The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins. — H. L. Mencken

Story of the English - Helene Guerber




Queen Boadicea

In defeating Caractacus, the Romans had become masters of the southern part of the island only. Many Britons were not subdued, and, helped by the Celts and Gaels, they often revolted. The Roman generals stationed in Britain put down one revolt after another; but finally Suetonius, one of them, declared that he was sure the Druids advised the Britons to fight. He therefore made up his mind to go and attack the priests in their island of Anglesey, and set out with his legions.

As Suetonius drew near the Druid stronghold, he saw that the priests had been warned of his coming, for they rushed forward to meet him, uttering strange cries and curses. They were armed, and fought fiercely, while the women, too, attacked the enemy with lighted torches, uttering shrill screams, and wildly tossing their long hair.

In spite of the brave defence of the Druids, Suetonius landed on the island, killed the priests and bards, overthrew the altars and temples, and cut down the sacred oak trees beneath whose shade they had been wont to gather. But while he was doing this, some other Roman soldiers cruelly ill-treated Boadicea, the queen of one of the Briton tribes, and insulted her two daughters.

Escaping from their hands with her unhappy daughters, Boadicea drove in her chariot all through the land, calling the people together, and telling them how shamefully the Romans had treated her and her poor children. As she spoke, the men's eyes gleamed with anger; and at her appeal, they all took up their arms and swore to avenge her. Led by this woman, the Britons went forth to fight the Romans, took their principal city, killed the seventy thousand strangers who dwelt there, and set fire to the beautiful buildings which the Romans had put up. But their triumph did not last long, for they soon met Suetonius coming back from Anglesey. He attacked them, and although the Britons fought more fiercely than ever before, they were soon completely beaten.

We are told that eighty thousand Britons died on that field of battle, and that Boadicea killed herself and her children, rather than fall into the enemy's hands and be taken to Rome to figure in the victor's triumph.

This victory left the Romans masters of the greater part of the island. All the Britons who were not willing to obey them fled to the mountains, to join the Picts and Scots, who were also Celtic tribes. Here the Romans did not dare venture, for fear they should lose their way and fall into an ambush. From time to time, parties of warriors would make sudden raids down into the country, killing, burning, and robbing wherever they went. Then, before the Roman soldiers could overtake them, they would carry their spoil back to the mountains, to hide until it was time for a new expedition.

To prevent these inroads into the country, which was rapidly becoming fertile and civilized, the Romans built large fortified camps at Exeter, Chester, and York, which last they made their capital. In these camps, or cities, they built beautiful houses, temples, and public baths, such as they had in Rome. There are still some traces of these fine buildings, and the well-made Roman roads, which connected the different camps, are still good to-day.

Little by little, the Britons learned many of the Roman arts; and in the first century of our era, some of them heard Christian soldiers tell the story of Christ, and became Christians. For many years Roman soldiers did all the fighting in Britain, while the young Britons who joined the army were sent to fight in other lands, under Roman generals.



Contents

Front Matter
Review

Early Times
The Druids
The Britons
Caesar in Britain
Queen Boadicea
The Great Walls
The Great Irish Saint
The Anglo-Saxons
Brave King Arthur
The Laws of the Saxons
The Story of St Augustine
Three Great Men
The Danish Pirates
King Alfred and the Cakes
Alfred conquers the Danes
A King's Narrow Escape
The King and the Outlaw
The Monasteries
An Unlucky Couple
St Dunstan
King Canute and the Waves
A Saxon Nobleman
Lady Godiva's Ride
The Battle of Hastings
The Conquest
Lords and Vassals
Death of William
The Brothers' Quarrels
Arms and Armour
The "White Ship"
Matilda's Narrow Escapes
Story of Fair Rosamond
Thomas a Becket
Murder of Thomas a Becket
Richard's Adventures
Richard and the Saracens
The Faithful Minstrel
Death of Richard
The Murder of Arthur
The Great Charter
The Rule of Henry III
A Race
Persecution of the Jews
The Conquest of Wales
A Quarrel with France
The Coronation Stone
The Insolent Favourite
Bruce and the Spider
Death of Edward II
The Murderers punished
The Battle of Crecy
The Siege of Calais
The Age of Chivalry
The Battle of Poitiers
The Peasants' Revolt
Richard's Presence of Mind
A Tiny Queen
Henry's Troubles
Madcap Harry
A Glorious Reign
The Maid of Orleans
The War of the Roses
The Queen and the Brigand
The Triumph of the Yorks
The Princes in the Tower
Richard's Punishment
Two Pretenders
A Grasping King
Field of the Cloth of Gold
The New Opinions
Death of Wolsey
Henry's Wives
The King and the Painter
A Boy King
Lady Jane Grey
The Death of Cranmer
A Clever Queen
Elizabeth's Lovers
Mary, Queen of Scots
Captivity of Mary Stuart
Wreck of the Spanish Armada
The Elizabethan Age
Death of Elizabeth
A Scotch King
The Gunpowder Plot
Sir Walter Raleigh
King and Parliament
Cavaliers and Roundheads
"Remember"
The Royal Oak
The Commonwealth
The Restoration
Plague and Fire
The Merry Monarch
James driven out of England
A Terrible Massacre
William's Wars
The Duke of Marlborough
The Taking of Gibraltar
The South Sea Bubble
Bonny Prince Charlie
Black Hole of Calcutta
Loss of the Colonies
The Battle of the Nile
Nelson's Last Signal
The Battle of Waterloo
First Gentleman of Europe
Childhood of Queen Victoria
The Queen's Marriage
Wars in Victoria's Reign
The Jubilee