All this talk about optimism and pessimism is itself a dismal fall from the old talk about right and wrong. Our fathers said that a nation had sinned and suffered like a man. We say it has decayed, like a cheese. — G. K. Chesterton

Story of the English - Helene Guerber




The First Gentleman in Europe

Even before Napoleon surrendered, the British and Prussian armies marched on to Paris, where they were joined by the Austrians and Russians, and placed Louis XVIII. again upon the throne. The war was now ended; but the British national debt was larger than ever, and the heavy taxes caused great discontent.

Besides, the regent was very extravagant, and spent such large sums of money upon his pleasures that the poor people began to be very indignant. They were especially angry because, owing to the corn laws,—laws that almost prevented the bringing in of grain from abroad,—they could not themselves get enough to eat. The regent had also treated his wife so unkindly that his unfeeling conduct had greatly added to his unpopularity. Still, when George III. died, at the age of eighty-two, after a reign of nearly sixty years, his son quietly succeeded him as George IV.

George IV. was handsome, well educated, and had such elegant manners that his courtiers called him the "First Gentleman in Europe." But he was a gentleman only in outward appearance. He is regarded as one of the worst of the English kings, because he never tried to do what he knew to be right, and because he was very selfish.

Fortunately for the English nation, he had two very able ministers, Peel and Canning, who had charge of public affairs during much of his ten years' reign. They opposed him when he tried to get a divorce from his ill-used wife, Caroline, and gradually brought about many important improvements in the laws.

For instance, Parliament changed a law which had been in force ever since the time of Charles II., and justly decided that Roman Catholics as well as Protestants should be allowed to have seats in Parliament and to hold office. This was demanded by the Irish, who had chosen one of their great men, O'Connell, as a member of Parliament. This new law, which is called the Catholic Emancipation Act, was soon followed by others; for the British were tired of old abuses, and the time, or era, of reform had begun.

During this reign, the British, who were now the first naval power in the world, joined France and Russia in protecting the Greeks from the Turks, and helped win the famous battle of Navarino (1827). Byron, one of the great English poets, took part in this Greek war. But he fell ill of fever at Missolonghi, and died before he had been able to do much for the country which he loved because it was once the home of many heroes, and of the great poets of antiquity.



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