There was a great thanksgiving all over the country, and it became the custom that, on the 5th of November—the day when the gunpowder plot was to have taken effect—there should be bonfires and fireworks, and Guy Fawkes' figure burnt, but people are getting wiser now, and think it better not to keep up the memory old crimes and hatreds.
Henry, Prince of Wales, was a fine lad, fond of all that was good, but a little too apt to talk of wars, and of being like Henry V. He was very fond of ships and sailors, and delighted in watching the building of a grand vessel that was to take his sister Elizabeth across the sea, when she was to marry the Count Palatine of the Rhine. Before the wedding, however, Prince Henry fell suddenly ill and died.
King James was a fond of favorites as ever Elizabeth had been, though not of the same persons. One of the worst things he ever did was the keeping Sir Walter Raleigh in the Tower for many years, and a last cutting off his head. It was asserted that Sir Walter had tried, when first James came, to set up a lady named Arabella Stuart to be queen; but if he was to be punished for that, it ought to have been directly, instead of keeping the sentence hanging over his head for years. The truth was that Sir Walter had been a great enemy to the Spaniards, and James wanted to please them, for he wished his son Charles to marry the daughter of the King of Spain. Charles wanted to see her first, and set off for Spain, in disguise, with the Duke of Buckingham, who was his friend, and his father's greatest favorite. But when reached he Madrid, he found that the princesses were not allowed to speak to any gentleman, nor to show their faces; and though he climbed over a wall to speak to her when she was walking in the garden, an attendant begged him to go away, or all her train would be punished. Charles went back disappointed, and, on his way through Paris, saw Henrietta Maria, the bright-eyed sister of the King of France, and set his heart on marrying her.
Before this was settled, however, King James was seized with an ague and died, in the year 1625. He was the first king of the family of Stuart, and a very strange person he was—wonderfully learned and exceedingly conceited; indeed, he like nothing better than to be called the English Solomon. The worst of him was that, like Elizabeth, he thought kings and rulers might tell falsehoods and deceive. He called this kingcraft, and took this very bad sort of cunning for wisdom.
CHARLES I. A.D. 1625—1649.
So many of the great nobles had been killed in the Wars of the Roses, that the barons had lost all that great strength and power they had gained when they made King John sign Magna Carta. The kings got the power instead; and all through the reigns of the five Tudors, the sovereign had very little to hinder him from doing exactly as he pleased. But, in the meantime, the country squires and the great merchants who sat in the House of Commons had been getting richer and stronger, and read and thought more. As long as Queen Elizabeth lived they were contented, for they loved her and were proud of her, and she knew how to manage them. She scolded them sometimes, but when she saw that she was really vexing them she always changed, and she had smiles and good words for them, so that she could really do what she pleased with them.
But James I. was a disagreeable man to have to do with; and, instead of trying to please them, he talked a great deal about his own power as king, and how they ought to obey him; so that they were angered, and began to read the laws, and wonder how much power properly belonged to him. Now, when he died, his son Charles was a much pleasanter person; he was a gentleman in all his looks and ways, and had none of his father's awkward, ungainly tricks and habits. He was good and earnest, too, and there was nothing to take offence at in himself; so for some years all went on quietly, and there seemed to be a great improvement. But several things were against him. His friend, the Duke of Buckingham, was a proud, selfish man, who affronted almost everyone, and made a bad use of the king's favor; and the people were also vexed that the king should marry a Roman Catholic princess, Henrietta Maria, who would not go to church with him, nor even let herself be crowned by an English archbishop.
You heard that, in Queen Elizabeth's time, there were Puritans who would have liked to have the Prayer-book much more altered, and who fancied that every pious rule of old times must be wrong. They did not like the cross in baptism, nor the ring in marriage; and they could not bear to see a clergyman in a surplice. In many churches they took their own way, and did just as they pleased. But under James and Charles matters changed. Dr. Laud, whom Charles had made archbishop of Canterbury, had all the churches visited, and insisted on the parishioners setting them in order; and if a clergyman would not wear a surplice, not make a cross on the baptized child's forehead, nor obey the other laws of the Prayer-book, he was punished.
The Puritans were greatly displeased. They fancied the king and Dr. Laud wanted to make them all Roman Catholics again; and a great many so hated these Church rules, that they took ship and went off to North America to found a colony, where they might set up their own religion as they liked it. Those who staid continued to murmur and struggle against Laud.
There was another great matter of displeasure, and that was the way in which the king raised money. The right way is that he should call his Parliament together, and the House of Commons should grant him what he wanted. But there were other means. One was that every place in England should be called on to pay so much for ship money. This had begun when King Alfred raised his fleet to keep off the Danes; but it had come not to be spent on ships at all, but only be money for the king to use. Another way that the kings had of getting money was from fines. People who committed some small offence, that did not come under the regular laws, were brought before the Council in a room at Westminster, that had a ceiling painted with stars—and so was called the Star Chamber—and there were sentenced, sometimes to pay heavy sums of money, sometimes to have their ears cut off. This Court of the Star Chamber had been begun in the days of Henry VII., and it is only a wonder that the English had borne it so long.
One thing Charles I. did that pleased his people, and that was sending help to the French Protestants, who were having their town of Rochelle besieged. But the English were not pleased that the command of the army was given to the duke of Buckingham, his proud, insolent favorite. but Buckingham never went. As he was going to embark at Portsmouth, he was stabbed to the heart by a man named Felton; nobody clearly knows why.
Charles did not get on much better even when Buckingham was dead. Whenever he called a Parliament, fault was always found with him and with the laws. Then he tried to do without a Parliament; and, as he, of course, needed money, the calls for ship money came oftener, and the fines in the Star Chamber became heavier, and more cases for them were hunted out. Then murmurs arose. Just then, too, he and Archbishop Laud were trying to make the Scots return to the Church, by giving them bishops and a Prayer-book. But the first time the Service was read in a church at Edinburgh, a fishwoman, named Jenny Geddes, jumped up in a rage and threw a three-legged stool at the clergyman's head. Some Scots fancied they were being brought back to Rome; others hated whatever was commanded in England. All these leagued together, and raised an army to resist the king; and he was obliged to call a Parliament once more, to get money enough to resist them.
THE LONG PARLIAMENT. A.D. 1641—1649.
When Charles I. was obliged to call his Parliament, the House of Commons met, angered at the length of time that had passed since they had been called, and determined to use their opportunity. They speedily put an end both to the payment of ship money and to the Court of the Star Chamber; and they threw into prison the two among the king's friends whom they most disliked, namely, Archbishop Laud and the Earl of Strafford. The earl had been governor of Ireland, and had kept great order there, but severely; and he thought that the king was the only person who ought to have any power, and was always advising the king to put down all resistance by the strong hand. He was thought a hard man, and very much hated; and when he was tried the Houses of Parliament gave sentence against him that he should be beheaded. Still, this could not be done without the king's warrant; and Charles at first stood out against giving up his faithful friend. But there was a great tumult, and the queen and her mother grew frightened, and entreated the king to save himself by giving up Lord Strafford, until at last he consented, and signed the paper ordering the execution. It was a sad act of weakness and cowardice, and he mourned over it all the days of his life.
The Parliament only asked more and more, and at last the king thought he must put a check on them. So he resolved to go down to the House and cause the five members who spoke against his power to be taken prisoners in his own presence. But he told his wife what he intended, and Henrietta Maria was so foolish as to tell Lady Carlisle, one of her ladies, and she sent warning to the five gentlemen, so that they were not in the House when Charles arrived; and the Londoners rose up in a great mob, and showed themselves so angry with him, that he took the queen and his children away into the country. The queen took her daughter Mary to Holland to marry the Prince of Orange; and there she bought muskets and gunpowder for her husband's army—for things had come to pass now that a civil war began. A civil war is the worst of all wars, for it is one between the people of the same country. England had had two civil wars before. There were the Barons' wars, between Henry III. and Simon de Montfort, about the keeping of Magna Carta; and there were the wars of the Roses, to settle whether York or Lancaster should reign. This war between Charles I. and the Parliament was to decide whether the king or the House of Commons should be most powerful. Those who held with the king called themselves Cavaliers, but the friends of the Parliament called them Malignants; and they in turn nicknamed the Parliamentary party Roundheads, because they often chose not to wear their hair in the prevailing fashion, long and flowing on their shoulders, but cut short round their heads. Most of the Roundheads were Puritans, and hated the Prayer-book, and all the strict rules for religious worship that Archbishop Laud had brought in; and the Cavaliers, on the other hand, held by the bishops and the Prayer-book. Some of the Cavaliers were very good men indeed, and led holy and Christian lives, like their master the king, but there were others who were only bold, dashing men, careless and full of mirth and mischief; and the Puritans were apt to think all amusements and pleasures wrong, so that they made out the Cavaliers worse than they really were.
I do not think you would understand about all the battles, so I shall only tell you now that the king's army was chiefly led by his nephew, Prince Rupert, the son of his sister Elizabeth. Rupert was a fiery, brave young man, who was apt to think a battle was won before it really was, and would ride after the people he had beaten himself without waiting to see whether his help was wanted by the other captains; and so he did his uncle's cause as much harm as good.
The king's party had been the most used to war, and they prospered the most at first; but as the soldiers of the Parliament became more trained, they gained the advantage. One of the members of Parliament, a gentleman named Oliver Cromwell, soon showed himself to be a much better captain than any one else in England, and from the time he came to the chief command the Parliament always had the victory. The places of the three chief battles were Edgehill, Marston Moor, and Naseby. The first was doubtful, but the other two were great victories of the Roundheads. Just after Marston Moor, the Parliament put to death Archbishop Laud; and, at the same time, they forbade the use of the Prayer-book, and turned out all the parish priests from the churches, putting in their stead men chosen after their own fashion, and not ordained by bishops. They likewise destroyed all they disliked in the churches—the painted glass, the organs, and the carvings; and when the Puritan soldiers took possession of a town or village, they would stable their horses in the churches, use the font for a trough, and shoot at the windows as marks.
After the battle of Naseby, King Charles was in such distress that he thought he would go to the Scots, remembering that, though he had offended them by trying to make them use the Prayer-book, he had been born among them, and he thought they would prefer him to the English. But when he came, the Scottish army treated him like a prisoner, and showed him very few honors; and at last they gave him up to the English Parliament for a great sum of money.
So Charles was a prisoner to his own subjects. This Parliament is called the Long Parliament, because it sat longer than any other Parliament ever did: indeed it had passed a resolution that it could not be dissolved.
DEATH OF CHARLES I. A.D. 1649—1651.
The Long Parliament did not wish to have no king, only to make him do what they pleased; and then went on trying whether he would come back to reign according to their notions. He would have given up a great deal, but when they wanted him to declare that there should be no bishops in England he would never consent, for he thought there could be no real Church without bishops, as our Lord himself had appointed.
At last, after there had been much debating, and it was plain that it would never come to an end, Oliver Cromwell sent some of his officers to take King Charles into their hands, instead of the persons appointed by Parliament. So the king was prisoner to the army instead of to the parliament.
Cromwell was a very able man, and he saw that nobody could settle the difficulties about the law and the rights of the people but himself. He saw that things never would be settled while the king lived, nor by the Parliament, so he sent one of his officers, named Pryde, to turnout all the members of Parliament who would not do his will, and then the fifty who were left appointed a court of officers and lawyers to try the king. Charles was brought before them; but, as they had no right to try him, he would not say a word in answer to them. Nevertheless, they sentenced him to have his head cut off. He had borne all his troubles in the most meek and patient way, forgiving all his enemies and praying for them: and he was ready to die in the same temper. His queen was in France, and all his children were safe out of England, except his daughter Elizabeth, who was twelve years old, and little Henry, who was five. They were brought to Whitehall Palace for him to see the night before he was to die. He took the little boy on his knee, and talked a long time to Elizabeth, telling her what books to read and giving her his message to her mother and brothers; and then he told little Henry to mark what he said, and to mind that he must never be set up as a king while his elder brothers, Charles and James were alive. The little boy said through his tears, "I will be torn to pieces first." His father kissed and blessed the two children, and left them.
The next day was the 30th of January, 1649. The king was allowed to have Bishop Juxon to read and pray with him, and to give him the holy communion. After that, forgiving his enemies and praying for them, he was led to the Banqueting House at Whitehall, and out through a window, on to the scaffold hung with black cloth. He said his last prayers, and the executioner cut off his head with one blow, and held it up to the people. He was buried at night,—a light snow falling at the time,—in St. George's Chapel at Windsor, by four faithful noblemen, but they were not allowed to use any service over his grave.
The Scots were so much shocked to find what their selling of their king had come to, that they invited his eldest son, Charles, a young man of nineteen, to come and reign over them, and offered to set him on the English throne again. Young Charles came; but they were so strict that they made his life very dull and weary, since they saw sin in every amusement. However, they kept their promise of marching into England, and some of the English cavaliers joined them; but Oliver Cromwell and his army met them at Worcester, and they were entirely beaten. Young King Charles had to go away with a few gentlemen, and he was so closely followed that they had to put him in charge of some woodmen named Penderel, who lived in Boscobel Forest. They dressed him in a rough leather suit like their own, and when the Roundhead soldiers came to search, he was hidden among the branches of an oak tree above their heads. Afterwards, a lady named Jane Lane helped him over another part of his journey, by letting him ride on horseback before her as her servant; but, when she stopped at an inn, he was very near being found out, because he did not know how to turn the spit in the kitchen when the cook asked him. However, he got safely to Brighton, which was only a little village then, and a boat took him to France, where his mother was living.
In the meantime, his young sister and brother, Elizabeth and Henry, had been sent to the Isle of Wight, to Carisbrook Castle. Elizabeth was pining away with sorrow, and before long she was found dead, with her cheek resting on her open Bible. After this, little Henry was sent to be with his mother in France.
The eldest daughter, Mary, had been married just as the war began to the Prince of Orange, who lived in Holland, and was left a widow with one little son. James, Duke of York, the second brother, had at first been in the keeping of a Parliamentary nobleman, with his brother and sister, in London; but, during a game of hide-and-seek, he crept out of the gardens and met some friends, who dressed him in girls' clothes and took him to a ship in the Thames, which carried him to Holland. Little Henrietta, the youngest, had been left, when only six weeks old, to the care of one of her mother's ladies. When she was nearly three, the lady did not think it safe to keep her any longer in England. So she stained her face and hands brown with walnut juice, to look like a gipsy, took the child upon her back, and trudged to the coast.
Little Henrietta could not speak plain, but she always called herself by a name she meant to be princess, and the lady was obliged to call her Piers, and pretend that she was a little boy, when the poor child grew angry at being treated so differently from usual, and did all she possibly could to make the strangers understand that she was no beggar boy. However, at last she was safe across the sea, and was with her mother at Paris, where the king of France, Queen Henrietta's nephew, was very kind to the poor exiles. The misfortune was, that the queen brought up little Henrietta as a Roman Catholic, and tried to make Henry one also; but he was old enough to be firm to his father's Church, and he went away to his sister in Holland. James, however did somewhat late become a Roman Catholic; and Charles would have been one, if he had cared enough about religion to do what would have lessened his chance of getting back to England as king. But these two brothers were learning no good at Paris, and were growing careless of the right and fond of pleasure. James and Henry, after a time, joined the French army, that they might learn the art of war. They were both very brave, but it was sad that when France and England went to war, they should be in the army of the enemies of their country.
OLIVER CROMWELL. A.D. 1649—1660.
Oliver Cromwell felt, as has been said, that there was no one who could set matters to rights as he could in England. He had shewn that the country could not do without him, if it was to go on without the old government. Not only had he conquered and slain Charles I., and beaten that king's friends and those of his son in Scotland, but he had put down a terrible rising of the Irish, and suppressed them with much more cruelty than he generally showed.
He found that the old Long Parliament did nothing but blunder and talk, so he marched into the House one day with a company of soldiers, and sternly ordered the members all off, calling out, as he pointed to the mace that lay before the Speaker's chair, "Take away that bauble." After that he called together a fresh Parliament; but there were very few members, and those only men who would do as he bade them. The Speaker was a leather-seller named Barebones, so that this is generally known as Barebones' Parliament. By these people he was named Lord Protector of England; and as his soldiers would still do anything for him, he reigned for five years, just as a king might have done, and a good king too.
He was by no means a cruel or unmerciful man, and he did not persecute the Cavaliers more than he could help, if he was to keep up his power; though, of course, they suffered a great deal, since they had fines laid upon them, and some forfeited their estates for having resisted the Parliament. Many had to live in Holland or France, because there was no safety for them in England, and their wives went backwards and forwards to their homes to collect their rents, and obtain something to live upon. The bishops and clergy had all been driven out, and in no church was it allowable to use the Prayer-book; so there used to be secret meetings in rooms, or vaults, or in woods, where the prayers could be used as of old, and the holy sacrament administered.
For five years Cromwell was Lord Protector, but in the year 1658 he died, advising that his son Richard should be chosen Protector in his stead. Richard Cromwell was a kind, amiable gentleman, but not clever or strong like his father, and he very soon found that to govern England was quite beyond his power; so he gave up, and went to live at his own home again, while the English people gave him the nick-name Tumble-down-Dick.
No one seemed well to know what was to be done next; but General Monk, who was now at the head of the army, thought the best thing possible would be to bring back the king. A new Parliament was elected, and sent an invitation to Charles II. to come back again and reign like his forefathers. He accepted it; the fleet was sent to fetch him, and on the 29th of May, 1660, he rode into London between his brothers, James and Henry. The streets were dressed with green boughs, the windows hung with tapestry, and everyone shewed such intense joy and delight, the king said he could not think why he should have stayed away so long, since everyone was so glad to see him back again.
But the joy of his return was clouded by the deaths of his sister Mary, the Princess of Orange, and of his brother Henry, who was only just twenty. Mary left a son, William, Prince of Orange, of whom you will hear more.
The bishops were restored, and, as there had been no archbishop since Laud had been beheaded, good Juxon, who had attended King Charles at his death, was made archbishop in his room. The persons who had been put into the parishes to act as clergymen, were obliged to give place to the real original parish priest; but if he were dead, as was often the case, they were told that they might stay, if they would be ordained by the bishops and obey the Prayer-book. Some did so, some made an arrangement for keeping the parsonages, and paying a curate to take the service in church; but those who were the most really in earnest gave up everything, and were turned out—but only as they had turned out the former clergymen ten or twelve years before.
All Oliver Cromwell's army was broken up, and the men sent to their homes, except one regiment which came from Coldstream in Scotland. These would not disband, and when Charles II. heard it he said he would take them as his guards. This was the beginning of there being always a regular army of men, whose whole business it is to be soldiers, instead of any man being called from his work when he is wanted.
Charles II. promised pardon to all the rebels, but he did try and execute all who had been actually concerned in condemning his father to death.
CHARLES II. A.D. 1660-1685.
It is sad to have to say that, after all his troubles, Charles II. disappointed everybody. Some of these disappointments could not be helped, but others were his own fault. The Puritan party thought, after they had brought him home again he should have been more favorable to them, and grumbled at the restoration of the clergymen and of the Prayer-book. The Cavaliers thought that, after all they had gone through for him and his father, he ought to have rewarded them more; but he said truly enough, that if he had made a nobleman of everyone who had deserved well of him, no place but Salisbury Plain would have been big enough for the House of Lords to meet upon. Then those gentlemen who had got into debt to raise soldiers for the king's service, and had paid fines, or had to sell their estates, felt it hard not to have them again; but when a Roundhead gentleman had honestly bought the property, it would have been still more unjust to turn them out. These two old names of Cavaliers and Roundheads began to turn into two others even more absurd. The Cavalier set came to be called Tories, an Irish name for a robber, and the Puritans got the Scotch name of Whigs, which means buttermilk.
It would have taken a very strong, wise, and good man to deal rightly with two such different sets of people; but though Charles II. was a very clever man, he was neither wise nor good. He could not bear to vex himself, nor anybody else; and, rather than be teased, would grant almost anything that was asked of him. He was so bright and lively, and made such droll, good-natured answers, that everyone liked him who came near him; but he had no steady principle, only to stand easy with everybody, and keep as much power for himself as he could without giving offence. He loved pleasure much better than duty, and kept about him a set of people who amused him, but were a disgrace to his court. They even took money from the French king to persuade Charles against helping the Dutch in their war against the French. The Dutch went to war with the English upon this, and there were many terrible sea- fights, in which James, Duke of York, the king's brother, shewed himself a good and brave sailor.
The year 1665 is remembered as that in which there was a dreadful sickness in London, called the plague. People died of it often after a very short illness, and it was so infectious that it was difficult to escape it. When a person in a house was found to have it, the door was fastened up and marked with a red cross in chalk, and no one was allowed to go out or in; food was set down outside to be fetched in, and carts came round to take away the dead, who were all buried together in long ditches. The plague was worst in the summer and autumn; as winter came on more recovered and fewer sickened, and at last this frightful sickness was ended; and by God's good mercy, it has never since that year come to London.
The next year 1666, there was a fire in London, which burnt down whole streets, with their churches, and even destroyed St. Paul's Cathedral. Perhaps it did good by burning down the dirty old houses and narrow streets where the plague might have lingered, but it was a fearsome misfortune. It was only stopped at last by blowing up a space with gunpowder all round it, so that the flames might have no way to pass on. The king and his brother came and were very helpful in giving orders about this, and in finding shelter for many poor, homeless people.
There was a good deal of disturbance in Scotland when the king wanted to bring back the bishops and the Prayer-book. Many of the Scots would not go to church, and met on hills and moors to have their prayers in their own way. Soldiers were sent to disperse them, and there was much fierce, bitter feeling. Archbishop Sharpe was dragged out of his carriage and killed, and then there was a civil war, in which the king's men prevailed; but the Whigs were harshly treated, and there was great discontent.
The country was much troubled because the king and queen had no children: and the Duke of York was a Roman Catholic. A strange story was got up that there was what was called a popish plot for killing the king, and putting James on the throne. Charles himself laughed at it, for he knew everyone liked him and disliked his brother: "No one would kill me to make you king, James," he said; but in his easy, selfish way, when he found that all the country believed in it, and wanted to have the men they fancied guilty put to death, he did not try to save their lives.
Soon after this false plot, there was a real one called the Rye-house Plot. Long ago, the king had pretended to marry a girl named Lucy Waters and they had a son whom he had made Duke of Monmouth, but who could not reign because there had been no right marriage. However, Lord Russell and some other gentlemen, who ought to have know better, so hated the idea of the Duke of York being king, that they joined in the Ryehouse Plot for killing the duke, and forcing the king to make Monmouth his heir. Some of the more unprincipled sort, who had joined them, even meant to shoot Charles and James together on the way to the Newmarket races. However, the plot was found out, and the leaders were put to death. Lord Russell's wife, Lady Rachel, sat by him all the time of his trial, and was his great comfort to the last. Monmouth was pardoned, but fled away into Holland.
The best thing to be said of Charles II. was that he made good men bishops, and he never was angry when they spoke out boldly about his wicked ways; but then, he never tried to leave them off, and he spent the very last Sunday of his life among his bad companions, playing at cards and listening to idle songs. Just after this came a stroke of apoplexy, and, while he lay dying on his bed, he sent for a Roman Catholic priest, and was received into the Church of Rome, in which he had really believed most of his life—though he had never dared to own it, for fear of losing his crown. So, as he was living a lie, of course the fruits showed themselves in his selfish, wasted life.
It was in this reign that two grand books were written. John Milton, a blind scholar and poet, who, before he lost his sight, had been Oliver Cromwell's secretary, wrote his Paradise Lost, or rather dictated it to his daughters; and John Bunyan, a tinker, who had been a Puritan preacher, wrote the Pilgrim's Progress.
JAMES II. A.D. 1685—1688.
James II. had, at least, been honest in openly joining the Church in which he believed; but the people disliked and distrusted him, and he had not the graces of his brother to gain their hearts with, but was grave, sad, and stern.
The Duke of Monmouth came across from Holland, and was proclaimed king in his uncle's stead at Exeter. Many people in the West of England joined him, and at Taunton, in Somersetshire, he was received by rows of little girls standing by the gate in white frocks, strewing flowers before him. But at Sedgemoor he was met by the army, and his friends were routed; he himself fled away, and at last was caught hiding in a ditch, dressed in a laborer's smock frock, and with his pockets full of peas from the fields. He was taken to London, tried, and executed. He did not deserve much pity, but James ought not to have let the people who favored him be cruelly treated. Sir George Jeffreys, the chief justice, was sent to try all who had been concerned, from Winchester to Exeter; and he hung so many, and treated all so savagely, that his progress was called the Bloody Assize. Even the poor little maids at Taunton were thrown into a horrible, dirty jail, and only released on their parents paying a heavy sum of money for them.
This was a bad beginning for James's reign; and the English grew more angry and suspicious when they saw that he favored Roman Catholics more than anyone else, and even put them into places that only clergymen of the Church of England could fill. Then he put forth a decree, declaring that a person might be chosen to any office in the State, whether he were a member of the English Church or no; and he commanded that every clergyman should read it from his pulpit on Sunday mornings. Archbishop Sancroft did not think it a right thing for clergymen to read, and he and six more bishops presented a petition to the king against being obliged to read it. One of these was Thomas Ken, Bishop of Bath and Wells, who wrote the morning hymn, "Awake, my soul, and with the sun," and the evening hymn, "All praise to Thee, my God, this night." Instead of listening to their petition, the king had all the seven bishops sent to the Tower, and tried for libel—that is, for malicious writing. All England was full of anxiety, and when at last the jury gave the verdict of "not guilty," the whole of London rang with shouts of joy, and the soldiers in their camp shouted still louder.
This might have been a warning to the king; for he thought that, as he paid the army, they were all on his side, and would make the people bear whatever he pleased. The chief comfort people had was in thinking their troubles would only last during his reign: for his first wife, an Englishwoman, had only left him two daughters, Mary and Anne, and Mary was married to her cousin William, Prince of Orange, who was a great enemy of the King of France and of the pope; and Anne's husband, Prince George, brother to the King of Denmark, was a Protestant. He was a dull man, and people laughed at him—because, whenever he heard any news, he never said anything but "Est il possible?" is it possible? But he had a little son, of whom there was much hope.
But James had married again, Mary Beatrice d'Este, an Italian princess; and, though none of her babies had lived before, at last she had a little son who was healthy and likely to live, and who was christened James. Poor little boy! Everyone was so angry and disappointed that he should have come into the world at all, that a story was put about that he was not the son of the king and queen, but a strange baby who had been carried into the queen's room in a warming-pan, because James was resolved to prevent Mary and William from reigning.
Only silly people could believe such a story as this; but all the Whigs, and most of the Tories, thought in earnest that it was a sad thing for the country to have an heir to the throne brought up by a Roman Catholic, and to think it right to treat his subjects as James was treating them. Some would have been patient, and have believed that God would bring it right, but others were resolved to put a stop to the evils they expected; and, knowing what was the state of people's minds, William of Orange set forth from Holland, and landed at Torbay. Crowds of people came to meet him, and to call on him. It was only three years since the Bloody Assize, and they had not forgotten it in those parts. King James heard that one person after another had gone to the Prince of Orange, and he thought it not safe for his wife and child to be any longer in England. So, quietly, one night he put them in charge of a French nobleman who had been visiting him, and who took them to the Thames, where, after waiting in the dark under a church wall, he brought them a boat, and they reached a ship which took them safely to France.
King James staid a little longer. He did not mind when he heard that Prince George of Denmark had gone to the Prince of Orange, but only laughed, and said "Est il possible?" but when he heard his daughter Anne, to whom he had always been kind, was gone too, the tears came into his eyes, and he said, "God help me, my own children are deserting me." He would have put himself at the head of the army, but he found that if he did so he was likely to be made prisoner and carried to William. So he disguised himself and set off for France; but at Faversham, some people who took him for a Roman Catholic priest seized him, and he was sent back to London. However, as there was nothing the Prince of Orange wished so little as to keep him in captivity, he was allowed to escape again, and this time he safely reached France, where he was very kindly welcomed, and had the palace of St. Germain given him for a dwelling-place.
It was on the 4th of November, 1688, that William landed, and the change that now took place is commonly called the English Revolution.
We must think of the gentlemen, during these reigns, as going about in very fine laced and ruffled coats, and the most enormous wigs. You know the Roundheads had short hair and the Cavaliers long: so people were ashamed to have short hair, and wore wigs to hide it if it would not grow, till everybody came to have shaven heads, and monstrous wigs in great curls on their shoulders: and even little boys' hair was made to look as like a wig as possible. The barber had the wig every morning to fresh curl, and make it white with hair powder, so that everyone might look like an old man, with a huge quantity of white hair.
WILLIAM III. AND MARY II. 1689—1702.
When James II. proved to be entirely gone, the Parliament agreed to offer the crown to William of Orange—the next heir after James's children—and Mary, his wife, James's eldest daughter; but not until there had been new conditions made, which would prevent the kings from ever being so powerful again as they had been since the time of Henry VII. Remember, Magna Carta, under King John, gave the power to the nobles. They lost it by the wars of the Roses, and the Tudor kings gained it; but the Stuart kings could not keep it, and the House of Commons became the strongest power in the kingdom, by the Revolution of 1688.
The House of Commons is made up of persons chosen—whenever there is a general election—by the men who have a certain amount of property in each county and large town. There must be a fresh election, or choosing again every seven years; also, whenever the sovereign dies; and the sovereign can dissolve the Parliament—that is, break it up— and have a fresh election whenever it is thought right. But above the House of Commons stands the House of Lords, or Peers. These are not chosen, but the eldest son, or next heir of each lord, succeeds to his seat upon his death; and fresh peerages are given as rewards to great generals, great lawyers, or people who have deserved well of their country. When a law has to be made, it has first to be agreed to by a majority—that is, the larger number—of the Commons, then by a majority of the Lords, and lastly, by the king or queen. The sovereign's council are called the ministers, and if the Houses of Parliament do not approve of their way of carrying on the government they vote against their proposals, and this generally makes them resign, that others may be chosen in their place who may please the country better.
This arrangement has gone on ever since William and Mary came in. However, James II. still had many friends, only they had been out of reach at the first alarm. The Latin word for James is Jacobus, and, therefore, they were called Jacobites. All Roman Catholics were, of course, Jacobites; and there were other persons who, though grieved at the king's conduct, did not think it right to rise against him and drive him away; and, having taken an oath to obey him, held that it would be wrong to swear obedience to anyone else while he was alive. Archbishop Sancroft was one of these. He thought it wrong in the new queen, Mary, to consent to take her father's place; and when she sent to ask his blessing, he told her to ask her father's first, as, without that, his own would do her little good. Neither he nor Bishop Ken, nor some other bishops, nor a good many more of the clergy, would take the oaths to William, or put his name instead of that of James in the prayers at church. They rather chose to be turned out of their bishoprics and parishes, and to live in poverty. They were called the non-jurors, or not-swearers.
Louis, King of France, tried to send James back, and gave him the service of his fleet; but it was beaten by Admiral Russell, off Cape La Hogue. Poor James could not help crying out, "See my brave English sailors!" One of Charles's old officers, Lord Dundee, raised an army of Scots in James's favor, but he was killed just as he had won the battle of Killicrankie; and there was no one to take up the cause just then, and the Scotch Whigs were glad of the change.
Most of James's friends, the Roman Catholics, were in Ireland, and Louis lent him an army with which to go thither and try to win his crown back. He got on pretty well in the South, but in the North— where Oliver Cromwell had given lands to many of his old soldiers— he met with much more resistance. At Londonderry, the apprentice boys shut the gates of the town and barred them against him. A clergyman named George Walker took the command of the city, and held it out for a hundred and five days against him, till everyone was nearly starved to death—and at last help came from England. William himself came to Ireland, and the father and son-in-law met in battle on the banks of the Boyne, on the 1st of July, 1690. James was routed; and large numbers of the Irish Protestants have ever since kept the 1st of July as a great holiday—commemorating the victory by wearing orange lilies and orange-colored scarfs.
James was soon obliged to leave Ireland, and his friends there were severely punished. In the meantime, William was fighting the French in Holland—as he had done nearly all his life—while Mary governed the kingdom at home. She was a handsome, stately lady, and was much respected; and there was great grief when she died of the small-pox, never having had any children. It was settled upon this that William should go on reigning as long as he lived, and then that Princess Anne should be queen; and if she left no children, that the next after her should be the youngest daughter of Elizabeth, daughter of James I. Her name was Sophia, and she was married to Ernest of Brunswick, Elector of Hanover. It was also settled that no Roman Catholic, nor even anyone who married a Roman Catholic, could ever be on the English throne.
Most of the Tories disliked this Act of Settlement; and nobody had much love for King William, who was a thin, spare man, with a large, hooked nose, and very rough, sharp manners—perhaps the more sharp because he was never in good health, and suffered terribly from the asthma. However, he managed to keep all the countries under him in good order, and he was very active, and always at war with the French. Towards the end of his reign a fresh quarrel began, in which all Europe took part. The King of Spain died without children, and the question was who should reign after him. The King of France had married one sister of this king, and the Emperor of Germany was the son of her aunt. One wanted to make his grandson king of Spain, the other his son, and so there was a great war. William III. took part against the French—as he had always been their enemy; but just as the war was going to begin, as he was riding near his palace of Hampton Court, his horse trod into a mole-hill, and he fell, breaking his collar bone; and this hurt his weak chest so much that he died in a few days, in the year 1702. The Jacobites were very glad to be rid of him, and used to drink the health of the "little gentleman in a black velvet coat," meaning the mole which had caused his death.
ANNE. A.D. 1702—1714.
Queen Anne, the second daughter of James II., began to reign on the death of William III. She was a well-meaning woman, but very weak and silly; and any person who knew how to manage her could make her have no will of her own. The person who had always had such power over her has Sarah Jennings, a lady in her train, who had married an officer named John Churchill. As this gentleman had risen in the army, he proved to be one of the most able generals who ever lived. He was made a peer, and, step by step, came to be Duke of Marlborough. It was he and his wife who, being Whigs, had persuaded Anne to desert her father; and, now she was queen, she did just as they pleased. The duchess was mistress of the robes, and more queen at home than Anne was; and the duke commanded the army which was sent to fight against the French, to decide who should be king of Spain. An expedition was sent to Spain, which gained the rock of Gibraltar, and this has been kept by the English ever since.
Never were there greater victories than were gained by the English and German forces together, under the Duke of Marlborough and Prince Eugene of Savoy, who commanded the Emperor's armies. The first and greatest battle of them all was fought at Blenheim, in Bavaria, when the French were totally defeated, with great loss. Marlborough was rewarded by the queen and nation buying an estate for him, which was called Blenheim, where woods were planted so as to imitate the position of his army before the battle, and a grand house built and filled with pictures recording his adventures. The other battles were all in the Low Countries—at Ramillies, Oudenard, and Malplaquet. The city of Lisle was taken after a long siege, and not a summer went by without tidings coming of some great victory, and the queen going in a state coach to St. Paul's Cathedral to return thanks for it.
But all this glory of her husband made the Duchess of Marlborough more proud and overbearing. She thought the queen could not do without her, and so she left off taking any trouble to please her; nay, she would sometimes scold her more rudely than any real lady would do to any woman, however much below her in rank. Sometimes she brought the poor queen to tears; and on the day on which Anne went in state to St. Paul's, to return thanks for the victory of Oudenarde, she was seen to be crying all the way from St. James's Palace in her coach, with the six cream-colored horses, because the duchess had been scolding her for putting on her jewels in the way she liked best, instead of in the duchess's way.
Now, Duchess Sarah had brought to the palace, to help to wait on the queen, a poor cousin of her own, named Abigail Masham, a much more smooth and gentle person, but rather deceitful. When the mistress of the robes was unkind and insolent, the queen used to complain to Mrs. Masham; and by-and-by Abigail told her how to get free. There was a gentleman, well known to Mrs. Masham—Mr. Harley, a member of Parliament and a Tory, and she brought him in by the back stairs to see the queen, without the duchess knowing it. He undertook, if the queen would stand by him, to be her minister, and to turn out the Churchills and their Whig friends, send away the tyrant duchess, and make peace, so that the duke might not be wanted any more. In fact, the war had gone on quite long enough; the power of the King of France was broken, and he was an old man, whom it was cruel to press further; but this was not what Anne cared about so much as getting free of the duchess. There was great anger and indignation among all the Whigs at the breaking off the war in the midst of so much glory; and, besides, the nation did not keep its engagements to the others with whom it had allied itself. Marlborough himself was not treated as a man deserved who had won so much honor for his country, and he did not keep his health many years after his fall. Once, when he felt his mind getting weak, he looked up at his own picture at Blenheim, taken when he was one of the handsomest, most able, and active men in Europe, and said sadly, "Ah! that was a man."
Mr. Harley was made Earl of Oxford, and managed the queen's affairs for her. He and the Tories did not at all like the notion of the German family of Brunswick—Sophia and her son George—who were to reign next, and they allowed the queen to look towards her own family a little more. Her father had died in exile, but there remained the young brother whom she had disowned, and whom the French and the Jacobites called King James III. If he would have joined the English Church Anne would have gladly invited him, and many of the English would have owned him as the right king; but he was too honest to give up his faith, and the queen could do nothing for him.
Till her time the Scots—though since James I. they had been under the same king as England—had had a separate Parliament, Lords and Commons, who sat at Edinburgh; but in the reign of Queen Anne the Scottish Parliament was united to the English one, and the members of it had to come to Westminster. This made many Scotsmen so angry that they became Jacobites; but as every body knew that the queen was a gentle, well-meaning old lady, nobody wished to disturb her, and all was quiet as long as she lived, so that her reign was an unusually tranquil one at home, though there were such splendid victories abroad. It was a time, too, when there were almost as many able writers as in Queen Elizabeth's time. The two books written at that day, which you are most likely to have heard of, are Robinson Crusoe, written by Daniel Defoe, and Alexander Pope's translation of Homer's Iliad.
Anne's Tory friends did not make her happy; they used to quarrel among themselves and frightened her; and after one of their disputes she had an attack of apoplexy, and soon died of it, in the year 1714.
It was during Anne's reign that it became the fashion to drink tea and coffee. One was brought from China, and the other from Arabia, not very long before, and they were very dear indeed. The ladies used to drink tea out of little cups of egg-shell china, and the clever gentlemen, who were called the wits, used to meet and talk at coffeehouses, and read newspapers, and discuss plays and poems; also, the first magazine was then begun. It was called "The Spectator," and was managed by Mr. Addison. It came out once a week, and laughed at or blamed many of the foolish and mischievous habits of the time. Indeed it did much to draw people out of the bad ways that had come in with Charles II.
GEORGE I. A.D. 1714—1725.
The Electress Sophia, who had always desired to be queen of England, had died a few months before Queen Anne; and her son George, who liked his own German home much better than the trouble of reigning in a strange country, was in no hurry to come, and waited to see whether the English would not prefer the young James Stuart. But as no James arrived George set off, rather unwillingly, and was received in London in a dull kind of way. He hardly knew any English, and was obliged sometimes to talk bad Latin and sometimes French, when he consulted with his ministers. He did not bring a queen with him, for he had quarreled with his wife, and shut her up in a castle in Germany; but he had a son, also named George, who had a very clever, handsome wife —Caroline of Anspach, a German princess; but the king was jealous of them, and generally made them live abroad.
Just when it was too late, and George I. had thoroughly settled into his kingdom, the Jacobites in the North of England and in Scotland began to make a stir, and invited James Stuart over to try to gain the kingdom. The Jacobites used to call him James III., but the Whigs called him the Pretender; and the Tories used, by way of a middle course, to call him the Chevalier—the French word for a knight, as that he certainly was, whether he were king or pretender. A white rose was the Jacobite mark, and the Whigs still held to the orange lily and orange ribbon, for the sake of William of Orange.
The Jacobite rising did not come to any good. Two battles were fought between the king's troops and the Jacobites—one in England and the other in Scotland—on the very same day. The Scottish one was at Sheriff-muir, and was so doubtful, that the old Scottish song about it ran thus—
Some say that we won, And some say the they won, Some say that none won At a', man;
But of one thing I'm sure, That at Sheriff-muir A battle there was, Which I saw, man.
And we ran, and they ran, And they ran, and we ran, And we ran, and they ran— Awa, man.
The English one was at Preston, and in it the Jacobites were all defeated and made prisoners; so that when their friend the Chevalier landed in Scotland, he found that nothing could be done, and had to go back again to Italy, where he generally lived, under the Pope's protection; and where he married a Polish princess and had two sons, whom he named Charles Edward and Henry.
This rising of the Jacobites took place in the year 1715, and is, therefore, generally called the Rebellion of the Fifteen. The chief noblemen who were engaged in it were taken to London to be tried. Three were beheaded; one was saved upon his wife's petition; and one, the Earl of Nithsdale, by the cleverness of his wife. She was allowed to go and see him in the Tower, and she took a tall lady in with her, who contrived to wear a double set of outer garments. The friend went away, after a time; and then, after waiting till the guard was changed, Lady Nithsdale dressed her husband in the clothes that had been brought in: and he, too, went away, with the hood over his face and a handkerchief up to his eyes, so that the guard might take him for the other lady, crying bitterly at parting with the earl. The wife, meantime, remained for some time, talking and walking up and down as heavily as she could, till the time came when she would naturally be obliged to leave him—when, as she passed by his servant, she said to him that "My lord will not be ready for the candles just yet,"—and then left the Tower, and went to a little lodging in a back street, where she found her husband, and where they both lay hid while the search for Lord Nithsdale was going on, and where they heard the knell tolling when his friends, the other lords, were being led out to have their heads cut off. Afterwards, they made their escape to France, where most of the Jacobites who had been concerned in the rising were living, as best they could, on small means—and some of them by becoming soldiers of the King of France.
England was prosperous in the time of George I., and the possessions of the country in India were growing, from a merchant's factory here and there, to large lands and towns. But the English never liked King George, nor did he like them; and he generally spent his time in his own native country of Hanover. He was taking a drive there in his coach, when a letter was thrown in at the window. As he was reading it, a sudden stroke of apoplexy came on, and he died in a few hours' time. No one ever knew what was in the letter, but some thought it was a letter reproaching him with his cruelty to his poor wife, who had died in her prison about eight months before. He died in the year 1725.
Gentlemen were leaving off full-bottomed wigs now, and wearing smaller ones; and younger men had their own hair powdered, and tied up with ribbon in a long tail behind, called a queue. Ladies powdered their hair, and raised it to an immense height, and also wore monstrous hoops, long ruffles, and high-heeled shoes. Another odd fashion was that ladies put black patches on their faces, thinking they made them handsomer. Both ladies and gentlemen took snuff, and carried beautiful snuff-boxes.
GEORGE II. A.D. 1725—1760.
The reign of George II. was a very warlike one. Indeed he was the last king of England who ever was personally in a battle; and, curiously enough, this battle—that of Fontenoy—was the last that a king of France also was present in. It was, however, not a very interesting battle; and it was not clear who really won it, nor are wars of this time very easy to understand.
The battle of Fontenoy was fought in the course of a great war to decide who would be emperor of Germany, in which France and England took different sides; and this made Charles Edward Stuart, the eldest son of James, think it was a good moment for trying once again to get back the crown of his forefathers. He was a fine-looking young man, with winning manners, and a great deal more spirit than his father: and when he landed in Scotland with a very few followers, one Highland gentleman after another was so delighted with him that they all brought their clans to join him, and he was at the head of quite a large force, with which he took possession of the town of Edinburgh; but he never could take the castle. The English army was most of it away fighting in Germany, and the soldiers who met him at Prestonpans, close to Edinburgh, were not well managed, and were easily beaten by the Highlanders. Then he marched straight on into England: and there was great terror, for the Highlanders—with their plaids, long swords, and strange language—were thought to be all savage robbers, and the Londoners expected to have every house and shop ruined and themselves murdered: though on the whole the Highlanders behaved very well. They would probably have really entered London if they had gone on, and reached it before the army could come home, but they grew discontented and frightened at being so far away from their own hills; and at Derby. Charles Edward was obliged to let them turn back to Scotland.
The English army had come back by this time, and the Scots were followed closely, getting more sad and forlorn, and losing men in every day's march, till at last, after they had reached Scotland again, they made a stand against the English under the king's second son, William, Duke of Cumberland, at the heath of Culloden. There they were entirely routed, and the prince had to fly, and hide himself in strange places and disguises, much as his great uncle, Charles II., had done before him. A young lady named Flora Macdonald took him from one of the Western Isles to another in a boat as her Irish maid, Betty Bourke; and, at another time, he was his in a sort of bower, called the cage, woven of branches of trees on a hill side, where he lived with three Highlanders, who used to go out by turns to get food. One of them once brought him a piece of ginger-bread as a treat—for they loved him heartily for being patient, cheerful, and thankful for all they did for him; and when at last he found a way of reaching France, and shook hands with them on bidding the farewell, one of them tied up his right hand, and vowed that no meaner person should ever touch it.
The Empress Maria Theresa, of Germany, had a long war with Frederick, King of Prussia, who was nephew to George II., and a very clever and brave man, who made his little kingdom of Prussia very warlike and brave. But he was not a very good man, and these were sad times among the great people, for few of them thought much about being good: and there were clever Frenchmen who laughed at all religion. You know one of the Psalms, "The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God." There were a great many such fools at that time, and their ways, together with the selfishness of the nobles, soon brought terrible times to France, and all the countries round.
The wars under George II. were by sea as well as by land: and, likewise, in the distant countries where Englishmen, on the one hand, and Frenchmen, on the other, had made those new homes that we call colonies. In North America, both English and French had large settlements; and when the kings at home were at war, there were likewise battles in these distant parts, and the Indians were stirred up to take part with the one side or the other. They used to attack the homes of the settlers, burn them, kill and torment the men, and keep the children to bring up among their own. The English had, in general, the advantage, especially in Canada, where the brave young General Wolfe led an attack, on the very early morning, to the Heights of Abraham, close to the town of Quebec. He was struck down by a shot early in the fight, and lay on the ground with a few officers round him. "They run, they run!" he heard them cry. "Who run?" he asked. "The French run." "Then I die happy," he said; and it was by this battle that England won Lower Canada, with many French inhabitants, whose descendants still speak their old language.
In the East Indies, too, there was much fighting. The English and French both had merchants there; and these had native soldiers to guard them, and made friends with the native princes. When these princes quarreled they helped them, and so obtained a larger footing. But in this reign the English power was nearly ended in a very sad way. An Indian army came suddenly down on Calcutta. Many English got on board the ships, but those who could not—146 in number—were shut up all night in a small room, in the hottest time of the year, and they were so crushed together and suffocated by the heat that, when the morning came, there were only twenty-three of them alive. This dreadful place was known as the Black Hole of Calcutta. The next year Calcutta was won back again; and the English, under Colonel Clive, gained so much ground that the French had no power left in India, and the English could go on obtaining more and more land, riches and power.
George II. had lost his eldest son, Frederick, Prince of Wales, and his lively and clever wife, Queen Caroline, many years before his death. His chief ministers were, first, Sir Robert Walpole, and afterwards the Earl of Chatham—able men, who knew how to manage the country through all these wars. The king died at last, quite suddenly when sixty-eight years old, in the year 1760.
GEORGE III. A.D. 1760—1785.
After George II. reigned his grandson, George III., the son of Frederick, Prince of Wales, who had died before his father. The Princess of Wales was a good woman, who tried to bring up her children well; and George III. was a dutiful son to her, and a good, faithful man—always caring more to do right than for anything else. He had been born in England, and did not feel as if Hanover were his home, as his father and grandfather had done, but loved England, and English people, and ways. When he was at Windsor, he used to ride or walk about like a country squire, and he had a ruddy, hearty face and manner, that made him sometimes be called Farmer George; and he had an odd way of saying "What? what?" when he was spoken to, which made him be laughed at; but he was as good and true as any man who ever lived: and when he thought a thing was right, he was as firm as a rock in holding to it. He married a German princess named Charlotte, and they did their utmost to make all those about them good. They had a very large family—no less than fourteen children—and some old people still remember what a beautiful sight it was when, after church on Sunday, the king and queen and their children used to walk up and down the stately terrace at Windsor Castle, with a band playing, and everyone who was respectably dressed allowed to come in and look at them.
Just after George III. came to the crown, a great war broke out in the English colonies in America. A new tax had been made. A tax means the money that has to be given to the Government of a country to pay the judges and their officers, the soldiers and sailors, to keep up ships and buy weapons, and do all that is wanted to protect us and keep us in order. Taxes are sometimes made by calling on everybody to pay money in proportion to what they have—say threepence for every hundred pounds; sometimes they are made by putting what is called a duty on something that is bought and sold—making it sell for more than its natural price—so that the Government gets the money above the right cost. This is generally done with things that people could live without, and had better not buy too much of—such as spirits, tobacco, and hair powder. And as tea was still a new thing in England, which only fine ladies drank, it was thought useless, and there was a heavy duty laid upon it when the king wanted money. Now, the Americans got their tea straight from China, and thought it was unfair that they should pay tax on it. So, though they used it much more than the English then did, they gave it up, threw whole ship-loads of it into the harbor at Boston, and resisted the soldiers. A gentleman named George Washington took the command, and they declared they would fight for freedom from the mother country. The French were beginning to think freedom was a fine thing, and at first a few French gentlemen came over to fight among the Americans, and then the king Louis XVI., quarreled with George III., and helped them openly.
There was a very clever man among the Americans named Benjamin Franklin, a printer by trade, but who made very curious discoveries. One of them was that lightning comes from the strange power men call electricity, and that there are some substances which it will run along, so that it came be brought down to the ground without doing any mischief—especially metallic wires. He made sure of it by flying a kite, with such an iron wire up to the clouds when there was a thunder- storm. The lightning was attracted by the wire, ran down the wet string of the kite, and only glanced off when it came to a silk ribbon —because electricity will not go along silk. After this, such wires were fastened to buildings, and carried down into the ground, to convey away the force of the lightning. Perhaps you have seen them on the tops of churches or tall buildings; they are called conductors. Franklin was a plain-spoken, homely dressing man; and when he was sent to Paris on the affairs of the Americans, all the great ladies and gentlemen went into raptures about his beautiful simplicity, and began to imitate him, in a very affected, ridiculous way.
In the meantime, the war went on between America and England, year after year; and the Americans became trained soldiers and got the better, so that George III. was advised to give up his rights over them. Old Lord Chatham, his grandfather's minister, who had long been too sick and feeble to undertake any public business, thought it so bad for the country to give anything up, that he came down to the House of Lords to make a speech against doing so; but he was not strong enough for the exertion, and had only just done speaking when he fainted away, and his son, William Pitt, was called out of the House of Commons to help carry him away to his coach. He was taken home, and died in a few day's time.
The war went on, but when it had lasted seven years, the English felt that peace must be made; and so George III. gave up his rights to all that country that is called the United States of America. The United States set up a Government of their own, which has gone on ever since, without a king, but with a President who is freshly chosen every four years, and for whom every citizen has a vote.
As if to make up for what was lost in the West, the English were winning a great deal in the East Indies, chiefly from a great prince called Tipoo Sahib, who was very powerful, and at one time took a number of English officers prisoners and drove them to his city of Seringapatam, chained together in pairs, and kept them half starved in a prison, where several died; but he was defeated and killed. They were set free by their countrymen, after nearly two years of grievous hardship.
GEORGE III. A.D. 1785—1810.
The chief sorrow of George III. was that his eldest sons were wild, disobedient young men. George, Prince of Wales, especially, was very handsome, and extremely proud of his own beauty. He was called the First Gentleman in Europe, and set the fashion in every matter of taste; but he spent and wasted money to a shameful amount, and was full of bad habits; besides which, he used to set himself in every way in his power to vex and contradict his father and mother, whom he despised for their plain simple ways and their love of duty. The next two brothers—Frederick, Duke of York, and William, Duke of Clarence—had also very bad habits; but they went astray from carelessness, and did not wilfully oppose their father, like their eldest brother.
William Pitt, son of Lord Chatham, was Prime Minister. He thought that the Roman Catholics in England ought to have the same rights as the king's other subjects, and not be hindered from being members of Parliament, judges, or, indeed, from holding any office, and he wanted to bring a bill into Parliament for this purpose. But the king thought that for him to consent would be contrary to the oath he had sworn when he was crowned, and which had been drawn up when William of Orange came over. Nothing would make George III. break his word, and he remained firm, though he was so harassed and distressed that he fell ill, and lost the use of his reason for a time. There were questions whether the regency—that is, the right to act as king— should be given to the son, who, though his heir, was so unlike him, when he recovered; and there was a great day of joy throughout the nation, when he went in state to St. Paul's Cathedral to return thanks.
In the meantime, terrible troubles were going on in France. Neither the kings nor nobles had, for ages past, any notion of their proper duties to people under them, but had ground them down so hard that at last they could bear it no longer; and there was a great rising up throughout the country, which is known as the French Revolution. The king who was then reigning was a good and kind man, Louis XVI., who would gladly have put things in better order; but he was not as wise or firm as he was good, and the people hated him for the evil doings of his forefathers. So, while he was trying to make up his mind what to do, the power was taken out of his hands, and he, with his wife, sister, and two children, were shut up in prison. An evil spirit came into the people, and made them believe that the only way to keep themselves free would be to get rid of all who had been great people in the former days. So they set up a machine for cutting off heads, called the guillotine, and there, day after day, nobles and priests, gentlemen and ladies—even the king, queen, and princess, were brought and slain. The two children were not guillotined, but the poor little boy, only nine years old, was worse off than if he had been, for the cruel wretches who kept him called him the wolf-cub, and said he was to be got rid of, and they kept him alone in a dark, dirty room, and used him so ill that he pined to death. Many French gentry and clergymen fled to England, and there were kindly treated and helped to live; and the king's brother, now the rightful king himself, found a home there too.
At last the French grew weary of this horrible bloodshed; but, as they could not manage themselves, a soldier named Napoleon Bonaparte, by his great cleverness and the victories he gained over other nations, succeeded in getting all the power. His victories were wonderful. He beat the Germans, the Italians, the Russians, and conquered wherever he went. There was only one nation he never could beat, and that was the English; though he very much wanted to have come over here with a great fleet and army, and have conquered our island. All over England people got ready. All the men learnt something of how to be soldiers, and made themselves into regiments of volunteers; and careful watch was kept against the quantities of flat-bottomed boats that Bonaparte had made ready to bring his troops across the English Channel. But no one had ships and sailors like the English; and, besides, they had the greatest sea-captain who ever lived, whose name was Horatio Nelson. When the French went under Napoleon to try to conquer Egypt and all the East, Nelson went after them with his ships, and beat the whole French fleet, though it was a great deal larger than his own, at the mouth of the Nile, blowing up the Admiral's ship, and taking or burning many more. Afterward, when the King of Denmark was being made to take part against England, Nelson's fleet sailed to Copenhagen, fought a sharp battle, and took all the Danish ships. And lastly, when Spain had made friends with France, and both their fleets had joined together against England, Lord Nelson fought them both off Cape Trafalgar, and gained the greatest of all his victories; but it was his last, for a Frenchman on the mast-head shot him through the backbone, and he died the same night. No one should ever forget the order he gave to all his sailors in all the ships before the battle— "England expects every man to do his duty."
After the battle of Trafalgar the sea was cleared of the enemy's ships, and there was no more talk of invading England. Indeed, though Bonaparte overran nearly all the Continent of Europe, the smallest strip of sea was enough to stop him, for his ships could not stand before the English ones.
All this time English affairs were managed by Mr. Pitt, Lord Chatham's son; but he died the very same year as Lord Nelson was killed, 1805, and then his great rival, Mr. Fox, was minister in his stead: but he, too, died very soon, and affairs were managed by less clever men, but who were able to go on in the line that Pitt had marked out for them: and that was, of standing up with all their might against Bonaparte— though he now called himself the Emperor, Napoleon I., and was treading down every country in Europe.
The war time was a hard one at home in England, for everything was very dear and the taxes were high; but everyone felt that the only way to keep the French away was to go on fighting with them, and trying to help the people in the countries they seized upon. So the whole country stood up bravely against them.
Sad trouble came on the good old king in his later years. He lost his sight, and, about the same time, died his youngest child, the Princess Amelia, of whom he was very fond. His grief clouded his mind again, and there was no recovery this time. He was shut up in some rooms at Windsor Castle, where he had music to amuse him, and his good wife, Queen Charlotte, watched over him carefully as long as she lived.
GEORGE III.—THE REGENCY. A.D. 1810—1820.
When George III. lost his senses, the government was given to his son, the Prince of Wales—the Prince Regent as he was called. Regent means a person ruling instead of the king. Everyone expected that, as he had always quarreled with his father, he would change everything and have different ministers; but instead of that, he went on just as had been done before, fighting with the French, and helping every country that tried to lift up its head against Bonaparte.
Spain was one of these countries. Napoleon had managed to get the king, and queen, and eldest son, all into his hands together, shut them up as prisoners in France, and made his own brother king. But the Spaniards were too brave to bear this, and they rose up against him, calling the English to help them. Sir John Moore was sent first, and he marched an army into Spain; but, though the Spaniards were brave, they were not steady, and when Napoleon sent more troops he was obliged to march back over the steep hills, covered with snow, to Corunna, where he had left the ships. The French followed him, and he had to fight a battle to drive them back, that his soldiers might embark in quiet. It was a great victory; but in the midst of it Sir John Moore was wounded by a cannon shot, and only live long enough to hear that the battle was won. He was buried at the dead of night on the ramparts of Corunna, wrapped in his cloak.
However, before the year was over, Sir Arthur Wellesley was sent out to Portugal and Spain. He never once was beaten, and though twice he had had to retreat into Portugal, he soon won back the ground he had lost; and in three years' time he had driven the French quite out of Spain, and even crossed the Pyrenean mountains after them, forcing them back into their own country, and winning the battle of Toulouse on their own ground. This grand war had more victories in it than you will easily remember. The chief of them were at Salamanca, Vittoria, Orthes, and Toulouse; and the whole war was called the Peninsular War, because it was fought in the Peninsular of France and Spain. Sir Arthur Wellesley had been made duke of Wellington, to reward him, and he set off across France to meet the armies of the other European countries. For, while the English were fighting in Spain, the other states of Europe had all joined together against Napoleon, and driven him away from robbing them, and hunted him at last to Paris, where they made him give up all his unlawful power. The right king of France, Louis XVIII., was brought home, and Napoleon was sent to a little island named Elba, in the Mediterranean Sea, where it was thought he could do no harm.
But only the next year he managed to escape, and came back to France, where all his old soldiers were delighted to see him again. The king was obliged to fly, and Napoleon was soon at the head of as large and fierce an army as ever. The first countries that were ready to fight with him were England and Prussia. The Duke of Wellington with the English, and Marshal Blucher with the Prussian army, met him on the field of Waterloo, in Belgium; and there he was so entirely defeated that he had to flee away from the field. But he found no rest or shelter anywhere, and at last was obliged to give himself up to the captain of an English ship named the Bellerophon. He was taken to Plymouth harbor, and kept in the ship while it was being determined what should be done with him: and at length it was decided to send him to St. Helena, a very lonely island far away in the Atlantic Ocean, whence he would have no chance of escaping. There he was kept for five years, at the end of which time he died.
The whole of Europe was at peace again; but the poor old blind King George did not know it, nor how much times had changed in his long reign. The war had waked people up from the dull state they had been in so long, and much was going on that began greater changes than anyone thought of. Sixty years before, when he began to reign, the roads were so bad that it took three days to go by coach to London from Bath; now they were smooth and good, and fine swift horses were kept at short stages, which made the coaches take only a few hours on the journey. Letters came much quicker and more safely; there were a great many newspapers, and everybody was more alive. Some great writers there were, too: the Scottish poet Walter Scott, who wrote some of the most delightful tales there are in the world; and three who lived at the lakes—Wordsworth, Southey, and Coleridge. It was only in this reign that people cared to write books for children. Mrs. Trimmer, and another good lady called Hannah More, were trying to get the poor in the villages better taught; and there was a very good Yorkshire gentleman—William Wilberforce—who was striving to make people better.
As to people's looks in those days, they had left off wigs—except bishops, judges, and lawyers, in their robes. Men had their hair short and curly, and wore coats shaped like evening ones—generally blue, with brass buttons—buff waistcoats, and tight trousers tucked into their boots, tight stocks round their necks, and monstrous shirt- frills. Ladies had their gowns and pelisses made very short-waisted, and as tight and narrow as they could be, though with enormous sleeves in them, and their hair in little curls on their foreheads. Old ladies wore turbans in evening dress; and both they and their daughters had immense bonnets and hats, with a high crown and very large front.
In the 1820, the good old king passed away.
GEORGE IV. A.D. 1820—1830.
George IV. was not much under sixty years old when he came to the throne, and had really been king in all but the name for eight years past. He had been married to the Princess Caroline of Brunswick, much against his will, for she was, though a princess, far from being a lady in any of her ways, and he disliked her from the first moment he saw her; and though he could not quite treat her as Henry VIII. had treated Anne of Cleves, the two were so unhappy together that, after the first year, they never lived in the same house. They had had one child, a daughter, named Charlotte—a good, bright, sensible high- spirited girl—on whom all the hopes of the country were fixed; but as she grew up, there were many troubles between her love and her duty towards her father and mother. As soon as the peace was made, the Princess of Wales went to Italy and lived there, with a great many people of bad characters about her. Princess Charlotte was married to Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg, and was very happy with him; but, to the great grief of all England, she died in the bloom of her youth, the year before her grandfather.
George IV., though he was much alone in the world, prepared to have a most splendid coronation; but as soon as his wife heard that he was king, she set off to come to England and be crowned with him. He was exceedingly angry, forbade her name to be put into the Prayer-book as queen, and called on the House of Lords to break his marriage with one who had proved herself not worthy to be a wife. There was a great uproar about it, for though the king's friends wanted him to be rid of her, all the country knew that he had been no better to her than she had been to him, and felt it unfair that the weaker one should have all the shame and disgrace, and the stronger one none. One of Caroline's defenders said that if her name were left out of the Litany, yet still she was prayed for there as one who was desolate and oppressed. People took up her cause much more hotly than deserved, and the king was obliged to give up the enquiry into her behavior, but still he would not let her be crowned. In the midst of all the splendor and solemnity in Westminster Abbey, a carriage was driven to the door and entrance was demanded for the queen; but she was kept back, and the people did not seem disposed to interrupt the show by doing anything in her favor, as she and her friends had expected. She went back to her rooms, and, after being more foolish than ever in her ways, died of fretting and pining. It is a sad history, where both were much to blame; and it shows how hateful to the king she must have been, that, when Napoleon died he was told his greatest enemy was dead, and he answered, "When did she die?" But if he had been a good man himself, and not selfish, he would have borne with the poor, ill brought up, giddy girl, when first she came, and that would have prevented her going so far astray.
George IV. made two journeys—one to Scotland, and the other to Ireland. He was the first of the House of Brunswick who ever visited these other two kingdoms, and he was received in both with great splendor and rejoicing; but after this his health began to fail, and he disliked showing himself. He spent most of his time at a house he had built for himself at Brighton, called the Pavilion, and at Windsor, where he used to drive about in the park. He was kind and gracious to those with whom he associated, but they were as few as possible.
He was vexed and angry at having to consent to the Bill for letting Roman Catholics sit in Parliament, and hold other office—the same that his father had stood out against. It was not that he cared for one religion more than another, for he had never been a religious man, but he saw that it would be the beginning of a great many changes that would alter the whole state of things. His next brother, Frederick, Duke of York, died before him; and the third, William, Duke of Clarence, who had been brought up as an officer in the navy, was a friend of the Whigs, and of those who were ready to make alterations.
Changes were coming of themselves, though—for inventions were making progress in this time of peace. People had begun to find out the great power of steam, and had made it move the ships, which had hitherto depended upon the winds, and thus it became much easier to travel from one country to another and to send goods. Steam was also being used to work engines for spinning and weaving cotton, linen, and wool, and for working metals; so that what had hitherto been done by hand, by small numbers of skilful people, was now brought about by large machines, where the labor was done by steam; but quantities of people were needed to assist the engine. And as steam cannot be had without fire, and most of the coal is in the Northern parts of England, almost all of these works were set up in them, and people flocked to get work there, so that the towns began to grow very large. Manchester was one, with Liverpool as the sea-port from which to send its calico and get its cotton. Sheffield and Birmingham grew famous for works in iron and steel, and so on; and all this tended to make the manufacturers as rich and great as the old lords and squires, who had held most of the power in England ever since, at the Revolution, they had got it away from the king. Everyone saw that some great change would soon come; but before it came to the point George IV. fell ill, and died after a reign of twenty years in reality, but of only ten in name, the first five of which were spent in war, and the last fifteen in peace. The Duke of Wellington and Sir Robert Peel were his chief ministers—for the duke was as clear-headed in peace as he was in war.
WILLIAM IV. A.D. 1830—1837.
George IV. had, as you know, no child living at the time of his death. His next brother, Frederick Duke of York, died before him, likewise without children, so the crown went to William, Duke of Clarence, third son of George III. He had been a sailor in his younger days, but was an elderly man when he came to the throne. He was a dull and not a very wise man, but good-natured and kind, and had an open, friendly, sailor manner; and his wife, Queen Adelaide, of Saxe- Meiningen, was an excellent woman, whom everyone respected. They never had any children but two daughters who died in infancy: and everyone knew that the next heir must be the Princess Victoria, daughter to the next brother, Edward, Duke of Kent, who had died the year after she was born.
King William IV. had always been friendly with the Whigs, who wanted power for the people. Those who went furthest among them were called Radicals, because they wanted a radical reform—that is, going to the root. In fact, it was time to alter the way of sending members to the House of Commons, for some of the towns that had once been big enough to choose one were now deserted and grown very small, while on the other hand, others which used to be little villages, like Birmingham and Brighton, had now become very large, and full of people.
The Duke of Wellington and his friends wanted to consider the best way of setting these things to rights, but the Radicals wanted to do much more and much faster than he was willing to grant. The poor fancied that the new rights proposed would make them better off all at once, and that every man would get a fat pig in his sty and as much bread as he wanted; and they were so angry at any delay, that they went about in bands burning the hay-ricks and stacks of corn, to frighten their landlords. And the Duke of Wellington's great deeds were forgotten in the anger of the mob, who gathered round him, ready to abuse and pelt him as he rode along; and yet, as they saw his quiet, calm way of going on, taking no heed to them, and quite fearless, no one raised a hand. They broke the windows of his house in London, though, and he had iron blinds put up to protect them. He went out of office, and the Whigs came in, and then the Act of Parliament was passed which was called the Reform bill—because it set to rights what had gone wrong as to which towns should have members of their own, and, besides, allowed everyone in a borough town, who rented a house at ten pounds a year, to vote for the member of Parliament. A borough is a town that has a member of Parliament, and a city is one that is large enough to have a mayor and an alderman to manage its affairs at home.
Several more changes were made under King William. Most of the great union workhouses were built then, and it was made less easy to get help from the parish without going to live in one. This was meant to cure people of being idle and liking to live on other folk's money—and it has done good in that way; but workhouses are sad places for the poor aged people who cannot work, and it is a great kindness to help them to keep out of them.
The best thing that was done was the setting the slaves free. Look at the map of America, and you will see a number of islands—beautiful places, where sugar-canes, and coffee, and spices grow. Many of these belong to the English, but it is too hot for Englishmen to work there. So, for more than a hundred years, there had been a wicked custom that ships should go to Africa, and there the crews would steal negro men, women and children, or buy them of tribes of fierce negroes who had made them captive, and carry them off to the West Indies Islands, where they were sold to work for their masters, just as cattle are bought and sold. An English gentleman—William Wilberforce—worked half his life to get this horrible slave trade forbidden; and at last he succeeded, in the year 1807, whilst George III. was still reigning. But though no more blacks were brought from Africa, still the people in the West Indies were allowed to keep, and buy and sell the slaves they already had. So Wilberforce and his friends still worked on until the time of William IV., when, in 1834, all the slaves in the British dominions were set free.
This reign only lasted seven years, and there were no wars in it; so the only other thing that I have to tell you about it is, that people had gone on from finding that steam could be made to work their ships to making it draw carriages. Railways were being made for trains of carriages and vans to be drawn by one steam engine. The oldest of all was opened in 1830, the very year that William IV. began to reign, and that answered so well that more and more began to be made, and the whole country to be covered with a network of railways, so the people and goods could be carried about much quicker than ever was dreamt of in old times; while steam-ships were made larger and larger, and to go greater distances.
Besides this, many people in England found there was not work or food enough for them at home, and went to settle in Canada, and Australia, and Van Dieman's Land, and New Zealand, making, in all these distant places, the new English homes called colonies; and thus there have come to be English people wherever the sun shines.
William IV. died in the year 1837. He was the last English king who had the German State of Hanover. It cannot belong to a woman, so it went to his brother Ernest, instead of his niece Victoria.
VICTORIA. A.D. 1837—1855.
The Princess Victoria, daughter of the Duke of Kent, was but eighteen years old when she was Queen of England.
She went with her mother, the Duchess of Kent, to live, sometimes at Buckingham Palace and sometimes at Windsor Castle, and the next year she was crowned in state at Westminster Abbey. Everyone saw then how kind she was, for when one of the lords, who was very old, stumbled on the steps as he came to pay her homage, she sprang up from her throne to help him.
Three years later she was married to Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg, a most excellent men, who made it his whole business to help her in all her duties as sovereign of the great country, without putting himself forward. Nothing ever has been more beautiful than the way those two behaved to one another; she never forgetting that he was her husband and she only his wife, and he always remembering that she was really the queen, and that he had no power at all. He had a clear head and good judgment that everyone trusted to, and yet he always kept himself in the background, that the queen might have all the credit of whatever was done.
He took much pains to get all that was good and beautiful encouraged, and to turn people's minds to doing things not only in the quickest and cheapest, but in the best and most beautiful way possible. One of these plans that he carried out was to set up what he called an International Exhibition, namely—a great building, to which every country was invited to send specimens of all its arts and manufactures. It was called the World's Fair. The house was of glass, and was a beautiful thing in itself. It was opened on the 1st of May, 1851; and, though there have been many great International Exhibitions since, not one has come up to the first.
People talked as if the World's Fair was to make all nations friends; but it is not showing off their laces and their silks, their ironwork and brass, their pictures and statues, that can keep them at peace; and, only two years after the Great Exhibition, a great war broke out in Europe—only a year after the great Duke of Wellington had died, full of years and honors.
The only country in Europe that is not Christian is Turkey; and the Russians have always greatly wished to conquer Turkey, and join it on to their great empire. The Turks have been getting less powerful for a long time past, and finding it harder to govern the country; and one day the Emperor of Russia asked the English ambassador, Sir Hamilton Seymour, if he did not think the Turkish power a very sick man who would soon be dead. Sir Hamilton Seymour knew what this meant; and he knew the English did not think it right that the Russians should drive out the Sultan of Turkey—even though he is not a Christian; so he made the emperor understand that if the sick man did die, it would not be for want of doctors.
Neither the English nor the French could bear that the Russians should get so much power as they would have, if they gained all the countries down to the Mediterranean Sea; so, as soon as ever the Russians began to attack the Turks, the English and French armies were sent to defend them; and they found the best way of doing this was to go and fight the Russians in their own country, namely—the Crimea, the peninsula which hangs as it were, down into the Black Sea. So, in the autumn of the year 1854, the English and French armies, under Lord Raglan and Marshal St. Arnaud, were landed in the Crimea, where they gained a great victory on their first landing, called the battle of the Alma, and then besieged the city of Sebastopol. It was a very long siege, and in the course of it the two armies suffered sadly from the cold and damp, and there was much illness; but a brave English Lady, named Florence Nightingale, went out with a number of nurses to take care of the sick and wounded, and thus she saved a great many lives. There were two more famous battles. One was when six hundred English horsemen were sent by mistake against a whole battery of Russian cannon, and rode on as bravely as if they were not seeing their comrades shot down, till scarcely half were left. This was called the Charge of Balaklava. The other battle was when the Russians crept out, late in the evening of November 5, to attack the English camp: and there was a dreadful fight by night and in the early morning on the heights of Inkerman; but at last the English won the battle, and gave the day a better honor that it had had before. Then came a terrible winter of watching the city and firing at the walls; and when at last, on the 18th of June, 1855, it was assaulted, the defenders beat the attack off; and Lord Raglan, worn out with care and vexation, died a few days after. However, soon another attack was made, and in September half the city was won. The Emperor of Russia had died during the war, and his son made peace, on condition that Sebastopol should not be fortified again, and that the Russians should let the Turks alone, and keep no fleet in the Black Sea.