The age of chivalry is gone.—That of sophisters, economists and calculators has succeeded. — Edmund Burke

Our Island Story - H. E. Marshall




CHARLES I.—THE STORY OF HOW THE KING WAS BROUGHT TO HIS DEATH

'God gives not kings the style of gods in vain,

For on the throne His sceptre do they sway;

And as their subjects ought them to obey,

So kings should fear and serve their God again.

If, then, ye would enjoy a happy reign,

Observe the statutes of our heavenly king,

And from His law make all your laws to spring.

If His lieutenant here you would remain,

Reward the just, be steadfast, true, and plain;

Repress the proud, maintaining aye the right;

Walk always so as ever in His sight,

Who guards the godly, plaguing the profane;

And so shall you in princely virtues shine,

Resembling right your mighty King divine.'

This poetry was written by James to his son, and perhaps it would have been better both for James and Charles had they tried to rule as the poem says kings ought to rule.

After Charles became the prisoner of the army, letters and messages passed continually between him and Parliament, and between him and the leaders of the army. Both parties offered to replace the King upon the throne if he would only promise them certain things. But these things Charles would not promise, for all the time he was secretly plotting with his friends, and hoping to free himself.

The leaders of the army treated Charles very kindly, allowing him to see his friends, and to have a great deal of liberty. This made it easy for him to escape, which he did, and fled to Carisbrooke Castle in the Isle of Wight. But although he thought that he was going to friends, he found that he was again a prisoner, and more carefully guarded than before.

The struggle for power between Parliament and army still went on. But Cromwell was master of the army, and he meant to be master of Parliament too. So one day when Parliament was about to meet, a man called Colonel Pride surrounded the House with soldiers. As they arrived, each member who would not do exactly as Cromwell and the other army leaders wished, was seized and turned away. When this was done there were only about fifty members left. This was called Pride's Purge, because he purged or cleaned away all those who did not think exactly as he did. It was still the Long Parliament that was sitting, but people now called it the Rump Parliament, because it was not a real parliament, but only part of one.

Cromwell was master of King and Parliament, but the army was too strong even for him. Against his will he was driven to do a deed from which he shrank. He was driven to condemn the King to death.

Charles was accused of high treason against the nation, and was brought to London to be tried. This was a crime which had never been heard of before, as high treason means a crime against the ruler.

More than a hundred men were called as judges of the King, but scarcely half of them came. Many of them were angry with Charles, and wished him to be punished. But the punishment for treason they knew was death, and they did not wish the King to be killed.

The judges assembled at Westminster Hall, and King Charles was brought before them as a prisoner. They who had always stood bareheaded in his presence, now sat with their hats upon their heads. Seeing that, Charles too kept on his hat, but it was seen that his hair, which had been very beautiful, had grown grey, and that he looked old and worn.

Charles had been foolish, he had been wicked, but now, in the face of death, he behaved with the dignity of a king. The men who sat before him, he said, had no right to judge or condemn him. He would not plead for mercy. Three times he was brought before the court, three times he refused to plead. At last the judges, without further trial, sentenced him to death as a 'tyrant, a traitor, a murderer, and a public enemy.'

Calm and dignified as ever, Charles walked out of the hall after the sentence had been pronounced.

'God bless your Majesty,' cried a soldier as he passed, and was struck by his officer for daring to say such words.

'Methinks,' said the King, pausing and smiling at the man, 'the punishment is greater than the fault.'

Three days later Charles the King walked for the last time through the streets of London, from St. James's Palace to Whitehall. The way was lined with soldiers, soldiers marched in front of him and behind him; the air was filled with the noise of trampling feet and the sound of drums.

The scaffold was raised outside the Palace of Whitehall, and hundreds of people crowded to see the dreadful end of their King, some in joy, very many in grief and awe.

Charles knelt by the block amid deep silence. And when a man in a black mask held up the King's head, crying, 'Behold the head of a traitor!' a groan burst from the shuddering crowd.

'He nothing common did or mean

Upon that memorable scene,

But with his keener eye

The 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.'



Contents

Front Matter
Review

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