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Charles Dickens > A Child's History of England > Chapter XXXIII

A Child's History of England

Chapter XXXIII


BABY CHARLES became KING CHARLES THE FIRST, in the twenty-fifth
year of his age. Unlike his father, he was usually amiable in his
private character, and grave and dignified in his bearing; but,
like his father, he had monstrously exaggerated notions of the
rights of a king, and was evasive, and not to be trusted. If his
word could have been relied upon, his history might have had a
different end.

His first care was to send over that insolent upstart, Buckingham,
to bring Henrietta Maria from Paris to be his Queen; upon which
occasion Buckingham - with his usual audacity - made love to the
young Queen of Austria, and was very indignant indeed with CARDINAL
RICHELIEU, the French Minister, for thwarting his intentions. The
English people were very well disposed to like their new Queen, and
to receive her with great favour when she came among them as a
stranger. But, she held the Protestant religion in great dislike,
and brought over a crowd of unpleasant priests, who made her do
some very ridiculous things, and forced themselves upon the public
notice in many disagreeable ways. Hence, the people soon came to
dislike her, and she soon came to dislike them; and she did so much
all through this reign in setting the King (who was dotingly fond
of her) against his subjects, that it would have been better for
him if she had never been born.

Now, you are to understand that King Charles the First - of his own
determination to be a high and mighty King not to be called to
account by anybody, and urged on by his Queen besides -
deliberately set himself to put his Parliament down and to put
himself up. You are also to understand, that even in pursuit of
this wrong idea (enough in itself to have ruined any king) he never
took a straight course, but always took a crooked one.

He was bent upon war with Spain, though neither the House of
Commons nor the people were quite clear as to the justice of that
war, now that they began to think a little more about the story of
the Spanish match. But the King rushed into it hotly, raised money
by illegal means to meet its expenses, and encountered a miserable
failure at Cadiz, in the very first year of his reign. An
expedition to Cadiz had been made in the hope of plunder, but as it
was not successful, it was necessary to get a grant of money from
the Parliament; and when they met, in no very complying humour,
the, King told them, 'to make haste to let him have it, or it would
be the worse for themselves.' Not put in a more complying humour
by this, they impeached the King's favourite, the Duke of
Buckingham, as the cause (which he undoubtedly was) of many great
public grievances and wrongs. The King, to save him, dissolved the
Parliament without getting the money he wanted; and when the Lords
implored him to consider and grant a little delay, he replied, 'No,
not one minute.' He then began to raise money for himself by the
following means among others.

He levied certain duties called tonnage and poundage which had not
been granted by the Parliament, and could lawfully be levied by no
other power; he called upon the seaport towns to furnish, and to
pay all the cost for three months of, a fleet of armed ships; and
he required the people to unite in lending him large sums of money,
the repayment of which was very doubtful. If the poor people
refused, they were pressed as soldiers or sailors; if the gentry
refused, they were sent to prison. Five gentlemen, named SIR
EVERARD HAMPDEN, for refusing were taken up by a warrant of the
King's privy council, and were sent to prison without any cause but
the King's pleasure being stated for their imprisonment. Then the
question came to be solemnly tried, whether this was not a
violation of Magna Charta, and an encroachment by the King on the
highest rights of the English people. His lawyers contended No,
because to encroach upon the rights of the English people would be
to do wrong, and the King could do no wrong. The accommodating
judges decided in favour of this wicked nonsense; and here was a
fatal division between the King and the people.

For all this, it became necessary to call another Parliament. The
people, sensible of the danger in which their liberties were, chose
for it those who were best known for their determined opposition to
the King; but still the King, quite blinded by his determination to
carry everything before him, addressed them when they met, in a
contemptuous manner, and just told them in so many words that he
had only called them together because he wanted money. The
Parliament, strong enough and resolute enough to know that they
would lower his tone, cared little for what he said, and laid
before him one of the great documents of history, which is called
the PETITION OF RIGHT, requiring that the free men of England
should no longer be called upon to lend the King money, and should
no longer be pressed or imprisoned for refusing to do so; further,
that the free men of England should no longer be seized by the
King's special mandate or warrant, it being contrary to their
rights and liberties and the laws of their country. At first the
King returned an answer to this petition, in which he tried to
shirk it altogether; but, the House of Commons then showing their
determination to go on with the impeachment of Buckingham, the King
in alarm returned an answer, giving his consent to all that was
required of him. He not only afterwards departed from his word and
honour on these points, over and over again, but, at this very
time, he did the mean and dissembling act of publishing his first
answer and not his second - merely that the people might suppose
that the Parliament had not got the better of him.

That pestilent Buckingham, to gratify his own wounded vanity, had
by this time involved the country in war with France, as well as
with Spain. For such miserable causes and such miserable creatures
are wars sometimes made! But he was destined to do little more
mischief in this world. One morning, as he was going out of his
house to his carriage, he turned to speak to a certain Colonel
FRYER who was with him; and he was violently stabbed with a knife,
which the murderer left sticking in his heart. This happened in
his hall. He had had angry words up-stairs, just before, with some
French gentlemen, who were immediately suspected by his servants,
and had a close escape from being set upon and killed. In the
midst of the noise, the real murderer, who had gone to the kitchen
and might easily have got away, drew his sword and cried out, 'I am
the man!' His name was JOHN FELTON, a Protestant and a retired
officer in the army. He said he had had no personal ill-will to
the Duke, but had killed him as a curse to the country. He had
aimed his blow well, for Buckingham had only had time to cry out,
'Villain!' and then he drew out the knife, fell against a table,
and died.

The council made a mighty business of examining John Felton about
this murder, though it was a plain case enough, one would think.
He had come seventy miles to do it, he told them, and he did it for
the reason he had declared; if they put him upon the rack, as that
noble MARQUIS OF DORSET whom he saw before him, had the goodness to
threaten, he gave that marquis warning, that he would accuse HIM as
his accomplice! The King was unpleasantly anxious to have him
racked, nevertheless; but as the judges now found out that torture
was contrary to the law of England - it is a pity they did not make
the discovery a little sooner - John Felton was simply executed for
the murder he had done. A murder it undoubtedly was, and not in
the least to be defended: though he had freed England from one of
the most profligate, contemptible, and base court favourites to
whom it has ever yielded.

A very different man now arose. This was SIR THOMAS WENTWORTH, a
Yorkshire gentleman, who had sat in Parliament for a long time, and
who had favoured arbitrary and haughty principles, but who had gone
over to the people's side on receiving offence from Buckingham.
The King, much wanting such a man - for, besides being naturally
favourable to the King's cause, he had great abilities - made him
first a Baron, and then a Viscount, and gave him high employment,
and won him most completely.

A Parliament, however, was still in existence, and was NOT to be
won. On the twentieth of January, one thousand six hundred and
twenty-nine, SIR JOHN ELIOT, a great man who had been active in the
Petition of Right, brought forward other strong resolutions against
the King's chief instruments, and called upon the Speaker to put
them to the vote. To this the Speaker answered, 'he was commanded
otherwise by the King,' and got up to leave the chair - which,
according to the rules of the House of Commons would have obliged
it to adjourn without doing anything more - when two members, named
Mr. HOLLIS and Mr. VALENTINE, held him down. A scene of great
confusion arose among the members; and while many swords were drawn
and flashing about, the King, who was kept informed of all that was
going on, told the captain of his guard to go down to the House and
force the doors. The resolutions were by that time, however,
voted, and the House adjourned. Sir John Eliot and those two
members who had held the Speaker down, were quickly summoned before
the council. As they claimed it to be their privilege not to
answer out of Parliament for anything they had said in it, they
were committed to the Tower. The King then went down and dissolved
the Parliament, in a speech wherein he made mention of these
gentlemen as 'Vipers' - which did not do him much good that ever I
have heard of.

As they refused to gain their liberty by saying they were sorry for
what they had done, the King, always remarkably unforgiving, never
overlooked their offence. When they demanded to be brought up
before the court of King's Bench, he even resorted to the meanness
of having them moved about from prison to prison, so that the writs
issued for that purpose should not legally find them. At last they
came before the court and were sentenced to heavy fines, and to be
imprisoned during the King's pleasure. When Sir John Eliot's
health had quite given way, and he so longed for change of air and
scene as to petition for his release, the King sent back the answer
(worthy of his Sowship himself) that the petition was not humble
enough. When he sent another petition by his young son, in which
he pathetically offered to go back to prison when his health was
restored, if he might be released for its recovery, the King still
disregarded it. When he died in the Tower, and his children
petitioned to be allowed to take his body down to Cornwall, there
to lay it among the ashes of his forefathers, the King returned for
answer, 'Let Sir John Eliot's body be buried in the church of that
parish where he died.' All this was like a very little King
indeed, I think.

And now, for twelve long years, steadily pursuing his design of
setting himself up and putting the people down, the King called no
Parliament; but ruled without one. If twelve thousand volumes were
written in his praise (as a good many have been) it would still
remain a fact, impossible to be denied, that for twelve years King
Charles the First reigned in England unlawfully and despotically,
seized upon his subjects' goods and money at his pleasure, and
punished according to his unbridled will all who ventured to oppose
him. It is a fashion with some people to think that this King's
career was cut short; but I must say myself that I think he ran a
pretty long one.

WILLIAM LAUD, Archbishop of Canterbury, was the King's right-hand
man in the religious part of the putting down of the people's
liberties. Laud, who was a sincere man, of large learning but
small sense - for the two things sometimes go together in very
different quantities - though a Protestant, held opinions so near
those of the Catholics, that the Pope wanted to make a Cardinal of
him, if he would have accepted that favour. He looked upon vows,
robes, lighted candles, images, and so forth, as amazingly
important in religious ceremonies; and he brought in an immensity
of bowing and candle-snuffing. He also regarded archbishops and
bishops as a sort of miraculous persons, and was inveterate in the
last degree against any who thought otherwise. Accordingly, he
offered up thanks to Heaven, and was in a state of much pious
pleasure, when a Scotch clergyman, named LEIGHTON, was pilloried,
whipped, branded in the cheek, and had one of his ears cut off and
one of his nostrils slit, for calling bishops trumpery and the
inventions of men. He originated on a Sunday morning the
prosecution of WILLIAM PRYNNE, a barrister who was of similar
opinions, and who was fined a thousand pounds; who was pilloried;
who had his ears cut off on two occasions - one ear at a time - and
who was imprisoned for life. He highly approved of the punishment
of DOCTOR BASTWICK, a physician; who was also fined a thousand
pounds; and who afterwards had HIS ears cut off, and was imprisoned
for life. These were gentle methods of persuasion, some will tell
you: I think, they were rather calculated to be alarming to the

In the money part of the putting down of the people's liberties,
the King was equally gentle, as some will tell you: as I think,
equally alarming. He levied those duties of tonnage and poundage,
and increased them as he thought fit. He granted monopolies to
companies of merchants on their paying him for them,
notwithstanding the great complaints that had, for years and years,
been made on the subject of monopolies. He fined the people for
disobeying proclamations issued by his Sowship in direct violation
of law. He revived the detested Forest laws, and took private
property to himself as his forest right. Above all, he determined
to have what was called Ship Money; that is to say, money for the
support of the fleet - not only from the seaports, but from all the
counties of England: having found out that, in some ancient time
or other, all the counties paid it. The grievance of this ship
money being somewhat too strong, JOHN CHAMBERS, a citizen of
London, refused to pay his part of it. For this the Lord Mayor
ordered John Chambers to prison, and for that John Chambers brought
a suit against the Lord Mayor. LORD SAY, also, behaved like a real
nobleman, and declared he would not pay. But, the sturdiest and
best opponent of the ship money was JOHN HAMPDEN, a gentleman of
Buckinghamshire, who had sat among the 'vipers' in the House of
Commons when there was such a thing, and who had been the bosom
friend of Sir John Eliot. This case was tried before the twelve
judges in the Court of Exchequer, and again the King's lawyers said
it was impossible that ship money could be wrong, because the King
could do no wrong, however hard he tried - and he really did try
very hard during these twelve years. Seven of the judges said that
was quite true, and Mr. Hampden was bound to pay: five of the
judges said that was quite false, and Mr. Hampden was not bound to
pay. So, the King triumphed (as he thought), by making Hampden the
most popular man in England; where matters were getting to that
height now, that many honest Englishmen could not endure their
country, and sailed away across the seas to found a colony in
Massachusetts Bay in America. It is said that Hampden himself and
his relation OLIVER CROMWELL were going with a company of such
voyagers, and were actually on board ship, when they were stopped
by a proclamation, prohibiting sea captains to carry out such
passengers without the royal license. But O! it would have been
well for the King if he had let them go! This was the state of
England. If Laud had been a madman just broke loose, he could not
have done more mischief than he did in Scotland. In his endeavours
(in which he was seconded by the King, then in person in that part
of his dominions) to force his own ideas of bishops, and his own
religious forms and ceremonies upon the Scotch, he roused that
nation to a perfect frenzy. They formed a solemn league, which
they called The Covenant, for the preservation of their own
religious forms; they rose in arms throughout the whole country;
they summoned all their men to prayers and sermons twice a day by
beat of drum; they sang psalms, in which they compared their
enemies to all the evil spirits that ever were heard of; and they
solemnly vowed to smite them with the sword. At first the King
tried force, then treaty, then a Scottish Parliament which did not
answer at all. Then he tried the EARL OF STRAFFORD, formerly Sir
Thomas Wentworth; who, as LORD WENTWORTH, had been governing
Ireland. He, too, had carried it with a very high hand there,
though to the benefit and prosperity of that country.

Strafford and Laud were for conquering the Scottish people by force
of arms. Other lords who were taken into council, recommended that
a Parliament should at last be called; to which the King
unwillingly consented. So, on the thirteenth of April, one
thousand six hundred and forty, that then strange sight, a
Parliament, was seen at Westminster. It is called the Short
Parliament, for it lasted a very little while. While the members
were all looking at one another, doubtful who would dare to speak,
MR. PYM arose and set forth all that the King had done unlawfully
during the past twelve years, and what was the position to which
England was reduced. This great example set, other members took
courage and spoke the truth freely, though with great patience and
moderation. The King, a little frightened, sent to say that if
they would grant him a certain sum on certain terms, no more ship
money should be raised. They debated the matter for two days; and
then, as they would not give him all he asked without promise or
inquiry, he dissolved them.

But they knew very well that he must have a Parliament now; and he
began to make that discovery too, though rather late in the day.
Wherefore, on the twenty-fourth of September, being then at York
with an army collected against the Scottish people, but his own men
sullen and discontented like the rest of the nation, the King told
the great council of the Lords, whom he had called to meet him
there, that he would summon another Parliament to assemble on the
third of November. The soldiers of the Covenant had now forced
their way into England and had taken possession of the northern
counties, where the coals are got. As it would never do to be
without coals, and as the King's troops could make no head against
the Covenanters so full of gloomy zeal, a truce was made, and a
treaty with Scotland was taken into consideration. Meanwhile the
northern counties paid the Covenanters to leave the coals alone,
and keep quiet.

We have now disposed of the Short Parliament. We have next to see
what memorable things were done by the Long one.


THE Long Parliament assembled on the third of November, one
thousand six hundred and forty-one. That day week the Earl of
Strafford arrived from York, very sensible that the spirited and
determined men who formed that Parliament were no friends towards
him, who had not only deserted the cause of the people, but who had
on all occasions opposed himself to their liberties. The King told
him, for his comfort, that the Parliament 'should not hurt one hair
of his head.' But, on the very next day Mr. Pym, in the House of
Commons, and with great solemnity, impeached the Earl of Strafford
as a traitor. He was immediately taken into custody and fell from
his proud height.

It was the twenty-second of March before he was brought to trial in
Westminster Hall; where, although he was very ill and suffered
great pain, he defended himself with such ability and majesty, that
it was doubtful whether he would not get the best of it. But on
the thirteenth day of the trial, Pym produced in the House of
Commons a copy of some notes of a council, found by young SIR HARRY
VANE in a red velvet cabinet belonging to his father (Secretary
Vane, who sat at the council-table with the Earl), in which
Strafford had distinctly told the King that he was free from all
rules and obligations of government, and might do with his people
whatever he liked; and in which he had added - 'You have an army in
Ireland that you may employ to reduce this kingdom to obedience.'
It was not clear whether by the words 'this kingdom,' he had really
meant England or Scotland; but the Parliament contended that he
meant England, and this was treason. At the same sitting of the
House of Commons it was resolved to bring in a bill of attainder
declaring the treason to have been committed: in preference to
proceeding with the trial by impeachment, which would have required
the treason to be proved.

So, a bill was brought in at once, was carried through the House of
Commons by a large majority, and was sent up to the House of Lords.
While it was still uncertain whether the House of Lords would pass
it and the King consent to it, Pym disclosed to the House of
Commons that the King and Queen had both been plotting with the
officers of the army to bring up the soldiers and control the
Parliament, and also to introduce two hundred soldiers into the
Tower of London to effect the Earl's escape. The plotting with the
army was revealed by one GEORGE GORING, the son of a lord of that
name: a bad fellow who was one of the original plotters, and
turned traitor. The King had actually given his warrant for the
admission of the two hundred men into the Tower, and they would
have got in too, but for the refusal of the governor - a sturdy
Scotchman of the name of BALFOUR - to admit them. These matters
being made public, great numbers of people began to riot outside
the Houses of Parliament, and to cry out for the execution of the
Earl of Strafford, as one of the King's chief instruments against
them. The bill passed the House of Lords while the people were in
this state of agitation, and was laid before the King for his
assent, together with another bill declaring that the Parliament
then assembled should not be dissolved or adjourned without their
own consent. The King - not unwilling to save a faithful servant,
though he had no great attachment for him - was in some doubt what
to do; but he gave his consent to both bills, although he in his
heart believed that the bill against the Earl of Strafford was
unlawful and unjust. The Earl had written to him, telling him that
he was willing to die for his sake. But he had not expected that
his royal master would take him at his word quite so readily; for,
when he heard his doom, he laid his hand upon his heart, and said,
'Put not your trust in Princes!'

The King, who never could be straightforward and plain, through one
single day or through one single sheet of paper, wrote a letter to
the Lords, and sent it by the young Prince of Wales, entreating
them to prevail with the Commons that 'that unfortunate man should
fulfil the natural course of his life in a close imprisonment.' In
a postscript to the very same letter, he added, 'If he must die, it
were charity to reprieve him till Saturday.' If there had been any
doubt of his fate, this weakness and meanness would have settled
it. The very next day, which was the twelfth of May, he was
brought out to be beheaded on Tower Hill.

Archbishop Laud, who had been so fond of having people's ears
cropped off and their noses slit, was now confined in the Tower
too; and when the Earl went by his window to his death, he was
there, at his request, to give him his blessing. They had been
great friends in the King's cause, and the Earl had written to him
in the days of their power that he thought it would be an admirable
thing to have Mr. Hampden publicly whipped for refusing to pay the
ship money. However, those high and mighty doings were over now,
and the Earl went his way to death with dignity and heroism. The
governor wished him to get into a coach at the Tower gate, for fear
the people should tear him to pieces; but he said it was all one to
him whether he died by the axe or by the people's hands. So, he
walked, with a firm tread and a stately look, and sometimes pulled
off his hat to them as he passed along. They were profoundly
quiet. He made a speech on the scaffold from some notes he had
prepared (the paper was found lying there after his head was struck
off), and one blow of the axe killed him, in the forty-ninth year
of his age.

This bold and daring act, the Parliament accompanied by other
famous measures, all originating (as even this did) in the King's
having so grossly and so long abused his power. The name of
DELINQUENTS was applied to all sheriffs and other officers who had
been concerned in raising the ship money, or any other money, from
the people, in an unlawful manner; the Hampden judgment was
reversed; the judges who had decided against Hampden were called
upon to give large securities that they would take such
consequences as Parliament might impose upon them; and one was
arrested as he sat in High Court, and carried off to prison. Laud
was impeached; the unfortunate victims whose ears had been cropped
and whose noses had been slit, were brought out of prison in
triumph; and a bill was passed declaring that a Parliament should
be called every third year, and that if the King and the King's
officers did not call it, the people should assemble of themselves
and summon it, as of their own right and power. Great
illuminations and rejoicings took place over all these things, and
the country was wildly excited. That the Parliament took advantage
of this excitement and stirred them up by every means, there is no
doubt; but you are always to remember those twelve long years,
during which the King had tried so hard whether he really could do
any wrong or not.

All this time there was a great religious outcry against the right
of the Bishops to sit in Parliament; to which the Scottish people
particularly objected. The English were divided on this subject,
and, partly on this account and partly because they had had foolish
expectations that the Parliament would be able to take off nearly
all the taxes, numbers of them sometimes wavered and inclined
towards the King.

I believe myself, that if, at this or almost any other period of
his life, the King could have been trusted by any man not out of
his senses, he might have saved himself and kept his throne. But,
on the English army being disbanded, he plotted with the officers
again, as he had done before, and established the fact beyond all
doubt by putting his signature of approval to a petition against
the Parliamentary leaders, which was drawn up by certain officers.
When the Scottish army was disbanded, he went to Edinburgh in four
days - which was going very fast at that time - to plot again, and
so darkly too, that it is difficult to decide what his whole object
was. Some suppose that he wanted to gain over the Scottish
Parliament, as he did in fact gain over, by presents and favours,
many Scottish lords and men of power. Some think that he went to
get proofs against the Parliamentary leaders in England of their
having treasonably invited the Scottish people to come and help
them. With whatever object he went to Scotland, he did little good
by going. At the instigation of the EARL OF MONTROSE, a desperate
man who was then in prison for plotting, he tried to kidnap three
Scottish lords who escaped. A committee of the Parliament at home,
who had followed to watch him, writing an account of this INCIDENT,
as it was called, to the Parliament, the Parliament made a fresh
stir about it; were, or feigned to be, much alarmed for themselves;
and wrote to the EARL OF ESSEX, the commander-in-chief, for a guard
to protect them.

It is not absolutely proved that the King plotted in Ireland
besides, but it is very probable that he did, and that the Queen
did, and that he had some wild hope of gaining the Irish people
over to his side by favouring a rise among them. Whether or no,
they did rise in a most brutal and savage rebellion; in which,
encouraged by their priests, they committed such atrocities upon
numbers of the English, of both sexes and of all ages, as nobody
could believe, but for their being related on oath by eye-
witnesses. Whether one hundred thousand or two hundred thousand
Protestants were murdered in this outbreak, is uncertain; but, that
it was as ruthless and barbarous an outbreak as ever was known
among any savage people, is certain.

The King came home from Scotland, determined to make a great
struggle for his lost power. He believed that, through his
presents and favours, Scotland would take no part against him; and
the Lord Mayor of London received him with such a magnificent
dinner that he thought he must have become popular again in
England. It would take a good many Lord Mayors, however, to make a
people, and the King soon found himself mistaken.

Not so soon, though, but that there was a great opposition in the
Parliament to a celebrated paper put forth by Pym and Hampden and
the rest, called 'THE REMONSTRANCE,' which set forth all the
illegal acts that the King had ever done, but politely laid the
blame of them on his bad advisers. Even when it was passed and
presented to him, the King still thought himself strong enough to
discharge Balfour from his command in the Tower, and to put in his
place a man of bad character; to whom the Commons instantly
objected, and whom he was obliged to abandon. At this time, the
old outcry about the Bishops became louder than ever, and the old
Archbishop of York was so near being murdered as he went down to
the House of Lords - being laid hold of by the mob and violently
knocked about, in return for very foolishly scolding a shrill boy
who was yelping out 'No Bishops!' - that he sent for all the
Bishops who were in town, and proposed to them to sign a
declaration that, as they could no longer without danger to their
lives attend their duty in Parliament, they protested against the
lawfulness of everything done in their absence. This they asked
the King to send to the House of Lords, which he did. Then the
House of Commons impeached the whole party of Bishops and sent them
off to the Tower:

Taking no warning from this; but encouraged by there being a
moderate party in the Parliament who objected to these strong
measures, the King, on the third of January, one thousand six
hundred and forty-two, took the rashest step that ever was taken by
mortal man.

Of his own accord and without advice, he sent the Attorney-General
to the House of Lords, to accuse of treason certain members of
Parliament who as popular leaders were the most obnoxious to him;
used to call him King Pym, he possessed such power and looked so
big), JOHN HAMPDEN, and WILLIAM STRODE. The houses of those
members he caused to be entered, and their papers to be sealed up.
At the same time, he sent a messenger to the House of Commons
demanding to have the five gentlemen who were members of that House
immediately produced. To this the House replied that they should
appear as soon as there was any legal charge against them, and
immediately adjourned.

Next day, the House of Commons send into the City to let the Lord
Mayor know that their privileges are invaded by the King, and that
there is no safety for anybody or anything. Then, when the five
members are gone out of the way, down comes the King himself, with
all his guard and from two to three hundred gentlemen and soldiers,
of whom the greater part were armed. These he leaves in the hall;
and then, with his nephew at his side, goes into the House, takes
off his hat, and walks up to the Speaker's chair. The Speaker
leaves it, the King stands in front of it, looks about him steadily
for a little while, and says he has come for those five members.
No one speaks, and then he calls John Pym by name. No one speaks,
and then he calls Denzil Hollis by name. No one speaks, and then
he asks the Speaker of the House where those five members are? The
Speaker, answering on his knee, nobly replies that he is the
servant of that House, and that he has neither eyes to see, nor
tongue to speak, anything but what the House commands him. Upon
this, the King, beaten from that time evermore, replies that he
will seek them himself, for they have committed treason; and goes
out, with his hat in his hand, amid some audible murmurs from the

No words can describe the hurry that arose out of doors when all
this was known. The five members had gone for safety to a house in
Coleman-street, in the City, where they were guarded all night; and
indeed the whole city watched in arms like an army. At ten o'clock
in the morning, the King, already frightened at what he had done,
came to the Guildhall, with only half a dozen lords, and made a
speech to the people, hoping they would not shelter those whom he
accused of treason. Next day, he issued a proclamation for the
apprehension of the five members; but the Parliament minded it so
little that they made great arrangements for having them brought
down to Westminster in great state, five days afterwards. The King
was so alarmed now at his own imprudence, if not for his own
safety, that he left his palace at Whitehall, and went away with
his Queen and children to Hampton Court.

It was the eleventh of May, when the five members were carried in
state and triumph to Westminster. They were taken by water. The
river could not be seen for the boats on it; and the five members
were hemmed in by barges full of men and great guns, ready to
protect them, at any cost. Along the Strand a large body of the
train-bands of London, under their commander, SKIPPON, marched to
be ready to assist the little fleet. Beyond them, came a crowd who
choked the streets, roaring incessantly about the Bishops and the
Papists, and crying out contemptuously as they passed Whitehall,
'What has become of the King?' With this great noise outside the
House of Commons, and with great silence within, Mr. Pym rose and
informed the House of the great kindness with which they had been
received in the City. Upon that, the House called the sheriffs in
and thanked them, and requested the train-bands, under their
commander Skippon, to guard the House of Commons every day. Then,
came four thousand men on horseback out of Buckinghamshire,
offering their services as a guard too, and bearing a petition to
the King, complaining of the injury that had been done to Mr.
Hampden, who was their county man and much beloved and honoured.

When the King set off for Hampton Court, the gentlemen and soldiers
who had been with him followed him out of town as far as Kingston-
upon-Thames; next day, Lord Digby came to them from the King at
Hampton Court, in his coach and six, to inform them that the King
accepted their protection. This, the Parliament said, was making
war against the kingdom, and Lord Digby fled abroad. The
Parliament then immediately applied themselves to getting hold of
the military power of the country, well knowing that the King was
already trying hard to use it against them, and that he had
secretly sent the Earl of Newcastle to Hull, to secure a valuable
magazine of arms and gunpowder that was there. In those times,
every county had its own magazines of arms and powder, for its own
train-bands or militia; so, the Parliament brought in a bill
claiming the right (which up to this time had belonged to the King)
of appointing the Lord Lieutenants of counties, who commanded these
train-bands; also, of having all the forts, castles, and garrisons
in the kingdom, put into the hands of such governors as they, the
Parliament, could confide in. It also passed a law depriving the
Bishops of their votes. The King gave his assent to that bill, but
would not abandon the right of appointing the Lord Lieutenants,
though he said he was willing to appoint such as might be suggested
to him by the Parliament. When the Earl of Pembroke asked him
whether he would not give way on that question for a time, he said,
'By God! not for one hour!' and upon this he and the Parliament
went to war.

His young daughter was betrothed to the Prince of Orange. On
pretence of taking her to the country of her future husband, the
Queen was already got safely away to Holland, there to pawn the
Crown jewels for money to raise an army on the King's side. The
Lord Admiral being sick, the House of Commons now named the Earl of
Warwick to hold his place for a year. The King named another
gentleman; the House of Commons took its own way, and the Earl of
Warwick became Lord Admiral without the King's consent. The
Parliament sent orders down to Hull to have that magazine removed
to London; the King went down to Hull to take it himself. The
citizens would not admit him into the town, and the governor would
not admit him into the castle. The Parliament resolved that
whatever the two Houses passed, and the King would not consent to,
should be called an ORDINANCE, and should be as much a law as if he
did consent to it. The King protested against this, and gave
notice that these ordinances were not to be obeyed. The King,
attended by the majority of the House of Peers, and by many members
of the House of Commons, established himself at York. The
Chancellor went to him with the Great Seal, and the Parliament made
a new Great Seal. The Queen sent over a ship full of arms and
ammunition, and the King issued letters to borrow money at high
interest. The Parliament raised twenty regiments of foot and
seventy-five troops of horse; and the people willingly aided them
with their money, plate, jewellery, and trinkets - the married
women even with their wedding-rings. Every member of Parliament
who could raise a troop or a regiment in his own part of the
country, dressed it according to his taste and in his own colours,
and commanded it. Foremost among them all, OLIVER CROMWELL raised
a troop of horse - thoroughly in earnest and thoroughly well armed
- who were, perhaps, the best soldiers that ever were seen.

In some of their proceedings, this famous Parliament passed the
bounds of previous law and custom, yielded to and favoured riotous
assemblages of the people, and acted tyrannically in imprisoning
some who differed from the popular leaders. But again, you are
always to remember that the twelve years during which the King had
had his own wilful way, had gone before; and that nothing could
make the times what they might, could, would, or should have been,
if those twelve years had never rolled away.


I SHALL not try to relate the particulars of the great civil war
between King Charles the First and the Long Parliament, which
lasted nearly four years, and a full account of which would fill
many large books. It was a sad thing that Englishmen should once
more be fighting against Englishmen on English ground; but, it is
some consolation to know that on both sides there was great
humanity, forbearance, and honour. The soldiers of the Parliament
were far more remarkable for these good qualities than the soldiers
of the King (many of whom fought for mere pay without much caring
for the cause); but those of the nobility and gentry who were on
the King's side were so brave, and so faithful to him, that their
conduct cannot but command our highest admiration. Among them were
great numbers of Catholics, who took the royal side because the
Queen was so strongly of their persuasion.

The King might have distinguished some of these gallant spirits, if
he had been as generous a spirit himself, by giving them the
command of his army. Instead of that, however, true to his old
high notions of royalty, he entrusted it to his two nephews, PRINCE
RUPERT and PRINCE MAURICE, who were of royal blood and came over
from abroad to help him. It might have been better for him if they
had stayed away; since Prince Rupert was an impetuous, hot-headed
fellow, whose only idea was to dash into battle at all times and
seasons, and lay about him.

The general-in-chief of the Parliamentary army was the Earl of
Essex, a gentleman of honour and an excellent soldier. A little
while before the war broke out, there had been some rioting at
Westminster between certain officious law students and noisy
soldiers, and the shopkeepers and their apprentices, and the
general people in the streets. At that time the King's friends
called the crowd, Roundheads, because the apprentices wore short
hair; the crowd, in return, called their opponents Cavaliers,
meaning that they were a blustering set, who pretended to be very
military. These two words now began to be used to distinguish the
two sides in the civil war. The Royalists also called the
Parliamentary men Rebels and Rogues, while the Parliamentary men
called THEM Malignants, and spoke of themselves as the Godly, the
Honest, and so forth.

The war broke out at Portsmouth, where that double traitor Goring
had again gone over to the King and was besieged by the
Parliamentary troops. Upon this, the King proclaimed the Earl of
Essex and the officers serving under him, traitors, and called upon
his loyal subjects to meet him in arms at Nottingham on the twenty-
fifth of August. But his loyal subjects came about him in scanty
numbers, and it was a windy, gloomy day, and the Royal Standard got
blown down, and the whole affair was very melancholy. The chief
engagements after this, took place in the vale of the Red Horse
near Banbury, at Brentford, at Devizes, at Chalgrave Field (where
Mr. Hampden was so sorely wounded while fighting at the head of his
men, that he died within a week), at Newbury (in which battle LORD
FALKLAND, one of the best noblemen on the King's side, was killed),
at Leicester, at Naseby, at Winchester, at Marston Moor near York,
at Newcastle, and in many other parts of England and Scotland.
These battles were attended with various successes. At one time,
the King was victorious; at another time, the Parliament. But
almost all the great and busy towns were against the King; and when
it was considered necessary to fortify London, all ranks of people,
from labouring men and women, up to lords and ladies, worked hard
together with heartiness and good will. The most distinguished
leaders on the Parliamentary side were HAMPDEN, SIR THOMAS FAIRFAX,
and, above all, OLIVER CROMWELL, and his son-in-law IRETON.

During the whole of this war, the people, to whom it was very
expensive and irksome, and to whom it was made the more distressing
by almost every family being divided - some of its members
attaching themselves to one side and some to the other - were over
and over again most anxious for peace. So were some of the best
men in each cause. Accordingly, treaties of peace were discussed
between commissioners from the Parliament and the King; at York, at
Oxford (where the King held a little Parliament of his own), and at
Uxbridge. But they came to nothing. In all these negotiations,
and in all his difficulties, the King showed himself at his best.
He was courageous, cool, self-possessed, and clever; but, the old
taint of his character was always in him, and he was never for one
single moment to be trusted. Lord Clarendon, the historian, one of
his highest admirers, supposes that he had unhappily promised the
Queen never to make peace without her consent, and that this must
often be taken as his excuse. He never kept his word from night to
morning. He signed a cessation of hostilities with the blood-
stained Irish rebels for a sum of money, and invited the Irish
regiments over, to help him against the Parliament. In the battle
of Naseby, his cabinet was seized and was found to contain a
correspondence with the Queen, in which he expressly told her that
he had deceived the Parliament - a mongrel Parliament, he called it
now, as an improvement on his old term of vipers - in pretending to
recognise it and to treat with it; and from which it further
appeared that he had long been in secret treaty with the Duke of
Lorraine for a foreign army of ten thousand men. Disappointed in
this, he sent a most devoted friend of his, the EARL OF GLAMORGAN,
to Ireland, to conclude a secret treaty with the Catholic powers,
to send him an Irish army of ten thousand men; in return for which
he was to bestow great favours on the Catholic religion. And, when
this treaty was discovered in the carriage of a fighting Irish
Archbishop who was killed in one of the many skirmishes of those
days, he basely denied and deserted his attached friend, the Earl,
on his being charged with high treason; and - even worse than this
- had left blanks in the secret instructions he gave him with his
own kingly hand, expressly that he might thus save himself.

At last, on the twenty-seventh day of April, one thousand six
hundred and forty-six, the King found himself in the city of
Oxford, so surrounded by the Parliamentary army who were closing in
upon him on all sides that he felt that if he would escape he must
delay no longer. So, that night, having altered the cut of his
hair and beard, he was dressed up as a servant and put upon a horse
with a cloak strapped behind him, and rode out of the town behind
one of his own faithful followers, with a clergyman of that country
who knew the road well, for a guide. He rode towards London as far
as Harrow, and then altered his plans and resolved, it would seem,
to go to the Scottish camp. The Scottish men had been invited over
to help the Parliamentary army, and had a large force then in
England. The King was so desperately intriguing in everything he
did, that it is doubtful what he exactly meant by this step. He
took it, anyhow, and delivered himself up to the EARL OF LEVEN, the
Scottish general-in-chief, who treated him as an honourable
prisoner. Negotiations between the Parliament on the one hand and
the Scottish authorities on the other, as to what should be done
with him, lasted until the following February. Then, when the King
had refused to the Parliament the concession of that old militia
point for twenty years, and had refused to Scotland the recognition
of its Solemn League and Covenant, Scotland got a handsome sum for
its army and its help, and the King into the bargain. He was
taken, by certain Parliamentary commissioners appointed to receive
him, to one of his own houses, called Holmby House, near Althorpe,
in Northamptonshire.

While the Civil War was still in progress, John Pym died, and was
buried with great honour in Westminster Abbey - not with greater
honour than he deserved, for the liberties of Englishmen owe a
mighty debt to Pym and Hampden. The war was but newly over when
the Earl of Essex died, of an illness brought on by his having
overheated himself in a stag hunt in Windsor Forest. He, too, was
buried in Westminster Abbey, with great state. I wish it were not
necessary to add that Archbishop Laud died upon the scaffold when
the war was not yet done. His trial lasted in all nearly a year,
and, it being doubtful even then whether the charges brought
against him amounted to treason, the odious old contrivance of the
worst kings was resorted to, and a bill of attainder was brought in
against him. He was a violently prejudiced and mischievous person;
had had strong ear-cropping and nose-splitting propensities, as you
know; and had done a world of harm. But he died peaceably, and
like a brave old man.


WHEN the Parliament had got the King into their hands, they became
very anxious to get rid of their army, in which Oliver Cromwell had
begun to acquire great power; not only because of his courage and
high abilities, but because he professed to be very sincere in the
Scottish sort of Puritan religion that was then exceedingly popular
among the soldiers. They were as much opposed to the Bishops as to
the Pope himself; and the very privates, drummers, and trumpeters,
had such an inconvenient habit of starting up and preaching long-
winded discourses, that I would not have belonged to that army on
any account.

So, the Parliament, being far from sure but that the army might
begin to preach and fight against them now it had nothing else to
do, proposed to disband the greater part of it, to send another
part to serve in Ireland against the rebels, and to keep only a
small force in England. But, the army would not consent to be
broken up, except upon its own conditions; and, when the Parliament
showed an intention of compelling it, it acted for itself in an
unexpected manner. A certain cornet, of the name of JOICE, arrived
at Holmby House one night, attended by four hundred horsemen, went
into the King's room with his hat in one hand and a pistol in the
other, and told the King that he had come to take him away. The
King was willing enough to go, and only stipulated that he should
be publicly required to do so next morning. Next morning,
accordingly, he appeared on the top of the steps of the house, and
asked Comet Joice before his men and the guard set there by the
Parliament, what authority he had for taking him away? To this
Cornet Joice replied, 'The authority of the army.' 'Have you a
written commission?' said the King. Joice, pointing to his four
hundred men on horseback, replied, 'That is my commission.'
'Well,' said the King, smiling, as if he were pleased, 'I never
before read such a commission; but it is written in fair and
legible characters. This is a company of as handsome proper
gentlemen as I have seen a long while.' He was asked where he
would like to live, and he said at Newmarket. So, to Newmarket he
and Cornet Joice and the four hundred horsemen rode; the King
remarking, in the same smiling way, that he could ride as far at a
spell as Cornet Joice, or any man there.

The King quite believed, I think, that the army were his friends.
He said as much to Fairfax when that general, Oliver Cromwell, and
Ireton, went to persuade him to return to the custody of the
Parliament. He preferred to remain as he was, and resolved to
remain as he was. And when the army moved nearer and nearer London
to frighten the Parliament into yielding to their demands, they
took the King with them. It was a deplorable thing that England
should be at the mercy of a great body of soldiers with arms in
their hands; but the King certainly favoured them at this important
time of his life, as compared with the more lawful power that tried
to control him. It must be added, however, that they treated him,
as yet, more respectfully and kindly than the Parliament had done.
They allowed him to be attended by his own servants, to be
splendidly entertained at various houses, and to see his children -
at Cavesham House, near Reading - for two days. Whereas, the
Parliament had been rather hard with him, and had only allowed him
to ride out and play at bowls.

It is much to be believed that if the King could have been trusted,
even at this time, he might have been saved. Even Oliver Cromwell
expressly said that he did believe that no man could enjoy his
possessions in peace, unless the King had his rights. He was not
unfriendly towards the King; he had been present when he received
his children, and had been much affected by the pitiable nature of
the scene; he saw the King often; he frequently walked and talked
with him in the long galleries and pleasant gardens of the Palace
at Hampton Court, whither he was now removed; and in all this
risked something of his influence with the army. But, the King was
in secret hopes of help from the Scottish people; and the moment he
was encouraged to join them he began to be cool to his new friends,
the army, and to tell the officers that they could not possibly do
without him. At the very time, too, when he was promising to make
Cromwell and Ireton noblemen, if they would help him up to his old
height, he was writing to the Queen that he meant to hang them.
They both afterwards declared that they had been privately informed
that such a letter would be found, on a certain evening, sewed up
in a saddle which would be taken to the Blue Boar in Holborn to be
sent to Dover; and that they went there, disguised as common
soldiers, and sat drinking in the inn-yard until a man came with
the saddle, which they ripped up with their knives, and therein
found the letter. I see little reason to doubt the story. It is
certain that Oliver Cromwell told one of the King's most faithful
followers that the King could not be trusted, and that he would not
be answerable if anything amiss were to happen to him. Still, even
after that, he kept a promise he had made to the King, by letting
him know that there was a plot with a certain portion of the army
to seize him. I believe that, in fact, he sincerely wanted the
King to escape abroad, and so to be got rid of without more trouble
or danger. That Oliver himself had work enough with the army is
pretty plain; for some of the troops were so mutinous against him,
and against those who acted with him at this time, that he found it
necessary to have one man shot at the head of his regiment to
overawe the rest.

The King, when he received Oliver's warning, made his escape from
Hampton Court; after some indecision and uncertainty, he went to
Carisbrooke Castle in the Isle of Wight. At first, he was pretty
free there; but, even there, he carried on a pretended treaty with
the Parliament, while he was really treating with commissioners
from Scotland to send an army into England to take his part. When
he broke off this treaty with the Parliament (having settled with
Scotland) and was treated as a prisoner, his treatment was not
changed too soon, for he had plotted to escape that very night to a
ship sent by the Queen, which was lying off the island.

He was doomed to be disappointed in his hopes from Scotland. The
agreement he had made with the Scottish Commissioners was not
favourable enough to the religion of that country to please the
Scottish clergy; and they preached against it. The consequence
was, that the army raised in Scotland and sent over, was too small
to do much; and that, although it was helped by a rising of the
Royalists in England and by good soldiers from Ireland, it could
make no head against the Parliamentary army under such men as
Cromwell and Fairfax. The King's eldest son, the Prince of Wales,
came over from Holland with nineteen ships (a part of the English
fleet having gone over to him) to help his father; but nothing came
of his voyage, and he was fain to return. The most remarkable
event of this second civil war was the cruel execution by the
Parliamentary General, of SIR CHARLES LUCAS and SIR GEORGE LISLE,
two grand Royalist generals, who had bravely defended Colchester
under every disadvantage of famine and distress for nearly three
months. When Sir Charles Lucas was shot, Sir George Lisle kissed
his body, and said to the soldiers who were to shoot him, 'Come
nearer, and make sure of me.' 'I warrant you, Sir George,' said
one of the soldiers, 'we shall hit you.' 'AY?' he returned with a
smile, 'but I have been nearer to you, my friends, many a time, and
you have missed me.'

The Parliament, after being fearfully bullied by the army - who
demanded to have seven members whom they disliked given up to them
- had voted that they would have nothing more to do with the King.
On the conclusion, however, of this second civil war (which did not
last more than six months), they appointed commissioners to treat
with him. The King, then so far released again as to be allowed to
live in a private house at Newport in the Isle of Wight, managed
his own part of the negotiation with a sense that was admired by
all who saw him, and gave up, in the end, all that was asked of him
- even yielding (which he had steadily refused, so far) to the
temporary abolition of the bishops, and the transfer of their
church land to the Crown. Still, with his old fatal vice upon him,
when his best friends joined the commissioners in beseeching him to
yield all those points as the only means of saving himself from the
army, he was plotting to escape from the island; he was holding
correspondence with his friends and the Catholics in Ireland,
though declaring that he was not; and he was writing, with his own
hand, that in what he yielded he meant nothing but to get time to

Matters were at this pass when the army, resolved to defy the
Parliament, marched up to London. The Parliament, not afraid of
them now, and boldly led by Hollis, voted that the King's
concessions were sufficient ground for settling the peace of the
kingdom. Upon that, COLONEL RICH and COLONEL PRIDE went down to
the House of Commons with a regiment of horse soldiers and a
regiment of foot; and Colonel Pride, standing in the lobby with a
list of the members who were obnoxious to the army in his hand, had
them pointed out to him as they came through, and took them all
into custody. This proceeding was afterwards called by the people,
for a joke, PRIDE'S PURGE. Cromwell was in the North, at the head
of his men, at the time, but when he came home, approved of what
had been done.

What with imprisoning some members and causing others to stay away,
the army had now reduced the House of Commons to some fifty or so.
These soon voted that it was treason in a king to make war against
his parliament and his people, and sent an ordinance up to the
House of Lords for the King's being tried as a traitor. The House
of Lords, then sixteen in number, to a man rejected it. Thereupon,
the Commons made an ordinance of their own, that they were the
supreme government of the country, and would bring the King to

The King had been taken for security to a place called Hurst
Castle: a lonely house on a rock in the sea, connected with the
coast of Hampshire by a rough road two miles long at low water.
Thence, he was ordered to be removed to Windsor; thence, after
being but rudely used there, and having none but soldiers to wait
upon him at table, he was brought up to St. James's Palace in
London, and told that his trial was appointed for next day.

On Saturday, the twentieth of January, one thousand six hundred and
forty-nine, this memorable trial began. The House of Commons had
settled that one hundred and thirty-five persons should form the
Court, and these were taken from the House itself, from among the
officers of the army, and from among the lawyers and citizens.
JOHN BRADSHAW, serjeant-at-law, was appointed president. The place
was Westminster Hall. At the upper end, in a red velvet chair, sat
the president, with his hat (lined with plates of iron for his
protection) on his head. The rest of the Court sat on side
benches, also wearing their hats. The King's seat was covered with
velvet, like that of the president, and was opposite to it. He was
brought from St. James's to Whitehall, and from Whitehall he came
by water to his trial.

When he came in, he looked round very steadily on the Court, and on
the great number of spectators, and then sat down: presently he
got up and looked round again. On the indictment 'against Charles
Stuart, for high treason,' being read, he smiled several times, and
he denied the authority of the Court, saying that there could be no
parliament without a House of Lords, and that he saw no House of
Lords there. Also, that the King ought to be there, and that he
saw no King in the King's right place. Bradshaw replied, that the
Court was satisfied with its authority, and that its authority was
God's authority and the kingdom's. He then adjourned the Court to
the following Monday. On that day, the trial was resumed, and went
on all the week. When the Saturday came, as the King passed
forward to his place in the Hall, some soldiers and others cried
for 'justice!' and execution on him. That day, too, Bradshaw, like
an angry Sultan, wore a red robe, instead of the black robe he had
worn before. The King was sentenced to death that day. As he went
out, one solitary soldier said, 'God bless you, Sir!' For this,
his officer struck him. The King said he thought the punishment
exceeded the offence. The silver head of his walking-stick had
fallen off while he leaned upon it

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