Their judgment was based more upon blind wishing than upon sound reasoning. For it is a habit of mankind to entrust to careless hope what they long for, and to thrust aside what they do not fancy. — Thucydides

Story of the English - Helene Guerber

The Gunpowder Plot

Shortly after the king's religious convention, some of the Roman Catholics, seeing they would never get what they wanted from the king, formed a plot to blow him up, with his eldest son and all the members of Parliament. With this purpose in view, they hired the cellars under the hall where Parliament sat, and stored away there great quantities of gunpowder and fuel.

Houses of Parliament

One of the conspirators, anxious to save the life of a friend, wrote him a letter warning him not to go to Parliament on a certain day, as his life would be in danger.

This letter seemed so suspicious that the man who received it showed it to the king. James, on reading it, cleverly discovered its hidden meaning and immediately sent some officers to visit the cellars under Parliament House.

These officers, entering unexpectedly, found there a man named Guy Fawkes, and seized him. It was well they did so, for when they searched him, they found he had a lantern and slow-match all ready. Clearing away the fuel, they next discovered the barrels of gunpowder, and a train all ready laid to set them off. When they asked Guy Fawkes why he had so much powder stored there, he gruffly answered that it was to blow the Scotchmen back to Scotland. He was taken off to prison, where, under torture, he revealed the names of his fellow-conspirators. Those who had taken part in the Gunpowder Plot were arrested, and hanged, drawn, and quartered.

The narrow escape of the king and Parliament was commemorated by a yearly holiday on the 5th of November. On that day there were bonfires everywhere, and after a straw effigy of Guy Fawkes had been duly paraded through the streets, it was publicly burned. This holiday, which is still celebrated in England, was observed also in America until the time of the Declaration of Independence.

Throughout James's reign there was a constant struggle between the Parliament and the crown. James fancied that a king reigned by divine right and could do as he pleased; so whenever Parliament opposed him, he dissolved it. Finding, however, that this did no good, and that each new Parliament was more or less against him, he tried to get along without any.

But as he was always in need of money, and as he could not raise it by taxes, except through Parliament, he was often forced to resort to strange means. Besides asking for benevolences, or gifts, from rich people, he sold titles and offices, and tried many other ways of raising money. The funds he obtained, however, were not wisely used, for James was both lavish and miserly.

Once, for instance, he ordered that 20,000 should be given to his first favourite, a worthless creature by the name of Carr. The treasurer, knowing that James would not willingly give away the money if he only realized how much it represented, made a heap of it and showed it to the king. James gazed at it in wonder, and when he heard that this glittering heap of gold was the sum he had promised Carr, he flung himself upon it and clasped it in his arms, saying he could not part with it.

To increase his own wealth, as much as for the good of the country, James encouraged commerce. This was a great advantage and London grew rapidly, owing to the trade brought by the ships which came up the Thames. Once, when angry with the lord mayor, who refused him funds, James threatened to leave London and establish his capital elsewhere, thinking such a measure would diminish the city's trade. But the lord mayor answered this threat by saying, "Your majesty hath power to do what you please, and your city of London will obey accordingly; but she humbly begs that when your majesty shall remove your courts, you would please leave the Thames behind you."

The mayor, you see, realized that it was owing more to the Thames than to the presence of king and court that London had become so thriving a city.


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