CAVALIER: PROPAGANDA STEREOTYPES IN SEVENTEENTH-CENTURY ENGLAND

STEPHEN JOEL GREENBERG, Fordham University

Abstract

The propaganda image of the Cavalier during the English Civil War has become an enduring part of both the popular image of the period, as well as of the historian's picture of Caroline England. Moreover, the image itself is not a simple one, for there are in reality two Cavaliers: the malignant, debauched rake of Puritan pamphleteers, and the noble "child of honor" of Royalist hagiography. It is the purpose of this essay to explore the truth behind both of these stereotypes, and to examine the growth and development of the double Cavalier image during the Civil War, Interregnum, and Restoration.^ It is first suggested that the image of the Cavalier had its origin in the Tudor and Jacobean courts, with their particular receptiveness to three influences: a neo-chivalric revival, the new humanist learning, and Italian concept of the perfect courtier. The three influences combine to form a prototypical Cavalier in the late Elizabethan and Jacobean courts, as evidenced by the careers of the great Tudor and Stuart courtiers: Sir Philip Sidney, Essex, and of course, Buckingham. This suggestion is pursued through an examination of the manuals of proper behavior so popular at the time (Castiglione, Elyot, etc.) as well as by examining the careers of specific courtiers.^ But the main emphasis of the essay is upon the development of the Cavalier stereotype proper under the pressures of eventual Civil War, by an examination of the plentiful political pamphlets that became part of the English scene at this time. Through the pamphlets it is possible to trace the development of the Cavalier in both his positive and negative versions, through political satire, religious and theological tracts, and tales of alleged Cavalier atrocities. The thousands of pamphlets collected by George Thomason, and the even greater number catalogued by Donald Wing and his successors, offer a unique view of how the picture of the Cavalier was presented to the public during the period 1640-1660. In fact, it is possible to see the effects of the Cavalier stereotype upon the English political scene up to the eve of 1688.^ In closing, the essay suggests that the common thread among the two incarnations of the Cavalier comes from the devotion of actual men to abstract notions of honor. This devotion was viewed as laudable if somewhat anachronistic by the Royalists, and as downright malignant by the Parliamentarians. It is, however, the factor that created the aura of romance that still permeates the image of the Cavalier today. ^

Subject Area

History, Modern

Recommended Citation

STEPHEN JOEL GREENBERG, "CAVALIER: PROPAGANDA STEREOTYPES IN SEVENTEENTH-CENTURY ENGLAND" (January 1, 1983). ETD Collection for Fordham University. Paper AAI8323527.
http://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI8323527

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