Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales was the better looking, more popular elder brother of Charles I. He was a staunch Protestant, something his father ensured by taking him away from his mother because of her tendency towards Catholicism. Personally, if I’d have been worried by that sort of thing I just wouldn’t have married her, but Kings do these things differently.
He was already becoming active in politics and was well thought of by the nation when he died of typhoid at the age of 18. At his funeral 1,000 people followed the coffin and many poems and songs were composed in his honour.
Next question – do you include Cromwell? He was near enough a King when he was Lord Protector, and was actually related to the Jasper Tudor, the uncle of Henry VII. He also passed the country on to his son Richard at his death, which is pretty kinglike, but they probably shouldn’t be here. Sadly, that gives me no chance to talk about Tumbledown Dick.
When Charles II died, he left 12 children by 7 mistresses and, unfortunately, no legitimate children. His brother James was his heir, and James was a Catholic. This was a major problem, as the majority of the country did not want a return to Catholic rule.
Henry Stuart, Duke of Gloucester, who had been the youngest brother of Charles II and James II, had, at one time, been thought of as a successor to his father, being strongly Protestant after an education at the hands of tutors appointed by Parliament. He was later allowed to join the rest of his family in France, became a noted soldier and died of smallpox in 1660. If he had been alive in 1685 he might have helped to avert the Monmouth Rebellion by providing an acceptable alternative to James II.
The popular alternative was James Scott, Duke of Monmouth. He claimed his mother had been secretly married to Charles, though the King always denied it, and no proof was ever produced. Monmouth was popular in the country, had a good reputation as a soldier, and was a Protestant.
If all this talk of Catholics and Protestants seems out of touch with modern life you may like to check the Succession to the Crown Act (2013). You can now succeed to the throne if you are married to a Catholic, but you still cannot succeed to the throne if you are, or have ever been, a Catholic.
Anyway, back to Monmouth. It didn’t end well. Not only did the rebels lose a large number of men at the Battle of Sedgemoor, but more were condemed by Judge Jeffreys at the Bloody Assizes. Alice Lisle was executed for sheltering rebels (or, as some said, because her husband had signed the death warrant of Charles I), and was the last woman to be sentenced to death by beheading in the UK.
There is a story that after the execution the royal family realised that they didn’t have a portrait of Monmouth so they stitched the head back on, covered the join with a cravat and had a portrait done. Unfortunately the story isn’t true, as there are several portraits of Monmouth, and the supposed post mortem portrait probably isn’t him.
Meanwhile, on a personal note, I am probably the last man to shed blood for the Duke of Monmouth. At the 1985 re-enactment I was wielding my rubber billhook in a vain attempt to reverse the injustice of 1685 when a teacher of English, having imbibed enthusiastically for lunch and put on a red uniform, clipped me on the elbow with his sword.
It wasn’t much blood, but it was definitely shed when it would have been better left inside me..
(Sorry this has gone on so long – the final installment should be shorter.)