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is usually allotted to the unscrupulous ministers of bad kings.
He was impeached by. his political opponents, but unsuccess-
fully. The king then commanded him to withdraw from Eng-
land and retire to France, which he did after defending him-
self in writing. He was no great loss at home, and died abroad
some seven years afterwards.

There then came into power a ministry called the Cabal
Ministry, because it was composed of Lord Clifford, the Earl of
Arlington, the Duke of Buckingham (a great rascal, and the
king's most powerful favorite). Lord Ashley, and the Duke of
Lauderdale, c.a.b.a.l. As the French were making conquests
in Flanders, the first Cabal proceeding was to make a treaty
with the Dutch, for uniting with Spain to oppose the French. It
was no sooner made than the Merry Monarch, who always
wanted to get money without being accountable to a parliament


for his expenditure, apologized to tlie King of France for hav-
ing had anything to do with it, and concluded a secret treaty
with him, making himself his infamous pensioner to the amount
of two millions of livres down, and three millions more a year ;
and engaging to desert that very Spain, to make war against
those very Dutch, and to declare himself a Catholic when a con-
venient time should arrive. This religious king had lately been
crying to his Catholic brother on the subject of his strong desire
to be a Catholic ; and now he merrily concluded his treason-
able conspiracy against the country he governed, by undertak-
ing to become one as soon as he safely could. For all of which,
though he had had ten merry heads instead of one, he richly de-
served to lose them by the headsman's axe.

As his own merry head might have been far from safe, if
these things had been known, they were kept very quiet, and
war was declared by France and England against the Dutch.
But a very uncommon man, afterwards most important to Eng-
lish history and to the religion and liberty of this land, arose
among them, and for many long years defeated the whole pro-
jects of France. This was William of Nassau, Prince of Orange,
son of the last Prince of Orange of the same name, who married
the daughter of Charles the First of England. He was a
young man at this time, only just of age ; but he was brave,
cool, intrepid, and wise. His father had been so detested, that,
upon his death, the Dutch had abolished the authority to
which this son would have otherwise succeeded (Stadtholder it
was called), and placed the chief power in the hands of John
de Witt, who educated this young prince. Now the Prince
became very popular, and John de Witt's brother Cornelius was
sentenced to banishment on a false accusation of conspiring to
kill him. John went to the prison where he was to take him
away to exile, in his coach ; and a great mob who collected on
the occasion, then and there cruelly murdered both the brothers.
This left the government in the hands of the prince, who was
really the choice of the nation ; and from this time he exercised
it with the greatest vigor against the whole power of France,
under its famous generals, Conde and Turenne, and in support
of the Protestant religion. It was full seven years before this
war ended in a treaty of peace made at Nimeguen, and its de-
tails would occupy a very considerable space. It is enough to
say that William of Orange established a famous character
with the whole world ; and that the Merry Monarch, 'adding to
and improving on his former baseness, bound himself to do
everything the King of France liked, and nothing the King of



France did not like, for a pension of one hundred thousand
pounds a year, which was afterwards doubled. Besides this,
the King of France, by means of his corrupt ambassador — who
wrote accounts of his proceedings in England, which are not
always to be believed, I think — bought our English members
of parliament, as he wanted them. So, in point of fact, during
a considerable portion of this merry reign, the King of France
was the real king of this country.

But there was a better time to come ; and it was to come
(though his royal uncle little thought so) through that very
William, Prince of Orange. He came over to England, saw
Mary, the elder daughter of the Duke of York, and married
her. We shall see by and by what came of that marriage, and
why it is never to be forgotten.

This daughter was a Protestant, but her mother died a
Catholic. She and her sister Anne, also a Protestant, were the
only survivors of eight children. Anne afterwards married
George, Prince of Denmark, brother to the king of that country.

Lest you should do the Merry Monarch the injustice of sup-
posing that he was even good humored (except when he had
everything his own way), or that he was high-spirited and hon-
orable, I will mention here what was done to a member of the
House of Commons, Sir John Coventry. He made a remark
in a debate about taxing the theatres, which gave the king of-
fence. The king agreed with his illegitimate son, who had been
born abroad, and whom he had made Duke of Monmouth, to
take the following merry vengeance. To waylay him at night,
fifteen armed men to one, and to slit his nose with a penknife.
Like master, Mke man. The king's favorite, the Duke of Buck-
ingham, was strongly suspected of setting on an assassin to
murder the Duke of Ormond as he was returning home from a
dinner ; and that duke's spirited son. Lord Ossory, was so per-
suaded of his guilt, that he said to him at court, even as i^e
stood beside the king, " My lord, I know very well that you aic
at the botLuni ui liiis late aUcujpt upon my father ; but I give
you warning, if he ever come to a violent end, his blood shall
be upon you, and wherever I meet you 1 will pistol you ! 1
will do so, though 1 fmd you standing behind the king's chair ;
and I tell you this in his majesty's presence, that you may be
quite sure of my doing what I threaten." Those w-ere merry
times indeed.

There was a fellow named Blood, whc was seized for mak-
ing, with two companions, an audacious attempt to steal the
crown, the globe, and sceptre, from the place where the jewels



were kept in the Tower. This robber, who was a swaggering
ruffian, being taken, declared that he was the man who had en-
deavored to kill the Duke of Ormond, and that he had meant
to kill the king too, but was overawed by the majesty of his
appearance, when he might otherwise have done it, as he was
bathing at Battersea. The king being but an ill-looking fellow^
I don't believe a word of this. Whether he was flattered, or
whether he knew that Buckingham had really set Blood on to
murder the duke, is uncertain. But it is quite certain that he
pardoned this thief, gave him an estate of five hundred a year
in Ireland (which had had the honor of giving him birth), and
presented him at court to the debauched lords and the shame-
less ladies, who made a great deal of him, — as 1 have no doubt
they would have made of the Devil himself, if the king had in-
troduced him.

Infamously pensioned as he was, the king still wanted money
and consequently was obliged to call parliaments. In these the
great object of the Protestants was to thwart the Catholic Duke
of York, who married a second time ; his new wife being a
young lady only fifteen years old, the Catholic sister of the
Duke of Modena. In this they were seconded by the Protes-
tant Dissenters, though to their own disadvantage ; since, to
exclude Catholics from power, they were even willing to exclude
themselves. The king's object was to pretend to be a Protes-
tant, while he was really a Catholic ; to swear to the bishops
that he was devoutly attached to the English Church, while he
knew he had bargained it away to the King of France \ and
by cheating and deceiving them, and all who were attached to
royalty, to become despotic and be powerful enough to confess
what a rascal he was. Meantime, the King of France, know-
ing his merry pensioner well, intrigued with the king's oppo-
nents in parliament, as well as with the king and his friends.

The fears that the country had of the Catholic religion be-
ing restored, if the Duke of York should come to the throne,
and the low cunning of the king in pretending to share their
alarms, led to some very terrible results. A certain Dr. Tonge
a dull clergyman in the city, fell into the hands of a certain
Titus Gates, a most infamous character, who pretended to have
acquired among the Jesuits abroad a knowledge of a great plot
for the murder of the king, and the re-establishment of the
Catholic religion. Titus Gates, being produced by this unlucky
Dr. Tonge, and solemnly examined before the council, contra-
dicted himself in a thousand ways, told the most ridiculous and
improbable stories, and implicated Coleman, the secretary of

BNQLAND UNDER Ch/iR - J.^ .. ....l^i'/j:;, 34^

■y-^ jOucbess 01 v'orlc, iT:>7^', dthcu^-i ^-y:.:.: '-..^ Sr^iyi^ii against
r^oleman wss not true, and alihcL-gh you and i know veiy well
■':at the r^j'-J d?5ngerous'i'j;ic plct was that one with the
'^ing of Frj::ce of which the Merry Monarch was hiir.self the
,:3ad, there happened to be found among Coleman's papers
?ome letters in which he did praise the days of Bloody Queen
>^ar3^ and abuse the Protestant religion. This was great good
■ortune for Titus, as it seemed to confi"m him ; but better still
7.?s in store. Sir Edmundbury God.^ ey, the m.agistrate who
'^ad first examined him, being unexper^tedly found dead near
Primrose Hill, was confidently belie^ ed tc havs been killed by
the Cat"^ ~""^ ■ T think there is no doubt that he had been mel-
ancholy maa, ana cl^a- I"'" \\-^\-^^ ^'•^.n^self; but he had a great
Protestant funeral,* and Titus was cawcu the Save" ■^' '■ -^ Na-
tion, and received a pension of twelve hundred pounds i yes.:.
As soon as Oates's wickedness had met with this succesi';
up started another villain named William Bedloe, who, attracte:2
by a reward of five hundred pounds offered for the apprehe:
sion-of tlie murderers of Godfrey, came forward and charge
two Jesuits and some other persons with having committed ;
at the queen's desire. Gates, going into partnership with th .
new informer, had the audacity to accuse the poor queen he ,
self of high treason. Then appeared a third informer, as br.
as either of the two, and accused a Catholic banker, name-".
Stayley, of having said that the king was aie greatest rogue ii.
the world (which would not have been far from tlje truth), anc
that he would kill him with his own hand. This banker beins;
r': once tried and executed, Coleman and two others v/ere tri :'
rnd executed. Then a miserable wretch named Prance, •
Cilthoiic silve^'-'-nifT^, being accused by Bedloe, was tortured *■
confessing I. .._,., ....i-dcr, ana lkl.

accusing three other men of liaving committed it. Then five
'Jesuits were accused by Gates, Bedloe, and Prance together,
and were all found guilty, and executed on the same kind of
contradictory and absurd evidence. The queen's physician and
three monks were next put on their trial ; but Gates and Bed-
loe had for the time gone far enough, and these four were ac-
quitted. The public mind, however, was so full of a Catholic
plot, and so strong against the Duke of York, that James con-
sented to obey a written order from his brother, and to go with
his family to Brussels, providing that his rights should never be
sacrificed in his absence to the Duke of Monmouth. The
House of Commons, not satisfied with this as the king hoped,
passed a bill to exclude the duke from ever succeeding to the


throne. In return, the king dissolved the Parliament. He had
deserted his old favorite, the Duke of Buckingham, who was
now in the opposition.

To give any sufficient idea of the miseries of Scotland in
this merry reign would occupy a hundred pages. Because the
people would not have bishops, and were resolved to stand by
their solemn League and Covenant, such cruelties were inflicted
upon them as to make the blood run cold. Ferocious dragoons
galloped through the country to punish the peasants for
deserting the churches j sons were hanged up at their fathers'
doors for refusing to disclose where their fathers were con-
cealed ; wives were tortured to death for not betraying their
husbands ; people were taken out of their fields and gardens,
and shot on the public road, without trial ; lighted matches
were tied to the fingers of prisoners, and a most horrible tor-
ment, called the Boot, was invented, and constantly applied,
which ground and mashed the victims' legs with iron wedges.
Witnesses were tortured as well as prisoners. All the prisons
were full ; all the gibbets were heavy with bodies \ murder and
plunder devastated the whole country. In spite of all, the
Covenanters were by no means to be dragged into the churches,
and persisted in worshipping God as they thought right. A
body of ferocious Highlanders, turned upon them from the
mountains of their own country, had no greater effect than the
English dragoons under Grahame of Claverhouse, the most
cruel and rapacious of all their enemies, whose name will ever
be cursed through the length and breadth of Scotland. Arch-
bishop Sharp had ever aided and abetted all these outrages.
But he fell at last ; for, when the injuries of the Scottish people
were at their height, he was seen, in his coach-and-six coming
across a moor, by a body of men, headed by one John Balfour,
who were waiting for another of their oppressors. Upon this
they cried out that Heaven had delivered him into their hands,
and killed him with many wounds. If ever a man deserved
such a death, I think Archbishop Sharp did.

It made a great noise directly, and the Merry Monarch
(strongly suspected of having goaded the Scottish people on,,
that he might have an excuse for a greater army than the
Parliament were willing to give him), sent down his son, the
Duke of Monmouth, as commander-in-chief, with instructions
to attack the Scottish rebels, or Whigs, as they were called,
whenever he came up with them. Marching with ten thousand
men from Edinburgh, he found them, in number four or five
thousand, drawn up at Bothwell Bridge, by the Clyde. They



were soon dispersed ; and Monmouth showed a more humane
character towards them than he had shown towards that mem-
ber of parHament whose nose he had caused to be slit with a
penknife. But the Duke of Lauderdale was their bitter foe,
and sent Claverhouse to finish them.

As the Duke of York became more and more unpopular,
the Duke of Monmouth became more and more popular. It
would have been decent in the latter not to have voted in
favor of the renewed bill for the exclusion of James from the
throne ; but he did so, much to the king's amusement, who
used to sit in the House of Lords, by the fire, hearing the
debates, which he said were as gOod as a play. The House of
Commons passed the bill by a large majority, and it was car-
ried up to the House of Lords by Lord Russell, one of the best
of the leaders on the Protestant side. It was rejected there,
chiefly because the bishops helped the king to get rid of it ;
and the fear of Catholic plots revived again. There had been
another got up, by a fellow out of Newgate, named Danger-
field, which is more famous than it deserves to be, under the
name of the Meal-Tub Plot. This jail-bird having been got
out of Newgate by a Mrs. Cellier, a Catholic nurse, had turned
Catholic himself, and pretended that he knew of a plot among
the Presbyterians against the king's life. This was very pleas-
ant to the Duke of York, who hated the Presbyterians, who
returned the compliment. He gave Dangerfield twenty guineas,
and sent him to the king, his brother. But Dangerfield break-
ing down altogether in his charge, and being sent back to
Newgate, almost astonished the duke out of his five senses
by suddenly swearing that the Catholic nurse had put that
false design into his head, and that what he really knew about
was a Catholic plot against the king ; the evidence of which
would be found in some papers concealed in a meal-tub in
Mrs. Cellier's house. There they were of course, — for he had
put them there himself — and so the tub gave the name to the
plot. But the nurse was acquitted on her trial, and it came
to nothing.

Lord Ashley, of the Cabal, was now Lord Shaftesbury, and
was strong against the succession of the Duke of York. The
House of Commons, aggravated to the utmost extent, as we
may well suppose, by suspicions of the king's conspiracy with
the King of France, made a desperate point of the exclusion
still, and were bitter against the Catholics generally. So un-
justly bitter were they, I grieve to say, that they impeached the
venerable Lord Stafford, a Catholic nobleman, seventy years


old, of a design to kill the king. The witnesses were that
atrocious Oates and two other birds of the same feather. He
was found guilty, on evidence quite as foolish as it was false,
and was beheaded on Tower Hill. The people were opposed
to him when he first appeared upon the scaffold ; but, wlien
he had addressed them and shown them how innocent he was,
and how wickedly he was sent there, their better nature was
aroused, and they said, " We believe you, my lord. God bless
you, my lord ! "

The House of Commons refused to let the king have any
money until he should consent to the Exclusion Bill ; but, as
he could get it and did get it from his master, the King of
France, he could afford to hold them very cheap. He called a
parliament at Oxford, to which he went down with a great
show of being armed and protected, as if he were in danger of
his life, and to which the opposition members also went armed
and protected, alleging that they were in fear of the Papists,
who were numerous among the king's guards. However, they
went on with the Exclusion Bill, and were so earnest upon it
that they would have carried it again, if the king had not
popped his crown and state robes into a sedan-chair, bundled
himself into it along with them, hurried down to the chamber
where the House of Lords met, and dissolved the Parliament.
After which he scampered home, and the members of Parlia-
ment scampered home, too, as fast as their legs could carr}^them.

The Duke of York, then residing in Scotland, had, under
the law which excluded Catholics from public trust, no right
whatever to public employment. Nevertheless he was openly
employed as the king's representative in Scotland, and
there gratified his sullen and cruel nature to his heart's con-
tent by directing the dreadful cruelties against the Covenant-
ers. There were two ministers, named Cargill and Cameron,
who had escaped from the battle of Bothwell Bridge, and
who returned to Scotland and raised the miserable but still
brave and unsubdued Covenanters afresh, under the name of
Cameronians. As Cameron publicly posted a declaration that
the king was a forsworn tyrant, no mercy was shown to his un-
fortunate followers after he was slain in battle. The Duke of
York, who was particularly fond of the Boot, and derived great
pleasure from having it applied, offered their lives to some of
these people if they would cry on the scaffold, " God save the
king ! " But their relations, friends, and countrymen had been
so barbarously tortured and murdered in this merry reign, that
they preferred to die, and did die. The duke than obtained



his merry brother's permission to hold a parliament in Scot-
land, which first, with most shameless deceit, confirmed the
laws for securing the Protestant religion against Popery, and
then declared that nothing must or should prevent the succes-
sion of the popish duke. After this double-faced beginning, it
established an oath which no human being could understand,
but which everybody was to take as a proof that his religion
was the lawful religion. The Earl of Argyle, taking it with the
explanation that he did not consider it to prevent him from
favoring any alteration, either in the Church or State, which
was not inconsistent with the Protestant religion or with his
loyalty, was tried for high treason by a Scottish jury, of which
the Marquis of Montrose was foreman, and was found guilty.
He escaped the scaffold, for that time, by getting avvay, in the
disguise of a page, in the train of his daughter, Lady Sophia
Lindsay. It was absolutely proposed, by certain members of
the Scottish Council, that this lady should be whipped through
the streets of Edinburgh. But this was too much even for the
duke, who had the manliness then (he had a very little at most
times ) to remark that Englishmen were not accustomed to treat
ladies in that manner. In those merry times, nothing could
equal the brutal servility of the Scottish fawners but the con-
duct of similar degraded beings in England

After the settlement of these little affairs, the duke returned
to England, and soon resumed his place at the council, and his
office of high admiral, — all this by his brother's favor, and in
open defiance of the law. It would have been no loss to the
countr}' if he had been drowned when his ship, in going to
Scotland to fetch his family, struck on a sand-bank, and was
lost with two hundred souls on board. But he escaped in a
boat with some friends ; and the sailors were so brave and un-
selfish, that, when they saw him rowing away, they gave three
cheers, while they themselves were going down forever.

The Merry Monarch having got rid of his Parliament, went
to work to make himself despotic with all speed. Having had
the villany to order the execution of Oliver Plunket, Bishop of
Armagh, falsely accused of a plot to establish Popery in that
country by means of a French army, — the very thing this royal
traitor was himself trying to do at home, — and having tried to
ruin Lord Shaftesbury and failed, he turned his hand to con-
trolling the corporations all over the country ; because, if he
could only do that, he could get what juries he chose, to bring in
perjured verdicts and could get what members he chose re-
turned to parliament. These merry times produced, and made


chief justice of the Court of King's Bench, a drunken ruffian of
the name of Jeffreys ; a red-faced, swollen, bloated, horrible
creature, with a bullying, roaring voice, and a more savage
nature perhaps than was ever lodged in any human breast.
This monster was the merry monarch's especial favorite ; and
he testified his admiration of him by giving him a ring from
his own finger, which the people used to call Judge Jeffreys'
Bloodstone. Him the king employed to go about and bully
the corporations, beginning with London ; or, as Jeffreys him-
self elegantly called it, *' to give them a lick with the rough side
of his tongue." And he did it so thoroughly, that they soon
became the basest and most sycophantic bodies in the king-
dom, except the University of Oxford, which, in that respect,
was quite pre-eminent and unapproachable.

Lord Shaftesbury (who died soon after the king's failure
against him), Lord William Russell, the Duke of Monmouth,
Lord Howard, Lord Jersey, Algernon Sidney, John Hampden
(grandson of the great Hampden), and some others used to
hold a council together after the dissolution of the Parliament,
arranging what it might be necessary to do, if the king carried
his popish plot to the utmost height. Lord Shaftesbury, hav-
ing been much the most violent of this party, brought two
violent men into their secrets, — Ramsey, who had been a sol-
dier in the Republican army ; and West, a lawyer. These two
knew an old officer of Cromwell's, called Rumbold, who had
married a maltster's widow, and so had come into possession
of a solitary dwelling called the Rye House, near Hoddesdon,
in Hertfordshire. Rumbold said to them what a capital place
this house of his would be from which to shoot at the king,
who often passed there going to and fro from Newmarket.
They liked the idea, and entertained it. But one of their body
gave information ; and they, together with Shepherd, a wine-
merchant, Lord Russell, Algernon Sidney, Lord Essex, Lord
Howard, and Hampden, were all arrested.

Lord Russell might have easily escaped, but scorned to do
so, being innocent of any wrong ; Lord Essex might have easily
escaped, but scorned to do so, lest his flight should prejudice

Online LibraryCharles DickensA child's history of England → online text (page 36 of 38)