Our Island Story - H. E. Marshall

The Commonwealth—The Lord Protector

The British had hardly done fighting at home, when they had to fight with enemies abroad. They went to war with the Dutch, who at this time had a very famous admiral called Van Tromp. The English, too, had a famous admiral called Blake.

The Dutch and the British had several reasons for quarrelling. Each tried to spoil the trade of the other, and the Dutch would not acknowledge the new British Government. This made the Parliament very angry.

Several fierce battles were fought at sea, and when the Dutch won, Van Tromp hoisted a broom to his masthead, as a sign that he intended to sweep the British ships from the seas. Blake and the English were very angry at this. They built and manned more ships as fast as they could, and once more sailed out to fight the Dutch. When the two fleets met, the fiercest, longest battle of this sea war took place. For three days they fought, but in the end Blake was victorious and, bravely though he had fought, Van Tromp was obliged to lower his proud broom and sweep the remainder of his own fleet homeward.

It was now about four years since King Charles had been beheaded.

Cromwell was the strongest man in the country, yet no real ruler had been appointed, and the Rump Parliament was acting neither wisely nor well. Cromwell made up his mind to put an end to this.

So one day he marched to Parliament at the head of about three hundred of his soldiers. He himself went into the House, leaving some of his soldiers at the door, some in the lobby, and some on the stairs. He sat down in his usual place, and listened for some time to the talking. Then suddenly he rose up and began to speak.

He told the Parliament that the things which they did were unjust, that they were tyrants and worse. 'But your hour hath come,' he cried, 'the Lord hath done with you,' and putting on his hat, he stamped with his foot, and his soldiers rushed in.

'I will put an end to your babbling,' he shouted, and at a signal from their master, the soldiers drove the members out of the hall, Cromwell calling out insulting names at them as they passed.

The Speaker refused to leave the chair, and tried to address the members, but in the noise and confusion he could not make himself heard. Then one of Cromwell's friends took him by the arm and forced him to go. In a few minutes the hall was cleared of every one except Cromwell's soldiers and followers.

On the table lay the mace. The mace is the sign of the dignity and the lawfulness of Parliament. It is carried before the Speaker as he enters and leaves the House, and lies on the table while the members talk together. It is a sign of law and order, just as the sceptre is the sign of royalty and rule. Cromwell did not like any form or ceremony. He thought it was foolish and wicked.

'Take away that bauble,' he said angrily, pointing to the mace. So it was removed. Cromwell's friends then left the House, he himself coming last and locking the doors after him. This was the end of the Long Parliament. It had lasted for thirteen years.

Cromwell and his friends now set to work to form a new Parliament, and one more to their liking than the last had been. Instead of allowing the people to choose the members, Cromwell himself chose them. But this Parliament did not please him much better than the last, and in less than five months it was again dissolved.

Cromwell was now asked to become ruler. Some of his friends wished him to take the title of king, but he refused, chiefly because he knew that his greatest friends were the soldiers, and they hated the name of king. If he took that name he was sure that they would turn against him and become his worst enemies. So he became ruler under the title of Lord Protector.

Cromwell was not crowned and anointed as kings were. But there was a very solemn service held, when a beautiful purple robe was placed upon his shoulders, the sword of office buckled to his side, and the sceptre put into his hand. He was truly king in everything but name.

Cromwell was not only a king, but a very stern and autocratic one. He wanted his own way quite as much as the Stuarts had done, only he really thought of the good of the country, and the Stuarts thought only of themselves.

The troubles of the civil war now began to pass away, and under the stern rule of the Lord Protector, Britain began once more to be peaceful and prosperous at home, and famous abroad.

All the Protestants of Europe looked to Cromwell for help and protection, and so powerful was his name that he could always give help. Kings bowed and obeyed when Cromwell commanded, and Britain was famous as she had not been since the days of Elizabeth. Her soldiers were the best in the world. Her admirals won for her the name of mistress of the seas, a name which she has kept ever since.

Yet the man who had won this great place for Britain lived in terror of his life. He was a tyrant, and like all tyrants he was bitterly hated, and he knew it. Under his clothes he wore armour, he always carried weapons, and wherever he went, he was followed and surrounded by a strong bodyguard. No one ever knew where he would sleep, for he moved about from room to room in his great palace lest some one should attack him while he rested.

At last, worn out in body and brain, the great Lord Protector died on 3rd September 1658 A.D. It was his lucky day.

'He first put arms into Religion's hand,

And tim'rous conscience unto courage mann'd;

The soldier taught that inward mail to wear,

And fearing God, how they should nothing fear;

Those strokes, he said, will pierce through all below,

Where those that strike from Heav'n fetch their blow.

Astonished armies did their flight prepare,

And cities strong were storméd by his prayer;

In all his wars needs must he triumph, when

He conquered God still ere he fought with men.'


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