Front Matter Early Times The Druids The Britons Caesar in Britain Queen Boadicea The Great Walls The Great Irish Saint The Anglo-Saxons Brave King Arthur The Laws of the Saxons The Story of St Augustine Three Great Men The Danish Pirates King Alfred and the Cakes Alfred conquers the Danes A King's Narrow Escape The King and the Outlaw The Monasteries An Unlucky Couple St Dunstan King Canute and the Waves A Saxon Nobleman Lady Godiva's Ride The Battle of Hastings The Conquest Lords and Vassals Death of William The Brothers' Quarrels Arms and Armour The "White Ship" Matilda's Narrow Escapes Story of Fair Rosamond Thomas a Becket Murder of Thomas a Becket Richard's Adventures Richard and the Saracens The Faithful Minstrel Death of Richard The Murder of Arthur The Great Charter The Rule of Henry III A Race Persecution of the Jews The Conquest of Wales A Quarrel with France The Coronation Stone The Insolent Favourite Bruce and the Spider Death of Edward II The Murderers punished The Battle of Crecy The Siege of Calais The Age of Chivalry The Battle of Poitiers The Peasants' Revolt Richard's Presence of Mind A Tiny Queen Henry's Troubles Madcap Harry A Glorious Reign The Maid of Orleans The War of the Roses The Queen and the Brigand The Triumph of the Yorks The Princes in the Tower Richard's Punishment Two Pretenders A Grasping King Field of the Cloth of Gold The New Opinions Death of Wolsey Henry's Wives The King and the Painter A Boy King Lady Jane Grey The Death of Cranmer A Clever Queen Elizabeth's Lovers Mary, Queen of Scots Captivity of Mary Stuart Wreck of the Spanish Armada The Elizabethan Age Death of Elizabeth A Scotch King The Gunpowder Plot Sir Walter Raleigh King and Parliament Cavaliers and Roundheads "Remember" The Royal Oak The Commonwealth The Restoration Plague and Fire The Merry Monarch James driven out of England A Terrible Massacre William's Wars The Duke of Marlborough The Taking of Gibraltar The South Sea Bubble Bonny Prince Charlie Black Hole of Calcutta Loss of the Colonies The Battle of the Nile Nelson's Last Signal The Battle of Waterloo First Gentleman of Europe Childhood of Queen Victoria The Queen's Marriage Wars in Victoria's Reign The Jubilee

Story of the English - Helene Guerber

The Merry Monarch

The Puritan, who did not approve of any kind of amusement, said that the plague and the fire had been sent to punish the people for following the king's gay example. For a time, therefore, the calamity had the effect of sobering both people and king; but the latter soon resumed his merry life, and thought more of his pet dogs than of his duty.

King Charles Spaniels.


All the money voted by Parliament was spent for pleasure; and as those sums were not enough, Charles sold Dunkirk to the French, three years before the great plague. This made the people so angry that they accused Clarendon of being a poor minister, and had him exiled.

Clarendon gone, the power was placed chiefly in the hands of five ministers, who formed a committee called the Cabal, and, strange to say, the letters spelling this word were also the initials of their names. The Cabal made England begin a war with Holland, and closed a secret treaty with the French king, who paid large sums to Charles to get his help against the Protestants. But when it had ruled six years, better ministers took its place, and called a new Parliament, to restore order.

The new Parliament found out that Charles favoured the Roman Catholics; and as he and Catherine had no children, and his brother James (a firm Catholic) was his heir, they again began to fear that an attempt would be made to force all England to return to the old faith. The majority were so opposed to this that they made a law that no one should hold a government position until he swore to uphold the reformed faith.

Many Catholic officers consequently gave up their positions; and as the Quakers refused to take any oath, because their religion allowed them only to say "yea" and "nay," they too could hold no offices. In fact, many of them were thrown into prison, while others left the country and went to settle in the New World.

The same Parliament also made the law, still called by the Latin words habeas corpus, whereby no man could be kept in prison unless he had been tried before a judge and found guilty. This was a great improvement; for until then the king had sometimes imprisoned people without any trial, and kept them captive as long as he pleased.

At this time the whole country was divided into two large parties. One was composed of fierce Protestants, called Whigs. They were willing to let Charles reign as long as he had Protestant ministers, but said that his brother James, the Duke of York, should never come to the throne. It was to please this party that Charles married his two nieces, Mary and Anne, the daughters of James, to Protestant princes. But, while the Whigs approved of these marriages, the Catholic or royal party, who were called Tories, did not like them.

The quarrels between the Tories and the Whigs led to sundry plots. One of them, the Rye House Plot, was discovered, and many people were executed, because they were accused not only of wishing to prevent James from ever being king, but also of wanting to murder Charles. As the discontent in the country still increased, James now proposed some harsh measures. But Charles, knowing the English would rebel, quietly answered: "Brother, I am too old to go again on my travels; you may, if you choose."

Things might have grown worse had not the Merry Monarch suddenly been stricken with apoplexy, and died at the age of fifty-five. His reign is famous on account of the writings of the poets Milton and Dryden, and of Daniel Defoe, who, as you may know, wrote an account of the plague, and the story of "Robinson Crusoe."

Though very good-tempered, Charles was neither a good nor a great man. He was far more fond of pleasure than of work, and his promises were easily made and broken. One of his courtiers, who knew his character perfectly, once showed him the following verse which he had written, as a joke, for the royal tombstone:

"Here lies our sovereign lord the king,

Whose word no man relies on;

Who never said a foolish thing,

Nor ever did a wise one."

Charles, having read these lines, handed them back to the author, saying with a smile, "The last part may be very true; for my words are my own, but my doings are my ministers." This, however, was no real excuse; for Charles, being king, was responsible for his people, and should at least have tried to do his best for them.