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

Plague and Fire

When Charles came to the throne he was already thirty years old. During his exile he had met and loved a woman whom he secretly married. This marriage, however, was not according to the law, so it was decided that the king's son, the Duke of Monmouth, could never inherit the crown.

The legal heir to the crown was the king's brother James, a Roman Catholic, and it was feared that he would try to make England a Catholic country. As many of the people had not forgotten the troubles which such an attempt had brought about in the days of Queen Mary, they begged Charles to marry again, hoping he would have a legitimate son to succeed him.

After much hesitation, Charles finally chose Catherine of Braganza, daughter of the King of Portugal. She was very rich, and besides a great deal of money, gave her husband the city of Tangier in Africa, and that of Bombay in India, where the English had been trading ever since the year 1600. The new queen was a strict Catholic, brought up in a convent, and she was so shocked by the free manners of the ladies and gentlemen at her husband's court that she lived a very quiet and retired life.

It was not the same with Charles II. He lived a gay life, and set such a very bad example for his people that he did a great deal of harm. The Puritans were shocked by his lack of principle, and those who had fought for him were pained by his ingratitude. For, out of all who at such peril and self-sacrifice had aided him in his escape, the only person whom he ever rewarded was the farmer who spent a day with him in the Royal Oak.

Throughout Charles's reign there were many troubles about religious matters, and soon there came a calamity which the Puritans said was sent to punish the king for his sins. This was the plague, a disease which started in the East and spread rapidly over Europe. It raged everywhere, but nowhere worse than in London. Whole families died in a few days; and while the rich fled into the country, hoping to escape contagion, the poor had to stay in the city, where many who did not die of the plague perished of hunger. No trading was done, grass grew in the streets, and almost every house bore a cross and the words, "God have mercy upon us," rudely marked on the door, to show that it was plague-stricken. Twice a day heavy carts rumbled along the deserted streets to bear away the dead. Their passage was heralded by the ringing of a bell, and the dismal cry, "Bring out your dead, bring out your dead."

It is estimated that two thirds of the inhabitants of London died of this plague. The houses, mostly built of wood and badly ventilated, could not be properly cleaned; so a second calamity, a great fire which destroyed thirteen thousand houses the next year, proved a blessing in disguise by destroying the germs of the plague.

The flames swept onward so fast that people barely escaped with their lives, and a great deal of property was lost. In spite of the efforts made even by King Charles and his brother, the flames raged on and on, until they consumed the old Church of St. Paul's.

When the fire was finally put out, a large part of the city had been burned down and had to be entirely rebuilt. This led to a great improvement; for the streets were now made wider, the houses more comfortable, and the great English architect, Sir Christopher Wren, made plans for thirty-five new churches and entirely rebuilt St. Paul's.