Monday 12 September 2022

An historic day, in an historic place

When I first heard that Her Majesty the Queen was seriously ill and that members of the Royal Family were on their way to Balmoral, I was standing outside the Cromwell Museum in Huntingdon. It is home to the most comprehensive collection relating to Oliver Cromwell and is located in the former Huntingdon Grammar School building where Cromwell was educated as a schoolboy (as was Samuel Pepys).

We were there as part of a visit to Cambridge arranged by the current Master Needlemaker specifically because the Worshipful Company of Needlemakers received its first (Commonwealth) charter from Oliver Cromwell in 1656. After the execution of Charles I at the end of the Civil War, Cromwell was appointed “Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland”: the first commoner to be Head of State. The Restoration of the Stuart monarchy took place in 1660 when King Charles the II returned from exile in Europe. (The preceding years of the civil war and the Protectorate were known as the interregnum – rather as if it didn’t happen.)


The date of 1656 has special meaning for me personally. The Edict of Expulsion was a royal decree issued by King Edward I of England on 18 July 1290 expelling all Jews from the Kingdom of England. While some Jews remained in England they did not practise their religion openly. This persisted until 1656 when they were permitted to return.


When the monarchy was restored the Needlemakers petitioned King Charles II for a new charter, which was granted in 1664. 


What an historic day to be there. We acknowledged the execution of one King Charles and the restoration of another King Charles.  That evening, as we were seated in the dining hall of Magdalene College, Cambridge the Master announced that Her Majesty the Queen had died.  We held a moment’s silence and then the Master gave the Loyal Toast – God Save the King – acknowledging the third King Charles. As this was shortly after the announcement we were possibly the first City Livery Company to do so.  


The Master and his Consort were in attendance at the Royal Exchange, in the City of London, on Saturday morning to hear the second Proclamation of Accession read out sharing the news that the monarch has died and the heir has acceded to the throne. 

King Charles III

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