Several readers of The Royalist have commented that 17th century Britain politically appears to be like 21st century America. To some extent that is why I chose the period as the setting for the Henry Darcy's series.
Britain and the United States have four foundational pillars: Administrative Leadership (monarch's and presidents), Legislatures (parliament & congress), Judiciary (local and federal), and The Church (religion). History is an artifact of which pillar carried the most weight. Societies past and present reflect which pillar is dominant.
Today I will contrast 17th century British leadership - monarchs and parliament, with 21st century American leadership - presidents and congress.
Throughout the 17th century the Stuart's reigned over England, with the exception of the 1650's during Oliver Cromwell's Protectorate. The Stuart's for the most part, and King Charles I specifically, believed their authority was God ordained and therefore had a " divine right" to set the direction for both Church and State. When "the people" (a parliament made up of political and religious factions) disagreed with King Charles I over his authority over the use of public funds (taxes) and the church (liturgy) they literally waged war on each other; the Bishop's War (1639) and the English Civil War (1642 -1645).
Today in the United States we have presidents who appear to be under the impression that they have a God ordained "divine right" to rule and usurp power that was never granted under the constitution- or by God. We also have a congress that is so factious that they have unwittingly relinquished their constitutional authority over to highly divisive leaders. Presidents are not kings although they act like they are. Today in Britain the monarch has very limited authority and power. That is a direct result of the English Civil War. Just as King Charles waged war on Parliament, our current president seems to be waging war on congress, and members of congress are responding in kind, albeit not an armed war. The current weapons of our political leadership are character assassination, lies, and innuendo.
We now have politically elite families, similar to the Stuarts, that believe they are the ordained leaders of our nation, just as the Stuarts did in the 17th century. The main difference between the Stuarts and our leaders today is that they knew that their actions could ultimately cost them not only their crown but their lives as well. King Charles was beheaded in 1649. As Americans we now tend to reward our divisive leaders by continually reelecting them. Fortunately our presidents can only be king or queen for eight years, but with today's political dynasties that tenancy seems to be in jeopardy as well.
Today our leaders rarely pay a price for their unconstitutional (illegal) activities. In fact, our leaders tend to leave the political arena and become wealthy lobbyist or start foundations and become billionaires. the political factions in the US are so divided that they have paralyzed society and the leaders of those factions are forcing us "the people" to choose a side based on half truths, or sometime outright lies.
In The Royalist Henry Darcy, a sixteen year old, is thrown into the fray of the English Civil War of which he has very little understanding , and is forced to pick his own way through a morass of political misrepresentations. But his own unique circumstances ultimately drove him into the Royalist camp. I wonder if he would have made the same decision if he had an unbiased view of the situation. In my next post I will discuss the impact that religion, and the church had on 17th century British Society, and contrast it with religion in the US today.