Sunday, January 30, 2011

January 1661 by Gillian Bagwell

Samuel Pepys began the New Year of 1661 by writing in the diary that he had started on the first day of the momentous year of 1660, summing up the state of his personal life and the affairs of the country. On January 1 he wrote, “I do live in one of the houses belonging to the Navy Office, as one of the principal officers, and have done now about half a year. After much trouble with workmen I am now almost settled…. myself in constant good health, and in a most handsome and thriving condition. Blessed be Almighty God for it. As to things of State.—The King settled, and loved of all. The Duke of York matched to my Lord Chancellor’s daughter, which do not please many. The Queen upon her return to France with the Princess Henrietta. The Princess of Orange lately dead, and we into new mourning for her….. The Parliament, which had done all this great good to the King, beginning to grow factious, the King did dissolve it December 29th last, and another likely to be chosen speedily.”

The king’s mother, Queen Henrietta Maria, realizing that she had lost the battle against the marriage of her son James the Duke of York to Anne Hyde and the acceptance of their barely-legitimate son, finally gave up. While at Whitehall on January 1, Pepys saw “the Duke of York bring his Lady this day to wait upon the Queen, the first time that ever she did since that great business; and the Queen is said to receive her now with much respect and love.” The Queen also made peace with Anne’s father, Edward Hyde, the king’s chancellor. But she stuck to her plans to return to France with her youngest daughter, Minette, and on January 2, Pepys wrote “The Queen’s things were all in White Hall Court ready to be sent away, and her Majesty ready to be gone an hour after to Hampton Court to-night, and so to be at Ports mouth on Saturday next.”

The baby who had been at the center of such a storm was christened on January 1, and later made Duke of Cambridge. Sadly, he died only a few months later, as would several other little boys born to his parents and given that title. Of the seven children of James and Anne, only Mary and Anne would live to adulthood, and both would eventually sit on the throne, Mary and her husband William of Orange ousting her father in the “Glorious Revolution” or “Bloodless Revolution” of 1688. James eventually had a son who lived, by his second wife, and that James, eventually known as the “Old Pretender,” became the focus of the Jacobites, who believed that he and not his German cousin George I should have succeeded to the throne. In turn his son Charles – the famous Bonnie Prince Charlie or “the Young Pretender” was at the center of the disastrous Jacobite rebellions of the mid-eighteenth century.

But back to January 1661. The journey of the queen and Minette to France was almost immediately beset by disaster. On January 11 Pepys wrote “This day comes news, by letters from Portsmouth, that the Princess Henrietta is fallen sick of the meazles on board the London, after the Queen and she was under sail. And so was forced to come back again into Portsmouth harbour; and in their way, by negligence of the pilot, run upon the Horse sand. The Queen and she continue aboard, and do not intend to come on shore till she sees what will become of the young Princess. This news do make people think something indeed, that three of the Royal Family should fall sick of the same disease, one after another.”

The poor queen must have been terrified, having lost her youngest son the Duke of Gloucester to smallpox in September and her daughter Mary of Orange from the same disease less than three weeks earlier. But on January 15 Pepys wrote “This day I hear the Princess is recovered again,” and on January 27, he recorded that “Before I rose, letters come to me from Portsmouth, telling me that the Princess is now well, and my Lord Sandwich set sail with the Queen and her yesterday from thence for France.”

Twelfth Night supper

On January 6 came Twelfth Night, with its traditional celebrations to end the Christmas season. Pepys went to the theatre after dinner “leaving 12d. with the servants to buy a cake with at night,” and later, “after a good supper, we had an excellent cake, where the mark for the Queen was cut, and so there was two queens, my wife and Mrs. Ward; and the King being lost, they chose the Doctor to be King.” It was a merry evening. According to Pepys, “the talk of the town now is, who the King is like to have for his Queen.” The candidates included the Princess of Denmark, the sister of the Prince of Parma, and Catherine of Braganza, the Infanta of Portugal, who Charles would marry in 1662.

Catherine of Braganza, the Infanta of Portugal

On January 2, Pepys “bought the King and Chancellor’s speeches at the dissolving the Parliament last Saturday.” There would not be a new Parliament until May, and the coronation, which had been planned for January, had been put off until April because of the death of the king’s sister. Nevertheless, there was business to attend to.

The government was still dealing with the enormous problem of disbanding the army and navy. In December, Pepys and his colleague Sir George Carteret had come up with the plan of paying the sailors half what they were owed and giving them tickets vouching that they would be paid the other half in three or four months. On January 21 he wrote “This morning Sir W. Batten, the Comptroller and I to Westminster, to the Commissioners for paying off the Army and Navy …and we sat with our hats on, and did discourse about paying off the ships and do find that they do intend to undertake it without our help; and we are glad of it, for it is a work that will much displease the poor seamen, and so we are glad to have no hand in it.”

The Restoration of the monarchy was an opportunity to start off on a new foot with both the navy and commercial shipping. On Jan. 22 Pepys went to the Comptroller’s house, and “read over his proposals to the Lord Admiral for the regulating of the officers of the Navy, in which he hath taken much pains, only he do seem to have too good opinion of them himself.” Then Pepys “met with the King’s Councell for Trade, upon some proposals of theirs for settling convoys for the whole English trade, and that by having 33 ships (four fourth-rates, nineteen fifths, ten sixths) settled by the King for that purpose.”
There were pleasant maritime matters afoot, too. On January 15 Pepys wrote “the King hath been this afternoon at Deptford, to see the yacht that Commissioner Pett is building, which will be very pretty; as also that that his brother at Woolwich is in making.” Pepys heard that news after he “took barge and went to Blackwall and viewed the dock and the new Wet dock, which is newly made there, and a brave new merchantman which is to be launched shortly, and they say to be called the Royal Oak.” The Royal Oak was the name that had been given to the tree at Boscobel where Charles had hidden for a day during his desperate odyssey to escape after the Battle of Worcester. The naming of this ship was quite likely the first use of the name to commemorate that event, but over the centuries there have been countless pubs, inns, and other enterprises named The Royal Oak.

Charles in the Royal Oak by Isaac Turner

In October, after several of the men responsible for killing his father had been put to death, Charles suspended the sentences of the rest of the regicides. When a bill for their execution was introduced in the new Parliament in 1661, Hyde suggested to the king that the bill be allowed to “sleep in the houses” and not officially brought to him. Charles replied “I must confess I am weary of hanging except upon new offenses,” so the men already in prison remained alive.

In December there had been what amounted to a false alarm about a plot against the king. But in early January there was a real rising, led by the fanatical preacher Thomas Venner. On January 7 Rugge’s Diurnal recorded “a great rising in the city of the Fifth-monarchy men, which did very much disturb the peace and liberty of the people, so that all the train-bands arose in arms, both in London and Westminster, as likewise all the king’s guards; and most of the noblemen mounted, and put all their servants on coach horses, for the defence of his Majesty, and the peace of his kingdom.” The same day Pepys wrote “This morning, news was brought to me to my bedside, that there had been a great stir in the City this night by the Fanatiques, who had been up and killed six or seven men, but all are fled. My Lord Mayor and the whole City had been in arms, above 40,000.”

On January 9, Pepys was “waked in the morning about six o’clock, by people running up and down … talking that the Fanatiques were up in arms in the City. And so I rose and went forth; where in the street I found every body in arms at the doors. So I returned (though with no good courage at all, but that I might not seem to be afeared), and got my sword and pistol, which, however, I had no powder to charge; and went to the door, where I found Sir R. Ford, and with him I walked up and down as far as the Exchange, and there I left him. In our way, the streets full of Train-band, and great stories, what mischief these rogues have done; and I think near a dozen have been killed this morning on both sides. Seeing the city in this condition, the shops shut, and all things in trouble, I went home and sat, it being office day, till noon.”

On January 10 Pepys learned that “all these Fanatiques that have done all this, viz., routed all the Trainbands that they met with, put the King’s life-guards to the run, killed about twenty men, broke through the City gates twice; and all this in the day-time, when all the City was in arms; are not in all about 31. Whereas we did believe them (because they were seen up and down in every place almost in the City, and had been about Highgate two or three days, and in several other places) to be at least 500. A thing that never was heard of, that so few men should dare and do so much mischief. Their word was, ‘The King Jesus, and the heads upon the gates.’” Retribution was swift. On January 19, Pepys went “by coach to White Hall; in our way meeting Venner and Pritchard upon a sledge, who with two more Fifth Monarchy men were hanged to-day, and the two first drawn and quartered,” and on January 21, “This day many more of the Fifth Monarchy men were hanged.”

Despite the turmoil, King Charles was as usual finding time for his personal interests and pastimes. On January 6, John Evelyn wrote “I was now chosen (and nominated by his Majestie for one of that Council) … a Fellow of the Philosophic Society, now meeting at Gresham Coll: where was an assembly of divers learned Gent: It being the first meeting since the return of his Majestie in Lond:.” On January 10 Evelyn recorded “I went to the Philosophic Club; where was examin’d the Torricellian experiment: I presented my Circle of Mechanical Trades.” On January 25, “To Lond, at our Society, where was divers Exp. on the Torrella sent us by his Majestie.” The group continued to meet, and on July 15, 1662, King Charles chartered “The Royal Society of London.” The Royal Society still exists, supporting science with research fellowships, awards, prize lectures, and medals.

And of course Charles found time for two of his other passions, theatre and music. Plays were often acted at court, and on one occasion Pepys, at Whitehall on business, “staid to hear the trumpets and kettle-drums, and then the other drums, which are much cried up, though I think it dull, vulgar musique.”

The public theatres were going great guns as well, and thanks to Samuel Pepys, we know of several shows that were presented in January 1661, and have a front row seat for the first few weeks in which women were acting in England. On January 3, Pepys went “to the Theatre, where was acted ‘Beggars’ Bush,’ it being very well done; and here the first time that ever I saw women come upon the stage.” On January 4, he wrote “After dinner Mr. Moore and I to the Theatre, where was ‘The Scornful Lady,’ acted very well, it being the first play that ever he saw.”

Pepys was observing a very interesting period of transition. Along with the brand-new actresses, the men who had been playing the women’s roles were still appearing. On January 7, Pepys attended “‘The Silent Woman,’ the first time that ever I did see it, and it is an excellent play. Among other things here, Kinaston, the boy; had the good turn to appear in three shapes: first, as a poor woman in ordinary clothes, to please Morose; then in fine clothes, as a gallant, and in them was clearly the prettiest woman in the whole house, and lastly, as a man; and then likewise did appear the handsomest man in the house.” This was a gender-bending role, involving a young man pretending to be a woman. But on January 29, Pepys went to the Duke’s playhouse, where “after great patience and little expectation, from so poor beginning, I saw three acts of ‘The Mayd in ye Mill’ acted to my great content” – and it was a man, James Nokes, who was playing the title female role of the Mayd.

On January 8, Pepys “took my Lord Hinchinbroke and Mr. Sidney to the Theatre, and shewed them ‘The Widdow,’ an indifferent good play, but wronged by the women being to seek in their parts. “To seek” meant the actresses were lost, or didn’t know what they were doing. Perhaps inevitable, as they were young and inexperienced, and no doubt knew they were a curiosity, and the subject of prurient interest.

On January 19 Pepys saw The Lost Lady, “which do not please me much,” but he gave it another try on January 28, “which do now please me better than before; and here I sitting behind in a dark place, a lady spit backward upon me by a mistake, not seeing me, but after seeing her to be a very pretty lady, I was not troubled at it at all.”

Even staid John Evelyn, “after divers yeares that I had not seene any Play” saw The Scornful Lady on January 25.

On January 31, Pepys went to the theatre again, “and there sat in the pit among the company of fine ladys, &c.; and the house was exceeding full, to see ‘Argalus and Parthenia,’ the first time that it hath been acted: and indeed it is good, though wronged by my over great expectations, as all things else are.” He saw it again a few days later but lamented “though pleasant for the dancing and singing, I do not find good for any wit or design therein.”

It’s interesting to find Pepys, such an enthusiast for the theatre, commenting in February, “I see the gallants do begin to be tyred with the vanity and pride of the theatre actors who are indeed grown very proud and rich.”

On February 12 he went back to see The Scornful Lady, “now done by a woman, which makes the play appear much better than ever it did to me.” The king apparently thought so too, as in 1662 he decreed that from then on all women’s parts would be played by women. The days of the boy actor were done.

The weather that month was unusually nice. On January 21 Pepys wrote, “It is strange what weather we have had all this winter; no cold at all; but the ways are dusty, and the flyes fly up and down, and the rose-bushes are full of leaves, such a time of the year as was never known in this world before here.” On January 29 he went with two companions “over the water to Southwark, and so over the fields to Lambeth, and there drank, it being a most glorious and warm day, even to amazement, for this time of the year.”

January 1661 ended on a somber and rather ugly note. Charles I had been executed on January 30, 1649, and on January 27 Pepys recorded “This day the parson read a proclamation at church, for the keeping of Wednesday next, the 30th of January, a fast for the murther of the late King.” But that was not enough. On January 28, according to Rugge’s Diurnal, “The bodies of Oliver Cromwell, Henry Ireton, John Bradshaw, and Thomas Pride, were dug up out of their graves to be hanged at Tyburn, and buried under the gallows. Cromwell’s vault having been opened, the people crowded very much to see him.” And on January 30, “the carcases of Cromwell, Ireton, and Bradshaw (which the day before had been brought from the Red Lion Inn, Holborn), were drawn upon a sledge to Tyburn, and then taken out of their coffins, and in their shrouds hanged by the neck, until the going down of the sun. They were then cut down, their heads taken off, and their bodies buried in a grave made under the gallows.”

Tyburn tree

The experiment of the Commonwealth was over, dead and buried twice over, and the Restoration of the monarchy was complete.

Sources and further reading:


The Diary of Samuel Pepys -


1660: The Year of Restoration, Patrick Morrah (Beacon Press, 1960)

The Diary of John Evelyn, ed. Guy de la Bédoyère (Boydell Press, 1995; First Person Singular, 2004)

The London Stage, 1660-1800, A Calendar of Plays, Entertainments, and Afterpieces Together with Casts, Box-Receipts, and Contemporary Comment, Part I, 1660-1700, ed. William Van Lennep et al. (Southern Illinois University Press, 1963)

Pepys’s Diary, Volume I, selected and edited by Robert Latham (Folio Society, 1996)


Gillian Bagwell is the author of the recently published novel The Darling Strumpet, based on the life of Nell Gwynn, who rose from the streets to become one of London’s most beloved actresses and the life-long mistress of King Charles II.

This is the ninth and final article in a series chronicling the events from May 1660 through January 1661, in commemoration of the 350th anniversary of the Restoration of the English monarchy, the reopening of the playhouses, which had been closed for eighteen years under Cromwell, and the first appearance of an actress on the English stage, in contrast to the old practice of boys playing women’s roles.

For links to the other articles and information about Gillian’s books, please visit her website,


  1. This is an absolutely fantastic post. Thanks for sharing this with us. I have also been researching 1661, so I can understand your enthusiasm which comes through so clearly in this fascinating account.

  2. Thank you so much, Deborah! It's been an intereting project writing this series of articles. Thank God for Samuel Pepys and the wealth of information he left us!

  3. Well done. It's a nice complement to the Pepys Diary.