Saturday, 4 September 2010

4 September 1666 - If the wind died down and the fire went out.

Fire had raged within London's Roman Wall for three days by then and the firestorm was sweeping through the slums. Even the historic Royal Palace of Castle Bayard had gone up in flames, but by the grace of God, James, Duke of York and his brave firefighters were finally able to bring the fire under control and save St Paul's Cathedral and the treasures that had been buried there. By eveningtide, the fire was out save for a few scattered hot spots that James and his men fought long and hard to keep small.

By the next morning, London breathed a sigh of relief as its denizens realised how much worse the Great Fire could have been. Suppose it had crossed the Fleet River or the firebreaks at Cheapside? Or what if it had reached St Paul's Cathedral. A stone building certainly, but, covered as it was in Sir Christopher Wren's scaffolding, no doubt it would have burned to the ground and with it the treasures of London Town, irreplaceable books and papers, and then no doubt the lead roof itself. But James, Duke of York was more than equal to the task and from that moment, was viewed with affection by most of London.

Without the affection in which London held James, one wonders how he could have survived the exclusion crisis of 1677 or the Monmouth Rebellion. Perhaps he would have been deposed and a protestant dynasty might have taken the place of the Stuarts. We might have had a Dutch or German king in place of our beloved King Francis.

1 comment:

  1. Of course, even if the Stuart succession had been maintained, it seems unlikely that Franz von Wittelsbach (the current Jacobite Pretender) would be king of England. The last Stuart "King", Hanry Benedict Stuart, who would have been Henry IX of England, was a Catholic Priest and a Cardinal. It is likely that he would have to repudiate his vow as a Priest or alternatively abdicate the throne of England.

    If this was the case, either the Stuart dynasty would have continued for a generation or two after Henry's death in 1807, or England would have chosen a new monarch in 1788. At that point, no doubt they would insist on a Protestant King but given that our world's George III was considered mad at that time, it would probably not have been him. The only other available scion of the line of Sophie of the Palatine would be Frederick William II of Prussia... which could have been interesting.