Jobs For the Boys
It wasn’t called a Civil War for nothing. Chopping off the head of a monarch who, up ’til that point had reigned ‘by divine right’ was a bit of a point of no return. You either thought it was a good idea or you didn’t. I guess the really poor, the grunts whose lives didn’t change whoever was in charge, didn’t get much say in the matter, but for everyone else, choices had to be made.
Who, ultimately, was going to come out of this smelling of roses? Would warty old Ollie Cromwell (‘right but rotten’, if I recall my 1066 and All That correctly) manage to keep the country a ‘commonwealth’ or would the wheel of fortune turn and bring back (‘wrong but romantic’) Charlie? No pressure – you just risked your own head if you got it wrong.
I bet the guys who backed Ollie thought they were pretty damn okay to start with. People like Gregory Clement, Greenwich’s own local regicide, rewarded with Crowley House on the river and a blind eye turned to his looting at Greenwich Palace.
Others, who helped Charles, hide, escape the country and plot his return, must have sweated that they’d backed the wrong horse for a few years.
But tides turn. At the restoration in 1660, Charles wasted no time rounding up and disposing of chaps like Clement.
In a way, though, hanging, drawing and quartering his enemies was the easy bit. The trickier question was what to do with all the people who suddenly came crawling out of the woodwork claiming to have been on his side all the time. Even if he only rewarded the ones he knew had done him service, it was going to be a costly affair.
Here are a few Greenwichians and the job applications they chanced their arms on at the Restoration:
Zachary Platt – wanted to be gardener at Greenwich and keeper of the queen mother’s buildings there, ‘which are now employed to entertain rude and debauched persons to drink and revel on Sabbath days.’ He doesn’t appear again. I suppose it hadn’t occurred to him that Charles actually rather liked drinking and revelling on Sabbath days.
Sir William Boreman – wanted ‘the keeping of the garden and groves which he is planting (that’s Greenwich Park to you and me) with a fee of £100 a year and leave to dispose of the fruit of his majesty’s gardens and orchards’.
He was, of course, successful in his bid – he laid out the park as we know it, to Le Notre’s designs. He got a staff, even down to a professional mole catcher.
W. Ryley – wanted to be granted the ‘old brick tower’ (I’m guessing this is Duke Humphrey’s tower, which stood where the Observatory is now). He also asked for some decayed wood, and two ruined houses in the old Greenwich Palace tiltyard. Unfortunately Ryley’s application meant Charles realised there was value in the old buildings after all. He decided to do something about the old tower and palace himself, selling off the rubble to pay for the Observatory.
Thomas Kilgrew – wanted Keeper of the Royal Armoury. I have no idea if he was successful.
Thomas Audrey – wanted the position of Keeper of Greenwich Park. He thought he had a good chance because it was the job several of his ancestors had held.
Colonel John Skringshire – also wanted to be Keeper of Greenwich Park.
Both these guys were unsuccessful. Charles clearly owed the Earl of St Albans rather more favours and he got to look after Greenwich House and the Park. One Babington, a name I wouldn’t entirely trust if I were a monarch, but who may have had nothing to do with any other Babington, was given under-housekeeper.
Colonel Thomas Blount – wanted – well, anything really. He reckoned he deserved recognition because he ‘set up the bells at Greenwich and hired ringers to ring on the king’s return.’
And this is just in Greenwich. I guess all new leaders have to deal with petitions from people who feel they’re owed something for services rendered, but the sheer stakes involved during civil war make the whole divvying out of jobs for the boys a whole degree scarier. No wonder the merry monarch went to the theatre a lot…