Our Island Story - H. E. Marshall


Like Queen Elizabeth, King James had favourites. But unfortunately the favourites he chose were not good and wise men who helped him to govern well, but men who although clever were bad, and who thought only of themselves. Some of these men liked money and fine clothes, and James spent so much on them that he was always poor and in debt, and this led him into quarrels with the people and Parliament.

The Tudors had been a very autocratic race of kings. Autocratic is a word made from Greek words and means that the Tudors wanted to rule quite by themselves without help or advice from any one. During the time of the Tudors, especially in the reigns of Henry VIII. and Elizabeth, the power of Parliament had been much lessened. James tried to lessen it still more.

James knew how autocratic Elizabeth had been, and he meant to be the same. But Elizabeth, although she had her own way in many things, knew when to yield and let the people have their way. James did not know how to yield. He wanted to be a despot which is another word taken from Greek and really means 'master,' but has come to mean 'cruel master.' 'The King can do no wrong,' said James. 'What he does must be right and the people must obey and ask no questions.'

King James wrote several books, and in one of them he set down his ideas about the power of a king. But the people did not agree with these ideas. They thought many of the things which the King did were wrong. As they would not do everything he wished them to do, James dismissed Parliament and ruled for many years without calling another.

When James died, in 1625 A.D., no one was very sorry. He had reigned for fifty-eight years—thirty-six years as King of Scotland and twenty-two as King of Great Britain and Ireland, and his people, English, Scots, and Irish, were discontented with his rule. Yet in spite of all he had tried to do, the people were really nearer freedom than before, for they had shown that they would not quietly submit to the rule of a despot.

James was succeeded by his son Charles. He had been taught by his father to believe that the King could do no wrong, and like his father, Charles wanted to be autocratic.

Charles, too, dismissed Parliament, because he could not have entirely his own way. He tried to make the people pay taxes and give him money without the consent of Parliament, and this made them very angry.

Like King James, King Charles had bad advisers, and one of the worst, perhaps, was his own wife, of whom he was very fond. She was a French princess called Henrietta Maria and was a Roman Catholic. She hated the Puritans, who were growing more and more important in England. Charles hated them too, and, with the advice of Archbishop Laud, who was one of his chief advisers, he treated the Puritans very hardly.

Many of the people in Scotland had become Protestant. They were called Presbyterians, and like the Puritans, they chose to have a very simple form of worship, and very simple churches. This did not please Charles. He said that the Scottish Church must use the same service as the English Church. He ordered a new Prayer Book to be made which was almost the same as the English Prayer Book. This he sent to all the Scottish ministers commanding them to begin to use it on Sunday, 23rd July 1637 A.D.

There was great excitement among the Scottish people when this order became known. On the Sunday morning many crowded to the Cathedral of St. Giles in Edinburgh, wondering what would happen.

When the Dean entered, it was seen that he was wearing a white robe instead of the black one in which the Scottish clergy usually preached.

The Dean little knew of the anger which was rising in the hearts of the stern-faced men and women round him as the words of the new prayers rang strangely through the silent church.

He began the service, using the new Prayer Book. But he had not gone far when an old woman called Jenny Geddes sprang up. 'Thou false thief,' she cried, 'wilt thou say Mass at my ear?' and with that she threw the stool upon which she had been sitting at the Dean's head.

In a moment the whole church was in confusion. 'The Mass! the Mass! popery! popery!' shouted the people. 'Down with the Pope! down with him!' The women rushed at the Dean and tore his white surplice from his shoulders, and he was so hardly used that he ran the risk of being killed. The Bishop of Edinburgh went into the pulpit and tried to calm the people. But they would not listen to him. 'A Pope! a Pope!' they cried, 'down with him! down with him!'

At last soldiers were sent for, the church was cleared, the doors were locked and the new service was read to the few who were in favour of it. Outside the crowd yelled and hooted, breaking the windows with stones and hammering on the doors, which were locked and barred against them.

The Bishop barely escaped with his life. He was carried through the crowd surrounded by soldiers with drawn swords in their hands.

All Scotland was in arms. High and low banded together to resist the King. They drew up a paper which was signed by thousands, binding themselves to fight for the freedom of religion. This paper was called the National Covenant, and the people who signed it the Covenanters. Scotland was ready for war, and Charles was forced to recall the Prayer Book and allow the Scottish Church to be free.

Charles promised the Scottish Church freedom, but he could never keep his word. Soon he raised an army intending to force them to do as he wished. But the Scots were ready to fight and they marched into England to meet Charles. The English Puritans were on the side of the Scots and for the first time in all history a Scottish army coming into England was welcomed by the English. The fighting ended in a victory for the Scots, and once more Charles promised them freedom in religion.

If you should ever go to St. Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh you will see there a brass plate in memory of Jenny Geddes and her deed. It is set there, not because it is right or wrong to use a Prayer Book, not because it is better to worship God in one way rather than another, but because it is right that people should be free to pray to God and worship God in their own way. Neither Pope nor King has a right to say how any man or woman shall pray, and it is not because Jenny Geddes fought against a Prayer Book, but because she struck a blow for freedom, that we remember her.


Front Matter

Albion and Brutus
The Coming of the Romans
The Romans Come Again
Caligula Conquers Britain
The Story of Boadicea
The Last of the Romans
The Story of St. Alban
Vortigern and King Constans
Hengist and Horsa
Hengist's Treachery
The Giant's Dance
The Coming of Arthur
Founding of the Round Table
Gregory and the Children
King Alfred Learns to Read
Alfred and the Cowherd
More About Alfred the Great
Ethelred the Unready
Edmund Ironside
Canute and the Waves
Edward the Confessor
Harold Godwin
The Battle of Stamford Bridge
The Battle of Hastings
Hereward the Wake
Death of the King
The Story of William the Red
The Story of the "White Ship"
The Story of King Stephen
Henry II—Gilbert and Rohesia
Thomas a Becket
The Conquest of Ireland
Richard Coeur de Lion
How Blondel Found the King
The Story of Prince Arthur
The Great Charter
Henry III and Hubert de Burgh
Simon de Montfort
The Poisoned Dagger
The War of Chalons
The Lawgiver
The Hammer of the Scots
King Robert the Bruce
The Battle of Bannockburn
The Battle of Sluys
The Battle of Crecy
The Siege of Calais
The Battle of Poitiers
Wat Tyler's Rebellion
How Richard Lost His Throne
The Battle of Shrewsbury
Prince Hal Sent to Prison
The Battle of Agincourt
The Maid of Orleans
Red Rose and White
Margaret and the Robbers
The Story of the Kingmaker
A King Who Wasn't Crowned
Two Princes in the Tower
The Make-Believe Prince
Another Make-Believe Prince
The Field of the Cloth of Gold
Defender of the Faith
The Six Wives of Henry VIII
The Story of a Boy King
The Story of Lady Jane Grey
Elizabeth a Prisoner
A Candle Lit in England
Elizabeth Becomes Queen
A Most Unhappy Queen
Saved from the Spaniards
Sir Walter Raleigh
The Queen's Favourite
The Story of Guy Fawkes
The Story of the Mayflower
A Blow for Freedom
King and Parliament Quarrel
The King Brought to Death
The Adventures of a Prince
The Lord Protector
How Death Plagued London
How London was Burned
The Fiery Cross
The Story of King Monmouth
The Story of the Seven Bishops
William the Deliverer
William III and Mary II
A Sad Day in a Highland Glen
How the Union Jack was Made
Earl of Mar's Hunting Party
Bonnie Prince Charlie
Flora MacDonald
The Black Hole of Calcutta
How Canada Was Won
How America Was Lost
A Story of a Spinning Wheel
Every Man Will Do His Duty
The Battle of Waterloo
The First Gentleman in Europe
Two Peaceful Victories
The Girl Queen
When Bread was Dear
Victorian Age: Peace
Victorian Age: War
The Land of Snow
The Siege of Delhi
The Pipes at Lucknow
Under the Southern Cross
From Cannibal to Christian
Boer and Briton
List of Kings