A Day in The Life of Mortimer Ingles
The Turbulent 17th Century
It is morning and I, Mortimer Ingles, have just awakened to the sound of the cock’s crow and am relaxing out on the veranda on this beautiful spring morning. I can hear my servant, Joshua, rousing the workers to begin their day in the fields and I can smell the newly planted hay that is just emerging from the frosty earth. It is a pleasant earthy, clean, smell not unlike that which assails the nostrils just after a summer rain. I am a wealthy 4th generation landowner who resides just outside London. The era in which I live is the turbulent 17th century England. It is an era in which King Charles and his lady Henrietta Maria rule. I also have a loving wife of 34 years, six adorable children, a very sizable flock of sheep, two Great Danes, two large stables that house the finest riding horses in the country, and many servants. My father was born here, and so was his father before him...I am a wealthy Protestant, as they were also.
My ample home is nestled between magnificent Oak, Maple, and Chess nut trees; many of which are situated along the long narrow winding driveway that encircles the huge green lawn in front of my estate. The water that flows from the river out back is also the sweetest that God ever intended, and many a wayfarer has stopped by to partake of its sweet nectar. I am also a traditional country gentleman who enjoys fine wine, good company, well prepared food, and my door is always open to those who are in need. I, like many of my fellow brethren, believe that blood alone does not determine social order and enjoy conversing with my friends, businessmen, and other acquaintances in an atmosphere of knowledge, beauty, humanitarianism, and respect for everyone. However, in these troubling times I often find it hard to trust everyone who enters my domain. I fear there are spies everywhere.
Our good Queen Elizabeth perished just a few short years ago, and although she was quite flirtatious and had many suitors, she married none, leaving nary an heir to take her seat upon the throne. In her place sat the tyrannical King James of Scotland. Yes, this was the very same King James who regarded himself as the “instrument through which God is promoting union” between our blessed England and the less favored Scotland. I myself am able to recall his boasting that “What God hath conjoined let no man separate. I am the husband. All the whole realm is my lawful wife." "With thoughts like that, no wonder our nation is in such an uproar!” I speculated. However I wished him no such ill will as did those cowardly gents who attempted to blow up Parliament and in the process kill many good and noble Englishmen in what has come to be known as the “Gunpowder Plot” of 1605. However, this sort of information worried me to no end. Had these radicals succeeded with their plan I do believe they would have wiped out our entire ruling class with a single blow and left our dear England vulnerable to invasion by a “foreign Catholic power." Because of this act I fear the King also hired spies to seek out those who would oppose him, and now upon his death a new King has arisen. He is King Charles І, another tyrannical ruler. I have read that he even had the audacity to dissolve our dear Parliament three times because of their refusal to obey his orders.
Now it is just past noon and I have just partaken of a lovely meal of biscuits smothered with fresh country butter and strawberry jam, along with ham covered in a sweet savory sauce. I am sitting here on my lovely veranda drinking this delicious tea my sweet wife has brewed for me and holding the new King James version of the Bible---the very one that our illustrious King James had made into our new "English Scripture”---in my hand. As I turn its pages I begin to contemplate on my own life.
Lately I have begun to believe that life, except for the constant mistrust of our King and our Catholic neighbors, has really not been so bad for those of us who are amply endowed with such creature comforts as family, land, nice homes, and money. However, as I sit here watching my children playing with their friends on the front lawn and reading my Bible I wonder how long this peace will last as I believe we are heading toward a civil war. This is because Parliament seems to be losing control and the division of church and state is widening. This is also because the age old questions of “who is really in control (Parliament or the King), what kind of church government is laid down in scripture, and what the relation between church and state really is” have yet to be answered satisfactorily. Thus I worry about the future of mankind and wonder if this world will endure.
We of the more robust society have also become a nation of consumers of “vain trifles, fantasies, new fangles, and trumpery trash." Aw, this does trouble me so. But who can blame us for our frivolous spending when our own great lord’s desire for fanciful trinkets brought upon us gluttony such as never before and has brought about our downfall because of a debt so high that it can never be repaid.
However there is one compensation for our greediness, and that is; because of our increased spending habits our industries are growing faster than ever before, we are trading more effectively with other nations such as the Americas, books are becoming more readily available to the poorer classes, and more work is available to those who are starving. Yes times are changing, perhaps too fast, as just the other day I heard that a man named Galileo suggested that the earth does not stand still, as we have always presumed, but revolves around the sun. I can just imagine my good friend John Donne responding in verse to this assumption during one of our meetings:
“And new philosophy calls all in doubt:
The element of fire is quite put out;
The sun is lost, and the earth, and no man’s wit
Can well direct him where to look for it."
Now, as the sky is beginning to darken, I believe I will retire into the library. Perhaps I will read awhile before our dinner guests arrive. I have a rather large library filled with books by authors such as Donne, Shakespeare, Jonson, Herrick, the newly discovered Lanyer, and many others. This room is a quiet place and is my private study. However, it is also where I entertain my most important and influential guests such as those who will be arriving later this evening. Tonight we will be discussing our nation’s future and that of our new King Charles І.
Suddenly my thoughts are interrupted as my butler, James, knocks on the door and whispers “Sir, there are men outside who urgently wish to speak to you.” “Well show these fine gentlemen in, as I have been expecting them. After doing so, please poor us some of that delicious wine I have been saving for the occasion. Then you must leave and never whisper a word of anything you might happen to overhear” I answered. “But sir, I do not believe these are the same men you are expecting, and they are demanding that you step outside.” “Oh very well” I replied.
There are three armed guards and a whole regiment of soldiers waiting just outside my front door. They have come to arrest me for treason against the new King. I will undoubtedly be imprisoned, tried, and convicted of plotting to commit murder. Then, after a few months I will be beheaded. It seems there is a traitor amidst our little group, a spy if you will. Who will speak for me now? Who will take care of my family after I am gone? Will my door now remain closed to all those poor brethren who knock seeking food and shelter? To these questions I have no answer.
Bevan, B. (1996). King James and the union. Contemporary Review, 268(1561), 95
Donne, J. (n.d.). In S. Greenblatt & M .H. Abrams (Eds) (2006). The Norton anthology ofEnglish literature: The major authors (8th ed., Volume A of the two-volume edition). (p. 583). New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company
Greenblatt, S., & Abrams, M. H. (Eds) (2006). The Norton anthology of English literature: The major authors (8th ed., Volume A of the two-volume edition). (pp. 573-599). New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company
Thomas, K. (2009). To buy or not to buy. History today, 59(2), 12-19