At the gate of the Royal Exchange of Wednesday, 29 December 1675, passers-by would have noticed a flurry of activity. Messengers of the King's printers were fixing a Royal Proclamation to the pillars, its importance proclaimed by its ominous black letter typeface and royal coat of arms. Intrigued onlookers read, under the signature 'Charles R.', 'A Proclamation for the Suppression of Coffee Houses'.1 'The Multitude of Coffee-houses of late years set up within this Kingdom', it declared, were the 'the great resort of Idle and disaffected persons' and as such have 'produced very evil and dangerous effects'. In such places, the proclamation rumbled, tradesmen wasted valuable time when they should be employed about their 'Lawful Calling and Affairs'. More seriously, at their coffee-house meetings, 'divers False, Malitious and Scandalous Reports are devised and spread abroad, to the Defamation of his Majesties Government, and to the Disturbance of the Peace and Quiet of the Realm'. As a result, the King declaimed, it was thought 'fit and necessary, That the said Coffee-houses be (for the future) Put Down and Suppressed'. All coffee-house keepers were commanded o desist from retailing their 'coffee, chocolate, sherbet and tea' from 10 January 1676, only twelve days away. To the coffee-house keepers this was an unmitigated disaster, the ruination of their business. To the people of London too this was a calamity: a challenge to their liberty of assembly and free speech.