It is a general popular error to suppose the loudest complainers for the public to be the most anxious for its welfare. — Edmund Burke

Story of the English - Helene Guerber




Plague and Fire

When Charles came to the throne he was already thirty years old. During his exile he had met and loved a woman whom he secretly married. This marriage, however, was not according to the law, so it was decided that the king's son, the Duke of Monmouth, could never inherit the crown.

The legal heir to the crown was the king's brother James, a Roman Catholic, and it was feared that he would try to make England a Catholic country. As many of the people had not forgotten the troubles which such an attempt had brought about in the days of Queen Mary, they begged Charles to marry again, hoping he would have a legitimate son to succeed him.

After much hesitation, Charles finally chose Catherine of Braganza, daughter of the King of Portugal. She was very rich, and besides a great deal of money, gave her husband the city of Tangier in Africa, and that of Bombay in India, where the English had been trading ever since the year 1600. The new queen was a strict Catholic, brought up in a convent, and she was so shocked by the free manners of the ladies and gentlemen at her husband's court that she lived a very quiet and retired life.

It was not the same with Charles II. He lived a gay life, and set such a very bad example for his people that he did a great deal of harm. The Puritans were shocked by his lack of principle, and those who had fought for him were pained by his ingratitude. For, out of all who at such peril and self-sacrifice had aided him in his escape, the only person whom he ever rewarded was the farmer who spent a day with him in the Royal Oak.

Throughout Charles's reign there were many troubles about religious matters, and soon there came a calamity which the Puritans said was sent to punish the king for his sins. This was the plague, a disease which started in the East and spread rapidly over Europe. It raged everywhere, but nowhere worse than in London. Whole families died in a few days; and while the rich fled into the country, hoping to escape contagion, the poor had to stay in the city, where many who did not die of the plague perished of hunger. No trading was done, grass grew in the streets, and almost every house bore a cross and the words, "God have mercy upon us," rudely marked on the door, to show that it was plague-stricken. Twice a day heavy carts rumbled along the deserted streets to bear away the dead. Their passage was heralded by the ringing of a bell, and the dismal cry, "Bring out your dead, bring out your dead."

It is estimated that two thirds of the inhabitants of London died of this plague. The houses, mostly built of wood and badly ventilated, could not be properly cleaned; so a second calamity, a great fire which destroyed thirteen thousand houses the next year, proved a blessing in disguise by destroying the germs of the plague.

The flames swept onward so fast that people barely escaped with their lives, and a great deal of property was lost. In spite of the efforts made even by King Charles and his brother, the flames raged on and on, until they consumed the old Church of St. Paul's.

When the fire was finally put out, a large part of the city had been burned down and had to be entirely rebuilt. This led to a great improvement; for the streets were now made wider, the houses more comfortable, and the great English architect, Sir Christopher Wren, made plans for thirty-five new churches and entirely rebuilt St. Paul's.



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