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Whatever happened to the Heroes?: Algernon Sidney

December 8, 2014


 Nice little seventeenth-century miniature, I think.  There’s something more personal, intimate, revealing and expressive about the miniature in the seventeenth century,qualities which most full length portraits seem to miss.  Today is the anniversary of this man’s judicial murder.
Algernon Sidney (1623-1683) was regarded as one of England (and later Britain’s) greatest heroes for nearly two centuries. An unapologetic republican (who famously declared that “… as death is the greatest evil that can befall a person, monarchy is the worst evil that can befall a nation”), he opposed both the Stuarts and Cromwell’s personal rule. From the late seventeenth century to the late nineteenth century, his name was quoted as a by-word for principled patriotic liberalism. Whenever successive monarchs, from James II to Victoria, sought to enlarge the scope of royal patronage and prerogative, Sidney’s name would be invoked in defense of people and parliament.

When, a century after his death…

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