‘The Extraordinary Case of the Flesh-Eating and Blood-Drinking Cavaliers’
KeywordsV142 Modern History 1600-1699
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AbstractIn May 1650, five royalists at an alehouse in Milton, Berkshire were reported to have tried to drink a health to the exiled Charles II in blood, to which end they ‘unanimously agreed to cut a peece of their Buttocks, and fry their flesh that was cut off on a grid-iron’. This article examines the cultural contexts in which this remarkable episode took place, and from which contemporary behaviours and their meanings were inevitably constructed, are explored. It demonstrates how such events, rather than simply appealing to our taste for the bizarre and spectacular, can illuminate the everyday experiences of royalists in interregnum England. McShane’s article analyses a broad range of perspectives from which contemporary readers of opposing political and religious stances might have received this published report, elicited from the discourses and milieu of interregnum England. McShane argues that these drunken antics could be understood in the period as an attempt to enact a secular sacrament, expressing and strengthening a loving bond with the absent King, and as a means of healing and strengthening the blood of the dismembered ‘body politic’, reflecting, more broadly, a politicisation of drinking. Building on earlier work about political ballads and drinking, McShane’s research was supported by an ESRC-funded network grant, Intoxication in Historical and Cultural Perspective, held jointly with Professor Phil Withington (2008–10). The article appears in a volume of essays co-edited by McShane and Dr Garthine Walker exploring the relationship between the extraordinary and the everyday with the aim of providing greater understanding of, and new insights into, the mental and material worlds of 16th- and 17th-century England. In his review of the book on history.ac.uk (Institute of Historical Research, 2011), Professor Malcolm Gaskill affirms that the author’s approach ‘speak[s] to big questions of consciousness, belief and agency’.
McShane, Angela <http://researchonline.rca.ac.uk/view/creators/McShane=3AAngela=3A=3A.html>, 2010, Book Section, ‘The Extraordinary Case of the Flesh-Eating and Blood-Drinking Cavaliers’ In: The Extraordinary in Everyday Life in Early Modern England: A Celebration of the work of Bernard Capp. Palgrave, London. ISBN 9780230537248