Westminster 1640–60

A royal city in a time of revolution

This book examines the varied and fascinating ways in which the series of non-monarchical regimes of England’s civil wars and interregnum interacted with the unique locality and community of Westminster. Westminster (as opposed to London) was traditionally viewed as the ‘royal’ city – the site of Whitehall Palace and the royal courts of justice, its Abbey reputed to be the ‘house of kings’, and its inhabitants assumed to be instinctive followers of the monarch and the royal court. Westminster emerges in this study as a site of extraordinary ambiguities and juxtapositions. The promoters of vigorous moral reformation and a sustained and often intrusive military presence coexisted uneasily with the area’s distinctive forms of elite sociability and luxury. The state’s foremost godly preachers performed in close proximity to royalist churchmen. More generally, the forces of political, religious and cultural conservatism can be observed on the very doorstep of parliament and non-monarchical regimes. Yet for Westminster as a whole, this was the time when the locality became tied to the state more tightly than ever before, while at key moments the town’s distinctive geography and local government played a significant role in shaping the political crises of the period. Chapters analyse the crisis of 1640-42, the use of Westminster’s iconic buildings and spaces by the non-monarchical regimes, the sustained military occupation of the locality, the problems of political allegiance and local government, the religious divisions and practices of the period, and the problematic revival of fashionable society in a time of political tension.


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