The politics of regicide in England, 1760–1850

Troublesome subjects

Author: Steve Poole

This book considers the shifting boundaries of royal space as the flexible arena in which petitioning took place. It begins with the creation of a myth of accessibility and 'ordinariness' around the monarchy of George III in the 1780s. Historiographical interest in the monarchy is limited in its conceptual scope. Most studies focus on the enduring popularity and survival of the Crown, either with reference to its mythologies and 'invented traditions' or to the institutional conservatism of plebeian English patriotism. Petitioning is seen as increasingly inclusive and popular, facilitated by a developing public sphere and the mass platform, and associated with collectivity rather than individuality. Petitions of right are often overlooked and little distinction is noted between petitions to Parliament and petitions to the Crown. Historiographical approaches to troublesome subjects like Margaret Nicholson commonly accommodate eighteenth-century agendas of unquestioning madness, or else deploy twentieth-century terminologies like 'terrorism'. Franklin L. Ford has charted the classical roots of 'legitimate' tyrannicide from the ancient Greeks to the Red Army Faction, but has difficulty in accommodating the apparent ineptitude of English would-be assassins like Nicholson. Frank Prochaska's detailed account of the role of the Crown in welfare provision conjures unbroken lines of charitable royal largesse from George III to Elizabeth II. The book contains apocryphal tales of kindness to the poor from one monarch or another and is generally disapproving of contemporary radical critiques of royal idleness and narcissism.

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