Kent and its gentry 1640-60 : a political study
This is a study of the politics of a county community
during the Civil Wars and Interregnum. The leaders of Kent, the
gentry, were not newcomers, as might be supposed, but descendants
of families indigenous to the county — conscious of its history,
rooted in their lands, and insular and anglican in outlook.
Their opposition to Charles I in 1640 was therefore
moderate. When, in 1642, parliament attacked the church and
opposed the king by farce, they withdrew their support. A military
expedition from London secured control of the county, however, and
during the next few years a number of then, anxious to preserve order,
supported the county committee set up by parliament. But the
tendency of the Houses to extremes, and the ascendancy of Sir Anthony
Weldon and his uncompromising adherents in the committee, made their
position increasingly difficult. By 1648 their alienation was complete
and they led the county in revolt.
The parliamentarian government was re—established only by
the military arm of Fairfax. The greater gentry remained aloof during
the Interregnum, and their place was taken by the minor gentry.
But the latter were unable to control the county, and the moderates,
though unwilling to oppose a government which promised security, and
unsympathetic towards the cavaliers, were antagonised by the tendency
to centralisation. The liberties of their county and church
and the stability of an agrarian economy were undermined. In
1660 they voted for the restoration, and in restoring the king
they regained their own position as county leaders.