It is natural enough that history should be mixed with myth, to make it interesting to the populace. But it is uttery unnatural that history or myth should not be interesting to the populace. — G. K. Chesterton

Story of the English - Helene Guerber

A Grasping King

Henry VII., as you have seen, was rather a clever ruler, but he was so fond of money that he did many wrong things to secure it. For instance, he said that when people were not satisfied with the decision of the ordinary judges, they could come before a special court, held at Westminster, in a room where the ceiling was painted blue and decorated with gold stars. This tribunal was hence called the Star Chamber; and as people could sometimes bribe the judges, and thus get the verdict they wanted, it came to be regarded as a very disgraceful institution.

Two lawyers, Empson and Dudley, helped the king to get a great deal of money, and they made use of such dishonest means that their names are still used to designate bad men. Thus, by heavy taxes, and by asking for gifts from rich and poor, Henry contrived to save several millions, besides building for his own tomb the chapel which still bears his name in Westminster Abbey.

During his reign many great discoveries were made. Christopher Columbus, sailing across the Atlantic Ocean, opened the way for new and profitable trading. Henry VII., wishing to enrich himself, built a large ship, the Great Harry, and he too sent out expeditions. One of his captains was Cabot, who discovered Newfoundland and the coast of the North American continent.

Henry VII. also tried to increase the wealth of his family by having his eldest son, Prince Arthur, marry Catherine of Aragon, the daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain. But soon after the marriage Prince Arthur died. Rather than give up the dowry of the princess, Henry VII. now engaged her to his second son, Henry, although the latter was several years younger than his future wife.

Before dying, this money-saving king bargained that two thousand masses should be said for the rest of his soul, but should cost only sixpence apiece. Henry VII. was buried in Westminster Abbey, and his tomb is an example of a new style of building, first seen in his reign, and generally called the Tudor architecture.

Henry VII. was so severe, miserly, and unjust that his subjects gladly welcomed his successor, Henry VIII. The new king was eighteen, and as he was handsome, affable, well educated, and clever, many fancied he would make a very good ruler. But, as you will soon see, Henry was violent-tempered, wilful, conceited, and so fond of display that he soon spent all the money his father had saved.

In the very beginning of his reign he had his father's two wicked lawyers tried and sentenced to death, to show the people that he did not approve of their conduct. Then he pleased the people by marrying Catherine of Aragon, to whom he had been betrothed, by giving magnificent coronation festivals, and by holding gay tournaments in which he delighted in taking part himself.

He was so anxious to show what a great warrior he was, that although England was then at peace with France and Scotland, he stirred up war with them both. Then, crossing over to France, he easily routed the French at Guinegate, for their cavalry fled at the approach of the English. Because the enemy made more use of their spurs than of their swords, this encounter is known in history as the "Battle of the Spurs."

While Henry was winning this mock battle in France, his general, Lord Surrey, won a grand victory over the Scotch at Flodden Field, where the beloved Scotch king James IV. fell, with ten thousand of his brave subjects.

These two battles ended the war, and peace was made with France, the king giving his own sister in marriage to the French monarch. But Louis XII. of France died soon after this wedding, so his widow was married to one of the king's friends.


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