There are no morals in politics; there is only expedience. A scoundrel may be of use to us just because he is a scoundrel. — Vladimir Lenin

Story of the English - Helene Guerber

The Merry Monarch

The Puritan, who did not approve of any kind of amusement, said that the plague and the fire had been sent to punish the people for following the king's gay example. For a time, therefore, the calamity had the effect of sobering both people and king; but the latter soon resumed his merry life, and thought more of his pet dogs than of his duty.

King Charles Spaniels.

All the money voted by Parliament was spent for pleasure; and as those sums were not enough, Charles sold Dunkirk to the French, three years before the great plague. This made the people so angry that they accused Clarendon of being a poor minister, and had him exiled.

Clarendon gone, the power was placed chiefly in the hands of five ministers, who formed a committee called the Cabal, and, strange to say, the letters spelling this word were also the initials of their names. The Cabal made England begin a war with Holland, and closed a secret treaty with the French king, who paid large sums to Charles to get his help against the Protestants. But when it had ruled six years, better ministers took its place, and called a new Parliament, to restore order.

The new Parliament found out that Charles favoured the Roman Catholics; and as he and Catherine had no children, and his brother James (a firm Catholic) was his heir, they again began to fear that an attempt would be made to force all England to return to the old faith. The majority were so opposed to this that they made a law that no one should hold a government position until he swore to uphold the reformed faith.

Many Catholic officers consequently gave up their positions; and as the Quakers refused to take any oath, because their religion allowed them only to say "yea" and "nay," they too could hold no offices. In fact, many of them were thrown into prison, while others left the country and went to settle in the New World.

The same Parliament also made the law, still called by the Latin words habeas corpus, whereby no man could be kept in prison unless he had been tried before a judge and found guilty. This was a great improvement; for until then the king had sometimes imprisoned people without any trial, and kept them captive as long as he pleased.

At this time the whole country was divided into two large parties. One was composed of fierce Protestants, called Whigs. They were willing to let Charles reign as long as he had Protestant ministers, but said that his brother James, the Duke of York, should never come to the throne. It was to please this party that Charles married his two nieces, Mary and Anne, the daughters of James, to Protestant princes. But, while the Whigs approved of these marriages, the Catholic or royal party, who were called Tories, did not like them.

The quarrels between the Tories and the Whigs led to sundry plots. One of them, the Rye House Plot, was discovered, and many people were executed, because they were accused not only of wishing to prevent James from ever being king, but also of wanting to murder Charles. As the discontent in the country still increased, James now proposed some harsh measures. But Charles, knowing the English would rebel, quietly answered: "Brother, I am too old to go again on my travels; you may, if you choose."

Things might have grown worse had not the Merry Monarch suddenly been stricken with apoplexy, and died at the age of fifty-five. His reign is famous on account of the writings of the poets Milton and Dryden, and of Daniel Defoe, who, as you may know, wrote an account of the plague, and the story of "Robinson Crusoe."

Though very good-tempered, Charles was neither a good nor a great man. He was far more fond of pleasure than of work, and his promises were easily made and broken. One of his courtiers, who knew his character perfectly, once showed him the following verse which he had written, as a joke, for the royal tombstone:

"Here lies our sovereign lord the king,

Whose word no man relies on;

Who never said a foolish thing,

Nor ever did a wise one."

Charles, having read these lines, handed them back to the author, saying with a smile, "The last part may be very true; for my words are my own, but my doings are my ministers." This, however, was no real excuse; for Charles, being king, was responsible for his people, and should at least have tried to do his best for them.


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