Mercurius Politicus

A blog (mostly) about early modern history

Tag: parliament

Read a first time

In the Old Testament, God creates the material world by speaking. In Parliament, by contrast, the act of creation is dependent on reading.

This may seem a strange assertion, given that the majority of what happens in the Commons and Lords involves speaking: whether that is maiden speeches by new MPs, the back and forth of Prime Minister’s questions, speeches for and against crucial votes, or cross-examination of witnesses in Select Committees. But it was a point that struck me a few months ago while sat watching the Commons debating a Bill. To begin its passage through each House, the House has to agree that the Bill “be read a first time”. Before a Bill can proceed to line-by-line scrutiny, it has to be read a second time. And to pass from one House to the other, a Bill has to be read a third and final time.

First Reading is a formality, without a vote, but Second and Third Reading most definitely are not. If either declines to give a Bill its Second Reading, it falls: likewise with Third Reading.  While rare, such refusals can happen. In the Commons, Thatcher’s Shops Bill was lost at Second Reading in 1986, and in 1977 Callaghan’s Local Authority Works (Scotland) Bill was defeated at Third Reading. More recently, in 1990 the Lords refused to give a second reading to the War Crimes Bill, and in 1999 did the same with an attempt to equalise the age of consent.

So reading is what brings laws to life, and the absence of reading is what prevents them from being born. The actual words of a Bill may technically have been drafted by lawyers, but as a text it does not exist until each House has read it. This should not be a surprise: book historians are well-used to conceiving of individual readers as engaged in a creative act. The author, if not dead, is nonetheless not the only person who creates meaning within texts. And yet I am not aware of anything that has been written about institutions carrying out similar acts of creativity through reading. Parliament is certainly not the only institution which does so: the Church of England reads banns to ensure a marriage is valid, the Riot Act 1715 had to be read by magistrates before protestors could be required to disperse, and royal proclamations binding a monarch’s subjects were publicly announced in order to bring them into force.

Paradoxically, what Parliament considers reading is not what most people would recognise as reading. First Reading consists simply of the clerk reading out the short title of the Bill, at which point a Minister stands up and nods. The Bill is then deemed to have been read a first time. Second and Third Reading are set-piece debates that mark the start and the end of a House scrutinising a Bill, and do not even involve the title being read out. Instead the House votes on a motion that the Bill be read a Second or Third time: if this is passed, then the Bill is deemed to have been read and can move to its next stage.

At some stage in the development of the legislative process, however, Bills were actually read out to MPs and peers. This was presumably a necessity until the point first at which members’ ability to read could be guaranteed, and second at which print technology could produce hundreds of copies of Bills at relative speed. In late Tudor Parliaments, for example, Bills still seem to have been read aloud at First Reading at least. Holinshed’s Chronicles (1577) describe the procedure as follows:

There is another in the upper house called the clerke of the parlement, whose office is to read the billes. For everie thing that commeth in consultation in either House, is first put in writing in paper, which being read, he that listeth riseth up and speaketh either with it or against it.

The accuracy with which MPs’ diaries record the contents of Bills after First Reading debates, despite the slim chances of actually having scrutinised the manuscript version, confirms that Bills (or at least a summary of them) must have been read out. By the second half of the sixteenth century a practice had evolved of producing a “breviate” of the Bill: a brief summary prepared either by the proposer or the Speaker that was a forerunner of today’s explanatory note.

By the early Stuart Parliaments, so far as I can tell, the practice of reading Bills in full began to fall away, with debates starting with the clerk reading the title and the breviate. By 1640 the practice also seems to have emerged of reserving debate until the second reading, as with this incident in the Long Parliament on 24 December of that year;

Sir Robert Pye began to speak to the bill but he was told it was not to be spoken unto upon the first reading but after the second reading, and so he sat down.

Later the same day Sir Simonds D’Ewes checked himself from doing the same thing:

Then was read a bill about the assembling of a Parliament yearly though the King did not assemble it by writ. (This I misliked but did forbear to speak against it until the second reading).

By the early eighteenth century, set rules had emerged about the number of copies of a Bill the clerks had to arrange to be printed at each stage of its scrutiny. This presumably put an end to the need to read Bills out loud, but the formal procedure of reading Bills remained (despite the meaning of that process having changed entirely). This is still reflected in the formal language that Ministers used to open Second and Third Reading speeches:

I beg to move, that the Bill be read a Second/Third time.

It may simply be down to the persistence of tradition that First, Second and Third Reading have survived. But I wonder if there is also something about the constitutive power of reading, as MPs, peers and the rest of us experience at a personal level, that has also contributed to it surviving at an institutional level.

This post is my first in a very long time, and is (I hope) the start of a return to blogging slightly more regularly. It was inspired by a conversation with @njstevenson, whose own blog I thoroughly recommend.

Check your privilege

Another post where I bemoan the fact that it’s been too long since I’ve written anything for this blog. But I thought I would spend the next few posts looking at the procedures of Parliament during the seventeenth century, and how they have influenced Parliamentary procedures today. This first post is about the roles of the House of Commons and the House of Lords in matters of spending and taxation.

Most bills that pass through Parliament involve some sort of public expenditure of one kind of another. They might require Government to fund a service to the public or a particular group, for example, or to finance a regulatory framework that applies to business or charities. For this sort of bill, the Commons will agree a “money resolution”. These tend to follow a standard format along the following lines:

That, for the purposes of any Act resulting from the bill, it is expedient to authorise—

(1) the payment out of money provided by Parliament of any expenditure incurred by a Minister of the Crown by virtue of the Act, and

(2) any increase attributable to the Act in the sums payable under any other Act out of money so provided.

Some bills are so-called “money bills”, which deal solely with national taxes or loans. Some are “supply bills”, dealing with changes to taxation or public spending. In practice these two categories can overlap, but for Bills that fall into either category, the Commons will agree a “ways and means resolution”, which authorises any charges or taxes made on the public as a result of the Bill, and the payment of any sums into the Consolidated Fund (the Consolidated Fund is essentially the Government’s current account, managed by the Treasury).

For bills that start in the Lords and then transfer to the Commons, rather than the other way round, this causes a potential difficulty. A bill that is passed from the Lords to the Commons may well involve matters relevant to financial privilege, and in constitutional terms it will have been the Lords which has agreed them and suggested them to the Commons. The Lords get round this difficulty by agreeing a “privilege amendment” to a bill just after it has had its Third Reading – the point just before it is taken to the Commons. These follow a standard format:

Nothing in this Act shall impose any charge on the people or on public funds, or vary the amount or incidence of or otherwise alter any such charge in any manner, or affect the assessment, levying, administration or application of any money raised by any such charge.

For most bills this will very likely not be the case, but it is a convenient fiction that allows the Commons to pretend its privilege has not been infringed. The Commons then removes the amendment from the Bill at Committee stage – the first point at which the bill can be amended – which means that in theory they are the first and only House to agree provisions that relate to public expenditure or taxation.

In part the financial privilege of the Commons is enshrined in statute: section 1 of the Parliament Act 1911 provides that if a money bill having been agreed by the Commons is not passed by the Lords within a month, the bill receives Royal Assent regardless. In practice the Lords has never tried to amend a money bill, so this has not been put to the test. But the concept of financial privilege goes back a lot further than a hundred years. It has its origin in two resolutions made by the Commons in the 1670s.

The first was in April 1671, in the context of amendment made by the House of Lords to the Foreign Commodities Bill. The Bill sought to increase duties on tobacco and sugar imports. Owners of Barbados sugar plantations persuaded a number of peers that it would not be desirable to have duties on refined sugar, as otherwise they would have to export unrefined sugar and lose any profits they made from refining it before export. The Commons responded as follows to the amendment made by the Lords:

The House then proceeded to the Reading the Amendments and Clauses, sent from the Lords, to the Bill for an Imposition on foreign Commodities: Which were once read:And the first Amendments, sent from the Lords, being for changing the Proportion of the Impositions on white Sugars from One Peny per Pound, to Halfpeny half Farthing, was read the Second time; and debated.Resolution against Lords altering Tax Bills.

Resolved, &c. Nemine contradicente, That, in all Aids given to the King, by the Commons, the Rate or Tax ought not to be altered by the Lords.

Commons Journal, 13 April 1667.

The second was in July 1678, in a supply bill to pay off soldiers recruited by Charles II for a potential war with France that ended before it had really started, as a result of other European states (which had been at war much longer) beginning negotiations for peace treaty with Louis XIV. Twists and turns in the negotiations resulted in the Dutch asking Charles to put his plans for disbanding his troops on hold, and the Lords amended the dates in the bill accordingly.  The Commons responded as follows:

Mr. Solicitor General reports from the Committee to whom it was, amongst other things, referred, to prepare and draw up a State of the Rights of the Commons, in Granting of Money, a Vote agreed by the Committee: Which he read in his Place; and afterwards delivered the same in at the Clerk’s Table: Where the same was read; and, upon the Question, agreed; and is as followeth; viz.

Resolved, &c. That all Aids and Supplies, and Aids to his Majesty in Parliament, are the sole Gift of the Commons: And all Bills for the Granting of any such Aids and Supplies ought to begin with the Commons: And that it is the undoubted and sole Right of the Commons, to direct, limit, and appoint, in such Bills, the Ends, Purposes, Considerations, Conditions, Limitations, and Qualifications of such Grants; which ought not to be changed, or altered by the House of Lords.

Commons Journal, 3 July 1678.

It’s worth noting that the two scenarios had very different outcomes. In the second, the Commons solved the problem of its privilege being infringed by incorporating the Lords amendments into a new Bill. In the first, the bill fell because neither House could agree it. Both issues came up during the process of what is nowadays known informally as “ping pong” – or in technical terms, as Lords Consideration of Commons’ amendments (where the bill has started in the Lords then moved to the Commons) and Commons consideration of Lords’ amendments (where the bill has started in the Commons then moved to the Lords). Amendments made in one House can be batted back and forth to the other House, until the point both Houses are content.

Financial privilege can still cause issues at ping pong. There is a convention that if the same amendment is insisted upon twice by one House, and the other House rejects it, the entire bill falls. This is the case even if the disagreement is about a single clause. Financial privilege can be used by the Commons as a means of rejecting Lords amendments, although it’s also open to the Commons to waive their privilege if they choose to do so. Most recently, financial privilege caused issues for the passage of the Welfare Reform Act 2012. When the relevant bill passed from the Commons to the Lords, the Lords made over 100 amendments. These then passed to the Commons to consider in the first stage of ping pong.

46 of these engaged financial privilege. The Commons agreed to 35 of them, but voted against 11 of them and passed the Bill back to the Lords without them. The reason they gave for rejecting them was that they:

would alter the financial arrangements made by the Commons, and the Commons do not offer any further Reason, trusting that this Reason may be deemed sufficient.

Commons Reasons and Amendment, January 2012.

It is the convention that where the Commons disagrees with an amendment made by the Lords, and that amendment invokes financial privilege, that this is the reason given in response – even if it is not in fact the actual reason that the Commons has disagreed. It is the Commons – in practice, its clerks – which decides whether an amendment invokes financial privilege, not the Government.

It is also the convention that the Lords will not insist on an amendment that is rejected for reasons of financial privilege: in other words, that they will not pursue “double insistence”, which results in the bill falling. But it is open to the Lords to send back a different amendment in lieu of the first, in the hope that the Commons will agree this instead.

When the Welfare Reform Bill was returned from the Commons citing financial privilege as the reason for rejecting the 11 Lords amendments, it caused some controversy and suggestions that the Commons was defining financial privilege extremely widely, and that the Goverment was able as a result to use its majority in the Commons to impose the will of one House. The debate in the Lords on this matter on 14 February 2012 is worth reading in this respect. The Lords ended up suggesting variations on the amendments, some of which were Government suggestions but two of which were not – the latter dealing with the “bedroom tax” reducing housing benefit for claimants considered to have a spare room.

The Commons then disagreed with these two further amendments when they were sent back to them by the Lords. The Lords in turn suggested another amendment in lieu, requiring the Government to review the provisions six months after implementation. The Commons accepted this, and the bill as a result was able to receive Royal Assent.

So 350 years or so on, the issues that were exercising MPs and peers during the reign of Charles II are still of significant constitutional importance to MPs and peers today. The comparisons with the 1670s were not lost on peers debating the bedroom tax, but nor was the potential to disagree about the extent to which there was a smooth line connecting one to the other. Here for example is Lord Strathclyde speaking for the Government in the debate on 14 February:

Even for a Conservative, the financial privilege of the House of Commons cannot be considered new. Its origins lie in the constitutional settlement that followed our civil war. The Commons agreed its first resolution on the subject in 1671, and in 1678 resolved that:

“All aids and supplies, and aids to his Majesty in Parliament, are the sole gift of the Commons; and all bills for the granting of any such aids and supplies ought to begin with the Commons; and that it is the undoubted and sole right of the Commons to direct, limit and appoint in such bills the ends, purposes, considerations, limitations, and qualifications of such grants, which ought not to be changed or altered by the House of Lords”.

And here is the response in the same debate from the Labour peer Lord Morgan, who is also (as will become clear) a historian:

Lord Morgan: My Lords, I will just say that I am afraid I do not agree with my noble friend Lord Tyler on this.

Noble Lords: He is not your noble friend.

Lord Morgan: Well, sometimes he is-but the view that we heard is historically flawed. The idea that there has been a seamless web since 1671 is quite unsound. As we know, the Parliament Act defined money Bills very precisely. It did so in the spirit of the resolutions of the 1670s. Distinctions were drawn between where the money came from, which was spelt out very clearly, the intended objective and the issues governing its expenditure. It was confirmed in 1911 by the great Prime Minister Mr Asquith that the money Bills provision applied to what he called “all matters of pure finance”. There was agreement across the House that it would not be applied to financial privilege more generally, particularly where issues of social policy were concerned. This is why very often House of Lords amendments had waivers in the House of Commons on many things-including, recently, university tuition fees, the savings gateway and child trust funds, all issues that I discussed myself. The principle that this should now be extended to any implications for public expenditure is far wider than the Parliament Act 1911, and adds a new and unwelcome principle to our unfortunately unwritten constitution.

Incidentally the exchange at the start of this last extract is because Lord Morgan got his forms of address wrong. In the Lords peers refer to each other in the third person as “noble Lords”. Members of the same political party call each other “my noble friend”. Lord Tyler, whom Lord Morgan was addressing, is a Liberal Democrat and so not – at least in the context of the Lords chamber – a noble friend to Labour peers.

Horses, People and Parliament

Gavin Robinson, Horses, People and Parliament in the English Civil War: Extracting Resources and Constructing Allegiance (Ashgate, 2012).

‘Parliamentarian’ and ‘Royalist’ are two of those words that it’s easy to throw around unthinkingly. Partly it’s because they are such a convenient shorthand for a set of concepts that are too complicated to express succinctly, that we can forget the nuances that come with them. But as the introduction of Horses, People and Parliament points out, it’s also because they are bound up with the particular way civil war allegiance has been defined in the twentieth century:

Essentialist assumptions about identity are so deeply embedded in the English language that they are difficult to challenge, or even recognize. It feels perfectly natural to say that a person was royalist, and awkwardly unnatural to say that a person did royalism.

Gavin’s starting point, following the lead set by Rachel Weil, is that there is much profit to be made from thinking about the external aspects of allegiance: what a person did, rather than what a person felt. This can feel counter-intuitive for historians conditioned to trying to reconstruct individual beliefs and collective mentalities. A person’s actions, after all, can be carried out unwillingly or due to necessity, rather than through free will. But as Gavin points out, the sources for reconstructing what a seventeenth-century person thought are much less abundant than those for reconstructing what the same person did.

And for contemporaries, actions could be just as, if not more, important than their beliefs. For MPs and county committee members struggling to fund the war effort, allegiance was ultimately about providing resources in cash and in kind. For a certain kind of godly puritan, a dry, legalist adherence to godly doctrines was inferior to a vigorous, outward-focused style of worship which turned those doctrines into practical actions. Seventeenth-century concepts of gender were as much performative as they were essentialist. Contemporaries did not necessarily privilege beliefs over deeds.

Following this idea to its logical conclusion may mean, as Gavin argues, that we need to jettison the terms Royalist and Parliamentarian altogether. Too often one comes across accounts of seventeenth-century men and women which say ‘she was a Royalist’, or ‘he was a Parliamentarian’: only to find out that this is based on a single tax they paid, item they sold, or statement they uttered. As Gavin points out, if civil war identities can be reduced to a mixture of only five binary oppositions – class, gender, religion, ethnicity and which side was picked – that still leaves thirty-two different sets of identities.

Allegiance, then, is messy and complicated. Rather than seeking to tidy up the mess, Horses, People and Parliament tries to use empirical evidence of how MPs and county committees sought to supply their armies with horses in order to uncover and describe it. Although Gavin seeks to draw out trends where he can, what emerges most from his analysis is the individual, and how hard they are to put into boxes. There are elite women like Lady Leye of Dichley, described in one account book as one of ‘severall men’. There are middling sort men like the vicar Cornelius Burges, who orchestrated a petition to Parliament offering a cavalry troop to Parliament, previously assumed to have been a example of localism but also with links to the junto. There are horses like those belonging to Captain George Thompson, ‘one blacke w[i]th two white feete and a blase downe his face, the other a bright bay’, or like Gunpowder and Sparks sent by the Earl of Lincoln as part of a group of seven. All of these individuals, whether human or animal, refuse easy categorisation.

The description of Lady Leye, in particular, is a wonderful vignette that captures some of the paradoxes in how contemporaries conceived of allegiance (and how different these can be to our own conceptions). It is a minor niggle, but I would have liked to have seen more on the role of gender in unpicking twentieth-century categories of allegiance. Gavin has been inspired by work by Ann Hughes and others, which analyses in a contextually-specific way what contemporaries understood by gender, to do the same for allegiance. Chapter one, in particular, uses gender as a way to unravel the monolithic identities – ‘well-affected men’, and so on – that were imposed on those who provided resources to Parliament. Other chapters look at how the wives of delinquents could exercise agency beyond that of their husbands, and at how concepts of masculinity were tied up with how Parliament defined and ‘othered’ its enemies. However, the focus is not quite as sustained in subsequent chapters as it is in the first (although bonus marks for the reference in the index under ‘men’, which simply reads passim).

But I like the messiness of what emerges from this analysis. It builds on recent historiography that sees contingency and chance as critical to the origins and outcome of the civil wars. And it stresses the way in which allegiance was fashioned or constructed, rather than necessarily innate. Actions could foist identities upon people unwillingly just as much as they could carefully craft an allegiance. Those appearing before the Committee of Compounding, for example, were quick to stress what they had done to support Parliament, or at least what they had not done to support the king. But those providing horses for Essex’s army in 1642, or for the Eastern Association in 1643, could equally provide them only with reluctance or at the hands of requisitioners.

I also love Gavin’s argument that, on this definition, animals could have allegiances just as much as humans. Horses had their own temperaments, and did not always respond to human attempts to control them. Given how essential horses were to civil war armies – not just for cavalry, but for supply as well – their willingness or unwillingness to comply could be just as important as human decisions about whether to provide king or Parliament with resources.  There are shades here of ‘for the want of a nail’, not just in terms of how battles were fought but also in terms of how resources were gathered.

Where the book is perhaps a little less systematic in unpicking traditional labels is with the third member of the trio in its title: Parliament. The horses and people who feature in the book emerge very strongly as diverse individuals. So too do MPs, whose identities were complicated by their twin roles in their constituencies and Westminster. Gavin is careful with his language, using royalist and parliamentarian rarely (and then only without capitals, and usually to describe how the terms have been used by others). Even so, despite stressing the factional divisions amongst MPs, at points in the book Parliament itself to some extent retains a single identity. This is a difficult point: terms like king and Parliament are synecdoches behind which lie much wider groups of people, but history books would be unreadable if we didn’t employ them. Nevertheless, there were a few points in this book where Parliament does things, and where I wondered: who actually did this? On any given day, the attendance in the Lords and the Commons varied; the motivations of the men attending may have been different; the influences of local committees, petitioners and men-of-business may have varied. Parliament did not have a single will or an essential, internal identity – despite the conventions of parliamentary language that survive to this day, and which would like you to believe that it does.

Horses, People and Parliament has important things to say about how parliamentary armies were supplied with horses, overturning a number of orthodoxies about how Parliament (see? I’ve done it too) went about the task, and about the priority it gave it. But at its heart, the book is an argument: a challenge to historians to think more widely about the vocabulary and methodologies they use when analysing and describing civil war identities. It has certainly succeeded in challenging me.

Disclaimer: Gavin kindly gave me a copy of this book, and I commented on a chapter or two of it in draft as well as following the early stages of some of its ideas on Gavin’s blog. I hope I have not pulled any punches as a result (and I suspect Gavin would be the first to encourage me not to hold back with criticism!).

Choosing sides

I found this while doing some research on the Militia Ordinance and the Commission of Array of 1642 (attempts by Parliament and Charles I respectively to require local grandees to muster forces in case of conflict). It’s part of a letter from Thomas Knyvett to his wife on 18 May 1642:

I would to God I could write thee any good news, but that is impossible so long as the spirit of contradiction ranges between king and parliament higher still than ever. And ’tis to be feared this threatening storm will not be allayed without some showers (P ray God not a deluge) of blood. The one party now grows as resolute as the other is obstinate… Oh sweet heart, I am now in a great straight what to do. Walking this other morning at Westminster, Sir John Potts, with Commissary Muttford, saluted me with a commission from the Lord of Warwick, to take upon me (by virtue of an ordinance of parliament) my company and command again. I was surprised what to do, whether to take or reguse. ‘Twas no place to dispute, so I took it and desired some time to advise upon it. I had not received this many hours, but I met with a declaration point blank against it by the king. This distraction made me to advise with some understanding men what condition I stand in, which is no other than a great many men of quality do. What further commands we shall receive to put this ordinance in execution, if they run in a way that trenches upon my obedience against the king, i shall do according to my conscience, and this is the resolution of all honest men that I can speak with. In the meantime I hold it good wisdom and security to keep my company as close to me as I can in these dangerous times, and to stay out of the way of my new masters till these first musterings be over.

B. Schofield (ed.), The Knyvett Letters (Norfolk Record Society, 1949), pp. 101-103.

Knyvett eventually sided with the king.

John Taylor, Charles I and the royal touch

In the autumn of 1648, the poet and waterman John Taylor made a pilgrimage to the Isle of Wight to visit his king.

At this point, Charles I was on parole from his confinement at Carisbrooke Castle to negotiate with Parliamentary commissioners in the town of Newport. It would not go well; but for Taylor, Charles’s parole gave him one last chance to see his king.

Taylor recounted his pilgrimage in Tailors travels from London to the Isle of VVight, vvith his returne, and occasion of his iourney [EEBO ]. I’ve plotted the route Taylor took from London to Newport in Google Maps. Unfortunately can’t do inline Google Maps, so I will have to make do with pointing you towards the link . Below are the steps Taylor took on his journey:

  • 19 October. Taylor took the Southampton coach from the Rose at Holborn Bridge. He went along St Giles to Brentford and then on to Staines, where he stayed the night at the Bush Inn .
  • 20 October. Taylor left Staines and went through Bagshot and Blackwater, before reaching Alton where he stayed in the White Hart.
  • 21 October. From Alton, Taylor reached Southampton where he ate at the Dolphin. From there Taylor sailed to Cowes, where he stayed in the Feathers.
  • 22 October. Taylor travelled by horse to the town of Newport, where Charles was in the midst of negotiations. Here he was received by his monarch.

What is interesting about Taylor’s account is how close he got to his king. In the period before the civil wars, Charles withdrew from his public. There was little circulation of images of the monarch; an attempt to regulate access to court; and a studied decision to withdraw from proactive royal propaganda on the grounds that it opened up the arcana imperii to the public eye. Even touching for the king’s evil, where Charles is often presented as an exemplary practitioner, and where he certainly promoted his power to do so, was subject to many more prohibitions than before.

Compare this with Taylor’s easy access to Charles:

Thus having overpast this soule disaster,
I went to see my suffring Soveraigne Master:
Which sight to me was all my Earthly blisse,
He gave me straight his Royall hand to kisse,
Which grac’d me much in all the publique sights
Of Commons, Gentles, and brave Lords and Knights.

There is also already a hint of Charles martyredly rising above his circumstances – a studied pose of suffering kingship:

His Majesty, with an Heroick and unconquered patience, conquers his unmatchable afflictions, and with Christian constancy, expects a happy deliverance out of all his troubles.

Compare it also to one of the most fascinating parts of Taylor’s account, his description of Charles I touching for the king’s evil and other diseases. Below are Taylor’s eye-witness accounts:

1. At a Towne called Winburne , (or Wimborne ) in Dorcetshire , there dwels an [Note: For testimony of the truth of this there is one Iohn Newbery , a Clothworker, who dwels in Newport in the streete called Castle Hole, this man did come over the water with her, and did see her lame, and cured. ] Ancient woman, the Wife to a Clothier (whose name I could not know by enquiry) this Woman had a long time been so lame that she could not goe, 11 and she hearing that the King was lodg’d in Carisbrook Castle in the Isle of Wight , she was perswaded in her minde that His Majesty could cure her, in which beliefe she made towards the Island, and with horse or Cart, or both, or otherwaies, she was brought to Hurst Castle in Hampshire by land, from whence she was carried into a Boat in mens armes, which Boat brought her to Newport , from whence she was carried a mile to Carisbrook , where His Majesty did touch her, and her lamenesse ceased in three dayes space, so that with thankes to God, and prayers for the King, she departed from the Island, and went home 20. miles on foot. This was before the Treaty began, much about the midst of August last.

2. Mistresse Elizabeth Steevens of Durley in Hampshire , came from her borne to Winchester , and from thence to the Island to His Majesty to be cured of the evill, whereof she had been blinde of one Eye 16. daies and could not open her Eye by any meanes, and after the King had touched her, her Eye opened and she saw immediatly, with a clear and perfect sight. This was about the seventh of October.

3. Elizabeth Gage of Southampton (being 3 yeares of age) was exceeding lame, and in great paine, she came to his Majesty, and he touched her, whereby (through Gods blessing) she was presently cured.

4. Ioane Mathewes, aged 15. yeares, a Braziers Daughter one William Mathewes , dwelling in Newport in the Isle of Wight , she had been long time painefully lame, and had been at the Bathe , and used many medicines in vaine; she came to the King on Thursday the 19. of October, He toucht her, and she had present ease, and every day shee goes better then other: myselfe saw her and spake with her, and I left her able to go reasonable well.

5. A Souldier in Calshot Castle in Hampshire , had 2. sore issues in his thighes, to which he did frequently apply medicines which eased him, but cured him not: This man 12 went to the Island to His Majesty, who did touch him, and he did after that use his former medicines, which were wont to give him ease, but then the said application did most grievously vex and torment him; so that he was perswaded to forbeare to use the said Oyles, Emplasters, and Unguents, and then he was suddenly cured.

6. Mistresse Elizabeth Paine of Bristell was blinde, and such a Rhewmatick defluxion did dayly fall from her eyes, which did wet two or three large hancherchiefes every day; she came to the King on Sunday last, the 5. of this November, His Majesty did touch her eyes, the Rhewme ceased; so that she went away presently with a cleere and perfect sight; and two houres after she came to the King againe, and gave him thanks upon her knees; His Majesty bade her give thanks to God; so she with giving God praise, and prayers for the King, went from the Island to Bristoll with exceeding joy for her recovery.

7. Margaret Hezden , aged 73. yeares, dwelling in Newport in Chayne lane, was not able to stir but as she was lifted from bed to chaire, and from chaire to bed, touched by His Majesty, and cured, so that with one crutch she did goe about her house, and drew 5 or 6. pots of Ale for me, and my company.

Taylor’s pamphlet account of his journey gives us an interesting insight in to Charles’s change of tactics. In the civil wars and beyond, Charles’s public persona became a vital tool in rallying support and in stressing his positions as God’s anointed representative. There is also a suggestion from many contemporaries that Charles could not only heal his subjects, but heal the political nation too.

Sadly for Charles and for Taylor, that was not to be. But Taylor’s account gives us a good insight into what could have been – and into, as Edward Vallance’s recent post makes clear , what actually was under Charles’s son in the 1660s and beyond.

Taylor’s account of his journey is also interesting for his sales technique. Like a number of his pamphlets, Taylor tried to sell it by subscription, getting sponsors to pledge a minimum of 6 pence (above the market rate for a short quarto pamphlet) in return for an account of his journey when he returned. But Taylor follows the usual tactic of the early modern pamphleteer in simultaneously admitting and denying base commercial motives. Taylor’s pamphlet is "no Mercury (with scoffs, and jeeres) to raise debate, and set us by the eares"; it is not like "old Currantoes , in the daies of Yore". But as well as a mission to see his sovereign, Taylor admitted that he "travelled with an intent to get some Silver in this Iron Age, (for pleasure and profit should be the reward of honest and harmelesse paines taking)".

The photo is of a bust in the Chapel of St Charles the Martyr at Carisbrooke Castle, taken by Loz Flowers and used under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike license.