The desire for safety stands against every great and noble enterprise. — Tacitus

Story of the English - Helene Guerber




King and Parliament

When King James I. died of ague, in 1625 his son Charles became King of Great Britain in his stead. He was a most kind-hearted and amiable prince, devoted to his wife Henrietta Maria, whom he married shortly after he became king, and an excellent father. Unfortunately, however, Charles was a bad king. His father had taught him to believe in the divine right of kings and Buckingham had taught him that a promise made to his people need not be regarded as sacred.

When Charles came to the throne, he found that his father had not only spent all the money in the treasury, but had left large debts. Moreover, money had to be raised to carry on the war against Spain; so Charles called a Parliament and asked it for funds. Now the members not only hated the queen because she was a Catholic, but were anxious to have the king dismiss his favourite, Buckingham. So they said they would do as Charles wished if he sent Buckingham away. The king refused, and as Parliament would not grant him as much money as he wanted, he dissolved it. Then the Catholics soon began to trouble him, because he did not give them all the privileges they wanted; so he listened to the advice of Buckingham, and, to punish the French king for helping Spain, decided to send aid to the Huguenots, or French Protestants. They were then closely besieged at La Rochelle, a town on the coast of France.

The first expedition, under Buckingham, failed. To get money for a second, Charles granted Parliament the Petition of Right (1628), an enlarged edition of the Great Charter. The money secured, a fleet was made ready; but when Buckingham was about to take command of it, he was murdered by a man who fancied it would be well to rid the country of so vicious a creature.

Although Buckingham's death was no loss to the people, the king missed him sorely. He needed an adviser, and, hoping to please every one, he selected a Puritan leader for his minister, and made him Earl of Strafford. At first the Puritans were well satisfied; but when they saw that Strafford used all his great talents to uphold the king, they were very angry. They showed this by refusing to do what the king asked, when the next Parliament met. Charles therefore sent them away in wrath, vowing he would govern without any Parliament, although he knew this was against the law.

During the next eleven years Charles ruled alone, helped only by his two ministers, Strafford and Laud. He raised a great deal of money by fines imposed by the Star Chamber; but as this did not prove enough, he finally sent out an order calling for ship money.

Until then, whenever the country was in danger, the people living along the coast had been called upon to pay a tax which, as it was used for the navy, was called ship money. Now Charles asked that all the people in England should pay this tax, a thing he had no right to do, for the right of imposing taxes belongs to Parliament only.

The result was that people grumbled a great deal, and one rich man, named Hampden, who did not like to see his countrymen treated unjustly, refused to pay it. He was promptly brought before the court, where only four men out of twelve had the moral courage to say that the king was doing wrong. Still, although people did not dare say so openly, and although the court forced Hampden to pay ship money, all were indignant and ready to revolt against a king who did not respect the laws he had solemnly promised to uphold.



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