to prosecute Oscar Wilde. It can be argued that this was out of order given the actual substance of the parliamentary debate had been the feminist issues of women and girls, but the Speaker ruled that any topic of a sexual nature could be introduced into the debate –  a very wide definition of parliamentary sovereignty- but it was difficult to challenge it, and no-one inside or outside parliament did. When push came to shove, parliamentary sovereignty proved unchallengable. While the introduction of referenda have created many issues which are so far unresolved, it is undoubted that parliamentary sovereignty remains intact and a W T Stead could well look on the activities of the pro-Brexit press as showing a family resemblance to his own largely forgotten campaign of 1885.

 

Constitutional problems and the current controversies

 

The Maiden Tribute affair is one small example of how successfully a political system based on an

unwritten constitution could produce reform demanded by popular pressure, and this was underlined by

more successful if longer run campaigns including the Anti Corn Law League and the Women’s

suffrage movement. Even the Chartists, though defeated in the 1840s, could look at the success of 5 of

their 6 principles made law with some satisfaction. The result has been that the system has been

supremely successful in coping with demands for change. While the Maiden Tribute campaign is

unusual in using shock tactics, a campaigning newspaper and an ad hoc alliance of campaign groups

and leaders, and certainly was an unrepeatable exercise comparable to using Dyno Rod to remove an

obstruction in a pipeline, it had exploited the key fact about parliamentary sovereignty – MPs can

change their mind.

 

The ability of a sovereign parliament to modify existing laws and practices without a formal written

constitution has been undeniable but in the late twentieth century this ceased to be the case. The initial

referendum of 1975 succeeded in securing consent for a settlement which lasted for four decades, but

without setting any rules. It had a two thirds majority in favour, but this was not set down

as a principle and the vote was advisory. Changes to make decisions mandatory, and by simple

majority, then took place without systematic analysis of the consequences.

 

The Brexit situation points up unresolved issues which the traditional unwritten constitution has failed

to deal with. Despite previous successes over, centuries recent developments have called into question

the centuries old assumption that adaption within the UK could continue to cope with stresses which

are driven by powerful, and contradictory, nationalist pressures, notably in Scotland. It is not simply

that the  limits of having to rely on unwritten rules has proved a challenge to a divided polity which

has little constitutional grasp, as the Lords debate on Article 50 showed . There is no obvious sign a

written constitution would make a positive difference and formal constitution making is a dead letter

but it is a pressing issue that the referendum method in the UK has no checks and balances. As

operated in the UK, referenda are effectively a game of Russian Roulette, where a small majority which

can well be temporary leads to massive consequences. At the heart of the problems, is the unresolved

issue of the adoption of referenda without any clear idea of how this meshed with parliamentary

sovereignty, especially once the continuing problem of whether small majorities had resolved

controversial issues emerged with the conflict between the Scottish and UK results in 2016 and also

intensified unfinished business from the earlier Scottish referendum.

 

The Brexit movement and Scottish Nationalism, both of which have demanded referenda,

successfully, produced outcomes which have only produced unstability. One very obvious

shortcoming is the lack of a settled resolution to  the national issues inside the UK. These have been

underlined by Brexit, especially as – in contradiction to the Brexit rhetoric that the People Voted For

Brexit – the obvious facts are that Northern Ireland and Scotland did NOT vote for Brexit  The existing

problem of the unresolved Scottish independence referendum was magnified by Brexit. UKIP’s lasting

achievement may finally prove to be that they helped secure the breakup, not the independence, of the

  1. And Brexit itself south of the Scottish border has not proved to have won over the dissidents,

splitting the nation into opposed camps.

It is thus clear that Referenda are not proving successful in resolving long run political disputes nor in

creating a climate in which such disputes can be easily resolved. No short paper can deal with

these fully and this paper does not attempt to do so. However the difficulties, which revolve around

the unresolved issue of sovereignty and the role of parliament will become more pressing as

the Brexit leaving date approaches. Parliament has regained the right to vote on the Deal. But the

government has made it clear this will not stop Brexit. Its position, made clear several times and most

notably in response to epetitions, is that

 

“The British people voted to leave and the Government will implement their decision. The vote on the

final deal will give parliament the choice to accept the agreement or leave the EU with no agreement”.

(8).

 

A choice which is so constrained is not a choice, and raises the issue of whether if parliament

voted down the agreement the government could use Crown Prerogative – the power of the

monarch which transferred to the Prime Minister – to push through the No Deal scenario. But to do this

would show the nature of Prime Ministerial power as monarchical power, and the disputes around the

legitimacy of that would be very damaging. Perhaps the PM would call a General Election, but if so it

could hardly be a one issue campaign – the record of the PM itself would be a factor, as it was in the

2017 election. Under these circumstances, the appeal to the sovereign people would become

increasingly attractive to both sides.

 

That popular sovereignty is now the ultimate arbiter was hinted, in a very tortuous way, by Brexiteer

Michael Gove writing in the pro- Brexit newspaper  The Daily Telegraph. Under a headline  THE

BRITISH PEOPLE WILL BE IN CONTROL IF THEY DISLIKE THE DEAL (9)  he glossed the

agreement reached the previous day discussing the three elements identified by the Conservative Party

as initially important – these are the ones referred to by the Party in the web site entry mentioned in

footnote (2) – but crucially wrote “The British people will be in control. By the time of the next

election, EU and any new treaty with the EU will cease to have primacy or direct effect in UK law. If

the British people dislike the arrangement that we have negotiated with the EU, the agreement will

allow a future government to diverge“. (emphasis added – diverge here presumably means get closer

to the EU as any movement would be to reject the terms of leaving- assuming that there is a treaty –

itself a dubious assumption once Theresa May said No Deal is better than a Bad Deal) However the

British people will have no say over the Deal before it is implemented, which if not accepted by

parliament will lead to a no deal scenario not mentioned by Gove – which would not be an option put to

the people unless there is a referendum. The terms of leaving  the EU will not be referred to the British

people unless the constitutional problems referred to above lead to a General Election before the date of

leaving as defined by the Conservative Party.

 

Gove clearly is not arguing that this would happen, and the next General Election as such is not due till

2022 under the flawed Fixed Term Parliament Act (10). Thus if the Conservatives take Britain out

of the EU in March 2019 there would be over three years till the General Election if the law is followed

and thus it is nonsense to suggest that the British People would be able to control their future. Only a

Referendum would do this, and Gove does not mention the possibility. It may, however, have occured

to Farage that if popular soverignty is to be invoked, as Gove is trying to do, it can only be done

through another referendum. Farage has long argued that on this issue referenda are the only way that

the decision can be made if the sovereign people are to be involved. On the constitutional issue, he and

not Gove appears correct.

 

If parliament has handed over sovereignty on the EU issue to the people via Referenda, as appears to be

the case, parliament would be overruled by government if it voted against the Deal, as the government

has a mandate via the 2016 referendum. Thus to defeat the Deal requires a third referendum. The

constitutional position seems clear. General Elections and parliamentary votes take second place to

referenda. Farage may  well be wrong in contending a new vote would lead to a higher majority for the

Leave camp. That is a political judgement, not an issue of constitutional propriety. What Farage is

concerned about is a Deal which will not be pure Brexit and could leave links with the EU. To defeat

this would need a referendum not a vote in parliament which neither he nor the Remainers can predict.

But on the pure issue of constitutionalism, he appears to be right. Only a referendum can decide the

issue, of the Deal and indeed Brexit itself if. Parliament can debate the Deal, but if it rejects it the

government could use Crown Prerogative to go to a No Deal solution using the referendum result as the

mandate.. Parliament seems to be in a no win situation.

 

At the heart of the issues posed by Brexit is parliamentary sovereignty. If parliament has handed over

its sovereignty to referenda as appears to be the case, then the key principle that the decisions can be

revoked or amended also apply, must now apply to Referenda. The ‘meaningful vote’ promised

parliament over the terms – difficult to see happening if the terms are still being negotiated, though the

deadline can be extended beyond March 29th 2019 – will be subject to the doctrine that No Deal is

Better than a Bad Deal, and parliament would not have a meaningful vote against. Whether this would

lead to a General Election or a tame acceptance of what the executive had negotiated is pure

speculation. But what can be discussed and resolved without waiting is what role popular sovereignty

has in this matter. Parliamentary sovereignty has not been abolished, simply transferred to the poeple

by referenda. The final approval or rejection of the EU deal must therefore lie with the people, and not

with parliament. Parliament can only approve a further referendum and in achieving this it may be

necessary to have a public campaign – best not left to Nigel Farage. However he alone seems to

have grasped the implications for parliamentary sovereignty of constitutional developments. The

implications of this outcome are not the least important of the many issues about sovereignty that the

current debate about Brexit has thrown up.

———————————————————————————————- 22nd January 2018

 

(1) The original Italian version probably written in 1513 though not published till 1532 after Machiavelli’s death, is entitled De Principatibus,(Of Principalities). The dedication was to Lorenzo the Magnificent, the Medici leader, and Machiavelli said (p5, Penguin edition 2004) that he had discussed Republican politics in another work. The principles he describes are however common to different types of government. The other work is probably his book Discourses on Livy.

 

(2) Bernard Donoughue Downing St Diary – with Harold Wilson in #10 Jonathan Cape 2005 p5.

 

(3) https://www.conservatives.com/sharethefacts/2017/12/deliveredthreepromises – recovered 16th January 2018

 

(4) Guardian of 10th November, Independent of 9th November- the Independent article refers to a speech made by Lord Kerr to the Open  Britain group) while other reports refer to comments made on Radio 4.

 

(5) Vol 13 – Sir Llewellyn Woodward Clarendon Press second edition 1962

 

(6) In Twentieth Century British history the Suffragette-Suffragist campaign is popularly belieived to have produced a successful change in statute and policy, but  it did not succeed before the First World War as the Liberals never conceded. In the Nineteenth the Anti Corn Law League was massively successful, though perhaps not anti Establishment. Both relied on extra and internal parliamentary pressure, as did the Maiden Tribute, with the use of mass media. Anti European campaigns were initially internal to the major parties, but the influence of UKIP while not specifically a pressure group as always an electoral project, shows a skilful use of pressure group tactics to challenge cross party government politics.

 

(7) Offences against the Person Act 1861 sections 49 and 52 and Offences against the Person Act 1875

 

(8) Response to epetition by Ann Greaves which will expire on 17th May 2018. Government response dated 17th December 2017

 

(9) Daily Telegraph 9th December 2017, p3

 

(10) The 2011 Act was designed to prevent the Prime Minister calling an early election to protect the Lib Dems in the 2010 coalition. It cannot do this, as was demonstrated in April 2017, as the PM can call an election and the opposition parties must vote for the suspension of the Act or appear to be afraid of the election and suffer electoral damage. Corbyn’s willingness to accept the PM’s decision and vote for suspension was paradoxically the first step to his successful General Election campaign. Theresa May, however, showed that the PM’s power had been enhanced but would then not be able to control events. A future General Election before the term allowed by the FTPA would be an high risk strategy, but it is entirely legal. The FTPA is another failing constitutional muddle from the Westminster bubble.