July 6, 2012 / 5:40 PM / 6 years ago

Cromwellian England's puritanical edicts up for sale

LONDON (Reuters) - Cancelling Christmas and banning plays were just two of the edicts imposed on 17th century England by parliamentarians who overthrew Charles I, as documented in a series of broadsheets dubbed the “Anti-Fun Charter” to be auctioned by Sotheby‘s.

The handwritten acts and ordinances provide a glimpse of life in a kingdom racked with tensions between King Charles I’s Royalists and Oliver Cromwell’s Parliamentarians who dragged the nation into a civil war, shocked Europe with the beheading of a ruling monarch and created a brief republic.

The “distracted estate of England, threatened with a cloud of blood” meant that “spectacles of pleasure” such as theatre and sport were no longer appropriate, according to one document dated September 2, 1642 at the beginning of the civil war.

As a result, Puritans in the same year shut down the Globe Theatre that had been made famous by William Shakespeare just three decades earlier.

To return the nation to “times of joy”, parliament recommended “sad and pious solemnity” in the form of prayer, fasting and repentance.

One of the broadsheets written after Charles I’s defeat, execution and the creation of a Commonwealth of England, which would have been nailed to trees across the country to notify the public of its contents, even instructs people to ignore Christmas Day.

Markets should remain open on December 25, 1652, the note instructs, and churches should pretend it was a day like any other.

The ordinances give a flavor of the puritanical nature of Cromwellian England, where make-up was scrubbed off women’s faces and swearing was punishable by a fine.

“Living fragments, they cut right to the most defining moments of Civil War and Commonwealth history,” said Gabriel Heaton, deputy director of auction house Sotheby‘s.

Another document, issued less than two months after the execution of Charles in January 1649, explained that the office of king had been abolished because it was “unnecessary, burdensome, and dangerous to the liberty, safety, and public interest of the people”.

It was this act that made Britain a republic for just over a decade.

The documents, divided into six lots, are valued at anywhere between 2,000 and 5,000 pounds ($3,100-7,800) per lot. They will be auctioned July 10 at Sotheby’s London.

Reporting By Venetia Rainey

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