William Francis Collier.

History of the British Empire online

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Author of " Great Events of History," " History of English Literature," Ac.






THIS book aims at giving a clear outline of British History,
retaining those details only, upon which the life and colour
of the story depend.

The earlier Periods, during which settlers of various names
and races continued to pour from the mainland of Europe
upon these shores, have been sketched less minutely than
those later times, when the nation, already formed and rooted,
began to grow from within and to expand her mighty en-

At the beginning of each Period is given an Outline, in-
tended to serve as a framework for the study of the succeed-
ing chapters. Each Period closes with a picture of the daily
life and manners of the people, which, it is hoped, will be
considered both attractive and useful.

It has been thought best to condense the Literary and
Artistic History into a list of eminent men, with notes of
their chief works. For convenience' sake the leading men
of the Brunswick Period, whose names grow very numerous,
are given at the end of each reign.

Since the exactness of historical knowledge depends greatly
upon Chronology and Genealogy, these have been made pro-
minent features of the work. While the leading dates are
given with the text in the order of time, they are also grouped
under certain heads ; in which form they may be made the
foundation of most interesting lessons. In the Genealogical
Trees the line of descent from Egbert and Malcolm Can-


more to Victoria can be clearly traced, with all its collateral

Instead of the usual host of questions for examination,
a few questions are given by which any reign may be fully
analyzed. A list of Colonies, with notes upon their situa-
tion, their history, and their value, will be found at the
end of the book.

Although written for Schools, this book will be found to
contain all that is necessary to work a British History Paper
for the Government Certificate of Merit, for the Middle
Class Degree of A A, or for most of the Civil Service Ex-


Chap. Pag-

INTBODUCTION, ... ... ... ... ... 9


I. Roman Period, ... ... ... ... , . 13

Leading Dates, ... ... ... ... ... 10


I. Time of the Heptarchy, ... ... ' ... ... 20

II. Early Saxon Kings, ... ... ... ... ... 24

III. Time of Danish Rule, ... ... ... ... ... 32

IV. Saxon Line restored, ... ... ... ... ... 35

V. Scotland and Ireland during the Saxon Period, ... ... 39

VI. Social Condition of the Anglo-Saxons, ... ... ... 41

Leading Authors, ... ... ... ... ... 46

Leading Dates, ... ... ... ... ... 46

Genealogical Trees, ... ... ... ... ... 47


I. William I ... ... ... ... ... 4S

II. William II., ... ... ... ... ... ... 53

III. Henry I., ..., ... ... ... ... ... 58

IV. Stephen, ... ... ... ... ... ... 60

V. Scotland during the Norman Period, ... ... ... 64

VI. Social Condition of the Normans, ... ... ... fi6

Leading Authors, ... ... ... ... ... 71

Leading Dates, - ... ... ... ... ... 72

Genealogical Tree, ... ... ... ... ... Tl


I. Henry II., ... ... ... ... ... ... 73

II. Richard I., ... ... ... ... ... ... 78

III. John, ... ... ... ... ... ... 8*

IV. Henry III., ... ... ... ... ... ... a6


Ciwp. P

V. Edward I., ...

VI. Edward II ... $*

VII. Edward IIL, ... ... 97

VIIL Richard II., ... ... ... 103

IX. Scotland and Ireland during the first Seven Plantagenet Reigns, 107

X. Social Condition of the People under the Plantagenets Proper, 113

Leading Authors, ... ... ... ... ... 116

Leading Dates, ... ... ... ... ... 116

Genealogical Tree, ... ... ... ... 118


I. Henry IV., ... ... ... ... ... ... 119

II. Henry V. 123

III. Henry VI., ... ... ... ... ... ... 127


I. Edward IV., ... ... ... ... ... ... 133

II. Edward V., ... ... ... ... ... ... 138

III. Richard III ... ... ... ... ... 139

IV. Social Condition of the People under the Houses of York and Lancaster, 142
Leading Authors, ... ... ... ... ... 144

Leading Dates, ... ... ... ... ... 144

Genealogical Tree, ... ... ... ... ... 145


I. Henry VII., ... ... ... ... ... ... 146

II. Henry VIII. ... ... ... ... ... ... 157

III. Edward VI., ... ... ... ... ... ... 169

IV. Mary I., ... ... ... ... ' ... ... 173

V. Elizabeth, ... ... ... ... ... ... 177

VI. Stuart Sovereigns of Scotland Ireland, ... ... ... 185

VII. Social Condition of the People under the Tudors, ... ... 193

Leading Authors, ... ... ... 199

Leading Dates, ... ... ... ... ... 201

Genealogical Tree, ... ... ... ... ... 202


I. James I., ... ... ... ... ... ... 203

II. Charles I., ... ... ... ... ... ... 209

III. Commonwealth, ... ... ... ... ... 220

IV. Charles II., ... ... ... .. ... ... 227

V. James II., ... ... ... ... ... ... 238

VI. William III. and Mary II., ... ... ... ... 247

VIL Anne, ... ... 253


Chp. P(jl

VIII. Social Condition of the People under the Stuarts, ... ... 269

Leading Authors, ... ... ... ... ... 265

Leading Dates, ... ... ... ... ... 267

Genealogical Tree, ... ... ... ... ... 269


I. George I., ... ... ... ... ... ... 270

Leading Authors, ... ... ... ... ... 276

II. George II., ... ... ... ... ... ... 277

Leading Authors, ... ... ... ... ... 287

III. George III., ... ... ... ... ... ... 289

IV. George III. (continued), ... ... ... ... 296

Loading Authors, ... ... ... ... ... 308

V. George IV., ... ... ... ... ... ... 310

Leading Authors, ... ... ... ... ... 813

VL William IV., ... ... ... ... ... 815

Leading Authors, ... ... ... ... ... 318

VIL Victoria, ... ... ... ... ... ... 319

Leading Authors, ... ... ... ... ... 831

VI IL The British Constitution and Government, ... ... 334

Leading Dates, ... ... ... ... ... 837

Genealogical Tree, ... ... ... .. ... 889

British Colonies and Dependencies, ... ... ... 240


1. Give the Period to which the
reign belongs its place in the
Period its opening and clos-
ing Dates.

II. Trace the Descent of the Sove-
reign from the Conqueror
name the father, mother, bro-
thers, sisters, husband or wife,
sons arid daughters.

III. Describe the personal life, char-

acter, and death of the Sove-

IV. Describe the Foreign Policy of

the reign giving especially the
Wars and Alliances.
V. Describe the Domestic Policy of
the reign.

VL Name and describe all Import-
ant Laws, and other Constitu-
tional Changes.

VII. Give any Dominions acquired or
lost, and Colonies planted, ic.
VIII. Name the leading Statesmen,
Warriors, Authors, Men of
Science, &c. and tell for what
they are famous.

IX Give and explain any Histori-
cal Names or Titles such ai
Triers, Ordainers, Field of
the Cloth of Gold, Ac,
X. State and describe the leading
Events, classifying them as re-
ligious, political, social, com-
mercial, literary, Ac.

In describing an event there are six things always to be given: 1. The Canscs
2. The Time. 8. The Place. 4. The Persons concerned. 6. The Circum-
stances. 6. The Consequences.




The British Isles.
Etymology of names.
Earliest inhabitants.

Their condition In Caesar'*


THE British Isles lie to the north-west of the Continent of
Europe; the larger, Great Britain, being situated near the
Continent ; the smaller, Ireland, lying further west in the
Atlantic Ocean. Great Britain, called by the ancients
Albion and Britannia, comprises the three countries, Eng-
land, Wales, and Scotland.

The origin of the names, Britain, Albion, Wales, and Scot-
land, is wrapped in much obscurity. Some have supposed
that the name Britain was derived from Brutus, a son of
Ascanius the Trojan. The name Albion still used in the
form Albyn, or Alpin, as the Highland term for Scotland
is supposed to have been given to the island by the Gauls,
from the chalk cliffs of the south-eastern coast. It is a
Celtic word, meaning ' White Island,' and is most likely con-
nected with albus and Alp, Wales, or Weallas, is thought
to have been so named from a Saxon word, meaning ' wan-
derers' or 'foreigners,' because it was peopled by British
refugees. It was also called Cambria. The Welsh have
always called themselves Cymri, a name which probably
connects them with the ancient Ciinbri. Scotland took its


name from a tribe called Scoti, perhaps akin to the Scy-
thians of Northern Europe, who, early in the Christian
era, passed from the north of Ireland into Britain, and,
many centuries afterwards, gave their name to their new
country. At the time of the Roman invasion the southern
Britons called the inhabitants of the northern part of the
island Caoill daoin, or ' people of the woods.' Hence the
Latinized name Caledonia. The etymology of the word
England admits of no doubt. It is another form of Angle-
land, and was derived from the Angli, the chief of the Saxon
tribes. The smaller island was anciently called lerne, a
name which seems to have been formed from the Celtic word
eire, meaning * west.' The Romans called it Hibernia and
Insula Sacra. Its present names are Ireland and Erin, in
which can still be traced its old appellation.

These two islands, lying almost in the centre of the land
hemisphere, with the great colonies of British America, Aus-
tralia, and Cape Colony, with India, and numerous smaller
dependencies in every quarter of the globe, form the British
Empire. The obj ect of this work is to trace, from the earliest
time, of which we have any sure knowledge, to the present
day, the events which have united under one Sovereign so
many scattered lands.

The original inhabitants of the British Isles were Celts.
The population now consists of two well-defined races
the Celtic and the Gothic, branches of the great Indo-Euro-
pean or Japhetic stock The former are found in Wales,
Cornwall, the Isle of Man, the Highlands of Scotland, and
the south and west of Ireland, in all places speaking the
same language, though in different dialects, and still retain-
ing in manners and dress many peculiarities of the ancient
race ; while the latter hold the lower and more fertile dis-
tricts. Akin to the Celts of Britain are the Bretons, or people
of Bretagne, anciently Arrnorica, the most westerly part of

Many centuries before the Christian era, Phoenician sailors
from the colonies in Africa and Spain visited the British
Islands, led thither by their rich tin mines. Herodotus,
writing about four centuries and a half before Christ, men-
tions the Cassiterides or Tin Islands (supposed to be the


Scilly Isles) ; but the Greeks then knew nothing of them
beyond their existence.

From Csesar, Tacitus, Diodorus Siculus, and others, we
learn a little about ancient Britain. The country seems to
have been then full of marsh and forest, with a few patches
of rudely tilled ground on the shore next Gaul. The natives
of the interior sowed no corn, but lived on milk and flesh.
Those far north were often obliged to feed on the roots and
leaves which grew wild in the woods. They clad themselves
in skins, leaving their limbs bare ; and these they stained
blue with the juice of a plant called woad. They were a
brave and hardy people, and had some knowledge of war.
Csesar describes them as fighting on foot, on horseback, and
in chariots, which, from blades that have been dug up on
ancient battle-fields, seem to have been armed with scythes
attached to the axle. Although divided into many tribes,
they chose a single leader when danger menaced their com-
mon country ; and, thus united, they were most formid-
able. Those who lived in the south were, from their in-
tercourse with Gaul, more civilized than the rest. They
wore a dress of woollen cloth, woven in many colours ; and
were adorned with chains of gold, silver, or bronze. Golden
and silver ornaments for the arms, neck, and head ; rings of
various metals, which Csesar says were the only sort of
money they used ; spear and arrow heads of flint and bronze,
shaped with a delicacy which, with all our machinery, we
cannot excel ; and great works of rudely piled stone, such
as Stonehenge in Wiltshire and Stennes in Orkney, are almost
the only memorials by which we can judge of this ancient

The religion of the Celts was Druidism ; their priests were
called Druids ; and their chief sanctuary was the Island of
Mona, now Anglesea. The word Druid seems to be con-
nected with drm, the Greek name of the oak, their sacred
t/ee. In addition to their priestly duties, the Druids were
the bards, the lawgivers, and the teachers of the people.
They wore long white robes and flowing beards, to distin-
guish them from the people, over whom they had complete
control. They believed in the transmigration of souls, and
taught the worship of one God ; but the serpent, the sun

12 Fit U1T FEASTS.

and moon, and the oak, shared their veneration ; and their
altars were stained with the blood of men and women,
whom, as Csesar tells, they burned in large numbers, en-
closed in immense cages of wicker work. These victims
were generally men who had been convicted of theft or some
other crime, their sacrifice being deemed peculiarly accept-
able to the gods; but in the absence of such, they never
hesitated to immolate the innocent. The circles of stone
already referred to are supposed by some to have been the
scenes of these fearful rites ; but it is more probable that
they were sepulchral monuments erected in honour of de-
parted chiefs. The oak groves were the dwellings of the
Druids, and the temples for their daily worship. Their
three chief feasts had reference to the harvest : one was
held after the seed was sown, another when the corn
was ripening, and a third when the crop was gathered
in. Besides these, a solemn ceremony took place on the
sixth day of the moon nearest to the 10th of March,
which was their New-year's-day, when the Archdruid with
a golden knife cut the mistletoe from its parent oak ; while
attendant priests, with their white robes outspread, caught
the sacred plant as it fell The traces of >lhese customs lin-
ger still, especially in the south of England, where the sports
of May-day, the fires of Midsummer-eve, the harvest-home,
and the cutting of the mistletoe at Christmas, are duly ob-




55 B.C. to 410 A.D. 465 years.


Julius Cassar Istads.

His return.

Intentions of Augustus

and Caligula.
Lieutenants of Claudius.




Roman walls.


Roman division of Britain.

Caurausius and Allectus.

Christianity introduced.

Withdrawal of the Ro-

Scotland and Ireland dur-
ing Roman period.

Roman roads and towns.

JULIUS CAESAR, having subdued the tribes of Gaul, desired
to add Britain to his conquests. He had left a legion
under Publius Crassus to guard the Venetic Isles, the group
of which Belle-isle is chief; and from the soldiers he learned
the course, long and carefully kept a secret, by which the
Gallic merchants reached the coast of Britain. The valu-
able pearl fisheries, and the mineral wealth of the island,
were inducements additional to the glory which he expected
to reap. He first called together a number of Gallic mer-
chants, but could learn nothing of value from them ;
then, having sent an officer with a ship of war to 55
reconnoitre, he crossed the Strait of Dover, called B.C.
in Latin ' Fretum Oceani,' with 80 ships, having on
board two legions, or 12,000 troops. He found the high,
white cliffs of Kent studded with bands of Britons, and had
much difficulty in landing ; however, the eagle-bearer of the
tenth legion led the way, and Roman discipline prevailed.
Four days after, a storm shattered the fleet; and Caesar,
having repaired his vessels, thought it best to return to
Gaul. He had been absent seventeen days.

Next summer he landed on the Kentish shore with five
legions, comprising 30,000 foot and 2000 horse. The British
tribes had united their forces, and were led by Cassivelau-


nus, whose territory lay along the Thames. He proved him-
self a brave and skilful general, and kept the Eomans in
check for some time, by taking advantage of the woods and
rivers. However, Caesar forced his way across the Thames,
and came up with his foe, intrenched in the midst of thick
woods and treacherous marshes. Here the British chief
held out for a while, in hopes that the leaders of the Kent-
ish tribes would take the Koman camp and burn the fleet ;
but, when he heard that they had been foiled in this attempt,
he came to terms with Caesar. Hostages were given, the
amount of yearly tribute settled, and Caesar went back to

. Until the reign of the Emperor Claudius, the
Romans did not return to Britain. Augustus, first
Emperor of Rome, had formed a plan to do so, but
its execution was prevented. The foolish Caligula led his
troops to the shore of Gaul, opposite to Britain ; where, hav-
ing shown them the faint outline of the hills in the distance,
he set them to gather shells in their helmets, as the spoils
of the conquered ocean. This he celebrated on his return
to Rome with a triumph.

Plautius and Vespasian, the lieutenants of Claudius, after
hard fighting, gained a footing on the island. Plautius, sup-
plied from Gaul with all necessaries, drove the Britons across
the Thames ; but further he could not go, until the Emperor
joined him with new forces. Then, having crossed the river,
the Romans penetrated Essex, where they founded their first
colony Camalodunum,now Colchester or Maldon. Vespasian
fought more than thirty battles, before he subdued the tribes
of Hampshire and Wight.

Plautius was succeeded by Ostorius Scapula, who disarmed
all the Britons within the Roman bounds. This act roused
the spirit of the natives. The Silures, a tribe of South
Wales, took the lead ; and under their chief, Caractacus, they
kept the Romans in constant War for nine years. But at
last the Romans, having forced their way into the British
strongholds, routed the army of Caractacus ; who, fleeing to
his step-mother, Cartismandua, Queen of the Brigantes, was
by her betrayed into their hands. He was led in triumph
through the streets of Rome, aod was doomed to die ; but his


dauntless bearing in the Emperor's presence won for him a
free pardon.

Another leader of the Britons was Boadicea, who, in Nero's
reign, was Queen of the Iceni, a tribe inhabiting Norfolk and
Suffolk. She, having suffered shameful wrongs and insults
from the Komans, called her countrymen to arms. She led
them to battle, destroyed Camalodunum and London,
which was, even at this early date, a flourishing com- 6 1
mercial town ; but, being defeated by Suetonius Pau- A.D.
linus, she killed herself.

To Julius Agricola, lieutenant of Domitian, is due the
honour of making Britain a Roman province in
more than name. We have an account of his opera- 78
tions in the works of Tacitus, his son-in-law. While A.D
he upheld the terror of the Roman arms and checked
all revolt, he adopted a milder policy. He taught the arts
of peace to the conquered race, and many high-born Britons
assumed the Roman toga, language, and manner of life. He
did what no Roman general had yet done, in penetrating the
pathless woods of Caledonia, and extending Roman rule to
the shores of the Moray Frith. In this expedition he
had to contend with many fierce foes, and fought a
battle at Mons Grampius, with the Caledonian chief 84
Galgacus, before passing that great natural barrier. A.D.
The scene of this battle is uncertain : many name
Ardoch in Perthshire as the probable place. While cruising
upon the northern coasts, the sailors of Agricola discovered
Britain to be an island.

This great general built two lines of forts from sea to sea,
for the protection of the southern provinces ; one from
the Tyne to the Sol way Frith; the other, two years 79
after, from th? Frith of Forth to the Frith of Clyde. A.D.
The Emperor Adrian, unable to hold the northern
ramparts, raised that called. Vallum Adriani, or the 120
Picts' Wall, close to the first chain of forts built by A.D.
Agricola. In the reign of Antonine the Romans, under
Lollius Urbicus, pushed their territory far north, and 138
restored Agricola's second wall, which was then called A.D.
Vallum Antonini, and at a later date Graham's


More than once a Roman governor of Britain assumed
the imperial purple. This happened in one case during the
reign of Severus, when Albinus led the British legions into
Gaul to contest the Empire. Severus, victorious over his
rival, divided the government of Britain between two of his
lieutenants ; but he was soon obliged, by the incursions of the
Caledonians, to visit the island in person. He marched to
attack his fierce foes in their mountain fastnesses. They,
whose only weapons were a dirk, a heavy sword slung around
them by an iron chain, and a lance with a bell at one end,
and whose sole protection was a rude target of hide, soon
yielded to the skill and valour of disciplined legions. Severus
traversed their forests, and, having inflicted heavy punish-
ment for their ravages, built, a few yards from the wall of
Adrian, a strong stone wall, requiring a garrison of 10,000
men. He had scarcely turned south when the Caledonians
rose again ; and in his northward march to reduce
211 them he died at York, then Ebor&cum. His son
A.D. Caracalla yielded to the native chiefs all the terri-
tory north of the wall built by his father.
By the Romans, Britain was divided into six provinces.
These were as follow :

I. BRITANNIA PRIMA, including all the country south of Glou-
cestershire and the Thames.

II. FLAVIA C-iESARIENSIS, the central counties, forming a square
whose angles rest on the Wash and the mouths of the Dee, the
Severn, and the Thames.

III. BRITANNIA SECUNDA, Wales and that part of England west

of the Severn and the Dee.

IV. MAXIMA CJESARIENSIS, from the Wash and the Dee on the

south to the wall of Adrian on the Tyne.
V. VALENTIA, the country between the walls of Adrian and An-


VI. VESPASIANA or CALEDONIA, the tracts north of Antonine's

The first four provinces were completely reduced ; the
fifth was partially subdued by Agricola, Urbicus, Severus,
and Theodosius, who lived in the reign of Valentinian, and
gave his sovereign's name to the district ; the last was merely
traversed by the Roman troops, but never conquered.



Our knowledge of Britain during the latter years of the
lLoinan period is very scanty. For twelve years the island
was an independent state. Caurausius, appointed Count of
the Saxon Shore by the Emperors Diocletian and Maximian,
commanded a fleet, which was sent to defend the
British coasts from the Scandinavian pirates. He 288
established himself as Ruler of Britain, and actually A.D.
forced the Emperors to acknowledge his claim to the
title. He fell at York by the dagger of a Briton 297
named Allectus, who seized the throne; but, three A.D.
years after, he too fell in battle with the Emperor
Constantius Chlorus, and Roman ascendency was 300
restored. This prince married Helena, a British lady, A.D.
by whom he had a son, afterwards called Constantino
the Great.

It is an unfailing rule in history, that, when a. civilized
nation subdues one less advanced, the ultimate benefit
derived by the conquered people far outweighs any tem-
porary loss at first suffered. The early years of Roman rule
in Britain were but the dark hour before the dawn. Chris-
tianity was introduced into Britain about the latter end of
the first century ; some say by Peter or Paul. The Britons
suffered persecution for the Cross in the reign of Diocletian.
St. Alban, the first British martyr for Christ, gave
his name to the town of Hertfordshire at which he 303
suffered. Constantino the Great, having been born A.D.
at York, honoured Britain as his birth-place, and
greatly encouraged the teaching of the Christian faith in the
island. Thus the Britons received from their Roman con-

Online LibraryWilliam Francis CollierHistory of the British Empire → online text (page 1 of 28)