- The Monarchical Republic of Early Modern England: Essays in Response to Patrick Collinson
This thoughtful collection of thirteen essays celebrates the twentieth anniversary of Patrick Collinson's important essay, "The Monarchical Republic of Queen Elizabeth I." Collinson observes that there were times when the queen's councillors acted independently and sometimes contrary to her wishes, and that there were also times when local officials acted without recourse to the center; thus, he concludes that England was both a monarchy and a republic. Collinson's essay stimulated a number of important works by the authors presented here as well as others, and these essays provide a retrospective and also point the way to areas of future research.
While Collinson was reluctant to extend his conclusions beyond Elizabeth's later years, Ethan Shagan and Andrew Fitzmaurice expand the field of inquiry in time and place. Shagan examines local government during the reign of Henry VIII and finds that there was always considerable friction between local and royal administration, but that humanists, who were supposed to have preached republican ideas, were not in favor of local autonomy. Fitzmaurice finds that although it would be natural to assume that English colonists would have taken a sense of civic participation with them to America, in fact they did not. Civic duty was retained as an ideal, but one more honored in the breach. [End Page 1005]
Essays by Anne McLaren and Quentin Skinner reveal that the first Stuart kings clearly did not think they reigned over a monarchical republic, whatever Elizabeth might have thought. James I informed his first parliament that he had no intention of following Elizabethan precedent, a theory of royal government subsequently amplified by his legal advisors, and Charles I reiterated his father's claim, "arguing that such a monarchy would in fact be a republic" (240). The Rump agreed with him by abolishing the monarchy altogether. The concept of monarchical republicanism did not die with Charles, however, for it was revived by a later generation of Whigs.
Essays by Dale Hoak, John McDiarmid, and Stephen Alford explore the thought and activities of Sir Thomas Smith, Sir William Cecil, and their fellow Cambridge humanists during the reign of Edward VI. As a minor, Edward clearly needed their advice. Knowing what had to be done to preserve the kingdom as they envisioned it, these men were prepared to rule in the absence of royal command and even a king or queen. Scott Lucas finds that A Mirror for Magistrates, first published in 1553 as part of a larger project to advise princes, counseled "magistrates to take upon themselves the task of preventing monarchical misrule" (96).
Each of the authors acknowledges that for monarchical government to be more than humanist theory, it had to have acceptance at all levels. Markku Peltonen demonstrates that the citizenry had to be educated in citizenship, which embodied a call to civic action for magistrates and obedience for the rest. Andrew Cust shows how one such magistrate, Sir John Newdigate, embraced the Ciceronian principle of service. Andrew Hadfield's examination of Shakespeare's plays Richard III and Henry V argues that they need to be read in the context of late Elizabethan political culture, concluding that Shakespeare constantly reminded his audience of the example of Julius Caesar and warned of the calamity that had risen previously when the monarchy had not exercised its rightful authority and thereby permitted the ruling class to behave irresponsibly.
Finally, Peter Lake and Johann Sommerville advise caution in applying Collinson's limited thesis too broadly. Sommerville puts Collinson's key concept into its wider historiographical context. He concludes that while the central monarchy was bolstered by a large amount of local autonomy in day-to-day administration, this was owing to necessity and a common law tradition, and not to the absorption of the Roman republicanism of the humanists. Lake reminds us that the predominant view of those...