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

A Child's History of England

Chapter XXXVI


KING JAMES THE SECOND was a man so very disagreeable, that even the
best of historians has favoured his brother Charles, as becoming,
by comparison, quite a pleasant character. The one object of his
short reign was to re-establish the Catholic religion in England;
and this he doggedly pursued with such a stupid obstinacy, that his
career very soon came to a close.

The first thing he did, was, to assure his council that he would
make it his endeavour to preserve the Government, both in Church
and State, as it was by law established; and that he would always
take care to defend and support the Church. Great public
acclamations were raised over this fair speech, and a great deal
was said, from the pulpits and elsewhere, about the word of a King
which was never broken, by credulous people who little supposed
that he had formed a secret council for Catholic affairs, of which
a mischievous Jesuit, called FATHER PETRE, was one of the chief
members. With tears of joy in his eyes, he received, as the
beginning of HIS pension from the King of France, five hundred
thousand livres; yet, with a mixture of meanness and arrogance that
belonged to his contemptible character, he was always jealous of
making some show of being independent of the King of France, while
he pocketed his money. As - notwithstanding his publishing two
papers in favour of Popery (and not likely to do it much service, I
should think) written by the King, his brother, and found in his
strong-box; and his open display of himself attending mass - the
Parliament was very obsequious, and granted him a large sum of
money, he began his reign with a belief that he could do what he
pleased, and with a determination to do it.

Before we proceed to its principal events, let us dispose of Titus
Oates. He was tried for perjury, a fortnight after the coronation,
and besides being very heavily fined, was sentenced to stand twice
in the pillory, to be whipped from Aldgate to Newgate one day, and
from Newgate to Tyburn two days afterwards, and to stand in the
pillory five times a year as long as he lived. This fearful
sentence was actually inflicted on the rascal. Being unable to
stand after his first flogging, he was dragged on a sledge from
Newgate to Tyburn, and flogged as he was drawn along. He was so
strong a villain that he did not die under the torture, but lived
to be afterwards pardoned and rewarded, though not to be ever
believed in any more. Dangerfield, the only other one of that crew
left alive, was not so fortunate. He was almost killed by a
whipping from Newgate to Tyburn, and, as if that were not
punishment enough, a ferocious barrister of Gray's Inn gave him a
poke in the eye with his cane, which caused his death; for which
the ferocious barrister was deservedly tried and executed.

As soon as James was on the throne, Argyle and Monmouth went from
Brussels to Rotterdam, and attended a meeting of Scottish exiles
held there, to concert measures for a rising in England. It was
agreed that Argyle should effect a landing in Scotland, and
Monmouth in England; and that two Englishmen should be sent with
Argyle to be in his confidence, and two Scotchmen with the Duke of

Argyle was the first to act upon this contract. But, two of his
men being taken prisoners at the Orkney Islands, the Government
became aware of his intention, and was able to act against him with
such vigour as to prevent his raising more than two or three
thousand Highlanders, although he sent a fiery cross, by trusty
messengers, from clan to clan and from glen to glen, as the custom
then was when those wild people were to be excited by their chiefs.
As he was moving towards Glasgow with his small force, he was
betrayed by some of his followers, taken, and carried, with his
hands tied behind his back, to his old prison in Edinburgh Castle.
James ordered him to be executed, on his old shamefully unjust
sentence, within three days; and he appears to have been anxious
that his legs should have been pounded with his old favourite the
boot. However, the boot was not applied; he was simply beheaded,
and his head was set upon the top of Edinburgh Jail. One of those
Englishmen who had been assigned to him was that old soldier
Rumbold, the master of the Rye House. He was sorely wounded, and
within a week after Argyle had suffered with great courage, was
brought up for trial, lest he should die and disappoint the King.
He, too, was executed, after defending himself with great spirit,
and saying that he did not believe that God had made the greater
part of mankind to carry saddles on their backs and bridles in
their mouths, and to be ridden by a few, booted and spurred for the
purpose - in which I thoroughly agree with Rumbold.

The Duke of Monmouth, partly through being detained and partly
through idling his time away, was five or six weeks behind his
friend when he landed at Lyme, in Dorset: having at his right hand
an unlucky nobleman called LORD GREY OF WERK, who of himself would
have ruined a far more promising expedition. He immediately set up
his standard in the market-place, and proclaimed the King a tyrant,
and a Popish usurper, and I know not what else; charging him, not
only with what he had done, which was bad enough, but with what
neither he nor anybody else had done, such as setting fire to
London, and poisoning the late King. Raising some four thousand
men by these means, he marched on to Taunton, where there were many
Protestant dissenters who were strongly opposed to the Catholics.
Here, both the rich and poor turned out to receive him, ladies
waved a welcome to him from all the windows as he passed along the
streets, flowers were strewn in his way, and every compliment and
honour that could be devised was showered upon him. Among the
rest, twenty young ladies came forward, in their best clothes, and
in their brightest beauty, and gave him a Bible ornamented with
their own fair hands, together with other presents.

Encouraged by this homage, he proclaimed himself King, and went on
to Bridgewater. But, here the Government troops, under the EARL OF
FEVERSHAM, were close at hand; and he was so dispirited at finding
that he made but few powerful friends after all, that it was a
question whether he should disband his army and endeavour to
escape. It was resolved, at the instance of that unlucky Lord
Grey, to make a night attack on the King's army, as it lay encamped
on the edge of a morass called Sedgemoor. The horsemen were
commanded by the same unlucky lord, who was not a brave man. He
gave up the battle almost at the first obstacle - which was a deep
drain; and although the poor countrymen, who had turned out for
Monmouth, fought bravely with scythes, poles, pitchforks, and such
poor weapons as they had, they were soon dispersed by the trained
soldiers, and fled in all directions. When the Duke of Monmouth
himself fled, was not known in the confusion; but the unlucky Lord
Grey was taken early next day, and then another of the party was
taken, who confessed that he had parted from the Duke only four
hours before. Strict search being made, he was found disguised as
a peasant, hidden in a ditch under fern and nettles, with a few
peas in his pocket which he had gathered in the fields to eat. The
only other articles he had upon him were a few papers and little
books: one of the latter being a strange jumble, in his own
writing, of charms, songs, recipes, and prayers. He was completely
broken. He wrote a miserable letter to the King, beseeching and
entreating to be allowed to see him. When he was taken to London,
and conveyed bound into the King's presence, he crawled to him on
his knees, and made a most degrading exhibition. As James never
forgave or relented towards anybody, he was not likely to soften
towards the issuer of the Lyme proclamation, so he told the
suppliant to prepare for death.

On the fifteenth of July, one thousand six hundred and eighty-five,
this unfortunate favourite of the people was brought out to die on
Tower Hill. The crowd was immense, and the tops of all the houses
were covered with gazers. He had seen his wife, the daughter of
the Duke of Buccleuch, in the Tower, and had talked much of a lady
whom he loved far better - the LADY HARRIET WENTWORTH - who was one
of the last persons he remembered in this life. Before laying down
his head upon the block he felt the edge of the axe, and told the
executioner that he feared it was not sharp enough, and that the
axe was not heavy enough. On the executioner replying that it was
of the proper kind, the Duke said, 'I pray you have a care, and do
not use me so awkwardly as you used my Lord Russell.' The
executioner, made nervous by this, and trembling, struck once and
merely gashed him in the neck. Upon this, the Duke of Monmouth
raised his head and looked the man reproachfully in the face. Then
he struck twice, and then thrice, and then threw down the axe, and
cried out in a voice of horror that he could not finish that work.
The sheriffs, however, threatening him with what should be done to
himself if he did not, he took it up again and struck a fourth time
and a fifth time. Then the wretched head at last fell off, and
James, Duke of Monmouth, was dead, in the thirty-sixth year of his
age. He was a showy, graceful man, with many popular qualities,
and had found much favour in the open hearts of the English.

The atrocities, committed by the Government, which followed this
Monmouth rebellion, form the blackest and most lamentable page in
English history. The poor peasants, having been dispersed with
great loss, and their leaders having been taken, one would think
that the implacable King might have been satisfied. But no; he let
loose upon them, among other intolerable monsters, a COLONEL KIRK,
who had served against the Moors, and whose soldiers - called by
the people Kirk's lambs, because they bore a lamb upon their flag,
as the emblem of Christianity - were worthy of their leader. The
atrocities committed by these demons in human shape are far too
horrible to be related here. It is enough to say, that besides
most ruthlessly murdering and robbing them, and ruining them by
making them buy their pardons at the price of all they possessed,
it was one of Kirk's favourite amusements, as he and his officers
sat drinking after dinner, and toasting the King, to have batches
of prisoners hanged outside the windows for the company's
diversion; and that when their feet quivered in the convulsions of
death, he used to swear that they should have music to their
dancing, and would order the drums to beat and the trumpets to
play. The detestable King informed him, as an acknowledgment of
these services, that he was 'very well satisfied with his
proceedings.' But the King's great delight was in the proceedings
of Jeffreys, now a peer, who went down into the west, with four
other judges, to try persons accused of having had any share in the
rebellion. The King pleasantly called this 'Jeffreys's campaign.'
The people down in that part of the country remember it to this day
as The Bloody Assize.

It began at Winchester, where a poor deaf old lady, MRS. ALICIA
LISLE, the widow of one of the judges of Charles the First (who had
been murdered abroad by some Royalist assassins), was charged with
having given shelter in her house to two fugitives from Sedgemoor.
Three times the jury refused to find her guilty, until Jeffreys
bullied and frightened them into that false verdict. When he had
extorted it from them, he said, 'Gentlemen, if I had been one of
you, and she had been my own mother, I would have found her
guilty;' - as I dare say he would. He sentenced her to be burned
alive, that very afternoon. The clergy of the cathedral and some
others interfered in her favour, and she was beheaded within a
week. As a high mark of his approbation, the King made Jeffreys
Lord Chancellor; and he then went on to Dorchester, to Exeter, to
Taunton, and to Wells. It is astonishing, when we read of the
enormous injustice and barbarity of this beast, to know that no one
struck him dead on the judgment-seat. It was enough for any man or
woman to be accused by an enemy, before Jeffreys, to be found
guilty of high treason. One man who pleaded not guilty, he ordered
to be taken out of court upon the instant, and hanged; and this so
terrified the prisoners in general that they mostly pleaded guilty
at once. At Dorchester alone, in the course of a few days,
Jeffreys hanged eighty people; besides whipping, transporting,
imprisoning, and selling as slaves, great numbers. He executed, in
all, two hundred and fifty, or three hundred.

These executions took place, among the neighbours and friends of
the sentenced, in thirty-six towns and villages. Their bodies were
mangled, steeped in caldrons of boiling pitch and tar, and hung up
by the roadsides, in the streets, over the very churches. The
sight and smell of heads and limbs, the hissing and bubbling of the
infernal caldrons, and the tears and terrors of the people, were
dreadful beyond all description. One rustic, who was forced to
steep the remains in the black pot, was ever afterwards called 'Tom
Boilman.' The hangman has ever since been called Jack Ketch,
because a man of that name went hanging and hanging, all day long,
in the train of Jeffreys. You will hear much of the horrors of the
great French Revolution. Many and terrible they were, there is no
doubt; but I know of nothing worse, done by the maddened people of
France in that awful time, than was done by the highest judge in
England, with the express approval of the King of England, in The
Bloody Assize.

Nor was even this all. Jeffreys was as fond of money for himself
as of misery for others, and he sold pardons wholesale to fill his
pockets. The King ordered, at one time, a thousand prisoners to be
given to certain of his favourites, in order that they might
bargain with them for their pardons. The young ladies of Taunton
who had presented the Bible, were bestowed upon the maids of honour
at court; and those precious ladies made very hard bargains with
them indeed. When The Bloody Assize was at its most dismal height,
the King was diverting himself with horse-races in the very place
where Mrs. Lisle had been executed. When Jeffreys had done his
worst, and came home again, he was particularly complimented in the
Royal Gazette; and when the King heard that through drunkenness and
raging he was very ill, his odious Majesty remarked that such
another man could not easily be found in England. Besides all
this, a former sheriff of London, named CORNISH, was hanged within
sight of his own house, after an abominably conducted trial, for
having had a share in the Rye House Plot, on evidence given by
Rumsey, which that villain was obliged to confess was directly
opposed to the evidence he had given on the trial of Lord Russell.
And on the very same day, a worthy widow, named ELIZABETH GAUNT,
was burned alive at Tyburn, for having sheltered a wretch who
himself gave evidence against her. She settled the fuel about
herself with her own hands, so that the flames should reach her
quickly: and nobly said, with her last breath, that she had obeyed
the sacred command of God, to give refuge to the outcast, and not
to betray the wanderer.

After all this hanging, beheading, burning, boiling, mutilating,
exposing, robbing, transporting, and selling into slavery, of his
unhappy subjects, the King not unnaturally thought that he could do
whatever he would. So, he went to work to change the religion of
the country with all possible speed; and what he did was this.

He first of all tried to get rid of what was called the Test Act -
which prevented the Catholics from holding public employments - by
his own power of dispensing with the penalties. He tried it in one
case, and, eleven of the twelve judges deciding in his favour, he
exercised it in three others, being those of three dignitaries of
University College, Oxford, who had become Papists, and whom he
kept in their places and sanctioned. He revived the hated
Ecclesiastical Commission, to get rid of COMPTON, Bishop of London,
who manfully opposed him. He solicited the Pope to favour England
with an ambassador, which the Pope (who was a sensible man then)
rather unwillingly did. He flourished Father Petre before the eyes
of the people on all possible occasions. He favoured the
establishment of convents in several parts of London. He was
delighted to have the streets, and even the court itself, filled
with Monks and Friars in the habits of their orders. He constantly
endeavoured to make Catholics of the Protestants about him. He
held private interviews, which he called 'closetings,' with those
Members of Parliament who held offices, to persuade them to consent
to the design he had in view. When they did not consent, they were
removed, or resigned of themselves, and their places were given to
Catholics. He displaced Protestant officers from the army, by
every means in his power, and got Catholics into their places too.
He tried the same thing with the corporations, and also (though not
so successfully) with the Lord Lieutenants of counties. To terrify
the people into the endurance of all these measures, he kept an
army of fifteen thousand men encamped on Hounslow Heath, where mass
was openly performed in the General's tent, and where priests went
among the soldiers endeavouring to persuade them to become
Catholics. For circulating a paper among those men advising them
to be true to their religion, a Protestant clergyman, named
JOHNSON, the chaplain of the late Lord Russell, was actually
sentenced to stand three times in the pillory, and was actually
whipped from Newgate to Tyburn. He dismissed his own brother-in-
law from his Council because he was a Protestant, and made a Privy
Councillor of the before-mentioned Father Petre. He handed Ireland
over to RICHARD TALBOT, EARL OF TYRCONNELL, a worthless, dissolute
knave, who played the same game there for his master, and who
played the deeper game for himself of one day putting it under the
protection of the French King. In going to these extremities,
every man of sense and judgment among the Catholics, from the Pope
to a porter, knew that the King was a mere bigoted fool, who would
undo himself and the cause he sought to advance; but he was deaf to
all reason, and, happily for England ever afterwards, went tumbling
off his throne in his own blind way.

A spirit began to arise in the country, which the besotted
blunderer little expected. He first found it out in the University
of Cambridge. Having made a Catholic a dean at Oxford without any
opposition, he tried to make a monk a master of arts at Cambridge:
which attempt the University resisted, and defeated him. He then
went back to his favourite Oxford. On the death of the President
of Magdalen College, he commanded that there should be elected to
succeed him, one MR. ANTHONY FARMER, whose only recommendation was,
that he was of the King's religion. The University plucked up
courage at last, and refused. The King substituted another man,
and it still refused, resolving to stand by its own election of a
MR. HOUGH. The dull tyrant, upon this, punished Mr. Hough, and
five-and-twenty more, by causing them to be expelled and declared
incapable of holding any church preferment; then he proceeded to
what he supposed to be his highest step, but to what was, in fact,
his last plunge head-foremost in his tumble off his throne.

He had issued a declaration that there should be no religious tests
or penal laws, in order to let in the Catholics more easily; but
the Protestant dissenters, unmindful of themselves, had gallantly
joined the regular church in opposing it tooth and nail. The King
and Father Petre now resolved to have this read, on a certain
Sunday, in all the churches, and to order it to be circulated for
that purpose by the bishops. The latter took counsel with the
Archbishop of Canterbury, who was in disgrace; and they resolved
that the declaration should not be read, and that they would
petition the King against it. The Archbishop himself wrote out the
petition, and six bishops went into the King's bedchamber the same
night to present it, to his infinite astonishment. Next day was
the Sunday fixed for the reading, and it was only read by two
hundred clergymen out of ten thousand. The King resolved against
all advice to prosecute the bishops in the Court of King's Bench,
and within three weeks they were summoned before the Privy Council,
and committed to the Tower. As the six bishops were taken to that
dismal place, by water, the people who were assembled in immense
numbers fell upon their knees, and wept for them, and prayed for
them. When they got to the Tower, the officers and soldiers on
guard besought them for their blessing. While they were confined
there, the soldiers every day drank to their release with loud
shouts. When they were brought up to the Court of King's Bench for
their trial, which the Attorney-General said was for the high
offence of censuring the Government, and giving their opinion about
affairs of state, they were attended by similar multitudes, and
surrounded by a throng of noblemen and gentlemen. When the jury
went out at seven o'clock at night to consider of their verdict,
everybody (except the King) knew that they would rather starve than
yield to the King's brewer, who was one of them, and wanted a
verdict for his customer. When they came into court next morning,
after resisting the brewer all night, and gave a verdict of not
guilty, such a shout rose up in Westminster Hall as it had never
heard before; and it was passed on among the people away to Temple
Bar, and away again to the Tower. It did not pass only to the
east, but passed to the west too, until it reached the camp at
Hounslow, where the fifteen thousand soldiers took it up and echoed
it. And still, when the dull King, who was then with Lord
Feversham, heard the mighty roar, asked in alarm what it was, and
was told that it was 'nothing but the acquittal of the bishops,' he
said, in his dogged way, 'Call you that nothing? It is so much the
worse for them.'

Between the petition and the trial, the Queen had given birth to a
son, which Father Petre rather thought was owing to Saint Winifred.
But I doubt if Saint Winifred had much to do with it as the King's
friend, inasmuch as the entirely new prospect of a Catholic
successor (for both the King's daughters were Protestants)
to invite the Prince of Orange over to England. The Royal Mole,
seeing his danger at last, made, in his fright, many great
concessions, besides raising an army of forty thousand men; but the
Prince of Orange was not a man for James the Second to cope with.
His preparations were extraordinarily vigorous, and his mind was

For a fortnight after the Prince was ready to sail for England, a
great wind from the west prevented the departure of his fleet.
Even when the wind lulled, and it did sail, it was dispersed by a
storm, and was obliged to put back to refit. At last, on the first
of November, one thousand six hundred and eighty-eight, the
Protestant east wind, as it was long called, began to blow; and on
the third, the people of Dover and the people of Calais saw a fleet
twenty miles long sailing gallantly by, between the two places. On
Monday, the fifth, it anchored at Torbay in Devonshire, and the
Prince, with a splendid retinue of officers and men, marched into
Exeter. But the people in that western part of the country had
suffered so much in The Bloody Assize, that they had lost heart.
Few people joined him; and he began to think of returning, and
publishing the invitation he had received from those lords, as his
justification for having come at all. At this crisis, some of the
gentry joined him; the Royal army began to falter; an engagement
was signed, by which all who set their hand to it declared that
they would support one another in defence of the laws and liberties
of the three Kingdoms, of the Protestant religion, and of the
Prince of Orange. From that time, the cause received no check; the
greatest towns in England began, one after another, to declare for
the Prince; and he knew that it was all safe with him when the
University of Oxford offered to melt down its plate, if he wanted
any money.

By this time the King was running about in a pitiable way, touching
people for the King's evil in one place, reviewing his troops in
another, and bleeding from the nose in a third. The young Prince
was sent to Portsmouth, Father Petre went off like a shot to
France, and there was a general and swift dispersal of all the
priests and friars. One after another, the King's most important
officers and friends deserted him and went over to the Prince. In
the night, his daughter Anne fled from Whitehall Palace; and the
Bishop of London, who had once been a soldier, rode before her with
a drawn sword in his hand, and pistols at his saddle. 'God help
me,' cried the miserable King: 'my very children have forsaken
me!' In his wildness, after debating with such lords as were in
London, whether he should or should not call a Parliament, and
after naming three of them to negotiate with the Prince, he
resolved to fly to France. He had the little Prince of Wales
brought back from Portsmouth; and the child and the Queen crossed
the river to Lambeth in an open boat, on a miserable wet night, and
got safely away. This was on the night of the ninth of December.

At one o'clock on the morning of the eleventh, the King, who had,
in the meantime, received a letter from the Prince of Orange,
stating his objects, got out of bed, told LORD NORTHUMBERLAND who
lay in his room not to open the door until the usual hour in the
morning, and went down the back stairs (the same, I suppose, by
which the priest in the wig and gown had come up to his brother)
and crossed the river in a small boat: sinking the great seal of
England by the way. Horses having been provided, he rode,
accompanied by SIR EDWARD HALES, to Feversham, where he embarked in
a Custom House Hoy. The master of this Hoy, wanting more ballast,
ran into the Isle of Sheppy to get it, where the fishermen and
smugglers crowded about the boat, and informed the King of their
suspicions that he was a 'hatchet-faced Jesuit.' As they took his
money and would not let him go, he told them who he was, and that
the Prince of Orange wanted to take his life; and he began to
scream for a boat - and then to cry, because he had lost a piece of
wood on his ride which he called a fragment of Our Saviour's cross.
He put himself into the hands of the Lord Lieutenant of the county,
and his detention was made known to the Prince of Orange at Windsor
- who, only wanting to get rid of him, and not caring where he
went, so that he went away, was very much disconcerted that they
did not let him go. However, there was nothing for it but to have
him brought back, with some state in the way of Life Guards, to
Whitehall. And as soon as he got there, in his infatuation, he
heard mass, and set a Jesuit to say grace at his public dinner.

The people had been thrown into the strangest state of confusion by
his flight, and had taken it into their heads that the Irish part
of the army were going to murder the Protestants. Therefore, they
set the bells a ringing, and lighted watch-fires, and burned
Catholic Chapels, and looked about in all directions for Father
Petre and the Jesuits, while the Pope's ambassador was running away
in the dress of a footman. They found no Jesuits; but a man, who
had once been a frightened witness before Jeffreys in court, saw a
swollen, drunken face looking through a window down at Wapping,
which he well remembered. The face was in a sailor's dress, but he
knew it to be the face of that accursed judge, and he seized him.
The people, to their lasting honour, did not tear him to pieces.
After knocking him about a little, they took him, in the basest
agonies of terror, to the Lord Mayor, who sent him, at his own
shrieking petition, to the Tower for safety. There, he died.

Their bewilderment continuing, the people now lighted bonfires and
made rejoicings, as if they had any reason to be glad to have the
King back again. But, his stay was very short, for the English
guards were removed from Whitehall, Dutch guards were marched up to
it, and he was told by one of his late ministers that the Prince
would enter London, next day, and he had better go to Ham. He
said, Ham was a cold, damp place, and he would rather go to
Rochester. He thought himself very cunning in this, as he meant to
escape from Rochester to France. The Prince of Orange and his
friends knew that, perfectly well, and desired nothing more. So,
he went to Gravesend, in his royal barge, attended by certain
lords, and watched by Dutch troops, and pitied by the generous
people, who were far more forgiving than he had ever been, when
they saw him in his humiliation. On the night of the twenty-third
of December, not even then understanding that everybody wanted to
get rid of him, he went out, absurdly, through his Rochester
garden, down to the Medway, and got away to France, where he
rejoined the Queen.

There had been a council in his absence, of the lords, and the
authorities of London. When the Prince came, on the day after the
King's departure, he summoned the Lords to meet him, and soon
afterwards, all those who had served in any of the Parliaments of
King Charles the Second. It was finally resolved by these
authorities that the throne was vacant by the conduct of King James
the Second; that it was inconsistent with the safety and welfare of
this Protestant kingdom, to be governed by a Popish prince; that
the Prince and Princess of Orange should be King and Queen during
their lives and the life of the survivor of them; and that their
children should succeed them, if they had any. That if they had
none, the Princess Anne and her children should succeed; that if
she had none, the heirs of the Prince of Orange should succeed.

On the thirteenth of January, one thousand six hundred and eighty-
nine, the Prince and Princess, sitting on a throne in Whitehall,
bound themselves to these conditions. The Protestant religion was
established in England, and England's great and glorious Revolution
was complete.

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