In 1604 Parliament passed an act requiring all clergy of the Church of England to take an Oath of Allegiance at their ordination to the diaconate or priesthood in which they acknowledged the King (or Queen) of England as supreme governor of the church in all spiritual and temporal matters. “I, NN, swear by Almighty God that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Her Heirs and Successors, and that I will, as in duty bound, honestly and faithfully defend Her Majesty, Her Heirs and Successors, in Person, Crown and Dignity against all enemies, and will observe and obey all orders of Her Majesty, Her Heirs and Successors, and of the generals and officers set over me. So help me God.”
Henceforth only Church of England Bishops sit in Her Majesty’s government in the House of Lords, others are excluded. Scotland’s own protestant Church of Scotland, Calvinist in faith and whose government is Presbyterian and therefore has no bishops, does not recognise the monarch as “supreme governor”. Despite being the Scottish National Church it has no seat in the Upper House. The Roman Catholic Church is prevented by law from certain positions altogether: notably in the succession, then as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Prime Minister. Tony Blair, an Anglican only converted to Roman Catholicism on the day he stepped down as Prime Minister. No seats for Catholic Bishops in the House of Lords then, which would be rather difficult anyway, being in union with the Pope, that the catholic clergy should possibly acknowledged the King (or Queen) of England as supreme governor in all spiritual matters. That ends that conversation, you would think. Not quite yet, as you will see.
A country, whose moral backbone has been the steadfast defence of the realm against the sinister danger of papist subversion and machination, a notion permeating the social fabric since the English Reformation triggered by Henry VIII, is still to date caught up in it. Even in the largely secularised society of Great Britain today the monarch is much more than merely a head of state or the clamp that dynastically holds together the United Kingdom but he or she is the “English Pope”, Head of the Church and the living symbol of Anti Catholicism, which looms so large from across the channel. This continent, this Europe, so demonstratively catholic, appears to threaten the very heart of Britishness. The protestant monarch, the protestant institutions provide a self contained British bubble on the British Isles and in the whole of the Anglosphere, into which the British may retreat when feeling insecure as if behind a protective shield.
When the Stuart king Charles I was tried, convicted and executed for high treason in January 1649 the rule of terror by Oliver Cromwell in the short lived Republic, the Commonwealth of England, began.
Cromwell, a self styled Puritan Moses, occupied Ireland passing a series of Penal Laws against Roman Catholics (still a significant minority in England and Scotland but the vast majority in Ireland) and a substantial amount of their land was confiscated.
Cromwell is one of the most controversial figures in the history of the British Isles. His tolerance of Protestant sects did not extent to Catholics, his measures against them in Ireland have been characterised by some as genocidal or near-genocidal and his record is harshly criticised in Ireland. Cromwell spent just nine months there. He captured the town of Drogheda in September 1649 where his troops massacred nearly 3,500 people, all the men in the town with weapons and also civilians, prisoners and priests.
He was selected as one of the ten greatest Britons of all times in a 2002 BBC poll! That beats even the annual Guy Fawkes bonfires, in memory of the bodged gunpowder plot by this Catholic Officer of the same name on 5 November 1605, (”Remember, remember the 5th of November !”), which did not end well for him. It is still so dearly loved by the children across the British Isles, because they burn effigies of him!
Between the 1550’s and the 1650’s Four Plantations or Colonization took place in Ireland. Small private plantations by wealthy landowners began in 1606, while the official plantation began in 1609. Most of the land was forfeited from the native Gaelic chiefs, several of whom had fled from Ireland to mainland Europe in 1607 following the Nine Year’s War against English Rule.
The plantation of Ulster took place between 1609 and 1690 when the lands of the O’Neills, O’Donnells and any of their friends were taken and granted to Scottish and English settlers. Some lands were kept for building towns facilitating the speedy arrival of more settlers from Scotland in Ulster. The colonists were required to be English speaking, Protestant and loyal to the king. The Scottish colonists, Ulster Scots, were mostly Calvinist Presbyterian.
Ulster Scots today, young, educated and cosmopolitan, when faced with the possibility of Northern Ireland re-joining the Republic of Ireland by a referendum, as enshrined in the Good Friday Agreement, are almost violently opposed to it because they feel only British not Irish. Their frank admission is that they have nothing in common with their Irish neighbour. A re-unification to them is totally and utterly out of the question.
By now it may have dawned on you how this story is going to end, namely badly! History has with force brainwashed the inhabitants of the British Isles as being something separate to Europe, even special and unique if not superior, a new Rome, a Rome with its own “Pax Britannica” that ultimately has failed them badly. In the end Britannia is about to lose the peace.