Saturday, January 01, 2005

The Bridge to Modernity

One of my central theses is that the 17th Century was the start of modern times. In many ways, the English Civil War was the turning point. During the reign of James I, people still dressed like the Elizabethans. One other aspect, tied to the Stuarts, is that the present British royal family is where they are because they are decedents of the Stuarts, however obliquely. The key person was Elizabeth Stuart, daughter of James I and Anne (daughter of Frederick II of Denmark). She was married to Frederick V, the Elector Palatine and for a short time, King of Bohemia. Elizabeth outlived many of her younger relatives. One of her children, Sophia, was married to Ernestus Augustus, the first Elector of Hannover. Their son, George, became king upon the death of Queen Anne from smallpox in 1714. I had not realized that there were ties between the Stuarts and the Bourbons, as well. Henriette Marie, mother and grandmother of kings and queens, was a Bourbon princess. Henriette Marie was daughter of Henri IV, King of France and Navarre.

Much of what was happening in early 17th Century Europe was driven by religion, and the English Civil War was no exception. The Thirty Years War was still raging when the situation in England grew ugly. The Civil War started in 1642, and I believe that the ostensible reason that the conflict was over the ship money really misses the point. Henriette Marie was raising her children to be Catholics. James II actually declared his Catholocism by 1669. Charles II kept his hidden until he received the Last Rites on his deathbed. James II's Catholocism is what pushed his opponents into staging the Glorious Revolution, putting his nephew William III and his daughter Mary II on the throne in his place.

Religion caused chaos and war on the continent. Many of the great generals of all time learned their trade in the Thirty Years War. The giants in France, Prince Conde and Turenne were Huguenots, as was the best admiral Abraham Duquense. On the Catholic side was Raimondo de Monteccucoli, who fought for the Holy Roman Empire. Naval buffs recognize his name, as the Italians named a light cruiser for him.

Many of the 17th Century Stuarts died from smallpox. That was true for Mary Stuart, wife of William II (Prince of Orange), as it was for him. Mary II and her sister, Queen Anne also died of smallpox.

Science and mathematics were greatly advanced during this period. This was the time when Leibnitz, Newton, and others lived. The Royal Society was formed in England, at the Restoration. In England you had giants like Robert Boyle, Isaac Newton, Robert Hooke, and others. It was men like Robert Hooke and Robert Boyle who essentially invented the "Scientific Method".

These were exciting times, and there were important forces at work in government, religion, and science. What we have built stands on top of what they started. There were many other areas of advancement, as well, including economics, business, and finance. I really have only scratched the surface, as the developments were so widespread and important.

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