HISTORICAL INFLUENCES

When the seventeenth century dawned, the days of Medioeval England were past, and there was a new awakening in the country. Elizabeth, whose active life in which she spent so much of her time in her progresses throughout her dominions, had passed away, and thus the Tudor monarchs who were in evidence during the later part of Medievalism, and especially during that period after the influence of strong ecclesiastical power had been broken, made way for the Stuarts. James VI of Scotland had acceded to the English Throne, and a new era had begun. For the first quarter of tho century James I of England and his courtiers constituted the dominating influence, a new one in that the Scotch court had been transferred to England, and it had brought with it ideas, habits and customs which were unfamiliar-we can well understand that these events wrought changes in social life and in household appointments. The Reformation, at an earlier date, had caused changes in church usage and consequently in the vessels employed in the celebration of sacred rites, and in the altar plate of the churches. But ecclesiastical plate is more fully dealt with in another chapter. The country had gradually settled down and accepted customs and habits which were at variance with those prevailing in England when the church was under the rule of the cardinals of the Church of Rome, for the clergy of the Reformed Church influenced the people in their homes perhaps as much as in church worship and service. These changes affected new silver and caused some of the existing vessels to be put away, but much of the silver plate remaining in the houses of the wealthy was the same as that used at an earlier period ; in time the ornamentation and symbols which once meant much were disregarded and vessels which at first were banished from the table because of their popish emblems and former uses were brought out again, thus in course of time they were used along with newer plate of later dates, made according to altered ideas of form and decoration-the household

DOMESTIC SILVER-SEVENTEENTH CENTURY 87 plate of the seventeenth century was varied, it was a mixture of the old and the new. That was the position when towards the middle of the century the country tired of the Stuarts, and the friction between the King and the Parliament caused the Civil War, resulting in the dethronement and subsequent execution of Charles I, and the establishment of the Common-wealth of England. The changes in the Government of European countries brought about by the Great War of 1914-1919 give us some idea of what the consequences of the Civil War in England must have been in the seventeenth century, and of the revulsion of feeling which in a comparatively short time caused the return to monarchial rule ; but time alone can show us to what extent these recent changes in governments and states affect commerce, art and style, through their monarchial or republican influence upon trade and the objects of utility in the decoration of which art plays a part. The main point to remember when viewing these things from an historical viewpoint is that in the seventeenth century, especially during monarchial rule, the court and its supporters had greater influence upon production than now, for the wealthy patrons of art and those who influenced social customs were few outside court circles-the middle classes were then only in the making. Undoubtedly one of the most interesting developments of the commerce of this country at the period under review was the changes which passed over the merchants who became a new power in the country during the Common-wealth, and more so at the close of the century. In Mediaeval days there was a vast gap between the wealthy nobles and the common people-that gap was soon to be bridged over. The flight of James II and the accession of William III and Mary had an immense influence upon all kinds of household goods. The Dutch had long been famous for their trade and commerce and for their importation of foreign merchandise which they brought over to Europe in their ships. Again new ideas circulated freely, and the events of the closing years of the century brought many new customs into common use, all of them requiring the assistance of the artist, the potter and the silversmith. In furniture, metal work, and all kinds of household appointments Dutch influence was seen. There were great strides in commerce, and ere the century closed it may be said British craftsmen had become more self reliant and plied their crafts with freedom under their guilds. They were in a position to guide the public demand for silver as other goods rather than to be ruled and swayed by the whims of patrons and foreign artists. The influence of historic events had been felt, and as a result the manufacturers of England, then a powerful body, had benefitted by the varied ideas which had been suggested to them-the silversmith had almost if not quite evolved a national style to be brought to a head in the days of Queen Anne.