Charles Dickens.

A child's history of England online

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his own blind way.

A spirit began to arise in the country, which the besotted
blunderer little expected. He first found it out in the Univer-
sity of Cambridge. Having made a Catholic a dean at Oxford
without any opposition, he tried to make a monk a master of
arts at Cambridge ; which attempt the university resisted, and
defeated him. He then went back to his favorite Oxford. On
the death of the President of Magdalen College, he com-
manded that there should be elected to succeed him, one Mr. An-
thony Farmer, whose only recommendation was, that he was of
the king's religion. The university plucked up courage at last,
and refused. The king substituted another man, and it still
refused, resolving to stand by its own election of a Mr. Hough.
The dull tyrant, upon this, punished Mr. Hough, and five-and
twenty more, by causing them to be expelled, and declared
incapable of holding any church preferment ; then he pro-
ceeded to what he supposed to be his highest step, but to what
was, in fact, his last plunge headforemost in his tumble off his

He had issued a declaration that there should be no relig-
ious tests or fDenal laws, in order to let in the Catholics more
easily ; but the Protestant dissenters, unmindful of themselves,
had gallantly joined the regular church in opposing it tooth and
nail. The king and Father Petre now resolved to have that
read, on a certain Sunday, in all the churches, and to order it
to be circulated for that purpose by the bishops. The latter
took counsel with the Archbishop of Canterbury, who was in
disgrace ; and they resolved that the declaration should not be
read, and that they would petition the king against it. The
archbishop himself wrote out the petition ; and six bishops
went into the king's bedchamber the same night to present it,
to his infinite astonishment. The next day was the Sunday


fixed for the reading, and it was only read by two hundred
clergymen out of ten thousand. The king resolved against all
advice, to prosecute the bishops in the Court of King's Bench .
and within three weeks they were summoned before the Privy
Council, and committed to the Tower. As the six bishops were
taken to that dismal place by water, the people, who were as
sembled in immense numbers, fell upon their knees and wep:
for them, and prayed for them. When they got to the Tower,
the officers and soldiers on guard besought them for their bless
ing. While they were confined there, the soldiers every day
drank to their release with loud shouts. When they we:e
brought up to the Court of King's Bench for their trial, whic'.i
the attorney-general said was for the high offence of censurin;.^
the government, and giving their opinion about affairs of state,
they were attended by similar multitudes, and surrounded by a
throng of noblemen and gentlemen. When the jury were 01: t
at seven o'clock at night to consider of their verdict, everybodv
(except the king) knew that they would rather starve than yiel !
to the king's brewer, who was one of them, and wanted a verdict
for his customer. When they came into court next morninr ,
after resisting the brewer all night, and gave a verdict of nci
guilty, such a shout rose up in Westminster Hall as it had never
heard before j and it was passed on among the people away t..
Temple Bar, and away again to the Tower. It did not pas •
only to the east, but passed to the west too, until it reached the
camp at Hounslow, where the fifteen thousand soldiers took i:
up and echoed it. And still when the dull king, who was then
with the Lord Feversham, heard the mighty roar, asked in
alarm what it was, and was told that it was " nothing but the
acquittal of the bishops," he said, in his dogged way, " Call
you that nothing? It is so much tr.e worse for them."'

Between the petition and the trial, the queesi had _£;i\en
birth to a son, which Father Petre ratlier thought was owinji to
St. Winifred. But I dou]:>t if St. ^^'i^ifred had much to do with
it as the king's friend, inasmuch as the- entirely new prospect
of a Catholic successor (for both the king's daughters were
Protestants (determined the Earl of Shrewsbury, Danby, and
Devonshire, Lord Lumley, the Bishop of London, Admiral
Russell, and Colonel Sidney, to invite the Prince of Orange
over to England. The Royal Mole, seeing his danger at last,
made, in his fright, many great concessions, besides raising an
army of forty thousand men ; but the Prince of Orange was not
the man for James the Second to cope with. His preparations
were extraordinarily vigorous, and his mind was resolved.


For a fortnight after the prince was ready to sait for Eng-
land, a great wind from the west prevented the departure of
his fleet. Even when the wind lulled, and it did sail, it was
dispersed by a storm, and was obliged to put back to refit. At
last, on the ist of November, 1688, the Protestant east-wind, as
it was long called, began to blow ; and on the 3d, the people
of Dover and the people of Calais saw a fleet twenty miles long
sailing gallantly by, between the two places. On Monday, the
5th, it anchored at Torbay, in Devonshire ; and the prince,
with a splendid retinue of officers and men marched into Exeter.
But the people in that western part of the country had suffered
so much in the Bloody Assize, that they had lost heart. Few
people joined him ; and he began to think of returning, and
publishing the invitation he had received :^rom those lords, as
his justification for having come at all. /.: this crisis some of
the gentry joined him ; the royal army began to falter ; an en-
gagement was signed, by which all who set their hands to it
declared that they would support one another in defence of the
]aws and liberties of the three kingdoms, of the Protestant
religion, and of the Prince of Orange. From that time the
cause received no check ; the greatest towns in England began,
one after another, to declare for the prince ; and he knew that
it was all safe with him when the University of Oxford offered
to melt down its plate, if he wanted any money.

By this time the king was running about in a pitiable way,
touching people for the king's evil :.n one place, reviewing his
troops in another, and bleeding from the nose in a third. The
young prince was sent to Portsmouth, Father Petre went off
like a shot to France, and there was a general and swift dis-
persal of all the priests and friars. One after another, the
king's most important officers and friends deserted him, and
went over to the prince. In the night his daughter Anne fled
from Whitehall Palace ; and the Bishop of London, who had
once been a soldier, rode before her with a drawn sword in his
hand, and pistols at his saddle. " God help me ! " cried the
miserable king; "my very children have forsaken me." In
his wildness, after debating with such lords as were in London,
whether he should or should not call a parliament, and after
naming three of them to negotiate with the prince, he resolved
to fly to France. He had the little Prince of Wales brought
back from Portsmouth ; and the child and the queen crossed
the river to Lambeth in an open boat, on a miserable, wet
night, and got safely away. This was on the night of the 9th
of December.


At one o'clock on the morning of the nth, the king, who
had, in the mean time, received a letter from the Prince of
Orange, stating his objects, got out of bed, told Lord North-
umberland, who lay in his room, not to open the door until the
usual hour in the morning, and went down the back stairs (the
same I suppose by which the priest in the wig and gown had
come up to his brother), and crossed the river in a small boat,
sinking the great seal of England by the way. Horses having
been provided, he rode, accompanied by Sir Edward Hales, to
Feversham, where he embarked in a custom-house hoy. The
master of this hoy, wanting more ballast, ran into the Isle of
Sheppy to get it, where the fisherman and smugglers crowded
about the boat, and informed the king of their suspicions that
he was a "hatchet-faced Jesuit." As they took his money, and
would not let him go, he told them who he was, and that the
Prince of Orange wanted to take his life ; and he began to
scream for a boat, — and then to cry, because he had lost a
piece of wood on his ride which he called a fragment of our
Saviour's cross. He put himself into the hands of the lord
lieutenant of the county, and his detention was made known to
the Prince of Orange at Windsor, — who, only wanting to get
rid of him, and not caring where he went, so that he went
away, was very much disconcerted that they did not let him go.
However, there was nothing for it but to have him brought
back, with some state in the way of Life Guards, to Whitehall.
And as soon as he got there, in his infatuation, he heard mass
and set a Jesuit to say grace at his public dinner.

The people had been thrown into the strangest state of con-
fusion by his flight, and had taken it into their heads that the
Irish part of the army were going to murder the Protestants.
Therefore, they set the bells a-ringing, and lighted watch-fires,
and burned Catholic chapels, and looked about in all directions
for Father Petre and the Jesuits, while the pope's ambassador
was running away in the dress of a footman. They found no
Jesuits ; but a man, who had once been a frightened witness
before Jeffreys in court, saw a swollen drunken face looking
through a window down at Wapping, which he well remembered.
The face was in a sailor's dress ; but he knew it to be the face
of that accursed judge, and he seized him. The people, to
their lasting honor, did not tear him to pieces. After knocking
him about a little, they took him, in the basest agonies of terror,
to the lord mayor, who sent him, at his own shrieking petition,
to the Tower for safety. There he died.

Their bewilderment continuing, the people now lighted bon-


fires and made rejoicings, as if they had any reason to be glad
to have the king back again ! But his stay was very short ; foi
the EngHsh guards were removed from Whitehall, Dutch guards
were marched up to it, and he was told by one of his late min-
isters that the prince would enter London next day, and he
had better go to Ham. He said Ham was a cold, damp place,
and he would rather go to Rochester. He thought himself
very cunning in this, as he meant to escape from Rochester to
France. The Prince of Orange and his friends knew that per-
fectly well, and desired nothing more. So he went to Grave-
send, in his royal barge, attended by certain lords, and watched
by Dutch troops, and pitied by the generous people, who were
far more forgiving than he had ever beai, when they saw him
in his humiliation. On the night of the 23d of December, not
even then understanding that everybody wanted to get rid of
him, he went out absurdly, through his Rochester garden, down
to the Medway, and got away to France, where he rejoined the

There had been a council, in his absence, of the lords and
the authorities of London. When the prince came, on the day
after the king's departure, he summoned the lords to meet him,
and soon afterwards all those who had served in any of the
parliaments of King Charles the Second. It was finally re-
solved by these authorities that the throne was vacant by the
conduct of King James the Second ; that it was inconsistent
with the safety and welfare of this Protestant kingdom to be
governed by a popish prince ; that the Prince and Princess of
Orange should be king and queen during their lives and the
life of the survivor of them ; and that their children should
succeed them, if they had any. That if they had none, the
Princess Anne and her children should succeed ; that if she
had none, the heirs of the Prince of Orange should succeed.

On the 13th of January, 1689, the prince and princess,
sitting on a throne in Whitehall, bound themselves to these
conditions. The Protestant religion was established in Eng-
land, and England's great and glorious revolution was com-





I HAVE now arrived at the close of my little history. The
events which succeeded the famous revolution of 1688 would
neither be easily related nor easily understood in such a book
as this.

William and Mary reigned together five years. After the
death of his good wife, William occupied the throne alone for
seven years longer. During his reign, on the i6th of Septem-
ber, 1 70 1, the poor weak creature who had once been James
the Second of England, died in France. In the mean time he
had done his utmost (which was not much) to cause William to
be assassinated, and to regain his lost dominions. James's
son was declared, by the French king, the rightful King of
England ; and was called in France The Chevalier St. George,
and in England, The Pretender. Some infatuated people in
England, and particularly in Scotland, took up the Pretender's
cause from time to time, — as if the country had not had Stuarts
enough ! and many lives were sacrificed, and much misery was
occasioned. King William died on Sunday, the 7th of March,
1702, of the consequences of an accident occasioned by his
horse stumbling with him. He was always a brave, patriotic
prince, and a man of remarkable abilities. His manner was
cold, and he made but few friends ; but he had truly loved his
queen. When he was dead, a lock of her hair in a ring was
found tied with a black ribbon round his left arm.

He was succeeded by the Princess Anne, a popular queen,
who reigned twelve years. In her reign, in the month of Ma\',
1707, the union between England and Scotland was effected,
and the two countries were incorporated under the name of
Great Britain, Then, from the year 17 14 to the year 1830,
reigned the four Georges.

It was in the reign of George the Second, 1745, that the
Pretender did his last mischief, and made his last appearance.
Being an old man by that time, he and the Jacobites — as his
friends were called — put forward his son, Charles Edward,
known as the Young Chevalier. The Highlanders of Scotland,
an extremely troublesome and wrong-headed race on the sub-


ject of the Stuarts, espoused his cause, and he joined them ;
and there was a Scottish rebellion to make him king, in which
many gallant and devoted gentlemen lost their lives. It was a
hard matter for Charles Edward to escape abroad again, with
a high price on his head ; but the Scottish people were extraor-
dinarily faithful to him, and, after undergoing many romantic
adventures, not unlike those of Charles the Second, he escaped
to France. A number of charming stories and delightful songs
arose out of the Jacobite feelings, and belong to the Jacobite
times. Otherwise I think the Stuarts were a public nuisance

It was in the reign of George the Third that England lost
North America, by persisting in taxing her without her own
consent. That immense country, made independent under
Washington, and left to itself, became the United States, one
of the greatest nations of the earth. In these times in which I
write, it is honorably remarkable for protecting its subjects,
wherever they may travel, with a dignity and a determination
which is a model for England. Between you and me, England
has rather lost ground in this respect since the days of Oliver

The union of Great Britain with Ireland — which had been
getting on very ill by itself — took place in the reign of George
the Third, on the 2d of July, 1788.

William the Fourth succeeded George the Fourth, in the
year 1830, and reigned seven years. Queen Victoria, his
niece, the only child of the Duke of Kent, the fourth son of
Geofge the Third, came to the throne on the 20th of June,
1837. She was married to Prince Albert of Saxe Gotha on
the 10th of February 1840. She is very good, and much be-
loved. So I end, like the crier, with

God Save the Que* I





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