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Civil War, Restoration, Glorious Revolution

We left off Episode 76 with the Civil War, which the Roundheads, mostly Puritans, won decisively. There was a huge equality movement, you might say. Folks known as the “levellers” were ascendant, and they wanted all class distinctions abolished. There would, obviously, be no monarchy. There wouldn't be the House of Lords in Parliament. Everything would be governed by a remnant of Parliament known as the “Rump Parliament,” which executed Charles I in 1649.

But, of course, a leader always emerges, and here it was the leader of the Roundheads military, Oliver Cromwell. A brilliant general and a good statesman. Brilliant victories over Holland and Spain . . . Even got Jamaica and ganja for the British. And he was a fanatical Puritan. By 1653, it was pretty obvious that he was governing England as a military dictatorship and was doing a pretty good job, actually, as long as you weren't Catholic. Anglicans didn't do well under him either. He was given the title “Lord Protector” and ruled as dictator until his death in 1658. This is what the term “The Protectorate” means (just view “Cromwell” and “Protectorate” as largely synonymous and you won't be too wrong). His son took over his title, was incompetent, and abdicated. The monarchy was then restored in 1660. Charles II.

And we might as well finish up British history here quickly.

Charles II was a Catholic sympathizer. He wanted to be Catholic, but couldn't without, well, probably getting lynched. He converted on his deathbed, but during his life, he did what he could to promote Catholicism, primarily through religious liberty measures.

When he died in 1685, his brother, James II, took the throne, and he was unabashedly Catholic and didn't care who knew. He more or less tried to turn England back into a Catholic country and exert royal prerogatives, neither of which sat well with the gentry, who then solicited William of Orange. He was prince of a small feudal state in southern France known as “Orange.” “King of England” would be a major step up, and William was fiercely Protestant. He assembled a force of about 11,000 men and invaded England at the invitation of Parliament. Protestants started defecting left and right, and James II gave up almost immediately. Virtually no blood.

This is known as “The Glorious Revolution.” It happened in 1688. So, of you're trying to fix your English history in your mind: English Civil War ends in 1649. Oliver Cromwell rules in the 1950s. The Restoration of the Stuarts in 1660. The Glorious Revolution in 1688. Those four terms are repeatedly used and any decently educated person is deemed to know what they are: English Civil War, Oliver Cromwell/the Protectorate, the Restoration, and the Glorious Revolution.

A fascinating thing happened during The Protectorate. I already mentioned that there was a radical political movement known as “leveling, an attempt to abolish all forms of economic and political inequality.

But there were also radical religious movements, like the Diggers, who tied into the Levelers' political theory and said, citing the book of Acts and the early Christians holding things in common, they could plant their vegetables anywhere, so they started digging on areas belonging to nobility and areas they thought should be “common areas.”

And there were the Ranters. These were the latest in a long line of sects in the pneumatic antinomian strain. “Pneumatic” of or relating to the spirit. “Antinomian”: no bound by moral law. Put together, it means, “We are so spiritual, the earthly world doesn't affect us. Because all morality pertains to conduct in earthly affairs, no morality applies to us.”

The Ranters took the position that earthly things are not illegitimate, but they are subordinate to the Ranters, who are God. They deemed themselves filled with God, so God themselves, so anything they said, did, or wanted was divine.

And they meant it. Sex. Lots of it. Formerly decent women unleashed into, basically, the communal bang thing. Free love. Nudity. You name it. Nothing was unclean to them.

Especially swearing. They swore all the time. I guess they were the most disgusting verbalists of all time, making the most frenetic Tourette sufferer sound demure.

And sex Lots of it. Formerly decent women unleashed into, basically, the communal bang thing. Free love. Nudity. Sodomy. You name it. Nothing was unclean to them.

And theft. Nothing was unclean to them. Nothing was forbidden them. Therefore, they had a right to everything. If God, after all, wants apples from your orchard, who are you to say “no”?

Yeah, most English weren't impressed. The Rump Parliament quickly passed the Blasphemy Act and the Adultery Act, the latter of which made adultery punishable by death. The persecutions started shortly later.