In my last blog post I mentioned that in the run up to the upcoming general election I shall be looking at some of Coventry’s political history. As yesterday was bonfire night – commemorating the prevention of the blowing up of parliament it is worth reflecting on local links to the event.
The plot involved not only blowing up parliament (together with King James and his first-in- line heir) but also to kidnap the King’s young daughter Princess Elizabeth from Coombe Abbey where she was living under the guardianship of the protestant Harrington family. Elizabeth had been moved to Coombe as protection against such plots and to be brought up in the protestant religion (Lord Harrington was MP for Warwickshire and enthusiastically protestant). The plotters had intended to re-educate Elizabeth in the ways of Catholicism and place her on the throne under their influence.
Word of the plot reached Coombe and Elizabeth was secretly moved to a safe location in the centre of Coventry. She would go on to be a famed proponent of Protestantism as the “Winter Queen” of Bohemia and to have further links with Coombe later in life. This and other fascinating stories can be found in Derek Winterbottom’s book “Coombe Abbey – A History through Ten Centuries” available at the visitor centre at Coombe and in the hotel lobby there.
The ninth of November is also a memorable day politically – the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, I can remember it vividly as it came just three days after the loss of my mother and I was spending some time with my dad. As we were watching the news we talked about some of the possible outcomes and he raised the concern that it could eventually lead to an upsurge in nationalism. It is worth reflecting on this thirty years on as the council of Coventry’s twin city Dresden has announced that it is experiencing a “Nazi Emergency”. The BBC reports that in Saxony “In state elections in September, support for the AfD surged up 17.8% from 2014 to finish on 27.5%.” To many of us it would seem unbelievable that a party that is considered by mainstream civic society as “nazi” can get such a foothold in one of Europe’s most advanced economies (albeit one with inequalities across the regions).
Thoughts of Dresden being twinned with Coventry and events currently playing out there naturally lead to reflections on the blitzing of the two cities and the history which led up to that.
This weekend’s remembrance services will give an opportunity to remember those lost in conflict. Locally we will see the remembrance service in our Memorial Park – now widely recognised as a valuable local asset. Following the end of WW1 there was much discussion (and some discontent) over how the city’s fallen should be remembered. Many favoured a significant increase in affordable, well built housing stock (with streets being named after those lost on the fronts) ahead of a memorial park. There will be more of this to come as I’ll be continuing to look at Coventry’s political history.......