Kemerton Lectures

The lectures usually consist of two series of illustrated talks on a theme, one in autumn and another in spring. Join the friendly group for one occasion or a whole term and enjoy a stimulating evening: no homework required!  Topics covered in the past have ranged from gardens to canals, Tudor portraiture, the rise of Gothic architectural style, or life and landscape in Anglo-Saxon England.

Thursdays, 7.30 – 9.30 pm, Victoria Hall, Kemerton
£5 per lecture (reductions for whole term).  Visitors welcome.

Contact: Sue Bennett, 01386 725245, or email

Spring 2020

23 Jan – 26 Mar (10 lectures)

Dr Gillian White, historian and art historian

The Lion and the Unicorn: the Stuart Monarchs 1603 -1660

An examination of character and constitution, by a speaker who always widens our horizons and engages our interest.

In the early hours of 24 March 1603, Queen Elizabeth I, Gloriana, died at Richmond Palace. Within hours a messenger was carrying the news north to Elizabeth’s godson in Edinburgh. And, on the third day, King James VI of Scotland was told of his accession to the throne of England – an event carefully contrived by the king and by Elizabeth’s ministers. In less than a fortnight the impatient monarch set forth to claim his new throne and to proclaim himself as ‘King of Great Brittaine’. Although this was not a formal union of the kingdoms, the crowns of Scotland and England were united in one monarch and, as symbol of this change, the royal arms were changed: the Tudor dragon that had stood alongside the lion of England was replaced by the unicorn of the Stuart dynasty. This is the story of the Stuart kings of England up to 1660.

23 January: James VI of Scotland

In this sesson we’ll look at the life and reign of James before he became King of England. The son of a murdered father and an exiled mother who was later executed in England, James’s childhood was difficult but he survived to become a capable and intelligent king who brought some peace to an unsettled country and secured a greater prize.

30 January: The Transition of Power

This week we’ll consider James’s apparently smooth accession to the English throne and think about the politics of transition. But there are also plots for us to look at, including the most famous one of all, the Gunpowder Plot of 1605.

6 February: James I of England

Now we can look at the rest of James’s rule in England. He saw himself as a conciliator who would bring peace in Europe and open England up to European contacts, so we must think about his success in that field and also explore the circumstances that brought The Authorized Bible into existence.

13 February: The Family of James VI and I

In this session we will learn something of Henry, Prince of Wales, the gilded youth moulded by his father to be the essence of majesty and the true heir of King Arthur. We’ll also consider the story of his lively and intelligent sister, Princess Elizabeth, the Winter Queen, through whose descendents the Hanoverians later claimed the throne. We must also learn more of their mother, Anne of Denmark, and her character, role and interests.

20 February: Baby Charles - The Making of a King

Attention now turns to the remaining sibling, Prince Charles. This week we will look at his story through childhood and early manhood, into his accession to the throne in 1625. Who and what shaped him politically, intellectually and emotionally?

27 February: The Art of Kingship

However else Charles I might be judged, he was undoubtedly one of the great royal collectors of art. In this session we will look at the culture of collecting in early seventeenth-century England and at Charles’s own collection and how it was amassed. We will also look in detail at some of the images of the king, his family and his courtiers created by the Flemish painter Sir Anthony van Dyck.

5 March: The Reign of Charles I

Politics must now come to the fore as we look at the events of Charles’s reign. Was it an inevitable slide towards civil war as divine right, tyranny, religion and international policy clashed?

12 March: The Wars of the Three Kingdoms

This is not a course driven by the rush towards civil war and I did not want to focus on this episode in minute detail, so just one week is devoted to the events of the war. Rather than thinking of hostilities as the English Civil War, we will see how events in England, Scotland and Ireland came together to undermine royal power and bring about a revolution.

Lectures on 19th & 26th March cancelled following government advice on coronavirus.

19 March: The Trial and Execution of Charles I

Now the pace does slow down in order to consider the last years of King Charles in detail, as we look at his attempts to retain power, his trial itself and his execution in January 1649, as well as the aftermath of regicide.

26 March: The King in Exile

Some attention must obviously be given to the new governing regime, its leaders and its actions, but the focus will move back to the royal survivors, to the fortunes of the new king in waiting, Charles II, as he escaped and went into exile, and to the stories of his siblings and their mother, Henrietta-Maria. Our story will end as a Stuart monarch reclaims his throne.