Why the 17th Century?
Let me answer that with another question - 'Why not?'
Its as good as any other period to be interested in. And this hundred years of history really does have everything - colourful characters, tragic bloody wars, radical thinking, flourishing arts and culture - and gorgeous clothes.
The 1600s are a bit like the Tudor era's mousy younger sister - overshadowed by her glamorous, more extrovert older sibling. But if you take the effort to get to know her you'll see there's demure beauty, there's wit and humour, passion and just a little bit of a temper.
Lucy Hay, Countess of Carlisle
Anthony van Dyke (1637)
Lucy was one of the more colourful characters from the 17th Century.
She was acknowledged as the most beautiful woman at the English royal court, and was best friends with Queen Henrietta Maria. She acted as a double agent for both Parliamentarians and Royalists during the Civil Wars and was imprisoned in the Tower of London during the 1650s.
The Countess is rumoured to be the inspiration for Dumas' character of Milady de Winter in the novel ' The Three Musketeers'.
So what happened during the 17th Century?
Below is a brief list of the century's high lights and low points. As I'm British I've chosen mainly European events with a particular bias towards the British Isles.
- Dutch East India Company established (1602)
- Gun Powder Plot foiled (1605)
- Founding of Jamestown, first permanent English settlement in America (1607)
- First use of an optical telescope (1608)
- King Henry IV of France assassinated (1610)
- King James Bible published (1611)
- Pendle Witch Trials (1612)
- Outbreak of the Thirty Wars War (1618 - 1648)
- Foundation of New Amsterdam - later New York (1625)
- William Harvey discovers the circulation of blood (1628)
- Painter Anthony van Dyke settles in England and is knighted by King Charles I (1632)
- Foundation of Harvard University (1636)
- Tulip Fever in Holland (1636 - 1637)
- Ceiling paintings by Rubens installed at Whitehall Banqueting House (1638)
- Bishops Wars fought between England and Scotland (1639 and 1640)
- Catholic rebellion in Ireland (1641)
- Rembrandt paints the Night Watch (1642)
- Wars of the the Three Kingdoms (English Civil Wars) begin (1642 - 1649)
- King Louis XIV of France is crowned (1643)
- Invention of the mercury barometer (1643)
- Matthew Hopkins hunts witches in East Anglia (1646 - 1647)
- Trial and execution of King Charles I (1649)
- Exiled King Charles II restored to the English throne (1660)
- Samuel Pepys starts his diary (1660)
- First actress appears on the English stage (1660)
- Vermeer paints Girl with a Pearl Earring (1665)
- First scientific journal published by the Royal Society (1665)
- Robert Hook discovers the cell (1665)
- Great Plague in England (1665)
- Great Fire of London (1666)
- Isaac Newton discovers light is made up of different coloured rays (1672)
- Greenwich Observatory founded (1675)
- First measurement of the speed of light (1676)
- Hall of Mirrors completed at the Palace of Versailles (1684)
- Isaac Newton describes the force of gravity and the laws of motion (1687)
- Salem witch trials (1692)
- Bank of England established (1694)
Have I convinced you yet? Surely there's something there for everyone - and let's not forget all the lovely clothes!