An Illustrated Social History

Walk 8.


This walk took us along Culfen, the low-lying land beside the river that runs down from Bildeston to the junction of Chelsworth’s River Brett with our neighbours’ Dentford River at Nedging Mill. This area is often wet and marshy, and in former days it doubtless had considerable value for grazing in the drier months of the year.

It was of course the fen mentioned by name in the Charter whereby King Edgar gave Chelsworth to his stepmother back in the year 962. So let us talk about our British monarchy, three hundred years ago and today.

Prologue - Queens and Kings in the early Eighteenth Century

During our earlier walks I spoke about the fall and rise of landed families here in Chelsworth. But at the same time that one branch of the Mynnes was forfeiting its wealth in the search for pleasure and status, and others were linking themselves to the Cowper and Keningale families, we witnessed in the highest levels of the kingdom the resolution of another, far greater transfer of power from one dynasty to another. After a century or more of conflict, there came the end of the Stuart monarchs, with the death of Queen Anne and the country’s rejection of the Catholic Pretender. So was ushered in the reign of the Hanoverian Georges, loosely linked though they were to the family that went before.

Compared with the extreme passions and conflicts that had attended the question of the royal succession in the previous century, it is remarkable how little people in England seemed to care about the coming of the German king, and the continuing rejection of the Catholic claimants - and indeed how little it seemed to concern the Hanoverian Georges themselves. They spent little time in the Kingdom, and their command of our language was minimal. Still, anything was preferable to James Stuart and his Popish friends, apparently.

Equally remarkable was the ease with which the amalgamation of the old enemies of Scotland and England went through. The reasons for the marriage were, oddly but understandably, much the same as those in many a union - on the one side, a desire for relief from the distractions of age-old tensions , and on the other, a yearning for economic comfort and security, in both cases at the unwelcome but ultimately affordable expense of independence.

At this point, we leave aside the political and economic issues - together with any observations on the ways in which these

traditional questions of national import have once again come to the fore in the present day - because they will involve us in much wider questions than just the introduction of a new royal figurehead and a different flag to salute.

At the beginning of the period, Anne was the Queen of England, Wales and Scotland, following the Act of Union concluded in the year 1707. She was generally considered to be dull and easily influenced; but at the same time she was a constant supporter of the established church and of the opposition to France in its claim upon