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CHAP. , rAG*

> . Ancient England and the Romans . , <.,.,. 7

II, Ancient England under the early Saxons 15

III. England under the good Saxon^ Alfred 19

IV. England under Athelstan and the six boy kings. ... 25
V. England under Canute the Dane 35

VI. England under Harold Harefoot, Hardicanute, and

Edward the Confessor , . . 36

VII. England under Harold the Second, and conquered

by the Normans 43

VIII. England under William the First, the Norman

Conqueror .,..,. 4/

IX. England under William the Second, called Rufus. . 53

X. England under Henry the First, called Fine-Scholar 59

XL England under Matilda and Stephen 68

XII. England under Henry the Second 71

XIII. England under Richard the First, called the Lion-
Heart &8

XIV. England under King John, called Lackland 9€

XV. England under Henry the Thirds called Henry the

Third of Winchester 107

XVI. England under Edward the First, called Long-
shanks 118

XVII. England under Edward the Second 133

XVI 1 1. England under Edward the Third 141

XIX. England under Richard the Second 152

XX. England under Henry the Fourth, called Boling-

broke 162

XXI. England under Henry the Fifth 167

XXII. England under Henry tha Sixth 176

XXIII. England under Edward the Fourth. ..,♦ «t« 193





XXIV. England under Edward the Fifth 200

XXV. England under Richard the Third 204

XXVI. Enghuul under Henry the Seventh , . . . 208

XXVII. England under Henry the Eighth, called Bluff King

Hal, and Burly King Harry 218

XXVIII. England under Henry the Eighth 228

XXIX. England under Edward the Sixth 237

XXX. England under Mary « . 244

XXXI. England under Elizabeth 255

XXXII. England under James the First c .. 277

XXXI I I. England under Charles the First 292

XXX IV. England under Oliver Cromwell 317

XXXV. England under Charles the Second, called the Merry

Monarch 332

XXXVT. Englano under James the Second 351

XXXVII. Conclusion 363




If you look at a map of the world, you will see, in the left-
hand upper corner of the Eastern Hemisphere, two islands
lying in the sea. They are England and Scotland, and Ireland.
England and Scotland form the greater part of these islands.
Ireland is the next in size. The little neighboring islands,
which are so small upon the map as to be mere dots, are chiefly
little bits of Scotland, — broken off, I dare say, in the course of
a great length of time, by the power of the restless water.

In the old days, along, long while ago, before our Savioul
was born on earth, and lay asleep in the manger, these islands
were in the same place ; and the stormy sea roared round them,
just as it roars now. But the sea was not alive then with great
ships and brave sailors, sailing to and from all paits of the
world. It was very lonely. The islands lay solitary in the
great expanse of water. The foaming waves dashed against
their cliffs, and the bleak winds blew over their forests. But
the winds and waves brought no adventurers to land upon the
islands ; and the savage islanders knew nothing of the rest of
the world, and the rest of the world knew nothing of them.

It is supposed that the Phoenicians, who were an ancient
people, famous for carrying on trade, came in ships to these
islands, and found that they produced tin and lead ; both very
useful things, as you know, and both produced to this very
hour upon the sea-coast. The most celebrated tin-mines in Corn-
Wall are still close to the sea. One of them, which I have seen,


is SO close to it that it is hollowed out underneath the ocean ;
and the miners say that in stormy weather, when they are at
work down in that deep place, they can hear the noise of the
waves thundering above their heads. . So the Phoenicians, coast-
ing about the islands, would come, without much difficulty, to
where the tin and lead were.

The Phoenicians traded with the islanders for these metals,

and gave the islanders some other useful things in exchange.

The islanders were, at first, poor savages, going almost naked,

or only dressed in the rough skins of beasts, and staining their

bodies, as other savages do, with colored earths and the juices

of plants. But the Phoenicians sailing over to the opposite

coasts of France and Belgium, and saying to the people there,

.5*\Ye have Jhose white cliffs across the water, which

'y6ii' can, SQC rn'snlnie weather ; and from that country, which is

, palled, Britain, we bring this tin and lead," tempted some of the

.' YftftViff'ii and; Pelgi?,ri,s to. come over also. These people s^'/tled

' themselves oh the south coast of England, which is now cah.d

Kent ; and, although they were a rough people too, they taught

the savage Britons some useful arts, and improved that part of

the islands. It is probable that other people came over from

Spain to Ireland, and settled there.

Thus, by little and little, strangers became mixed with the
islanders, and the savage Britons grew into a wild, bold people \
almost savage still, especially in the interior of the country,
away from the sea, where the foreign settlers seldom went ; but
hardy, brave, and strong.

The whole country was covered with forests and swamps.
The greater part of it was very misty and cold. There were no
roads, no bridges, no streets, no houses that you would think de-
serving of the name. A town was nothing but a collection of
straw-covered huts, hidden in a thick wood, with a ditch all round,
and a low wall made of mud, or the trunks of trees placed one
upon another. The people planted little or no corn, but lived
upon the flesh of their flocks and cattle. They made no coins,
but used metal-rings for money. They were clever in basket-
work, as savage people often are ; and they could make a
coarse kind of cloth, and some very bad earthenware. But in
building fortresses they were much more clever.

They made boats of basket-work, covered with the skins of
animals, but seldom, if ever, ventured far from the shore. They
made swords of copper mixed with tin ; but these swords were
of an awkward shape, and so soft that a heavy blow would bend
Aie, Thev made lism shields ; short, pointed daggers ; and


spears, which they jerked back, after they had thrown them at
an enemy, by a long strip of leather fastened to the stem. The
butt-end was a rattle, to frighten an enemy's horse. The ancient
Britons, being divided into as many as thirty or forty tribes,
each commanded by its own little king, were constantly fighting
with one another, as savage people usually do; and they always
fought with these weapons.

They were fond of horses. The standard of Kent was
the picture of a white horse. They could break them in and man-
age them wonderfully well. Indeed, the horses (of which they
had an abundance, though they were rather small) were so well
taught in those days, that they can scarcely be said to have im-
proved since ; though the men are so much wiser. They un-
derstood and obeyed every word of command; and would stand
still by themselves, in all the din and noise of battle, while
their masters went to fight on foot. The Britons could not
have succeeded in their most remarkable art without the aid of
these sensible and trusty animals. The art I mean is the con-
struction and management of war-chariots, or cars; for which
they have ever been celebrated in history. Each of the best
sort of these chariots, not quite breast-high, in front and open
at the back, contained one man to drive, and two or three
others to fight, — all standing up. The horses who drew them
were so well trained, that they would tear at full gallop over
the most stony ways, and even through the woods; dashing
down their masters' enemies beneath their hoofs, and cutting
them to pieces with the blades of swords, or scythes which
were fastened to the wheels, and stretched out beyond the car
on each side for that cruel purpose. In a moment while at
full speed, the horses would stop at the driver's command.
The men would leap out, deal blows about them with their
swords, like hail, leap on the horses, on the pole, spring back
into the chariots anyhow; and as soon as they were safe, the
horses tore away again.

The Britons had a strange and terrible religion, called the
religion of the Druids. It seems to have been brought over,
in very early times indeed, from the opposite country of France,
anciently called Gaul, and to have mixed up the worship of the
Serpent, and of the Sun and Moon, with the worship of some
of the heathen gods and goddesses. Most of its ceremonies
were kept secret by the priests, — the Druids, — who pretended
to be enchanters, and who carried magicians' wands, and wore,
each of them, about his neck, what he told the ignorant people
was a serpent's egg in a golden case. But it is certain that the


Druidical ceremonies included the sacrifice of human vic-
tims, the torture of some suspected criminals, and, on par-
ticular occasions, even the burning alive, in immense wicker-
cages, of a number of men and animals together. The
Druid priests had some kind of veneration for the oak, and
for the mistletoe (the same plant that we hang up in houses
at Christmas-time now) when its white berries grew upon
the oak. They met together in dark woods, which they
called sacred groves; and there they instructed, in their
mysterious arts, young men who came to them as pupils.

These Druids built great temples and altars open to the
sky, fragments of some of which yet remain. Stonehenge,
on Salisbury Plain, is the most extraordinary. Three cu-
rious stones, called Kits Coty House, on Bluebell Hill, near
Maidstone, in Kent, form another. We know, from exam-
ination of the great blocks of which such buildings are
made, that they could not have been raised without the aid
of some ingenious machines which are common now, but
which the ancient Britons did not use in making their own
uncomfortable houses. I should not wonder if the Druids,
and their pupils who stayed with them twenty years, know-
ing more than the rest of the Britons, kept the people out
of sight while they made these buildings, and then pre-
tended that they built them by magic. Perhaps they had a
hand in the fortresses too; at all events, as they were very
powerful, and very much believed in, and as they made the
laws, and paid no taxes, I don't wonder that they liked their
trade. And, as they persuaded the people that the more
Druids there were the better off the people would be, i
don't wonder there were so many of them. But it is pleas-
ant to think that there are no Druids now^ who go on in that
way and pretend to carry enchanters' wands and serpents'
eggs, and, of course, there is nothing of the kind anywhere.

Such was the improved condition of the ancient Britons
fifty-five years before the birth of our Savior, when the
Romans, under their great general, Julius Caesar, were
masters of all the rest of the known world. Julius Caesar
had then just conquered Gaul; and hearing, in Gaul, a
good deal about the opposite island with the white cliffs,
and the bravery of the Britons who inhabited it (some of
whom had been fetched over to help the Gauls in the war
against him), he resolved to next conquer Britain.

So Julius Caesar came sailing over to this island of ours,


•with eighty vessels and twelve thousand men. And he came
from the French coast between Calais and Boulogne, " because
thence was the shortest passage into Britain ; " just for the
same reason as our steamboats now take the same track every
day. He expected to conquer Britain easily. But it was not
such easy work as he supposed ; for the bold Britons fought
most bravely. And what with not having his horse-soldiers with
him (for they had been driven back by a storm), and what with
having some of his vessels dashed to pieces by a high tide after
they were drawn ashore, he ran great risk of being totally de-
feated. However, for once that the bold Britons beat him, he
beat them twice ; though not so soundly but that he was very
glad to accept their proposals of peace, and go away.

But in the spring of the next year, he came back ; this time
with eight hundred vessels and thirty thousand men. The
British tribes chose, as their general-in-chief, a Briton, whom
the Romans in their Latin language called Cassivellaunus, but
whose British name is supposed to have been Caswallon. A
brave general he was ; and well he and his soldiers fought the
Roman army ! So well, that, whenever in that war the Roman
soldiers saw a great cloud of dust, and heard the rattle of the
rapid British chariots, they trembled in their hearts. Besides
a number of smaller battles, there was a battle fought near
Canterbury, in Kent ; there was a battle fought near Chertsey,
in Surrey; there was a battle fought near a marshy little
town in a wood, the capital of that part of Britain which
belonged to Cassivellaunus, and which was probably near what
is now Saint Albans, in Hertfordshire. However, brave Cas-
sivellaunus had the worst of it, on the whole ; though he
and his men always fought like lions. As the other British
chiefs were jealous of him, and were always quarrelling with
him and with one another, he gave up, and proposed peace.
Julius Caesar was very glad to grant peace easily, and to go
away with all his remaining ships and men. He had expect-
ed to find pearls in Britain, and he may have found a few for
anything I know ; but, at all events, he found delicious oysters.
And I am sure he found tough Britons ; of whom, I dare say,
he made the same complaint as Napoleon Bonaparte, the great
French general, did, eighteen hundred years afterwards, when
he said they were such unreasonable fellows that they never
knew when they were beaten. They never ^/V/ know, I believe,
and never will.

Nearly a hundred years passed on ; and all that time there
was peace in Britain. The Britons improved their towns and


mode of life, became more civilized, travelled, and learned a
great deal from the Gauls and Romans. At last, the Roman
Emperor Claudius sent Aulus Plautius, a skilful general with
a mighty force, to subdue the island ; and shortly afterwards
arrived himself. They did little ; and Ostorius Scapula,
another general, came. Some of the British chiefs of tribes
submitted. Others resolved to fight to the death. Of these
brave men, the bravest was Caractacus, or Caradoc, who gave
battle to the Romans with his army among the mountains of
North Wales. "This day,'* said he to his soldiers, "decides
the fate of Britain ! Your liberty, or your eternal slavery,
dates from this hour. Remember your brave ancestors, who
drove the great Caesar himself across the sea." On hearing
these words, his men, with a great shout, rushed upon the
Romans. But the strong Roman swords and armor were too
much for the weaker British weapons in close conflict. The
Britons lost the day. The wife and daughter of the brave
Caractacus were taken prisoners ; his brothers delivered them-
selves up ; he himself was betrayed into the hands of the
Romans by his false and base stepmother ; and they carried
him, and all his family, in triumph to Rome.

But a great man will be great in misfortune, great in prison,
great in chains. His noble air and dignified endurance of dis-
tress so touched the Roman people, who thronged the streets
to see him, that he and his family were restored to freedom.
No one knows whether his great heart broke, and he died in
Rome, or whether he ever returned to his own dear country.
English oaks have grown up from acorns, and withered away
when they were hundreds of years old, — and other oaks have
sprung up in their places, and died too, very aged, — since the
rest of the history of the brave Caractacus was forgotten.

Still the Britons would not yield. They rose again and
again, and died by thousands, sword in hand. Tney rose on
every possible occasion. Suetonius, another Roman general,
came and stormed the Island of Anglesey (then called Mona)
which was supposed to be sacred ; and he burnt the Druids in
their own wicker-cages, by their own fires. But even while he
was in Britain with his victorious troops, the Britons rose.
Because Boadicea, a British queen, the widow of the king of
the^ Norfolk and Suffolk people, resisted the plundering of her
property by the Romans, who were settled in England, she
was scourged by order of Catus, a Roman officer; and her
two daughters were shamefully insulted in her presence ; and
her husband's relations were made slaves. To avenge this



injury, the Britons rose with all their might and rage. They
drove Catus into Gaul ; they laid the Roman possessions waste ;
they forced the Romans out of London (then a poor little
town, but a trading-place) ; they hanged, burnt, crucified, and
slew by the sword, seventy thousand Romans in a few days.
Suetonius strengthened his army, and advanced to give them
battle. They strengthened their army, and desperately at-
tacked his on the field where it was strongly posted. Before
the first charge of the Britons was made, Boadicea, in a war-
chariot, with her fair hair streaming in the wind, and her in-
jured daughters lying at her feet, drove among the troops, and
cried to them for vengeance on their oppressors, the licentious
Romans. The Britons fought to the last ; but they were van-
quished with great slaughter, and the unhappy queen took

Still, the spirit of the Britons was not broken. When
Suetonius left the country, they fell upon his troops, and retook
the Island of Anglesey. Agricola came fifteen or twenty years
afterwards, and retook it once more, and devoted seven years
to subduing the country, especially that part of it which is now
called Scotland ; but its people, the Caledonians, resisted him
at every inch of ground. They fought the bloodiest battles with
him j they killed their very wives and children, to prevent his
making prisoners of them ; then fell, fighting, in such great
numbers that certain hills in Scotland are yet supposed to be
vast heaps of stones piled up above their graves. Hadrian came
thirty years afterwards ; and still they resisted him. Severus
came nearly a hundred years, afterwards ; and they worried his
great army like dogs, and rejoiced to see them die, by thousands
in the bogs, and swamps. Caracalla, the son and successor of
Severus, did the most to conquer them, for a time ; but not by
force of arms. He knew how little that would do. He yielded
up a quantity of land to the Caledonians, and gave the Britons
the same privileges as the Romans possessed. There was
peace after this for seventy years.

Then new enemies arose. They were the Saxons, a fierce,
seafaring people from the countries to the north of the Rhine,
the great river of Germany, on the banks of which the best
grapes grow to make the German wine. They began to come
in pirate ships, to the sea-coast of Gaul and Britain, and to
plunder them. They were repulsed by Carausius, a native
either of Belgium or of Britain, who was appointed by the
Romans to the command, and under whom the Britons first
began to fight upon the sea. But after this time they renewed



their ravages. A few years more, and the Scots (which was
then the name for the people of Ireland) and the Picts, a
northern people, began to make frequent plundering incursions
into the South of Britain. All these attacks were repeated, at
intervals, during two hundred years, and through a long succes-
sion of Roman emperors and chiefs ; during all which length of
time the Britons rose against the Romans over and over again.
At last, in the days of the Roman Honorius, when the Roman
power all over the world was fast declining, and when Rome
wanted all her soldiers at home, the Romans abandoned all
hope of conquering Britain, and went away. And still, at last
as at first, the Britons rose against them in their old, brave
manner ; for, a very little while before, they had turned away
the Roman magistrates, and declared themselves an indepen-
dent people.

Five hundred years had passed since Julius Caesar's first in-
vasion of the Island, when the Romans departed from it forever.
In the course of that time, although they had been the cause of
terrible fighting and bloodshed, they had done much to im-
prove the condition of the Britons. The had made great
military roads ; they had built forts ; they had taught them how
to dress and arm themselves much better than they had ever
known how to do before \ they had refined the whole British way
of living. Agricola had built a great wall of earth, more than
seventy miles long, extending from Newcastle to beyond Car-
lisle, for the purpose of keeping out the Picts and Scots ; Ha-
drian had strengthened it ; Severus finding it much in want of
repair, had built it afresh of stone. Above all, it was in the
Roman time, and by means of Roman ships, that the Christian
religion was first brought into Britain, and its people first taught
the great lesson, that, to be good in the sight of God, they
must love their neighbors as themselves, and do upto others as
they would be done by. The Druids declared that it was very
wicked to believe in any such thing, and cursed all the people
who did believe it very heartily. But when the people found
that they were none the better for the blessings of the Druids,
and none the worse for the curses of the Druids, but that the
sun shone and the rain fell without consulting the Druids ast all,
they just began to think that the Druids were mere men, and
that it signified very little whether they cursed or blessed. After
which, the pupils of the Druids fell off greatly in numbers, and
the Druids took to other trades.

Thus I have come to the end of the Roman time in England.
It b but little that is known of those five hundred years j but


some remains of them are still found. Often, when labor-
ers are digging up the ground to make foundations for
houses or churches, they light on rusty money that once
belonged to the Romans. Fragments of plates from
which they ate, of goblets from Vy^hich they drank, and of
pavement on which they trod are discovered among the
earth that is broken by the plough, or the dust that is
crumbled by the gardener's spade. Wells that the Romans
sunk still yield water; roads that the Romans m.ade, form
part of our highways. In some old battle-fields, British
spear-heads and Roman armor have been found, mingled
together in decay as they fell in the thick pressure of the
fight. Traces of Roman camps, overgrown with grass,
and of mounds that are the burial places of heaps of
Britons, are to be seen in 'almost all parts of the country.
Across the bleak moors of Northumberland, the wall of
Severus, overrun with moss and weeds, still stretches, a
strong ruin; and the shepherds and their dogs lie sleeping
on it in the summer weather. On Salisbury Plain, Stone-
henge yet stands, — a monument of the earlier time when
the Roman name was unknown in Britain, and when the
Druids with their best magic-wands, could not have
written it in the sands of the wild sea-shore.



The Romans had scarcely gone away from Britain
when the Britons began to wish they had nev^er left it.
For the Roman soldiers being gone, and the Britons being
reduced in numbers by their long wars, the Picts and Scots
came pouring in over the broken and unguarded wall of
Severus. They plundered the richest towns, and killed
the people; and came back so often for more booty and
more slaughter, that the Britons lived a life of terror.
The Saxons attacked the islanders by sea; and, as if some-
thing more were wanting to make them miserable, they
quarrelled bitterly among themselves as to what prayers
they ought to say, and how they ought to say them.
The priests, being angry with one another on these

Online LibraryCharles DickensA child's history of England → online text (page 1 of 38)