Story of England - S. B. Harding


The story of the English is the story of our forefathers. Most of us in America, if we try to learn something of our grandfathers, and of their grandfathers before them, find that the story takes us back to some town or county in England. We find ourselves descended from some smith, or weaver, or tailor, or some other honest man of that "tight little isle." And when, in addition, we ask where we got our government, our church organization, and our ways of living, we are again led back by many a path to the island of Great Britain.

So, if we wish truly to know how we  came to be what we are, we must first ask who the English are,—where they came from, what their country is like, and what their history has been. We must see how they began with a very simple life. How, little by little, through many long wars, they changed from heathens to Christians, and built great and beautiful churches. How they have become industrious and energetic, building great ships and railways, warehouses and factories, helping to make the powers of nature bow to the will of man. And how, from living in wild and scattered tribes, they came to have one strong and free government; and how its area spread until now their power is felt in many lands, and millions of men are proud to say that they are of English or British race.

The English began their story at a time when the story of the Romans was coming to a close.

The Romans were great conquerors for some time before the birth of Christ, and they ruled the lands about the Mediterranean Sea, and beyond, for hundreds of years. But at last they were obliged to give up that task. Their empire was broken into many parts, which were taken by barbarous but stronger peoples. That part of it which the Romans knew as the island of Britain was given up when Rome's troubles came thick upon her. The English then came over from the Continent of Europe and took possession. And it is from them that we now give the name "England" to the greater part of the island.

We begin our story first with an account of the island itself, and then of the different peoples who lived there before the English came. Afterward we will trace the story of the English, as they grow from small beginnings to their present great strength.

Britain and the Britons


The things which fitted the British Isles to be the home of civilized men.

What kind of people the early inhabitants were; why they were overcome.

Who the Britons were; whence they came; how they lived; their chief weakness in government.

From the city of Calais, on the northern coast of France, one may look over the water on a clear day and see the white cliffs of Dover, in England. At this point the English Channel is only twenty-one miles wide. But this narrow water has dangerous currents, and often fierce winds sweep over it, so that small ships find it hard to cross. This rough Channel has more than once spoiled the plans of England's enemies, and the English people have many times thanked God for their protecting seas.

Indeed, the British Isles belong more to the sea than to the land. They once formed a peninsula, jutting out from Europe, far into the Atlantic Ocean; and thus they remained for countless ages. But a long struggle for mastery went on between sea and land. It ended at last, ages before our story begins, by the sinking of the land between England and France, and between Scotland and Norway. The rolling, tireless sea poured over these low places, to form the North Sea and the English channel. The Irish Sea and St. George's Channel were formed in the same manner. The result is that we now have the two islands of Great Britain and Ireland, with a number of smaller ones belonging to the same group, instead of that long-ago peninsula of the Continent of Europe.

The sea took the people of these islands for its own. It shut them off from their enemies in the early days of their weakness. It gave them plenty of warm rains, which makes grass and grain grow green and tall. It gave them abundance of fish for food; and when they became stronger as a people, it furnished them broad highways by which they might trade with other nations. So the people of Great Britain have put their trust in the sea, looking to it for their wealth and their strength. The great poet Shakespeare speaks of their land as—

"This fortress built by Nature for herself,

Against infection and the hand of war;

This happy breed of men, this little world,

This precious stone set in the silver sea,

Which serves it in the office of a wall

Or as a moat defensive to a house,

Against the envy of less happy lands."

But Great Britain has many advantages besides the sea, else it would be no better off than many other islands.

First, its climate is excellent, neither very cold in winter nor very warm in summer. The British Isles are as far north as the bleak peninsula of Labrador in North America, yet the summers in England are about as warm as in Northern Minnesota, and their winters are only as cold as in Virginia. The reason is that along the western coasts of Ireland and Scotland runs the warm Gulf Stream.

There are many rivers, some of them broad and deep, up which ships may go for a considerable distance into the land. The chief of these are the Thames, the Severn, the Mersey, and the Clyde. Besides the river mouths, the country has an irregular coast on all sides, forming many sheltered harbors for ships.

Again, there is a goodly amount of very fertile soil, capable of raising nearly every crop that can be grown in any part of the temperate zone. Then, too, there is great wealth of minerals in the depths of the earth—tin in the southwest of England, and coal and iron in the north and west.

Where there are mines there are usually mountains. So it is in Great Britain. Along the western side of the island the country is mountainous, especially in the extreme west, which is called Wales. The loftiest mountain here is Mount Snowdon, which is about 3500 feet high. In the northern part is Scotland, where the mountains are quite rugged. Wales and northern Scotland are the wilder parts of the island, and were the parts which the English were longest in getting into their possession.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

Mt. Snowdon in Wales

Great Britain is a goodly country—good for man, and beast. It was good for savage men; it was good for men who were beginning to advance beyond savages; and it is good now for a great and powerful nation.

The earliest people of Great Britain, like those of other parts of the world, were savages, who lived in caves or flimsy huts, and had only the rudest weapons. They are called "stone men," because they clipped stones into shape so as to make rough axes and knives. The later stone men made smooth and polished weapons, similar to the Indian knives and axes which you may see in museums. They had tamed the dog to serve them, and also had oxen, pigs, sheep, and goats.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

Stone Implements Found in Britain

But, after all, we know very little of these stone men. They disappeared long before civilized men visited these islands, and their place was taken by a people who used "bronze" weapons, made from a mixture of tin and copper.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

Pottery Found in Britain

These men of the "bronze age" were the Britons, and from them the island is still called Britain. Like most Europeans, the Britons were men of "Aryan" speech. The European languages have so many likenesses to one another that scholars think they must all have come from some one original tongue. It is supposed that this language was spoken—long before men began to make records of their deeds—by some one original nation, living somewhere in western Asia or Eastern Europe; and from it the present European nations are all descended. This supposed original people is called Aryan, and those peoples who speak any language descended from theirs are said to be peoples of Aryan speech. The Celts—that is, the Irish, Welsh, Scots, and ancient Gauls—are one branch of the Aryan peoples. Other branches are: the ancient Greeks and Romans; the Teutons (including the Germans and the Dutch); and the Slavs (Russians, Poles, and Servians). In Asia, the Persians and the ancient Hindus also spoke Aryan tongues.

Moving forward, step by step, the Celts settled in western Europe, at some time before history began. The Gauls remained in the country we call France. Others of the Celts, chief among whom were the Britons, moved across the Channel and gave their name to the British Isles.

The Britons were tall and slender, with light complexions and blue eyes. Many of them had red hair. When they went to war they stained their faces and bodies with a bluish dye taken from one of their native herbs. They fought mostly on foot, using swords and spears. They were fierce and bold and ready to resist any invader; but they were not systematic in their fighting, and when steadily attacked would give way. Their bronze weapons and tools were harder and sharper than the stone implements of the earlier peoples. They made small round boats, of basket-work covered with skins. They plowed the land and raised wheat. They could spin and weave; they knew something of mining and metal-working; they could quarry great stones from the hills; and they exchanged their tin for the goods of Gaul and other countries.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

Bronze Swords from Britain

Yet the Britons had no cities or towns, but lived in rude villages. Their huts were round, somewhat like Indian wigwams; they were built of sticks and reeds, though sometimes they had stone foundations.

The Britons believed in many gods. These included one who was supreme over all, besides a sun god, a god of thunder, and others. The worship of the Britons included bloody sacrifices of both animals and men. The human sacrifices were usually of criminals, or of captives taken in war; but sometimes innocent persons were sacrificed to their gods. The priests were called Druids, and they were the most learned men among the Britons. They were respected almost as much as the chiefs and kings, and were consulted on all questions of law and religion.

At several places in England there are still standing some peculiar stone structures, erected in these early days. The most famous of these is Stonehenge, near Salisbury. It is a circle of huge stones set on end, with great stones laid crosswise upon them. Smaller circles and ovals are arranged within the great circle. One of the stones at Stonehenge weighs nearly seventy tons. The whole circle stands in the midst of burial places, and it probably had something to do with the worship of these early peoples.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding


No one knows how long the Britons were the ruling race in these islands. But whether it was many centuries, or only a few, they did not learn to unite under a single government. They had many chiefs, but none who was recognized throughout the country as supreme.

So, when the Romans made an invasion into their land, no united resistance was possible. The stricter discipline and firmer organization of the Romans won the victory, and Britain was added to the great Empire of Rome.


  1. Describe the position of the British Isles on the map.
  2. Locate Calais, Dover, St. George's Channel; the rivers Thames, Seine, Mersey and Clyde; Wales, Scotland, Mt. Snowdon.
  3. What advantages result from the fact that Great Britain is an island? What disadvantages?
  4. What differences in race, customs, etc., were there between the "stone men" and the Britons?
  5. Which were further advanced in civilization, the early Britons or the North American Indians? Why?

The Romans in Britain


When and why Caesar first went to Britain. Results of his two expeditions.

When the Roman Conquest was made. Boadicea; Agricola; Hadrian.

Improvements made by the Romans in Britain. The Roman wall.

How the Christian religion was introduced into Britain; into Ireland.

How long the Romans ruled in Britain; when and why they abandoned it.

When Christ was born, about nineteen hundred years ago, the Roman Empire was the greatest government in the world.

Through seven centuries of struggle the Romans had slowly increased their strength. In the early days, when Rome stood alone as a small city on the seven hills by the river Tiber, it had more than once been in danger of destruction, from civil war within or from enemies without. But gradually it extended in power, until all Italy was under Rome's rule. Then Sicily was gained; then Spain, Macedonia, Greece, and many other countries—until Roman governors and Roman armies were found in all the lands bordering on the Mediterranean Sea, and Rome was mistress of the civilized world.

Wherever the Roman power went, peace and good order went also, and for many years the Roman Empire remained a blessing to the world. But Rome was not able to stop her conquests. The barbarians of the north—the Germans and the Gauls—threatened her borders, and she defended herself by sending armies into their countries also.

The commander of one of these armies was Julius Caesar—the greatest of Roman generals and also a great statesman. He was in charge of the war against the Gauls. In three years he conquered their whole country, from the Pyrenees Mountains to the English Channel. In the next seven years he succeeded in bringing Gaul so thoroughly under Roman control, and making the Gallic people so well satisfied with their condition, that his province became in later days one of the most civilized and peaceful parts of the Empire.

During his work in Gaul, Caesar twice led an army into Britain. His object was to show to the Britons the Roman power, and to warn them not to help their kinsmen across the Channel.

Caesar's first visit was in the year 55 before Christ. On this occasion the Britons met the Romans at the shore, and tried to prevent their landing. Here a Roman soldier showed the value of Roman training. While the Romans were hesitating to leap into the sea, a standard bearer, who carried the brazen eagle, cried out:

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

Caesar Landing in Britain

"Follow me, fellow soldiers, unless you will betray the Roman eagle into the hands of the enemy. For my part, I am resolved to do my duty to Caesar and to the commonwealth."

He then leaped from the ship, and the other soldiers followed. The Britons were driven back, after a fierce conflict.

That year Caesar remained only a short time in Britain. Next summer he came again, remained a little longer, and made the Britons promise to pay tribute. He did not conquer any part of Britain, and the tribute was never paid. But he showed the Britons the power of Rome, and they did not afterward interfere with his work in Gaul. When Caesar wrote a history of his wars, a few years later, he gave the Romans their first real knowledge of Britain. From that time on, they looked upon it as a land worth having.

About a hundred years afterward, the Romans began their first conquest of the island. Large armies were sent over, and the conquest was made, little by little, from the south toward the north and west. In about forty years, all that we now know as England was conquered.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

Map of Roman Britain

At one time Boadicea, the queen of a tribe in eastern Britain, led the people in a great revolt against the unjust and cruel acts of a Roman governor. For a time the British swept victoriously over the country. They captured and burned the Roman settlement where London now is and killed thousands of the Romans. But the Romans were better organized, and in the end they defeated the queen's army. Boadicea then took poison, and the revolt was over.

Some years later, the Roman governor Agricola came to Britain to finish the conquest. He was a man of energy and courage, and he extended the Roman power from the Humber river northward to the river Clyde. He built a line of forts across the country, to hold back the wild tribes of Picts, in the north. He was a just governor, and his fair treatment caused many of the Britons to like the Roman rule.

Later, the Emperor Hadrian came in person to Britain. While there, he ordered that a continuous earthen wall and ditch should built about eighty miles south of Agricola's forts. These defenses extended right across the island, over hills and valleys, from the river Tyne on the east to the Solway Firth on the west. At the same time, or later, a stone wall was added, which was seventeen feet high, and from six to eight feet thick. A well-paved road ran along the south side, from sea to sea, a distance of seventy-three miles. Seventeen stone forts guarded the wall, with a watch tower every mile. Some parts of the wall and of these forts still remain. For many years, this wall was the northern boundary of the Roman province, and it proved a strong barrier against the warlike Picts.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

Part of the Roman Wall

South of the wall the Romans proceeded, as was their custom, to civilize the country. They gave the Britons peace, but the Roman peace was oppressive. Taxes were very heavy. Roman officers were often greedy and cruel. The common people were reduced almost to slavery. The Britons lost their skill in the use of weapons. What was worse, they lost their spirit of independence.

In Britain, as in other provinces of the Roman Empire, the Romans built well-paved roads, in order that they might march their troops rapidly from place to place. There were four principal roads, reaching out from London to all parts of the country. The one best known is called Watling Street, and ran from Dover to London, and then northwest to Chester. These roads were built on a foundation of broken stone, a foot or more deep, with a pavement of hard blocks of stone, fitted together. Some portions of these roads remained in use for more than a thousand years.

The Romans also introduced better methods of agriculture. They brought in new kinds of trees, such as the chestnut, the walnut, and the elm. They introduced new vegetables, such as the radish and the pea, and new animals, among them the rabbit. All of these are now familiar in English country life.

Some towns sprang up in Britain, during the three and a half centuries that Rome ruled the land; and remains are found of handsome country residences called "villas." In the towns and villas, Latin was the recognized language. But in the country districts, away from the roads, the Britons retained their own language and their own customs.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

Remains of a Roman Villa

One thing which the Romans brought to the Britons was the Christian religion. In some unknown way, but probably through the influence of humble soldiers, the Christian religion was introduced into Britain. From there it was carried into the still free and barbarous island of Ireland.

The man who carried Christianity to Ireland was Saint Patrick. While still a young man, in Britain, he was taken captive by a roving band and carried into Ireland. There he was kept, for a number of years, as a slave. He was encouraged to escape to Gaul by a dream, in which a voice said: "Thy ship is ready." Later he returned to Ireland, and preached the Gospel there. For more than thirty years he traveled up and down the island, baptizing converts, and establishing churches and monasteries. The Christian church has continued in Ireland without interruption ever since. Once every year, on Saint Patrick's day, even we Americans are reminded of the unselfish life of Ireland's most famous saint.

Britain remained a part of the Roman Empire until about the year 410 after Christ. In the latter part of this time, the power of Rome was steadily growing weaker. Great pestilences came. The population of Italy increased. The armies were composed of barbarians from outside the Empire. Farmers became "serfs," who were obliged to give part of their produce to some one above them. A few great men were rich, but all the rest were poor. Civil war arose, and the Empire was ready to go to pieces.

Then the German barbarians crossed the Danube and the Rhine rivers, which formed the frontiers of the Empire, and began to roam about at pleasure. They came with their families and their goods, and province after province was overrun by them. Even Italy was not free from attack. Twice during the fifth century Rome itself was captured and given up to fire and pillage.

Britain, meanwhile, passed out of Roman hands. About the time that the first attack was made on Italy (410 A.D.) the Roman troops were withdrawn from Britain for use elsewhere, and the inhabitants were notified that they must protect themselves.

The Britons were in despair. They had almost forgotten how to fight, and they were unwilling to unite under one leader. Their old enemies, the Picts and Scots (wild tribes from Scotland and Ireland), began to attack them. The Britons resisted, but at first with little spirit. A last despairing letter, called "The Groans of the Britons," was sent to the chief general of Rome, in which they said:

"The barbarians drive us to the sea; the sea throws us back on the barbarians. Thus two modes of death await us: we are either slain or drowned."

Britain lay as a rich prize, ready to be taken by the strongest. And soon there came, from over the eastern sea, conquering bands of wandering Germans who settled in Britain and made it their own.


  1. Locate on the map the countries included in the Roman Empire. Locate London. Chester.
  2. What kind of people were the Romans? What did they do for the world?
  3. Find out what you can about Julius Caesar.
  4. Was the Roman Conquest a good or a bad thing for Britain? Why?
  5. Find out what you can about St. Patrick.

The Coming of the English


Where the English came from; what sort of life they led in their old home; why they came to Britain; when.

How long it took them to conquer Britain; the seven kingdoms which they founded; where they were; what became of the Britons.

What their villages were like; how they used the land. What a township was; a "hundred"; a "shire."

How the English were governed; the "Witenagemot"; the "thegns."

Disappearance of Christianity and the Roman civilization from the conquered lands.

The German tribes that invaded Britain were the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes. They were the ancestors of the English people of today.

For many generations these tribes had dwelt in northern Germany, by the shores of the North Sea and the Baltic. Their ways of living were like those of the other Germans of that time. They cleared little tracts of land in the gloomy forests, on which they raised a few bushels of grain and pastured their scrubby cattle. The men left most of the work to the women, while they engaged in hunting or went to war. These tribes had never been governed by the Romans, so they knew nothing of Roman civilization or the Christian religion. More than any other Germans, perhaps, they loved the sea, a liking which their situation made it easy for them to gratify. They delighted to swoop down on unsuspecting coasts, gather what booty they could, and then take to their ships again before resistance could be formed. A Roman poet sings of the Old English in these words:

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

Old English Ships

"Foes are they, fierce beyond other foes, and cunning as they are fierce. The sea is their school of war, and the storm is their friend. They are sea-wolves that prey on the pillage of the world!"

So long as the Romans ruled Britain, the English made only pirate raids on that land. But when the Roman troops were withdrawn, an opportunity soon came for them to settle there, and to begin the conquest of the island.

This opportunity arose out of the weakness of the Britons, and the attacks which the barbarous Picts and Scots were making upon them from the north and west. A ruler of the Britons named Vortigern, about the year 449, invited a band of the Old English sea-rovers to assist the Britons against the Picts and Scots. He promised to supply them with provisions during the war, and to give them for their own an island near the mouth of the Thames river.

The bargain was agreed to, and the English came, under the lead, it is said, of two brothers, named Hengist and Horsa—names which mean "the horse" and "the mare." They soon defeated the Picts, and freed the Britons from that danger. Then they quarreled with their employers, on the ground that the provisions furnished them were not sufficient.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

Old English Warriors

"Unless more plentiful supplies are brought us," they said, "we will break our agreement with you, and ravage the whole country."

The English were strengthened by the arrival of many shiploads from their home lands, and war with the Britons followed. It lasted for nearly two centuries, and ended in the conquest by the newcomers of all that part of the island ("England," or "Angle-land") which we still call by their name.

We know very little of the details of this struggle. It was a long and bitter conquest, with much fierce and cruel fighting. Little by little, the Britons were driven back towards the west and north. When captured, they were either killed or enslaved. The Roman cities were either destroyed by fire, or were left unoccupied, and fell into ruins. Fresh bands of the English kept coming in, bringing their families, their cattle, and their goods. The Christian religion disappeared from all the eastern and southern parts of the island.

"The priests were everywhere slain before the altars," says Bede, the oldest English historian. "The people were destroyed with fire and sword. Some of the miserable remainder, being taken in the mountains, were butchered in heaps. Some fled beyond the seas. Others led a miserable life among the woods, rocks, and mountains, with scarcely enough food to support life, and expecting every moment to be their last."

After one hundred and fifty years of fighting, the invaders did not hold quite all that the Romans had held. The western coast, from Cornwall in the south to the river Clyde in the north, was still British. All the north was still in the hands of the wild Celtic tribes. But from the Firth of Forth southward, all the eastern, central, and southeastern parts of the island passed from the old owners to the new. The Britons had been replaced by the English. The Jutes settled in the southeastern district, which formed the Kingdom of Kent.

The southern coast was occupied by the Saxons. Those nearest the Jutes formed the kingdom of the South Saxons or "Sussex." Farther west were the West Saxons, with their kingdom of "Wessex." Just north of the Jutes were the East Saxons, in what is called "Essex."

The greater part of the eastern coast, as well as the interior of the country, was in the hands of the Angles, who formed the kingdoms of "East Anglia," "Mercia," and "Northumberland" (the land north of the Humber river).

These seven kingdoms are sometimes spoken of as the "Heptarchy," which means "seven governments."

We may be very sure that the Britons resisted bravely, otherwise the conquest would not have taken so long. In later days, their descendants loved to tell stories of a great King, called Arthur, who led his people to many victories against the English.

As the stories have it, King Arthur was pure in thought and deed, and was without fear. It was said that he was mysteriously cast up by the sea, a new-born babe, to be heir to the kingdom. When he became King he gathered warriors like himself in council, about the famous Round Table, and led them to war. He bore an enchanted sword of victory, which had come to him in a wonderful way. The poet Tennyson makes Arthur say:

"Thou rememberest how

In those old days, one summer noon, an arm

Rose up from out the bosom of the lake,

Clothed in white samite, mystic, wonderful,

Holding the sword—and how I rowed across

And took it, and have worn it, like a King."

The stories say that King Arthur protected his people from their enemies for many years, and at last was miraculously carried away to the happy island, there to live until he should come again, and again rule Britain. A great number of stories have gathered about the name of Arthur, until the tales of the "Knights of the Round Table" have become as numerous and as famous as the thousand and one tales of the "Arabian Nights."

But in spite of King Arthur—if there really was such a person—the Britons were pushed back into the mountains of the West. There, under the name of the "Welsh" (which was a German word for "strangers"), they maintain themselves to this day. The two races settled down, each in its own region. Sometimes there was war between them, sometimes peace. The English could no longer turn their whole strength against the Welsh, because there was much fighting among the different English kingdoms.

The life of the English, in their new home, was much like what it had been in Germany. They lived in small villages of rude and comfortless huts. About each village lay the land belonging to it, divided into woodland, pasture, and tillable ground. The woodland and pasture were used by all the people in common. The tillable ground was divided into three fields. One-third was used for winter grain, one-third grew spring grain, and the remainder lay fallow—that is, was allowed to rest. Every year a change was made, so that each field lay fallow one year out of every three. The fields were divided into long, narrow strips, and each man held a number of these strips, scattered over the field. No man had all his land in one piece. This system of landholding continued among the English for a thousand years—long after their other customs had seen great changes.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding


[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding


[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding


The village and its lands usually formed a single "township." The townships, in turn, were grouped into districts called "hundreds." Each hundred had its own public meeting, called the "moot," which decided the affairs of the hundred. The warriors from all the hundreds of each kingdom met in a "folk-moot," or meeting of the people. When the small kingdoms were combined, in later days, into larger kingdoms, these folk-moots became "shire-moots," or county courts, and the original kingdoms became "shires," or counties of the larger kingdom. For the whole kingdom there was a meeting of the wise men called the "Witan," or the "Witenagemot."

In Germany, few of the tribes had kings. But when the English entered Britain the constant fighting obliged them to choose permanent leaders. It was easy for a successful military leader to increase his power. So, by the time the conquest of the Britons ended, each of the English tribes had its King.

Below the king, there were two classes of freemen—the old nobles who claimed descent from the gods, and the common people. But a new class of nobles was arising, composed of those warriors who followed the King most closely, and lived in his house. These were the King's "thegns," and they were destined to become more powerful than the old nobles.

Below the freemen were the "slaves," who could be bought and sold like cattle, and had no rights at all. Then there was a class of "unfree" people, who could not be bought and sold, yet in some ways had not the rights of freemen, and could not go and come as they pleased.

The life of these Old English was very rude and simple. They had no great cities; they made no roads or bridges; they had no statues, no paintings, no books. Where they found these things in the land, they destroyed them or neglected them. When they drove out the Britons, they drove out with them all that made life easier and more refined. The Roman culture was all gone. The Britons long refused to send Christian missionaries among these English; so they continued their pagan worship in their new home. Heathen altars were set up, and sacrifices were offered to the German gods.

But the time was close at hand when the English, too, should be won to the faith of Christ.


  1. Find out what you can about the way the old Germans lived.
  2. How did the English conquest of Britain differ from the Roman?
  3. Find out what you can of the stories of King Arthur. (See Tennyson's "Idylls of the King.")
  4. Did the English Conquest of Britain produce more good or harm? Why?
[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

Map of Saxon Kingdoms

The English Accept Christianity


By whom missionaries were sent to England; how he became interested in the people there.

The leader of the missionaries; where they landed; when; how they were received; the success which they had; how long it was before all England was Christian.

What other missionaries came besides those from Rome; the difference between Celtic and Roman Christianity; which triumphed in England, and when.

How the Church in England was organized.

What English missionary preached on the continent.

The vows taken by the monks; what a monastery was like; who Bede was.

At Rome, one day, a monk named Gregory saw some white boys offered for sale as slaves. Their bodies were fair, their faces beautiful, and their hair soft and fine. Gregory asked whence they came.

"From Britain," was the answer. "There the people are all fair, like these boys."

Then he asked whether they were Christians, and was told that they were still pagans.

"Alas," said he, "what a pity that lads of such fair faces should lack inward grace." He wished next to know the name of their nation.

"They are called Angles," was the reply.

"They should be called angels, not Angles," said Gregory; "for they have angelic faces. What is the name of their king?"

"Ælla," was the answer.

"Alleluia," said Gregory, making another pun, "the praise of God the Creator must be sung in those parts."

Gregory was so deeply impressed by the sight of these boys that he wished to go as a missionary to the English. But he had no opportunity then to do so. A few years later he became Pope, that is, head of the Church. He was very learned and pious, and did so much to benefit the church that he is called Gregory the Great. He still remembered the English, and soon sent Augustine, a pious monk of Rome, to preach the Gospel to that people.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

An Early English Church

Augustine, with forty companions, landed in the English kingdom of Kent in the year 597. The King of Kent had married a Christian princess from Gaul, and was disposed to deal kindly with Augustine. But he received him in the open air, for fear some magic might be used if the meeting were held under a roof. The monks came up in procession, singing, and carrying a silver cross and a picture of Christ.

After listening to the preaching of Augustine, the King said:

"Your words and promises are fair, but they are new to us. I cannot approve of them so far as to forsake the religion which I have so long followed, with the whole English nation. But we will give you favorable entertainment, and we do not forbid you to preach and to gain as many as you can to your religion."

The King gave Augustine and his companions a house to live in, in his capital, Canterbury. He also permitted them to repair an old Christian church there, and to build a monastery. Soon the earnest preaching and holy living of the monks impressed the King and his people, and they became Christians. Thus Canterbury became the oldest of the English churches. When the church was organized a little later for all England, the Archbishop of Canterbury became its head, under the Pope.

Other monks worked as missionaries in different parts of England, but it was nearly a hundred years before all England accepted Christianity. Sometimes, when a kingdom seemed completely converted, a new King would come to the throne who would drive out the Christian priests, destroy the churches, and restore the heathen worship. But the missionaries persevered, and in the end the Christian faith conquered.

At one time the King of Northumberland called his leading men together to discuss the question of accepting Christianity. One of the thegns gave his opinion in these words:

"The life of a man in this world, O King, may be likened to what happens when you are sitting at supper with your thegns, in winter time. A fire is blazing on the hearth, and the hall is warm; but outside the rain and the snow are falling, and the wind is howling. A sparrow comes, and flies through the hall; it enters by one door, and goes out by another. While it is within the hall, it feels not the howling blast; but when the short space of rest is over, it flies out into the storm again, and passes away from our sight. Even so it is with the brief life of man. It appears for a little while; but what precedes it, or what comes after it, we know not at all. Wherefore, if this new teaching can tell us anything of this, let us harken and follow it."

Then the missionary who had come to them, one of Augustine's followers, was allowed to speak. When he was through, the high priest of the pagan religion led the way in destroying the old temples and idols, saying:

"The more diligently I sought after after truth in that worship, the less I found it."

Most of the missionary work in the north of England was done by monks of the old Celtic Christian church, which had existed in Britain before the English came, and which still flourished in Ireland. The Celtic missionaries in England came chiefly from the little island of Iona, off the western coast of Scotland, where there was a famous monastery.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

Ruined Cathedral, Island of Iona

But these Celtic Christians had been so long shut off from the rest of Europe that their church was different from the Roman Church in some of its customs. They did not recognize the Pope's authority; they kept Easter at a different time; and their priests shaved their heads in a different fashion.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

Head of a Bishop's Staff

So disputes arose between the Roman missionaries and the Celtic missionaries; and to settle the question of which were right, the King of Northumberland called a meeting at Whitby. The Roman missionaries showed that their time of keeping Easter was that used by all the world, except the Irish and the Britons; and that it was approved by the Pope, who was the successor of St. Peter, the chief of the apostles. Then the King asked the Celtic missionaries:

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

A Celtic Cross

"Is it true that the keys of heaven were given to Peter by our Lord?"

And when they admitted this, the King said:

"If Peter is the doorkeeper, I will never contradict him, but will obey his decrees in all things, lest when I come to the gates of heaven they should not open for me."

From this time forward the English church followed the Roman customs, and after a time the Celtic churches began to do likewise. Thus the Church in the British Isles became united, and was brought into closer connection with the rest of the world.

Soon the need was seen of a better organization of the Church in England. The whole land was divided into two "provinces," over each of which was placed an archbishop, one with his cathedral church at Canterbury, the other at York. Under each archbishop were a number of bishops, each with his cathedral church, and each in charge of a certain district called a "diocese." Each diocese was divided into "parishes," and for each parish there was provided a parish priest, who conducted the services of the parish church and looked after the welfare of its people.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

Canterbury Cathedral

Within a century and a half after the coming of Augustine, the English church was one of the best organized and most noted in Christendom. Learning flourished, and missionaries went to the continent to aid in spreading Christianity among the Germans of the old country, who were still heathen.

The most famous of these English missionaries was St. Boniface. He twice made the long journey to Rome; and with the support of the Pope, and of the King of the Franks, who now ruled Gaul, he restored the Gallic church, and organized that of Germany. Everywhere he brought the Church into close dependence upon the Pope. In 755, he went to Frisia, on the borders of the North Sea, and was there slain by the heathen Frisians. Thus he found the crown of martyrdom, which he eagerly sought.

Most of these early missionaries were monks. They lived according to a set of rules drawn up by St. Benedict, a famous Italian monk of the sixth century; and everywhere that they went, they established monasteries.

On joining a monastery, a man took three vows—that he would obey his superiors, that he would never own any property, and that he would never marry. These were called the vows of "poverty," "chastity," and "obedience." Each monastery was defended by a wall, within which were the "cloister," the kitchen, the church, and other buildings. The "cloister" was the covered passageway which inclosed the inner court; about it were the monks' "dormitory" where they slept, and the "refectory" where they ate their meals.

The monks were required to attend religious services at midnight, and seven times during the day, beginning at daybreak. Certain hours of the day were set aside for work with the hands, and others for reading and meditation. The monks dressed in coarse woolen gowns, generally black; and they slept on hard beds, and ate the plainest food. About the monasteries were lands which the monks cultivated. They drained marshes, cleared forests, and improved poor lands, so that the monasteries became models of agriculture for all the country. Besides this, they gave alms to the poor, and sheltered travelers.

The rule of St. Benedict required each monk to give part of his time to study, and so the monks gathered libraries and taught schools. There were no printed books, and some of the monks spent their days in copying "manuscript" books by hand. Whoever wished to become a scholar was obliged to become a monk, or at least to attend a monastery school. Some of the greatest scholars in Europe were found in the English monasteries, and when the emperor Charlemagne wished to establish schools in his kingdom, he called to his court one of these English monks.

The most famous of these monks in England was Bede, to whom we owe much of our knowledge of these times. He entered the monastery of Jarrow, at the mouth of the river Tyne, when he was only nine years old; and he lived there the rest of his life—for over fifty years. He learned all that any schools of that day could teach him. He did his share of the labor of the monastery, but found time also to teach in the school, and to write many books in Latin, which was then the language of educated men. Most of his books were explanations of the Scriptures, and have been lost; but he wrote an Ecclesiastical History of England which has been carefully preserved, and which is now almost the only record we have of the earliest days of English rule.

One of Bede's pupils tells us of the last days of his master's life, when he knew that death must come within a few days. In spite of pain, Bede was cheerful, and continued his literary work. On the last day the boy, who was writing what Bede dictated to him said:

"Most dear master, there is still one chapter wanting. Do you think it troublesome to be asked any more questions?"

Bede answered: "It is no trouble. Take your pen, and write fast."

They worked all morning and half the afternoon. Then Bede stopped to divide among his fellow monks such little things as he possessed. Then he talked with them a while, and bade them farewell. At last the boy said:

"Dear master, there is yet one sentence not written."

He answered: "Write quickly."

Soon the boy said: "The sentence is now written."

Bede replied: "It is well, you have said the truth. It is ended."

"And thus, sitting on the pavement of his little cell, singing, 'Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost,' when he had named the Holy Ghost he breathed his last, and so departed to the heavenly kingdom."


  1. Find out what you can about Augustine. (Do not confuse him with the great church writer of the same name, who died in the year 430.)
  2. Describe the gods in whom the English believed before they became Christians. Which ones are remembered in our names for the days of the week?
  3. Find out something about the Island of Iona, and the missionaries who came from there.
  4. What benefit were the monks to the world?
  5. Locate on the map, Rome, Canterbury, Whitby, Iona, Jarrow.

King Alfred and the Danes


By whom England was first united into a single kingdom.

To which of the seven kingdoms he belonged; when he ruled.

Who the Danes were; when they first attacked England; by whom their conquests were stopped.

When Alfred was King; how he dealt with the Danes; what part of the land they held.

What Alfred did for the army; for the laws; for industry; for learning.

The union of the Church in England helped bring about a union of all the English kingdoms under a single head. When men had formed the habit of acting together in church matters, they found it easier to act together in matters of government.

Of the seven kingdoms which made up the "Heptarchy," three were larger and stronger than the others. These were Northumberland, Mercia, and Wessex. Each of these tried in turn to secure control over the rest. During the seventh century, the King of Northumberland was recognized as leader. During the eighth century, the King of Mercia held that position. Then, early in the ninth century, the leadership passed to the King of Wessex.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

An English King & Woman's Costume

The first of the Wessex kings to hold this overlordship was Egbert, who ruled from 802 to 839. In his early days he was obliged to flee from England to the court of the great Frankish Emperor, Charlemagne. When his fortunes changed, and he returned to his kingdom, he secured more power than any English king before him. The other kingdoms lasted for a time, and had their own kings, but all submitted to Egbert and paid tribute to him. From the reign of King Egbert, then, we may date the union of the English kingdoms.

Perhaps this union would not have continued if it had not been that all parts of England were soon after exposed to a great and lasting danger, through the invasions of the Danes.

The Danes were inhabitants of the northern lands, which now form the kingdoms of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. They were "Low-Germans," like the English; and like the ancestors of the English they were great pirates and sea-rovers. In the eighth and ninth centuries they began to swarm forth from their northern homes and overrun all western Europe. They were called "Northmen" in France, and "Danes" in England. They called themselves "Vikings," or men of the "wicks" (or inlets) of their home country, from which their swift ships came forth. They plundered the coasts of Germany, France, England, Ireland, and even Italy. They discovered and settled Iceland about the year 875, and Greenland a century later. Soon after, they visited "Vinland," to the west, which we believe was the then unknown continent of America.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

A Viking Ship

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

Remains of a Viking Ship Found in Sweden

In France, after repeated attacks through all the ninth century, the Northmen at last settled down in a large district about the mouth of the river Seine, which was given them by the French King. There they became known as the "Normans," and the name Normandy is still given to that district.

In England, the first attacks of the Danes were made in the year 787, and were mere pirate raids for plunder. Later they came in great armies, and began to make conquests and settle down, as they had done in France. The Danes were still heathen, as the English had been when they first came; so they destroyed and plundered the monasteries and churches, where the most precious things were to be found, and slew or drove out the priests and monks.

Little by little, the Danes overran one English kingdom after another, until all had been taken except Wessex itself.

Here they were met by the young King, Alfred—"the wisest, best, and greatest King that ever reigned in England,"—and their advance was checked and their conquests stopped. When he was very young, Alfred accompanied his father, the West-Saxon King, to Rome. He spent a year or two there, and became a favorite of the Pope. At home, his mother trained her children carefully, and encouraged them to study. One day she said to them:

"Do you see this little book, with its clear black writing, and the beautiful letter at the beginning, printed in red, blue and gold? It shall belong to the one who first learns its songs."

"Mother," said Alfred, "will you really give that beautiful book to me if I learn it first?"

"Yes," was her reply, "I really will."

Alfred then took the book to his teacher, and soon learned to repeat the verses. Thus he not only earned the coveted prize, but also showed the quickness of mind and interest in learning which made him noted in after years.

As Alfred grew older he continued his studies, and took part also in hunting and in outdoor sports. When he grew to manhood, he found sterner work to do, for the Danes were now advancing into Wessex.

Alfred's older brother, Ethelred, was King of Wessex, and Alfred worked loyally to help him. Of the year 871, a historian of that time writes:

"Nine general battles were fought this year south of the Thames, besides which Alfred, the King's brother, and single rulers of shires and king's thegns, oftentimes made attacks on the Danes which are not counted."

In one of these battles, King Ethelred was wounded so badly that he died, and Alfred became king in his place. Alfred ruled for thirty years, from 871 to 901.

During the first seven years that he was King, Alfred's attention was given chiefly to the Danes. Again and again they made peace, and soon broke it. The Danish army spent the winter in fortified camps in the land, but the English, when the summer's fighting was done, scattered to their homes, to protect their families and prepare their crops.

During one such winter, Alfred sought refuge in a small fortified island called Athelney, amid the swamps of Wessex. Afterwards the people told stories of how he, wandering alone in these regions, was sheltered in a herdsman's hut, and scolded by the herdsman's wife for allowing some coarse cakes to burn, which she had told him to watch. An old song represents the woman as saying to the King, whom she did not know:

"Can't you mind the cakes man?

And don't you see them burn?

I'm bound you'll eat them fast enough,

As soon as 'tis the turn."

Another story tells how he went into the Danish camp, in disguise as a minstrel, or wandering singer, in order to get news of their plans; and how the Danes were so pleased with his singing that he had difficulty in getting away again. These stories the people told out of love for Alfred's memory, but we are not sure that the tales are really true.

When the hardships of that winter were over, Alfred gathered his army together and attacked the Danes. He defeated them badly, and drove them into their fortified camp. There he besieged them for fourteen days, and as they were now separated from their ships, and could get no supplies, their King, Guthrum, agreed to make peace.

"And then," says the old chronicle, "the army delivered hostages to King Alfred, with many oaths that they would leave his kingdom, and also promised him that their king should receive baptism. And this they accordingly fulfilled. About three weeks after this, King Guthrum came to him, with some thirty of the most distinguished men of their army, and the king was his godfather at baptism. And he was twelve days with the King; and he greatly honored him and his companions with gifts."

By a revision of this treaty made a few years later, the Danes were to have all the country of England north and west of the Thames river, and of the old Roman road called Watling Street. Only the country south of that line, including London, remained to the English, under the rule of the West-Saxon king, Alfred.

The country which the Danes ruled was known as the "Danelaw." There they settled down and became tillers of the soil, just as the English had done four centuries before this. The Danes were of near kin to the English, both in language and in ways of living. Before many generations had passed, they all became Christians and blended with their English neighbors. But, to this day, northern England shows some features which remind us that once it was ruled by these rude, freedom-loving Danes. For example, we find many hundreds of names of villages and towns there which end in the syllable "-by," as in "Derby." This was the Danish word for "town," and corresponds to the old English "-ton" or "-ham," which we find so frequently on the map of southern England.

After the treaty with Guthrum, Wessex for some time enjoyed peace, and Alfred had opportunity to repair the damages done by war.

Among other things, Alfred fortified and partly rebuilt the city of London. For some time it had been in the hands of the Danes, but it was now freed, and its old inhabitants restored. London was located at the lowest point on the Thames river at which a bridge could be built, or at which merchants could find solid ground for landing goods from their ships. It was already an important place in Roman days, and it was to become the greatest city of England. Long afterward, when ocean commerce developed, its splendid harbor helped to make it the greatest city in the world. But for several centuries after Alfred, its citizens were as much interested in agriculture as in carrying on their small trades, and commerce on a large scale was unknown.

The great trouble with the English army was that it was not a regular army, and the king could not keep it in the field all the year round because the men had to go home to attend to their farming. To remedy this, Alfred divided all the able-bodied men of his kingdom into three groups, one of which was to be always ready for war. After a short time, these would go to their homes, and others would take their places.

Alfred saw also that the English must put their trust in the sea. He had a large number of ships built, after his own pattern, twice as large as those of the Danes. These proved very useful when the Danes renewed their attacks.

Alfred also improved the government. To make it easier to find out what the law was, Alfred collected and revised the old laws of the kingdom. But he did this work modestly, and without reckless change.

"I, Alfred," he wrote, "gathered these laws together, and commanded many of them to be written which our forefathers held, those which seemed to me good. And many of those which seemed to me not good, I rejected, and in otherwise commanded them to be held. For I durst not venture to set down in writing much of my own, for it was unknown to me what of it would please those who should come after us."

Alfred encouraged industry of all kinds. He brought many skilful men to England from foreign countries. He himself could show his gold workers, and other artisans, how to do their work. He invented a method of counting the hours by means of candles, carefully made so that six of them would burn just twenty-four hours. He also invented a lantern, with transparent sides made of horn (for glass was scarce or unknown) to keep drafts away from the candle and make it burn better. His mind was constantly at work, seeking to better the condition of his country.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

Gold Jewel of Alfred \(side view\)

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

\(front view\)

But Alfred thought none of these things could help his people much unless they improved in mind and spirit. He lamented their growing ignorance, through the destruction of the monasteries, with their schools and libraries.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

Old English Horn Lantern

"Formerly," said he, "foreigners came to this land in search of wisdom and instruction, but we should now have to get teachers from abroad, if we would have them."

So he invited many learned men to come to his kingdom and help instruct his people.

Alfred thought the greatest need for all was books which people could read—books in English, and not Latin.

"I wondered extremely," he said, "that the good and wise men who were formerly all over England, and had perfectly learned all the books, did not wish to translate them into their own tongue."

He set himself to put into English some of the best books. First came a history of the world, and to this he added his own account of two voyages into the northern seas, made by Danes whom he had invited to England. Then came Bede's History of England, besides a book of religious instruction, and one of stories, by Pope Gregory the Great; and also a book on philosophy, in which Alfred gave many of his own most serious thoughts. All these works are still preserved, but our language has changed so much since Alfred's day that they are now like books in a foreign tongue.

Another great work, prepared under Alfred's direction, was the Old English Chronicle. This is a record of events, year by year, kept by the monks. For the years of Alfred's reign, it gives us most of the knowledge that we have, and it may be that the king himself wrote portions of it. No other European nation has so good a record of its early years, written in its own language.

Alfred died after a reign of nearly thirty years. The English people cherished his memory as "England's Darling," and we now call him "Alfred the Great." He was a brave warrior, a wise lawmaker, a patient teacher, and a watchful guardian of his people. Above all, he was a true and pure man, loving his family and training his children with great care. The secret of his success is told in his own words:

"To sum up all," he said, "it has ever been my desire to live worthily while I was alive, and after my death to leave to those that should come after me my memory in good works."

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

House of an English Thegn — The lord and his lady are giving alms to the poor

Alfred's work was indeed good, for he saved England from being completely conquered by the Danes. Because he kept his courage at the trying time, his own kingdom was preserved, and the Danes were settled beyond the Thames, there to become almost Englishmen. Because he was wise and patient, he made his kingdom strong, so that his descendants were able, little by little, to regain all that the Danes had taken, and to become again, in their later years, kings of all England.


  1. What things helped to unite all England into a single kingdom?
  2. Describe the life of the "Vikings," and tell the great things which they did.
  3. Tell some of the stories about Alfred.
  4. Find out what you can about the early history of London.
  5. Write a brief account, in your own words, of Alfred's life and character.

The Normans Conquer England


When the Danes began again to come into England; how King Ethelred sought to get rid of them; how he angered the Danish King, Sweyn.

How Canute became King of England; what other kingdoms he ruled; how he treated England; when he was King.

When and how the Danes ceased to rule England; who then became King; his character; whom the English then chose as King; date of his death.

William of Normandy; his claim to the English throne; the aid which he received from the Church; what other attack on England aided his invasion.

Where and when the decisive battle was fought; how William overcame the English; how he became King.

The way in which the Norman Conquest was a turning point in English history.

The descendants of Alfred, for three generations, were wise and strong men, and they succeeded in reuniting all England under one rule.

But after three generations a reckless and foolish King ruled England, called Ethelred the "Rede-less," or "Despiser of Counsel." In his time new bands of Danes invaded the country, in great numbers, intending to conquer the kingdom. Yet the land was so divided, by the jealousies of the great men and the weakness of the King, that Ethelred did not fight them, but paid them money to go elsewhere.

This only stirred up the Danes to renewed attacks, and each time they came the King paid them a still larger sum of money, which he obtained by laying upon the people a tax called "Danegeld." The Danegeld and the ravages of war together brought great poverty upon the land. The people became discontented, and the great men rebellious. Then King Ethelred did a foolish and wicked thing: he treacherously put to death, on a certain day, the Danes who were settled in England, for fear lest they might aid their invading brothers.

This deed caused Sweyn, King of Denmark, to swear a great oath that he would conquer the land and avenge his people. He came to England with a great fleet and a strong army. After a long war, in which the English never fought unitedly under a capable leader, Ethelred fled to Normandy, and his subjects acknowledged Sweyn as King of England (1014).

One month later, Sweyn died, and the Danish army chose his son Canute to succeed him. Then the English restored their old ruler, Ethelred; but he soon died, and after a short war Canute (in 1016) was accepted as King by the whole land.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

King Canute

At first Canute was very harsh, banishing or putting to death all the English leaders whom he feared. But when once he was firmly settled in power, he ruled with justice and wisdom, treating Danes and English alike. He sent his army back to Denmark, except a few thousand warriors called the "House-carls," whom he kept as a standing army. He placed Englishmen in the highest places, both in the church and in the state. He restored the good laws of the English, and ruled as if he were himself and Englishman. And though he ruled over Denmark and Norway as well as over England, he usually made his home among his English subjects.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

Canute's English Queen, Emma

At one time Canute, like thousands of other Christians, went on a pilgrimage to Rome, to see the Pope and to worship in Saint Peter's church. While he was there he wrote to his subjects in England a friendly letter, in which he said:

"Be it known to all of you, that I have humbly vowed to Almighty God henceforth to rule the kingdoms and the peoples subject to me with justice and mercy, giving just judgments in all matters. I therefore command all sheriffs and magistrates, throughout my whole kingdom, that they use no unjust violence to any man, rich or poor, but that all, high and low, rich or poor, shall enjoy alike impartial law."

Canute was King of England for nearly twenty years (1016-1035), giving to the land peace and good government. After his death his two sons, one after the other, ruled in England, each dying a few years after becoming King. Then (1042) the English chose as King a prince from the old English line, son of Ethelred the Redeless.

This King was so religious that he gained the name Edward "the Confessor." He would have been a good monk, but he made a poor King. He had lived most of his life in Normandy, and did not understand the English people. He loved the Normans, who had improved rapidly since their Viking ancestors settled in France, and were now more cultured than the English. Edward clung to them and listened to their advice, and placed them in high positions in England. But the Normans looked down upon the English, and treated them badly and oppressed them. The English, in turn, were jealous and resentful, and conflicts arose.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

Seal of Edward the Confessor

At last, under the lead of their most powerful man, Earl Godwin, the English took up arms and forced the King to dismiss the Normans from their positions. From that time, Earl Godwin was the greatest man in the kingdom, and after his death his son, Harold, rose to equal power.

Edward the Confessor died after a reign of twenty-four years (1042-1066), and was buried in the great church of Westminster, which he had built. Before his death, it is said, he prophesied great trouble for England. He left no son to succeed him, and the Witan, or council of "wise men," chose Earl Harold, son of Godwin, to be King.

Then the trouble which Edward prophesied speedily came upon the land, for William, Duke of Normandy, claimed the crown, and made ready to enforce his claim by war.

This William of Normandy had risen, through difficulties, to a position of great power in France. His father, who was duke before him, died when William was only seven or eight years old, leaving the boy to struggle against rebellions of powerful nobles. While still a child, his guardians were murdered and he was barely rescued by his uncle. Again, while he was a very young man, he was obliged to save himself by a long night ride alone. But, from and early age, William showed warlike power and decision of character beyond his years. When he came to manhood, he speedily subdued all rebellions and brought Normandy completely under his control. More than that, he invaded a neighboring district, in France, and compelled its count to acknowledge his supremacy. He thus became so powerful as to be almost the equal of the King of France himself.

Really, William had no right to the English crown, as Harold had been chosen by the Witan, and had been regularly crowned. The crown belonged to the nation, and the wise men could bestow it as they saw fit. But William declared that Edward had promised the English crown to him; and also that Harold, who had once been shipwrecked on the French coast, and had fallen into William's hands, had sworn a sacred oath to support him in becoming King of England. Therefore, when Edward died, William prepared to invade England, and to drive Harold from his newly won throne.

From Normandy, France, and elsewhere, William gathered warriors for his invasion. The Pope, who had a quarrel with England, blessed the expedition and sent a consecrated banner. After delaying some time for a favorable wind, the expedition set out, and landed without resistance. On leaping from his ship, William stumbled and fell flat upon his face. His followers exclaimed at this bad omen, but William's presence of mind prevented any injurious effect.

"By the splendor of God," he cried, "I hold England in my hands!"

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

A Norman Ship

Harold, meanwhile, prepared to resist. As the Chronicle  says, he "gathered so great a ship force, and also a land force, as no King here in the land had done before, because it was made known to him that William would come hither and win this land; all as it afterward happened."

But while Harold was guarding the southern coast against the Normans, word was brought to him that the King of Norway had landed in the north of England with an army.

So Harold marched northward, to meet this new foe, leaving the southern coast unguarded. He won a great victory, for he slew the Norwegian king and destroyed his army. Then Harold returned at once to the south—only to learn that William had now crossed the Channel, and had landed on English soil.

Harold's army had lost many of its men. But he took his House-carls, together with such other men as he could gather, and marched toward Hastings. There he fortified a hill called Senlac, and awaited the attack of the Normans.

It was on October 14, 1066, that the decisive battle took place. Harold's men were on foot, and carried light javelins for hurling and swords or battle axes for striking. They were drawn up so that their shields overlapped one another, making a solid wall of defense. William had two kinds of warriors: crossbow men on foot, who were placed at the front; and, behind these, the knights on horseback, wearing iron caps and rude coats of mail, and carrying swords and strong lances.

One of the Norman knights asked that he might strike the first blow. When this was granted, he rode forward, tossing his sword in the air and catching it, and singing gaily an old song about the deeds of the great warrior, Roland. Two Englishmen fell by his hand before he himself was slain.

Then the battle began in earnest, and raged all day until sunset. In spite of their heavy horsemen, the Normans were unable to break the English line. Three horses were killed under William, but he received no injury. Once the cry went forth, "The Duke is down!" and the Normans began to give way. But William tore off his helmet, that they might better see his face, and cried:

"I live, and by God's help shall have the victory!"

At length, a portion of the Norman troops turned to flee, and some of the English, disobeying Harold's orders, left their line to go in pursuit. These English were then easily cut off and destroyed. William took a hint from this, and ordered a pretended flight of all the Normans. Large numbers of the English followed, and the Normans turned and cut them down.

But Harold and his two brothers, together with the House-carls, still stood firm, and swung their battle axes beneath the Golden Dragon banner of Wessex. At last an arrow, shot into the air by William's order, struck Harold in the eye, and he fell. The English then fled—all except the House-carls, who fought on until the last man was destroyed.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

Death of Harold

Thus William and his Normans conquered England. No further resistance was possible. Marching slowly toward London, he was acknowledged king by the Witan; and on Christmas Day, in the great church at Westminster, built by Edward, he put on the English crown.

The victory of the Normans was a turning point in English history. Britons, Romans, English, Danes, and Normans,—all made their conquests and left their successive impressions on the life of the island. This however, is the last of the invasions. Never afterward does a foreign foe take possession of English soil. Henceforward, what England is to be is determined not by any outside power, but by her own inhabitants.


  1. Compare King Ethelred with King Alfred.
  2. Was Canute's conquest a good or bad thing for England? Why?
  3. What were the causes of the weakness of the rule of Edward the Confessor?
  4. Imagine yourself one of Harold's soldiers, and describe the Norman Conquest.
  5. Describe the Conquest from the point of view of a follower of Duke William.
  6. Find out what other great things the Normans accomplished besides the Conquest of England.

The Rule of the Normans


How William treated the English who rebelled; what region suffered most severely; what he did with the lands of the English.

What was meant by fief, vassal, homage, fealty, villain, aids; the condition on which a lord granted land to a vassal.

How William prevented his barons from becoming too powerful; in what way his rule was a benefit to England; the "New Forest"; "Domesday Book."

How William I. died; when; by whom he was succeeded in England; in Normandy.

The character of William II.; how he died.

The dates when Henry I. was King; how he ruled; how Normandy was reunited to England; his plan for succession.

The condition of England under Stephen; how this was ended; by whom.

For five years, after he became King, William was chiefly occupied in putting down English revolts. The disturbances arose in all parts of the country, but the northern counties were the most obstinate. The city of York repeatedly served as a center of resistance. Terrible punishment was finally inflicted upon that rebellious region. The inhabitants were driven out or put to death. Not a house or building of any kind was left standing. Nothing was spared which could serve as food or shelter for human beings. The entire region was left uninhabited and desolate, and for centuries afterward it bore the mark of the Conqueror's vengeance.

By such a cruel treatment, William at last convinced the English that he was determined to be master of their country. Those who had supported Harold, or had resisted the Normans, he punished by seizing their lands on the ground that they were forfeited. To many of the English he restored their lands, after they had taken an oath to support and serve him. Other forfeited lands were used to reward his followers. Norman lords thus took the place which English thegns and earls had held as landlords, and the common people became subject to the Normans, as they had formerly been to their English masters. The method of landholding which William established was already well known in Normandy, and other countries of western Europe, and is what we know as "feudal tenure."

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

William I, The Conqueror

Under this system, all the land belonged in theory to the King; but most of it was occupied by great lords, who held it on condition that they assist the King in war. Each lord was bound to furnish a certain number of armed and mounted warriors, in proportion to the size of his estate. To get men with whom to fulfill this obligation, these "tenants-in-chief," as they were called, granted portions of their lands to "sub-tenants," on similar conditions. These in turn sub-let to others; and so it went on, down to the simple peasants (called "villains"), who actually tilled the soil. The name given to an estate which was held on condition of military service was "benefice" or "fief." The fiefholder became the "vassal" or personal dependent to his lord. When he was put in possession of his land, the "vassal" knelt unarmed before his lord, placed both hands in his, and swore to be "his man" (homo, in Latin), and to serve him as a vassal ought to serve his lord. This was called "doing homage." Then the vassal arose, and the lord gave him the kiss of peace, and the vassal swore "fealty,"—that is, fidelity,—to him. Fiefs were generally hereditary, the son of a deceased vassal being permitted to succeed to his father's estates, on condition that he paid a sum of money, did homage, and swore fealty to the lord of the fief.

The lords owed their vassals "protection," while the vassals owed "service" to their lords. This service was partly military service, as mounted knights, for forty days each year. The lord could also call upon his vassals to come to his court, at certain times, and assist him with their counsel and advice. In addition, he might call upon them to serve him on certain occasions by giving him money—which they in turn collected from their villains. These payments were called "aids," and could be collected on three occasions,—when the lord's eldest son was made a knight, when his eldest daughter was married, and to ransom the lord himself, if he should be taken captive.

On the Continent, the feudal system weakened the power of the King because it created a tie between the lords and their tenants which was stronger than the tie which bound them to the King. Thus, if a great lord in France rebelled, his tenants supported him rather than the King, and the whole land was filled with confusion. In England, William took pains to prevent his lords from becoming too powerful. The estates of the great landowners were scattered in different parts of the country, so that no man might be able to collect a great army in one place. He also kept up the old hundred and shire courts, and refused to allow the lords such judicial independence as they enjoyed on the Continent. Above all, he required every landholder to take an oath of allegiance to support the King, before and above his immediate lord. With these changes, William made the feudal system a means by which he could control not only the conquered English, but his Norman barons as well.

Against such control the haughty Normans protested. The result was that no sooner were the English conquered than the Norman barons rebelled. This was the first of a series of revolts which lasted for a hundred years, in which the barons of England sought to win for themselves the powers possessed by the feudal nobles of other lands. In putting down such rebellions, William and his successors could count upon the support of the English people and of the great churchmen; for these saw that the rule of the King, harsh though it might be, was better than the tyranny of the feudal barons. Thus these feudal revolts failed, equally with those of the conquered English.

Under William's stern rule, certain and terrible punishment was the lot of all evil-doers.

"The good order which William established was such," says the Chronicle, "that any man might travel all over the kingdom, with a bosom full of gold, unmolested; and no man durst kill another, no matter how great was the injury which he might have received from him."

Like all the Normans, William was very fond of hunting, and reserved the forests of England for his own enjoyment.

"He made large forests for the deer, and enacted laws that whoever killed a hart or a hind should be blinded. He forbade also the killing of wild boars; and he loved the tall stags as if he were their father."

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

Hunting the Stag

He even drove whole villages from their homes, and destroyed houses and churches, in order to make a great New Forest for his Hunting.

One deed of William's, which seemed to his subjects an act of oppression, we now see was a wise and statesmanlike act. This was making the "Domesday Survey." He caused commissioners to go throughout the land, and prepare a census of all the lands, with the names of their owners, and their value.

"So very narrowly did he cause the survey to be made," says the writer of the Chronicle, "that there was not a single rood of land, nor—it is shameful to relate that which he thought it no shame to do—was there an ox, or a cow, or a pig passed by, and not set down in the accounts."

When the inquiry was finished, the results were set down in a great book, which still exists, and is called the "Domesday Book,"—perhaps because its entries were like those of the Last Judgment, which spare no man. William's object in taking this survey was to find out what taxes he could levy, and what men he could raise for England's defense in time of war. But the chief value of Domesday Book now is that it gives us so much information concerning the condition of England in that far off time.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

A Portion of Domesday Book

Even after his conquest of England, William continued to be Duke of Normandy, and ruled that land as a vassal of the King of France. Quarrels between the French king and his too powerful vassal were frequent, and whenever a rebellion broke out against the Norman power the French King was sure to aid it.

Towards the close of William's life, his eldest son Robert asked to have Normandy as a fief of his own; and when William refused this, Robert joined the French King in making war. This war caused William's death, in 1087. William had captured and burned the city of Mantes, in France, and while he was riding about in the ruined city his horse stumbled in the hot ashes. The King was thrown violently against the pommel of his saddle. He was very fat and was already ill, and this injury was such that he never recovered from it.

Before his death, it is said that he bequeathed Normandy to Robert, and England to his second son, William.

"And what do you give me, father?" cried Henry, the youngest of his sons.

"Five thousand pounds weight of silver out of my treasury."

"But what can I do with silver, if I have no lands?" cried the boy.

"Be patient, my son," said the dying King, "and have trust in the Lord; let thine elders go before thee, and thy time will come."

And so it proved, for although William II. ruled England after his father's death, and Robert ruled Normandy, in the end both England and Normandy came into the hands of their younger brother Henry.

William II. (1087-1100) was called William "Rufus," or "the Red," because of his complexion. He had the bad qualities of his father, without the good traits. He was selfish, cruel, and wicked, and broke all his promises of good government. Even the good Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury, was so persecuted that he fled from the kingdom, and he did not return until this reign was finished.

The Red King's death was as violent as his life was wicked. He was slain while hunting alone in the New Forest, which his father had made; and his dead body was found by a charcoal burner, with an arrow piercing his heart. Who shot the fatal arrow, and why, no man can tell.

William Rufus left no children, so his younger brother Henry I. (1100-1135) now secured the English crown, and kept it in spite of the claims of his older brother Robert. Henry I. was born in England, spoke English, and had an English wife; moreover, he issued a "charter" in which he promised the people good government. The English, therefore, came to his help when Robert attempted to secure the crown. With an English army, Henry later invaded Normandy, where he defeated Robert and his knights in a great battle. Robert was captured, and spent the rest of his life as a prisoner in an English castle, while Normandy was again united with the English crown. With the exception of this war, Henry's reign was a peaceful one. He ruled for thirty-five years, with such strictness and order that he was called "the Lion of Justice."

King Henry's only son was drowned while returning from Normandy. Henry then planned to leave his crown to his daughter, Matilda. Although England had never had a woman as ruler, he persuaded the barons to swear allegiance to Matilda as their future Queen, and he married her to Geoffrey, Count of Anjou, in France.

After Henry's death, however, Matilda's cousin, Stephen of Blois, seized the crown. The London citizens and a majority of the barons supported him, but the others supported Matilda. The result was a civil war which continued throughout Stephen's reign. The suffering caused by this war was increased by the cruelty of the barons, whom neither party could control.

"The rich men," says the English Chronicle, "filled the land full of castles. They greatly oppressed the wretched people by making them work on these castles, and when the castles were finished they filled them with devils and evil men. Then they took those whom they suspected to have any goods, by night and by day, seizing both men and women, and they put them in prison for their gold and silver, and tortured them with pains unspeakable, for never were any martyrs tormented as these were. I can not, and I may not, tell of all the tortures that they inflicted upon the wretched men of this land; and this state of things lasted the nineteen years that Stephen was King, and ever grew worse and worse."

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

The Norman Castle of Rochester

This anarchy was ended by Henry II., the son of Matilda and Geoffrey. His father took Normandy for him, from Stephen. Then, upon his father's death, young Henry became Count of Anjou, as well as Duke of Normandy. By marriage with the heiress of the duchy of Aquitaine, he gained another vast territory in France. Then, as a youth of nineteen, he turned to England to conquer the remainder of his mother's inheritance.

Henry of Anjou was more vigorous and skillful than Stephen, so he won from him fortress after fortress. When Stephen's son died, Stephen gave up the struggle. In a treaty made at Wallingford, it was agreed that Stephen should be King for the remainder of his life, but that upon his death the crown should go to Henry of Anjou.

The civil war thus came to an end; and Stephen and Henry joined forces against the barons, and destroyed the castles which had sprung up all over the land. About a year later, in 1154, Stephen died, and the crown of England passed to Matilda's son, Henry II., the first of the "Angevin" or "Plantagenet" line of Kings.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

Map of Possessions of Henry II


  1. Was the Norman Conquest a good or bad thing for England? Why?
  2. In what ways were William I. and Henry I. better Kings than Ethelred and Edward the Confessor?
  3. Find out what you can about the origin and development of the feudal system.
  4. Was William I. lawfully King of England? Was Henry I.? Was Stephen? Give your reasons.
  5. What is the lesson taught by the anarchy during Stephen's reign.

Henry II. the First Plantagenet King


How the name "Plantagenet" arose; to whom it was first applied.

The territories which Henry II. ruled; how each came to him; dates when he was King; his character.

The changes which he made in the military system; in the law courts.

What "trial by battle" was; what an "ordeal" was; the form of trial which Henry II. substituted for these.

Who Becket was; why he and the King quarreled; how it ended; Henry's penance.

The rebellions in Henry II.'s reign; whence the rebels received aid; how Henry II. died.

The Plantagenet Kings of England begin with Henry II., who became King in the year 1153, and end with Richard II. two hundred and forty-five years later. The father of Henry II. was the first to bear this name, and he received it because of his habit of wearing a sprig of the "broom" plant (planta genesta) in his cap.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

"Planta Genesta"

Henry II. was already a brilliant and powerful ruler when he became King of England. Later he gained lordship over Scotland, Wales, and Ireland. At their fullest extent, his dominions included most of the British Isles, and about half of France. This made him the most powerful monarch in all Europe.

Henry's personal appearance was striking. He had broad shoulders, a thick neck, a large round head, and a ruddy complexion. He had great physical strength, and was accustomed to riding long and hard. In one day he could make a journey for which others took twice or thrice as long. He surprised both friends and enemies with his rapid movements.

No one worked harder than did King Henry, and throughout his reign of thirty-five years his energy never failed.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

Seal of Henry II

In addition, he had an orderly mind, which enabled him to make a plan, and follow it out against all obstacles. He was masterful, and forced men to follow his will. Like all his family, Henry II. was subject to terrible fits of anger, and dark stories were told of a witch ancestress from whom came the taint of blood which twisted into evil the strong passions and high courage of his race. One who knew Henry  said:

"He is a lamb when in good humor; but he is a lion, or worse than a lion, when he is seriously angry. But no one is more gentle to the distressed, more affable to the poor, more overbearing to the proud."

Henry II. began at once to restore order and to reform the government. He systematized the collection of taxes, and he replaced the bad money then in circulation with new silver coins.

He improved the military system in two ways. First, those English barons who did not wish to follow him in his wars in France were permitted to remain at home, but were required to pay a tax called "scutage," or shield money. With this money Henry hired foreign soldiers, who would go where he wished and remain with him as long as necessary. Thus the barons themselves placed in the king's hands a means of keeping them in order. In the second place, King Henry proclaimed a law which required every free man to provide himself with weapons and armor according to his means, and to be ready to serve in the army when needed. The highest class of common freemen were to have each a helmet, a coat of mail, a shield, and a lance. These improvements gave the King a stronger army, and made him independent of the barons.

Henry's greatest work was in reforming the system of law courts. He wished to establish one law for all parts of England, and for all classes of people. There were many courts, some held by the lords on their estates, or manors, and some held by the sheriffs in the shires; but there was no connection among them, and the same kind of offense might be punished more severely in one place than in another. To remedy this evil, the King appointed learned judges, whose duty it was to travel about the country and preside over each shire court, at least once a year. All people then had an opportunity to get justice from the King's own officers; and because the King's justice was good, it was preferred by the people.

A greater reform was that which made the methods by which trials were conducted.

The older models of trial depended largely upon superstition, accident, or force. Since the coming of the Normans, the most important form of trial was "trial by battle," or the duel. The accuser threw down his gauntlet, which was taken up by the person accused; then the judge set a time and place for them to fight the combat. This was really an appeal to the judgment of God, for it was supposed that God would interfere to protect the innocent and reveal the guilty.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

Trial by Battle

Other forms of trial were the "ordeals." In the "ordeal by fire" the accused person was required to carry a piece of red-hot iron in his bare hand for a distance of nine feet. His hand was then bandaged by the priest, and if at the end of three days the wound was "clean," he was declared innocent. In the "ordeal by hot water" the hand was plunged into a kettle of boiling water, and then bandaged. In the "ordeal by cold water" the person accused was thrown into running water, with his hands and feet tied together. If he floated he was guilty; if he sank he was innocent, and must be hauled out.

In none of these modes of trial was there any attempt to find out the facts of the case, by hearing testimony and weighing evidence. It was one of the great merits of Henry II. that he brought into general use a reasonable form of trial—that which developed into our "trial by jury." This was first applied to cases concerning land; but later (after 1217), when the Church saw the folly and impiety of the ordeal, trial by jury was used in criminal cases as well.

Another reform made by Henry II. grew into the "grand jury," by which today a body of citizens inquires into crimes and makes "indictments" or accusations against the criminals, so that they may be brought to trial. In the olden days, when powerful protectors sometimes shielded guilty persons, and no individual dared come forward to accuse them, such an accusation, in the name of the community, was necessary.

By these judicial reforms, the administration of justice was made surer, speedier, and more certain. Jury trial also trained the people to take part in the administration of the law, and so fitted them for those larger privileges in the making of the law which were to come to them later on.

In the early part of his reign, Henry's chief counselor was Thomas Becket, his Chancellor, or chief secretary. Becket had received the highest education of the time, by study in the newly founded schools of Oxford, by travel in Italy, and by service in the church. He was known as a man of ability in public affairs. Henry showered riches and favors upon his new Chancellor; and Becket adopted a magnificent style of life, and rivaled the King himself in the splendor of his robes and the number of his servants. This did not displease Henry, so long as Thomas in return rendered him good service.

All went well until the King wished to carry his reforms into the church also. He wished especially to place the members of the clergy under the control of the state courts, so that a churchman who committed a crime might be tried by the same law and suffer the same penalties as other persons. As it was, a churchman was tried in a Church court, and often escaped with very light punishment. Henry saw the evils of this system, and sought to secure a reform by appointing his friend Becket to the highest position in the English church. Thomas protested, saying:

"I warn you that, if such a thing should be, our friendship would soon turn to bitter hate."

But, in spite of this warning, Henry carried out his plan, and made Becket Archbishop of Canterbury.

Becket seemed to change his nature at once. He resigned his office of Chancellor, saying that he must now give all his time to the Church. He continued to wear splendid robes, but under them he wore horsehair garments, and his great banquets to the nobles now became feasts for the poor.

The King was determined to make his law supreme over all persons in the kingdom, while the archbishop was equally determined to keep the independence of the Church. Thus a quarrel arose. Becket soon fled to France, and there for seven years he kept appealing to the Pope and to the King of France for help against King Henry. At last a reconciliation was agreed to, and Becket returned to England. But he soon showed that he had forgotten and forgiven nothing. He punished with the power of the Church all those who had sided against him; even the Archbishop of York, the second great churchman of England, was "excommunicated"—that is, cut off from the fellowship of the Church—because he had, in Becket's absence, performed some acts which, as Becket claimed, only the Archbishop of Canterbury could perform.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

Becket as Archbishop of Canterbury

When news of these events reached Henry, in Normandy, he was beside himself with rage.

"What a pack of cowards have I kept about me," he cried, "that not one of them will avenge me against this upstart priest."

Four knights who heard the King took him at his word. They slipped across to England, where they found Becket in his cathedral church at Canterbury.

"Where is the traitor? Where is the archbishop?" they cried.

"Here am I," replied Thomas, "no traitor, but a priest of God."

Angry words followed. The knights demanded that he withdraw his excommunication, and Becket refused, with bitter revelings. Thereupon, they struck him to the ground, and slew him as he lay.

King Henry owed no thanks to his brutal knights for their foul murder. Their deed shocked the whole of Christendom, and did great injury to the King's cause. The people looked upon Becket as a martyr, and for centuries pilgrims streamed to Canterbury to visit Becket's tomb.

For a time Henry was glad to leave his kingdom. He crossed over to Ireland, to receive the submission of its warlike chiefs, and to avoid the Pope's legates. When the first burst of indignation was over, Henry made his peace with the Church. He swore that he was innocent of any part in Becket's murder, and promised to recall his reforms concerning the Church. Later he paid a visit to Canterbury, to do penance for his sin. After walking barefoot, from the city walls to the cathedral, he knelt at the tomb of Saint Thomas, and prayed all night for forgiveness, while the monks of the place passed by and smote with rods his bared back.

Henry's need to be reconciled with the Church was pressing. A great rebellion had broken out at this time among his barons, both in England and in France, because of the overthrow of their feudal privileges. The Kings of France and Scotland, as well as Henry's eldest son, joined in the attack; and even his Queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine, tried to escape in man's clothing to join the rebels.

In spite of this formidable array, the energy of the king, the loyalty of his officials, and the favor of the people enabled him to triumph. On the very day that Henry left Canterbury, after performing his penance at the tomb of Saint Thomas, the king of the Scots was surprised and captured in the north of England. The rebellion ended almost at once. During the remaining fifteen years of his reign Henry was master of his realm, and was able to carry through, without further hindrance, his far-reaching reforms.

These fifteen years were the time of Henry's greatest power, yet they brought him only bitterness of spirit, for his wife and sons were turned against him. For ten years his eldest son, Henry, seized every opportunity to attack his father. Then, when this prince died, his next son, Richard, acted in like manner. Warfare with his sons, and constant watching for conspiracies, changed the King's own character, and he became gloomy and harsh.

At last, in 1189, Richard formed a widespread conspiracy, and with the aid of the King of France suddenly seized some of his father's French territories. Henry II. was now old and ill; he was surrounded by enemies, and was taken by surprise. He was forced to accept a humiliating treaty, and to agree that Richard's allies might transfer their allegiance from himself to Richard. A list was given to him of those who were in the secret league with Richard, and at its head he saw the name of his youngest and favorite son, John.

"He cursed the day on which he was born," says a chronicler, "and pronounced upon his sons the curse of God and of himself, which he would never withdraw."

Sick at heart he took to his bed, and a few days later died, muttering at the last these words:

"Shame, shame, on a conquered King."

Though Henry II. died in despair, his life was not unsuccessful. He was indeed selfish, and harsh, and often he was violent in his deeds. Yet his reign was a great benefit to England, and he deserves to rank among the greatest of her kings. He kept down the rebellious nobles, restored order in the government, and introduced reforms into the administration of justice; and the benefits of his rule have continued to the present day.


  1. Show on a map the possessions of Henry II.
  2. What are the advantages of jury by trial over the older forms of trial?
  3. What does a grand jury do?
  4. Find out what you can about the life and character of Becket. Where was he buried? How did the people show respect for his memory?
  5. Make a list of the things which show that Henry II. was a great King.

Richard the Lion-Hearted and the Crusades


Dates when Richard I. was King; his character.

How a boy was trained to be a knight; how a squire was made a knight; what the "accolade" was; the ideals of a true knight.

How the Crusades arose; dates of the First Crusade; dates of the Second; what called forth the Third Crusade; its dates.

How Richard raised money for the Third Crusade; with whom he went; where he stopped on the way; what city he captured; why the Crusaders failed to recover Jerusalem; Richard's return.

The troubles in England during his absence; his "Saucy Castle"; circumstances of his death.

The next reign—that of Richard I. (1189-1199)—was for England a quiet one. During most of the ten years of his reign Richard was absent from the land and his officers governed in his name. But the good order which his father had established was such, and the officers trained by him were so able, that King Richard could safely leave England to itself for years at a time.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

Richard the Lion-Hearted

Richard cared little for his English dominion. Though he was born there, his youth was spent in Aquitaine. He spoke French and did not speak English. His customs and ideas were those of southern France. In spite of his ambition to rule, he was a warrior and a knight rather than a wise King. As a knight he excelled. A chronicler tells us that he was "tall, well built, and with hair mid-way between red and yellow." He loved to hunt, to sing, to make verses, and to conquer other knights in "tournaments," or friendly battles. His strength and skill in these combats were known and praised throughout France. But he loved also to engage in real warfare, as he showed more than once.

Richard's life and character were in keeping with the ideals of his time, and his training must have been similar to that followed by all noble youths who wished to become knights.

At about seven years of age, a boy of high birth was usually sent away from home to be trained in the castle of some noble lord. There he spent some years in attendance upon the lord and lady of the castle, and was taught how to bear himself politely. When older, he attended his lord, learning to ride, to hunt, and to use the arms of nobility—the shield, the sword, and the lance. When skilled in these things, he became a "squire"; his duty thenceforth was to accompany his lord to the tournament or to battle, to help him put on his armor, to provide him with a fresh lance or a fresh horse in the combat, and in case of need to give him aid. After several years of such service, having proved his skill and his courage, the young squire was ready to become a "knight."

Often the ceremony of conferring "knighthood" was not performed until the squire had "won his spurs" by some heroic deed. The highest ambition of the young man was to be knighted on the field of battle, as a reward for bravery. When that was done the ceremony was simple. Some famous knight would strike the kneeling youth upon the shoulder and say, "I dub thee knight."

The ordinary ceremony was much more elaborate. The first step in this was a bath, signifying purification. Then the squire put on garments of red, white, and black—red, for the blood he must shed in defense of the church; white, for purity of mind; black, in memory of death, which comes to all. Then came "the vigil of arms" in the church, where he watched and prayed all night, either standing or kneeling before the altar, on which lay his sword. At daybreak the priest came, the squire confessed his sins, heard mass, and partook of the holy sacrament. Then perhaps he listened, with the other candidates for knighthood, to a sermon on the proud duties of a knight. Later in the morning he appeared before his lord, or some other well-known knight, and his spurs were fastened on his feet and his sword was girt about him. Then he knelt before his lord, and the latter gave him the "accolade"; that is, he struck the squire a blow upon the neck with his fist, or with the flat of his sword, and said:

"In the name of God, and Saint Michael, and Saint George, I dub thee knight. Be brave and loyal."

After this, the new knight gave an exhibition of his skill in riding and in the use of weapons, and the day ended with feasting and merry-making. As a true knight, he was expected to be loyal to his lord and to the Church, to be just and pure in his life, and to be kind to all in need of his help, especially to defenceless women. The church sought to ennoble warfare by giving religious aims and ceremonies to knighthood. But often the practice of chivalry, or knighthood, fell far below these ideals, and was marked by a narrow caste spirit and a brutal indifference to human suffering.

Richard I. did not have the gentler virtues of a knight, because of the fierce, wild temper of his family. But in courage he was so famed that men called him Richard "the Lion-Hearted" (Cœur de Lion). His love of warfare, his fondness for adventure, and his devotion to the Church were all appealed to by a great movement which occurred in his reign, known as the Third Crusade.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

Shield of Richard I

The Crusades were a series of wars between the Christian peoples of western Europe and the Mohammedan peoples of Asia Minor and Syria. The name comes from the Latin word crux  (cross), because of the "cross" of white or red cloth which the Christian soldiers in these wars wore on their mantles. The purpose of the Crusades was to recover Jerusalem and Palestine from the Mohammedans. A century before Richard's time these people, who then possessed the lands where Christ had lived and died, began oppressing the Christian pilgrims who came to visit Jerusalem. At the same time, the Greek Emperor of Constantinople appealed to the Christian knights of the West for aid against the Mohammedan Turks, who were conquering his territories. The Pope took up the cause, and at a great meeting held in France, in the year 1095, he preached a sermon using the knights to make war upon the Mohammedans, and recover the Holy Land. His plea moved his hearers so greatly that they cried out with one accord—

"It is the will of God!"

In this way began the movement toward Asia which we call the First Crusade. The common people would not wait to gather supplies or to form an army, but marched at once—men, women and children—in vast throngs under the lead of a monk called "Peter the Hermit," and other rash leaders. They knew nothing of the country to which they were going, and but little of the road by which it should be reached. They made no provision for fighting the Turks, or to sustain themselves on the way, but trusted to the power of God to overcome the "infidels." The result was that they were destroyed on the way, by Turkish horsemen, or by starvation, and failed to even reach Palestine.

Religious enthusiasm, and a desire for conquest and worldly gain, led many thousand trained and equipped knights to set out in their turn. They were under capable leaders, and their armies were well supplied. They reached Asia, and they fought the Turks with such success that they captured Jerusalem and a portion of Palestine, where they set up a Christian kingdom in the year 1099. Thus the object of the First Crusade was partly accomplished, and the Holy Land was freed from the rule of Mohammedans.

Forty-eight years later occurred the Second Crusade (1147-1149), which was caused by the news that the Turks had conquered part of the kingdom of Jerusalem. Two Kings—Conrad III. of Germany and Louis VII. of France—took part in this Crusade, but very little was accomplished by it.

Two years before Richard became King of England, the Turkish leader Saladin recaptured Jerusalem. This again stirred up the religious zeal of Europe, and many of the great nobles "took the cross"—that is, vowed to engage in a new war against the Turks. Among the first to do this was Richard the Lion-Hearted, and his part in the Third Crusade is the chief interest which we have in his reign.

As soon as Richard was crowned he began preparations for the Crusade. He took the money which his father had left, and in addition sold estates and offices. He even sold the office of Archbishop of York, with the estates belonging to it; and for a large sum of money he released the King of Scotland from the "homage" which Henry II. had compelled him to give.

By these means, Richard gathered a great fleet, with which he set out for the Holy Land, in company with Philip Augustus, the King of France. The two Kings stopped at Messina, where they spend many months, quarrelling with each other, and with the ruler of Sicily. When at last they re-embarked, Richard again turned aside—this time to punish the King of Cyprus for abusing shipwrecked pilgrims.

Meanwhile, in Palestine, the Christians were besieging the city of Acre, and were sorely in need. When Richard at last reached Acre, his fame as a warrior revived the spirit of the Christians. He would ride along before the walls of the city, and defy the Mohammedans. He set up great machines to batter down the walls, and in a short time Acre surrendered. Thus was recovered one of the important cities which the Mohammedans had conquered, but Jerusalem itself was yet to be taken. Soon after this, King Philip returned to France, leaving Richard to carry on the war without his aid. But the quarrels among the leaders continued, and they could not agree on anything. It is said that Richard one day rode up a hill within sight of Jerusalem, but held his shield before his face that he might not look upon the sacred city which he could not rescue. The army was obliged to retreat, and the Holy City was left in the hands of the "infidels."

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

Armor of the Time of Richard I

Richard was now obliged to return to England; so he made a truce with Saladin for three years, during which time Christians might freely visit Jerusalem. Richard intended to return after the three years had passed, but was never able to do so. When he departed from Syria, he left behind him a great reputation for his bravery.

While he was returning to his kingdom, Richard was compelled by storms to land in the territory of the Duke of Austria. He was almost alone, and the Duke was his personal enemy because of great injuries which Richard had done to him on the Crusade. Richard attempted to pass unknown through his enemy's country; but he was discovered, arrested, and afterward surrendered by the Duke to the German Emperor. The Emperor was also unfriendly, because Richard was allied with the Emperor's enemies in Germany; so he kept the English King a prisoner.

For a time, the place of Richard's confinement was not known to his own people. In after years, men told a story of how his favorite "minstrel," Blondel, wandered through Germany, singing beneath the walls of every castle a song known only to the King and to Blondel himself. At last he was rewarded by hearing the answering verse in Richard's clear voice, and he knew that he had found his master's prison.

The Emperor drove a hard bargain with his prisoner. If he had listened to King Philip of France, and to Richard's brother John, he would never have released the King at all. As it was, he compelled Richard to pay a great ransom, which the English people willingly raised. After fourteen months of captivity, Richard was released. He landed in England after more than four years' absence.

While Richard was absent his brother John had attempted to usurp his crown, and had seized a number of castles. Richard's officers and the people were loyal and the castles had nearly all been recaptured before he arrived. Those that John still held were easily recovered, and the conspiracy ended.

After two months in England, Richard crossed to France to make war on King Philip, who was attacking his territories. The remainder of Richard's life was spent in this petty warfare. The struggle centered about a great castle which Richard built on the border of Normandy, and which he called "Saucy Castle" (Château Gaillard).

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

Richard I's "Saucy Castle"

"I would take that castle," cried Philip, "though its walls were of iron!"

"I would hold it, though its walls were of butter," was Richard's defiant answer.

Richard was now so much in need of money that, when he heard that one of his vassals in southern France had discovered a buried treasure of gold, he demanded it, in accordance with his right as lord. The report was that the treasure was "a great table of gold, surrounded by golden knights," but really it was only a set of golden chessmen. The vassal refused to surrender the treasure, and Richard laid siege to his castle.

As Richard was riding carelessly before the walls one day, he was struck by an arrow shot from the castle by a man who had long waited for that chance. Soon after that, the castle was taken, and the solder who had shot Richard was brought captive before him.

"What have I done to you," asked the dying King, "that you should slay me?"

"You have slain my father and two of my brothers," was the answer. "Torture me as you will, I shall die gladly, since I have slain you."

On hearing this answer, Richard pardoned the man, and with his last breath ordered that he should be set free.

In spite of his great courage, and his skill and energy as a warrior, Richard I. accomplished very little. He is to be remembered chiefly as being the only English King who left his throne in order to go upon a Crusade. For nearly a hundred years after Richard's death, western knights and princes, and some Kings, continued to go to the East, seeking honor, riches, and salvation for their souls, in the Crusades. Then, gradually, they awoke to the greater needs and opportunities which lay close at hand, in their own countries, and the crusading movement came to an end.


  1. Imagine yourself a page and write a letter describing your training to be a knight.
  2. Find out what you can about the First Crusade.
  3. Read some account of Saladin, and tell about his relations with Richard. (Scott's novel, "The Talisman" deals with this subject.)
  4. Show on the map the route which Richard took to the Holy Land. (He went by land through France, and sailed from Marseilles.)
  5. What effect did the Crusades have on the commerce of Europe? On its learning? What new things are introduced during the Crusades?
  6. Write a story of Blondel searching for Richard.

King John and the Great Charter


Why John was made a King instead of Arthur; his character; how his tyranny was a good thing for England.

On what charge John was condemned to lose his French territories; what crime committed by John aided Philip; why the French could not take Aquitaine; how the loss of Normandy was a good thing.

The quarrel between John and the Pope; how the Pope sought to punish John; the terms on which John made peace with the Church.

Why the Barons rebelled against John; what caused the rebellion to succeed; where and when the Great Charter was signed; its chief provisions.

Why the barons rebelled a second time; the aid which they have; the circumstances of John's death; why the Barons abandoned the French Prince.

Richard's younger brother John, who had caused him so much trouble during his absence on the Crusade, succeeded him as King of England and ruler of the English possessions in France. Another brother, named Geoffrey, who was older than John, had died, leaving a son, Arthur, who was now ten years old. According to the rules which today govern the succession to crowns, Arthur had a better right to the throne than John had; but the nobles of England, acting on Richard's recommendation, chose John, who was a man of full age, in preference to Arthur, who was but a boy.

Long before John's reign was over, every class in the Kingdom had cause to repent that choice. King John proved to be one of the worst rulers that England ever had,—cruel, faithless, lazy, and reckless of everything save his own pleasure. Yet his very wickedness and tyranny, by spurring all classes to resistance, helped much to bring about political liberty, and to make such tyranny impossible for the future.

First, you must know, within five years John lost the greater part of the English possessions in France, including Normandy, the home-land of William the Conqueror.

Ever since the Norman dukes had ruled England, the kings of France had seized every opportunity of stirring up trouble in the English royal family, in order to weaken these powerful vassals of theirs. Philip Augustus now aided young Arthur in attacking the French possessions of his uncle John. Also, John had injured one of his own vassals in Aquitaine, by seizing and carrying off his promised bride, whom John married; and this vassal carried his grievance to King Philip, who was John's overlord in Aquitaine. Philip summoned John to appear before his court, and defend himself; and when John refused, judgment was given against him and he was condemned to lose his possessions in France. The judgment was strictly according to feudal law; and with the law now on his side, King Philip set about conquering John's fiefs.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

Money of King John's Reign

In the course of this war, Arthur was captured and imprisoned by John, and soon mysteriously disappeared. There can be no doubt that he was put to death, and ugly rumors whispered that John had done the wicked deed with his own hands. On every side John's vassals and followers deserted him, and Philip made rapid gains.

"Let him go on," boasted John, while doing nothing to prevent this. "Whatever he takes, I shall retake it in a single day."

This was easier said than done. At last the "Saucy Castle," built by Richard with so much pains and expense, was taken, and all Normandy passed into the hands of the French. Most of Aquitaine, which lay south of the river Loire, remained true to English rule—not because of any love for John, but because the nobles dreaded to lose their independent position if their lands were annexed to the French crown, and because of loyalty to John's mother, Eleanor, their old mistress.

The loss of Normandy seemed to the English people of that day a great disaster; but we can see now that it was a good thing for England, as well as for France. The descendants of the conquering Normans and of the conquered English had for many years been growing more and more alike, and more and more ready to act together in all that concerned the kingdom. The people in the reign of Henry II. and of Richard had been allowed to carry on their local governments according to ancient usage. London, and many other towns also, had received charters from the king which permitted them to manage their own affairs, and as a result the townsmen had become self-reliant, and interested in public matters. Now that the Norman barons were obliged to give up their lands in France, they looked upon themselves as Englishmen. Thus, when the loss of his Norman possessions compelled the King to give his attention solely to England, he found the nobles and the common people ready to act together for the interests of the whole country.

Soon after John's return to England, the Archbishop of Canterbury died, and for nearly eight years afterward John engaged in a great quarrel with the Pope over the filling of the vacancy.

The monks of Canterbury had the right to choose the archbishop, but it had been the custom for the King to name the man whom the monks should elect. On this occasion the monks, without consulting John, elected one of their own number and sent him to Rome to be confirmed by the Pope. When John learned what had been done, he compelled the monks to elect another man, a favorite of his own, who also went to Rome and appealed to the Pope. After considering the matter for a year, the Pope declared that neither candidate had been properly elected; and he then consecrated as archbishop a clergyman at Rome named Stephen Langton, who was learned, able, and of English birth.

No better choice could have been made, but King John was furious at the Pope's action. He refused to allow Langton to enter England, and he seized the lands and revenues of the archbishopric. To punish the King, the Pope placed an "interdict" upon the whole kingdom,—that is, he forbade all church services except the baptism of infants and the "last unction" or anointing of the dying. The church doors remained closed; the bells were silent; even the dead were buried without ceremony, in unhallowed ground.

John took no heed, save to drive from the land the bishops who proclaimed the interdict and to seize their lands. Then the Pope "excommunicated" the King—that is, declared him to be cut off from all connection with the Church, and all hope of heaven. Still John refused to submit. At last the Pope declared John deposed from his throne, released his English subjects from all duty to him, and gave Philip of France authority to take possession of the English kingdom.

Philip prepared to invade England, and John also collected troops. But John distrusted his barons, and when the war was about to begin he suddenly yielded to the Pope's demands. Stephen Langton was permitted to take up his duties as archbishop, and John promised to restore the lands and moneys which he had taken from the Church. In addition, he surrendered his kingdom to the Pope and received it again as a fief, agreeing to pay a yearly tribute. Thus, the second great struggle was ended by the King of England becoming the Pope's vassal. The interdict and the excommunication were removed, and Philip was forbidden to proceed with his expedition.

When the quarrel with the Pope was settled, John was in the midst of a third great struggle,—this time with his own barons, who wished a remedy for the evils of his rule.

The King was constantly making new demands upon both the nobles and the people. He had called upon them for services which they did not think they ought to render, and he had levied taxes unknown in earlier times. In some cases he cast men into prison without law, and in others he unjustly seized their lands and goods. In many ways, King John outraged the rights of his people, so that all classes were ready to rebel.

The barons found a shrewd adviser in Stephen Langton, the new archbishop. He reminded them of the charter in which Henry I. had promised reforms of government to the nation, and told the barons to demand a similar charter from King John.

While John was waging war on the Continent, seeking vainly to recover his lost dominions, the leading barons secretly met together, under pretext of a pilgrimage, and swore to compel the King to restore the liberties of the realm, and to confirm them by a charter. Their demands were presented to John, upon his return; but the King cried out in wrath:

"Why do they not ask for my kingdom? I will never grant such liberties as will make me a slave."

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

Portion of the Great Charter

In various ways, John sought to break up the forces that confronted him; but all in vain. "The army of God and of Holy Church," as the rebels called themselves, marched upon London, and the citizens joyously opened the city gates to them.

On June 15, in the year 1215, John met the representatives of the barons "in the meadow which is called Runnymede, between Windsor and Staines," on the river Thames. Here he was forced to sign the Great Charter,—called Magna Charta  in Latin, the language in which it was written. It set forth the rights of all the people, including churchmen, nobles and townsmen. Since that day, the Charter has been repeatedly confirmed, and now stands as part of the foundation of English law. Its principles are part of the constitution of every English-speaking nation. Among many important provisions these two are chief:

"No free man shall be taken, or imprisoned, or dispossessed, or outlawed, or banished, or in any way destroyed, nor will we go upon him, nor will we send upon him, except by lawful judgment of his peers, and by the law of the land."

"To no one will we sell—to no one will we deny—right or justice."

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

John Granting the Charter

In these provisions the King admitted that he had no right to imprison or punish any man except according to law; he agreed that he would no longer take a man's liberty or goods merely by his own will.

It is said that when King John signed the Charter he wore a smiling countenance, and spoke pleasantly to the lords about him; but that when he reached his own chamber he threw himself down in a mad rage upon the ground, gnashing his teeth and biting the rushes with which it was strewn.

John had no intention of keeping his promises, and war soon began again. The King had the support of hired troops, chiefly from France; and the Pope, who was now his overlord, gave him such help as he could. The barons, for their part, called upon Louis, son of King Phillip of France, to come to their aid, and offered him the English crown. Louis came with a large army, and for a time the barons were successful.

Then John's fortunes began to brighten, and it seemed as if he might overcome his enemies after all, and again set up his will as law. But, in crossing an arm of the sea, his army was surprised by the tide, and his baggage, with the royal treasure, was washed away.

A fever then seized John, and he died in a few days. Men said his illness would not have been fatal had he not made it worse by eating heartily of unripe peaches. His death occurred in the fall of the year 1216. John's son, Henry III., a nine year old boy, succeeded him on the throne, and Prince Louis soon withdrew his forces to France. The barons had fought only against the tyranny of King John, and they would not support the French Prince against their own young King.


  1. Review the history of the connection of Normandy with England.
  2. Find out what other kingdoms besides England were held as fiefs from the Pope. What does this show concerning the power of the Pope.
  3. Read further on events leading up to the granting of the Great Charter.
  4. Write a brief account of the importance of the Great Charter.

The Barons' Wars against Henry III


Dates of the reign of Henry III.; his character as King; what gave the Barons the opportunity to interfere with his misgovernment.

Who was Simon de Montfort; the date when the Barons took charge of the government; how long this lasted.

Beginning of the Barons' Wars; the first important battle; advantages gained by the Barons; how the war was renewed; the Battle of Evesham; the fate of Simon de Montfort.

How the people regarded Simon; the most important thing which he did.

Henry III. reigned for fifty-six years, from 1216 to 1272. He was not lawless and cruel, like his father; on the contrary, he was religious, and a good husband and father. Yet he was not a good King, and the discontent of his subjects at last broke out again in civil war.

Until Henry came of age, the country was well governed, under the guidance of men of noble birth and high character, who had been trained by Henry II. But when Henry III. took the government into his own hands, confusion followed, especially in money matters.

The young King loved to make a great display of riches, to provide great feasts and entertainments, and give magnificent gifts to French favorites. This not only wasted revenues, but aroused the ill-will of his English subjects, who were very jealous of foreigners. Henry III. also permitted the Pope's agents to raise large sums of money in England to send to Rome, in spite of the loud complaints of the people and the English clergy. A war which Henry waged with France, for the recovery of the territories lost by his father, only succeeded in increasing his debts. Finally, Henry allowed himself to be drawn into a great struggle between the Emperor and the Pope, which so increased his debts that he was forced to appeal to parliament for new taxes. This gave the barons their opportunity to interfere with his misgovernment.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

King and Soldiers Met by a Messenger

The leader of the barons at this time was Simon de Montfort, a stern and warlike knight, of French birth, who had become Earl of Leicester, in England. Though Simon had married the King's sister, he was not always in favor with Henry; on the other hand, the English barons at first regarded him with distrust, because he was of foreign birth. When Henry sent him to govern Gascony, or Aquitaine, his rule was severe and violent, and many complaints reached the king from the rebellious lords whom Simon had compelled to obey. Henry was always ready to blame Simon, who therefore gave up his task at last, and returned to England, where he soon became the leader of those who wished to end the King's misgovernment.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

Banner of Simon de Montfort

With Simon de Montfort at their head, the barons compelled the king to promise reforms. In 1285 they provided a council of fifteen barons to take entire charge of the government,—not to remove the King, but to see that he ruled rightly. For some time the King observed this agreement; but, after five years, he declared he would no longer be bound by it.

Then, at last, the barons understood that nothing but force would compel Henry to rule justly.

"Though all men quit me," said Simon de Montfort, "I, with my four sons, will remain and fight for the good cause which I have sworn to defend, for the honor of Holy Church, and the welfare of the kingdom."

On the other side, the King's chief aid was his twenty-five year old son, Edward. He was friendly to Simon, and wished to see reforms in the government, but he could not stand with the barons against his father.

An important battle was fought at Lewes, in the southern part of England. Partly because of Simon's wise plans and partly because of Prince Edward's rashness, the battle was won by the barons, and the king and prince were forced to surrender.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

Fight Between Knights, in the Time of Henry III

With Henry in his hands, Simon de Montfort for a time exercised the power of the King. He ruled wisely and secured the favor of the people. But the fortunes of his party soon changed, through the escape of the Prince from captivity.

One day, while riding with his captors, Prince Edward suggested that they race their horses, to see which was the fastest. This was done, until the horses were all tired out. Then the Prince suddenly mounted a fresh horse, which he had close at hand, and easily escaped from their pursuit.

By this time, many of the nobles were dissatisfied with Earl Simon's harshness; and Edward soon gathered a large army about him, to rescue and restore the King. The battle was fought in 1265, at Evesham, in the west of England. Prince Edward showed much skill in forcing Simon to fight in an unfavorable position. When the Earl saw Edward's army approaching, in great numbers and excellent order, he said:

"They come on skilfully, yet it is from me that they have learned this order of battle. God have mercy on our souls, for our bodies are Prince Edward's!"

Simon and his barons fought bravely, but they were overpowered. The Earl himself held out, dealing terrible blows, until he was slain by an attack from behind. The people lamented his fall, and a song is preserved, which they made soon after his death:

"In song my grief shall find relief,

Sad is my verse and rude;

I sing in tears our gentle peers

Who fell for England's good.

"Our peace they sought, for us they fought,

For us they dared to die;

And where they sleep a mangled heap

Their wounds for vengeance cry.

"On Evesham's plain in Montfort slain,

Well skilled our war to guide;

Where streams his gore, shall all deplore

Fair England's flower and pride."

Above all his other deeds, the great Earl is remembered for a change which he made in the Great Council, or Parliament. In calling a meeting in 1265, after the battle of Lewes, he summoned not only the barons and rulers in the church (who had always attended), but also two knights from each shire, together with two men from each of those cities and "boroughs" (or towns) which could be depended upon to support his reforms. Thus was taken an important step, for we shall see that in the next reign the practice of including the representatives of the towns becomes firmly fixed in the parliamentary system.

Men have always honored the memory of Simon de Montfort; for, though he was stern and haughty, he was just and true, and an enemy to all misgovernment. Perhaps, as some say, he was becoming too ambitious; but, even so, his defeat would have been a calamity for England, had there not been a wise Prince, of the royal house, ready to take up the government, and to continue the reforms which Earl Simon had begun.


  1. Compare the characters of Henry I., Henry II,. and Henry III. What was the relationship in blood of each of these to the others?
  2. Find out what you can about the men who carried on the government before Henry III. came of age.
  3. The ways in which Henry III. misgoverned.
  4. In the Great Charter the King was obliged to make promises of good government, and agree to rule according to the law. How did the Barons of Henry II. go beyond this in weakening the King's power?
  5. Write a Brief sketch, in your own words, of the life and character of Simon de Montfort.

The First Two Edwards


The part played by Prince Edward in the latter part of his father's reign; his crusade; the danger to which he was exposed in Syria; in France.

Character of Edward I.; his chief title to fame as King; the laws which he made; meaning of "Mortmain."

Conquests attempted by Edward I.; Llewelyn; date of Edward's Conquest of Wales; the title of "Prince of Wales" since then.

Ancient claims of the English Kings over Scotland; Balliol; what led to war; William Wallace; his victory; his defeat at Falkirk; cause of the English success at Stirling; what became of Wallace.

Leader of the Scots after Wallace's death; how Bruce was led to persevere; his success after the death of Edward I.; battle of Bannockburn.

The faults of Edward II.; his favorite; how Edward was overthrown; who then became King.

It was to Prince Edward that the people looked for good government after the death of Simon de Montfort. He was a young man, sober in judgment, and known to be in favor of just and orderly rule. Thenceforth, Henry III. was guided by his son Edward, and other counselors; and, for the remaining seven years of his life, the country was quite and prosperous.

Meanwhile, Prince Edward found stirring work to do in the last of the Crusades. He had always loved warlike exercises, and by his success in tournaments had become one of the most famous knights in Europe. He was religious by nature, and so, when he found a time in which he was not needed at home, he was glad to take a share in the Crusades.

In spite of several Crusades which had been undertaken since the time of Richard I., the Turks still held Palestine and the Holy City of Jerusalem. In 1270 Prince Edward set out with a small company of followers, and remained about a year in Syria, fighting with great skill and courage. But he could do little toward driving out he Turks. At one time he nearly lost his life, as the result of a Mohammedan plot. While he was resting in his tent, without his armor, one day, a messenger entered on the pretext of bringing a letter from the "Old Man of the Mountain," the ruler of a Mohammedan sect, whose capital was on Mount Lebanon. These people were called "Assassins," a name meaning "drunk with haschisch" (a drink made from hemp); and they were ready for any desperate errand of murder upon which their master sent them. As the Prince was reading the letter, the "assassin" drew a poisoned dagger, and struck him, but fortunately only wounded him in the arm. The "assassin" was at once slain. As a result of prompt measures, Edward's wound soon healed, and not long afterward he departed for England.

When Sicily was reached, news came that Henry III. was dead, and that Edward I. had been proclaimed King. Edward did not hurry home to be crowned, but instead remained in his territory of Gascony for a time, to settle affairs there. At Châlons, his life was again placed in danger, in a tournament, which was entered upon as a friendly trial of skill, but which was turned into a deadly battle. Many knights were slain, and Edward himself was in great danger, before he and his Englishmen won the day.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

Seal of Edward I

Edward's life was always full of activity. He was strong and brave, very tall and straight, with broad, deep chest, dark eyes, and brown flowing hair. Because of his long legs and arms he was called "Longshanks." He was a good swordsman, a good rider, and a good speaker. He bore an English name, and was the first King since the Norman Conquest who used English as his ordinary speech. As Prince he had been loved by the people, and as King he proved himself a wise guardian of the people's welfare. He reigned from 1272 to 1307, and he was guided always by the motto which at last was placed on his tomb—"Keep Faith." Though he sometimes had disputes with his people, yet he always "kept faith" with them.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

A Cross Erected by Edward I to the Memory of his Queen

Edward's greatest title to fame rests on the improvements which he made in the English laws.

In Europe, as a whole, the wanderings of the nations were now over. The Crusades had come to an end, and strong governments were beginning to arise. Everywhere there was need that old laws should be revised and new ones made to suit the new time.

This was the work which Edward I. did in England. He revised and put in order the old laws, and he made many new laws, so that he was regarded as a great "law-giver." We may truly say that the roots of the English law, as we have it today, go back to the time of Edward I.

First, Edward punished his own officers and judges for abusing their powers.

Then he made laws to check the power of the great feudal lords.

Still another law, called the "Statute of Mortmain," forbade that any more land should be given or sold to the Church, especially the monasteries, without the King's consent. Monasteries were "corporations," which "never died," no matter how often the individual members of the body might change; so land held by them was called land in "mortmain,"—that is, in a "dead hand" which never relaxed. A great part of the land of England—perhaps one-third—was already in the hands of the Church; and since, the King's rights of taxation, and the like, were less over the Church lands than over other lands, it was important that the amount of land so held should not be increased.

Another great statute required that every free man should have arms and armor according to his means, and should appear for review twice a year. Those who were too poor to have armor and swords were required to have bows and arrows, and soon the English people became famed for their skill as archers. Other provisions of this law required that "watch and ward" should be kept in the towns at night, to guard against crimes; and that when an offense was committed, all the people should join in "hue and cry" after the offender, until he was caught.

A great part of Edward's reign was taken up with the wars which he waged with the Welsh and the Scots, in the endeavor to bring all parts of Great Britain under the rule of the English King.

The trouble first arose with the Welsh, who inhabited the mountainous region in the western part of Great Britain. They were descendants of those Britons who were driven westward by the invading Anglo-Saxons, until the Severn river formed their eastern boundary. In the time of the Normans, powerful Norman lords established themselves along the borders of the Welsh territory, as "lords of the Marches." The Welsh were a high-spirited and courageous people, and they made constant, though usually unsuccessful, attacks upon these "lords marcher."

When Edward became King, Prince Llewelyn of Wales refused to do homage. Edward invaded Wales, and besieged the Welsh so closely, in the mountainous country, that they were forced by cold and hunger to surrender. In a second war, a few years later, Prince Llewelyn was killed. This ended the independence of Wales.

The country has ever since remained under the rule of England, and the title "Prince of Wales" has usually been borne by the eldest son of the English Sovereign. Edward gave Wales a system of government like that of the English shires, and ruled it wisely and justly.

Edward I. also fought a long war with Scotland. He wished to unite the English and the Scots under one rule, but he managed the matter so badly that, when he died, the Scots hated the English, and the union was farther off than ever.

The story of Scotland is a long one, and we can tell only a small part of it here. In the old days, one of the rulers had become the vassal of an Anglo-Saxon King, and two centuries later another had yielded to Henry II. Thus the Kings of England claimed the overlordship of Scotland. In Edward I.'s time a dispute arose for the crown, and the Scottish lords appealed to King Edward to decide who had the best right. Edward decided in favor of John Balliol, who had the best claim, and he was thereupon crowned King of Scotland.

When Edward began to exercise certain rights as overlord of Scotland, Balliol resisted. Thus began the Scottish war, which, except for some short interruptions, lasted during the rest of Edward's life. Balliol was driven from his throne, and an English guardian was placed over the country. A fiery leader of the Scots then appeared, named William Wallace, who won a great victory over the English at Stirling.

But soon King Edward won a greater victory over Wallace, at Falkirk. The Scots, armed with long spears or pikes, were drawn up in four great circles, and waited to be attacked.

"I have brought you to the ring," cried Wallace to the English, "now dance if you can."

The Scottish spearmen were able to turn back the charges of the English horsemen. But when Edward brought up his archers, their deadly arrows broke up the Scottish circles, and gave the victory to the English.

A few years later, Wallace was taken prisoner, and was cruelly put to death. Soon the Scots rebelled again, under Robert Bruce, whom they crowned King. Bruce suffered many defeats, and at one time was almost ready to give up the fight. A story is told how, one day as he lay hid, he watched a spider repair her web over and over again, until at last it held fast; and thus he, too, took courage and persevered.

After Edward's death (in 1307) Bruce conquered nearly all Scotland, until only the castle of Stirling held out against him. To save Stirling, Edward II., the unworthy son of Edward I., led a great army into Scotland, and fought a battle at Bannockburn. The English were poorly led, while Bruce showed himself a good general. The Scottish poet, Robert Burns, makes Bruce address his soldiers in these words:

"Scots wha ha'e wi' Wallace bled,

Scots, wham Bruce has aften led!

Welcome to your gory bed,

Or to glorious victorie!

"Wha will be a traitor knave?

Wha can fill a coward's grave?

Wha sae base as be a slave?

Traitor! coward! turn and flee!

"Wha for Scotland's King and law

Freedom's sword will strongly draw

Free-man stand or free-man fa',

Caledonian! on wi' me!"

The result of the battle was a great victory for the Scots. The plans of Edward I. to conquer Scotland thus came to nothing, and the Scots kept their independence.

The reign of Edward II. lasted twenty years (1307 to 1327), and in every way was a failure. His great father had trained him carefully to war and to business; but Edward II. proved utterly worthless, and thought only of his pleasures. His chief companion was a reckless favorite, named Piers Gaveston, who was as light-headed as the King himself. Gaveston called the greatest noblemen of the kingdom by such names as "the Actor," "the Hog," "the Black Dog." Three times he was sent out of England into exile, but each time he came back. The third time that Gaveston returned, the barons besieged the castle in which he took refuge; and, when it was captured, the baron whom he called "the Black Dog" had him put to death.

Again we find the barons making war upon the King, as in the time of Henry III., but their aims were now more selfish than they were when Simon de Montfort was at their head. It was partly because of this that Edward II. was able to rule as long as he did, in spite of his misgovernment and failures.

But at last a great conspiracy was formed against him, in which his Queen, Isabella, herself joined. The King's fourteen year old son (later Edward III.) was with the Queen. Bishops and nobles aided them, and the Londoners murdered the King's ministers. When the King's new favorites were captured, they were put to death. Edward II. stood practically alone, and after trying unsuccessfully to escape to Ireland he fell into the hands of his enemies.

Then, in a Parliament held in 1327, the question was put—

"Whether they would have father or son for King?"

The answer was overwhelmingly against Edward II. He was declared incapable of ruling, and was deposed. To show that Edward's reign was really over, the High Steward stepped forward and broke across his knee the white staff which was the sign of the Steward's office.

But, so long as Edward  lived, his enemies feared lest he might recover his power, and undo the work which they had done. So, a few months later, the unhappy man was murdered by those who had him in charge.

This was the first time since the Norman Conquest, that the Great Council, which we now call Parliament, had exercised the right to depose a King. Before we go further, we must see what this body was, and how its powers had grown; for the growth of Parliament is the most important fact in all the history of this period.


  1. Tell in your own words what Edward I. did for the laws of England. Compare his work with that of Henry II.
  2. Did England gain more by the reforms of good Kings like Henry II. and Edward I., or from resistance to bad Kings like John, Henry III. and Edward II?
  3. Tell the story of the Conquest from the point of view of a Welsh boy or girl.
  4. Find out what you can of Wallace.
  5. Look up the story of Bruce and the spider, and tell it in your own words.
  6. Would it have been a good or bad thing for Scotland to have been brought under the rule of England? Why?
  7. Find other instances since the Norman Conquest in which Parliament (or the Great Council) decided who should have the Crown.

The Rise of Parliament


The name of the Central Assembly in Anglo-Saxon days; under the Normans; how these Assemblies differed from Parliament.

When and in what part of the government "representatives" first arose; how Henry II. increased their use; why they were added to the Great Council.

The two sorts of representatives in Parliament; when each was first introduced; the Model Parliament.

Separation of Parliament into two Houses; of what each was composed; change in the House of Lords at the time of the Reformation; the Commons given equal powers in lawmaking with the Lords; powers of Parliament not so great as they later became.

There never has been a period, since England has been united into a single kingdom, when some sort of council or assembly was not called, from time to time, to aid the King in governing.

In the days of the Anglo-Saxons, this body was called the "Witenagemot" (wit´en-a-ge-mot), or assembly of the wise men, and was made up of the bishops, abbots, king's thegns, and chief officers of the kingdom. It was this body which aided Alfred in making his laws, and which elected Harold—and after him William—to be King of England.

After the Norman Conquest, the Kings from time to time called about them, to aid them with counsel and advice, all the lords who held land directly of them by feudal tenure. Except for the fact that the feudal lords were at first mainly Normans, this body did not differ very much from the one which preceded it; for the great officers of the land were the King's vassals, and the bishops and abbots also held their lands by feudal tenure from the King. It was this Great Council of the barons which settled who should have the crown when there was a dispute; it was also this body which helped Henry II. carry through his great reforms. But the Great Council only aided and advised the King; it did not control him.

What is it that makes the difference between these earlier assemblies and the later one which we call Parliament?

First, Parliament is a "representative" body—that is, it is composed in part of persons who do not sit in right of their offices or lands, but who are elected to represent the people. Second, it is divided into two "houses"—a House of Lords, and a House of Commons. And third, it has more power than the older assemblies had.

The addition of "representatives," along with the great churchmen and barons, was the first step in transforming the old Great Council into the Parliament.

The practice of having "representatives," to act in the name of the community, was first used in local government. In the Anglo-Saxon time, each township sent four representatives to take part in the "hundred" and "shire" meetings. When Henry II. introduced jury trial, he was really using the "representative" principle; for every jury gives its verdict, not from any right which the members have, but in the name of the community which it represents. Thus, in many ways, the people became used to the idea of having representatives chosen to help carry on the local government, in the name of the people of the community.

Why were representatives added to the Great Council?

The reason was that a time came when the Kings needed more money to carry on the enlarged work of government; and, as this money must come chiefly from the people of the towns and country, it seemed best to ask them to send representatives to meet with the Great council, and give the consent of their communities to the new taxes.

These representatives were of two sorts; first, the "knights of the shire," who represented the lesser nobles and country gentlemen who were not members of the Great Council; and, second, the "borough representatives," who came from the cities and towns (boroughs) and represented the trading classes.

The knights of the shire were the first to be added to the assembly. In 1213, for the first time, the Kings called them to meet with the Great Council, "to speak with us concerning the business of our kingdom." From time to time after that "knights of the shire" were summoned to the assemblies until the practice became permanent. The were elected by the landholders, in the county assemblies, and every county sent two, no matter what size.

We have already seen that it was Simon de Montfort who, in 1265, first called representatives of the towns, or "boroughs," to the central assembly. In 1295, Edward I. called a meeting which established it as a rule that, in a Parliament, there ought to be representatives both of the counties and of the towns. This was called the "Model Parliament," because it became a model for succeeding ones. The number of boroughs which sent representatives was greater than in 1265, and from time to time changes were made in the list in after days. Each town which sent representatives at all elected two.

At first, the representative of the counties and towns sat in the same body with the barons and great churchmen; but, by the year 1340, the Parliament had separated into two "houses." The Upper House became the House of Lords, and included the great barons (who bore the titles of "Duke," "Marquis," "Earl," "Viscount," and "Baron"), and also the archbishops and bishops, and the abbots or heads of monasteries.

The Lower House became the House of Commons, and in course of time it became the most important part of Parliament. This was because it was called upon, especially, to vote the taxes which the King needed for carrying on the government. For a time the towns and counties looked upon representation in Parliament as a burden. But, gradually, their representatives began to hold back the voting of taxes, until the King and his ministers promised to correct any grievances of which they complained. Then it was seen that the right of voting taxes was a great and valuable power, and the people no longer complained of the burden of being represented in Parliament.

At first, it was not certain whether the Commons should be admitted to a share in the law-making power, or whether they should be only allowed to vote taxes. But in his summons to the "Model Parliament" Edward I. laid down the principle that "what concerns all should be approved by all." And, twenty-seven years later, the rule was laid down that all matters which concerned the kingdom and the people, "shall be established in Parliament, by the King, and by the consent of the Lords and the Commons  of the realm." From this time on the powers of the Commons grew, until they are now much greater than those of the House of Lords.

But we must not think of these early Parliaments as having the great powers which Parliaments have today. The King was still much more powerful than the Parliament, though since the granting of the Great Charter it was recognized that the King was below the law, and not above it. In making new laws, and in laying new taxes, he needed the consent of Parliament; but in carrying on the general business of the government—in making war, and in concluding peace—he could act without Parliament. Often he consulted Parliament about such matters, but he could act as he pleased. The ministers who carried on the government were still the King's ministers, and responsible to him only. It was to be several centuries yet—and a great civil war must be fought, and one King beheaded and another deposed—before Parliament was recognized as the chief power in the government.

Nevertheless, by the time that Edward III. came to the throne the framework  of Parliament—though not its powers—was complete.


  1. Rule three columns on the blackboard, head one "Witenagemot," the next "Great Council," and the third "Parliament," and write down the chief facts concerning each body.
  2. Show how the "representative principle" enables free governments in modern times to rule much greater territories than was possible for the little republics of Greece, when the representative principle was not yet developed.
  3. Show how the representative principle enabled the people to use the rights of self-government which they forced the Kings to grant.
  4. Find out what you can about the Parliament called by Simon de Montfort in 1265.
  5. Do the same for the Model Parliament of 1295.

Edward III. and the Hundred Years' War


When Edward III. was King; his character; the most important thing in his reign.

Causes of the Hundred Years' War; dates when it began and ended; grounds on which Edward III. claimed the French throne.

The Battle of Crecy; to what the English victory was due; English gain from the victory; the Scots defeated by Edward; Neville's Cross.

The Battle of Poitiers; mistakes made by the French; gains of the English.

Date and terms of the Peace of Bretigny; renewal of the war; why the English successes were then checked.

The Black Death; its origins; how it came to Europe; date when it broke out in France; other European countries which suffered from it; the effects on the number of the people in Europe as a whole; in England; its effect on agriculture and the organization of society.

Edward III. reigned for fifty years—from 1327 to 1377. During the first four years, the government was in the hands of those who had deposed Edward II.; but when Edward III. was eighteen years old, he took the power into his own hands. He was handsome, brave, and energetic. In the greater part of his reign, the people gladly supported him, for the wars which he carried on were popular, and he let Parliament have much power. But, in his old age, he grew selfish and extravagant, and troubles arose.

The most important thing in the reign of Edward III. was the beginning of a long war—or rather a series of wars—with France. We call this the Hundred Years' War, because it lasted for more than a century, from 1327 to 1453.

Many causes combined to produce this long war. The English Kings could not forget that they had once held Normandy, and no King of France could be content so long as another King was his vassal for so large a part of the kingdom as the English King still held in Gascony. When Edward III. renewed the English war with Scotland, the French King aided the Scots; and when troubles broke out in Flanders, in northern France, Edward III. supported the Flemish people against their count, who was supported by his overlord, the King of France. In this last quarrel, the English people were strongly on the side of their King; for the industrious cloth manufacturers of the Flemish cities were the chief customers for England's wool.

When war had been decided upon, Edward III. made matters worse by claiming that he was the rightful King of France. His mother was the sister of the last preceding French King; and when this King died without sons, Edward said that the French crown should have gone to him, as that King's nephew. But the French had a rule that no woman  could reign over France, and they decided (as they had a perfect right to do) that this also shut out those who claimed through  a woman, as Edward did. They therefore had given the crown to the nearest male member of their royal house, whose right came entirely through males. Even when the Hundred Years' War finally ended, the English Kings did not cease styling themselves "Kings of France"; and it was not until the beginning of the nineteenth century that this claim was finally abandoned.

Two very famous battles—the battle of Crecy and Poitiers—were fought in this war, while Edward III. was King; and later, as we shall see, a third battle—that of Agincourt—was fought by Henry V. In all three of these battles, the victory was chiefly due to the strength and skill of the English archers, with their "long bows" and "cloth-yard shafts," which could shoot true for two hundred yards, and pierce through coats of mail.

The battle of Crecy was fought in northern France, in 1346. Edward III. had landed in Normandy, and marched up the valley of the river Seine, until the flames of the villages burned by the English could be seen from the walls of Paris. Then he turned northward, with the French in hot pursuit. He awaited their attack on a little hill at Crecy. The French force was five times as great as that of the English, and included a body of hired crossbowmen from Italy.

The crossbowmen were no match for the English longbowmen. The English arrows fell among them "so thick that it seemed as if it snowed," and they broke ranks and fled.

"Slay these rascals," angrily cried the French King, pointing to the crossbowmen, "for they trouble us without reason."

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

Battle of Crecy

"But ever still," says the chronicler Froissart, who wrote about these wars, "the Englishmen shot wherever the crowd was thickest. The sharp arrows pierced the knights, and their horses, and many fell, both horse and men; and when they were down they could not rise again, for the press was so thick that one overthrew another."

Edward III. had given the command of one division of his knights (who fought on foot in this battle) to his sixteen year old son, Edward the Black Prince. The King himself guided the whole battle from the tower of a little windmill on the battle field. Presently a messenger came to him in haste, and said:

"Sire, those about the Prince are fiercely fought and sore handled, wherefore they desire that you and your division come and aid them."

"Is my son dead, or hurt, or felled to earth?" inquired the King.

"No, sire," replied the messenger, "but he is overmatched, and has need of your aid."

"Well," said the King, "return to them that sent you, and say to them that they need send no more to me, no matter what happens, as long as my son is alive. And also say to them that I wish that they let him this day win his spurs. For if God be pleased, I will that this day be his, and the honor thereof."

Night came, with the English lines still unbroken, while the French were in hopeless confusion. The French King fled wounded from the field, leaving behind him eleven princes of France among the slain, and thousands of lesser rank. It was one of the greatest victories in English history, and it was won by despised foot-soldiers, of low rank, against the nobly born nights of France.

The only profit which the English took from their victory was to capture the city of Calais, just across the Straits from Dover. The French inhabitants were driven out, and English settlers took their places. The possession of this city gave England a convenient entrance into France, and for more than two hundred years it remained in their hands.

While Edward was fighting in France, the Scots sought to aid the French by invading England. Edward's Queen, Philippa,, gathered an army which defeated and captured the Scottish King, at Neville's Cross. A song-writer of that time tells how the Scottish King—

"Brought many bagmen,

Ready bent was their bow,

They robbed and they ravaged

And naught they let go.

"But shamed were the knaves

And sad must they feel,

For at Neville's Cross

Needs must they kneel."

The battle of Poitiers was fought ten years later (1356) in southern France. The Black Prince had started to march northward into Normandy, but was met by an army many times larger than his own. He offered to surrender the booty he had taken, and his prisoners, and to bind himself not to fight again for seven years, if the French would let him retreat; but they refused. The English force was made up chiefly of archers, as at Crecy. The French, who were mostly armored knights, fought on foot, thinking it was the dismounted knights of the English who had won the day at Crecy. The English were stationed on a little plateau, protected by a hedge and by some rough and marshy ground.

The English archers did their work so well, that the first and second divisions of the French broke ranks and fled, before they came within striking distance of the English. Then the third division advanced, under the command of the French King himself.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

Battle of Poitiers

"Then was there a sore fight," say the chronicler Froissart, "and many a great stroke was given and received. The French King, with his own hands, did marvels in arms; he had a battle-ax in his hands, wherewith he defended himself, and fought in the thickest of the press."

But it was in vain. The third division of the French at last fled; and the King and his youngest son, refusing to flee, were taken captives by the English Prince. The whole English army was made rich by the gold, silver, and jewels which they took.

"That day," says Froissart, "whoever took any prisoner, he was clear his, and he might let him go or ransom him as he chose."

The French King was kept captive for four years, though he was entertained with great festivities. In 1360 he signed a peace (called the Peace of Bretigny) by which he agreed to pay an enormous ransom, and give up his rights as King over Gascony. In return, Edward III. agreed to give up his claim to the French throne.

This treaty was never fully carried out, and war began again nine years later. Edward III. was now feeble and worn-out, and the Black Prince was suffering from a disease which carried him off a year before his father finally died. On the other hand, an able and energetic King now sat on the French throne, who fought no useless battles, but bit by bit conquered the lands of the English. When Edward III. died, in 1377, Calais, and a very small part of Gascony, were all that remained of his once extensive possessions in France.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

The Black Prince

For a time, the English people had profited from the French war. Almost every household could show some spoil—a featherbed, rich clothes, fine weapons—won by the bravery of husband, brothers, or sons. But soon heavy taxes had to be laid to provide for the expenses of the war. Worst of all, in the midst of this prosperity came a great pestilence, called the Black Death—the worst sickness that England ever knew.

The Black Death was a form of that disease called the "bubonic plague," which is still common in Asia. This attack started in China, and made its way slowly along the caravan routes of Asia, until it reached the Black Sea. It was carried by ships of Italian traders to the cities of Italy, and thence to France. It appeared in France two years after the battle of Crecy, and soon passed over into England. Germany, Norway, and Russia all suffered from it. It was the scourge of the civilized world.

We know that the "plague" is carried by a certain kind of fleas, which live on rats; and it is probable that the fleas and rats came in the bundles of merchandise which caravans and ships brought and spread throughout Europe. The disease spread from country to country, from city to city, from village to village, from house to house.

When it once appeared in a house, all of the inhabitants were almost sure to be attacked by it. Even pigs, sheep, and other animals died from its effects. It showed itself by the appearance of dark blotches and boils on the body, from which we give it its name—"the Black Death." Persons seized by it in the morning were often dead by night. Few recovered who were once attacked by it.

The number of persons who died is difficult to estimate. In some places almost all of the people perished; in England as a whole fully one-half were swept away. Probably one-third of the population of all Europe died from it. A monk described its ravages in France in these words:

"It is impossible to believe the number who have died throughout the whole country. Travelers, merchants, pilgrims, declare that they have found cattle wondering without herdsmen in fields, towns and waste lands. They have seen barns and wine-cellars standing wide open, houses empty, and few people to be found anywhere. In many towns where there were before 20,000 people, scarcely 2,000 are left. In many places the fields lie uncultivated."

Often there were left no priests to console the dying. The dead were buried hastily, great numbers at a time, in long ditches dug in the fields—for the cemeteries were filled to overflowing.

Try to think, for a moment, what all this meant to the countries concerned. The disease soon passed away, except for a few milder reappearances. But the effects of its ravages remained for centuries.

In England, before the Black Death, there were about four or five millions of people. When it had passed away, there were about half this number, and it was long before the number of inhabitants again rose as high as three million.

Field laborers became scarce, and those who were left demanded increased wages. Many "villains" left the estates of their masters, and fled to the towns, or found places elsewhere where their lot was easier. Parliament passed laws to keep wages and prices at their old level, but these could not be enforced. The old system of labor and agriculture broke down, and a new one gradually took its place. In part the change was a benefit to the laborers, by enabling them in the end to better their condition; but at all events it was a revolution in the organization of society.


  1. What was it which bound the English and Flemish together? Why did the Scots aid the French? Is it likely that the Hundred Years' War would have arisen if the English Kings had not held lands in France?
  2. Find out what you can about the English archers and their long-bows. What advantages did the long-blow have over the cross-bow?
  3. Write an account in your own words of the life and deeds of the Black Prince.
  4. Locate on a map the places connected with the Hundred Years' War.
  5. Describe the Battle of Crecy; of Poitiers.
  6. Write a brief account of the Black Death. Why do such diseases cause fewer deaths now?

Richard II., The Last Plantagenet King


Dates of Richard II.'s reign; causes of the troubles of his reign, John Wyclif; name given to his followers; what became of them; importance of his movement.

Grievances of the peasants; who stirred them up to rebellion; date of the rebellion; their chief leader; his fate; behavior of the young King; results of the revolt.

Political struggles under Richard; Henry of Bolingbroke; how Richard injured him; return of Bolingbroke and overthrow of Richard; Bolingbroke claims the throne.

When Edward III. died, in 1377, he was succeeded by his grandson, Richard II. He was the son of the Black Prince, and was only ten years old when he became King. His reign of twenty-two years was filled with many troubles. These were due to the quarrels of parties while he was under age; to the religious and social changes of the time; and to a combination of weakness and violence in his own character.

A religious movement, started by John Wyclif, a great preacher and university professor at Oxford, was responsible for part of the troubles of his reign. Wyclif complained bitterly of many evils in the Church, and said that they were due to the fact that the Pope, bishops, and abbots were no longer poor men like Christ and the Apostles, but lived in luxury, and were rulers of great estates. He gathered together a body of "poor priests," whom he sent forth to live among the people and preach his doctrines. And to aid their work, he translated the Bible, for the first time, from the Latin, which was then used in the churches, into the English tongue spoken by the common people.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

John Wyclif

If Wyclif had stopped here, all might have been well; but he went further, and attacked the teaching of the church concerning the Lord's Supper. This was too much for many who had supported him, and he began to lose followers. A rebellion, which broke out among the peasants, was also charged to his teachings. His opinions were therefore condemned, and he was obliged to stop teaching at Oxford. But, as yet, there was no law in England, as there was on the Continent, for burning "heretics," or teachers of wrong religion; so Wyclif was allowed to retire into the country, where he died a few years afterward. Later a new law was passed "for the burning of heretics," and then all the "Lollards" (as those were called who held Wyclif's opinions), were obliged either to give up their opinions, or to suffer death at the steak. More than a century later, when Luther, in Germany, had begun the Reformation of the Church, and England had broken away from obedience to the Pope, the reformers looked back to Wyclif, and called him "the Morning Star of the Reformation."

The rebellion of the peasants, for which Wyclif was held partly responsible, came in the year 1381. Several things beside his teachings helped to produce it. Since the time of the Black Death, the landlords had tried to keep fast hold on the villains (or "serfs") who were left to them, and would no longer permit them to escape the burdensome duties which they owed by paying small sums of money. The free peasants also complained bitterly of the laws which Parliament passed to keep down wages, and to prevent their going where they pleased. And the discontent was brought to a head by a law imposing a new sort of tax—a "poll tax," or head tax—upon all the people above fourteen years of age, at a uniform rate of both rich and poor.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

Peasants Plowing

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

Peasants Breaking Clods with Mallets

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding


[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

Men and Women Reaping

The troubles which followed occurred, more or less, all over England. But it was chiefly in the southeastern parts—in the counties of Kent and Essex—that the movement was dangerous.

There a priest named John Ball had, for some time, been preaching against the oppression of the poor by the rich.

"Ah, ye good people," he would say, "matters will not go well in England until everything is owned in common, and there are no longer villains nor gentlemen, but all are united together. Now, the lords are clothed in velvets and furs, while we are clothed with poor cloth. They have wines, spices, and good bread, while we live upon chaff and drink water. They dwell in fine houses, while we have pain and labor, wind and rain, in the fields. And when the produce is raised by our labors, they take it, and consume it; and we are called their bondmen, and, unless we serve them readily, we are beaten."

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

John Ball at the Head of Rebels

He summed up his teachings in this verse, which was everywhere repeated:

"When Adam delved and Eve span,

Who was then the gentleman?"

But John Ball was not the chief leader of the movement when the peasants actually broke out into revolt. That position was held by a peasant named Wat (or Walter) Tyler, who had great courage, was a good speaker, and knew how to get and to keep the support of his followers.

First, the peasants attacked their own landlords, and burned the records which showed the services they owed, destroyed the deer-parks, and emptied the fish ponds. Lawyers were put to death wherever met with, for it was by their aid that the peasants were oppressed. Then the peasants made their way to London—perhaps 100,000 of them—and were secretly aided and encouraged by the apprentices and poor citizens of the capital. London bridge fell into their hands, and they entered the city, burning the houses of those great lords whom they held responsible for misgovernment, freeing prisoners, and rioting and plundering everywhere. It was no wonder that the chief officers of the government, in their refuge in the Tower, with their fifteen year old King, trembled for their lives.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

London Bridge

The next day, Richard II. met the rebels in a large open place called Mile End. He heard their grievances, and granted them a charter by which they were no longer to be serfs, and were to have their lands at a low rent. Many of the rebels then returned home. The day after this, Richard met those who remained, under Wat Tyler, at a place called Smithfield, where they demanded further reforms—free hunting and fishing, and the right to take fuel and timber for building from the woods, and the division of the church property. The King pretended to accept these demands, also.

This meeting took place at some little distance from the peasant forces, and the peasants could not see what was going on between their leader and the King. One of the courtiers took this opportunity to pick a quarrel with Tyler, and slew him. His followers were told that their leader would meet them elsewhere. When they discovered how they had been tricked, they were panic-stricken, and soon scattered to their homes.

According to one account, young Richard showed great courage when the peasants discovered how they had been deprived of their leader. As the story goes, they began to place arrows on their bow-strings to avenge his death; but Richard rode boldly forward, and said:

"What need you, my masters? Would you shoot your King? I will be your captain."

When the revolt was over, the government declared that the promises which had been made to the peasants were not binding, and that everything should be as it had been before. The leaders of the rebellion, including John Ball, were brought to trial and put to death.

In spite of the withdrawal of the promises made to the peasants, villainage gradually came to an end. Landlords found that unwilling service was unprofitable, and within a hundred years after the great Peasants' Revolt, villains had practically ceased to exist in England.

Besides the religious troubles connected with Wyclif's teachings, and the social troubles connected with the Peasant Revolt, the reign of Richard II. was filled with political troubles, which ended in his being deposed and another King chosen in his place.

It would take too long to tell the story of all these troubles—how Parliament appointed a commission to guide the King's rule; how the King's judges declared that the leaders of Parliament had committed treason; how those leaders collected an army and defeated the King's forces; how the King's friends were hanged or exiled by order of "the Merciless Parliament"; how the King declared himself of age, and ruled wisely for eight years; how he suddenly changed, and put to death or banished his worst enemies; how he surrounded Parliament with his archers, and compelled it to give him a tax for life, and to grant him greater powers than any other English King had ever had. His triumph helped him little, for he did not know ho to use power when once it was in his hands.

One of the most powerful men of the kingdom was Henry of Bolingbroke, son of the Duke Lancaster. His father, who was called John of Gaunt, was the third son of Edward III., and Henry himself was Duke of Hereford. He had shown himself a good knight, by fighting for a time in eastern Germany against the heathen Slavs, and by going on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. He first sided against Richard II., and then for him; but Richard took the opportunity, offered by Henry's quarrel with another nobleman, to banish both from the kingdom. Then, while Henry of Bolingbroke was absent, his father died (in 1399), and Richard seized the lands of the Duke of Lancaster for himself.

To recover this inheritance, Henry of Bolingbroke landed in England with sixty followers. The sixty soon became sixty thousand, for all classes of people were offended by Richard's rule. At this time, Richard was in Ireland, carrying on war; so his enemies were free to gather their forces. When Richard hastily returned, he found himself deserted by everyone, and soon fell into Henry's hands.

"Your people, my lord," said Henry, "complain that for twenty years you have ruled them harshly. However, if it pleases God, I will help you to rule them better."

Soon this pretense was thrown off, and Richard was given to understand that he must resign his crown; and to this he weakly consented. The poet, Shakespeare, makes Richard speak these words:

"What must the King do now? Must he submit?

The King shall do it: must he be depos'd?

The King shall be contented: must he lose

The name of King? God's name, let it go:

I'll give my jewels for a set of beads,

My gorgeous palace for a hermitage,

My gay apparel for an alms-man's gown,

My figured goblets for a dish of wood,

My scepter for a palmer's walking-staff,

My subjects for a pair of carved saints,

And my large kingdom, for a little grave!"

A Parliament was called, and the King's abdication was read to it. Then Henry of Bolingbroke stepped forward, by the vacant throne, and said:

"I, Henry of Lancaster, claim this realm and the crown, since I am descended by right line of blood from the good King Henry III., and since God had sent me with help of my kin and my friends to receive it, when the realm was on a point of being undone by lack of government and the undoing of good laws."

The whole Parliament accepted this claim, and he was seated upon the throne, as Henry IV.—the first of the Lancastrian Kings. By right of descent, he was not the nearest heir to the throne after Richard II., for he was descended from the third  son of Edward III., and a descendant from the second son existed in the person of the young Earl of March. But the Earl of March was only six years old, and Parliament passed over his claims in favor of those of the house of Lancaster.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

The Houses of Lancaster and York

Later, as we shall see, the claim through the Earl of March became one factor in the great Wars of the Roses, which in turn brought the rule of the Lancastrians to an end, just as the revolution of 1399 brought to an end the rule of the direct line of the Plantagenet Kings.


  1. Find out what you can about Wyclif and his teachings.
  2. Imagine yourself a peasant boy or girl, and tell the story of the Peasants' Revolt.
  3. What was the nature of the rebellions in England before this time? What does the Peasants' Revolt show with reference to the power of the people?
  4. Find out what you can about Henry of Bolingbroke, and tell the story of his rise to be King.
  5. Why did Richard II. lose his throne? Compare him with King John, Henry III., and Edward II.

The Lancastrian Kings, and the Close of the Hundred Years' War


Names of the Lancastrian Kings; dates of their reigns; revolts against Henry IV.; "Hotspur"; why Henry was unwilling to ransom Mortimer; the Percies overcome; three reasons for the success of Henry IV.

Advice given by Henry IV. to his son; how Henry V. followed this; change in warfare shown by the siege of Harfleur.

The Battle of Agincourt; cause of the English victory; conquests following this battle.

Divisions among the French; the treaty of Troyes; the part of France in Henry's possession at the time of his death; rule of the Duke of Bedford.

Joan of Arc; how she came to take part in the war; her successes; her fate; the work which she accomplished.

Causes of the English loss of France; the end of the war; the English still held Calais.

Henry IV., Henry V., and Henry VI.—father, son, and grandson—were the Kings of the House of Lancaster. The first reigned fourteen years, the second nine, and the last thirty-nine; the first had difficulty in keeping the kingdom he had won, the second added to it by conquering the kingdom of France, and the third lost all through weakness and insanity.

It was only in the last five years of his reign that Henry IV. was free from rebellions against his rule.

In the first year there was a revolt which was intended to restore Richard II. to the throne. This was easily put down, and a few months later Richard died suddenly in his prison—put to death by order of the new King.

A more serious rebellion was the one led by Owen Glendower, a Welshman, under whom the Welsh people made an effort to recover their independence. Again and again the Welsh came down from their mountain valleys, attacked the border counties of England, and the returned to their mountain retreats, whither the English army could hardly follow them.

The most serious rebellion of all followed, in England, as a result of one of these raids in which the Welsh took prisoner an English lord, named Mortimer. King Henry feared Mortimer because he was the uncle of the young Earl of March, the rightful heir to the throne; and so he took no steps to ransom him. This conduct of the King angered the powerful family of the Percies, who had aided Henry to gain the throne, and had just won a great victory over the Scots; for Mortimer was related to them also. Accordingly, Sir Harry Percy, who was called "Hotspur" because of his quick temper, went to the King and said:

"Shall a man spend his goods, and put himself in peril for you and your realm, and you will not help him in his need?"

At this the King, in turn, grew angry, and said:

"Thou art a traitor! Wilt thou that I should aid mine enemies and the enemies of the realm?"

"Traitor am I none," Hotspur replied, "but as a true man I speak." And when the King drew his dagger upon him, and would have attacked him, Hotspur cried:

"Not here, but in the field!"

And with this, he left the King, and hurried home to raise his forces.

The Percies, with the Scots whom they had taken prisoners, then marched southward to join Glendower. At Shrewsbury, on the borders of Wales, they met King Henry, with his army.

"Then there was a strong and hard battle," says a chronicler, "and many were slain on both sides. And when Harry Percy saw his men fast slain, he pressed into battle, with thirty men, and made a lane in the middle of the King's host, till he came to the King's banner. And at last he was beset about and slain, and soon his host was scattered and fled. And Sir Harry Percy's head was smitten off, and set up at York, lest his men would have said that he had been alive."

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

Battle of Shrewsbury

Percy's uncle was taken prisoner and beheaded. His father was pardoned for a time; but next year he rebelled again, and when at last he was captured, after three years of wandering, he, too, was put to death. Glendower was never captured, but was no longer dangerous to England.

One reason for the King's success, in putting down rebellions, was that the people were prosperous during his reign; and another was, that he kept on good terms with Parliament. King Henry's title to the throne came from Parliament, and his need of money made it necessary to please them. The result was, that he appointed officers whom he knew to be satisfactory to the members of Parliament; he permitted them to examine into the uses made of the money raised by taxes; he chose his Council from among them; and he acknowledged that grants of money should always be made first by the House of Commons.

In the year 1413, Henry IV. died—of leprosy, it is said. Many people believed that his disease was a punishment upon him because he had executed an archbishop who rebelled with the Percies. The poet, Shakespeare, makes him speak these words, on his death-bed, to his son and successor, Henry V.:

"Heaven knows, my son,

By what by-paths, and indirect crook'd ways,

I met this crown; and I myself know well,

How troublesome it sat upon my head:

To thee it shall descend with better quiet,

Better opinion, better confirmation;

For all the soil of the achievement goes

With me into the earth.  .  .  .  .  .

.  .  .  .  . Therefore, my Harry,

Be it thy course, to busy giddy minds

With foreign quarrels; that action, hence borne out,

May waste the memory of the former days."

Henry V. proved to be a conquering general, and became the idol of his people. He is represented by Shakespeare as having been a wild and reckless youth, who was so changed by the responsibilities of power that he became an ideal King. There is no proof of his wildness as a Prince, but as King he certainly was sober, clear headed, and vigorous.

He followed his father's advice to "busy giddy minds with foreign quarrels" by putting forth again the claims to the French crown. He invaded France with an army, made up mostly of archers. While he was making his way to Calais, the French met him with an army which outnumbered his own probably five to one. The battle was fought, at Agincourt (October 25, 1415), and proved as great a victory as those which Edward III. and the Black Prince had won in the beginning of the Hundred Years' War.

"The ground," says an old chronicler, "was narrow, and very advantageous for the English, and the contrary for the French; for the latter had been all night on horseback in the rain, and pages and valets and others, in walking their horses, had broken up the ground, which was soft, and in which the horses sunk in such a manner that it was with great difficulty they could get up again. Besides, the French were so loaded with armor that they could not move. First, they were armed in long coats of steel, reaching to their knees and very heavy, below which was armor for their legs, and above, armor for the head and neck; and so heavy was their armor that, together with the softness of the ground, they could with difficulty lift their weapons. The greater part of the English archers were without armor, wearing doublets, and having hatchets and axes, or long swords hanging from their girdles; some wore caps of boiled leather, or of wicker work, crossed with iron."

The French army was completely broken up. Their slain numbered as many as the whole of the English army, while the English lost little more than a hundred, all told. The victory was won almost entirely by the bowmen. After the battle, the English marched to Calais, and thence took ship for England, where they were received with great rejoicing.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

City of Rouen

Two years later, Henry invaded France a second time, and the remainder of his reign was occupied with his conquests there. The French had grown cautious since the battle of Agincourt, and would not fight another great battle. The advance of the English, therefore, was slow. They first captured many castles in Normandy, and laid siege to Rouen, the capital of that province. The rulers of the city, in order to reduce the number of mouths to be fed, drove out a large number of the poorer, unarmed inhabitants. King Henry would not permit them to pass through his lines, so for several weeks these poor creatures wandered between the English line and the walls of Rouen, starving and shelterless.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

An Attack on a Castle

"War," said the English King, in justifying this cruel policy, "has three hand-maidens ever waiting on her—fire, blood, and famine—and I have chosen the meekest maid of the three.

The French, meanwhile, were divided into two great parties, at war with one another. Their King, Charles VI., was insane, and the control of the government was disputed between his son, the Dauphin, and the King's uncle, the Duke of Burgundy. At last, in 1419, the Duke of Burgundy was murdered by one of the Dauphin's followers, in revenge for a murder which Burgundy had himself caused.

This made the breach between the two French parties too wide to be healed for many years. The new Duke of Burgundy went over to the side of the English, and with him went the French Queen, and the city of Paris.

Soon a treaty was signed, in 1420, by which Henry married the French Princess, Katherine. The contest for the throne of France was settled by acknowledging Henry as regent of France during the lifetime of the insane King, Charles VI., and agreeing that he was to become King in his own right after Charles's death.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

Marriage of Henry V and Katherine of France

The Dauphin and his followers refused to recognize this treaty as binding. For the present this did not much matter, for the English speedily drove the Dauphin's followers south of the river Loire, leaving all the northern half of France in possession of the English King. But, in the midst of his victories, Henry V. died of camp fever, in 1422, and the upholder of the English rights was then his infant son by Queen Katherine—a babe nine months' old.

A short time after the death of Henry V., Charles VI. of France died. This left the crowns of both England and France to the baby King, Henry VI. The government was placed in the hands of Henry V.'s brother, the Duke of Bedford, who was a man of noble character and an excellent soldier.

For several years, Bedford carried on the war in France with great success. At last, the only place of importance held by the dispossessed Dauphin was the city of Orleans, and to this the English were laying siege. If this should fall, the whole of France would pass into English hands.

But now there occurred one of the most wonderful things in history—the rise to successful leadership over the French army of a young girl, named Joan of Arc.

Joan was of peasant birth, and like most peasants could not read or write. She was a good, sweet girl, and very religious; and she was deeply touched by the miseries of France. She began to hear "voices" of the saints, which urged her to free France, and to bring the Dauphin to the city of Rheims to be crowned king. She long resisted the voices, saying,—

"I am a poor girl. I cannot ride or be a leader in war." In the end, her voices prevailed; and she came, in men's armor, with a holy banner and a sword, to raise the siege of Orleans. It was only with difficulty that she secured the Dauphin's permission; but as soon as she appeared in the camp, she put a new spirit into the French. The English scarcely dared to oppose her, for they believed that she was a "limb of the devil."

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

Joan of Arc

In a short time, Joan drove the English from Orleans, and then led the French King to Rheims, where he was crowned. Joan then said her work was done, but the French would not permit her to return home. After some further fighting, she was captured by soldiers of the Duke of Burgundy, who sold her to the English.

At the command of the English, she was accused as a witch and a heretic. After a long and unjust trial, she was condemned to death. She was publicly burned at the stake, calling with her last breath upon the name of Jesus. One of the English soldiers was so impressed by her courage and piety that he exclaimed:

"We are lost! We have burned a saint!"

Joan of Arc had accomplished her work. She convinced the French that, if they would unite, they could drive the English from their land. Even the Duke of Burgundy finally broke off his alliance with England, and joined in the attack upon the common enemy. Just at this time, moreover, the Duke of Bedford died. With their best general gone, and the French united against them, the English were not able to hold what Henry V. had won.

Matters did not mend for the English when Henry VI. grew up to manhood. He had no taste for war or business, and would far rather have lived the life of a monk. Fierce quarrels broke out among the English nobles, and those who secured power proved corrupt and unsuccessful in their government.

So, bit by bit, the English lost the lands which they held in France. In 1450, Normandy was again taken from them. Soon Bordeaux, on the Bay of Biscay, was the only place which they held in southern France; and in 1453, after the defeat of the English in a hard-fought battle, this too was obliged to surrender. There then remained to them only one place in France—the city of Calais, which Edward III. had taken in 1347, and which England was to hold for a hundred years longer.

The great civil wars, called the Wars of the Roses, were now coming on in England, so that nothing could be done to recover the lost possessions in France.

Without any treaty of peace, the long Hundred Years' War—which had lasted since 1337—was suffered quietly to come to an end.


  1. Locate on the map the places mentioned in this chapter.
  2. Read Shakespeare's account of the Battle of Shrewsbury ("Henry IV.," Part I, Acts IV. and V.)
  3. Why was the claim of the Lancastrians to inherit the French throne less good than that of Edward III.? Could Parliament's election of the Lancastrians to be Kings of England give them any rights to the throne of France? What Englishman had a better right to claim the French throne than Henry V.?
  4. Read Shakespeare's account of the Battle of Agincourt. ("Henry V.," Act IV.)
  5. Was the failure of the English Kings to secure the throne of France a good or bad thing for England? Why?
  6. Find out what you can of Joan of Arc. What great honor has the Catholic Church recently paid to her memory?

The Wars of the Roses (1455-1485)


Causes of the troubles in the reign of Henry VI., the rebellion of 1450; complaints of the rebels.

The Yorkist claim to the throne; purpose of the Duke of York at the beginning of the struggle; His chief supporter; the real head of the Lancastrian party; why she resisted the Yorkists so fiercely.

The first battle in the war; how the war was renewed; advantage gained by the Yorkists at Northampton; adventures of Queen Margaret; victory of the Lancastrians at Wakefield; fate of the Duke of York; the Lancastrians recover possession of Henry VI.; they retreat northward; Edward IV. crowned King.

Edward IV. gains possession of the kingdom; Henry VI. captured and imprisoned; quarrel between Edward IV. and Warwick; Warwick flees, changes sides; he returns to England and expels Edward IV.

Edward recovers the throne; death of Warwick; Margaret defeated; her son slain; Henry VI. put to death; fate of Edward's brother, Clarence.

How Richard III got the throne; fate of the two little Princes; Richard overthrown by Henry Tudor at Bosworth; effects of the Wars of the Roses

Henry VI. was one of the most unfortunate kings who ever sat on a throne. He was truthful, upright, and just, and wished to please everybody. But he had neither the strength of mind nor of body to rule a kingdom, and for long periods he was actually insane.

In 1450, the misgovernment of his ministers led to a rebellion, in southeastern England, under one Jack Cade. The rebels proclaimed that "the King's false Council hath lost his law; his merchandise is lost; France is lost; the King himself is so set that he may not pay for his meat or drink, and he oweth more than ever any King of England owed." The rebellion was easily put down; but it led the Duke of York to put himself at the head of the opposition, and a struggle then began which soon passed into a war for the crown itself.

In order to understand this contest between the houses of York and Lancaster, you will need to look at the table on page 141, and see just how each house was descended from King Edward III. Henry VI., the head of the house of Lancaster, represented the third line of descent; while Richard of York was descended from Edward's second son, Lionel, through his mother, as well as from the fourth son, through his father. If strict rules of succession were regarded, Richard of York had a better right to the throne than King Henry VI. But the claims of the line of Lionel had been passed over in 1399, and had been since disregarded; and it was only the miserable failure of the French war, and the misgovernment at home, which enabled the Yorkists to win any attention for their claims.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

Henry VI

At first, the object of York was merely to take the government from incapable persons, and to secure it for himself; but later he claimed the throne itself. His ablest supporter was the Earl of Warwick, who played so important a part that he is called "the King Maker." On the Lancastrian side, the real head of the party was Queen Margaret, a young and beautiful French woman, who fiercely resisted all attempts to disinherit her son, Prince Edward. On both sides, the followers of the different lords were distinguished by the badges which they wore—the swan, the bear and staff, the white hart or deer, and the like. But the Lancastrians regarded the Red Rose as their emblem, and all Yorkists similarly looked upon the White Rose. The wars, which troubled England for thirty years, are thus known as the "Wars of the Roses."

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

Map of England

The first battle in this struggle was fought in 1455, at St. Albans, where York defeated his enemies, and for a time secured control of the government. Four years later, however, Queen Margaret attacked the Yorkists with superior forces; and York was obliged to flee to Ireland, while his son Edward, and Warwick, fled to Calais, in France. In a Parliament which was unfairly elected, Queen Margaret then had York and his friends "attainted" of treason—that is, they were made outlaws, and their lives and goods declared forfeited.

Next year, York returned from Ireland, and his son and Warwick from Calais. Warwick found the King's army fortified in a meadow near Northampton. But a heavy rain flooded the meadow and made their cannon useless, while some of the Lancastrian forces deserted; so Warwick won an easy victory. King Henry was captured and taken to London; and it is said that the city "gave to God great praise and thanking" for the victory. A new Parliament then repealed the "attainders" of the previous year, and decided that King Henry should keep the crown so long as he lived, but that, after his death, it should go to the Duke of York and his descendants.

After the battle of Northampton, Queen Margaret and the little six year old Prince were in great danger. They fell into the hands of some Yorkists, and were robbed of their goods and insulted and threatened. But a fourteen year old squire took pity on them, and while their captors quarreled over the booty, he said:

"Madam, mount you behind me, and my lord the Prince before me, and I will save you or die."

So they escaped, all three riding on one horse.

At another time, the Queen and her little son took refuge in wood, where they were found by a brigand of fierce and terrible appearance. But the Queen told her rank, and placing her boy in the robber's hands said: "Save the son of your King!"

The man proved faithful, and at length the Queen and the little Prince reached friends and safety.

Richard of York was not left long in enjoyment of his victory over his opponents. On the last day of December, 1460, another battle was fought at Wakefield, in the north of England. York was taken by his enemies "like a fish in a net," and fell fighting at the head of his men. The cruel practice, which Warwick had introduced, of putting to death the leaders of the other party, was now followed by the Lancastrians, and many leading Yorkists were slaughtered. The bloody head of the Duke of York was set over the gate of a near-by town, and was crowned in mockery with a paper crown.

With a large army of rude northerners, Margaret then advanced southward. They came, says a chronicler, "robbing all the country and people, and spoiling abbeys and houses of religion, and churches; and they bare away communion cups, books, and other ornaments, as if they had been pagans and not Christian men." They again defeated the Yorkists, and rescued the captive King, to his great joy. But the citizens of London declared against them, and Margaret's army soon retreated northward, still plundering as they went.

Meanwhile York's eldest son, now nineteen years old, had fought his way from Wales to London, and had joined Warwick. "And there," says a chronicler, "he took upon him the crown of England, by the advice of the Lords spiritual and temporal, and by the election of the Commons." He was crowned as Edward IV.—the first of the Yorkist Kings.

The new King was tall, strong, and handsome; he was a much better general than Warwick, but not so good a statesman. His first task was to pursue Queen Margaret's army, which he overtook at Towton, not far from Wakefield.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

Edward IV

As the battle began, a snow-storm set in, which so blinded the Lancastrians that they discharged all their arrows before the Yorkists came within good range. Then Edward's men pressed on—with swords, battle-axes, daggers, and deadly hammers of lead, which even helmets of iron could not withstand. Both sides fought desperately, and no prisoners were taken. In the end, the victory was won by King Edward. King Henry and his Queen escaped to Scotland; but four years later the poor dethroned King was captured and again imprisoned in the Tower. Edward IV. was now recognized by foreign powers as England's ruler.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

Plate Armor of the Fifteenth Century

Soon quarrels arose between the new King and the man who had made him King. Warwick was greedy of wealth, influence and power. He kept so many followers that "when he came to London he held such a house that six oxen were eaten at a breakfast, and every tavern was full of his meat, for who had any acquaintance in that house he should have as much boiled and roast as he might carry upon a long dagger." Edward offended Warwick by secretly marrying beneath his rank. Then, to build up a party against Warwick, Edward ennobled and promoted his wife's relatives. Warwick won over to his side Edward's weak brother, the Duke of Clarence. In addition to all else, King Edward and Warwick differed over foreign policy; for Warwick wisely wished England to remain at peace with France, while Edward wanted to renew the French war.

At last, in 1470, Warwick's friends rebelled, and were defeated in a battle, for which they fled so hastily that it was called "Lose-coat Field." Warwick and Clarence took refuge at the court of the King of France, where they found Queen Margaret and her son. The French King caused these former enemies to be friends; and in September, 1470, Warwick returned to England, with an army, to drive Edward from the throne and restore the Lancastrian line.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

Warwick Castle

For a time everything went well with Warwick. Edward's troops deserted him, and he was forced to flee to Flanders.

Henry VI. was then replaced on the throne, and "all his good lovers were glad, and the most part of the people."

But in March, 1471, Edward returned, and his brother, the Duke of Clarence, joined him. At Barnet, a few miles north of London, the battle was fought. Edward was completely successful, and Warwick was slain as he left the field.

On the very day of the battle of Barnet, Queen Margaret and her son landed in the west of England, and soon they were at the head of a considerable army. A few weeks later the Queen's forces met the Yorkist forces at Tewkesbury. There King Edward fought and won the last battle needed to secure his possession of the crown. The Lancastrian Prince, who had become a fine young man of eighteen years, was captured after the battle, and was cruelly put to death. Queen Margaret was allowed to return to France, where she died some years later. As for poor Henry VI., who played so feeble a part in all these struggles, he was murdered in the Tower on the very day that King Edward returned to London.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

Tower of London

So long as King Edward lived, there was no renewal of the war. The townsmen and common people were glad to have peace at any price, and willingly submitted to the strong rule of the King. The nobles were so weakened by the wars that they could not resist. To end the troubles within his own family, the King charged his brother—"false, fleeting, perjured Clarence"—with treason, and had him put to death.

This hard, unscrupulous, pleasure-loving King died in 1483, leaving two sons, Edward and Richard, the one twelve years old, and the other ten. The elder of these was at once proclaimed King, as Edward V.; and his uncle, Richard of Gloucester became "Protector," or ruler in the young King's name.

Gloucester was a monster of cunning and cruelty, and set to work to rob his nephew of the crown.

He imprisoned and executed the chief supporters of the young King. Then he had it announced that he was the true heir to the throne, and began to reign in his own name. The little Princes were shut up in the Tower of London, and soon disappeared—murdered by the orders of their cruel uncle. In this way, began the brief reign of Richard III., the last of the Yorkist kings, whom the poet Shakespeare represents with a crooked back, to match his cruel and crooked mind.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

Richard III

But punishment followed fast upon this wicked King. Old Yorkists joined with what was left of the Lancastrian party, and soon a great conspiracy was on foot. They planned to make Henry Tudor (a distant relative of Henry VI.) King, and marry him to Elizabeth of York, the daughter of Edward IV.

Henry's first expedition from France failed because of storms and floods; but a second expedition, in 1485, brought him safely to land in Wales.

At Bosworth field he was met by King Richard, and there was fought the last battle of the Wars of the Roses. The Red Rose of Lancaster triumphed over the White Rose of York. Richard's leading officers deserted him, and he died fighting in the front of the battle. His crown was picked up from the field, and set upon the head of Henry Tudor, who was proclaimed King as Henry VII. The marriage with Elizabeth of York followed, and the wise policy of Henry VII. united the interests of both Lancaster and York in the house of Tudor.

The long warfare for the crown was at last ended. The old nobility had suffered grievously through deaths on the field and at the block, and through confiscation of estates, and never again did its power seriously threaten the peace of England. The common people, however, had suffered little in the struggle, and a new era of peace and prosperity now dawned for England. Other forces, too, had for some time been changing the modes of life and thought in Europe. With the close of the Wars of the Roses, we may recognize the complete ending of the Middle Ages in England, and the establishing of the "Renaissance," which begins Modern History.


  1. Locate on the map the places mentioned in this chapter.
  2. Write in your own words and account of Warwick, the King-Maker.
  3. Write an account of Queen Margaret and her son.
  4. Find out what you can of the government which Edward IV. gave England. Why were the people willing that he should strengthen the royal power?
  5. Find out what you can of the character of Richard III.

Henry VII., and the Beginning of Modern Times


Meaning of the term "Renaissance"; what it included; where and when it began; how it reached England.

Invention of printing; its introduction into England; part played by Caxton in fixing the English language.

England's part in the geographical discoveries of this time; regions discovered by John Cabot; value to England of this discovery.

Lambert Simnel's pretensions to the Crown; his treatment after his rising was put down; Perkin Warbeck's claims; his fate; story of Lord Lovell.

Henry's dealing with "Livery and Maintenance"; the Court of Star Chamber.

Three things accomplished by Henry VII; importance of his reign.

The word "Renaissance" means "re-birth," and we use it to name the period when men's minds awakened to new activities after the slumbers of the Middle Ages.

It took the form of new interest in the literature, art, and philosophy of ancient Greece and Rome, for in these men found the same spirit of free inquiry, and the same appreciation of beauty, which they now felt within their own breasts. With this "revival of learning," as it is called, came also a development of painting, sculpture, and architecture. Gunpowder and the compass, were introduced from the East; printing was invented; Columbus and Vasco da Gama discovered America and the ocean route to India; and correct ideas of the earth's form and place in the solar system began to replace the mistaken ideas of the Middle Ages.

In every line, men's minds worked more freely and more accurately, and the result was a rapid change in almost every line of human endeavor.

This movement began in Italy, about one hundred and fifty years before Henry VII. became King. Gradually it spread from that land to the countries north of the Alps, and by the time of Henry VII. the movement was making itself felt in England also. A few Italian scholars had come to England, and a few Englishmen had gone to Italy, to study there, and bring back to England the newly revived learning. Then, from the University of Oxford as a center, there slowly spread, in England, a knowledge of Greek, a sounder understanding of the old Latin masterpieces, and a more sensible way of looking at all questions.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

The Tudor Rose

The invention of the art of printing did a great deal to aid the movement. In the Middle Ages all books were laboriously written with the pen, letter by letter, usually by monks or nuns; as a result, they were rare and expensive, and only a very few persons could learn what they had to teach. But, at about the time that the Wars of the Roses began, a German man named Gutenberg invented a method of casting movable metal types, and made possible the printing of a large number of copies of a book, with little more labor than it would require to write out by hand a single copy. Then the types could be separated, and used again for printing other books. The value of the new invention was at once seen. Before the century ended printing presses were set up in more than two hundred places.

The first to introduce the new art into England was William Caxton, a London cloth merchant who had lived in Flanders. While there he became interested in an old French book, which told the story of the siege of Troy by the Greeks more than two thousand years before that time. To please the Duchess of Burgundy, who was the sister of King Edward IV., Caxton completed a translation of the book into English. Then, since many people wanted copies of his translation, he learned the new art of printing, at the cost of much pain and expense, and printed it, under the name Histories of Troy. This was the very first book ever printed in the English language.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

Early Printing Office

In 1477, Caxton returned to England, with type purchased abroad, and set up the first printing office in England. The first book printed there was The Sayings of the Philosophers.

In the fourteen years which followed, Caxton printed eighty separate books, including histories, stories, poems, and religious works; and twenty-one of these he himself translated from French into English.

By always using in his translations the cultivated speech which was used at London and the court, Caxton helped to fix the literary language of England. The dialects which were spoken in distant parts of the kingdom were so different, that it was often impossible for a person who came from one district to understand the speech of another. To show this, Caxton tells a story of some merchants sailing down the Thames river from London, who were becalmed at its mouth, and went ashore seeking provisions.

"And one of them," says Caxton, "came into a house, and asked for meat, and specially he asked for 'eggs.' The good wife answered the she could speak no French. And the merchant was angry, for he, also, could speak no French; but he would have eggs, and she understood him not. And then at last another said that he would have 'eyeren' (another word for eggs). Then the good wife understood what he wanted."

The differences in spelling and pronunciation were as great as the differences in words, and it was long before a standard of correct English was established.

It was in the reign of Henry VII., too, that Christopher Columbus sailed from Spain in the service of Queen Isabella, and discovered the New World of America. Soon after that (in 1497), Henry VII. sent forth a Venetian seaman, named John Cabot, with permission to sail "to all places, lands, and seas, of the East, West, and North," and discover what lands he could. After discovering land near the mouth of the St. Lawrence river (which was called "the New-found-land"), Cabot coasted along a part of the mainland of North America, and thus laid the foundation of the claim to this land which England put forth a hundred years later. In the account books of Henry VII., we may still read the entry: "To him that found the new isle, £10." This seems a small reward for so great a service; but Henry VII. was careful of money, and the value of the new discovery was then not known.

For many years Henry's chief attention was directed to putting down risings of the Yorkists.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

Henry VII

In the first of these, a ten year old boy named Lambert Simnel was made to play the chief part. He was the son of a baker, but he was trained to act the part of a Yorkist prince who was then imprisoned in the Tower, but who was falsely said to have escaped. Simnel was crowned King at Dublin, in Ireland; and then, with Irish and German troops, a landing was made in England. Scarcely an Englishman joined the Yorkists, and their troops were easily defeated. Lambert Simnel was pardoned, and was made a "turn spit" in the King's kitchen. Lord Lovel, who was one of the leaders, disappeared. Long afterwards, in an underground chamber, some workman accidentally discovered the skeleton of a man seated in a chair with his head resting on a table; and this, it was said, was the body of the missing man, who had hidden there, and through the faithlessness of a servant was left to die of starvation.

A few years later another pretender appeared, in the person of a young man named Perkin Warbeck. He claimed to be the younger of the two sons of Edward IV., who really had been murdered in the Tower by Richard III. For five years he played this part, and was received in Ireland, Flanders, and in Scotland, where the Scottish King found him a wife of noble birth. But, in 1497, he rashly landed in England, and was speedily captured and shut up in the Tower. He soon escaped, with the real prince whom Lambert Simnel had impersonated; and Henry VII. seized the opportunity to rid himself of both rivals, the true and the false, by sending them to execution.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

Elizabeth of York

Henry VII. had laws passed forbidding the practice known as "livery and maintenance," by which the great nobles kept at their call large bands of men, who wore the badges of their masters and were ready to support them, if need be, by force of arms. At one time the King visited the Earl of Oxford, who had been one of his strongest supporters. When he went away he found a great band of men, wearing the Earl's badge, drawn up to show him honor.

"I thank you for your good cheer," said Henry to the Earl, "but I cannot endure to have my laws broken in my sight. My attorney must speak with you."

For his disobedience to the law, the Earl was afterwards fined the great sum of £10,000.

Another means of breaking the power of the great lords was the development of a court, called (from the place where it met) the Court of Star Chamber. It was composed of high officers of the King's service, who could not be bribed or bullied, as the local juries could; and it did an excellent service in bringing to justice great men who escaped punishment in the ordinary courts. In later years, when the power of great lords no longer disturbed the land, other Kings made this court an instrument of tyranny, and it was then abolished.

Henry VII. died in 1509. He had ended the Wars of the Roses, increased the power of the crown, and gathered great sums of money into the royal treasury. But, most of all, he is to be remembered because it was in his time that the Renaissance was established in England, and the way was paved for the changes which produced the Reformation of the English Church.


  1. Find out what you can about the introduction of gunpowder and the compass into Europe.
  2. Read an account of Gutenberg and the invention of printing.
  3. Write an account of Caxton and what he did for England.
  4. Tell the story of John Cabot's expeditions to America.
  5. How did the marriage of Henry VII. with Elizabeth of York help him to put down Simnel and Warbeck?
  6. Find out what you can about the Court of Star Chamber and the good work which it accomplished under the Tudors.
  7. Imagine yourself a boy or girl in the time of Henry VII. and tell about the introduction of printing.

Henry VIII. and the Separation from Rome


Dates of Henry VIII.'s reign; expectations of scholars; their disappointment.

Territories ruled over by Charles V.; his war with France; how England profited by this situation.

How Wolsey became Henry's chief minister; his position in the English Church; his policy; the "Field of the Cloth of Gold."

Grounds on which Henry sought a divorce from Queen Catherine; the Pope refuses to grant it; Wolsey's dismissal and death; his last words; Henry divorces Catherine and marries Anne Boleyn; the Pope's authority abolished in England; Henry takes the title, "Supreme Head of the Church of England"; the Bible translated; the monasteries dissolved; the "Pilgrimage of Grace."

Origin of "Protestant" teachings; the attitude of Henry VIII. toward changes in doctrine; he persecutes both Catholics and Protestants; Sir Thomas More executed.

Henry married six times; two wives divorced; two executed; his three children; his character; for what his reign is chiefly remembered.

Upon the death of his father, in 1509, Henry VIII. became King. He was a handsome youth of eighteen years, and was educated in the New Learning, as well as skilled in all manner of athletic games. Scholars believed that they at last had a King after their own heart; but he soon showed that the glory of war weighed more with him than the New Learning, and that the ruling motive of his life was to gratify his own will and his own pleasures.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

Henry VIII

Three strong young Kings had begun to rule in western Europe within a few years of each other—Henry VIII. of England, Francis I. of France, and Charles of Spain.

From his grandparents, Ferdinand and Isabella, King Charles inherited Spain, Sicily, southern Italy, and the vast Spanish possessions in America and the Far East. From his father he received Holland and Belgium (called the Netherlands, or "Low Countries"). Then (in 1519), he was chosen Emperor, over both Francis I. and Henry VIII., and as Charles V. became the head of Germany also.

Already France and Spain had been at war over Italy; and now a new war broke out between them, which lasted (with some interruptions) for forty years.

Henry VIII., at first, sought to take advantage of this war to win back what he called "our inheritance of France." But a wiser mind than his own soon pointed out that it was to England's interest rather to maintain a balance of power between France and Spain, and in this way increase England's power among nations.

The man who gave this advice was Thomas Wolsey. He was the son of humble parents, but rose to be the first man in England, after the King. At the age of fifteen he was graduated from the University of Oxford; then, becoming a priest, he was appointed chaplain to Henry VIII. His energy and attention to business attracted the King's notice. When Henry sent him as a messenger to the Emperor, in Flanders, Wolsey made the journey and back in four days. When he presented himself before the King, Henry reproached him with his delay in starting. He then learned, to his surprise, that Wolsey had gone and returned. He informed Wolsey that he had sent after him a courier, with fuller instructions.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding


"Sire," replied Wolsey, "I met him on my way back, but I had already taken it upon myself to fulfill what I foresaw would be your intentions."

Such intelligence and industry won rapid advancement for Wolsey, and soon he was Henry's principal minister. He was made Chancellor of the kingdom, and Archbishop of York; and Henry secured from the Pope his appointment as Cardinal and the Pope's legate or representative in England. Soon all the business of the government passed through his hands. He conducted himself with haughtiness, and lived in great state. In this way, he made enemies of the ancient nobles, who considered him a low-born upstart. Not content with the position which he held in England, Wolsey planned, with the aid of Henry VIII. and the Emperor Charles V., to secure his own election as Pope, and thus win the highest position to which man might aspire. But the Emperor's promises were not sincerely meant, and Wolsey's hopes were disappointed.

Under Wolsey's skilful guidance, England was soon raised to a position of great importance. Her alliance was eagerly sought by both the King of France and the Emperor. In 1520, a great meeting took place, in France, between King Henry and King Francis, at the "Field of the Cloth of Gold." Henry VIII. came with 5,000 personal attendants, while his Queen brought 1,000. Stately palaces of wood were erected for the occasion in the flat meadows; and everything was more splendid than had ever before been seen. King Francis believed that he had gained his end, and that thenceforth England was his ally. But Wolsey steadily followed the policy of favoring now one and now the other party to the war, and so increased England's power and reputation.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

Scene from a War of Henry VIII Against France

The end of Wolsey's rule is connected with King Henry's divorce, which introduced the Reformation into England.

When Henry VIII. became King, he married Catherine of Aragon, his older brother Arthur's widow. This marriage was against the law of the Church, but a "dispensation" was granted by the Pope, as head of the Church, which claimed to remove the difficulty. For many years, little more was thought of the matter; but, at last, Henry began to have doubts of the power of the Pope to grant such a "dispensation," and to question whether Catherine was really his wife. Perhaps he was influenced, too, by the fact that their only living child was a girl (later Queen Mary), and that it was doubtful whether a woman would be permitted to succeed him on the English throne. On the other hand, it is certain that he had grown tired of Catherine, and that he had shamelessly fallen in love with a young noblewoman of the court, named Anne Boleyn.

If the Pope had been willing to grant Henry a divorce, all might have been well. But, in addition to the great injustice which would thereby be done to Queen Catherine, there was the fact that she was the aunt of the Emperor Charles V., whom the Pope did not wish to offend. So, in spite of long negotiations, the Pope would not grant the divorce.

Then, in furious anger, Henry turned against his minister, Wolsey, who for fifteen years had served him faithfully and well. Unfortunately for himself, Wolsey was "feared by all, but loved by few or none at all." Henry VIII. dismissed him from his office of Chancellor, and confined him to his duties as Archbishop of York; and soon after this he had him arrested on a charge of treason. Wolsey's health and spirits were now broken; and he died, while on the road to London to be imprisoned in the Tower. In his last hours he said:

"Had I but served my God as faithfully as I have served the King, he would not have given me over in my old age!"

Failing to obtain a divorce from the Pope, the King obtained one from Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury; and soon it was announced that the King had married Anne Boleyn. The Pope was thus defied. All the ties which bound the English Church to Rome were now broken. Appeals to the Pope's courts were forbidden; all payments to Rome were stopped; and the Pope's authority in England was abolished. By act of Parliament Henry was declared "Supreme head of the Church of England." To deny this title was made an act of treason.

Parliament also made a series of reforms of practical abuses in the Church. The laws which protected clergymen who committed crimes (called "benefit of the clergy") were done away with, and many payments to the clergy were discontinued. Also, the Bible was translated into English, and printed copies were placed in the churches. To prevent their being carried off, the great heavy volumes were chained to the reading desks. In St. Paul's church, London, six copies were provided, but even this number was not sufficient. The practice arose of having some one read aloud from one of the Bibles; and "many well-disposed people," we are told, "used to resort to the hearing thereof, especially when they could get anyone who had a good voice to read to them."

More important than these charges was the breaking up of the monasteries. In spite of the vows of "poverty" taken by the monks as individuals the monasteries had become very wealthy; and with wealth had come idleness and moral decay. The monasteries were said to be dens of vice and evil living; but no doubt the desire to obtain monastery lands and goods was a powerful motive in the attack. Parliament took the King's word for the abuses and ordered first the smaller monasteries, and then all of them, to be dissolved, and the monks and nuns to be scattered. Their lands and goods were turned over to the King.

Thus one of the greatest features of the mediæval Church was wiped out in England. In the northern part of the kingdom, the people rose in rebellion in favor of the monks; but their "Pilgrimage of Grace," as it was called, was put down with bloody cruelty. The lands of the dispossessed monks were largely given to favorites of the King. Thus a large part of the nobles and gentry became financially interested in continuing the separation from the Roman Church.

In Germany and Switzerland, meanwhile, a religious Reformation, much deeper than that in England, had been growing and spreading. Martin Luther, a German monk and university professor, protested against the sale of "indulgences," by which it was claimed that the Pope wiped out the penalty of sin without real repentance on the part of the sinner. The dispute widened, until Luther threw off all obedience to the Pope, and carried out a reform of the German church which touched not only its government, but also its doctrine  or teaching, and its ritual  or worship. Unlike that in England, the "Protestant" movement in Germany and Switzerland began with the people, not the rulers, and was mainly religious, not political, in its motives.

It was not long before these Protestant ideas began to spread into England also. One who opposed them wrote that "even the chiefest and most weighty matters of our religion and faith are called in question, babbled, talked, and jangled upon." Although Henry VIII. had reformed the government  of the Church in England to suit his convenience, he would not permit changes to be made in its doctrine. Indeed, before he began his divorce suit, he wrote so well against Luther that the Pope granted him the title, "Defender of the Faith,"—a title which his successors still bear!

Accordingly, Henry VIII. now persecuted equally the Catholics who would not go as far as he did, and Protestants who went further. His most important victim, for religion's sake, was Sir Thomas More, a learned and noble-minded Englishman, who was Henry's Chancellor, after Wolsey's fall. As Chancellor, More had put to death Protestants, and now it was his turn to suffer death, on a charge of treason, for denying that the King was the supreme head of the Church of England. His gentle bearing and courage on the scaffold aroused the pity and admiration of all. As he laid his head on the block, he moved his beard aside, saying with sad humor:

"It is a pity that that should be cut which has committed no treason."

Henry VIII. did not content himself with putting to death those who differed from him in religion. He was six times married, and two of his wives were executed. Anne Boleyn bore the King one child, the Princess Elizabeth; then after a few brief years she lost the King's favor, and was put to death on a charge of unfaithfulness. A few days later, the King married his third wife, who died in little more than a year, after having given to Henry his only son—the future Edward VI. Henry's fourth wife behaved badly, and she, too, was executed—perhaps justly.

Then Thomas Cromwell, who, after Wolsey and More, was the King's chief minister, brought about a marriage between Henry VIII. and a Protestant German princess; to whom, however, Henry took such a dislike that he divorced her at the earliest possible moment. Cromwell had been a faithful, though unscrupulous, minister to the King; but for making this unsatisfactory marriage, he was now condemned unheard, and sent to the block. With equal bloodthirstiness, every possible rival to the throne was put to death; and thus order and peace was kept in the land.

In his later years, Henry VIII. became very fat, and grew feeble in health. His sixth wife, strange to say, outlived him. He died in 1547, after ruling for thirty-eight important years. He was a strong King, but was wholly selfish and cruel. England prospered greatly in his time, both at home and abroad. His reign is chiefly to be remembered as the time when the old ties were broken which bound the English Church to Rome; but it was not until after his death that changes were made in the doctrine and worship of the Church.


  1. What was the connection between the Renaissance and the changes in religious ideas which make the Reformation.
  2. What did Wolsey do for England?
  3. Was the breaking up of the monasteries just or unjust? Was it a good or a bad thing for England? Why?
  4. Find out what you can of Sir Thomas More.
  5. Was Henry VIII,[.] a good or bad man? Why? Was he a good or bad King? Why?
  6. Was the Church in England Catholic or Protestant at the time of Henry VIII.'s death? Give your reasons.

The Reformation Established


Dates of Edward VI.'s reign; when he became King; Somerset's religious policy; how Englishmen viewed these changes; causes of agricultural discontent; Somerset's policy concerning Scotland; its results.

Somerset's overthrow and death; Northumberland's plans for the succession; brief reign of Lady Jane Grey; her fate.

Dates of Queen Mary's reign; her marriage to Philip II. of Spain; the Catholic religion restored; the Protestants persecuted; Archbishop Cranmer burned at the steak; Mary's unhappiness; her death.

Reasons why Elizabeth inclined to the Protestant cause; her two chief policies for England; the changes which she made in the Church; how these were received; importance of her reign in the history of the Church.

Henry VIII.'s successor was his only son, Edward VI., who at the time of his father's death was but nine years old. In the Council, which carried on the government till he should come of age, the Duke of Somerset, who was the young King's uncle, speedily gained control and took the title of Protector. He was opposed to harsh government, and had many good ideas; but he tried to do everything at once, and so did nothing well.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

Edward VI

Under Somerset's rule, Protestant changes were rapidly made. Church images were pulled down, pictures of saints and angels were whitewashed over, and many of the old customs and holy days were suppressed. The Church service was changed from the Catholic "mass-service," in Latin, to a Protestant "preaching service," in the English tongue.

Following the example which was set by the German and Swiss reformers, the English clergy were permitted to marry.

These changes went further than most Englishmen of that day wanted, so there was much discontent on religious grounds. Other grievances also existed, of another kind.

The old "common lands," on which each villager had the right to pasture his cattle, were being fenced in by the lords of the manors; and the old "open fields," devoted to the raising of grain, were giving place to "inclosures," in which the lords carried on sheep-raising. Since it took fewer men to herd sheep than it did to till the soil, many men were thus thrown out of work, and the problem of the "unemployed" first began to trouble the government.

"Our captain's name is Poverty," said the leader of a band of rioters in the reign of Henry VIII., "for he and his cousin Necessity hat brought us to this doing."

Sir Thomas More was one of many who saw the evils of these changes.

"Your sheep," he said, "that used to be so meek and tame, and such small eaters, have now become such great devourers, and so wild, that they eat up and swallow down the very men themselves. They consume, destroy, and devour whole fields, houses, and cities."

As a result, rebellions broke out in England: in the West, to restore the religious laws of Henry VIII.; and in the East, chiefly for these agricultural reasons. Both movements were put down, but they had the effect of seriously weakening Somerset's government.

Somerset's policy towards Scotland was also unsuccessful.

Henry VIII.'s elder sister had been married to the King of the Scots, in the hope of bringing the two countries together. But, in 1513, he was defeated and slain in battle, while invading England. In 1542 his son was likewise defeated while attacking England. This King died soon afterward, leaving his throne to his five year old daughter, Mary Stuart.

This was the condition when Somerset interfered in the affairs of Scotland. Somerset's object was partly to aid the Reformation there, and partly to marry Edward VI. to the young Queen of Scotland. In the battle of Pinkie, the English won a great victory over the Scots; but it destroyed all hope of carrying out the marriage.

"We mislike not the match," said one of the Scots, "but the manner of the wooing."

The little Queen of the Scots was sent over to France, where she was reared as a Catholic, and was married to the future King of that country. Much trouble came to England, in later days, as a result of these events.

Both at home and abroad, Somerset's rule was thus a failure. The result was that the Council determined to remove him. His power passed to his rival, the Duke of Northumberland. Soon after this, Somerset was put to death on a charge of treason.

Northumberland was an able and ambitious man. As a means of keeping his power, and of enriching himself and friends, he favored the Protestants and continued the work of the Reformation. But he cared little for religion, and at the end of his life he claimed that he had been a Catholic all the time.

The young King had now become a lad of fifteen years, and was more than usually bright and well educated. But unfortunately he fell into a sickness, and it soon became evident that he would never live to take the rule into his own hands. The next heir to the throne was his half-sister, Mary, the daughter of Catherine of Aragon. Northumberland, however, plotted to exclude her, and to raise Lady Jane Grey to the throne. Lady Jane was the granddaughter of Henry VIII.'s younger sister, and had been married to Northumberland's son, Lord Guilford Dudley.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

Lady Jane Gray

Lady Jane was a beautiful, noble-minded girl of sixteen. She had applied herself so well to her studies that she knew Latin, Greek, French, and Italian. She was persuaded by Northumberland that it was her duty to take the throne. So, when Edward VI. died, in 1553, she permitted Northumberland to proclaim her Queen. As the proclamation was being read, an apprentice had bravely cried out: "The Lady Mary has the better title!"

This, indeed, was the general opinion of the nation.

Mary escaped those who were sent to seize her, and soon her party was so strong that Northumberland was obliged to submit. Lady Jane Grey's reign lasted only ten days.

Queen Mary caused the wicked Duke of Northumberland to be executed. For some months she allowed Lady Jane and her young husband to live quietly in honorable captivity. But when rebellions broke out against Mary's rule, as they soon did, Lady Jane and her husband, with many other political prisoners, were promptly put to death.

At the beginning of her reign, Queen Mary was one of the most popular rulers that England ever had. At the end of it she was one of the most hated. This change in the feelings of her subjects was mainly due to a foreigner, and her persecution of Protestants.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

Queen Mary

Her mother's unjust divorce, and her own inclinations, made Queen Mary a zealous Catholic. This led her to accept eagerly the proposal that she should marry Philip II. of Spain, who succeeded his father, Charles V., as head of the Catholics of Europe. Englishmen disliked this marriage, partly because they were foolishly jealous of all foreigners, but still more because they feared that it would cause them to lose the advantages of their island position, and to take an active part in the wars between France and Spain. Nevertheless, the marriage took place.

As soon as she could do so, Mary caused the religious laws of her brother's and father's reigns to be repealed. The Catholic religion and the authority of the Pope were thus restored, and a few monasteries were refounded. But Mary found it necessary to leave most of the monastery lands, and other goods of the Church, in the hands of those who possessed them. The laws for punishing heretics were also revived, and many Protestants suffered death for their religion, as Catholics had done in the reign of Henry VIII.

The most noted victim of this persecution was Archbishop Cranmer of Canterbury. He granted Henry VIII. his divorce from Catherine of Aragon, and had been the leader of the Protestant party under Edward VI. In hope of saving his life, Cranmer for a time "recanted," and said that all that he had taught contrary to the Roman Catholic church was false, and that only in the church was there any hope of salvation. Catholics wished to weaken the Reformation by having him repeat his recantation when he was led to the stake. But when Cranmer saw that his submission would not save his life, he regained his courage.

"Forasmuch as my hand offended in writing contrary to my heart," he cried, "it shall be first burned."

And, true to his word, when the fire was kindled about him, he thrust his right hand into the flames. In spite of his wavering, he made a good end, and the bravery with which he and many others met their deaths strengthened the Protestant cause.

Queen Mary was bitterly disappointed because she had no children. Her husband, too, who was much younger than she, neglected her, and spent most of the time away from England. A mortal illness, moreover, soon seized upon her. As her misfortunes increased, the poor Queen's half-crazed mind sought to please God by sending more and more Protestants to the stake. The number of those who suffered death in the five years of her reign has been reckoned at about 270. The result was a wave of horror and disgust which swept over England, and greatly aided the final triumph of the Protestant cause.

To complete Mary's unpopularity, the assistance which she gave her husband in his wars with France led to the loss of Calais, which had been England's outpost across the Channel since the days of Edward III. Its loss was no real injury to England, but it was the last blow needed to complete her unhappiness. She died nine months later—one of the saddest figures which that age of conflict could show.

Her half-sister, Elizabeth (Ann Boleyn's daughter), now came to the throne, and began a glorious reign of forty-five years.

Elizabeth at this time was twenty-five years old. She spoke several languages well, and could read Latin and Greek. She had a strong will, and had learned self-control. From her training, and because her right to the throne depended on the legality of Ann Boleyn's marriage to Henry VIII., Elizabeth was inclined to the Protestant cause. Her policy had two objects in view for England. One was to keep the country from war; and the other was to establish a united national Church, free from all foreign control.

In carrying out these policies, Elizabeth's chief adviser was William Cecil, whom she made Lord Burleigh. When she chose him as her Secretary of State, she said: "This judgment I have of you, that you will not be corrupted with any manner of gifts, and that you will be faithful to the state." Her choice was justified by the thirty years of faithful service which he gave.

Elizabeth caused Parliament to repeal the religious laws of Queen Mary, and to establish a moderate reformation of the English Church. An Act of Supremacy was passed which denied the Pope's control over the Church. It required all officers to take an oath acknowledging the Queen as "the only supreme governor of this realm as well in all ecclesiastical things or causes as temporal." The Latin mass-service in the Church was again abolished, and the service in English, as arranged in the time of Edward VI., was restored. It was published in the Prayer Book, which is still used in the Episcopal Church. Clergymen who refused to use the Prayer Book, and laymen who stayed way from church services where it was used, were severely punished. Finally, the beliefs of the English church were settled in accordance with Protestant views, and were published in the Thirty-Nine Articles, which are still the official belief of the English or Episcopal Church.

All but one of the bishops refused to accept these changes, and new bishops were appointed in their places. Almost all of the lower clergy, however, accepted the changes, with as little opposition as they had made when Mary restored the Catholic religion, five years before. The nobles and people generally received the changes with rejoicing.

Here, as in other matters, Queen Elizabeth seemed to know just how far her people were willing to go, and shaped her laws to meet the general wishes of the nation. This was one of her strong points as a ruler, as it had been of her father, Henry VIII.—with all of his self-will and tyranny. The Tudor rulers were despots, and their Parliaments were usually packed with persons named by them. But their despotism rested upon the consent of the people, and, in any important matter, they rarely went beyond what their people wished.

With these religious laws of Elizabeth, the Reformation period in England comes to an end. There were still unsettled questions relating to the Church, and both Elizabeth and her successors had much difficulty in dealing with those who wished to restore the Catholic religion, and with Protestants who wished to depart farther from Catholicism. But these efforts, in the end, were unsuccessful, and the religion of the Church of England is today very much as it was established at the beginning of the reign of "good Queen Bess."


  1. Were the changes in agriculture good or bad for England in the end. Why?
  2. Compare Somerset with Wolsey. Compare Northumberland and Somerset.
  3. Find out what you can of Lady Jane Grey.
  4. What was the character of Queen Mary? Why did she persecute Protestants.
  5. Make a list of the changes in religion in England from the time when Henry VIII. became King to the time when the Reformation was finally established.

England Under Elizabeth


Dates of Elizabeth's reign; why she feared Mary Stuart; attitude of France and Spain; the Reformation in Scotland; Mary's fall into the hands of Elizabeth; the "Casket Letters"; Elizabeth keeps Mary prisoner; Mary put to death.

Causes of the conflicts between England and Spain; Sir Francis Drake; Philip proposes the "Armada"; Drake delays its sailing; it sets forth; running fight in the Channel; defeat of the Armada; its effects.

Rise of the Puritans; difference between the "Separatists" and other Puritans; Elizabeth's policy towards the Puritans; towards Catholics; attitude of the Puritans toward Elizabeth.

The great writers of Elizabeth's time; William Shakespeare.

Why Elizabeth never married; means for the succession; Elizabeth's death; her character.

Queen Elizabeth's reign is notable, not only for the establishing of the Reformation in England, but for other events which made a deep impression on the minds of the people. These were the execution of Mary Queen of Scots, and the defeat of the great Spanish fleet, called the Armada. In order to understand these two events, we must understand the dangers by which Elizabeth was all her life surrounded, from foes abroad, and from hostile parties at home.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

Queen Elizabeth

Perhaps you may ask: "Why was it that Philip II. of Spain did not interfere in England, while it was under Elizabeth, to protect the Catholics, and to put down the Protestant religion?"

The answer is that he was so jealous of France that he preferred to see England become Protestant rather than see it Catholic under France.

Mary Stuart, Queen of the Scots (as you will remember), had been married to the son of the French King; so, when he became King in turn (as he did the year after Elizabeth became Queen of England), the two kingdoms of France and Scotland were united under French rule. Queen Mary claimed to be the rightful ruler of England, also, on the ground that Elizabeth's father and mother were not truly married, and so the throne should go to herself as the nearest lawful heir.

It was this claim that Philip II. feared to see established, for it would make France so powerful that Spain would be completely overshadowed. He took Elizabeth under his protection, and even proposed to marry her, though to this Elizabeth could not consent. Mary's French husband soon died, and she returned to Scotland as a young widow of nineteen. But Philip II. could still be counted upon to aid Elizabeth in checking any movement to enforce Mary's claim to the throne of England, because Queen Mary leaned on French support.

All this made Elizabeth the enemy of the Queen of Scots. In addition, Elizabeth was foolishly jealous of her, because Mary was younger and more lovely than Elizabeth. But it was Mary's own imprudence and misconduct that finally put her completely in Elizabeth's power.

Scotland was now in the midst of a Reformation of the church which was more thoroughly Protestant than that which had taken place in England. Its teachings came from John Calvin, a religious reformer in Geneva, Switzerland. The Church government there became more democratic than that which was established in England, for it put the chief power in the hands of "presbyters," or elders, instead of bishops. The chief preacher of this "Presbyterian" reform in Scotland was John Knox, a bold but harsh preacher, of whom it was said that "one mass-service was more fearful to him than ten thousand armed enemies."

In order to strengthen her position on the throne, Queen Mary married her worthless cousin, Lord Darnley, who was Catholic. This act offended Protestant lords. A son was born to Mary; nevertheless she and her husband bitterly quarreled. The Protestant lords formed a plot to get rid of Darnley, and one night the house in which he was recovering from a spell of sickness was blown up. The next morning his dead body was found in a near-by field—strangled. A fierce, bullying lord, named Bothwell, was chiefly responsible for the murder; but he was so powerful that the attempt to punish him was given up. Mary was passionately in love with Bothwell, and, ten weeks after the murder of her husband, she allowed herself to be carried off and married to him. Her subjects then rebelled, drove Bothwell from the kingdom, made her infant son King as James VI., and shut her up in prison. Soon, however, Mary contrived to escape, through the aid of a young page, and to raise an army. When she was finally defeated in battle, she fled into England, to ask aid from her enemy, Elizabeth, in recovering her forfeited throne.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

Gold Coin of Elizabeth

Elizabeth did not wish to encourage rebels to revolt against her ruler, but she could not let Mary go. As one of her courtiers said, she now "held the wolf that wished to devour her." "Why does the Queen of Scotland seem so dangerous to you?" one of Mary's friends asked Elizabeth.

"Because she is a Papist," the English Queen replied, "and wishes to succeed to my throne."

The Scots sent to Elizabeth letters which they claimed had been left by Bothwell, in a silver casket, when he fled. If these "Casket Letters" were genuine, they proved that Mary had had a part in Darnley's death, and so was guilty with Bothwell of his murder. Without deciding this question, Elizabeth ordered Mary to be kept prisoner, and from that day until her death on the scaffold, eighteen years later, the Queen of Scots remained in honorable confinement in Elizabeth's castles.

Many Englishmen did not think that this was enough. So long as Mary lived, conspirators were at work trying to stir up rebellion, which would dethrone Elizabeth—and possibly murder her—and give the crown to Mary. Mary knew of some of these plots, and encouraged them. At one time she sent this message to the Spanish ambassador in England:

"Tell your master that if he will help me, I shall be Queen of England in three months, and mass shall be said throughout the land."

To aid Mary's cause, the Pope excommunicated Elizabeth, and declared her subjects to be freed from their oaths of allegiance. This forced English Catholics to choose between obedience to their Church and their duty to their Queen. France and Spain had now made up their quarrel, and were ready to aid in restoring England to the list of Catholic countries. Catholic priests came into England from France, at the peril of their lives, to convert the people; and some of these were engaged in the conspiracies against Elizabeth. After the failure of one of these plots the Protestant nobles of England formed a great "association," binding themselves to avenge any attempt against the life of their Queen. Soon after this, Parliament passed a law providing that any one in whose favor a plot should be made should be put to death. This law was directed against Mary of Scotland; nevertheless, her friends paid no attention to the warning, and the plotting continued.

Positive proof of a new plot was soon obtained, and then at last Mary herself was brought to trial. It was not clearly proved that she had given any encouragement to the attempts against the Queen's life, yet she had taken part in the conspiracy to dethrone the Queen. The law considered her guilty, and she was sentenced to death. After much hesitation, Elizabeth signed the death warrant, and Mary was beheaded, in February, 1587. She went to her execution with the courage of a martyr.

"Cease to lament," said she to one of her attendants, "for you shall now see a final end to Mary Stuart's troubles. I pray you, take this message when you go—that I die true to my religion, to Scotland, and to France."

Many English Catholics had supported Mary Stuart's claims to the English throne. But when she passed these on to Philip II. of Spain (as she did at her death), all Englishmen united to oppose him. Spain at this time ruled Mexico, the West Indies, and the greater part of South America, and claimed the sole right to settle and trade in those regions. This claim the English sailors had refused to recognize. They crossed the Atlantic, traded wherever they liked, and fought and captured Spanish treasure ships. Many of them were little better than pirates, and grew rich by kidnapping slaves in Africa and selling them to the Spanish colonists.

The greatest of these English captains was Sir Francis Drake. On one of his expeditions to the West Indies, he visited the mainland of North America, where he found and rescued a small body of English colonists, who had been sent out by Sir Walter Raleigh. On another voyage, he rounded Cape Horn, and attacked the Spanish colonies on the west coast of South America, where he secured an immense amount of gold, silver, and precious stones. In returning to England, he sailed across the Pacific and around the cape of Good Hope. A Spanish expedition under Magellan had sailed around the world sixty years before; but Drake, in this voyage, was the first Englishman to accomplish that feat. By such acts as his, the hatred between the Spanish and English was steadily increased.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

Drake's Ship, the Golden Hind

When, therefore, Philip of Spain made ready to seize the crown of England, and re-establish there the Catholic religion, all England was aroused. Philip collected a great fleet, which was called the "Invincible Armada." With this, he intended to send a great army into England, partly from Spain and partly from the Netherlands. Before the expedition was ready, Sir Frances Drake, with thirty small ships, sailed boldly into the Spanish harbor of Cadiz, and destroyed the ships and supplies there. Drake called this "singeing the Spanish King's beard." By this brave deed, the sailing of the Armada was delayed until the next year.

To resist the Spanish attack, the English collected ships from all their coast towns, and mustered an army near London. When the Spanish fleet appeared in the English Channel, the news was flashed by bonfires from hilltop to hilltop, all over the kingdom. The Armada consisted of 132 vessels, many of them great high-decked ships, crowded with men. Some were galleys rowed by oars, such as had been used in the Mediterranean Sea since the ancient days of Greece and Rome. The English fleet, under Lord Howard and Sir Francis Drake, numbered 198 vessels, most of them smaller than in the Armada, but swifter, better sailers, and manned by more skilful seamen and better gunners.

The English allowed the Armada to pass by, and then followed it up the Channel. For a whole week, from Plymouth to Calais, the English hung upon the rear of the Spaniards, now advancing, now nimbly retiring, but always fighting, and "plucking the feathers" of the great Armada one by one. The Armada dropped anchor at Calais, to get news of the army which they were to escort from the Netherlands to England. The English, however, sent into the harbor six blazing fire-ships, which they had prepared, and the Spaniards were forced to cut their cables and put out to sea. After another all-day fight, the Spaniards turned northward, sailing before a southerly breeze. They failed to take on the army to invade England, and already the expedition was a failure.

Worse, however, was to follow. Storms came, and scores of the clumsy Spanish vessels were dashed to pieces, while trying to round the northern coasts of Scotland and Ireland. Out of the splendid fleet which set sail with such confidence, only fifty-three vessels returned to Spain. Philip II. did not blame his admiral for this disaster. "I sent you to fight against men," said he, "and not with the winds."

The defeat of the Armada freed the English from their fear of Spain. It did more. The whole nation now shared the spirit of men like Drake, and the foundations were soon laid of the trade, colonial empire, and sea power which make England "the mistress of the seas." The power of Spain now rapidly declined.

Toward the close of Elizabeth's reign, the religious question again came to the front. The trouble was no longer with the Catholics, but with the extreme Protestants, who wanted to go further in reform. They were not satisfied with the moderate Protestant position which Elizabeth had taken, but wished to do away with nearly everything used by the Catholic church in its worship—priestly robes, images, painted windows, incense, candles, and the like. They also wished to end the rule of the bishops in the Church. They were called "Puritans," because they wished to purify the Church. Some Puritans even wished to do away with any united church, established for the whole country, and to form separate congregations, each independent of the others. These are called "Separatists," or "Independents."

Elizabeth was as despotic as her father, and would not permit anything which looked like disobedience to the laws which she had established. Puritans were fined heavily for staying away from church, and when they attempted to hold meeting of their own, these were severely put down. Thus Elizabeth persecuted Puritans on the one hand, while, on the other, Catholics were being fined, imprisoned, and even put to death. There was this difference, however: in the earlier part of her reign Catholics were often plotting for her downfall; but the spirit among the Puritans was shown by one of their number, who was condemned to lose his right hand for writing against the bishops, and who nevertheless, waving his hat with the hand that was left to him, cried, "God save the Queen."

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

State Carriages of Elizabeth's Time

We must not close the account of the reign of Elizabeth without a few words concerning the great writers which it produced. In no other reign did literature flourish as it did under "good Queen Bess." Poets, playwriters, and essayists abounded; while, in the person of Sir Francis Bacon, England could boast one of the greatest philosophers.

Among all the writers of the Elizabethan era, William Shakespeare stands first. He was born of poor parents, at Stratford on the river Avon, in the year 1564. He received a grammar school education, and went to London, where he became an actor and writer of plays. He died in 1616. He was the greatest play writer of modern times, and one of the greatest poets. His plays have been translated into many languages. They are still acted many times every year, and the books containing them are found in all libraries. His plays include both comedies and tragedies; they picture all kinds of life, and show men and women acting under all kinds of emotions. Sayings taken from his plays are almost as common today as those from the Bible.

Queen Elizabeth did not live to see all of Shakespeare's plays, for when he was at his best she was already old. To the end of her life, she remained England's "Virgin Queen." She had many suitors for her hand, and it gratified her vanity to have them about her; but she could marry neither foreigner nor Englishman, neither Catholic nor Protestant, without offending some of her subjects. Any marriage, moreover, would endanger the exercise of that independent power which was so dear to Elizabeth's heart. So, in the end, she never married at all, although she long talked about it, and was urged again and again by her subjects to do so, in order that the succession to the throne might be settled.

The character of Elizabeth was a mixture of great and little qualities. She was so vain and extravagant that she had 3,000 gowns of strange fashion, and eighty wigs of different colored hair. She used to paint her face to hide the marks of age. She was not truthful, and her conduct in many ways revealed the coarseness of her time. On the other hand, she had the wisdom to chose good advisers; and however vain and selfish she might seem, she always had the interests of England at heart.

"There will never Queen sit in my seat," she once said to Parliament, "with more zeal to my country, or care to my subjects. And though you have had, and may have, many princes more mighty and more wise sitting in this seat, yet you never had, nor shall have, any that will be more careful or loving."

She saw England grow from a divided to a united nation, and from a weak to a great state; and in this growth she had the chief part.

She died at the age of seventy. When asked at the last to settle the succession to the throne, she said:

"I will have no rascal's son in my seat, but one worthy to be a King."

And when further pressed to declare her wishes, she added:

"And who should this be, but our cousin of Scotland."

So Mary Stuart's son, who was a Protestant, and was known as James VI. of Scotland, succeeded at last to the throne of the great Elizabeth.


  1. What was the relationship in blood of Elizabeth and Mary Stuart? Why did Catholics believe that Mary's right to the English throne was better than Elizabeth's. [?]
  2. Did Elizabeth do right in imprisoning Mary Queen of Scots? Did she do right in putting her to death? Give your reasons.
  3. Imagine yourself a boy or girl at the time of the Armada, and write an account of its defeat.
  4. Find out what you can about Sir Francis Drake.
  5. Write a short account of William Shakespeare.
  6. In what ways was Elizabeth a great ruler?

James I., The First Stuart King


Character of the Stuart rule; dates of James I.'s reign; his character; relations of England and Scotland; James's attitude toward the English Puritans.

Virginia and Plymouth colonies settled in America; other English settlements under Charles I.; importance of these settlements; Sir Walter Raleigh; he was imprisoned; why he was; the "Gunpowder Plot."

James's ideas of the power of Kings; he quarrels with Parliament over its privileges; declaration of Parliament; how James treated this; James's other quarrels with Parliament; failure of James's policies.

Under the Tudor rulers, the English people submitted to arbitrary rule because great dangers threatened both church and state. In the time of the Stuart Kings, these dangers were past. The attempt of the Stuarts to rule despotically led, therefore, to a series of quarrels between King and Parliament which resulted in civil war, the execution of one King, the expulsion of another, and the final loss by the Stuarts of the crowns of both England and Scotland.

In England, Mary Stuart's son was known as James I., though he continued to be James VI. of Scotland. He was well educated, shrewd, witty, and a lover of peace; but he lacked dignity, was physically a coward, and could never say "No" to his favorites. A foreigner at his court, in Scotland, gave this description of him:

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

James I

"He speaks, eats, dresses, and plays like a boor. He is never still for a moment, but walks perpetually up and down the room. His walk is sprawling and awkward, and his voice loud. He prefers hunting to all other amusements, and will be six hours together on horseback. He is very conceited, and he underrates other princes."

His great learning, together with this foolish conduct, led a French statesman to call him "the wisest fool in Christendom."

One of James's first acts was to try to unite the two kingdoms of England and Scotland into one. Englishmen, however, were jealous both of the favors which James showed to this Scotch subjects and of their trading rights. The attempt failed, and it was not until a hundred years later (1707) that England and Scotland were united under one Parliament.

The religious question gave James I. most trouble. English Puritans expected James to support them, because he came from a Presbyterian country. But James was so greatly displeased with Presbyterianism in Scotland that, when one of the English Puritans mentioned the word "presbyter," he burst out:

"If this be all your party have to say for themselves, I will make them conform to the Church, or I will harry them out of the land."

By this attitude James pleased the bishops, but made all Puritans his opponents.

Some small bands of Separatists took the King at his word, and left England for Holland. After a few years (1620) they passed to America, and founded Plymouth Colony. Virginia also, was founded in King James's time (1607), but this was from motives of gain, not religion. Under James's son, Charles I., the colonies of Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Maryland were founded.

We cannot tell the story here of these first beginnings of a new world of English-speaking peoples across the sea; but we must not forget that it was one of the greatest events of that time.

Catholics, too, had hoped that King James would relieve them from the oppressive laws which Elizabeth had made against their religion. When this hope was disappointed, plots were formed against the King. Sir Walter Raleigh—a famous man of Elizabeth's reign, who was no Catholic, but was disappointed at not being taken into James's service—was accused and convicted of being engaged in one of these plots, and for thirteen years he was imprisoned in the Tower of London. Then he was allowed to set forth on a gold hunting expedition to South America. When he failed in his quest, and attacked the Spaniards, King James had him put to death under his old sentence. Before laying his head upon the block, he felt the edge of the axe:

" 'Tis a sharp medicine," he said, "but a sure cure for all diseases."

A more important plot, due to Catholic discontent, was formed by a man named Guy Fawkes. With some others, he succeeded in storing thirty barrels of gunpowder in a cellar under the Parliament house; and he planned to blow up King, Lords, Commons, ministers, and all, at the opening of Parliament. The plot, however, was discovered, and Guy Fawkes and his helpers were executed. The memory of the event was long preserved by the annual celebration of "Guy Fawkes day," when stuffed figures of Fawkes (whence comes our slang word "guy") were burned. Until recent years, school children in England learned these verses:

"Remember, remember, the Fifth of November,

Gunpowder treason and plot;

I see no reason why Gunpowder treason

Should ever be forgot!"

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

Guy Fawkes's Cellar

King James had very lofty ideas of the powers of a King, and said some very foolish thing about them. He believed in the "divine right" of Kings—that is, that they received their powers from God, and are responsible to Him alone, and not in any way to their subjects.

But, unfortunately for James, he had even more need of the good will of Parliament than Elizabeth had. He squandered his revenues so recklessly, on his pleasures and favorites, that he was constantly in need of new taxes. Parliament, however, showed itself firmly resolved not to vote him money until grievances of which they complained should be removed. From this, and other causes, it resulted that James quarreled with every Parliament that he summoned, except the last one.

James took the position that Parliament owed all its powers and privileges—such as the right of free speech, and freedom from arrest for what might be said in Parliament—entirely to the graciousness of the King. He forbade them "to meddle with anything concerning our government or deep matters of state." Their business, in short, was merely to vote him the money he needed.

Parliament, on the other hand, asserted, in a famous declaration which they caused to be written in their journal, that "the liberties, privileges, and jurisdictions of Parliament are the undoubted birthright and inheritance of the subjects of England," and that they had a right to debate all matters which concerned them as subjects.

James thereupon dismissed his Parliament, and with his own hands tore this declaration from their journal. It was easy to tear out the record; but it was difficult to move the people from what they believed to be their constitutional rights. Besides quarreling over Puritanism, taxes, and privileges, James and his Parliament held different views concerning foreign affairs.

From 1618 to 1648, Germany was wasted by a terrible religious war, between Catholics and Protestants, called the Thirty Years' War. England was interested in this, not only because England was a Protestant country, and so sympathized with the Protestant cause, but also because King James's daughter Elizabeth had married a German Protestant prince, who lost his lands in the course of the war. King James wanted to aid his son-in-law to recover his lands, but thought the best way to do this way by making a treaty with Spain, which was aiding the Catholic powers. So, long negotiations were carried on for the marriage of his son, Prince Charles, to a Spanish princess. Parliament, on the other hand, bitterly hated the idea of a Spanish marriage, and wanted to strike a vigorous blow at Spain through a naval war. This would not only help their fellow Protestants in Germany, but at the same time win for themselves rich prizes, and further their trading and colonizing ambitions.

In the end, James found that his plans for a Spanish alliance were impossible. He broke off negotiations, and in his last Parliament, which assembled in 1624, he invited the very "meddling" with foreign affairs which he had formerly forbidden. War was then declared against Spain. For the first time, since the early days of his reign, King James and his subjects were in harmony.

James died the next year. He left to his son the difficulty of dealing with the many problems which he had raised by his weakness and folly, but had not known how to solve.


  1. Why were there more quarrels between the Crown and Parliament under James than under Elizabeth? Was it due more to changes in the character of the ruler? or in the character of Parliament? or in the circumstances of the time?
  2. Find out what you can of Sir Walter Raleigh, and his attempt to make a settlement in America under Elizabeth.
  3. Tell the story of John Smith and the settlement of the colony of Virginia.
  4. Tell the story of the removal of the Pilgrim Fathers to Holland, and of their settlement of Plymouth Colony.

Charles I. and Parliament


Dates of the reign of Charles I.; his character; influence of the Duke of Buckingham; Parliament attacks him; the Petition of Right passed; its importance; death of Buckingham; Charles's third Parliament.

Eleven years of absolute government; Sir John Eliot dies in the Tower; the Ship Money Tax; John Hampden resists it; the judges decide in favor of the King; importance of this case.

Archbishop makes changes in the English Church; punishment of persons who opposed these changes; origin of "Bishops' Wars" in Scotland; their effect in England.

The long Parliament called; why Charles could not get rid of it; the three things it set out to do; punishment of the Earl of Strafford; Charles attempts to avoid the leaders of Parliament; effect of this attempt; the two questions which especially separated Charles from his Parliament; importance of the militia question; what the vote of the Grand Remonstrance showed; the question really at issue in the civil war.

Charles I. was a good man, and was much more "kingly" in his manner than James I.; but he held as high ideas of his rights, and was far more impractical. He was less inclined to give way to Parliament, especially where the rights of the Church were concerned; and there was also an unintentional untruthfulness in him, which made it impossible to bind him to any promise. The result was that he was even less successful than his father in dealing with the problems of his time.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

Charles I

King James's last and greatest favorite, the Duke of Buckingham, was equally in favor with King Charles. He had risen from a very humble position, solely through his handsome face and good manners. He was now in the highest ranks of the English nobility, and had an income of thousands of pounds sterling a year. All of his family—father, mother, brothers, sisters—had also been enriched and ennobled.

Until Buckingham's death (in 1628) the government was entirely in his hands. But the war with Spain fared badly, and men thought with regret of the glorious victories of Elizabeth. Buckingham hurried England into a war with France, also, and this, too, was mismanaged. Illegal taxes were collected, and men who refused to pay were illegally punished. In addition, favor was shown to an anti-Puritan party, which now began to rise in the Church of England.

For all this, Buckingham was rightly held responsible, and finally was named in Parliament as "the grievance of grievances." To save him from "impeachment"—that is, trial and punishment by Parliament—Charles was obliged to dismiss his second Parliament. In the next Parliament which he called, the members decided not to renew their attack on Buckingham, but to pass a petition of Right, in which such arbitrary taxation and imprisonment as Buckingham and Charles had used were declared illegal. To this law Charles was forced to give his consent. It was the most important act limiting the power of the crown which had been passed since the granting of the Great Charter, by King John, 413 years before.

A few months later, Buckingham was slain by a private enemy; nevertheless, the quarrels between King and Parliament continued.

In 1629 this Parliament—the third one of King Charles's reign—broke up in great disorder. While the King's messenger knocked loudly upon their locked door, to summon them for dismissal, the leaders of the House of Commons forcibly held their Speaker in his chair, and passed a set of defiant resolutions. These declared that anyone who advised the King to bring in anti-Puritan charges in religion, or to collect (without Parliamentary grant) the taxes which were in dispute, should be considered "a capital enemy of the commonwealth"—that is, should be worthy of punishment by death.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

Parliament House, Westminster Hall, and Westminster Abbey

For the next eleven years, no Parliament was held, and the King carried on the government by his "absolute" power.

Sir John Eliot was the statesman who had played the chief part in opposing the King's measures, and upon him chiefly the King's wrath now fell. In violation of the rights of free speech, granted to Parliament, the leaders of Parliament were imprisoned in the Tower of London. Others made their submission and were released, but Eliot's brave spirit refused to gain freedom for himself, by surrendering the principle of liberty for the nation. His imprisonment was made more close. He was placed in a room which was dark, cold, and wretchedly uncomfortable; and none but his sons were allowed to visit him. Under the weight of this punishment his health (but not his spirit) gave way, and he died in November, 1632. He was truly a martyr to the cause of constitutional liberty.

Charles's refusal to call Parliament forced him to raise money in many objectionable ways. Among these was the levying of "ship money."

In the old days, when an army might be raised by calling out the men of the country to serve in war, at their own expense, the counties bordering on the sea were often called upon to furnish ships for the King's service. This "ship service" King Charles now changed into a money payment; and he demanded it not only from the seaboard counties, but from the whole country. "Ship money" thus became a regular tax, laid upon the land without the consent of Parliament; and it was seen that, if this were permitted to pass unquestioned, Englishmen would lose one of their dearest rights.

A rich and patriotic Englishman, named John Hampden, refused to pay his "ship money" tax, which amounted to twenty shillings, and the question of the lawfulness of "ship money" thus came before the courts. The judges of that time felt that they were "the lions that supported the King's throne," and must uphold his power; the King, too, had been weeding out judges whom he thought to be unfriendly to his claims. Therefore, the case was decided against Hampden, and the collection of "ship money" continued. The "ship money" case was nevertheless of great importance. It gave to the leading men who opposed the King's claims a chance to speak their minds on the subject, and so to place before the people the dangers of the King's policy. It showed the nation how insecure were their rights of property, under the law as administered by the King's judges.

While the King trampled on the rights of Parliament, and arbitrarily took from his subjects their property, he angered the nation yet more deeply by his religious policies.

Charles appointed as Archbishop of Canterbury a well-meaning but narrow-minded man named William Laud, and allowed him to carry out changes in the Church, which seemed to the Puritans to pave the way for a restoration of the Catholic faith. Men who wrote and spoke against these changes, or against the power of the bishops, were made to stand in the pillory, had their ears cut off, were branded on the cheek with hot irons, were fined ruinous sums, and were cast into prison. Finally, to complete his folly, Laud and the King tried to "reform" the Church of Scotland, in the same way that they had already "reformed" the Church of England.

In Scotland, almost the whole nation banded themselves together to resist the changes. The result was a rebellion, called the "Bishop's Wars," in which Charles was defeated. The Scots then advanced into England. Charles was obliged to make peace with his Scottish subjects. In this he agreed that the Scots' army should stay in England until the changes which he promised should be carried through, and that he would pay its expenses.

To get money to pay the Scots, Charles was obliged, after eleven years of arbitrary government, at last to summon his Parliament—the famous Long Parliament—which sat (with interruptions) from 1640 to 1660.

Charles could not rid himself of the Long Parliament, when it opposed him, as he had done his earlier ones, because in its earlier stages it was backed by the army of the Scots. Later he was prevented from dissolving it, because he had been forced to agree that it should not be dismissed without its own consent.

In both the House of Commons and the House of Lords there was a strong majority against Charles's policies. The leaders of Parliament, therefore, set to work to do three things—to undo the misgovernment of the last eleven years, to punish Charles's ministers, and to pass laws which should make such abuses impossible for the future.

Their hatred was chiefly directed against the Earl of Strafford, who had joined them in opposing the Duke of Buckingham, but had become Charles's principal adviser after Buckingham's death. Strafford was honest in his course, but his former companions regarded him as a traitor to their cause. They also feared him, for so long as he lived no victory which they might win over the King could be permanent, nor their lives be safe. Every effort, therefore, was made to have him put to death. He was accused of attempting to overthrow the liberties of the kingdom, and particularly of having advised the King to make war on his English people. This was held to be treason, and Parliament at last voted that he should be beheaded.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

Trial of Strafford

Charles had promised Strafford that he should not suffer in person or in honor, for aiding him. But the outcry of the London mob against Strafford was so great that the King was terrified for the safety of his Queen and children, and, with tears in his eyes, he at last consented to Strafford's execution.

"Put not your trust in princes!" cried Strafford when this news was brought to him. Nevertheless, he had scarcely hoped that he would be spared. He met his death bravely.

He was a pure and able man, and was loyal to what he believed to be his duty. It was his misfortune that his ideas of government were those of a past age, and that his death was a necessity for the people's liberty.

After Strafford's execution, the King and Parliament drifted ever farther and farther apart.

At one time, Charles caused five of the leaders of Parliament to be accused of treason. In violation of their Parliamentary privileges, he came in person with an armed force to seize them. When the Speaker of the Commons was asked to point out the accused members, he replied, kneeling before the King:

"May it please your Majesty, I have neither eyes to see, nor tongue to speak, in this place, but as the House is pleased to direct me."

"Well, well," replied the King, " 'tis no matter; I think my eyes are as good as another's."

However, he did not find the men he sought, because, as he said, "the birds were flown." This attempt did Charles no good, but only caused Parliament and the nation to distrust his intentions.

Two questions, especially, now separated Charles from his Parliament. One was the government of the Church by bishops, which the Puritans wished to cast out, "root and branch." The other was the appointment by Parliament of the officers who commanded the county militia. Troops were now being raised to put down a rebellion in Ireland, and members of Parliament were fearful lest Charles should use these to put down Parliament itself.

To the demand for the right to appoint the militia officers, Charles replied:

"That is a thing with which I would not even trust my wife and children."

On the religious question, he was equally steadfast. In this position he was supported by many members of Parliament who had formerly opposed him. On a measure called the "Grand Remonstrance," which was directed against the King's government, the opposition to Charles had a majority of only eleven votes, in place of the almost unanimous support which they formerly had. Feeling ran so high that swords were actually drawn on the floor of the House of Commons, and bloodshed was narrowly prevented.

The question really at issue was this: Should the King or Parliament control the government?

It was a question which could neither be evaded nor compromised. Matters grew steadily worse and worse; and finally, in 1642, the two parties drifted into civil war.


  1. Why were James I. and Charles I. less successful rulers than Elizabeth?
  2. What is meant by "impeachment"? Who are the accusers in such a trial? Who are the judges?
  3. Find out what you can about Sir John Eliot. About John Hampden.
  4. Was the Earl of Strafford a good man or a bad man? Was he justly or unjustly punished?
  5. Was the King or Parliament right in the struggle over the Church question and the militia question? Why?

The Civil War between King and Parliament (1642-1649)


Dates of the great civil war; how the people were divided; Cavaliers and Roundheads; the Scots aid Parliament; why Charles was successful at first; Cromwell reorganizes the troops of Parliament.

The Parliamentary victory at Marston Moor; its effects; victory at Naseby; Charles surrenders to the Scots; they surrender him to his English subjects.

Quarrel between the army and Parliament; mistake of Charles; how the army secured possession of him?

The second civil war; part played in it by the Scots; Cromwell's victory at Preston; effect of this war on the fate of Charles.

How the army got control of Parliament; the King brought to trial; the charge against him; his attitude; sentence passed on him; his execution; attitude of the people.

The great civil war between King Charles and his English Parliament began in August, 1642, when the King "raised his standard" at Nottingham. It did not really end until Charles was beheaded in 1649, and a Commonwealth or republic was set up.

In this war, the great majority of the nobles and the gentry, with their dependents, took the side of the King. The middle classes—the traders and manufacturers of the towns, and most of the small farmers—upheld the cause of Parliament. The King's supporters, for the most part, believed in the Church of England, and loved a gay life and fine clothes. They were called "Cavaliers." The supporters of Parliament were mainly sober-minded Puritans, plain in their lives and in their dress. They were called "Roundheads," from their refusal to wear the "lovelock," which Cavaliers wore curling down over one shoulder.

The east and south—which were then the most populous, industrious, and wealthy parts of England—generally sided with Parliament. The north and west went with the King. Oxford, the seat of England's greatest university, was the royalist headquarters. Parliament controlled London, the navy, most of the seaports, and the law-making and taxing part of the government. From the beginning its resources were much greater than those of the King. Both sides sought aid outside of England. Parliament secured an army from the Scots. The King's efforts to get men from Ireland and the Continent profited him very little.

In the beginning of the war, Charles gained some successes, chiefly because the Cavaliers were better soldiers than the troops which Parliament raised. But among the members of Parliament was a plain, earnest, country squire, named Oliver Cromwell. He had an unsuspected genius for war, and soon saw what was the trouble with the Parliament's army.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

Oliver Cromwell

"Your troops," he told his cousin, John Hampden, "are most of them old decayed serving men and tapsters, and such kind of fellows; and their troops are gentlemen's sons and persons of quality. Do you think that the spirits of such base and mean fellows will ever be able to encounter gentlemen that have honor, and courage, and resolution in them? You must get men of a spirit that is likely to go as far as gentlemen will go, or else you will be beaten still."

Setting to work on this principle, Cromwell organized his famous body of troops, known as the "Ironsides." The name was first given to Cromwell himself, by one of the King's generals, and later extended to his troops. They were sternly Puritan men, like their commander, who "knew what they fought for and loved what they knew." And from the time when Cromwell and his Ironsides began to be prominent in the war, the balance of victory inclined in Parliament's favor.

The first great Parliamentary victory was won in July, 1644, at Marston Moor, in the north of England. An army of Scots and Parliamentarians had laid siege to the city of York. Charles ordered his nephew, Prince Rupert—a dashing cavalry general—to go to its deliverance. As Rupert approached, the Scots and Parliament men drew back, and took their stand on a long ridge above Marston Moor. When Rupert arrived at its foot, it was already seven o'clock in the evening of a long summer day. He decided not to begin the attack until morning, and he and his men began to eat such supper as they had with them.

But suddenly, while the Royalists were thus engaged, the Parliament men rushed down the hill and attacked them.

Rupert's army fought bravely, but they were outnumbered and in disorder. On the side of Parliament, Cromwell and his Ironsides did especial service.

"It had all the evidence," Cromwell wrote after the battle, "of an absolute victory, obtained by the Lord's blessing upon the godly party. We never charged but that we routed the enemy. God made them as stubble to our swords."

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

Part of Cromwell's Letter After Naseby

By this battle, Rupert's army was practically destroyed. York was forced to surrender, and almost all the north of England passed from the control of the King to that of Parliament.

After Marston Moor, the army of Parliament was reorganized on a more Puritan basis. Cromwell, as commander of the cavalry, now took more and more a leading part.

Another great battle was fought the next year at Naseby, in central England. Rupert, who was this time accompanied by the King, was again defeated, and again the victory was mainly due to Cromwell and his Ironsides. "The stake played for at Naseby," says a great historian, "was the crown of England, and Charles had lost it." He was left without an army and his surrender became only a question of a little time. Worse than the loss of his army was the capture of Charles's papers, containing copies of his letters to his wife. These showed that in his negotiations with Parliament he was not sincere, and that he had no intention of making a lasting peace with his rebellious subjects.

Some months after the battle of Naseby, Charles set out from Oxford in disguise. He arrived at the camp of the Scots, and surrendered to them.

Charles thought his Scottish subjects would offer him better terms than his English ones. But the Scots, in their dealings with him, found Charles so obstinate and tricky, that at last they turned him over to the agents of the English Parliament, and marched off to their homes.

Then Parliament tried its hand at negotiating with Charles. At this time Parliament was ruled by men who wanted to establish the Presbyterian form of religion in England, and persecute all other denominations. The army, on the other hand, was made up mainly of "Independents," who held radical religious ideas. They did not want any church supported by the state; but they did want equal toleration for all sects of Christians, except Roman Catholics and perhaps Episcopalians. In addition, the army was angry because Parliament tried to dismiss it without giving it the many months of back pay which were due.

In these circumstances Charles made the fatal mistake of trying to play off Parliament against the army. The result was that the army took his custody into its own hands. Late one night an officer knocked at the door of Charles's bedroom, with a small squad of soldiers, and told him that he must go with them to some other place.

"What commission have you to take me?" asked Charles, fearing that some harm might be intended.

"Here's my commission," replied the officer, pointing to the soldiers behind him.

Thus Charles passed from the custody of Parliament into that of the army. Then they tried to get him to agree to fair terms. But Charles could not understand that things were not as they had been, and that he must now make up his mind to accept important changes in the government of both church and state.

"You cannot do without me," he said to the army leaders. "You will fall to ruin if I do not sustain you."

He clung blindly to the belief that an hereditary King was absolutely necessary to England, and that if he only held out long enough he would surely have his way. So he rejected the army's proposals.

In November, 1647, Charles succeeded in escaping from Hampton Court, where he was kept in honorable captivity, to a castle in the Isle of Wight. There he concluded a treaty with the Scots by which he agreed to establish the Presbyterian worship in England for three years, and to put down the religious sects to which most of the army belonged. On these terms the Scots agreed to send a new army into England—this time to make war on their former allies, and to restore Charles to his English throne.

When the Scots came into England, Cromwell succeeded in defeating them, in the battle of Preston, after three days' hard fighting. The chief result of this new war was to bring the army leaders at last to the grim determination to put the King to death.

"If ever the Lord brings us back again in peace," they said on setting out for the war, "it is our duty to call Charles Stuart, that man of blood, to an account for the blood he has shed, and the mischief he has done against the Lord's cause and people in these poor nations."

But, in order to give any form of law to the trial of the King, Parliament must act, and to get such action the army must drive out the Presbyterians from that body and secure control of it for the radical sects which they themselves represented. Accordingly, in December, 1648, an officer named Colonel Pride took his stand before the doors of Parliament, and "purged" that body by arresting or turning back, as they sought to enter, 143 of its members. After this, many other members of their own accord ceased to attend Parliament. Thus the army got control of Parliament, and could pass what measures it wished.

To try the King, a High Court of Justice was appointed, consisting of 135 members. Only 65 members of this court appeared at the trial, and only 59 of these signed the sentence which it passed against the King.

The charge against Charles was that he had tried to overturn the liberties of the nation, and to introduce absolute government; and that he had made war against the Parliament and kingdom. He replied by denying that the court had any right to try him. In spite of this plea, the trial went on. After sitting seven days, the court found him guilty of being "a tyrant, traitor, murderer, and public enemy to the good people of this kingdom," and sentenced him to death.

Three days later, on January 30, 1649—a cold and wintry day—the sentence was publicly carried out. Charles's last acts were full of bravery and dignity.

"I fear not death," he said. "Death is not terrible to me. I bless my God I am prepared."

The scaffold was erected before the King's palace of Whitehall, in London. The great crowd of people which gathered about it showed their sympathy for the King, and disapproval of the sentence, by groans of pity and horror; and strong guards of soldiers were necessary, there and throughout London, to preserve order. Large numbers who had condemned the King's policies disapproved of his execution. A poet, who was of this number, thus describes Charles's last moments:

"He nothing common did or mean,

Upon that memorable scene,

But with his keener eye

That axe's edge did try;

Nor called the gods with vulgar spite

To vindicate his helpless right,

But bowed his comely head

Down, as upon a bed."

The army, with the iron hand of force, had overthrown Parliament and King. It remained for them, if they could, to reconstruct on those ruins a government which should be safe and free.


  1. Imagine yourself a Puritan boy or girl, and tell why you support the Parliament against the King.
  2. Imagine yourself a Cavalier and tell why you support the King.
  3. Find out what you can about Cromwell, up to the death of King Charles.
  4. Was the sentence against the King legal or illegal? Was it just or unjust? Give your reasons.

Commonwealth and Protectorate (1649-1660)


A republic established; it is threatened from three sources; Cromwell puts down its enemies at home and in Ireland; he invades Scotland; his victory at Dunbar; Charles II. defeated at Worcester; his escape; Parliament rules Scotland and Ireland, as well as England.

Why Cromwell turned out the Long Parliament; "Barebone's Parliament"; the instrument of Government adopted; Cromwell made "Protector"; his troubles with Parliament; his death and character.

Richard Cromwell overthrown; quarrel of the army and the "Rump" Parliament; General Monk restores the members excluded form Parliament; Charles II. restored; what the Puritan Revolution had accomplished.

At the time that Parliament was preparing to bring the King to trial, it laid the foundations for a republican form of government. It declared that the people are the source of all just power, that the House of Commons represents the people, and that what it passes as law does not need the consent of either King or House of Lords. The kingship and the House of Lords were both abolished as "useless, burdensome, and dangerous," and a "Commonwealth" was established, with a Council of State at its head.

At once the new government found itself threatened from three sources—from the extreme radicals (called "Levelers") in England, who wanted a more democratic form of government; from the Royalists and Catholics in Ireland; and from the Presbyterians and Royalists of Scotland. To Cromwell, who was now at last made "Captain General and Commander in Chief" of the army, fell the task of dealing with each of these dangers. The Levellers were crushed and their leaders punished. Then Cromwell took two fortified towns in Ireland by storm, and pitilessly put the garrisons to death—as a means, he said, "to prevent the effusion of blood for the future."

The danger from Scotland was not so easily overcome. Immediately after Charles I. was put to death, the Scots had proclaimed his son, Charles II., as King of Scotland; and he had promised them (what his father would never grant) that Presbyterian rule should there be supreme. To prevent the Scots from restoring Charles II. in England, Cromwell invaded Scotland; and he soon confronted the Scottish army, near the little town of Dunbar.

"The enemy," wrote Cromwell, "hath blocked up our way at the pass, through which we cannon get without almost a miracle. He lieth so upon the hills that we know not how to come that way without great difficulty; and our lying there daily consumeth our men, who fall sick beyond imagination."

From this difficulty Cromwell was relieved by a false move of the Scots, who came down from the hills to the level ground by the roadside. Before daybreak, on the morning of September 3, 1650, Cromwell and his men attacked their unsuspecting foes, and in less than an hour's time the whole Scottish army was destroyed. In this battle of Dunbar, three thousand were slain on the field, and ten thousand taken prisoners. To Cromwell the result seemed "one of the most signal mercies that God hath done to England and His people."

The Scots, however, were not crushed. While Cromwell was busy securing Edinburgh, and other strong places, Charles II. and a new army made a sudden dash into England. At once terror seized upon many of the ruling spirits of England, for they dreaded a general uprising in favor of the young King. But, before any serious mischief could befall, Cromwell overtook the Scottish forces at Worcester; and there, just one year after the battle of Dunbar, he won a second great victory. His letter to the speaker of the Parliament, written at ten o'clock of the night of the battle, tells the story:

"NEAR WORCESTER, 3d September, 1651.

"Sir:— Being so weary and scarce able to write, yet I thought it my duty to let you know thus much. That upon this day, being the 3d of September (remarkable for a mercy granted to our forces on this day twelve-month in Scotland), we built a bridge of boats over the river Severn, about half a mile from Worcester. We passed over some horse and foot, and beat the enemy from hedge to hedge until we beat them into Worcester. The enemy then drew all his forces on the other side of the town, and made a considerable fight with us for three hours' space. But in the end we beat them totally, and pursued him to the fort, which we took—and indeed have beaten his whole army.

"This hath been a very glorious mercy, and as stiff a contest, for four or five hours, as ever I have seen. Both your old forces, and those newly raised, have behaved with very great courage; and He that made them come out, made them willing to fight for you. The Lord God Almighty frame our hearts to real thankfulness for this, which is alone His doing. I hope I shall within a day or two give you a more perfect account. In the meantime I hope you will pardon, sir,

Your most humble servant,


The escape of Charles II. from the field of Worcester makes one of the most thrilling stories of history. He slipped away in the darkness, with a few companions, and next morning set out alone, in disguise and with short-cut hair, to try to reach a place of safety. For four days and three nights he traveled on foot, "every step up to his knees in dirt, with nothing but a green coat and a pair of country breeches on, and a pair of country shoes that made him so sore all over his feet that he could scarce stir." He found his most loyal guides and protectors among persecuted Catholics, both high and low. At one time he lay hid all day among the branches of a bushy oak, standing in an open plain, while soldiers searched the country around for fugitives. A brave lady undertook to bring him to the seaport of Bristol, with Charles riding in the saddle as her servant, and the lady mounted behind on a "pillion," according to the fashion of that day. But no ship was to be found at Bristol, and they were forced to go elsewhere. Adventure then followed adventure, while Charles made his way along the southern coast of England, from the Bay of Bristol to the Straits of Dover. At the end of six weeks, he obtained a vessel at Brighton, which took him safely across to France. During the course of his wanderings his secret became known to over forty-five persons; but not one of them, for either fear or hope of reward, played him false.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

Boscobel House

The battle of Worcester crushed the last opposition to the Commonwealth, and its rule was extended over Scotland and Ireland as well as England. But Cromwell's work was not yet done. In a famous poem, his friend John Milton reminded him that—

"Much remains

To conquer still; peace hath her victories

No less renowned than war."

The remnant of the Long Parliament, which people in scorn called the "Rump," were unwilling to surrender their power. They insisted that, in the new Parliament which was to take the place of the old, they should not only have seats but should have a veto over the election of new members. Cromwell and his friends opposed this claim, and at last in April, 1653, he forcibly dissolved the "Rump."

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

Cromwell Dissolving Parliament

"Come, come," Cromwell called out from his place in Parliament. "I will put an end to your prating. You are no Parliament. Some of you are drunkards, and some of you are worse. How can you be a Parliament for God's people? Depart, I say, and let us have done with you!" And stamping with his foot, he called in a company of soldiers, which he had stationed outside, and cleared the hall.

Then Cromwell tried the experiment of ruling by an assembly of "persons fearing God, and of approved fidelity and honesty," who were appointed by the army council, instead of being elected by the people. The wits of that day called it "Barebone's Parliament," from the name of one of its members, Praise-God Barebone. This body began vigorously to reform the abuses which, as Cromwell had said, "made many poor to make a few rich." But the task proved too great for them, and they soon resigned their powers into Cromwell's hands.

Next, a written constitution, called the "Instrument of Government," was prepared by the army leaders, under which Cromwell became "Protector," and governed with the aid of a Council of State and a Parliament. But troubles at once arose between the Protector and his Parliament, and Cromwell was obliged to fall back again upon the army, and to rule by military force.

Worn out at last by much hard fighting and harder governing, and saddened by the loss of those most dear to him, Oliver Cromwell died on September 3, 1658—the anniversary of his great victories at Dunbar and Worcester. He was a great and good man, and many of his ideas for the reform of government and society were in advance of his time. But his attempt at governing by military force, unsupported by a majority of the nation, failed—as it must always fail. He was sincerely and deeply religious. As a poet of his party wrote:

"He first put arms into Religion's hand,

And timorous conscience unto courage manned:

The soldier taught that inward mail to wear,

And fearing God, how they should nothing fear."

He was succeeded as Protector by his son, Richard Cromwell. Richard, however, had neither the force of character nor the hold on the army that his father had. He permitted the army leaders to restore the "Rump" Parliament, and then that body speedily forced Richard to give up the Protectorate, and retire to private life.

Then the "Rump," which had learned nothing by its former expulsion, quarreled with the army. It was again expelled, and then once more, after a few weeks, restored.

By this time England was heartily tired of Protectors, army, and "Rump" alike, and was ready to welcome Charles II. as the representative of the old line of Kings.

The restoration was accomplished mainly by General Monk, a strong, silent man, who had been stationed in Scotland, and had taken no part in the recent squabbles. Now he marched his troops to London, and forced the "Rump" to admit the members excluded by Colonel Pride in 1648. This reconstituted Long Parliament then ordered a new election; and the new Parliament invited Charles II. to return from France and take the English throne.

The Puritan Revolution was thus at an end. The republic which it had attempted to set up had failed. But its work was not all in vain. The absolute rule which James I. had claimed, and Charles I. had used, thenceforth became more difficult. In the end, the example of Cromwell and his followers made tyrannical government in England impossible.


  1. Compare the government established for the Commonwealth with that of the United States today.
  2. Did Cromwell do right in turning out the Long Parliament? Give your reasons.
  3. Compare Oliver Cromwell with George Washington. Which was the greater? Why?
  4. Was the restoration of Charles II. a good or a bad thing for England? Why?
  5. Make a list of the chief events since the death of Elizabeth.

Charles II. and the Stuart Restoration (1660-1685)


Character of Charles II.; dates of his reign; changes in the manner of life; treatment of the persons who were for the rebellion against his father; the Church restored and Puritan ministers expelled.

Prosperity of the Dutch republic; Cromwell's war with it; Charles II.'s two wars with it; England gains New York in America.

Charles's secret treaty with France; how the Dutch save their land from conquest; why Charles made peace.

The two disasters to London under Charles II; extent of the plague; extent of the fire.

Charles's policy towards Catholics; his "Declarations of indulgence"; it was recalled; it leads to the first "test act"; the "Popish Plot" arouses England; a new "test act" passed; unsuccessful attempt to exclude the Duke of York from the succession.

Rise of the "Whig" and "Tory" parties; principles of each; Charles victorious over his opponents; his death.

Charles II. entered London on May 29, 1660, which was his thirtieth birthday. The shouting and joy which greeted him were greater than could be described. He was an abler man than his father, and his wanderings and exile had given him experience of the world. But he was a bad man morally, and he had none of the loyalty to principle which caused Charles I. to uphold the Church of England at all cost. He was as much resolved to rule absolutely as his father, but he was determined, above all things, not to "set out on his travels again." So, when his measures aroused serious opposition, he drew back. For a long time, people did not suspect him of dangerous designs; for his ready wit and pleasant manners disguised his real plans, and he seemed to be wholly given up to leading a gay life.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

Ladies of the Court of Charles II

The court and society took their tone from the King, and a great reaction against Puritanism set in. The theaters, which had been closed by the Long Parliament, were re-opened. With them came back bull-baiting, bear-baiting, cock-fighting, the May-pole dance, and all the other usages, good and bad, which characterized "Merry England." Pleasant vice and profitable corruption prevailed, in place of the Puritans' endless psalm singing, sermons, and prayer.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

Maypole Dance

It was in the time of Charles II., also, that the drinking of coffee, tea, and chocolate came to use in England. The first was introduced from Turkey, the second from China, and the third from Central America. Coffee houses, or places for drinking coffee, became the chief meeting places for fashionable society, where the latest news could always be heard.

Charles was wise enough to let Parliament settle the questions which the restoration raised.

Thirteen persons who had taken part in the trial and execution of Charles I. were put to death, but most of those concerned in the rebellion were pardoned, or were lightly punished.

Charles's second Parliament, which sat from 1661 to 1679, was as "Cavalier" as his heart could wish. It re-established the Church of England, and expelled two thousand Puritan ministers from their pulpits. By later laws, it forbade the dispossessed ministers from earning a living by teaching, or from holding religious assemblies, or from even residing five miles of a town.

From this time there exists, along with the established Episcopal church, a large body of Protestant "Dissenters"—Presbyterians, Baptists, Quakers, and the like—as well as a considerable body of Roman Catholics. One of the chief needs of the time, was to secure, for these Dissenters, religious toleration—that is, the right to worship peaceably, in their own way, without punishment by the state. The foreign policy of Charles was at first chiefly concerned with the "United Provinces," or Dutch republic.

These provinces, situated about the mouth of the river Rhine, had become rich and prosperous states through commerce and industry. While Elizabeth ruled over England, they became Protestant, and threw off the cruel government of Spain. For a time, the greater part of the commerce of Europe was carried on in Dutch vessels. They established a colonial empire which included the Cape of Good Hope, in Africa; Java, Ceylon, and the Moluccas, in the East Indies; and New Amsterdam, in America. The jealousy which their commercial success aroused in England had led Cromwell to pass a Navigation Act, which took from them most of their trade with that country. A war followed (1651-1654); and although the Dutch Admiral, Van Tromp, for a time, sailed "with a broom at his masthead," as a sign of his intention to sweep the English fleet from the sea, he had at last been defeated and slain, and the Dutch had made peace.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

Gentlemen's Costumes in the Time of Charles II

Under Charles II., two new wars were fought with the Dutch. In the first of these (1665-1667), Prince Rupert and Admiral Monk won some victories. Then Charles, thinking that peace would be made, laid up his fleet in the harbors of the river Thames, in order that he might save money to spend on his pleasures. But the Dutch got together a new fleet, and sailed up the Thames and burned three of the English ships which lay at anchor. They then blockaded the river for two weeks. Men murmured that such things had not happened in Cromwell's day.

"Everybody," wrote an officer of the navy, "reflects upon Oliver, and commends him, saying what brave things he did, and how he made all the neighboring princes fear him."

The only gain which England made from the Dutch, by this war, was New Amsterdam, which was conquered, and called New York, in honor of Charles's brother, the Duke of York (1664).

Charles's second war with the Dutch came in 1672. He attacked them in alliance with Louis XIV. of France, who was seeking to extend his kingdom at the expense of his neighbors. By a secret treaty, Charles promised Louis that he would declare himself a Catholic whenever the time seemed ripe for it. In return, the French King again and again gave large sums of money to Charles, to make him independent of Parliament. He also promised to send soldiers to his aid, in case rebellion broke out in England.

The war which Charles and Louis waged went badly. On land, the brave Hollanders defended themselves against Louis XIV. by cutting the dykes, which protected their low-lying land against the sea, and flooding the open country. On the sea, the English felt that they were left by the French to do all the fighting. Charles's nephew, William III. of Orange, was now at the had of the Dutch government, with the title of Stadtholder; and the English Parliament soon forced King Charles to conclude a peace. Thenceforth, William III. was free to give all his attention to saving free government and the Protestant religion, in Europe, from the ambitious designs of Louis XIV.

The city of London, under Charles II., suffered two great disasters—from plague, and from fire.

Attacks of the plague were common, owing to bad sanitary conditions and lack of medical knowledge. London streets were narrow and filthy, and the upper stories of the houses projected so that they almost met those of the other side. Sunlight and fresh air were thus shut out; also, the drainage was bad, and the water supply poor. The result was that, in 1665, London suffered an attack of the plague such as it had never experienced since the time of the Black Death, three hundred years before. For a time, more than 6,000 persons a week died from it, and altogether fully 120,000 persons perished in London alone. Houses in which persons lay sick with the disease were marked with red crosses, a foot long, together with the words, "God have mercy upon us!" At night, death carts went around the streets, accompanied by men ringing bells and crying "Bring out your dead!" Shops were shut up, and the streets deserted; for all who could do so fled to the purer air of the country. Thirty, forty, and even a hundred miles from London the people were panic stricken. They shut their doors even against their friends; and if two men passed upon the road, or in the open fields, each kept as far from the other as space would permit. It was not until winter that the sickness declined.

Scarcely had London begun to recover from the plague, when it was swept by a terrible fire. The flames broke out in the early morning of September 2, 1966, and raged four days. The wind was blowing a gale, and the fire did not die out until four-fifths of old London was laid in ashes. Eighty-nine churches, including St. Paul's cathedral, were burned, and more than thirteen hundred houses. Two hundred thousand people were left homeless. In a diary of that time, the writer thus describes the fire at its height:

"We saw the fire grow, and as it grew darker, it appeared more and more; in corners and upon steeples, and between churches and houses, and as far as we could see up the hill of the city, in a most horrid malicious bloody flame, not like the fine flame of an ordinary fire. We saw the fire as only one entire arch of fire from this side to the other side of the bridge, and in a bow up the hill for an arch of above a mile long. It made me weep to see it: the churches, houses, and all on fire, and flaming at once; and a horrid noise the flames made, and the cracking of houses at their ruin."

Some good results followed the fire. It put an end to the last ravages of the plague, by burning out the old, filthy, rat-infested quarters; and it cleared the ground for a rebuilding of the city in more modern fashion.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

New St. Paul's Cathedral

Many persons falsely said that the fire was the work of "Papists" or Roman Catholics, who at the time were both hated and feared by English Protestants. A few years later, Charles made this feeling much worse by taking a step toward carrying out his secret treaty with Louis XIV.

Charles did not dare to declare himself a Catholic, but he did issue a "Declaration of Indulgence." By this, he attempted to suspend all laws passed against Roman Catholics and Protestant Dissenters alike, and give them religious toleration. The measure was wise in itself, but it was dishonest in its motives, and was contrary to the sentiments of most of his subjects. Moreover, it was very doubtful whether the King alone could suspend laws which had been passed by the King and Parliament together. The result was that a great opposition was aroused in Parliament. Charles was obliged not only to recall his declaration, but also to give his consent to a "test act" by which all Catholics were driven out of political offices.

Not long after this, the jealous hatred of English Protestants for Roman Catholics was fanned to a flame by the discovery of what was alleged to be a "Popish Plot."

A wicked man named Titus Oates swore falsely that Catholics were plotting to murder Charles II. and to restore the Catholic religion by the aid of a French army. Other men came forward, and confirmed his stories, in order that they might share in the rewards which were given to Oates. Unfortunately, a London magistrate, at this time, was found dead in a ditch, thrust through with a sword; and this was believed to be the work of the plotters.

All England then went wild with excitement. Five Jesuit priests were convicted and hanged, after shamefully unfair trials, and one Catholic nobleman was beheaded. Hundreds of others were arrested, and punished in milder ways. To check still further the influence of Catholics, a new "test act" was passed, which shut them out of the House of Lords. A desperate effort was also made to prevent the Duke of York, who had declared himself a Catholic, from succeeding his brother, Charles II., as King; but this was unsuccessful.

For a long time there had been a growing opposition to the government of Charles II., on political grounds. Now, under the influence of the religious struggle, it took the form of a political party, called the "Whigs." The name came from a word used by Scottish teamsters to make their horses go faster. The supporters of the King were given the name of "Tories," from an Irish word meaning outlaws. The Tories generally upheld the established Church of England, believed that the King ruled by "divine right," and taught that it was a sin to resist him under any pretext. The Whigs, on the other hand, favored toleration for Protestant dissenters, and believed that the King was only an officer of the government, subject to the law and to Parliament. This was the beginning of the two great political parties whose rivalries have shaped the government of England from that day to this.

In the last five years of his reign, Charles II. was completely victorious over his opponents. Shaftesbury, the great leader of the Whigs, was exiled and died abroad. Other leading Whigs were arrested and executed, on charges of plotting against the King. Parliament was called to meet at Oxford, where it would be away from the support of the Londoners; and it was so overawed that it passed what measures the King willed. To make the King's control permanent, steps were taken by which Tories were placed in power in most of the towns of England, so that for the future their representatives in the House of Commons might be favorable to the King.

While in the height of his triumph, Charles died, in 1685, of apoplexy. In his last hours he was reconciled to the Catholic church, and died in that faith. He left no legitimate children, and the throne passed to his brother James, Duke of York.

The Whig party seemed hopelessly crushed, and it looked as if James II. would rule his dominions of England, Ireland, and Scotland with less trouble than had any member so far of the Stuart house.


  1. Write a letter from an imaginary boy or girl, telling of the changes which took place at the Restoration.
  2. Show that the English were now fighting the Dutch for the same reasons that formerly had caused them to fight the Spaniards.
  3. Was the religious policy of Charles honest or dishonest? Why? Was it successful or unsuccessful?
  4. Compare the political struggles of Charles II.'s reign with those of Charles I.

James II. and the "Glorious Revolution" (1685-1689)


James's character and policy; what first turned the people against him; his use of the "dispensing power"; influence of the persecution of the Huguenots by France.

The Declaration of Indulgence; its reception; the trial of the seven bishops; the rejoicing at their acquittal.

Birth of James's son; William of Orange invited to invade England; why he was successful; flight of James; grounds on which the throne was given to William and Mary; the Bill of Rights; importance of this revolution.

Unfortunately for himself, James II. was narrow-minded and obstinate, and was determined not only to be an absolute King but to restore the Catholic religion to a position at least equal to that of the Church of England. By his unwise policy, he angered not only the classes which had fought against  his father, Charles I., but also those who had fought for  his father. The result was that, within four years, he lost his crown, and new rulers were called to the throne in his place.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

James II

At the beginning of his reign, James declared that he would "preserve the government in church and in state as it was established by law." This gave great satisfaction to the people.

"We have now the word of a King," it was everywhere said, "and a word never yet broken."

So, when James's nephew, the Duke of Monmouth (who was a Protestant) tried to raise a rebellion, and secure the throne himself, he got little support. Almost everybody rejoiced when he was overthrown. But, when he was pitilessly put to death, and hundreds of men and women who had aided him in any way were hanged by the brutal judges appointed by the King, the people's satisfaction began to lessen. Also, it was soon seen that the declaration which James made when he ascended the throne meant less than was thought. The laws which had "established" the Church had been passed under Queen Elizabeth. But James regarded her as an usurper; and so, in spite of his promise, he did not feel bound to observe those laws.

As a step toward putting Catholics in power, he removed from their offices the judges who would not do what he wanted them to do. Then, in spite of the test acts, he appointed Catholics to positions in the army, in his Council, in the universities, and even in the English Church. He claimed the right to do this under what was called the "dispensing power"—that is, the power to free a person beforehand from the disabilities imposed by a law, just as he could, by his pardoning power, free one from the penalties of the law after  an offense was committed. When the matter came before the judges, they decided that the King had this power. In dealing with the Church and the universities, James made matters worse by appointing, as the agents to carry out his policy, an "Ecclesiastical Commission," which was similar to an earlier body which had proved very oppressive, and had been abolished by the Long Parliament.

It seemed as though the arbitrary government of Charles I. was about to be revived, and to be used, not to uphold the Church of England, but to force the Catholic religion upon the country.

English Protestants were made more suspicious by a step which was taken at this time in Catholic France. There Louis XIV., who was the ally of James II., as he had been of Charles II., took away from the Huguenots, or French Protestants, the right of worshiping as they pleased, which they had enjoyed for almost a century, and began a policy of persecution. Their churches were closed, their ministers were thrown into prison, and all sorts of hardships were put upon the Huguenots, to cause them to change their religion. Thousands of them escaped from France to Protestant countries; many came to England where they spread abroad hatred of France and of arbitrary government, and distrust of Catholic intentions.

James's next step confirmed this distrust, for he issued a Declaration of Indulgence, such as his brother, Charles II., had issued, and been obliged to withdraw. This was intended, in part, to win to his side the Protestant Dissenters, who would thus be freed, equally with the Catholics, from persecution by the Church of England. The most important leaders among the dissenters, however, saw the snare, and refused to be bribed to support the King's measures.

James ordered that the Declaration should be read in all the churches, at the time of divine services. In spite of the doctrine preached by them, which made resistance to the King a sin, most of the clergy refused to read the Declaration. Seven of the most important bishops of the Church of England, indeed, went further. They signed a petition to the King, which declared that this dispensing power was illegal, and that they could not, in "prudence, honor, or conscience," take any part in proclaiming it.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

A Bishop of the Time of James II

When they presented this petition to James, he was greatly surprised and angry.

"This is a standard of rebellion," he cried. "Did ever a good churchman question the dispensing power before? I will be obeyed! My Declaration shall be published! I will remember you that have signed this paper."

True to his word, James ordered that the seven bishops should be tried by the law courts. The charge was that their petition, which they had shown to nobody but the King himself, was designed to stir the people up to resist the government. When the bishops were brought into court, they passed through a great crowd, who applauded, and asked for their blessings. Some of the ablest lawyers of England appeared to defend them.

One of the jurors was a man who brewed beer for the King's palace, and was afraid of losing the King's trade. He refused to listen to the arguments of the others, saying that his mind was made up against the bishops.

"If you come to that," said one of the others, "look at me. I am the largest and strongest of this twelve; and before I find such a petition a crime, here will I stay till I am no bigger than a pipestem."

The jury remained locked up all night, and when morning came the brewer gave way. The verdict which they reported to the court was, "Not guilty."

Cheers upon cheers greeted this decision, and, as the news spread through London, the whole city burst into rejoicing. James was reviewing the army, which he had stationed just outside London to overawe the city, when the news came. The soldiers cheered, like the rest of England. When James asked what it meant, their officers said:

"Nothing, except that the soldiers are glad that the bishops are acquitted."

"Do you call that nothing?" he replied. And he added: "So much the worse for them."

The leading men of England had borne James's misgovernment quietly, for his two children, Mary and Anne, were Protestants, and the elder of them, Mary, was married to William of Orange. When James should die, therefore, he would be succeeded by a Protestant, and all would be well. But, in the very midst of the bishops' trial, James's second wife gave birth to a little son. According to the law, this son would succeed to the throne, in preference to his sisters; and since James was now a Catholic it was clear that the little Prince would be brought up as a Catholic, and so Catholic rule in England was likely to continue indefinitely.

This changed the whole situation. The leading men refused to believe that the boy was the child of James and the Queen, but claimed that he was an adopted child, who had been smuggled into the palace in a warming pan.

The doctrine of non-resistance was now forgotten. On the very day that the bishops were acquitted, seven of the leading men, some of them Whigs and some Tories, joined in an invitation to William of Orange, to come over with an armed force, and defend the rights of his wife Mary and the liberties of the English people.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

William of Orange Setting Out for England

William accepted the invitation, and landed in England with a small army, on November 5, 1688. James tried to undo his illegal acts, and to recover the lost loyalty of his people; but it was too late. The soldiers whom he sent against William were persuaded by their commanders to go over to the side of the invader. In the north, a rebellion was raised against the King, with cries of "A free Parliament, the Protestant religion, and no Popery." The Princess Anne and her husband fled from the Court, and joined William.

"God help me," cried James, when this news was brought to him, "my very children have forsaken me!"

Deserted by everybody, he determined to flee to France. On his first attempt, he was arrested by some fishermen, who took him for an escaping criminal, and he was brought back. This did not suit William, for he did not want to have the problem of deciding what should be done with a deposed King. So James was driven from his palace, and the way was left open (which James was not long in finding) to escape abroad. His second attempt was successful. Louis XIV. received him kindly, and gave him the use of a palace, and a yearly pension.

To settle the government in England, a new "Convention Parliament" was called. This declared that James had broken the "contract" between the King and people, and that by fleeing from the kingdom he had given up the throne. William and Mary were then chosen as joint sovereigns. The next year, the Parliament passed the Bill of Rights, which confirmed all that had been done in the Revolution, declared illegal the oppressive acts of James II., and provided that no Catholic should ever succeed to the throne of England. This famous law ranks in importance with the Great Charter of 1215, and the Petition of Right of 1628. Scotland also deposed James II., and accepted William and Mary as its sovereigns; at the same time, it declared Presbyterianism to be the established religion of that kingdom. Only in Ireland did government continue in the name of James II., and there also, as we shall see, it was soon to be overthrown.

Thus the Stuart rule was ended, and the principle was established that the King is under Parliament and the law, and not above them. This change was accomplished almost wholly without war or bloodshed and with very little disturbance among the people.

Well may Englishmen—and we also who derive our governments from them—look back upon the benefits which this change brought, and call it the "Glorious Revolution of 1688!"


  1. Compare the character of James II. with that of Charles II.
  2. Make a list of the things which caused James's fall.
  3. Read the account in Macaulay's "History of England" of the rejoicing when the bishops were declared "Not guilty."
  4. Compare the religious struggles under Charles II. and James II. with those under Charles I.
  5. Which were the wiser rulers, the Tudors or the Stuarts? Why?
  6. State in writing, in your own words, the significance of the Revolution of 1688.

The Reign of William and Mary (1689-1702)


Characters of William and Mary; dates of their reign; France aids James II.; Battle of the Boyne in Ireland; Battle of Killiekrankie in Scotland; Massacre of Glencoe.

William's war against Louis XIV.; attitude of Englishmen; Battle of La Hogue; terms on which France made peace; importance of this war.

The Toleration Act; Catholics excluded from it; the Mutiny Act; practices aiding the growth of political liberty; the Triennial Act; a step toward Cabinet government; censorship of the press removed.

Death of Queen Mary; the Act of Settlement; death of William; importance of his reign.

Parliament chose wisely in placing William and Mary upon the throne. Mary was a Stuart, was still young and handsome, and was popular because of her good heart and pleasing manners. William III., on the other hand, was a foreigner, and had a distant manner, which held people off at arm's length. His English subjects never loved him, as they did Mary, although they recognized his ability and his just character. On the Continent, he had already become the leader of the Protestants in resisting the ambitious plans of France. As King of England, his chief object was still to unite Europe against Louis XIV., but at the same time he wished to govern strictly according to the constitution.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

William III

Although James II. had fled from England, he had no intention of giving up his throne without a struggle. Louis XIV. treated his as if he were still King of England, and supplied him with soldiers, arms, and money. James's chief attempt was made in Ireland, where the great majority of the people were Catholics, and favored his cause.

When James arrived in Ireland he laid siege to the Protestant town of Londonderry. The siege lasted for more than a hundred days. The inhabitants of the town suffered terribly; more than half of them perished, and the survivors were forced to eat the flesh of horses, cats, and dogs. James's officers carried on the siege with savage cruelty; but still the cry was, "No surrender." When at last food was all gone, except a little tallow and some salted hides, a fleet sent by William broke through the "boom" which closed the harbor, and the town was saved.

The next summer (1690) William himself took a large force to Ireland, and won a great victory in the battle of the river Boyne. The Irish cavalry fought bravely, but their foot soldiers were untrained, and fled from the field. James was one of the first of the fugitives to reach the city of Dublin, and there he bitterly told an Irish lady that her countrymen had "run away."

"If they have, Sire," she replied, "your Majesty seems to have won the race."

James now returned to France, leaving his Irish supporters to their fate. It was many months before the last stronghold surrendered to William's generals; and when that happened, more than 10,000 of the Irish soldiers were allowed to go to France, where they formed a famous "Irish brigade" in Louis XIV.'s army.

In Scotland, also, William had to fight for the crown. A nobleman, named Dundee, gathered together the Highland clans, and met William's general, as he and his men came toiling up through the pass of Killiekrankie, in central Scotland. William's troops had been supplied with bayonets, a new French invention; but these fitted into the muzzles of the guns, instead of fastening to the outsides, and the guns could not be fired with the bayonets in position. After firing a few volleys, the Highlanders drew their broadswords, and rushed like a whirlwind upon their English and Lowland enemies. They were upon William's troops before the latter could fix their bayonets. Within a few minutes the battle was won. But the brave Dundee there lost his life, and James II. had no one to take his place.

William succeeded, without much difficulty, in recovering from this defeat, and by the end of 1691 most of the Highland clans had submitted. The MacDonalds of Glencoe, however, put off the hateful duty to the last moment; and, through a mistake, they allowed the time set by William for receiving submissions to pass without giving in their names. They were misrepresented to William by their enemies as murderers and brigands. So William gave orders to "extirpate that nest of thieves," as an example to others. This cruel order was carried out with yet greater cruelty. The soldiers who were sent to Glencoe pretended to come as friends, and ate at the tables of the MacDonalds, and joked and played cards with them. Then, when night came, they treacherously fell upon their hosts, and put them to death. When this "massacre of Glencoe" became known to the Scottish Parliament, it caused a great outcry, and William was obliged to dismiss from his employ the persons responsible for it.

The help which Louis XIV. gave to James II. led to war between England and France.

For eight years, William was at the head of a great league—composed of Great Britain, Holland, Spain, and Germany—which fought the French wherever they found them. On the Continent, it was chiefly a war of sieges, and of pitched battles between an army carrying on the siege and one trying to relieve the besieged town. Soon after the beginning of the war, France won a naval victory which for two years gave it command of the sea. Many leading Englishmen, in William's service, grew so faint-hearted that they secretly wrote to James II., telling him that they were favorable to his cause; and William was obliged to let their treason pass unnoticed.

But the burning of a village on the coast of England, by a French fleet, aroused England's spirit. James also issued a foolish proclamation, in which he threatened, if he was successful, to punish all persons who had in any way served under William; and this made men hesitate to replace him on the throne.

Then, in 1692, the English won a great naval battle off La Hogue, which again gave them the command of the sea, and freed them from all danger and invasion. Russell, the English commander, was one of those who had secretly informed James that he would help him.

"But do not think," he told James's messenger, "that I will let the French triumph over us in our own sea. Understand this, that, if I meet them, I fight them, even though his Majesty himself should be on board."

Russell's hatred of the French was greater than his love for James II., and he kept his word about fighting them, in spite of his promise to James.

At last, in 1697, a peace was made, by which Louis agreed to give up his conquests, and to acknowledge William III. as King of England. William was thus successful in his struggle with the "Grand Monarch" of France. He had shown England, moreover, that its greatest enemy now was not Spain, but France, and that if the English wanted to develop their trade and colonies it was chiefly with France that they must struggle. So he started England on a new "hundred years' war" with France, which was to be fought all over the world, wherever French and English met, and which did not end until England had won from France practically all her colonial possessions, and established the British Empire.

In William's reign, also, began many of the practices which established political and religious liberty in England. The Protestant Dissenters were rewarded, for their refusal to aid James II. in his illegal measures, by the passage of a Toleration Act. This relieved them from the fines for failure to attend the services of the Church of England, which were imposed by laws made in Elizabeth's reign, and also permitted them to have chapels and hold services of their own. Catholics, however, were not admitted to these privileges. For nearly a hundred years the laws against Catholics not only continued in full force, but were even made stronger.

To prevent any King becoming strong enough to overthrow free government by force, as James II. had tried to do, Parliament made a change in regard to the Mutiny Act, which gives the King and his officers power to control the army. They now began to pass this act for only a year at a time, instead of for a long term of years. Parliament also adopted the practice of voting money to run the government for only a year at a time. In this way, it was made impossible for a King to rule without Parliament, for Parliament must meet at least once each year, to pass the Mutiny Act and the "appropriation" bills. A few years later, Parliament also passed a Triennial Act, which provided that no Parliament should continue in existence, without a new election, for more than three years. The period for which Parliament can sit was later changed to seven years; but the principle still holds good, that such "long Parliaments" as that which began under Charles I., and that which sat under Charles II., shall not be allowed.

The Bank of England was also established under William. This made it much easier for the government to raise money, and to carry on its financial business. Today the Bank of England is one of the greatest money institutions in the world.

In the later part of his reign, William took the step of choosing all his chief ministers from the party which at that time had a majority in the House of Commons, and hence best represented the views of the people. A very little more change, made in later reigns, brought about a system of "cabinet government," under which England is ruled today.

From William's reign also dates the right of any man to print any book, pamphlet, or newspaper that he wants to without having to submit it beforehand to a "censor" to see that its opinions are such as the government and church approve of. Newspapers now sprang up, and it was not long before the first daily paper was founded. This "freedom of the press" helped greatly to educate the people, and to inform them of what the government was doing; and thus a "public opinion" was formed which statesmen of both parties were obliged to take account of.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

Queen Mary II

In 1694 Queen Mary died, of the smallpox, which at that time, before vaccination was discovered, carried off thousands of persons each year. William's grief was heart-rendering. "I was the happiest man on earth," he cried, "and now I am the most miserable. She had no faults—none. You knew her well, but you could not know—nobody but myself knew—how good she was."

William and Mary had no children, and so, by a provision in the Bill of Rights, Mary's sister, Anne, became heir to the throne. The last of Anne's seventeen children died before William passed away, and it then became clear that some further provision must be made concerning the succession. So, in 1701, Parliament passed an Act of Settlement, which provided that, after Anne's death, the crown should go to Sophia, a granddaughter of James I., and to her descendants, "being Protestants." Sophia's husband was Elector (or Prince) of Hanover, one of the German states, and this act thus paved the way for the "Hanoverian succession," which actually took place in 1714. Another provision of the Act of Settlement was that judges should hold their offices during life, or so long as they behaved well. This provision remedied one of the greatest abuses under the Stuart Kings, by making it impossible to remove judges at the King's pleasure, in order to get from the courts decisions which suited him.

The next year after this act, William III. died, worn out with anxiety and hard work. The immediate cause of his death was a fall from his horse. He was a great King, though he was not a popular one. We should think of him especially as one who brought England safely through a great crisis, and who first showed the world how, in a country like England, Parliament and the Crown could govern together.


  1. Read an account of the siege of Londonderry. (Macaulay, "History of England," Ch. xii.)
  2. Read aloud Browning's poem entitled "Hervé Riel" (about the escape of the French fleet after La Hogue).
  3. Make a list of five ways in which the Revolution and the reign of William and Mary helped the growth of liberty.
  4. Compare the character and work of William III. with that of Oliver Cromwell.

Queen Anne, the Last of the Stuarts (1702-1714)


Dates of Anne's reign; influence of Lady Marlborough; rise of the Duke of Marlborough; his character and ability.

Origin of the War of the Spanish Succession; England's interest in it; where it was fought; the Battle of Blenheim; end of the war; England's gains by the treaty of Utrecht.

Union of England and Scotland; its terms; how shown on the flag.

Plans of the "Jacobites"; why they failed; death of Queen Anne; the Hanoverian House comes to the throne.

Queen Anne was a good-hearted woman, and was very devoted to the Church of England. But she was stupid and without ability to govern, and was always ruled by her favorites.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

Queen Anne

From girlhood Anne was under the influence of a beautiful, ambitious, and high-tempered lady of the court, named Sarah Jennings. Lady Sarah married John Churchill, a handsome young man, of polished manners, who was as poor and ambitious as Sarah herself. It was through their influence that Anne deserted her father, at the time of the Revolution, and went over to the side of William and her sister Mary. Churchill also deserved well of William, because he led over his troops in James's army to William's side. After the Revolution was successful, William made him Earl of Marlborough; but William never fully trusted him, because he knew that the new Earl was often plotting with his old master.

In Queen Anne's reign Marlborough at once became the chief man in the government. In spite of his bad conduct in the past, and his greed for money, this was a fortunate thing for England. Marlborough was both the greatest statesman and the greatest general of his time. A great Frenchman said of Marlborough that "he never besieged a fortress that he did not take, never fought a battle that he did not win, and never carried on a negotiation that he did not bring to a successful close." One of his strong points in dealing with men was his unfailing politeness and his good temper. But the chief factor in Marlborough's rise was the fact that his wife, who was devoted to him, was the bosom friend and constant companion of the Queen. The result was that the richest positions and highest honors were given the Marlboroughs, including for him the title of Duke, and the chief command of the English forces.

England needed a general of great ability at this time, for she was once more at war with Louis XIV. of France—this time over the succession to the throne of Spain.

What difference, you may ask, did it make to England who became King of Spain? Ordinarily it made little difference. But now it happened that the chief claimant of the Spanish crown was the "Dauphin" of France—that is, the eldest son of Louis XIV.—and it would never do to permit France and Spain, with their vast colonies and dependencies, to become united under the same rule.

William III. had foreseen this difficulty, and had negotiated "partition treaties" by which Spain and the Spanish colonies were to go to an Austrian Prince, and the French Prince should receive only the Spanish possessions in Italy. This was unsatisfactory to the Spanish people; and when the King of Spain died, in 1700, he left a will giving his whole possessions, not to the Dauphin, but to the Dauphin's second  son. France would go, in the course of time, to the Dauphin's eldest  son, and thus the two countries would not have the same King, though they would be under the same family. It was thought that this would remove the objections of the other nations, but it did not.

Although Louis XIV. had signed the partition treaties, he decided to accept the inheritance offered by the Spanish King's will. He presented his little grandson to the French court, saying—

"Gentlemen, behold the King of Spain!"

He was also reported to have said that "the Pyrenees have ceased to exist." This meant that, thenceforth, Spain and France would be practically one country.

This arrangement disturbed what statesmen called "the balance of power" between the different countries, and Austria and the Dutch republic determined to resist it. The result was a great war, called the War of the Spanish Succession, which lasted for eleven years. It was fought all over western Europe, and in North America. At first the English people took little interest in the matter. But when James II. died, in France (in 1700), Louis XIV. broke his treaty with England by recognizing James's son ("the Pretender," as he was called) as King of England. A storm of indignation then broke out in England, and under Queen Anne that country became the leading member of the "Grand Alliance" against Louis XIV.

Marlborough became commander in chief of the English and Dutch forces, while the commander of the Austrian forces was Prince Eugene of Savoy. Eugene also was a great general, and the relations between two commanders were of the friendliest sort.

The greatest battle of this war was fought in Germany, on the river Danube (1704). A French army had passed through the Black Forest, and was marching down the valley of the Danube, to attack Vienna, the Austrian capital. Marlborough and Prince Eugene came up with them near the little village of Blenheim, and there the battle took place. Both sides fought bravely, but Marlborough and Eugene showed the greater skill and won the victory. In addition to the French who were slain or taken prisoners, thousands of their men were forced back into the river Danube and drowned. That night Marlborough wrote this hasty note to his beloved wife:

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

Medal in Celebration of Victory at Blenheim

"I have not time to say more than to beg that you will give my duty to the Queen, and let her know that her army has had a glorious victory. The French commander and two of his generals are prisoners, and are in my coach; and I am following the rest. The bearer of this letter will give you an account of what has passed."

The battle of Blenheim was indeed "a glorious victory." It not only saved Vienna from the French, but also restored the ancient fame of the English soldiers.

The war continued for some time after this. In its latter part the Tories, who were opposed to the war, got control of the government in England. Lady Marlborough, also, foolishly quarreled with the Queen. The result was that Marlborough was removed from his command, and then the war did not go so well for the allies.

At last, Louis XIV.—who was now nearing the close of his long reign—made peace. By the treaty of Utrecht (1713) the French Prince received Spain, with its colonies; but it was expressly agreed that France and Spain should never be united under the same King. The Austrians received most of the other Spanish possessions in Europe. England received the rocky fortress of Gibraltar, at the entrance to the Mediterranean Sea, which she had taken in the course of the war, and which she still retains. She also received Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, and the Hudson Bay territory in America. Thus the War of the Spanish Succession not only saved her from having a Stuart King placed over her, but it marked a step in the building up of her colonial empire at the expense of France.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

View of Gibraltar

Another event of importance in this reign was the union of England and Scotland. Ever since the time when James I. came to the English throne—except for a short period of time under Cromwell—the two countries had been ruled by the same King, though they had kept their separate Parliaments, and were otherwise separate nations. In Queen Anne's reign, this arrangement was ended by an Act of Union (1707). This provided that one sovereign and one Parliament should rule the two countries under the name of "Great Britain." Scotland received a fair share of members in both the House of Commons and the House of Lords, but neither the Scottish law nor the established Presbyterian church of Scotland was to be changed.

The union of the two countries is indicated in the national flag. The flag of England was white, with a large upright red cross; the flag of Scotland was blue, with a diagonal white cross. In the new flag, the two crosses were united, and the corner of the flag in which the crosses were placed was called the "union." About a century later, Ireland was brought under the same Parliament with Great Britain, and its cross—a red diagonal—was then added to the flag. When a flag is made up of the union only, it is called a "union jack." The union jack, therefore, as it is now used by the British army, consists of a blue flag, bearing on it (1) an upright cross edged with white, (2) a diagonal white cross, and (3) a diagonal red cross.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

The Union Jack

As the reign of Anne came to a close, it looked as though the rule of a Stuart and a Catholic would be restored, after all. That this did not happen, says a modern writer, was "the greatest miracle in English history." All of the chief positions in the government were in the hands of the "Jacobites," or supporters of the line of James II.; and they were sending letters to the Pretender, and planning to make him King. But there was one difficulty—the fact that he was a Catholic. He was urged to give up his religion, or at any rate not to show himself openly a Catholic, but he refused.

"How could my subjects ever depend upon me, or be happy under me," he wrote, "if I should use such dishonesty to get myself amongst them?"

This refusal did credit to his heart, but it made the task of his friends very difficult. The final defeat of their plans was due to the facts, first, that Anne died suddenly, in 1714, before the Jacobites were quite ready; and second, that the Whig leaders acted promptly and decidedly, in forcing the Council to carry out the provisions of the Act of Settlement.

The Electress Sophia had died shortly before this, and the heir to the German territory of Hanover, as well as to the kingdom of Great Britain, was her son George. He was accordingly proclaimed at once, as King of Great Britain, under the name of George I., and quietly succeeded to the throne. In this way the house of Hanover, which has ruled Great Britain down to our own day, and has widely extended the British Empire, first secured the crown of the island kingdom.


  1. Find out what you can about Lady Marlborough and her connection with Queen Anne.
  2. Read an account of the great writers of Queen Anne's reign (Addison, Swift, Defoe, Pope).
  3. Was it better for England, in Anne's time, to be governed by the Whig party or the Tory party? Give your reasons.
  4. In what ways was it an advantage for England and Scotland to be under the same Parliament?
  5. Did William III. or Marlborough do more toward building up the British Empire? Give your reasons.

The First Hanoverian Kings


Dates of the reigns of George I. and George II.; characters of these Kings; how "Cabinet government" arose; Sir Robert Walpole the first Prime Minister; his policy.

Captain Jenkins and the war with Spain; this leads to the War of the Austrian Succession; why England was interested; attempt of the "Young Pretender" to gain the English throne; its failures; end of the war.

George I. was King of Great Britain for thirteen years, and his son, George II., was King for thirty-three. They were plain, commonplace persons, without much ability, and were more interested in Hanover than they were in England. But they had the good judgment to put in office ministers whom Parliament trusted, and then let them run the government. The ministers usually belonged to the Whig party, for it was to that party that the Hanoverians owed their throne. The reigns of these first two Hanoverian Kings were mainly a time of peaceful development; but the period closed with a great war, from which England profited even more than it did from the time of peace.

George I. could speak no English at all, so he did not attend the meetings of his ministers; and George II., though he could speak English brokenly, followed the same practice. In this way it became the established principle that the ministers, who made up the "Cabinet," and were responsible for carrying on the government, should meet and discuss their plans without the King being present. It was at this time also that the practice arose of one minister being above the others. He was called the Prime Minister, and was the one chiefly responsible for carrying on the government. In this way the Cabinet became more united, and more independent of the King, though it continued to be dependent on Parliament.

The first real Prime Minister was Sir Robert Walpole, who carried on the government for twenty-one years, under George I. and George II. Queen Caroline, the wife of George II., was a wise and tactful woman, and did much to smooth the rough places for Walpole. His policy was, as he said, to "let sleeping dogs lie"; so he did everything to keep England at peace, both at home and abroad. Once when there was a war on the Continent, Walpole said to the Queen:

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

Sir Robert Walpole

"Madam, there were fifty thousand men slain in Europe this year, and not one of them was an Englishman."

But, towards the end of his long administration, Walpole was obliged, against his will, to begin a small war with Spain.

By the treaty of Utrecht, a limited right to trade with the Spanish colonies had been given to English merchants, and the Spaniards accused the English of abusing this right. The English, in turn, complained that their ships were stopped by the Spanish war vessels, and searched for goods intended to be used in smuggling; and they also complained that English sailors were thrown into Spanish dungeons, and tried by the Spanish Inquisition as heretics. Finally, a Captain Jenkins set all England afire by his story that his ship had been stopped and searched by Spaniards; and that, when they found no evidence of wrong-doing, they angrily cut off his ear. As proof of this story, he showed the ear, which he carried about with him wrapped up in cotton. When asked what his feelings were when he was in the hands of the Spaniards, Jenkins said:

"I commended my soul to God, and my cause to my country."

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

A Street in London About 1740

Walpole was forced either to go to war, or to resign as Prime Minister. He chose to go to war; but it was against his better judgment.

"They are ringing their bells now," he said, as London rejoiced at the news, "but they will soon be wringing their hands."

Like every war in which England was engaged, in that century, this speedily grew into a war between England and France. Queen Maria Theresa had just succeeded to the throne of Austria, and Frederick the Great of Prussia took advantage of the opportunity to seize a part of the Austrian lands. In the bitter war between Austria and Prussia which followed, France took the side of Prussia. George II., as ruler of Hanover, was jealous of Prussia, and he persuaded the English Parliament to take the side of Austria, against Prussia, Spain, and France.

This War of the Austrian Succession, like that of the Spanish Succession, was fought wherever the two parties confronted one another—in Germany, in Italy, in the Netherlands, on the seas, in America, and in far-off India.

The war in Europe usually went against the English and Austrians, for they had no general equal to Frederick the Great, and no Army like the one he commanded. The English fleets, however, gained some victories, and the English colonists in America captured some places from the French; but in India the English lost to the French most of their trading posts.

As a part of this War of the Austrian Succession, there was a daring attempt to place the Pretender on the English throne. The French collected an army, on their coast, to aid "Prince Charlie," the eldest son of the Pretender, in invading England; but contrary winds prevented the army from crossing the Channel, and it disbanded. The next year (1745) "Prince Charlie" made his way to Scotland with only seven followers, determined to arouse the Jacobites to rebellion. The "Young Pretender," as the English called him, was young, handsome, brave, and polite, so that he won to his support a large following. He took Edinburgh, and then put the English to flight in a battle which lasted only a very sort time. The Jacobites went wild with delight.

"We have a Prince," they said, "who can eat a dry crust, sleep on pease-straw, eat his dinner in four minutes, and win a battle in five."

The Young Pretender resolved to make a dash into England, hoping that the people there would rise and proclaim his father as King. By hard marching, his little army got as far as Derby, within a hundred and thirty miles of the capital; and all London was thrown into a panic. But still there was no sign of an army from France, and the English Jacobites refused to risk their lives uselessly, by rising in rebellion. So the Prince was obliged to retreat to Scotland.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

The Young Pretender

Two more battles were fought, in the second of which the Pretender was defeated, and his forces completely scattered.

For five months, "Prince Charlie" then lay hid in different parts of western Scotland, while a large reward was offered for his capture. Many persons must have known his whereabouts, yet so loyal were the Scottish people to "bonnie Prince Charlie" that no one came forward to claim the reward. The Prince finally succeeded in reaching a French vessel, and escaped safely to France.

This was the last real attempt to restore the Stuarts to the British throne, though there are still persons in that kingdom who keep up the form of recognizing a member of the Stuart line as their sovereign.

In 1748, a peace was finally made which ended the War of the Austrian Succession. Frederick the Great kept the territory which he had taken from Austria; but all other conquests, including those made by either party in America and in India, were restored. The only gain which Great Britain made by the long war was the recognition of the Hanoverian Kings by France, and the agreement of France to drive the Pretender from that country.


  1. Was it a good or a bad thing for Great Britain that George I. and George II. were not strong, active rulers? Give your reasons.
  2. What is meant by "Cabinet government"? Compare the position of the ministers after the rise of Cabinet government with their position before.
  3. What is meant by a "Prime Minister"? Compare the position of the Prime Minister with that of our President.
  4. Was the fact that their King was now the ruler also of Hanover an advantage or a disadvantage to the people of Great Britain? Give your reasons.
  5. Imagine yourself a follower of the Young Pretender, and write an account of his invasion of England.

Winning the British Empire


Nature of the struggles between England and France; causes of their rivalry in America; war begins over the "territory on the Ohio"; George Washington and Fort Duquesne; defeat of General Braddock.

Origin of the "Seven Years' War" in Europe; allies of England and of France; how William Pitt saved England; General Wolfe captures Quebec; all Canada conquered.

The English and French in India; Clive defeats the French; the "Black Hole" of Calcutta; Clive's victory at Plassey; French influence in India destroyed.

Close of the war in Europe; George III. abandons Frederick the Great; how Prussia was saved; terms of the Peace of Paris; the British Empire established.

For six or eight years following the War of the Austrian Succession, England and France were at peace. But the enmity between the two nations continued. They now understood that they were really engaged in a world-wide struggle for colonial empire, for the mastery of the seas, and for commercial supremacy. In whatever part of the world English colonists or merchants went, they found Frenchmen disputing the ground, and fighting often occurred between English and French sailors or settlers.

England and France both had colonies in America—the French in the valleys of the St. Lawrence and the Mississippi, and about the Great lakes; and the English along the Atlantic coast, Virginia, Maryland, and the four New England Colonies (Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New Hampshire) had been founded under James I. and Charles I. New York, New Jersey, the Carolinas, Pennsylvania and Delaware were founded under Charles II. Georgia, the last of the thirteen English colonies, was established in the reign of George II. In addition Great Britain possessed Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, and the Hudson Bay Territory.

The English came as permanent settlers, and their numbers increased rapidly. The French, in the main, came for the fur-trade only, and expected some day to return to their beloved France.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

Map of New England and New France

The English colonists soon began to feel that their boundaries were too narrow for them, and turned their gaze toward the great unsettled valleys beyond the Appalachian mountains. They claimed these western lands on the ground that their settlements on the coast gave them a right to the territory clear across the continent. The French, on the other hand, claimed this territory on the ground that their settlements about the mouths of the St. Lawrence and Mississippi gave them the right to all the country drained by these rivers.

To support their claim, the French built a chain of forts connecting the Ohio river with the St. Lawrence, and sent a message to the English colonists, saying that "France would permit no English settlements" on the Ohio. But the English government told the colonists that France "had not the least pretense of right to the territory on the Ohio," and ordered the colonial governors to drive out the French "whenever they are found within the undoubted limits of our provinces."

The result was a struggle between the English and French in America, which in turn contributed to a renewal of the war in Europe. The chief of the French forts was Fort Duquesne at "the Forks of the Ohio," where the city of Pittsburgh now stands. The governor of the colony of Virginia sent a young Virginian, named George Washington, with a small body of troops, to prevent the building of this fort; but they were unsuccessful, and were obliged to return home. The next year (1755), General Braddock was sent over, with British regular soldiers, and tried to capture Fort Duquesne. He marched carelessly through the forest, not heeding Washington's caution to beware of hidden French and Indians; so his troops were surprised and defeated, and he himself was slain.

In Europe, meanwhile, the leading nations were drifting into war. Its chief cause was the desire of Austria to recover the lands which Frederick the Great had taken from her. To do this, she made a secret league with Russia and Saxony, to attack Prussia and to divide the Prussian territories. Frederick the Great learned through his spies of this agreement, and resolved to strike first. This he did, in 1756, by marching his army into Saxony; and thus the war began.

England and France both entered into this European war, as usual, and on opposite sides. England now took the side of Prussia, because Austria would not promise to protect Hanover; and France was won over to the side of Austria, in spite of the fact that France and Austria had been fighting each other for two hundred years. The war in Europe is known as "the Seven Years' War," from the length of time that it lasted. The English colonists in America called it "the French and Indian War." Like the preceding one, this war was fought in Europe, in America, in India, and on the sea. The changes which it produced were among the greatest in history.

During the first two years of the war, England accomplished very little, either in Europe or in America. One of the English statesmen explained this by saying:

"We first engaged in war, and then began to prepare ourselves."

The government at this time was very badly managed. The Prime Minister was a fussy nobleman who owed his power entirely to his wealth and family influence, and not to any ability which he had. Men openly made fun of him, and said that he acted as if he "had lost a half-hour in the morning, and was running after it all the rest of the day."

But there was one man in political life who had the ability, and the determination, and the patriotism, and the eloquence, to carry on the government properly, if he only had the chance. This was William Pitt, who afterward became Earl of Chatham. But Pitt did not belong to the great noble families of England, and it was very rare for any man, at that time, to become Prime Minister unless he belonged to this select governing circle. Moreover, Pitt had angered George II. by opposing his plans for Hanover.

Nevertheless, things went so badly, and the people demanded Pitt so loudly, that the King was at last obliged to yield, and to appoint him to the chief place in the government.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

William Pitt, Earl of Chatham

"Sire, give me your confidence," said Pitt, "and I will deserve it."

"Deserve my confidence," replied the King, "and you shall have it."

On both sides the promise was full kept. Pitt had proudly said:

"I know that I can save the country, and that no one else can."

This spirit of self-confidence he succeeded in inspiring in others also. It was said that "no one ever entered Pitt's room who did not come out of it braver man." He put his whole heart into his work, and soon stirred up all departments of the government to great activity. He appointed officers in the navy and army, not for favor or because of their family connections, but solely on account of their energy and ability. Thus, he soon overcame the effects of other men's bad management, and began to win victories.

In America, the turning point of the war came in 1759. The greatest stronghold of the French was at Quebec, on the St. Lawrence river; and against that place Pitt sent an expedition under General Wolfe, whom he chose in preference to older officers because he believed in the young man's ability.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

General James Wolfe

The French army, under Montcalm, were in a strong camp below the city; and Wolfe tried in vain, for three months, to drive them from this position. At last he determined to surprise the city, by climbing the narrow paths up the rocky cliffs which led to the Heights of Abraham in its rear. At dead of night, and with the utmost secrecy, this was accomplished. Next morning, Montcalm saw that he must come out and fight, or the city would be taken.

Both Wolfe and Montcalm lost their lives in the battle which followed. As Wolfe lay mortally wounded, on the ground, he heard one of his officers cry out:

"They run! See how they run!"

"Who run?" asked the dying hero, eagerly.

"The enemy, sir," was the reply. "They give way everywhere."

"Now God be praised," said Wolfe; "I will die in peace."

In a few days, Quebec surrendered; and next year all of Canada passed into English hands. Fort Duquesne had been taken, and was re-named "Fort Pitt," in honor of England's great statesman. From Spain, which aided France, English fleets took Havana, in the island of Cuba, and the Philippine Islands, in the Far East.

In India, also, the English fought the French during the great Seven Years' War.

There, the East India Company, founded in Queen Elizabeth's time, had established three great trading posts—at Bombay, Madras, and Calcutta. It had long been forced to struggle against a rival French company, whose agents were enlisting native soldiers, called "Sepoys," and building up a political power in that rich but unwarlike land. In self-defence, the English company was obliged to do likewise. As a result of these rivalries, war followed, beginning in India, as it did in America, before it broke out in Europe.

Fortunately for the English company, it had in its employ a young man named Robert Clive, who had gone to India as one of its clerks, but had exchanged the pen for the sword. Clive first won fame by marching a small body of English Sepoys—through thunder, lightning, and rain—and seizing a fortress, which he held successfully against the attacks of a much larger force, assisted by the French. When food ran short, during the siege, his Sepoys came to him and said:

"Master, give us the water in which the rice is boiled. That is enough to feed us; the Europeans need the grain."

This loyalty of the Sepoys, and his own skill and daring, enabled Clive to defeat the French, and to lay the foundations of the British rule in India.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

Map of India

His next important battle was fought against the "Nabob" (or ruler) of Bengal, whom the French stirred up to seize Calcutta. With great cruelty, this Nabob shut up one hundred and forty-five Englishmen, and one English woman, in a close dungeon less than twenty feet square. When that dreadful summer night was past, only twenty-three of their number came out alive. The rest had perished, from lack of air, and crowding, in that terrible "Black Hole" of Calcutta. To punish the Nabob, Clive fought the battle of Plassey. With only one thousand Europeans and four thousand Sepoys, he defeated ten times their number of the Nabob's troops.

This, and other victories, completely destroyed the French influence in India, and laid the foundations of an English power that has lasted until the present day. The Company grew enormously wealthy. Many of its officers returned to England, after their service in India, with fortunes which enabled them to live in great luxury. It was some time, however, before the Company began to add the control of the governments of India to its control of the trade.

Meanwhile, in Europe, Frederick the Great was hard pressed. At first he won brilliant victories; but soon he was attacked by three countries at once, and his victories changed to defeats. Twice he was in despair, and thought that all was lost. Once Berlin, his capital, was captured. Each time he succeeded, somehow, in saving himself. But his resources were almost gone, and he was only able to continue the war because of the large sums of money which Pitt continued to send him, with the design of "conquering America in Germany."

Just at this time (1760), King George II. of England died, and his grandson, George III., came to the throne. George III. was an earnest and hardworking young man, but he was narrow-minded and obstinate. His mother had said to him, again and again, "George, be King"; and in order really to be King, he thought that he must throw off the influence of the great Whig families, and manage the government himself.

So, the chief power in the government was taken from Pitt, in spite of his great victories, and the payments to Frederick were stopped. Fortunately for Frederick, Russia made peace at this time; and he was thus able to hold out against Austria until she also gave up the struggle. He not merely saved his country from division among his enemies, be he succeeded in keeping the lands which he had taken in the former war. But he never forgave England for deserting him.

Peace between England and France was made, at Paris, in 1763. England did not gain all that Pitt had hoped for, but her gain was very great indeed. In America she received from France all of Canada, and a clear title to the country between the Appalachian Mountains and the Mississippi River. Spain was glad to buy back Havana and the Philippines by giving her Florida. In India, although the French retained a few trading points, the supremacy of the English was thenceforth recognized.

Largely as a result of Pitt's efforts, Great Britain thus became one of the most powerful countries of the world. Half of North America was subject to her, and she planted her power in India. Her warships controlled the seas, and her trading vessels passed to and fro to the ends of the earth. By exploration and settlement she added Australia, and the two great islands of New Zealand, to her dominions; and early in the nineteenth century she took South Africa from the Dutch, in war, and made the beginnings of another great group of colonies there.

Through good fortune, the enterprise and daring of her people, and the foresight of men like William Pitt, there were thus laid the foundations of the greatest dominions that the world has ever seen, under single rule—the modern British Empire, whose proud boast is, that "on its lands the sun never sets."


  1. Why was France England's chief enemy in the eighteenth century?
  2. Tell the story of Braddock's defeat.
  3. Write a brief account of William Pitt, of General James Wolfe, of Robert Clive.
  4. Read a brief account of Frederick the Great and his wars.
  5. Describe India as it was in the time of the Seven Years' War.

George III. and the American Revolution


Dates of George III.'s reign; his character; why Pitt resigned; the party of the "King's friends"; purpose of George III.

The case of John Wilkes; action of Parliament against him; outcome of the struggle; why the people sympathized with Wilkes; Edmund Burke attacks the corrupt influence of the Crown.

Condition of England's colonies in America; why England passed the Stamp Act; its repeal; the "Boston Massacre"; the "Boston Tea-Party"; War of the American Revolution begins.

Attitude of the English people towards the war; Fox and Pitt oppose the war; independence declared; course of the war; France aids the colonies; death of Pitt; Cornwallis surrenders; terms of the peace of 1783; what England learned from the War.

George III. came to the throne in 1760, and reigned until 1820. His reign covered a period of sixty years, which is longer than any other English sovereign has ruled, except Queen Victoria. It was a very important reign because in it occurred many great changes.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

George III

Unlike George I. and George II., who were more German than English, George III. took deep interest in British affairs. In his first speech to Parliament, he said:

"Born and educated in this country, I glory in the name of Briton."

Unfortunately, his mother and his teachers had filled his mind with the idea that he must really rule as well as reign—that is, that he must impose his own will upon the government, rather than be guided by the heads of the great Whig families who ruled Parliament. If he had been a strong and wise man, this might have been an improvement. But although he was a good man, he was rather dull, and stupid, and very obstinate; and during the latter part of his reign he was insane most of the time. The result was that, as a great historian of England says: "He inflicted more profound and enduring injuries upon his country than any modern English King. He spent a long life in obstinately resisting measures which are now almost universally admitted to have been good, and in supporting measures which are as universally admitted to have been bad."

When Pitt, who had won such victories for England against France, found that his advice was no longer followed, he resigned his office, saying:

"I will not be responsible for measures which I am no longer allowed to guide."

The Tories, who before had longed for a King of the Stuart line, gave their support to George III. The King also built up, in the House of Commons, a party of "the King's friends," upon whom they could rely. To those who promised to support him, and to their friends, he gave rich offices; Some members were bought by giving them profitable contracts for government supplies. Others were bribed outright, with gifts and money. In the elections to the House of Commons the King used all his influence, to see that persons who would support his measures were elected.

All this was according to the evil practice of that time; but it was a new thing for the King  to build up support by this means. It enabled him to get a party in the House of Commons which was numerous enough to make its support necessary to any ministry. When it suited the King's pleasure, his "friends" in the Commons voted against his own ministers, so that he became their master in fact as well as in name. George III. was like Charles I., in his desire to rule according to his own will. Unlike Charles, however, he did not attempt to override Parliament, but controlled it by corrupting its members.

One of King George's great mistakes was in urging his ministers to prosecute a Whig member of Parliament named John Wilkes. In No. 45 of a magazine which he published, Wilkes had declared that a passage about the peace with France, in the King's speech to Parliament was false. Everyone knew that it was the practice for the ministers to write the speeches made by the King, but George III. took Wilkes's statement was an attack upon himself. Wilkes was accordingly arrested, but in such a way that the court released him, on the ground that the arrest was illegal.

At the next session of Parliament, the House of Commons expelled Wilkes, and caused a copy of No. 45 of his magazine to be burned by the hangman. Wilkes now fled from England, and for four years lived in France. When the next elections to Parliament took place he returned, and was elected from Middlesex, the county in which London is situated. The people showed that they were on his side by chalking the figures "45" everywhere—on street doors, on carriages, and even on the boot soles of the Austrian ambassador, whom they dragged from his carriage for that purpose. Benjamin Franklin, who was then in England, said that there was scarcely a house within fifteen miles of London that did not have this number marked upon it.

Still, Wilkes was not allowed to take his seat in Parliament. The House of Commons again expelled him; and when he was again elected they declared that he should never be capable of sitting in that body. However, in the end, Wilkes was victorious. Some years later he was permitted to take his seat; and then, nearly twenty years after the struggle first began, the House of Commons erased from its journals all the votes which it had passed against him. It was not because of his character that Wilkes triumphed, for he was a man of bad character. It was because he opposed the arbitrary acts of George III.'s government, and because he stood for personal liberty and the freedom of the press.

These were not the only complaints that the people had against the government. Meetings were held to protest against the corrupt means by which the King secured support in Parliament. In 1780, a great Whig orator, named Edmund Burke, introduced a bill to abolish a large number of useless offices, and to reduce the amount of money which the King's government might spend without giving an account of it. His object was to make it less easy for the King to corrupt Parliament. The bill was not passed, at this time. But the discussion of it resulted in the passage of a resolution, in the House of Commons, which declared that—

"The influence of the Crown has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished."

Two years later, another reform bill, based on the same principles as that which Burke had introduced, passed the House of Commons, and became law.

In spite of "the King's friends" George III. had lost a great share of that arbitrary power which he had built up so carefully. In part, this was due to his action against Wilkes; but it was due in a still larger part to the unwise measures by which, meanwhile, he lost the Thirteen American Colonies.

The Seven Years' War had freed the American colonies from their French enemies, and given them a great western country into which their settlements could spread. It had also given them a knowledge of their own strength, and loosened the ties which bound them to the mother country. With the danger of French attack removed, they had no further need of British protection. The French Minister saw this, and, soon after the close of the war, he said:

"England will, one day, call upon her colonies to contribute towards supporting the burdens which they have helped to bring upon her; and they will answer by making themselves independent.

The colonies had mines of iron and coal, forests, navigable rivers, and excellent harbors, and were fitted by nature not only for agriculture, but also for manufactures and commerce. Many people, therefore, engaged in the building of ships and in trade. England's treatment of its colonies was very much better than that which any other country gave to its colonies at this time, and even such laws as did limit their commerce were, for a long time, allowed to remain unenforced. Thus the colonies flourished, and grew strong.

But, after the war with France, the ministers adopted a new policy. They determined to enforce the old trade laws, which were intended mainly for the benefit of the British merchants, and not for the benefit of the colonists. They also proposed to leave some troops permanently in America for the defence of the colonies and called upon Parliament to tax the colonies to support the troops, and to help pay the cost of government there.

Parliament accordingly passed a Stamp Act for the colonies, like that still in force in Great Britain. This provided that every legal paper written in the colonies should be on stamped paper, to be bought from the government; and that every newspaper must be printed on stamped paper. At best, this act would not have raised much revenue; and, as it was, the people in the colonies made a great outcry against it. They refused to use the stamped paper; they held meetings to protest against it; and they sent representative to a "Stamp Act congress," at New York, which declared that "taxation without representation is tyranny."

Many of the leading Whigs in England also opposed the Stamp Act. When the colonists refused to allow the stamped paper to be sold, Pitt said:

"I rejoice that America has resisted."

The next year there was a change in the ministry, and the Stamp Act was repealed. But, at the same time, Parliament declared that it had power to make laws for the colonies "in all cases whatsoever." Pitt and Burke opposed this declaration, not because they believed that Parliament did not have such power, but because they thought that this declaration would only anger the colonists.

Soon after this, Parliament passed another law, which laid tariff duties on several kinds of goods, including tea, when brought into the colonies. The colonists resisted this law also, and formed associations which pledged themselves not to use any goods on which the tax had been paid. Little by little the trouble grew, until some British troops in Boston, who were attacked by a mob, fired upon the crowd and killed several persons. This was the famous "Boston massacre,"—the first blood shed in the quarrel.

In 1773 a special effort was made to collect the tax on the tea, and several shiploads were sent over, at a cheap price, to tempt the colonists to buy. Almost everywhere, they refused to take the tea. At Boston, there occurred the famous "Boston Tea-Party," when a number of men, disguised as Indians, boarded the tea-ships and threw the tea into the harbor. Of this, the American poet, Oliver Wendell Holmes, humorously wrote:

"No! ne'er was mingled such a draught

In palace, hall, or arbor,

As freemen brewed and tyrants quaffed

That night in Boston harbor!

.   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .

"Fast spread the tempest's darkening pall,

The mighty realms were troubled,

The storm broke loose—but first of all

The Boston tea-pot bubbled!"

To punish Boston, its port was closed—that is, ships were forbidden to land goods there, and its trade was stopped. The Massachusetts charter was taken away, and a military governor was placed over the colony.

These acts not only angered Boston, but aroused the other colonies. In 1774, they came together, at Philadelphia, in the First Continental Congress, to form a united resistance.

War broke out between the mother country and the rebellious colonies next year, when a small body of British troops was sent from Boston to capture some ammunition which the colonists had collected at Concord. At Lexington they were met by American "minute men," and several of the Americans were killed. The troops kept on to Concord, and destroyed the ammunition. But a larger body of minute men quickly gathered, and there, at Concord bridge, as the poet Emerson says:

"The embattled farmers stood

And fired the shot heard 'round the world."

On the return, the minute men lined the stone walls along the road, from behind which they fired upon the wearied troops. Next day, the whole country rose. Boston was besieged; men flocked in from the neighboring colonies; and soon George Washington was sent by the Continental Congress as commander-in-chief of the American forces. The war of the American Revolution had at last begun.

The people of Great Britain generally supported their government in its policy. Edward Gibbon, a great historian and member of Parliament, wrote before the war broke out:

"I am more and more convinced that we have both the right and the power on our side. We are now arrived at the decisive moment of persevering, or of losing forever both our trade and empire."

After the fighting had begun, he wrote: "I have not the courage to write about America. The boldest tremble, and the most vigorous talk of peace. And yet not more than sixty-five rank and file have been killed." And again: "The conquest of America is a great work; every part of the continent is either lost or useless."

On the other hand, Charles James Fox, who was now one of the great leaders of the Whig party, never lost an opportunity of showing his sympathy for the American cause, and rejoicing at its victories. He and his little band of followers adopted as their colors those which Washington made the uniform of the Continental army—buff and blue.

When the British government hired Hessian soldiers for America, the great Pitt said:

"You cannot conquer America. If I were an American, while a foreign troop was landed in my country, I never would lay down my arms—never, never, never!"

At first, the American colonists fought only for relief from oppressive laws and had no intention of seeking independence. But gradually their ideas grew larger, and on July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress adopted a Declaration of Independence. After giving the reasons for their separation, this document declared that—

"These united colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states."

It was a hard struggle upon which the colonists had embarked. They drove the British from Boston, but were themselves driven out of New York City. Then the British captured Philadelphia, and made ready to separate New England from the other colonies by sending an army under General Burgoyne up the Hudson, to meet one which was to come down from Canada. Fortunately for the American cause, this attempt failed, and Burgoyne was obliged to surrender his 7,000 men at Saratoga, in October, 1777.

This was a great victory for the Americans. Nevertheless, their army spent the next winter at Valley Forge, in Pennsylvania, amid terrible hardships. General Washington, who never spoke carelessly, said that many of his men were "without clothes to cover their nakedness, without blankets to lie on, without shoes, for the want of which their marches might be traced by the blood from their feet." Unless help came from abroad, the colonies would surely be conquered.

But help did come. The French had long been watching for an opportunity to take revenge upon their old enemy, England. They had secretly helped the Americans, before this, by sending them money and supplies, and by letting French officers, like Lafayette, come over to assist them. The victory over Burgoyne now encouraged the French government to come out openly, in aid of the colonists; and, in 1778, a treaty was made, by which France recognized the independence of the United States, and agreed to renew her war with Great Britain. More money and supplies were sent to the Americans, and French soldiers and French fleets came to their assistance. The next year Spain also made war upon Great Britain; and two years after that, Holland did likewise.

In England, the news of Burgoyne's surrender was for a time helpful to the government. Instead of discouraging the people, it made them more determined than ever to subdue the colonies. But the news of the alliance between France and the colonies caused a change. Pitt proposed that the soldiers should be called back from America, that the colonies should be allowed to have their way in everything except out-and-out independence, and that the two parts of the Empire should then unite in a common war against France.

Many people at this time demanded that Pitt should be restored to power. But he was now an old man, suffering from a painful disease. One day (in 1778) he had himself carried to the House of Lords, of which he was now a member as Earl of Chatham; and he spoke passionately against a motion to grant independence of America. He was opposed, he said, to "the dismemberment of this ancient and noble monarchy." The effort was too much for him, and he fell senseless to the floor. He was carried to his home, and four weeks later he died. Perhaps it was well that he did not live to see the dismemberment of the great empire which his genius had contributed so much to build.

In 1780, the British changed the seat of war and attacked the southern colonies. After much fighting, Lord Cornwallis, who was at the head of their army marched north into Virginia, and took up a position at Yorktown, on Chesapeake Bay. Here he was surrounded by a French and American land force, under Washington. A French fleet succeeded in beating off the British fleet, and Cornwallis was forced to surrender (October, 1781). This was the second great disaster which the British experienced in this war.

It was, indeed, the real end of the war, so far as America was concerned. For a time, fighting continued between the British fleets and those of France, Holland, and Spain. But, in 1783, a peace was made, at Paris, between all parties. England gave up some territory to France—an island in the West Indies, and some African coast lands; while to Spain she surrendered Florida. Most important of all, she acknowledged the independence of the United States. The boundaries of the new nation were to be Canada and the Great Lakes on the north, the Mississippi river on the west, and Florida on the south.

At the beginning of the war, Great Britain possessed, in America, not only what her own colonists had founded, but also what she had taken from France, and from Spain, in 1763. Now, she was left with Canada alone—a vast and important domain, but cold and inhospitable.

The loss of the American colonies seemed, at the time, a great calamity. But the British Empire has become greater and more powerful, since the separation, than it ever was before; and in America there has developed a great nation, of kindred speech and institutions.

England learned many lessons from this war. One of these was how to rule colonies without oppressing them, and so to keep them a source of strength. Another and greater lesson was this; that the government must obey the will of the people, and not that of the King. The war not only brought independence to the American colonies; it formed an important step, also, in the process by which greater political liberty was gained by the people of Great Britain.


  1. Compare George III. with George I. and George II.; in what ways were the latter better Kings than the former?
  2. Find out what you can about Edmund Burke; about Charles James Fox.
  3. Make a list of the causes of the American Revolution.
  4. Were Fox and Pitt patriotic when they sympathized with the Americans? How can you justify their course?
  5. Make a list of the territories that England gained and those that she lost between 1689 and 1783.

Industrial and Social Changes


Ancient method of spinning; the inventions of Hargreaves, Arkwright, and Crompton; Dr. Cartwright invents the power loom; water power at first used; Watt invents the steam engine; improvements in iron making.

Change from the "domestic system" to the "factory system" of manufacturing; changes in means of transportation—"macadamized" roads and canals.

Changes in dress and in ways of living; rise of the "Methodists"; labors of John and Charles Wesley, and of Whitefield; results of these changes.

While Great Britain was winning Canada and India, and losing the Thirteen Colonies, important changes were taking place at home in ways of manufacturing and in modes of living.

From the early days of civilization, to the end of the Middle Ages, there had been little change in the tools used by such workers as the spinner, weaver, the farmer and carpenter. Now there came a series of inventions which greatly increased the product of man's labor, and changed his whole manner of living.

The first important changes came in spinning and weaving. The art of spinning fibers into thread, and weaving this into cloth, was one of the oldest of human arts. But, for thousands of years, it had changed very little. The wool or cotton was placed on a "distaff," held under the left arm, while the fibers were drawn out and twisted into thread with a "spindle," twirled by the right had. This was the method used in ancient Greece and Egypt, as shown by, their monuments. This was still the method generally used in modern Europe, almost down to the eighteenth century. Then the "spinning-wheel"—first run by hand, and later by foot—began to come into use, and increased the speed of spinning. But, at best, the spinning wheel could only spin two threads at a time, and its work was far from rapid.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

Hand Spinning Wheel

All this was changed, in the second half of the eighteenth century. First, an ignorant but ingenious man, named James Hargreaves, invented a machine which he called a "spinning jenny." This drove eight spindles, and (in later forms) even eighty spindles, at the same time. This invention alone caused an enormous increase in the amount of thread spun; but the changes did not stop here. Soon a man named Richard Arkwright invented another sort of spinning machine, which he called a "water-frame," because it was run by water-power and not by hand power. Then Samuel Crompton had the happy thought to combine the best features of the "jenny" and the "water-frame," into a machine which he called "the mule," because of its mixed character.

When these improvements were fully completed, it became possible for a single person—even a little child—to attend to a number of machines, and to spin as high as twelve thousand threads at a time. In this way, far more thread was manufactured than the old hand looms could weave into cloth.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

Spinning Jenny

If you examine a piece of cloth, you will see that it is made up of two sets of threads, crossing each other at right angles. The treads running lengthwise are called the "warp," and those running crosswise are called the "weft." In the old hand loom the shuttle, which carries the weft, was thrown back and forth across the warp by hand. Two men were necessary to operate the loom, one throwing the shuttle from one side, and the other throwing it back. The first improvement in the method of weaving was made in 1738, when a "flying shuttle" was invented which returned of itself to the weaver, without the help of a second person. As the new improvements in spinning began to come into effect, and the amount of thread spun increased so enormously, men began to feel that further changes in weaving were necessary. A clergyman, named Dr. Cartwright, showed what these might be.

"Why does not someone," he asked one day, of some gentlemen with whom he was talking, "invent a loom which can be run by water or steam-power?"

"It can't be done," they all replied, very positively.

"I am sure that it can  be done," replied Dr. Cartwright; and he set to work to prove it.

He had never invented anything, and he had never seen a loom in operation. But, in three years' time, he produced a power loom which really wove cloth, in a rude and clumsy fashion. By later inventions, he greatly improved this first effort, so that it became the father of all great cloth-weaving looms of later times. With the power loom, weavers became able to keep up with the spinners, and cloth became much cheaper and more plentiful than it had ever been before.

At first, the looms were run by water power, which had been used for ages to run flour and grist mills. But water power in the streams changed with the seasons; moreover, it was not to be had at all places. Fortunately, it was not long before the steam engine was invented, to aid not only the spinning and weaving, but the countless other operations of modern life to which machinery was soon applied.

For nearly two thousand years men had known of the expansive power of steam; but it was not until the beginning of the eighteenth century that this force was made practically useful, in the form of a steam pump for pumping water out of mines. The illustration on page 300 shows the form of this crude engine. The steam entered a "cylinder" under the "piston-head," and thus raised the cross-beam. The top of the cylinder was open, and when the steam under the piston-head was sufficiently condensed by cooling, the pressure of the air above forced back the piston, and all was ready for another stroke. The troubles with this early steam engine were chiefly these: it was very slow and weak in its action; it wasted a great amount of steam, and so used up much fuel; and it could only work in one direction.

The real inventor of the modern steam engine was James Watt, a maker of mathematical and astronomical instruments. While repairing a model of one of these early steam pumps, he noticed its waste of steam, and set to work to remedy it. It would take too long to describe all of the changes which he made. It is enough to say that his first changes made the steam engine quick-working, powerful, and saving of fuel; but it was still useful only for pumping. His later inventions, however, enabled it to turn a wheel, and so adapted it to all kinds of work. In 1785, the steam engine was first applied to running spinning machinery, and its use spread rapidly. By the end of the eighteenth century, there were as many steam engines in use in England as there were water and wind mills.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

Early Steam Engine for Pumping

But engines and machinery are largely made of iron, and, until the latter part of the eighteenth century, iron was scarce and costly. So all these inventions would have been of little use if it had not been for improvements in the manufacture of iron and steel.

For ages iron ore had been "smelted"—that is, melted and freed of its impurities—by mixing it with burning charcoal. But the forests of England, from which the charcoal was made, were decreasing rapidly, and it was clear that little increase could be made in the amount of iron produced, as long as charcoal was used as the fuel. It was found, however, that the smelting could be done just as well, and much cheaper, by using coke, made from ordinary coal; and the supply of coal was abundant. At the same time, the bellows, which fanned the fire and made it burn with sufficient heat, were replaced by other inventions which gave a stronger and steadier draft; and improvements were also made in the tools for hammering out the iron for wrought iron, and in casting it. Furthermore, Watt's improved engines benefited mining, by making it easier and cheaper to pump out water, and so to operate deep mines. From year to year these improvements have gone steadily on, and the result is that the supply of this necessary metal has constantly become more plentiful and cheap, as the increased use of machinery has created new demands for it.

Important changes were also made in the conditions under which manufacturing was done. Formerly, manufacturing was carried on under the "domestic system"—that is, each workman (a weaver, or the like), set up his own tools, in his own house, and used materials which he himself paid for; then when his goods were made he sold them to the dealers, and received the price for them himself. He was his own employer, and supplied his own capital; he worked when he pleased, and how he pleased; and his wife and children assisted him. Ordinarily, too, he had a garden, or little farm, which he cultivated; and so he was not dependent for his living entirely on his manufacturing.

The new inventions caused the "factory system" to take the place of the "domestic system." Machines in large numbers were now brought together under the roof of one "factory," in order to take advantage of the steam or water power; and these were the property of an "employer" who hired people for "wages" to run them. The employer supplied the materials, and received the manufactured good, which he sold as he pleased. The work people had to move to the crowded towns, where usually the factories were situated, and so they could no longer have their gardens. In these ways, the working people became more dependent on their employers, and the problems of "labor" and "lack of employment" first began to arise. The fact that women, and little children often only six years old, were hired for a great deal of the work, and that they were forced to labor long hours, in dark, close, and unhealthy rooms, gave rise to additional problems, which by and by demanded solution.

With these changes in manufacturing, there came also changes in the means of transportation.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

Stage Coach

Down to the eighteenth century, the means of travel and transportation remained just about what they were in the most ancient days—except that the roads were often worse than they had been under the Roman Empire. Half of the year, the only means of travel was on horseback, because of the mud-holes with which the roads were filled. Heavy articles—such as grain, coal, iron, and the like—could scarcely be carried from place to place; and often scarcity, or famine, might prevail in one district, while another district had more than enough, but could still not get its produce to the market. About the year 1640, stage coaches came into use in England, but often it took three weeks for one of these to go from London to Edinburgh.

In the last half of the eighteenth century, improvement began through the "turnpike" roads, which were kept in repair with the money collected as "tolls" from those who used them. Better methods of road-making were introduced by skilled engineers. The most noted of these was a Scotchman, named MacAdam, whose name is still remembered in our "macadamized" roads. These roads made possible the use of carriages all the year round, while new "fast mail coaches" were established to run between the chief parts of England, in what then seemed like an incredibly short time. Canals were also built, which greatly cheapened the cost of carrying such bulky goods as coal and iron. It was not until the next century that the steam railroad and the steamboat were introduced; but already changes were being produced by these improvements, which were only a little less important than those which the railroad brought.

"It is scarcely half a century," says a writer of this time, "since the inhabitants of the distant counties were regarded as almost as different from those of the capital as the natives of the Cape of Good Hope. Their manners, as well as their speech, were entirely provincial; and their dress no more resembled that of London than the Turkish or Chinese. A journey into the country was then considered almost as great an undertaking as a voyage to the Indies. The old family coach was sure to be stowed with all sorts of luggage and provisions; and, perhaps, in the course of the journey a whole village, together with their teams, might be called on to aid in digging the heavy carriage out of the clay. But now the improvements in traveling have opened a new communication between the capital and the most distant parts of the kingdom. The manners, fashions, and amusements of the capital now make their way to the remotest corners of the land. French cooks are employed, the same wines are drunk, the same gaming practiced, the same hours kept, and the same course of life pursued, in the country as in town. Every male and female wishes to think and speak, to eat and drink, and dress and live after the manner of people of quality of London."

One result of the introduction of machinery was to increase the wealth, and hence the importance, of the tradesmen and manufacturers. The old aristocratic organization of society, which regarded certain persons as better than others merely because of their better birth, began to give way, and a democratic influence began to be felt. The working classes profited, in the end, not merely in better clothes and better food and better lodging, but in better education and more political rights. But these changes came only gradually, and mostly after the eighteenth century had passed.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

Scene in a Farmhouse Kitchen

Simpler modes of dress and of life, however, came before the century was out. Gentlemen began to leave off wearing the sword, and the powdered wigs which once they all wore. Cocked hats went out of fashion, and pantaloons too the place of knee-breeches. Umbrellas were introduced. From about 1750, pianos began to appear in the houses of the wealthy. The better classes of tradesmen ceased to live over their stores, and the apprentices were no longer lodged with their masters. Men's dress generally became less showy than it had been. Women's costumes became more brilliantly colored and finer, as a result of the new calicoes and other dress goods, which could now be easily and cheaply obtained. In general, the last twenty years of the eighteenth century and the first twenty years of the nineteenth saw greater changes in dress and manners than for two centuries before.

Deeper than any change in dress and manners was a change in religion, which came in the middle and latter part of this century. This was due to the rise of the "Methodists" (as they were called), first within the established Church of England, and then as a separate church denomination. Unlike most of the other changes related in this chapter, the rise of the Methodists had little connection with the rise of manufactures. It began at the University of Oxford, and was a reaction against the lifeless preaching and worldly lives of so many of the English clergy, who thought more of horses, hounds, and hunting than they did of their religious duties.

The chief leaders in this movement were two brothers—John and Charles Wesley—and their friend, George Whitefield. They preached to the common people, in the mining and manufacturing towns, and in the great cities, urging them to forsake evil ways and reform their lives. At times, crowds of twenty thousand persons gathered in the open air, to hear them. So earnest were the preachers, and so vividly did they picture the terrors of the hereafter, that men, women, and children would be seized with fits of trembling and shouting, and fall down in convulsions.

John Wesley was the head of the movement. Charles Wesley was its poet, and wrote many hymns for it. Whitefield was even a greater preacher than the Wesleys. During thirty-four years, he preached on average ten times a week. Twelve times he went on preaching trips through Scotland, three times through Ireland, and seven times he visited America. The results of his labors in the American colonies were almost as notable as in the British Isles.

In England, the Methodist movement was strongly opposed by the clergy and upper classes, and also at times by mobs of the common people. But in the end it won a great success. When John Wesley died, in 1791, his followers numbered 100,000. His influence, too, had aroused the established church to greater earnestness and more spiritual religion. And all classes, as a result of these labors, came to have more sympathy for the oppressed, which showed itself in movements to improve the condition of prisoners in jails, and to stop the trade in slaves.

The inventions spoken of in this chapter were all first worked out in Great Britain, and the changes which they produced are often spoken of as the "Industrial Revolution." It was important that it should be accompanied by the great moral and religious revolution described above. The immediate effect of the Industrial Revolution was very greatly to increase the wealth and power of England. Her cheap machine-made goods enabled England to undersell other countries. She soon became the first manufacturing country, as she was already the first country in the amount of her commerce. Her population also increased rapidly. In 1700, England had only 5,000,000 inhabitants; in 1760, there were 6,000,000; in 1800, the number had risen to 9,000,000.

It was chiefly the wealth and power which Great Britain gained from her newly arisen manufactures which prevented her feeling the loss of her American colonies; and it was from this source that she gained the strength which enabled her to resist Napoleon Bonaparte, and finally bring about his overthrow.


  1. Find out what you can of James Hargreaves; of James Watt.
  2. Imagine yourself a boy or a girl in the days when spinning and weaving machinery was being introduced, and describe the changes.
  3. Which did most for England, statesmen like Walpole and Pitt, or inventors like Hargreaves and Watt, or reformers like Wyclif and the Wesleys? Give your reasons.
  4. Find out what you can of John Wesley and his work.

England and the French Revolution


Causes of the French Revolution; execution of the King; reasons why England went to war with France; victories of Napoleon Bonaparte over England's allies; England protected by her seas.

England's victories at Cape St. Vincent; Napoleon invades Egypt; Nelson wins the Battle of the Nile; Napoleon made Emperor; French and Spanish fleets destroyed at Trafalgar; death of Nelson; death of William Pitt, the younger; what he did as Prime Minister.

Napoleon's "Continental System"; revolt of Spain against French rule; Wellington aids Spain in the "Peninsular War"; Napoleon's defeat in Russia; uprising of Europe against Napoleon; he is overthrown, but returns from Elba; Battle of Waterloo; final overthrow of Napoleon.

England's War of 1812 with the United States; increase of the British Empire; new problems for England.

The last and greatest of the wars of England against France grew out of the French Revolution, in which the people of that country put to death their King, set up a republic, and sought to extend their principles to other countries.

The common people, in France, were not so badly off as were the peoples of Germany and the countries of eastern Europe, but their lot was worse than in England. In the towns, the old "guilds," or companies of workers, controlled the different industries, and the introduction of machinery had scarcely begun. In the country, the peasants were burdened with many payments and services which were absent in England. The nobles and clergy paid almost no taxes, while the "third estate" (as the common people were called) paid very heavy ones.

"I should be lost," said one peasant who had managed to get together a little property, "if it were suspected that I am not dying of hunger."

But, while the government took so much from the people, it gave them very little in return. The money was wasted on the foolish pleasures of the King and his court, in useless wars, and in reckless gifts and pensions to the great nobles. The King imprisoned people at his pleasure, and there was nothing like the English system of trial by jury to safeguard personal liberty. His power was absolute, and there was no assembly like the English Parliament to vote taxes and check his will.

Not content with the proceeds of heavy taxes, the French government recklessly borrowed great sums of money, without stopping to think how they should be repaid. In the end, the government became practically bankrupt. No more money could be raised by ordinary means, and it was necessary to take some extraordinary step.

This was done in 1789, when the Estates General was called together. This was a legislative assembly which had been used in the Middle Ages, but had been discontinued for nearly three hundred years. The representatives of the "third estate" took control, and bound themselves by an oath not to separate until they had given France a constitution. King Louis XVI. and his Queen, Marie Antoinette could not make up their minds frankly to accept these changes, so the Revolution grew more radical. Finally, when their friends stirred up Austria and Prussia to make war on France, in order to restore the French King and Queen to their former power, a republic was established. Soon after, Louis XVI. and Marie Antoinette were put to death by the "guillotine" (an instrument for beheading). A Reign of Terror was then established, which drove into exile, or put to death, all nobles and clergy who would not support the new republic.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding


The watchwords of the Revolution were "Liberty, Fraternity, and Equality"; and in the interests of "fraternity," or brotherhood, the French offered helping hands to all peoples everywhere, who sought to change their governments.

"All governments are our enemies," cried one of their speakers, "all peoples are our friends! We shall be destroyed, or they shall be free!"

The French tried, therefore, to stir up revolution in England. Moreover, they annexed Belgium and other neighboring states to France, and threatened to conquer Holland, which was England's old ally. As a result of these acts, and of the horror felt in England at the execution of the French King, war soon broke out between England and France, which lasted (with two brief intermissions) from 1793 to 1815.

This war was on a greater scale than any in which England had ever before been engaged. All of the countries of Europe were forced, at one time or another, to take sides in it. Until late in the war, Great Britain sent no soldiers to fight, on the Continent, against the armies of France. Her part was to supply the money which enabled her allies to maintain their armies, and to guard the seas with her fleets.

Three years after the beginning of the war, Napoleon Bonaparte rose to be the chief general of the French armies. He was then only twenty-seven years old, and was so short and thin that his soldiers nicknamed him "the little Corporal." But his mind was remarkably quick and intelligent, and he acted with energy and determination. When he took command of the French Army in Italy, he addressed it in these words:

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

Napoleon Bonaparte

"Soldiers, you are ill-fed and almost naked. The government owes you much, but can do nothing for you. Your patience and courage do you honor, but procure you neither glory nor profit. I am about to lead you into the most fertile plains of the world. There you will find great cities and rich provinces; there you will win honor, glory, and riches. Soldiers of the army of Italy, will you lack courage?"

Fired by the spirit of their commander, and guided by his genius, Bonaparte's soldiers soon conquered all northern Italy, and forced Austria to make peace. France was left free to carry on her war with England, for her other continental enemies made peace before the Italian campaign began.

The great problem, in attacking Great Britain, was how to reach her. Ireland seemed to be the most promising place for an attack, for there the people were of a different race and religion from England, and would welcome and invading force. Already a French expedition had been sent to that country, but it had been scattered by storms, and failed. Better luck might attend a second attempt; but, first, the English fleet must be reckoned with.

France now controlled the fleets of Holland and Spain, in addition to her own; and if these three could be united they might be more than a match for that of England. The danger to Great Britain was very great, but her seamen were equal to the occasion. Before the Spanish and Dutch fleets could be united with that of France, they were met separately, and practically destroyed. The defeat of the Spanish fleet took place near Cape St. Vincent, the southwestern point of Portugal. It was largely due to the efforts of a man who was to become England's greatest naval commander—Horatio Nelson.

These victories of Great Britain renewed her command of the sea, and for some time rendered hopeless any plans for invading her.

Bonaparte, however, secured the consent of the French government to another plan, which would injure England, while it would also enrich France and further Bonaparte's own ambitions. This was the conquest of Egypt, which was in name a province of Turkey. Egypt, in French control, it was hoped, might be made a base for attacking England's power in India. In 1798, Bonaparte set out with a great expedition, and reached Egypt, without meeting Nelson's fleet, which was in the Mediterranean. A single battle, fought near the Great Pyramids, put Egypt almost completely in Napoleon's control.

A few days later, Admiral Nelson found the French fleet at anchor, near the mouth of the river Nile. It was superior in numbers and in guns to the English fleet, but that did not hinder Nelson. He skilfully sent one division of his fleet between the French ships and the shore, saying—

"Where there is room for a French ship to ride at anchor, there is room for an English ship to sail."

By this means, he was able to attack the leading ships of the French line from both sides, and overpower them. The battle lasted until far in the night, the scene being lighted not only by the flashing of the guns, but by the French flag-ship, which took fire and finally exploded. Nelson himself was severely wounded in the head, but when a surgeon ran up to attend to him, out of his turn, he said:

"No, I will take my turn with my brave fellows."

This battle of the Nile was a complete British victory. Bonaparte's army was cut off from return to Europe, and it was not until more than a year later that he himself landed, almost alone, upon the shores of France.

Soon after this, Bonaparte overthrew the government which ruled France, and set up a new one, of which he was the head, with the title First Consul. A little later, he had his term of office as First Consul extended for life; and finally, in 1804, he proclaimed himself Emperor of the French under the name Napoleon I. All of these changes were submitted to the vote of the people, and were approved by large majorities. It seemed that Napoleon was right when he said of the French:

"What they want is glory, and the satisfaction of their vanity. As for liberty, of that they have no idea. The nation must have a head—a head which is rendered illustrious by glory."

Napoleon gave glory to France in fullest measure. In the next few years, he overran the greater part of Europe, and fought battle after battle, nearly always winning brilliant victories. He more than doubled the territory over which France ruled, and both the government of France, and the geography and governments of all Europe, bear the impress of his influence to this day. But, with all his power, and all his genius, he could not conquer the "nation of shopkeepers," as he called the English. In 1802, a peace was made between England and France. It was in this treaty that the English King finally gave up the title "King of France," which had been used by the English sovereigns since Edward III.

Within a little more than a year, the two countries were again at war. Napoleon established a camp at Boulogne, on the English Channel, and gathered together a great fleet of boats, to invade England. But soon he was obliged to break up his camp, and march his armies against other enemies. A few weeks later, all hope of invading England was taken away by the destruction of the last French fleet, at Cape Trafalgar.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

British Soldier

The battle of Trafalgar was Nelson's last and greatest victory. The French fleet had slipped to sea, and joined what remained of the Spanish fleet; then the combined fleet had sailed for the West Indies. Nelson followed after it, and when he could not find it in American waters, he rightly guessed that the move was a blind to draw him away from Europe. Hastily he retraced his course, and found the missing fleet in the harbor of Cadiz. By keeping some of his ships out of sight, he tempted the French admiral to come out and give battle. Nelson had twenty-seven ships, and the French thirty three, but Nelson sunk or captured all but thirteen of the enemy's vessels. Nelson himself was killed, by a bullet fired from a French ship, alongside which his flag-ship, the Victory, was lying. The last signal which he gave to his fleet shows the spirit of his life. It was this: "England expects every man to do his duty."

These victories, won by Nelson, led a British poet of that time to sing:

"Britannia needs no bulwarks,

No towers along the steep;

Her march is o'er the mountain waves,

Her home is on the deep.

With thunders from her native oak

She quells the floods below,

As they roar on the shore,

When the stormy winds do blow!

When the battle rages loud and long,

And the stormy winds do blow."

The Prime Minister of Great Britain, during the greater part of this period, was William Pitt, a younger son of the great Earl of Chatham who had saved England during the Seven Years' War. Pitt, the younger, became Prime Minister before the war began, when he was only twenty-four years of age. For a time, his position was very difficult, for he was opposed in the House of commons, not only by the Whigs under Fox, but by the Tories under Lord North. But his good sense and ability brought the people over to his side. After a new election was held, in 1784, a majority of the House of Commons supported his policies. He was not so great an orator as his father, but he was a sound and energetic statesman, and his services were of the highest value.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

William Pitt, the Younger

"England has saved herself by her exertions," he said at one time in this war, "and she will save Europe by her example."

Under Pitt's guidance, Great Britain contributed much more than her example. Her money, in large part, paid the armies of Napoleon's enemies, and her fleets interfered to spoil French plans of conquest. He died in 1806, but his death brought no slackening of efforts in the great war.

When Napoleon found that he could not invade England, he tried to conquer her by striking a blow at her commerce. By his "Continental System" he closed all the sea-ports of Europe against English goods, and he punished with war the countries which would not adopt to his system. Up to this time, the peoples  of Europe had sympathized with France, although their governments fought against her. Now, Napoleon's tyranny turned the people against him, and from this time on his efforts began to fail.

The Spanish peninsula was the region where national resistance to Napoleon first broke out on a large scale. The kingdom of Spain had been seized by Napoleon, and his brother Joseph set up as King; and the royal family of Portugal escaped capture, at Napoleon's hands, only through the aid of a British warship, which took them to their South American colony of Brazil. When the Spanish people rose in revolt against French rule, the British government aided them, by sending, for the first time, a British army to fight against Napoleon. England's sea power enabled her to land troops freely in Portugal, and this became their base of operations in the six years' "Peninsular War" which followed (1808-1814).

In this war, the Duke of Wellington, who was the British commander, proved more than a match for Napoleon's generals. It would take too long to tell of the wavering fortune which he encountered, and the battles which he fought. In the end, he was successful, for Napoleon was too busily engaged elsewhere to give this war his personal attention. By 1811, he succeeded in driving the French from Portugal; and he then advanced into Spain. In 1812, the south of Spain was recovered from the French. In 1813-14, the north was freed, and the defeated French were driven headlong across the Pyrenees Mountains. Then Wellington prepared to follow them into France itself.

This was made possible by Napoleon's folly in going to war with Russia, in 1812, and marching upon her capital, Moscow. His army numbered half a million men, drawn from "twenty nations." The Russians wisely refused to fight pitched battles, and retreated as he advanced. Moscow was captured, but next day a fire broke out—probably started by the Russians—which burned nine-tenths of the city, and made it impossible for the French to hold it.

Then began Napoleon's retreat. The Russians followed after, cutting off stragglers. Zero weather came on, and scores of thousands perished—from cold, hunger, wounds, and sickness. Of the mighty host which had set out, only a handful crossed the Russian frontier on the return.

This great disaster to Napoleon encouraged the oppressed states of Germany to revolt against his rule. Throughout the year 1813, the terrific contest was fought. In spite of all his desperate efforts, Napoleon was slowly but surely forced back to the river Rhine, and across it into France itself. Then, in 1814, while Wellington invaded France from the south, the Russians, Austrians, Prussians, and Swedes invaded it from the east and north.

Against such odds, Napoleon could not hope to succeed. After desperate battles, and most brilliant generalship, he was obliged to make peace. He had rejected earlier and more liberal offers, so the allies obliged him to give up his crown and go into exile. He kept the title of "Emperor," and was given the little island of Elba (between Corsica and Italy) to rule over, and was to receive an annual pension. On the whole, they did not treat him badly.

But it was not in Napoleon's nature to be content with a tiny kingdom. Louis XVIII., who had been placed on the French throne, had learned nothing from the misfortunes of his family, and the French people began to long for the return of Napoleon. The allies, too, were quarreling over the division of the territories taken from Napoleon, and he hoped that their union would be broken. So, in March, 1815, Napoleon slipped through the guard ships placed about his island, and soon all Europe was startled to hear that he was again in France.

"I shall reach Paris," Napoleon predicted, "without firing a shot."

The French soldiers who were sent to capture him went over to his side. Louis XVIII. fled from the kingdom, and Napoleon again seized the throne.

This news reunited the allies, and they once more set their armies in motion. Napoleon's policy was always to strike first. He now marched hastily into Belgium, to attack the British, under Wellington, and the Prussians, under Blucher. There he fought the great battle of Waterloo, on June 18, 1815.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

Duke of Wellington

Two days before this battle, Blucher had been defeated and separated from Wellington. Without Blucher's troops, it would be impossible for Wellington to hold his position, at Waterloo. How anxiously, then, through that long day, did Wellington scan the horizon for the promised aid of the Prussians! But the roads were soft from recent rains, and the Prussians found it slow work dragging the heavy cannon through the mud. Meanwhile, the battle raged fiercely—here, there, all over the field! In this battle, Wellington earned the name of "the Iron Duke," for he—

"Taught us there

What long enduring hearts could do,

In that world-earthquake, Waterloo!"

At last, six miles away, a dark moving mass appeared. The field glasses showed that they were men—troops! But were they the promised aid from Blucher, or the reinforcements expected by the French?

"They are French; they must be French!" cried Napoleon.

But no! It was the advance guard of the Prussians!

The French fought desperately, but they had now to face two foes. Soon they gave way. Then the defeat became a rout. The new recruits flung aside their guns, and the shameful cry arose, "Let each save himself!"

In vain Napoleon's Old Guard stood firm. "The Guard dies," it was said, "but it does not surrender!"

This defeat of Napoleon caused his final downfall. For the second time, Paris passed into the hands of the allies. Napoleon tried to find a ship in which he could escape to America, but could not. At last, to avoid falling into the hands of the Prussians, he went on board a British man-of-war, and surrendered to its commander.

He was taken to England. Then, by the unanimous resolve of the allies, he was carried to the island of St. Helena, in the South Atlantic Ocean, where he was kept a captive, until his death, in 1821. He had staked everything on making himself master of the whole of Europe, and had failed. He was one of the greatest generals in history, and in his few intervals of peace showed that he could be a great statesman and reformer. But his policy was coldly selfish, and the sufferings of France in his wars failed to move him. His overthrow was a real benefit to all the nations of Europe, and indeed of the world.

In the midst of her war against Napoleon, Great Britain fought her second war against the United States (1812-1815). The struggle between the giants of Europe had led both countries to interfere unjustly with the commerce of neutral nations, and American trade was practically destroyed. In addition, Great Britain forced many American seamen to serve on board her warships, claiming (truly or falsely) that they were British subjects. The United States chose to go to war with Great Britain alone, and American vessels won some notable victories over separate English vessels. The Americans failed, however, to conquer Canada, as was planned; and a British expedition captured the city of Washington and burned many of the government buildings. The battle of New Orleans, which General Andrew Jackson and his sharpshooters won against the British, came after peace had been agreed to, and so was without result. The treaty which ended the war left things just about as they were when it began. Nevertheless, the war accomplished two things for America: it caused Great Britain to respect her late colonies; and it united the States more firmly, and taught them that they were a nation.

In overthrowing the Emperor Napoleon, Great Britain had played the chief part. As was only natural, she profited by the war, through her conquest of the colonial possessions of France and of the countries allied with France—Spain and Holland. Thus she secured the Cape of Good Hope, Malta, Ceylon, Trinidad, and other important parts of the present British Empire.

But these gains were dearly bought. Her public debt increased to four times what it was at the beginning of the war, and has ever since remained a heavy burden. The prices of goods rose enormously, until wheat sold for about four dollars a bushel; but wages rose very little. The war left Great Britain, therefore, with many serious problems to solve. Moreover, fear of the French Revolution had stopped the movements toward democracy and reform, which existed before the war, and had left the rigid Tories in complete control of the government.

The wiping out of these effects of the struggle against the French Revolution was the work of the next twenty years of British history.


  1. Read an account of Napoleon Bonaparte's boyhood and rise to power.
  2. Read an account of the Battle of Trafalgar (Southey's "Life of Nelson," Ch. ix).
  3. Write and account of the Battle of Waterloo.
  4. Read aloud Byron's verses on the festivities at Brussels the night before Waterloo ("Childe Harold," canto III., stanzas xxi-xxv).
  5. Show how men like Drake and the Earl of Chatham had prepared England for her victory over the French Revolution. Show that Hargreaves and Watt had contributed to this same end.

A Period of Reform (1815-1837)


Condition of England after the wars; the "Peterloo Massacre"; its effect on the government; on the Whig leaders.

Laws against Dissenters repealed; Daniel O'Connell; Catholics admitted to Parliament; need of reform in Parliament; the Reform Act passed, 1832; later Acts of 1867 and 1884.

Slavery abolished, 1834; employment of children in factories; Factory Acts passed; criminal law reformed; other reforms.

The sixty years' reign of George III. came to an end in 1820. During the last nine years of his life, he was permanently insane, and the government was carried on by his eldest son, George IV., as regent.

The reign of George IV. in his own right lasted from 1820 to 1830. He loved to be called the "First Gentleman in Europe," but he was far from being a gentleman at heart. Both before and after he became King, he led an evil and dissipated life. His attempt to gain a divorce from his wife, Queen Caroline, whose life was far less blameworthy than his own, made him very unpopular with his subjects. Before he became King he had been a great Whig; but after his father's power had passed into his hands he forgot all his liberal principles, and became an extreme Tory.

He was succeeded by his brother William IV., who ruled from 1830 to 1837. Until late in life there seemed little likelihood that William would succeed to the throne, so he was bred up to a sailor's life. He went to sea, as a midshipman, when he was fourteen years of age, and he showed a great liking for naval service. His bluff sailor-like ways gained him great popularity, both as prince and as King; but he lacked dignity of manner, and showed little ability as a ruler. Like his brother, George IV., he left no heir to the throne, and when he died the crown passed to the daughter of a younger brother. Queen Victoria, whose long and eventful reign will be described later.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

William IV

The last years of George III., and the reigns of George IV. and William IV., were filled with questions of reform in the government. Bad times followed the close of the wars with France, and for a number of years taxes and the price of food were high, while great numbers of the people were out of employment. Ignorant people sometimes formed mobs, and broke machines used in manufacturing, which they fancied were the cause of their lack of employment. "Hampden Clubs" and other societies were formed among the people to work for political reforms, and these alarmed the Tories with fears of revolution, like that which had taken place in France.

In 1819 a meeting was called by the reformers in St. Peters Field, at Manchester. Probably fifty thousand persons, or more, gathered there, bearing banners with the words, "Unity and Strength," "Annual Parliaments," "Universal Suffrage," on them. Many of the men had been drilled to march in step; but they were without weapons, except some who carried about sticks.

One of their leaders tells us that his old employer called to him, as they marched through the streets, and said, anxiously, that he "hoped they intended no harm."

"No, no, my dear master," was the answer, "if any wrong or violence takes place, they will be committed by men of a different stamp from these."

The meeting had scarcely opened, however, and the chief speaker begun his address, when the magistrates ordered mounted soldiers to arrest the speaker, and to break up the meeting.

"Forward!" was the command; and as the trumpet sounded, the soldiers dashed into the struggling multitude of unarmed people. In ten minutes the vast crowd was scattered. To accomplish this, five or six persons were killed, and fifty or more were wounded.

This "Peterloo Massacre" caused great indignation among liberal-minded people. It led the government, on the other hand, to pass very severe laws against political meetings, against speaking or printing criticisms of the government, and against drilling private persons. The chief effect of all this was to show the leaders of the Whig party that, unless they joined with these "Radicals," in reforming the government and in taking it out of the hands of the Tories, either liberty would be lost, or there might be a revolution which would upset all social order and government.

The wisest of the Whigs, therefore, took up in Parliament the cause of reform, and soon their efforts began to be crowned with success.

The first great reforms were to repeal the laws which forbade anyone to be a member of Parliament except those who worshiped according to the Church of England. Protestant Dissenters had long been allowed to sit as members of Parliament, in spite of the law, but it was not until 1828 that this was made legal. The next year the laws which kept Catholics out of office were also repealed.

The repealing of the laws against the Catholics was chiefly the work of an Irish Catholic leader named Daniel O'Connell. He was a great public speaker, and with the aid of the Catholic priests he organized the small Irish voters, so that they no longer voted for candidates named by their landlords, but for men favorable to their own cause. The Tory party, the leaders of the Church of England, and perhaps a majority of the English people, were opposed to the Catholic claims, and raised the cry of "No Popery," and "Church and King." George III. had been led to believe that the oath which he had taken as King to "uphold the Church of England" forbade him consenting to laws favorable to the Catholics; and when Pitt had proposed such laws it had brought on one of George's fits of insanity. George IV. now held the same ideas, but people cared less for his opinions.

The question came to a head when O'Connell was himself elected to the House of Commons, in 1829. He was a catholic, and could not take the oaths which were required of all members of that body. But, if he were not admitted to Parliament, all Ireland would burst out into revolt. So, the King's chief ministers—the Duke of Wellington and Sir Robert Peel—used their influence to pass a bill which gave Catholics the same political rights as Protestants.

This was a wise step, but it angered their Tory followers and weakened their party. It made it easier for the Whigs, soon after this, to get control of the government and to pass a yet greater reform measure.

This was the reform of the representation in the House of Commons itself. Many of the members, in that body, represented what were known as "rotten boroughs"—that is, towns which never had much population, or which had so declined that they were no longer populous. Some places which sent representatives were mounds and ditches, without any inhabitants, or were towns which had years before been swallowed up by the sea. Sometimes they were called "pocket boroughs," because the lord of the land practically named the members himself—carried them around "in his pocket," so to speak. On the other hand, many of the great manufacturing towns, which had sprung up as a result of the Industrial Revolution, and no representative in Parliament. Some members of the House of Lords practically appointed as many as eleven members each in the House of Commons, while the great majority of the people, both in the towns and in the country, had no right of voting, even for a single member. Those who did have the right frequently sold their votes to the highest bidder, when they were not forced to vote as their landlords commanded them. It was generally known that seats in the House of Commons could be bought for a certain sum of money.

For a long time, all proposals to reform Parliament were successfully resisted. But when the Duke of Wellington, in 1830, declared, as head of the government, that these arrangements were the very best that could possibly be invented, his statement was too much even for his followers.

"What is the matter?" asked the Duke of a friend who sat by him, as loud murmurs arose in different parts of the House.

"Nothing," was the reply, "except that you have announced your own downfall."

So it proved, for, soon after this, Earl Grey became the head of a Whig ministry, in Wellington's place. The cause of Parliamentary reform was now taken up in earnest, and a Reform Bill was introduced in the House of Commons. It was bitterly opposed, and its fate was long doubtful. In a letter to a friend, the historian Macaulay, who was himself a member of the Commons, gives this description of the passing of the first vote in its favor:

"Everybody was desponding. 'We have lost it! I do not think we are two hundred and fifty; they are three hundred.' This was the talk on our benches. As the count of our number proceeded, the interest was insupportable. 'Two hundred and ninety-one, two hundred and ninety-two—' We were all standing up, and counting with the tellers. At 'three hundred' there was a short cry of joy; at 'three hundred and two,' another. We knew that we could not be severely beaten.

"First, we heard that they were three hundred and three; then that number rose to three hundred and ten; then went down to three hundred and seven. We were all breathless with anxiety, when one of our side, who stood near the door, jumped up on a bench and cried out—

" 'They are only three hundred and one!'

"We set up a shout that you might have heard to Charing Cross, stamping against the floor and clapping our hands. No sooner were the outer doors opened, than another shout answered that within the House. All the passages and stairs were thronged by people who had waited, until four o'clock in the morning, to know the result. I called a cab, and the first thing the driver asked was—

" 'Is the bill carried?'

" 'Yes, by one vote.'

" 'Thank God for it, sir!'

"And away I rode, and so ended a scene which will probably never be equated."

But the battle was not yet over. This House of Commons had to be dismissed, and a new one elected, before the bill finally passed the body. Then the House of Lords rejected it. The House of Commons then passed the bill a second time; and such an agitation broke out among the people that, in the end, the Lords gave way. In June, 1832, the great Reform Bill became law.

By its provisions, many of the small boroughs lost their representatives in Parliament, while the great manufacturing towns gained representation. At the same time the "franchise," or right to vote, was made more liberal, so that small farmers and shopkeepers secured the vote. Later laws, passed in 1867 and in 1884, further reformed the House of Commons, so that it is now practically as representative of the people as our Congress, and the right to vote is almost as general as with us.

The reform of Parliament caused a real revolution in the government, though a peaceful one. For fifty years the Tories had been in almost constant control. Now, for thirty-five years, the government was almost continuously in the hands of the Whigs, and they used the opportunity to pass many needed reforms.

One of these was the abolition of slavery throughout all the British possessions.

Shortly before our Declaration of Independence, the English courts declared that slavery could not exist in Great Britain, and that as soon as a slave set foot on its soil he became free. Then, in 1807, a law was passed which forbade British vessels to take part in the slave trade, and forbade entrance of additional slaves into the British colonies.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

A Spinning Factory

This action was largely due to the efforts of two great-hearted English reformers, Thomas Clarkson and William Wilberforce, who gave the greater part of their lives to working, first, against the slave trade, and then against slavery itself. They formed anti-slavery societies, collected evidence, and in speeches and pamphlets aroused the consciences of Englishmen to the terrible wrongs of slavery.

In 1833, their labors were at last completely successful. Parliament passed a law that all slaves throughout the British possessions should be set free on August 1, 1834, and that their masters should receive, from the British government, an amount equal to $100,000,000. In the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries, English traders and sailors had taken a principal part in carrying African slaves to other countries. It was only right, therefore, that Great Britain should now take the chief part in ridding the world of this curse.

The condition of children who worked in the mines and factories was very bad at this time, and Parliament passed laws in regard to this subject also. Many parents practically sold their children to the owners of factories, who worked them for such long hours and under such bad conditions that they either died or were injured for life. One young man, aged nineteen, testified before a committee of Parliament, in 1832, as follows:

"What time did you begin to work at a mill?"

"When I was six years old."

"What sort of a mill was it?"

"A wooden mill."

"What were the hours of work?"

"We used to start at five, and work till nine at night."

"What time had you for your dinner?"

"Half an hour."

"What time had you for breakfast and drinking?"

"A quarter of an hour at each end of the day."

"How were you kept up to your work, during the latter part of the day?"

"The overlooker used to come with a strap, and give us a rap or two."

"Did they strike the young children as well as the older ones, the girls as well as the boys?"


[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

Children Working in a Mine

"State the effect upon your health of those long hours of labor."

"I was made crooked with so much standing." Here the witness showed his legs, which were very crooked.

"How tall are you?"

"About four feet, nine inches."

"Were the children unhappy? Have you seen them crying at their work?"


"Had you time to go to a day school, or a night school, during this labor? Can you write?"

"No, not at all."

"What effect did working by gaslight have upon your eyes?"

"It nearly made me blind."

As a result of such testimony, Parliament passed a "Factory Act" in 1833, which forbade the working in factories of children under nine years of age. Later acts entirely stopped the employment of women and children in mines, where their condition was even worse than in factories. Gradually the hours of work in the factories were cut down, and better conditions established. At the same time, it was ordered that factory children should spend at least a part of each day in school, in order that they might not grow up entirely uneducated. In this way only could the introduction of the factory system of manufacturing be prevented from becoming more of a curse than a blessing to the great body of the people.

A reform of the criminal law was also begun at this time. The old criminal law was very harsh, and provided the penalty of death for more than two hundred offenses. These included such offenses as injuring Westminster bridge, picking pockets, and unlawfully killing deer, as well as serious crimes. Changes in the law now began, which ended by leaving only murder and treason punishable with death. These reforms not only made the law less barbarous, but also made its penalties more certain. Now that its provisions were more reasonable, judges and juries did not hesitate so much to punish those who committed crimes.

Many other important reforms were carried out. These included, among others, a reform of the system for relieving distress among the poor, which was very much needed; and also a reform of the manner of governing the cities. It would take too long to go into the details of these, and other measures. But it should ever be borne in mind that one of the first and greatest of the results which followed the giving of more power in Parliament to the people was the clearing away of old abuses in the government.

Instead of the disorder and anarchy which the Tories feared would come from the Reform Act, there came a period of active good government, and a time of general prosperity for the whole country.


  1. Why should the reform clubs be called "Hampden Clubs?" Why were the Tories so alarmed by such movements as that which led to the meeting in St. Peter's Field?
  2. Did the Whigs take up the cause of reform because they believed the people should rule, or because alliance with the people was the only way in which the Tory government could be overthrown?
  3. Write an account in your own words of the importance of the reform of Parliament.
  4. Compare the abolition of the slave trade and slavery in the British Empire with their abolition in the United States.
  5. Make a list of the evils growing out of the Industrial Revolution which needed to be corrected. Make another list of the benefits which it brought.

The Early Reign of Queen Victoria


Accession of Queen Victoria; her character; Prince Albert; Victoria's constitutional rule.

Inventions and improvements; gaslight; the railway and steamboat; penny postage; the telegraph and telephone.

Famine in Ireland; Sir Robert Peel, Prime Minister; the Corn Laws repealed (1846).

Causes of Crimean War; siege of Sebastopol; charge of the Light Brigade; end of the war.

The Mutiny in India; its causes; siege of Lucknow; end of the Mutiny; effects on the government of India; the Queen proclaimed Empress of India (1877).

Early on a June morning in 1837, a carriage dashed up to the gates of the palace where the Princess Victoria was living, and the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Lord Chamberlain of England got hastily out. They had driven through the night, from Windsor Castle, the royal residence, twenty-five miles away, and asked to see the Princess at once.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

Windsor Castle

"We are come on business of state," said they, "and even Her Highness's sleep must give way to that."

After a few minutes, the Princess came into the room, a shawl thrown hastily about her shoulders, and her hair in disorder.

Then the messengers fell upon their knees, and informed her that, through the death that night of her uncle, William IV., she had become the sovereign Queen of Great Britain and Ireland, and mistress of all the British dominions beyond the seas.

The new Queen was barely eighteen. She had lost her father when she was less than a year old, and had been brought up carefully by her mother, the Duchess of Kent. Long afterwards, she wrote of her early years:

"I was brought up very simply—never had a room to myself till I was nearly grown up. I always slept in my mother's room, till I came to the throne. In the small houses at the bathing places, to which we went in summer, I sat and took my lessons in my governess's bedroom."

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

Princess Victoria Notified that she has Become Queen

At the news that her uncle was dead, and that she had become Queen, her eyes filled with tears.

The sweetness, kindness, and good sense which she showed charmed all her people. Because of these qualities, and because of her long reign of sixty-four years, she was one of the most important rulers of her time, and one of the greatest sovereigns that England ever had.

Three years after she became Queen, Victoria married her cousin, Prince Albert, who belonged to the family of German princes from which her mother came. They had many children, and their family life was a very happy one. The prince was a good father and a good husband; he was also a wise and a well educated man, and aided the Queen very much in carrying on the government. He died in 1861, and Queen Victoria never got over her grief for him. For many years afterwards, she appeared in public only when it was absolutely necessary.

Throughout her long reign, Queen Victoria loyally played the part of a constitutional sovereign. She chose her ministers, now from the Whigs (or "Liberals," as they began to be called), and now from the Tories (or "Conservatives"), whichever had a majority in the House of Commons. In this way Parliament, especially the House of Commons, came more and more to rule the country; and the old idea of George III., that the personal will of the King should rule, was very largely given up.

The long reign of Queen Victoria saw a constant succession of new inventions, which increased man's mastery over nature.

By Victoria's time, artificial gaslights had taken the place of the old whale-oil lamps, with which formerly the streets of London were dimly lighted. Gaslight was also generally used in shops, and in the better class of houses. It was not until her reign was two-thirds over that electric lighting came into use.

In 1814 George Stephenson, the son of a poor English miner, constructed a locomotive engine, which people called "Puffing Billy," on account of the noise which it made. Little by little the locomotive was improved, until Stephenson's "Rocket" could run at the rate of thirty-five miles an hour. The first railway for passengers was opened in 1829. The year after Victoria became Queen, a railway was opened clear through from London to Liverpool, and it became possible to cover, in ten hours, a distance which had taken sixty hours by the fastest stage coach. The steamboat had already been invented, by Fulton in America (1807), and by Bell in Scotland (1812); and in 1838 vessels under steam power began to cross the Atlantic Ocean. The influence of these inventions, in changing all the conditions of life, was only second in importance to the introduction of machinery in manufacturing.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

"Puffing Billy"

Formerly, the person who received a letter paid the postage, which varied with the distance. A letter from London to Scotland could cost more than a shilling (twenty-five cents) and poor people often could not afford to receive letters. In 1839, however, gummed postage stamps were introduced, with which the sender paid the postage; and in 1840 the rate was made one penny (two cents) for letters throughout Great Britain and Ireland. Since then cheap postage has spread all over the world, until in 1908 the rate was made two cents even to America. This cheapening of postage brought people closer together, and also aided the spread of information, through the circulation of cheap newspapers and magazines.

Of even greater importance was the introduction of the electric telegraph, at the beginning of Victoria's reign. An American, Samuel Morse, invented an electric telegraph in 1835; but, before he could patent his invention in Great Britain, two Englishman had worked out an invention of their own and patented it. Within a short time the whole country was covered with telegraph wires, and messages could be flashed in a moment's time from one end of it to another. In 1858, an electric cable was first laid, connecting Great Britain and America; but this soon broke, and it was not until 1866 that it became possible to send messages regularly between the Old World and the New. The telegraphs became the property of the government, in Great Britain, and are managed as a part of the Post Office. When the telephone was introduced, after 1880, this also passed largely into the hands of the government.

When Victoria had been Queen nine years, a great famine came upon Ireland, which caused the loss of thousands of lives, and led several million persons to emigrate from Ireland to the United States.

The famine was due to a failure of the potato crop, which furnished the chief food of the Irish people. After a cold and late spring, it began to rain. In some places, the sun was scarcely seen from the end of May till next spring. Here and there brown spots began to appear on the leaves of the potato plants. They grew black and spread, and soon whole fields were blighted. At night, a field might appear green and flourishing, and the next morning all be blight and decay. The food upon which the people depended to carry them through the winter rotted in the ground. The whole land was soon face to face with starvation.

For some years an "Anti-Corn-Law League" had been working in England to secure the repeal of the "Corn Laws," which laid heavy tariff duties on imported grain. They held great public meetings, they printed pamphlets, and they published bitter rhymes, like this:

"Avenge the plunder'd poor, Oh Lord!

But not with fire, but not with sword,—

Not as at 'Peterloo' they died,

Beneath the hoofs of coward pride.

Avenge our rags, our chains, our sighs,

The famine in our children's eyes!

But not with sword—no, not with fire!

.   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .

Let them in outraged mercy trust,

And find  that mercy they deny!"

Sir Robert Peel, who was now Prime Minister at the head of the Tory party, believed in free trade in everything except grain. As to grain, he believed that every country must raise its own food, or it could be starved out in war time. But now, the famine in Ireland showed him the necessity of free trade in grain also.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

Sir Robert Peel

So, Peel carried through Parliament a measure repealing the Corn Laws (1846). Many of his followers deserted him on this measure, for cheaper grain meant less profits to the landlord class; but the Whigs aided him. This law made England a free-trade country; and it has remained such from that day to this. Soon after this, the Whigs and Protectionist Tories overthrew Peel's government, and he never regained power.

Since the overthrow of Napoleon, in 1815, Great Britain had fought several small wars in Asia and in Africa, but had not been at war with any European power. From 1854 to 1856, however, she fought Russia, in the "Crimean War," so called because it was fought mainly in the Crimea peninsula, in the Black Sea.

The cause of this war was the claims of Russia over Turkey, and the fears of England and France that, if they did not aid Turkey, Russia would become too powerful. The Czar of Russia was in the habit of speaking of Turkey as "the Sick Man" of Europe. By this, he meant that the government of Turkey was so weak that it must soon fall to pieces, and he believed that the great powers should plan beforehand what was to be done when this should happen. The other countries thought this was only a scheme of Russia to get possession of Constantinople, which would give it an outlet from the Black Sea into the Mediterranean. This would be especially bad for England, for it would threaten the security of her possessions in India. So, when Russia claimed the right to interfere in Turkey, to protect the Christians there (who were "Greek Christians," like the Russians), England and France encouraged the Sultan to resist. And when war broke out between Russia and Turkey, they sent their armies and fleets to the Sultan's assistance.

The Russians strongly fortified Sebastopol in the Crimea, and the English and French attacked it. The siege lasted for nearly a year, amid cholera, famine, and the winter weather. The Czar said that "Generals January and February" would be his strongest allies, and so it proved. The British army suffered terribly, and there was a great outcry at home because of mistakes made by the government.

For the first time women nurses were sent out to the army, and an English gentlewoman, named Florence Nightingale, won undying fame by the heroism and self-sacrifice which she showed in caring for the sick and wounded.

The most famous deed of all this war was the charge of the Light Brigade, about which Tennyson wrote one of his best known poems. Through the blunder of some officer, six hundred and seventy-three British horsemen were ordered to charge the whole Russian line.

"Cannon to right of them,

Cannon to left of them,

Cannon in front of them

Volley'd and thunder'd;

Storm'd at with shot and shell,

Boldly they rode and well,

Into the jaws of Death,

Into the mouth of Hell

Rode the six hundred."

More than two-thirds of that heroic band were killed, wounded, or made prisoners. "It is magnificent," said a French general, "but it is not war."

In the end, Sebastopol fell, and Russia was obliged to make peace. Many people thought that the whole war was a mistake, and that all the war accomplished could have been gained by peaceful means.

The year which followed the end of the Crimean War saw a great rebellion against British rule in India. It is known as the Indian "Mutiny," because it was confined almost entirely to the native soldiers, or Sepoys, who made up more than nine-tenths of the British army there. It was largely due to uneasiness among the native peoples at the introduction of railroads, and European ways, and to interference with native religious customs. Its immediate cause was a rumor that some new cartridges which were given the troops were greased with beef-fat and hog-lard. The Hindoos regarded beef-cattle as sacred, and the Mohammedans hated everything which came from the hog; so both Hindoos and Mohammedans joined in the revolt.

It was in May, 1857, that the Sepoys first mutinied. They slew their officers, and proclaimed an aged Prince, Emperor of India. In one place, the officers, warned by telegraph, ordered a review of their troops at daybreak. When the columns were in front of the cannon—behind which stood white gunners with port-fire lighted—the command was suddenly given, "Pile arms!" and the Sepoys dared not disobey. They were disarmed, and the mutiny was prevented from spreading to that province.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding


Other places were not so fortunate. At Cawnpore, the British were obliged to surrender, after standing siege for some time, and men, women, and children were put to death. At Lucknow, the garrison, together with 450 women and children, held out for three months, amid the greatest hardships. A relieving expedition fought its way to them, but it was not strong enough to bring back the besieged through the hostile country. A second expedition was long in coming. But one day a Scotch girl, in the camp, suddenly startled up from her sick bed, crying:

"The Campbells are coming! Don't you hear the bagpipes?"

At first they thought that her mind was wandering. But she was right. It was  a body of Scotch Highlanders, of the clan of the Campbells, marching to their relief, with the bagpipes playing at the head of the column. This time the force was strong enough to bring the garrison away.

After some further fighting, the rebellion was put down, and the rebels were severely punished. Ever since the Mutiny, a larger proportion of British troops has been kept in India, so that a danger might not again arise. Also, the Mutiny showed the necessity of making a change in the government of India. The old East India Company was dissolved, and the British government itself took over the rule. In many ways, some consideration was shown to the wishes and prejudices of the Indian peoples, and in 1877 the Queen was proclaimed Empress of India. On the whole, British rule had been a great blessing to India; but it is very natural that the educated natives should seek, as they are now doing, to have a larger share in the government of their own land.


  1. Write an account of the character and home life of Queen Victoria.
  2. Read an account of George Stephenson and the invention of the locomotive engine.
  3. Compare the means of communication and travel in 1700 with those in 1800, and those in 1900. Mark those which came in the reign of Victoria.
  4. Write an account of Sir Robert Peel.
  5. Read aloud Tennyson's poem "The Charge of the Light Brigade."

Gladstone and Disraeli


Early life of Gladstone; development of his political opinions; his attitude towards the Civil war in America; later admits his mistake; settles the "Alabama" claims.

Disraeli becomes leader of the Conservative party; defeats the Liberal bill for reforming Parliament; passes a more radical bill himself.

Gladstone for the first time Prime Minister; Irish Church disestablished; elementary education established; other reforms; Gladstone defeated by Disraeli.

Gladstone a second time Prime Minister; beginning of his measures for Ireland.

The best known statesman of the reign of Queen Victoria was William E. Gladstone. He was for sixty-two years a member of the House of Commons, and was four times Prime Minister. He was the greatest political speaker of the latter half of that century, and his name is connected with some of the most important laws of that time.

Mr. Gladstone was born at Liverpool, in 1809, the same year that Abraham Lincoln was born. His parents were of Scottish descent, and his father was a successful merchant. When he was eleven years old, he was sent to the great school for boys at Eton, which many noblemen's sons attended. At that time there was much flogging in English schools, and much fighting among the boys; Englishmen defended both as good things, because they said that they made the boys sturdy and self-reliant. From Eton, Gladstone went to Oxford University, where he ranked very high in Greek and Latin, and also in mathematics. In after years he never forgot his interest in learning, and amid his active political life he carried on much reading and study.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

Eton College

Gladstone was always very much interested in religion, and for a time he wanted to become a clergyman of the Church of England. Instead, he followed the wishes of his father, and entered political life. He became a member of the House of Commons in 1833, the year after the great Reform Bill was passed. He owed his first seat to the favor of a great nobleman, who controlled one of the "rotten boroughs" which had not yet been reformed.

For many years Gladstone acted with the aristocratic party, and was described as "the rising hope of the stern, unbending Tories." But he was a member of Sir Robert Peel's Cabinet when it repealed the Corn Laws, in 1846; and when the Tory party was split into two, on that question, he followed Peel against the Protectionists. Thirteen years later, he joined the Whig (or Liberal) party, and, after he came to be its leader, he gradually became more and more radical, until finally a number of his followers deserted him and joined the Conservative party. Late in his life Mr. Gladstone summed up the changes in his political principles in these words:

"I was brought up to distrust and dislike liberty; I learned to believe in it. That is the key to all my changes."

When the Civil War broke out in America, in 1861, the upper classes of Great Britain sympathized with the South. The Southern planters were great landlords, like the English nobles and gentry, and had the same aristocratic ideas; moreover, Englishmen admired the dashing courage which the South showed in fighting the richer and more populous North. They disliked the North, because of the tariff which it put on English goods, and because the war prevented England's getting the cotton it needed to run its factories; besides, Englishmen did not believe that the North was sincere in opposing slavery. Gladstone shared these feelings, in part, and in 1862 he said:

"We may have our own opinions about slavery; we may be for or against the South. But there is no doubt that Jefferson Davis and other leaders of the South have made an army;  they are making, it appears, a navy;  and they have made what is more than either, they have made a nation."

Long afterwards Mr. Gladstone admitted that it was a great mistake for him to make such a speech. The Northern States were already very angry with Great Britain for its favor to the South, and this speech made people think that the British government intended to recognize Southern independence. Matters became worse when Great Britain permitted Southern cruisers, like the Alabama, to set out from British ports and destroy the shipping and commerce of the North. At times, there was real danger of war between the United States and England.

In the end it was Mr. Gladstone who removed the last disagreement between the two countries, growing out of this war. In 1871 his government agreed that the "Alabama  claims" should be submitted for decision to arbitrators, chosen chiefly by the rulers of Italy, Switzerland, and Brazil. The arbitrators decided that Great Britain was wrong, and that she should pay to the United States the sum of $15,000,000 for the damages done by the Southern cruisers. Many Englishmen protested against this decision, but it was one of Gladstone's strong points that he never hesitated to confess it when he knew that he was in the wrong, and to do what he could to make matters right.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

William Ewart Gladstone

For more than twenty years, Mr. Gladstone's chief opponent in politics was Benjamin Disraeli, whom Queen Victoria made Earl of Beaconsfield. Disraeli was the son of Jewish parents, but was himself a Christian. He was a writer of well-known novels, as well as a statesman. When he first entered Parliament he was a radical in politics, but later became a Tory. He was one of the leaders of those who deserted Peel on the question of the repeal of the Corn Laws, and was very bitter in his attacks on that statesman. He said that Peel had "caught the Whigs bathing, and had walked off with their clothes"—meaning that he had stolen his ideas from the Whigs. Disraeli was a very brilliant speaker, and in many ways was an able statesman; and, since men of ability were scarce on the Tory side after Peel's downfall, it was not long before Disraeli became their most important member. Under his leadership, the Tories became more liberal, and less opposed to needed reforms; he also gave more prominence to foreign and colonial questions than the Whigs.

For a number of years, the Whigs had been trying to pass a new measure of Parliamentary reform, which should take away more of the rotten boroughs, and give the right of voting to more people.

"You cannot fight against the future," said Gladstone to the Tories, who were opposing this step. "Time is on our side."

But the Whig reform measure was defeated, by votes of the Tories and of Whigs who sided with them against their own leaders.

Then the Tories, or Conservatives, came into power, with Mr. Disraeli as their leader in the House of Commons; and they proceeded, in 1867, to pass a measure ever so much more radical than the one proposed by the Liberals. It more than doubled the number of voters, by giving the vote to the workingmen in the towns. Those liberals who had aided the Tories in turning Mr. Gladstone out of office protested in vain against this Conservative bill. Even the Tory leader, in the House of Lords, had his doubts about the measure: "It is a leap in the dark," he said.

But, under Disraeli's urging, the Tories took the leap. One result of this step was that, after a time, the working people became less opposed to the Tories, and that party regained a great deal of power it had lost in 1832.

But the first effect of this Reform Act, in the elections held in 1868, was to give the Liberal party a majority of the House of Commons. For the first time Mr. Gladstone became Prime Minister, at the age of sixty years; and during the five years that he now held that office, he passed reform after reform.

One of the first matters that he dealt with was the Church question in Ireland. Nine-tenths of the people there were Catholics; nevertheless, the people were long taxed to support the Protestant Episcopal established Church. In many parishes there were no worshipers in the fine buildings of the established Church, while the poor tumble-down Catholic chapels, near by, were crowded and overflowing. Against bitter opposition, Gladstone passed a law by which the Protestant Church in Ireland was disestablished—that is, it ceased to be supported by the state, and was put on much the same footing as the Catholic Church there. The measure was very gratifying to the oppressed people in Ireland.

"Thank God," said an Irishman, when the measure became a law, "the bridge is at last broken down that has so long separated the English and Irish peoples."

Ireland still had many injustices to complain of, but one of the oldest of them was now done away with. And again and again, in after years, as will be shown in the next chapter, Mr. Gladstone tried to remove further injustices, and to improve Ireland's sad condition.

In England, also, he carried out many reforms. When the right of voting was given to the workingmen, in 1867, one of the Whigs who had opposed that measure said: "Now we must educate our masters."

Gladstone fully agreed that more provision should be made for educating the people, and in 1870 he passed a law for establishing new elementary schools in places which needed them, and supporting them by local taxes. Other laws have since increased the number and importance of these schools, but England is still far behind the United States in its free public school system.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

View of the House of Commons

Mr. Gladstone passed many other laws for doing away with injustices and abuses. One of these was a reform by which officers in the army were no longer obliged to purchase their offices from those who went before them, thus making it easier for a poor man to secure promotion. Another was a law by which voting in elections was made secret, by ballot, instead of being done openly as before; thus poor men could vote for whom they pleased, without fear of their employer, landlord, or anybody. He also opened the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge to Dissenters, Catholics, and Jews, who formerly were prevented, by religious tests, from being graduated there.

These reforms followed one another so rapidly that they quite took the breath away from many people. As a result, Gladstone's government began to lose its hold on the country. Disraeli, the leader of the Conservatives, jokingly described the Liberal ministers, in Parliament, as "a row of extinct volcanoes," and of Mr. Gladstone he said:

"You have now had four years of it. You have despoiled churches. You have examined into everybody's affairs. You have criticized every profession and vexed every trade. No one is certain of his property, and nobody knows what duties he may have to perform tomorrow. I believe that the people of this country have had enough of the policy of confiscation."

And so it seemed, for when the elections were held in 1874 the Liberals were defeated, and Disraeli and the Conservatives came into office.

Gladstone was now sixty-five years old, and he decided to retire from the leadership of his party, while continuing to sit in the House of Commons. As it proved, events were too strong for him. Disraeli and his party showed such favor to the Turkish Empire, where Christians were being greatly abused, that Mr. Gladstone attacked their policy; and when Disraeli (now Earl of Beaconsfield) was forced to resign his position as Prime Minister, Mr. Gladstone was for a second time (1880-1885) called to that office. And, during this term as Prime Minister, he became so much interested in attempting to settle the questions relating to Ireland that he continued to lead the Liberal party even after his second fall from office. So, for twenty years after 1874, he was one of the most important persons in British politics, and was Prime Minister—not merely for a second time—but for a third and a fourth time also. It was in this period especially that he came to be known all the world over as England's "Grand Old Man."

But, as the measures with which he was now concerned dealt mainly with Ireland, it will be well to consider them separately, in another chapter.


  1. Read an account of the boyhood and school life of Gladstone.
  2. Compare Gladstone and Disraeli as men and as statesmen.
  3. Compare the changes made by the reform of Parliament in 1832 with those made in 1867.
  4. With what sort of reforms was Gladstone occupied in his first Prime Ministership? With what was he chiefly occupied in his later ministries?

England and Ireland


Ireland in early times; English conquest and rule; confiscations of lands in the sixteenth century and seventeenth centuries; "tenant farmers" and "absentee" landlords; other English oppressions of Ireland.

Effects of the American Revolution and the French Revolution on Ireland; the Act of Union; changes in the early nineteenth century.

Charles Stewart Parnell, and the Irish Land League; the "three F's"; Irish land question practically settled.

The "Home Rule" movement; Gladstone converted to it; division in the Liberal party; Gladstone fails to pass his Home Rule bill, in 1886 and 1893.

Causes of the weakening of the Home Rule movement; present state of the question.

In order to understand the disturbing questions about Ireland, which filled the latter part of Victoria's reign, we must look at the whole history of Ireland's connection with England.

The inhabitants of Ireland were Celts, like the early Britons, and until the twelfth century were independent of the rulers of their sister island. They became Christians before England did, and in literature and art they reached a high stage of civilization. But in industry and in government they lagged behind, largely because they remained organized by clans and tribes, and were ruled over by a number of petty Kings.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

An Irish Cabin

Henry II. was the first King of England to make himself "Lord of Ireland"; but, for long after this time, all that this title meant was the possession of a small district about Dublin, called "the Pale," and a very loose lordship over the Celtic chiefs and Kings who ruled the rest of the island. It was not until the time of the Tudors that the English "Lord of Ireland" became its King, ruling over the whole land, and forcing the English language and English customs upon it.

At the time of the Reformation, the English, after much hesitation, became Protestant, but the Irish remained Catholic. The hatred which was born of religious differences was thus added to that which was felt by a conquered race for the race which had conquered it. To these hatreds were later added those caused by robbing the Irish of much of their lands, and by great economic and political injustice.

When an Irish chieftain rebelled, or was accused of treason, the English government confiscated the land of his whole tribe, regardless of the rights of those who were not concerned in his guilt. The confiscated lands were then given out to English and Scottish colonists, who settled on them; or else they were granted to favorites of the crown, who drew the rents from the lands without living in Ireland. This policy began under Mary Tudor; it was continued under Elizabeth and James I.; and it was completed under Cromwell. Two-thirds of the fertile land of Ireland thus came to be owned by foreigners, who at the same time were usually Protestants.

The great mass of the Irish people became "tenant farmers," under these "absentee" landlords. They lived in miserable hovels, paid high rents, and were liable to be turned out of their farms at a moment's notice. The English statesman, Disraeli, once said that the Irish peasants were "the worst housed, worst fed, and worst clothed in Europe." For this condition of affairs, the rulers of England were chiefly responsible.

In addition to other injustices, the English Parliament passed laws, in the seventeenth century, which crushed Irish industry and commerce. Ireland was excluded from the benefits of the Navigation Acts, which built up England's commerce; and also the Irish were forbidden to send their cattle, sheep, and fresh meats, their butter and cheese to England for fear that they would injure the trade of the English landowners. Ireland, for a time, made great progress in wool-raising—for which her green pastures well fitted her—and also in manufacturing woolen goods. But, in the year 1699, the English Parliament checked these also; for it passed an act forbidding the export of Irish wool and wooden goods to any country except England, and there the import duties were made so heavy as practically to shut them out.

We must add to all this that the Irish Parliament, which sat at Dublin, was made up entirely of Protestants, who were usually of English or Scottish descent. For a long time it had little real power, and was almost completely under the control of the government of England. Also, the Irish Catholics, who made up seven-tenths of the population, had no vote, and (until 1720) were not even permitted to worship according to their own faith.

Is it any wonder, then, that the Irish came to cherish a bitter hatred for England, and that, in spite of all that England has since done to right Ireland's wrongs, that feeling is still strong and active?

The American Revolution gave the Irish their first opportunity for bettering their condition. While Great Britain was busied with her revolted colonies, and at war with France, the Irish raised a strong force and demanded that the Parliament at Dublin should be given full rights to legislate, and that the laws against Irish trade should be repealed. This was granted; and, also, a little later Catholics were given the right to vote.

But Irish manufacturers and trade were too thoroughly crushed to rise again for many years; and the legislative independence which was won as a result of the American Revolution was soon lost as a result of the French Revolution. The landing of French forces in Ireland, and the rising of the Irish rebellion in 1798, taught England the danger of an independent Irish Parliament. So an Act of Union was passed, by which (in 1801), Ireland lost its Parliament, and instead was given representatives in the Parliament of Great Britain, sitting at Westminster.

How Catholics, in 1829, through O'Connell's agitation, gained the right to sit in this Parliament, has already been told. We have also seen how great famine came upon Ireland in 1846, through a failure of the potato crop; and how, in spite of the repeal of the Corn Laws, this led several millions of people to emigrate, most of them coming to the United States. And in telling the story of Mr. Gladstone, we have also seen how he was led, in 1868, to disestablish the Protestant Episcopal Church in Ireland, and thus remove the worst of the religious grievances which still remained.

This, however, was only the beginning of what Mr. Gladstone did, or attempted to do, for Ireland. In 1870, he got Parliament to pass his first Irish Land Act, which was intended to better the condition of the Irish tenants. But the Act did not go far enough, and the landlords were able to rob the tenants of some of the expected benefits.

Then there was organized in Ireland a great Land League, with an Irish member of Parliament—Charles Stewart Parnell—at its head. This body demanded the "three F's"—fixity of tenure, or the right of the tenant to keep his land as long as he paid the rent for it; free sale, or the right to sell his interest in the land to whomever the tenant wanted; and fair rent, which would prevent the landlord from raising the rent whenever the tenant made improvements, or the landlord found somebody who would offer more money. Landlords and tenants who violated these principle were "boycotted," as it was called, from the name of Captain Boycott, the first victim. The Irish people would have nothing to do with a boycotted person, would not buy from him or sell to him, would not work for him or with him, would not even stay in a church which he entered. More violent punishments were used at times, and the just cause of Ireland was stained by the burning of barns and houses, the injuring of cattle, and occasional murders. Great Britain answered such crimes by suspending the right to trial by juries freely selected, and by other harsh acts. Then the Irish members in Parliament, in order to draw attention to Ireland's grievances, began a policy of "obstruction"—that is, opposing anything and everything which came up in Parliament, until Ireland's ill should be remedied.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

Charles Stewart Parnell

All this had such effect that, in 1881, Mr. Gladstone was able to pass a second Irish Land Act, which practically granted the "three F's." But the troubles still continued, and even the arrest and sending to jail of Mr. Parnell and other Irish leaders did not help matters.

Finally it was seen that the Irish land question would never be settled until the Irish peasant became the owner of the land which he tilled. Accordingly, a new policy was adopted. In 1885, Parliament passed a law which set aside a sum of money, which should be loaned to the Irish peasants to assist them in buying their lands. By later laws, especially one which was passed in 1903, this sum was very greatly increased. The result is that more than one fourth of the land which formerly was rented now belongs to the occupants, who are replaying to the government, little by little, the money which they borrowed to purchase it. Thus the Irish land question is now in a fair way to be satisfactorily settled.

But, meanwhile, a much more troublesome question had arisen, which still remains unsolved. This is the question of "Home Rule" for Ireland, or the setting up again of a Parliament at Dublin, with full power over Irish affairs. Under the skilful leadership of Mr. Parnell, the Irish Party in Parliament became strong and united. It was seen that something must be done—either grant Home Rule, at least in part, or else pass very severe laws to put down the disorder and disturbance.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

A Street in Dublin

Mr. Gladstone believed, as he said, that "it is liberty alone which fits men for liberty." He favored giving Ireland a central council of its own to carry on the government, but to withhold for a time the grant of a Parliament. A majority of his Cabinet, however, opposed this plan because it went too far, and it was not introduced in Parliament.

The next year (1886), Mr. Gladstone declared that he had become converted entirely to the cause of Home Rule. A portion of the Liberal party thereupon deserted him, and formed a Liberal Unionist party which acted with the Conservatives. Mr. Gladstone now tried, with the assistance of the Irish Party and of the Liberals who remained faithful to him, to pass a bill giving Ireland a Parliament of its own. The measure was defeated in the House of Commons, however, and for a time Gladstone ceased to be Prime Minister. When his party was again victorious at the elections, and he became Prime Minister for the fourth time, in 1892, he made a second attempt to pass a Home Rule bill. This time he was successful in the House of Commons, but the bill was defeated in the House of Lords.

Mr. Parnell, meanwhile, had become a party to a divorce scandal, and this divided and greatly weakened the Irish party. His death shortly afterward did not have the effect of healing these divisions. Mr. Gladstone retired from political life in 1894, after sixty-one years of service in Parliament; and in 1898 he died, at the age of eighty-nine. This also weakened the cause of Ireland.

But the demand for Home Rule still continues. The Irish party, which is now once more reunited, declares that no government for Ireland will be satisfactory to them which does not include a Parliament able to make laws for Ireland, and also ministers for Ireland who shall be responsible to their own Parliament. The English liberals now favor a policy of "Home Rule by installments," or giving to Ireland, little by little, the right to manage it's own affairs. Time alone can tell whether the movement will continue until Ireland, like Canada, has a Parliament of its own; or whether, when the land question is fully settled, and further improvements have been made in local government, Ireland, like Scotland, will be proud to send her representatives to the central Parliament for the whole British Empire, and leave to it the right of making laws for Ireland which it now possesses.


  1. Read an account of the geography and people of Ireland.
  2. Make a list of the injuries which Ireland received from England.
  3. Write a brief sketch of Charles Stewart Parnell.
  4. Make a list of the things which Gladstone did or tried to do for Ireland.
  5. Let two pupils debate the question of Home Rule for Ireland, on speaking for it, the other against it.

The British Empire Under Edward VII.


Death of Queen Victoria; importance of her reign; the Boer War; how it increased the Empire; accession of Edward VII.

Extent of the British Empire; Canada; Australia and New Zealand; British South Africa; British occupation of Egypt; India.

The bonds which hold the Empire together; what Great Britain has done for the world.

On January 22, 1901, the news was flashed all over the world that the long reign of Queen Victoria had come to an end. She had reigned for nearly sixty-four years, and died at the age of eighty-one. She had been a loving wife and mother, and a good Queen. Her reign was glorious, not because of wars and conquests, be because of the progress of good which it brought, and the uplifting of the people.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

Queen Victoria, in Old Age

In her last years a cruel was was fought between the British and the "Boers," or inhabitants of the Dutch republics in South Africa. Great Britain was successful in the end, and the Boer republics were annexed to the British Empire; but the British suffered many defeats before this was accomplished, and the gallant fight which the Boers made aroused great sympathy. The Queen was much distressed by this war, and her last words were:

"Oh, that peace may come!"

Queen Victoria was succeeded on the throne by her eldest son, Edward VII., who had long been known as the Prince of Wales. He was sixty years of age, and was well prepared to continue the wise rule of his mother. He had four grown children, and the eldest of these—George Frederick, now the Prince of Wales—in turn has four sons, so that it is not likely that this line of English Kings will die out.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

Edward VII

The British Empire, as Edward VII. received it from his mother, is one of the greatest that the world has ever seen. It includes lands all over the globe, and if it is wisely ruled—as it seems likely that it will be—it will continue to be held together, and prove a great source of good to the world.

But the problem is how to unite the widely scattered lands, by giving them a voice in the central government of the Empire.

The greatest of the possessions of Great Britain, and the most important, perhaps, after the mother country itself, is Canada. This was taken from the French in 1763, and settlement in it has since spread to the Pacific Ocean. It is a rich and fertile land, in spite of its cold climate; and its people are mainly of British blood and speech. Its different provinces have their own legislatures; and since 1867 Canada as a whole had had a federal government somewhat like that of the United States. In nearly everything the Canadians govern themselves, though the Governor-General is sent out to them from Great Britain by the home government. In the Boer War the Canadians proved their loyalty by sending soldiers to aid the mother country.

Australia is the second in importance of the British colonies. The coasts of this island-continent were explored by Captain Cook, an officer in the British navy, in 1770; and the first settlement was made there by the British in 1788. Gold was discovered in Australia in 1851, and great fortunes were made by lucky miners; but a more important source of wealth was found in the raising of sheep. Five colonies were established on the mainland, and another in the near-by island of Tasmania, each with its own legislature and governor; and in 1901 all five were united together into a federal government, under the name of the Commonwealth of Australia. This, too, is a self-governing colony, made up of men mainly of British blood and speech; and it, also, proved its loyalty and affection for the mother country by the aid which it sent at the time of the Boer war.

The two great islands of New Zealand, which together are twice as large as all England, are more than a thousand miles distant from Australia, and thus are not included in that commonwealth. They make up a separate self-governing colony, which is very progressive and prosperous.

Cape Colony, in South Africa, was conquered from Holland in 1806, while that country was aiding Napoleon in his wars against Great Britain. Gold, and also diamond mines, were discovered here, and the white settlements have greatly increased, though the natives (negroes) are still twice as numerous as the whites. The conquest of the Boer republics strengthened British rule in South Africa, and the fairness with which the conquered Boers were treated reconciled them to that rule. Here, too, a movement was successful, in 1909, in uniting all the different British colonies into a federal state, called United South Africa. One of the ablest and broadest-minded of the statesmen who brought this about was the Boer leader, General Botha. "I want the King and the British people to realize," he said, "that the trust reposed in us has been worthily taken up, and I hope that they will have cause of pride in the young South African nation."

Egypt, in Northern Africa, is not properly a part of the British Empire, for it has its own ruler (called the Khedive). But since 1881 British soldiers have guarded the country, and British officers have aided the Egyptian rulers. This "British occupation" has been of very great advantage to the country, for taxes have become less, justice has become more certain, order has been kept, and great public works have been built, so that the condition of the people has greatly improved. Especially noteworthy is a series of enormous dams, which pen up the waste waters of the river Nile, while it is in flood, and gradually let them out later, so that the desert lands become rich fields of cotton, sugar-cane and rice. Another great thing which they have done is the building of a railroad southward, which will meet one which is being built northward from Cape Colony. When this is completed it will be possible to go by rail for five thousand miles—through Egyptian desert and tropical jungle, where lions, elephants, and rhinoceroses abound—from Cairo in Egypt to the Cape of Good Hope. It is likely that the British will stay in Egypt for many years, and so that land may almost be counted as one of the countries over which they rule.

Then there is the great Empire of India, won for Great Britain by the East India Company, and now ruled by the British government. This is half as large as the whole of the United States, and has four times as many people as our country. Unlike most other British possessions, India had an old and very highly developed civilization when Europeans first went there. There was no room for new settlements, so the British still continue very few in that land. As a result, India has not been given the right of self-government, as have other lands named. But, even in India, some share in the government is now promised to the people.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

Map of British Empire

These are the chief lands which make up the British Empire, outside the mother country herself: Canada; Australia and the neighboring islands of New Zealand; South Africa; and India. Besides these there are many islands, and small possessions on the continents of South America, Africa, and Asia, which cannot be shown on the accompanying map. War and commerce, the explorer's lonely courage, and the colonist's hardy enterprise, have all contributed to its up-building.

"Time, and the ocean, and some fostering star,

In high cabal have made us what we are,

Who stretch one hand to Huron's bearded pines,

And one on Kashmir's snowy shoulder lay,

And round the streaming of whose raiment shines

The iris of the Australasian spray,

For waters have connived at our designs,

And winds have plotted with us—and behold,

Kingdom on kingdom, sway on oversway,

Dominion fold in fold!"

What is it that binds together this vast empire? Is it the power of Great Britain's army and navy?

India and Egypt are partly held by military force, but this is not so of those great lands which are inhabited by men of the same blood and speech as the British themselves. It is affection that keeps them true to their imperial mother, and the knowledge that membership in that Empire makes them all safer and more prosperous. A poet has described Great Britain as a lion, and the self-governing colonies as its full grown cubs, ready to come at the lion's call to its assistance:

"The Lion stands by his shore alone

And sends, to the bounds of Earth and Sea,

First low notes of the thunder to be,

Then East and West, through the vastness grim,

The Whelps of the Lion answer him."

But what does this growth of England, and the spread of its power through the British Empire, mean for the rest of the world? Does it mean war, and conquest, and tyranny, and oppression?

No, it means peace, and good order, and above all the spread of free institutions.

Great Britain has given the world improved machinery, and cheap goods of many sorts. Her merchants and sailors, more than those of any other nation, have helped to knit the whole world together into one society. The food upon our tables, the clothes which we wear, and the furnishings of our houses are brought together from all over the world largely by their enterprise. She has made the English language the most widely spoken tongue in the world, and has given to those who speak it a priceless literature. In the days following the Reformation in religion, England was the chief champion of Protestantism, when it seemed that the Protestant religion was about to perish. In more modern times, Great Britain has been foremost in putting down slavery everywhere, and in movements of bettering the world's conditions.

Most of all, we owe to Great Britain the spread throughout civilized lands of such rights as trial by jury, free speech, and constitutional government. It was the English people who first discovered and established these rights, and it was from England, and English-speaking peoples, that the rest of the world received these priceless gifts.


  1. Make a list of the chief events of Victoria's reign.
  2. Find out what you can about the Boer War. What were the causes of the war? How has Great Britain treated the Boers since the war?
  3. Find out what you can about the government of Canada. Compare it with the government of the United States.
  4. Read an account of Captain Cook and his voyages.
  5. Ought Great Britain to withdraw from Egypt? Give your reasons.
  6. Ought Great Britain to give "home rule" to India? Give your reasons.
  7. What can Great Britain do to draw her colonies closer to herself?