Prosperity is the measure or touchstone of virtue, for it is less difficult to bear misfortune than to remain uncorrupted by pleasure. — Tacitus

Story of the English - Helene Guerber

The Commonwealth

While Charles was thus making his escape, General Monk subdued Scotland, General Ireton reduced Ireland, and Admiral Blake began to punish the Dutch, who had made trouble for the English vessels. You see, Parliament had decreed that no ships of other nations should bring the products of foreign countries to English ports. The Dutch, who had long made much money by carrying goods to England, did not like this Navigation Act; so they declared war, and their admiral, Van Tromp, after sundry checks, won a victory over Admiral Blake and forced him to retreat. The Dutch admiral felt so proud of this victory that he sailed up and down the Channel with a broom tied to the top of his mast, boasting that he had swept the seas clean.

But for all his boasting, he was soon defeated by Blake, and a treaty was made in which it was settled that all foreign vessels should recognize England's power by lowering their flags thrice in salute when they met an English ship.

In the meantime the affairs of the state were not going on satisfactorily. Cromwell, seeing that the Long Parliament, after sitting thirteen years, had not done much good, thought it time to dissolve it; so he arose in the hall one day and suddenly cried: "For shame! Get you gone! Give place to honester men. You are no longer a Parliament. The Lord has done with you. He has chosen other instruments for carrying on his work."

At a stamp of his foot, his soldiers came filing in to drive the members out. Then Cromwell bade them remove the mace, the emblem of Parliament's power, and, locking the doors, he carried away the keys. Shortly after that he called a new Parliament, composed mainly of Independents, and as the principal orator was named Praise-God Barebone, this Parliament is often called Barebone's Parliament.

This new assembly gave Cromwell the title of Protector of the Commonwealth. He decided that in the present state of affairs England was best under military rule. So he dismissed Parliament, raised taxes whenever he pleased, and had all the power of a king, although he refused to accept the crown when it was offered to him.


But although Cromwell proved so able a ruler that he forced all the foreign countries to respect England, and made the country very prosperous, he was not happy. He knew that the Catholics and Royalists hated him, and was in constant dread of being killed. He wore armour under his clothes, never slept two nights in succession in the same room, always had loaded pistols at hand, and never came back to Whitehall by the road by which he left it. Besides, he knew that the people he loved most, his wife and daughters, did not approve of his having allowed Charles I. to be killed, or of his refusing to give back the throne to Charles II.

Westminster Abbey.

During his short rule Cromwell won the city of Dunkirk and the island of Jamaica from Spain; he subdued the pirates at Tunis and Tripoli; and, best of all, he insisted that every one should have the right to worship as he chose. The Jews were therefore allowed to come back into England, whence they had been driven by Edward I.

Other great improvements which took place during the rule of Cromwell were the circulation of the first newspapers and the development of a better postal service. Letters were now carried from point to point on certain fixed days, instead of waiting until the postman thought there were enough to make it worth while; and all members of Parliament were allowed the right of sending as many letters as they chose, free of charge, a privilege which was called "franking."

Although Oliver Cromwell was Protector of England for only five years, he is one of the most famous men of the country whose welfare he had close at heart; He did so much for England that he was granted the right of naming his successor. He therefore said that his son Richard should govern after him. Soon after this he died of ague, in 1658, and was buried in Westminster Abbey, among the bodies of the kings whose power he had wielded without ever bearing their title.


Front Matter

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
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