Once when Sophie came to see me, she sat in a chair, and said: “What’s my favourite subject?” “History!” I said. “How did you know?” she said. “Because of the things that interest you, and because it’s mine, too.” I said. “It’s so exciting,” she said,” to read about other people’s lives.!”
And an idea struck me. (It didn’t hurt – it wasn’t that sort of “strike;” and anyway, ideas can’t hurt you) And the idea was, if you’re thinking about other people’s lives, it’s interesting to know how they lived and when they lived, because when they lived affects how they lived. And when you talk about when people lived, well, that’s History. And if they lived in England, that’s England’s History. But this is Sophie’s History Book, and it isn’t about Sophie, it’s about England, so this is England’s History , so altogether it had to be called “Sophie’s History of England.” And I’m glad we’ve got that over.
Except, of course, that it isn’t just England, because over the years it included Wales, and after a few more years, Scotland, and it came to be called “Great Britain”, and after that, when the English started to discover or take over other parts of the world, it was known as the British Empire. But I like the sound of “Sophie’s History of England, and that’s what it’s going to be.
Now, when I was young, a long time ago, some people used to say they didn’t like History because there were too many dates; and they didn’t mean those little brown fruits with a stone in the middle, but important times, like 16th.. October, 2000. So we shan’t have too many of them,, but I have put them in against the names of our Kings, so you know when they lived, and you know where you are – a bit like looking at your watch. And the other nuisance is the way they count the years. As you know, each 100 years make a Century, for the “Cent” bit is something we kept from the Romans, meaning 100. The difficulty is that the first century is the one where our story starts, and that goes from 0 to 100; that means all the numbers like 44 or 76 and so on are all in the first century; but the numbers from 101 to 200, like 133 or 191, in spite of beginning with 1 are really in the second century; which is why our year 2009 is in the twenty first century, – always one more than you might think So now we’ve got you nicely muddled, let’s go on to the next thing..
And the next thing is that if you’re thinking about famous people, or reading about them or writing about them, it’s interesting to know how they lived and when they lived, because it tells you about their background. Just like when you look at a picture of Monet’s garden and you see the little bridge or the lily pond you see them in the background of all his garden with its flowers and trees, and it all makes a much more interesting picture.
And now I expect you’re in just as much of a muddle as I am, because this book is not about gardens and flowers, it’s about people and when and how they grew. It just shows you what Grandads are like, and you need to keep them under control, which I think you do very well. And I think that’s quite enough Introduction, and it’s time we got started on
SOPHIE’S HISTORY OF ENGLAND.
Chapter 1 : The Romans
But where to begin? Ouch! Another idea has just struck me. The Romans were the first visitors to England to leave a written record of their stay. And, though a famous Roman general called Julius Caesar (it’s pronounced Seezer, and he had already seized bits of France and Germany) came to look at England in 55 B.C. – that’s before Christ was born, as you know, no more Romans came until about 40 years after Jesus had died. So in between Jesus had been born, and that wasn’t B.C. or A.D., it must have been the year 0 It must have seemed funny talking about the year 0, and even funnier in 7 B.C., when the next year was 6 B.C.! But of courses, nobody used those numbers; they counted the years by the number of years their chief had ruled, like “the 4th. year of the reign of king Gobbledygook or someone, which must have been jolly muddling right across the world, and it was hundreds of years before they numbered the years in the way we use today . And now we’ve got to sit around and wait for the Romans and us to get around to 40 A.D., when they got to England.
And what do you think they found? Well, it was full of people we now call Ancient Britons – well, some weren’t all that ancient, and it wasn’t that full, for there were far fewer people about than there are today. A lot of the land was quite wild and covered in forest. Their clothes were mainly animal skins, so they had no nice trousers and jackets (or knickers!) like we have, and they lived in little wooden or mud huts, rather like some of the pictures you see of African villages today. And some of them covered themselves in war paint like some African tribes, though they used a blue dye called woad. There was no king of England because England was divided up between lots of small tribes One tribe had a famous queen called Boadicea, who once beat the Romans in battle.
Although they had already made some awkward shaped coins,they didn’t use money much, but used to exchange food they’d grown for other things they wanted. They could work quite well in wood or metal, and made pottery bowls, and metal shields,or swords, and sometimes metal brooches or jewellery, which you may have seen in the British Museum when you went there.
The Romans built good stone houses, and as they were mainly soldiers, they settled in camps, the Latin word for which was Castra, which became our Chester, as in Winchester, Manchester or Colchester. And they were known for making long, straight roads between places. So these Romans took over England, most of Wales, but not much of Scotland, which they cut off by building Hadrian’s Wall, which Grandad walked along much later.
They were here for about 400 years, and then they were called back to Rome, which had been captured by some savage tribes.
Of course, they didn’t all suddenly vanish –Whoof! –just like that. Some would have stayed behind, perhaps married an English girl, bringing some Roman blood,. some Latin language and all sorts of affects which would enter into the complicated mixture that the English were to become
Now, if you live in an island, it’s very nice for seaside holidays, but it does mean that other people can come and attack your country, and after the Romans there were many more “visitors” to England” who arrive in the next chapter.
Chapter 2. The Saxons and Danes.
Of course, when all the Romans did go home, it didn’t leave England empty, but it did leave it without a strong army. Now across the sea, in countries we now know as Germany or Denmark or Norway, people known as Angles (which makes you wonder what they looked like!) or Saxons or Vikings, who had all made raids on Britain when the Romans were in control, started saying to each other “Psst! The Romans have gone! Now it’s our turn.” And the Anglo-Saxons, as both together were called, and the Danes, and further North the Vikings, all turned their raids into bigger landings, and they didn’t come and just pinch stuff, they brought their own belongings and began to settle, and if some of the English got in the way, that was their hard luck.:
So it started a pretty bloody part of England’s history, and I’m not using a bad word,for a lot of blood was spilt on all sides. Not just by Anglo-Saxons and Danes, but also by the English. We haven’t had much in the way of old legends so far, have we, but the storie of King Arthur, who became King because he was the only one who could draw that stone out of the rock, and how he was helped by the magician Merlin, and how he gathered round him the Knights of the Round Table all date from this time.
Anyway, gradually, over the next five hundred years, the land in the south of the country grew into an Anglo-Saxon kingdom – for the word “King” came into use for a leader –And the Danes ruled the north. Of course, as they had all grown up as lawless pirates, they didn’t give up fighting each other. But the Saxons, by about 470 A.D.. (so we know where we are) were led by a very wise and clever King called Alfred who could read and write as well as fight, and he not only beat the Danes in battle, but persuaded them to agree to peace.
There is a famous story that one day, after a heavy bit of fighting against the Danes
which had’0.t gone very well, King Alfred had to hide, and he came across a little house in the woods, which looked a good resting place. So he knocked at the door, which was answered by a little old lady, and he thought:”I won’t embarrass her by telling her I’m the King,” and he just said:”I’m sorry to bother you, but I’ve had a very long day, and I’ve lost my way. Could I just rest here for a while to get my strength back?”
“Well, it’s not very convenient really,” she said; “And I was just going out to the Anglo-Saxon Supermarket. But I have just put some cakes in the oven, and it would be a help if you could keep an eye on them while I’m out.”
“Of course,” said King Alfred, who was very polite as well as wise and brave.(I told you he was a great King.). So off went the old lady, and Alfred sat down by the fire to rest. But, as I expect you know, he was so tired he soon dropped off – not dropped off his chair, but went fast asleep. So when the little old lady came back, the cakes were badly burnt.
“You lazy bounder!” she exclaimed, and boxed him round the ears!
The story never goes on to say what happened next. – what do you think? My guess is that he was such a great man that he didn’t want to frighten her, he just said how sorry he was, helped her with the next lot of cakes, possibly with the cooking and the eating, and went off smiling to himself and thinking “I must always keep my crown on in future!”
Well, to get back to the Saxons and Danes, over the next hundred or so years, the Danes gradually grew the stronger, and more came over, so that in the end there were Danish kings ruling over all England, though Scotland remained on its own. By the year about 1000 even the Vikings had got a little less warlike . and united with the Danes, and we suddenly find a man born a viking but a king of the Danes, and then a King of England. And his name was Canute. And there’s a famous story about him.
Although he had been a bit wild and fierce in his youth, he got a bit more calm and even wise as he grew older, as all the best people do. But being a king, he was surrounded by people who, as they say, “hung on his coat tails” (though he didn’t wear a tail-coat anyway), who tried to get in his good books, and generally got on his nerves a bit with their silly flattery.
“So you think if I control this land I could control the sea as well, do you?” he said one day.
“Yes, of course you could” they said
“Then let’s go and do just that,” said King Canute.
And they all went down to the beach, just as the tide was coming in, and Canute took his royal deckchair, and set it up on the beach a little way from the water.
“Sea! Stop coming in!” called out Canute.
And they all stood round and waited. But after a little while it looked as though the water was getting a little nearer the King’s toes.
“Perhaps it didn’t quite hear you,” said one of his men. “After all the waves make quite a noise out there, your Majesty.”
So Canute tried again, a little louder.
“Sea!” he shouted. “This is a Royal Order. Stop coming in!”
And they waited and they waited; and Canute waited and waited. And when the waves were covering his feet, he stood up.
“ I am a King,” he said. “But I am also a man, – just a man. I am, of course, stronger and cleverer than you, but I am just a man. I shall continue to rule you, but we’ll have no more silly talk about magical powers, or worshipping me. You will obey me because I am King and the sort of man I am.”
And they did.
We ought to mention that by now England was largely a Christian country. The Pope sent St. Augustine to England to teach the people about the church, and many monls followed him, setting up monasteries, where they thought about God and prayed, farmed their ;and and taught the English peasants.
Now after Canute died, some of the kings who came after him got a bit dithery and a bit feeble, and an English leader called Harold thought he would become the next king, and someone called William, who was a Duke in France (over the sea again!) thought it had been promised to him, and they couldn’t agree. So, like Tweedledum and Tweedledee in the Alice stories, who agreed to have a battle over a rattle, William and Harold agreed to have a battle.
So guess what ; there was another invasion!
Which doesn’t happen until Chapter 3….
Chapter 3. The Normans.
Now, whether you like fruity dates or time dates, this one is one that everybody knows : 1066! For that was the year of the next invasion, which turned out to be our last, and it was the year when William of Normandy came to claim the English throne. As we’ve seen both William and Harold believed they had been promised the English throne, and William, who was a strong and rather brutal sort of person decided the matter must be decided by battle, so he set sail for England.
Now Harold was busy beating off raids in the North at the time, but he rushed south, and the two armies met at the famous Battle of Hastings. Here Harold got hit in the eye by an arrow, and died, so Duke William became King William the First, – William I for short.
From here on we started numbering our Kings, so William’s son was known as William II, but his son Henry was Henry I (the first of 8 Henries!)
William is known as William the Conqueror, and he certainly conqered England, and ruled it with a rod of iron, as they say. I don’t know why they said it, or why they called it a rod of iron, because basically he just told people what to do, and made sure they did it. He divided the country up into small pieces, not with a fork and spade, but with a pencil on a map. And he put his friends in charge of all the pieces and most of them built castles on their land, wooden ones at first, which were improved into stone castles as time went by.
To organise this he created something like a School Register of the whole of England, in which were written down how big each piece was, who owned it, how many people lived there, how many pigs and cows there were, and made each Lord of the Manor responsible for forming a small army, which the King could call on if necessary. It took him years to do, but was very complete and exact, and this famous Register is known as the Domesday book.The peasants didn’t work for money but had to provide their Lord with food, do work for him or some of them to fight for him, and this was known as the Feudal system.
When William died , his son William took over, (he was red-haired,so was unofficially called William Rufus,) but officially William II. He didn’t last long, which was just as well, because he wasn’t very nice, and he got shot by an arrow in the New Forest, which still exists – the Forest, not the arrow, down in Hampshire.After him came his younger brother Henry, whose reign was not terribly memorable, so we won’t try and remember it, and the next child of William was a lady called Adele, whose son Stephen became King, because a woman couldn’t be a King. And he wasn’t Stephen the First, because there was never a second.
Well, before we go on about him, we ought to go on about the little word “succeed.”
Someone as intelligent as Sophie Silk will know full well that “succeed” means doing something very well, and you end up being “successful”. But when you talk about Kings and Queens, – and we’re doing nothing else at the moment – “succeed” means to take over the job, – to inherit it from your Dad, if he’s King. So William II succeeded William I (and there wasn’t much success there), and Henry I succeeded William II, and Stephen succeeded Henry I. All this taking over is known as “The Succession”, and the story of the next few hundred years is very often about The Succession. And you must be the next member of the family to succeed to the one before, and that still holds good today. Mind you, if you read the rest of this History you’ll find they often had quite a job finding someone in the family who could succeed.
And now we’ve got that behind us, we can look at who’s in front of us, and that is Stephen, and Stephen spent the whole of his reign fighting for the Succession.
You see Stephen was William I’s grandson, but William also had a granddaughter, and you know what trouble granddaughters can be! She was the daughter of Henry I, who was older than Stephen’s mother. But Stephen said “Girls can’t be King. Boys are much more important than girls, so I’m King, so there!”
But Matilda said “Nuts to that! I am married to the Emperor Henry in Germany, so that makes me an Empress, which is more than a King. So sucks boo to you” (Empresses aren’t always very polite) .So they fought each other for many years – with armies, I mean, and in the end they agreed that Stephen should be King, and that Matilda’s son should succeed Stephen. And he was a Henry, so he would be Henry II. And because he was the son of the Emperor he didn’t count as a Nornan any more, for his family name was – hold your breath! – Plantagenet (it means a little plant, so it’s quite easy really), and the Plantagenets need a new Chapter to themselves.
Chapter 4,. The Plantagenets.
The next couple of hundred years are known for some reason as the Middle Ages. Now I think this is a silly title to use, because some things get longer, and then the middle of it moves Your tummy stays in your middle however big you get; but the middle of 100 is 50, and the middle of 200 is 100. But now we have got to the 1300’s and 1400’s, which, as I am sure you remember are the 14th. and 15th. centuries, and we’re only just in the 21st. century, and the middle of 21 is 10.5, – about 1066! Of course, if you want to be really posh, you can call them Mediaeval times, which is an old Roman name for the same thing.
Or we can just forget all about it, and get on with talking about the Plantagenets.
And they were a jolly mixed bag, and, like the Two Little Bears who lived in a wood, some were bad and some were good, but the good ones never got bad, and the bad ones only got wuss. They just all seemed to like fighting, either each other or the French, and as they all belonged to the same family, you can probably guess that the main thing they fought each other about was The Succession, or who was to be King next.
Generally speaking, the King’s son came next, but it could be a cousin, or the son of an aunt, or the King didn’t have time to die before the next one took over, and as they all had numbers, and most were either Edward or Henry, I shouldn’t be surprised if some of them said:” Now am I Edward or Henry, and No.1,4 or6?”
Now, as you’re a very nice person, and worry about how people are, I ought to say that on the whole the English people just let them get on with their quarrels, and got on with their normal jobs, unless they were employed by one of the important Barons in his personal army. And on the whole most people got better off, and some got quite rich rearing sheep, because the sale of wool was possibly England’s most important work.
So what I’m going to do about all these quarrelsome Kings is go through them very quickly, with the main things they did or had done to them, and so that you know what the time is, I shall put after each name the dates when they reigned. So the first one is:
Henry II.1154 – 1189
Henry was a strong, energetic and clever man, brought up in France, and a good man to judge and to cure the chaos which had taken over England during the struggles between Stephen and Matilda. He was married to a lady called Eleanor of Castille, who owned a large part of France, so he was often involved, and sometimes at cross purposes with the King of France.
One thing he did get wrong was his friendship with Thomas a Becket, who was a clever and ambitious person like himself. Henry made Thomas Archbishop of Canterbury, that is the chief big-wig in the church of England, but also Lord Chancellor, which was like being the Prime minister at the same time. But Thomas took his high position very seriously, and Henry began to think Thomas was getting too big for his boots; but archbishops wear long cassocks right down to the ground, so how Henry knew how big his boots were I don’t know. Henry could fly into a terrible rage (which means get ever so cross – he didn’t really flap his wings and fly), and once, in a fit of anger he exclaimed “Who will rid me of this meddlesome priest!” A group of knights took him at his words, and rode down to Canterbury, where they found Thomas in the Cathedral, and murdered him on the spot. Henry was grief-stricken, and did a penance for many years.
Henry had four sons, but only two survived him long enough to become King of England, and the first of those was Richard, another first!
Richard I.1189 – 1199.
Richard was nicknamed ‘Lionheart’, and is made much of as a King of England – he has a statue outside the Houses of Parliament, but I’m blowed if I know why, because he was hardly ever here; most of the time he was away fighting in the crusades or fighting to defend lands he owned in France.
He is the good king in the tales of Robin Hood and his merry men, for those adventures were happening about this time. How much of those stories is legend and how much true I wouldn’t know; there certainly was someone called Robin in real life, but how accurate the stories are I’m not sure. The one thing the stories did get right was in showing what an evil man King John was, but we’ll come to him in a moment.
Actually, we nearly lost Richard at one time, because he was captured on the way back from the Crusades, and nobody knew where he was. In the end a singer went round chanting his favourite songs, until Richard waved from a castle window, and so was discovered.
It didn’t help a lot, for not long after Richard was killed in a fight attacking a castle in France.
King John.1199 – 1216.
John is not known as John the First because we never had a second, fortunately. If John had been kept in a castle, I don’t think anyone would have gone singing for him!
He was not a good king, and was always trying to take over when Richard was away, when he looked after himself rather than the country, and quarrelled with everybody, including, rather unwisely, his lords and nobles.
In the end they made him sign up to a book of rules on how to treat the country. This is known as Magna Carta and is a very famous document setting out limits to the power of the king except through his government, and the rights of everybody to fair treatment under the law, and has been used as a guide to human rights ever since.
Finally the King went travelling North, lost the Crown Jewels in the Wash (and that’s not a laundry, but a strip of water between Norfolk and Lincolnshire)and shortly after that died of indigestion.
And after that it’s quite a relief to come to his son—
Henry III. 1216 – 1272
Who was very different,a very religious man, who would probably rather have gone into the Church, and in fact annoyed many of the people, and especially the Barons, because he sometimes did what the Pope suggested and not what the Barons wanted. This was not too bad, because it meant the Barons got on with ruling the country, and this was when Parliament was started so that they could decide what to do.And the good thing that happened is that Westminster Abbey was built, the main Cathedral where our Kings and Queens are crowned and usually married. And several other beautiful Cathedrals were built in his reign.
Edward I. 1272 – 1307
He was a very strong King and governed England well .He built several castles in Wales so that he could keep them in order, and bring them under English rule. He tried to do the same in Scotland, but the Scots were fiercer fighters (you remember, even the Romans built that Wall to keep them out).
This is where we come to that story about succeeding that I told you about. As usual with these “folk tales” you can’t be sure how exactly true they are, but they’re nice stories; and this one is about the Scottish Leader Robert the Bruce, who fought several battles against Edward. Once, when he hadn’t been doing so well, he was hiding in a cave, and he began to think perhaps he never might win, and as he lay there he watched a little spider trying to climb up a rock; and the spider struggled up this rock, about half way, then one of his feet (and I expect he had about eight of them) slipped and he went right back to the bottom. But he started again, and he was over half way up when two other feet slipped, and down he went, but not so far. So he tried again,and he got three-quarters of the way there, to a little lump that was sticking out, and guess what? But this time he remembered to use his web, and hauled himself right up to the top. And Robert the Bruce felt like applauding; he said to himself: “There! if at first you don’t succeed, try, try and try again!” And he put on his armour – Robert, not the spider, and rushed out and led his men to a victory at a place called Bannockburn. Edward died shortly after this, and was succeeded by his son
Edward II. 1307 – 1327
One good, one bad. Edward II was a bit of a poofter, and spent most of his time with his favourite boy friends, whom he tried to get jobs in ruling England. I suppose one good thing he did was to end the war against the Scots, who remained separate until – I’ll tell you later. .
In the end a lot of the Barons got fed up with him, and killed him by sticking a red hot poker up his bum! (I’m glad I only had a camera when I went to hospital!)
Edward III. 1327 – 1377
How Edward II had a son like Edward III I’ll never know, but he was a good ruler and a strong warrior king. Someone had once told him about King Arthur, and he tried to model himself on him. He formed a sort of special club, known as the Order of the Garter, to which the King or Queen and several most important people still belong today. In his rule English took the place of French as the official language
Now Edward III, Edward II and, way back, RichardI had all had French wives, so they all owned parts of France. This gave Edward rather fancy ideas of trying to become the King of France when they had a quarrel, and in 1337 fighting began which started the Hundred Years War! It continued on an off until 1453, but England ended up with nothing more than Calais. The English army in those years won several battles because of the skill of their archers or English bowmen as they were called, because they used very long bows, nearly as tall as a man. They were also often led by the King’s son, who was known as the Black Prince. (Why, I don’t know. because he was as white – or pink – as you are; but he did wear black armour and plumes on his helmet)
The last years of Edward’s life were not happy, however. His son died, and the whole of England was hit by the plague known as the Black Death, which was brought in from Europe, and led to thousands of people dying.
So it was Edward’s grandson who succeeded him and he was
Richard II.1377 – 1377 – 1399
Good or Bad? I think, like most of us, he was a bit of both. He was very brave when he was about 16, because there was a rebellion, and lots of peasants marched up from Kent, led by man called Wat Tyler to attack London. But Richard stood in front of them, and shouted: Go home! Go home! I’m not afraid of you. You’re just a crowd of revolting peasants.Go home!” And they went. Now the word “revolt” means to rebel, but it also means to disgust, so whether he meant rebellious peasants or disgusting peasants I’m not sure, but they went anyway.
Richard was interested in books and art, so had a good side, but as he got older he got a bit stroppy, argued with a cousin and banished him to France. But because he was a cousin, he could claim to be in line for being King. This cousin’s name was Edward. He suddenly returned from France, and forced Richard to give up the throne, and that was how we got
Henry IV 1399 – 1413
. Henry calmed down a bit when he became King, and felt he had enough trouble keeping a rather wild son in order. This lad mixed with down-and-outs in London, including one old man who is called Falstaff in a famous play by Shakespeare.
There was a curious end to Henry IV, who in his last years thought he would go on a crusade to rescue Jerusalem. However, he was taken ill in London, and was taken to a room in Westminster Abbey. When he asked the name of the room he was told it was the Jerusalem Chamber. And that was where he died.
Henry V.1413 – 1422
The wild son of Henry IV suddenly became quite a serious man, a brave soldier and a good leader. He won a great victory against the French at a place called Agincourt, where the English bowmen played a big part. He married a French princess., which gave England a bit more of France and Henry a thought of claiming the French throne, but nothing came of that.
Henry VI. 1422 – 1471
Henry was only a boy when he succeeded, so the country was ruled by the Barons, He was a weak man, sometimes with mental trouble, and for a few years in the middle of his reign they took the crown away from him In one of his better moments he made peace with France, and finished the Hundred Years war. This was a few years after the English were badly beaten by France in fighting led by Joan of Arc. She was a simple country girl who was sure she heard voices from God, telling her to lead the French into battle. She did lead them to victory, but then they ignored her, handing her over to the English, who burnt her at the stake as a witch .
But don’t let’s forget what the Plantagenets were like. Two years after the Hundred Years War finished they started the War of the Roses.
This happened because two branches of the family fell out. This doesn’t mean they fell out of anything, though it could be said that it was a pity they didn’t fall out of their cradles at birth; It just meant they argued about – what do you think? The Succession!
One branch of the family, the Lancastrians, from Lancashire chose a red rose as their badge. The other lot came from Yorkshire, so they called themselves Yorkists (noyt Yorkies!) and they chose a White Rose.
So Tweedledum and Tweedledee agreed to have a few battles, as a result of which Edward won the last one and the throne, and became
Edward IV.1471 – 1483
Well, he had to polish off an elderly and feeble Henry VI first. Then he started his reign during which an Englishman called William Caxton invented printing, and so began all those piles of books which we enjoy reading today.
Edward didn’t live to be very old, and his nearest relative was Richard, Duke of York who became
Richard III.1483 – 1485
Well officially there was an Edward V in between, but either Edward or Richard got him out of the way, and it is believed it was Richard who murdered the two boy princes in the Tower of London; and one of those would have been Edward V, and the other Richard’s little brother.
Though Richard made a good start in Yorkshire and was very popular with some of the people, it seems that when he became King he would do anything to stay King.
So fighting began again and an army was raised against Richard, led by a man from Wales called Henry Tudor, and ……Guess who he was ..
Chapter 5. The Tudors
Yes, he was
Henry VII. 1485 – 1509
And Henry Tudor and his family were to rule England for over 100 years.
Now we’ve left the Middle Ages, whatever they were the middle of,
and we’re into what they call Modern History, and certainly it was already a changing world. And one of the biggest changes was what was happening to the sea round our little island. For just as the tide at the end of your road comes in over the sand and goes out over the mud, so our sea was no longer used by those fierce invaders like the Romans, the Saxons, the Vikings, and then the Normans to come into our country, but the English sailors seemed to learn how to build and sail boats and go outwards to discover other lands, and other countries in the world, sometimes to take them over, so there! And when I say that world got
Bigger I don’t mean bigger like blowing up a balloon (So it won’t go pop!), but they sailed over the oceans and discovered great new chunks of it.
Of course, Henry the Seventh knew all about Europe, and about Jerusalem and the Crusades, and a bit about India and even China (which a famous Italian called Marco Polo had discovered in the 14th. century, though he got there overland, not by sea). But when Christopher Columbus
sailed to America in 1492, he had to keep telling his crew that they wouldn’t fall off the edge of the world, because lots of the people still thought the world was flat. Columbus knew the world was round, but it didn’t help him all that much, because he thought he must have gone right round it and got to India! Which is why we still talk about the West Indies in America, and the people we found in South America as Indians.
Actually an Englishman called John Cabot, sent out by Henry VII really discovered the north part of America.
And that reminds me, we’re really supposed to be talking about King Henry, so how was he getting on? Well, he was really a bit of an old skinflint, which means a mean old man who loves money. In fact I shouldn’t be surprised if he was the one in the rhyme which goes :” The king was in his counting house, counting out his money”. If he was, I don’t know if his wife was “eating bread and honey”, but I do know she was Elisabeth of York, and the King married her to bring together the Yorkists and the Lancastrians, and so ended the Wars of the Roses. He was also very fond of her, and they had a happy marriage, so it was all very nice.
Anyway, by looking after his money, and not having any battles,he had a peaceful reign, and the country grew rich, built lots of ships to sail those strange seas, bred lots of sheep and sold lots of wool, so he was probably just what England needed.
Henry had two sons, Arthur and Henry, but Arthur died when quite young, so it was the younger son who succeeded Henry VII, and that was how we got —
Henry VIII. 1509 – 1547
I suppose everyone knows about Henry the Eighth, a big fat man with a beard, and his six wives, though he only had one at a time, of course. But that didn’t happen all at once, so let’s start at the beginning.
As a boy, of course, Henry didn’t expect to become king, because his brother Arthur was older and he was treated as the important heir to the throne.Henry had a much nicer, more normal upbringing. His favourite reading was about King Arthur and the Knights of the round Table, and Henry used to dream: “If ever I did become king, that’s the sort of king I’d be, and I’d try and make my country just like that.” And he just got on with his life, which wasn’t all that ordinary, of course, because after all, he was the King’s son. But he was quite a slim, athletic young man, who loved wrestling and jousting, which I expect you’ve seen pictures of, when two young horsemen try and knock each other off their horses. And in quieter times he enjoyed reading or music. There is a famous piece of music called Greensleeves, which Henry is said to have written himself.
But when Arthur died, life changed, because now Henry would succeed to the throne, and so the first thing that had to be done was to find him a Queen. And of course, it’s no great shakes finding a wife when you’re king, because you can’t go round saying “Cor, I fancy that one!” You are told who would be useful to your country as a wife, and Katherine of Aragon was a Spanish princess, and Spain was a powerful country, so Henry was told to rake her over after Arthur.
Don’t forget that Henry, with all those stories of King Arthur at the back of his mind, wanted a kingdom that his children and his children’s children would rule over for generations – what is known as a Dynasty, but Katherine was not a very strong Mother,and though she gave Henry a baby daughter Mary, she never had a son, which Henry had set his mind on.
After some years Henry wrote to the Pope reminding him that Henry gad had special permission to marry Katherine because she had been his brother’s wife, and asked that that agreement should be cancelled, he would be able to divorce Katherine and marry someone else (who could give him a son).
But the Pope refused, and Henry was so cross he said to the Pope “This is my country, my Church, and I am the Head of it, and I’m not going to belong to your Roman Church any more.”
And that was how he got to wife No.2, because he’d fallen in love with Ann Boleyn. So now he felt free to marry her, and she did have a baby, but again this was a daughter, Elizabeth. But she also had a lover, and when Henry found that out he said: “It is a very serious crime called Treason to go against your King or Country,” and he chopped off her head.
So now he got to No.3, but this was a lucky choice. For one thing they were very much in love, and of all his Queens you could say Jane Seymour was the favourite. What’s more, she bore him a son, a little boy called Edward. But it sometimes seems you’re not allowed too much luck in life, for in a matter of weeks Jane Seymour died. Henry did feel very sorry at the loss, and this time he let his government reecommend someone, and for reasons of state they suggested Anne of Cleves. Henry wasn’t too sure that his government would have the same idea as he about a nice-looking wife, so he sent a famous artist called Holbein to go and paint her. When I say paint her, I mean of course paint her picture, not cover her with blue paint! But I’m not sure it might not have been better if Holbein had really painted her all over, for when he saw Anne in the flesh, he wasn’t at all pleased. “She looks like a horse!” he roared at Holbein; “And I’m not sure which end!” So she was divorced as soon as she was married. But still it didn’t stop him from looking round for another wife, amd this time the royal eye fell on a young girl called Kathleen Howard.But this marriage did not last, for Henry now was getting older, too old for a girl of sixteen, who foun other boy friends. But as Ann Boleyn found it is Treason to find someone else when you’re married to the King, so one more head went into the basket. At last he found an older, very sensible woman named Catherine Parr. She loved him, and looked after him until he died.
Well, we’ve spent rather a long time with Henry and his wives, and you must be starting to think that all Henry VIII did was to keep getting married. In one way, the most important of those marriages was the first, to Katharine of Aragon because of whar followed from the divorce.
I hope you still remember now that Henry wanted to separate from Katharine because he needed a son, and when he asked the Pope, the Pope refused him. That led Henry to say:”…I’m not going to belong to your Roman Church any more.” That was the start of the English Church,which separated more and more into a Protestant Church, and which led to quarrels and attacks between the two Churches. Also, once Henry had broken away from the Catholic Church, he began to look at other religious things, such as the monasteries. These had been set up over the years, by various monks as places for worship and prayer, but ny Henry’s time some of the monks had got very slack and careless were not so careful about their holy duties, and no longer cared for the poor and sick like they once had. They had built huge Abbeys, and by selling some of their produce, had grown very rich affairs.Having quarrelled with the Pope, Henry felt free to finish with them, and the process is known as dissolving the monasteries.I expect you know frpm your science lessons
That that means soaking in water till they disappear, but of course that isn’t what happened to the monasteries; but the ground and buildings were sold off, and while some were given to friends of Henry, much wealth was handed to the government of the country.
So after all this, what are we to make of Henry VIII? Well, after all these excitements, he did on the whole govern the country well. He made peace with France, created a very strong Navy, and, following on from his father, left the country richer and stronger than before.
And after all those marriages, what about the Tudor dynasty that he had imagined as a young man? If you remember he had had three children: two daughters, Mary and Elizabeth, and a son Edward. When he died he left a will, setting out the Succession: first to Edward, because he was a boy, and then to Mary and Elizabeth.
Which is exactly how it happened, so that our next King is
Edward was a boy of nine when his father died, so that the government was in the hands of his uncle the Duke of Somerset. Somerset was a very strict Protestant, so the Church was taken farther away from the Catholic religion, to which Edward agreed although not much more than a child. He was a very sickly boy, and in poor health, and only lived to be 16, when he died.
Now Edward and his uncle, who had been the Lord Protector, and did most of the ruling because Edward was often ill, were very anxious that Mary should not become Queen, because she would have turned the country, and Edward and the Protector were very strong Protestants. When his health got really bad, the Lord Protector tried to arrange for a cousin, Lady Jane Grey, to succeed him. The plot went wrong: she was Queen for about 9 days after Edward died but was then executed. She was only 16.
Mary. 1553 – 1558
Now Mary was the daughter of Katherine of Aragon, and had been brought up as a good Catholic, and, just as Edward had imagined, she was horrified at the drift away from the Catholic religion and very impatient to get back to what she thought of as the true religion.
In those days it was believed that if someone held the wrong beliefs, in order to save their souls it was right to set fire to them and burn them at the stake. In a short reign, Mary tried to save the souls of over 200 people in that way.
As part of her belief, she thought it right to marry King Philip of Spain, a very strong Catholic ruler.
None of this was very much liked by the people of England, and after a short reign Mary died,and the throne passed to Elizabeth.
Elizabeth.1558 – 1603
Who reigned from 1558 to 1603, which completes the sixteenth century.
Elizabeth came to the throne when she was 25, and I wonder if you can imagine how she felt. When she was little more than a baby, she must have heard the screams of her mother Ann Boleyn as she was dragged off to execution. Her father did not have much time for her, and at 16 her big sister Queen Mary had her put in the Tower of London because she was suspected of being involved in a plot against the Queen.
She became known as the Virgin Queen, because she never married, but she was clever enough to use that to play off one man against another, or to keep a foreign prince dangling at the end of a string (though I don’t mean really!).
One of the first things she did was to sort out the church’s arguments about beliefs and the services, and her “middle way” was to stand for always.
England stood between two big powers, France and Spain, and in fact Philip of Spain wanted to marry her. Spain had become a very wealthy country, because the parts of America that they owned produced a lot of gold. Much of their shipping was captured by English sailors, including Sir Francis Drake, but Elizabeth pretended she knew nothing of it, but quietly accepted the gold he captured all the same.
More troubles arose with Mary Queen of Scots, who was a grandaughter of the sister of Henry VIII, and so had a claim to the throne, and who was involved in plotting against Elizabeth. In the end Elizabeth imprisoned her in a castle in England, and was finally persuaded to chop off her head.
Under Elizabeth, too, Philip of Spain set out a huge fleet, called an Armada, to invade England, but the small ships of England sank scores of ships, and many were lost at sea. Francis Drake was one of the leaders, and there is a story that he was playing bowls in Devon when the Spanish fleet was seen sailing up the channel. But he refused to panic. “Just a minute,” he calmly said; “I’m not going to let Spanish sailors upset my game of bowls.” And went on to win the game and the battle.
So all in all, it can be said Elizabeth was one of our greatest Queens, much loved by the people. Her own words in a famous speech seem to sum her up. “I know I have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart of a king – and a king of England, too.”
But of course, she died childless, so the search began to see who was next in line. Well, as I said, Mary Queen of Scots had had a claim to the throne, which was what all the plotting was about; but she also had a son: James Stuart, King of Scotland. And Elizabeth agreed this would be the most peaceful solution.
So the last and probably the greatest of the Tudors ended the dynasty Henry the Eighth had dreamed of and England was now to be governed by the Stuarts.
Who are to have a nice new Chapter.
Chapter 6. The Stuarts.
James Stuart said: “I’m in a bit of a fix. –
Am I James the First, or just James No.6?
My mother was Scotland’s Queen; – I am her son.
But Aunt Bess says that I am her No.1!
King of England or Scotland, – just who shall I be?
Why, King of Britannia, – now that’ll suit me!”
James I. 1603 – 1625
But it didn’t suit everybody, and after a peaceful succession, the seventeenth century just seemed to be more full of arguments than ever before, and on ever so many subjects.
They argued about religion: not about who they worshipped, but how they worshipped, for not only were they divided between Catholics and Anglicans, but the Protestants couldn’t make up their minds what sort of Protestants they were.
And they argued even more about politics and who should govern the country, either the King or parliament, who claimed to speak for the people. They not only argued, they fought; fought against each other, which in a country is called a Civil War. And that was the more important argument, because the Parliament side came out on top, because Parliament did stand for the people, – not as many as it stands for today, because only a small number of landowners voted in those days; but it was a beginning, and set us on a road to becoming a Democracy, which as you know, was invented by the Ancient Greeks, though they managed it in small City states where everybody could have a vote.
So where did it all go wrong?
Well, for a start, James was a Scot, and we know from earlier chapters that we had often been at war with the Scots; and he wasn’t a specially nice sort of Scot, and he didn’t try and understand the English. Certain of the English not only didn’t understand him, they couldn’t stand him. And a certain English gentlemen, Mr. Guy Fawkes, so
Disliked him that he tried to blow him up (not blow him up like a balloon, but blow him sky high, with Parliament thrown in.) Fortunately he wsas discovered, and all he did was give us some lovely firework nights for ever afterwards.
Perhaps, everyone thought, things will be better under his son, who was
Charles I. 1625 – 1649.
But they weren’t.
Charles I was a short little man, and even shorter when he died, for they chopped off his head. Now that is a pretty drastic thing to do to a man, especially a King, and in fact had never happened before to a King of England; so how did things get so bad?
Well, I said James didn’t really understand the English, but Charles didn’t seem to understand anybody. He was a bit unlucky that he came to the throne at a time of all sorts of disagreements, when people were arguing about their form of religion and how the country was going to be ruled, two things he was very set in his mind about, but the main thing was that he thought a King ruled by a God-given right, and he wasn’t going to be taught what to do by any men of Parliament. Unfortunately this was just at a time when the men of Parliament were beginning to fins their feet. I don’t mean they had actually lost their feet, because they’re not things that you forget where you’ve put them; but they not only found them,they stood upright on them, and said: “We stand for the people of England, all the people, and we have more right to say how England shall be governed than any one man, however kingly he is.”
Charles tried all sorts of ideas to see if he could manage without them: he tried to do without them, but found he could not raise taxes without Parliament. He went down to Parliament to arrest the leading members, but found they weren’t there (and in fact no King has ever been allowed into the House to this day), and things got so bad that two separate bodies of men were formed:
The King’s supporters, who were mainly nobles and rich landowners, and who became known as Cavaliers;
And the men of Parliament and the general people who voted for them, and they were called ‘Roundheads. Don’t ask me why they wee called that; it wasn’t as though the Cavaliers had square heads, but that’s how it turned out, and this finally led to a civil war between the two sides.
At first the Cavaliers won most of the battles, but gradually, under their leader Oliver Cromwell, who organised his army into the “Ironsides”, the Roundheads won the day, and captured the King. By this time things had got past mending; the King was put on trial for treason, condemned to death and beheaded.
You may wonder how their differences grew bad enough to lead to so drastic an end, but don’t forget this was a time of great upheaval, not only within the government, but also in people’s religious belief. Not only were Catholics disliked, but even within the Protestant people wide differences arose, and this was a time when people known as Puritans began to form their own churches. They had very strict and severe beliefs, and appeared to take all enjoyment out of life; – no music in their services, no games on Sunday, no theatres allowed and so on.
Many at this time left the country, and sailed to newly found America, to form independent colonies. The most famous were noes were the Pilgrim Fathers, who sailed away in their own ship, called the “Mayflower.”
And in England, what was to happen? Parliament still existed, but it was the King who had called Parliament together. People obeyed the law, but the King signed the laws. Who would protect the people of England from pirates and bandits?
It was Oliver Cromwell who provided the answer, with the agreement of his friends in Parliament. “We can’t have a kingdom without a king;“ he said; “And we can’t call it a Cromwelldom; but we can protect the people from harm, and I shall be the Lord Protector. And we shall have a Protectorate; or rather, because we shall be looking after the safety and wealth of the common people of England, it will be a Commonwealth.”
And so it was.
Oliver Cromwell. 1653 – 1658
In the early days Cromwell was treated like a king, though he always said he would never accept the throne, but in lots of ways he did act like one. Strangely enough for a man who had been proud to be a member of Parliament, he did not make much use of it, and governed for some time through his army friends, dividing England into zones, and creating what was called the rule of the Major-Generals. Now England became a thoroughly Puritan land, and these were a very serious lot, believing their religion was a very stern belief, not allowing
Anyone to enjoy themselves too much. As I’ve said, they had no music in their services, and even regarding statues in churches as idols. The army went round destroying many sculptures, pictures and stained glass windows , sometimes even using churches as stables for their horses.
Although the country was governed reasonably well, and Cromwell fought two successful wars against the Spanish and the Dutch, people began to long for the happy and relaxed days they used to enjoy , and started saying: “We didn’t know this was what a Commonwealth was like; I’m not so sure life under the old king wasn’t better than this.” And don’t forget all this time Charles’s son was sitting over in France, where he had escaped to during the civil wars (and he had once had to hide in an oak tree while the soldiers below were looking for him), and wondering how he could get back.
In 1658 Oliver Cromwell died, and though his son succeeded him, it didn’t take long for a movement to get going to invite Prince Charles back, an invitation it took even less time for Prince Charles to accept, and in 1660 he sailed back to England to become, of course
Charles II. 1660 – 1685
He was known as the “Merry Monarch”, but mainly because he was very fond of the ladies, and made a lot of fuss about a girl named Nell Gwynn, who sold oranges in the theatre.
But his life and his government of the country was far from merry. For one thing.he was not very straight, and secretly would have been openly a Catholic. He avoided money troubles with his Parliament by accepting money from he French king, Louis the Fourteenth. (The French seem not to have been very clever at finding names for their kings they were called Louis until no.18!) But Louis was bent on extending the rule of France across Europe, so this was bound to lead to trouble eventually. He persuaded his government to go to war against the Dutch, who were led by William of Orange, – nothing to do with Nell Gwynn’s oranges, it was a part of Holland, and we shall hear more of William.
It was widely believed that both Charles and his brother James would become Catholic, but Parliament said “Oh, we’re not going to start all that up again!” and passed what was called a Test Act, under which people could not take on certain official jobs if they were not willing to reject Catholic beliefs, and that applied particularly to kings.
However, the worst things that happened to Charles were two terrible events which were not his fault. The first, in 1660, was an outbreak of the Plague, known as the Black Death, which killed hundreds of people throughout England, but was worst in London, because here so many people were crowded together. So many people died in \London that men ent through the streets calling out “Bring out your dead!”, and took them away for burial.
Then 3 years later another disaster struck London, and this was the Great Fire of London, which started in Pudding Lane in the City, and quickly spread throughout a large part of the capital. Again, hundreds of people died, for the houses were built so close together that the fire leapt from building to building. In some streets they actually blew up some houses so that the blaze could not spread from house to house.
Both of these happenings are very well described in the diaries of William Pepys (sounds like Peeps), and the books can still be read today.
When Charles died, at least his troubles were over, but the same could not be said for England..
James II,1685 – 1688
James was not so clever in disguising his true feelings as Charles, and quite openly aimed to convert to Catholicism, and take the country with him. There was immediately a revolt in the west country, which was so harshly put down that the King grew even more unpopular, and when he had a baby son it was the last straw. People suggested it wasn’t really his, but had been smuggled into the Palace, and finally James gave up hope and fled the country. He went, of course, to the court of Louis XIV in France.
Any more Stuarts left? Yes, there was one : Mary, the daughter of James. Now Mary was already married, and who do you think her husband was? Why, of course, it was Wiilliam of Orange History sometimes reads like a made-up story book.
William III and Mary.1689 – 1702
No question of worrying about Catholics on the throne now; William was a leader of the Protestant battle against Louis of France. And it very much suited William to bring England on his side. All hunky-dorey you might think. Not so fast! In England, the husband of a Queen who succeeds to the throne in her own right is not made King, he is known as Prince, or Prince Consort, which means Queen’s husband. But William wasn’t made that way. “No,” he said; “If you want me to sit on your throne, I sit on it as King, and that’s that!”
And Mary agreed with him. So they ruled together, and he’s often called King WilliamanMary.
But the accession of William to the throne was not just a good thing for those times, though William did have a victorious time against Louis, and prevent him from spreading over Europe. It was even more important for the future of this country, because the English Parliament jumped in, and said to William: “All right, you can be King; but we’ll write the Rule Book.” Well, they had a more important-sounding name for it; they called it the Act of Settlement.( All laws passed b y Parliament are always called Acts) And a settlement is what it was, for it set out that all laws and government decisions to rule the country were to be passed by Parliament, and though the King had to agree them and sign them, real power was with Parliament, the Parliament of the people. And England led the world in what we have called Parliamentary Democracy
So perhaps through all the trials and tribulations, the Stuarts weren’t such a bad thing after all.
But hand on a bit! They haven’t finished. Two Charles and two James we’ve got through; But James had Two Daughters! And the second daughter became Queen Anne
Anne. 1702 – 1714.
But Anne isn’t going to take up much space. Well, not on these pages anyway, In real life she took up quite a bit of space. She was not a very talkative Queen, but that could well be because her mouth was taken up with eating. Her husband had died before she came to the throne, which was probably just as well, for she took up two thrones when she sat down. They do say that when she was buried in Westminster Abbey her coffin was more like a square than a long box.
Her great sadness was that in her married life she had seventeen children, but none of them survived for long.
She is remembered for some things: the style of many buildings and much furniture is known as “Queen Ann” style.
During her reign lived England’s greatest Architect, Sir Christopher Wren, who built the marvellous building of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London many smaller Churches and some magnificent buildings in Greenwich in London, used as a sailors’ Hospital.
In her reign a famous English General, John Churchill had further great victories against Louis, and was made Duke of Marlborough. His descendant, Winston Churchill was England’s Prime Minister in the war of 1939 – 45,
So when she died they looked around for the next Stuart. Till someone said: “But there aren’t any!”
“There aren’t any? There must be! We’ve had Stuarts for over 100 years! There must be one somewhere.”
“There’s one in France….”
“ No, no, we don’t want any more of him! But what are we going to do about the Succession? You know, – the succession. The next King! Where’s he coming from?”
“Well, there’s a chap in Germany called George. His mother was a daughter of Elizabeth, who was the sister of Charles I.”
“It’s a bit thin; and he’s a German.”
“Well, we’ve had a Frenchman, a Welshman, a Scotsman and a Dutch man –“ (Can you think who they all are?)
“All right. Send him in. What will he be called?“
“George I.. And he’s the first of the
And they all belong in Chapter 7
George I. 1714 – 1727
So now we had a German on the English throne but this didn’t make much difference to all the people of England in the way of different blood or another bit of languagelike the Romans and Normans, for there was just the King, though I expect he brought some friends with him, and he didn’t make much difference to the language, because he didn’t speak much of it, He didn’t actually speak much of his own, for he didn’t actually speak much to anyone at all. In fact he didn’t really like anyone very much, but nobody was disappointed, because they didn’t like him very much. It doesn’t sound very jolly, and I know you wouldn’t enjoy living with someone you couldn’t talk to, but as far as the country of England was concerned, it was no bad thing for it meant that they could all get on with organising their new ssystem of government, – that Poarliamentary Democracy we talked about
And gradually it came about that the actual ruling of the country and passing new laws, and the Business of Government was done by the chief man in Parliament, who became known as the Prime Minister, and for most of George’s reign that man was Sir Robert Walpole
So now we come to a big change in England’s history, just as big a change as when the English started sailing out to other lands instead of other countries coming in to invade us. And I don’t know if you noticed it (and I expect you did, for you don’t miss much!) but just now I called it King George’s reign, and there ‘s a big difference between reigning and ruling, and on the whole, George, when Walpole spoke to him, signed where he was told. And for the rest of this book it will gradually happen more and more, the people we hear about will be English statesmen and Prime Ministers , and not the gentleman sitting on the throne. Of course, the Succession goes on, and I shall still list their names, and sometimes who the king is affects the wars or treaties we make, but the real boss-man is the P.M., as long as he is wanted by most of the members of Parliament. And gradually those members organised themselves in to groups or Parties; that doesn’t mean that all the members were always having nice parties with tea and cakes and ice cream, but Parties were groups who had the same ideas, and one lot came to be known as the Tory party, and the other lot were called the Whig party And they all agreed to disagree. One thing they agreed to disagree about was a rebellion by the son of James II, who claimed the throne, They called his supporters Jacobites (Jacob is a Roman form of James),and this Jacobite rebellion took place in 1715. The Tory party weren’t sure they wanted him back, but were more keen on the idea than the Whigs, but it didn’t last long, and James was soon sent packing.
One good thing George did do for England was to bring over from Hanover his favourite musician, George Frederick Handel, who wrote some lovely music, and settled down in England, so that he is known as probably England’s greatest composed
Then King Geoeg4e I died, and was succeeded by his son, who of course became
George II. 1727 – 1760
. And the main difference was that this George had II after his name; but in fact he wasn’t any more pleasant than I. That may help to explain that by 1745 once again people – mainly the Scots – thought “What about those Stuarts?” again; and the Tory party said again, “well, perhaps…”, and in 1745 one more came to Scotland and invaded the north of England. This one was Bonny Prince Charlie, and he was the son of the one who tried in 1715. But the Whigs ( and George II) said “certainly not!” (well, King George didn’t say it, because he didn’t know the words, but he probably shook his head in German), and Bonny Prince Charlie was sent packing.
At least things were a bit more active under George II, and we fought another war against the French (again!), this time mainly to keep the overseas places we had captured, such as Canada, the West Indies and India.. Not that the King knew much about it, as it was all organised by the Prime Minister, who was a man called William Pitt. He came to be lnown as Pitt the Elder, because there was another Younger one we shall come across later.
Now as there’s not a lot to say about George, suppose we have another look at how the actual people of England were getting on. Well, they were getting on quite well, actually, for England was beginning to make all sorts of discoveries in engineering and manufacturing. They learnt how to burn coal rather than wood to mellt iron, James Watt invented the steam engine , and life began to look very different. They started to get together in factories to make things, rather the doing it separately in their own homes, so that they collected together in snall towns rather than worked in their own homes in small villages.So the whole picture of England began to change, although, as e shall see, not all these changes were good for the actual lives of the people.
Let’s bear that in mind, and go to a better George – No.III
George III. !760 – 1820
Things got a bit better under this George, for he was a much nicer George, and talked to people, as he had been brought up in England; and people liked him. He was interested in agriculture, and was sometimes known as Farmer George. At first it might have been a bit better if he didn’t talk quite so much, for he came to the throne intent(and that doesn’t mean he lived in a tent, for he lived in a rather nice, quite simple palace, but I mean he was determined) on being e Real King, Sometimes in life it’s just as important to listen as it is to talk, and by going on his own way, and not listening to his Prime Minister, he very much upsets lots of English settlers in the American colonies. These had grown quite large now – the colonies, not the settlers – and the government taxes they had to pay were the same as the people in England had to pay. These taxes were fixed by the English Parliament, which wasn’t so bad for the English, because it was their Parliament; but the American settlers had no say in the English Parliament. So what they did have to say was “Hey! Come off it!We’re paying taxes which you fix, but we haven’t got a vote in your Parliament.. That’s not fair!” And they got very annoyed, especially about the tax on tea, which was a lot in those days; and they got so annoyed that when the next shipment of tea came in to Boston, they tipped the whole lot into the harbour If it had been nice, hot water and not just salt sea-water, they could have been drinking free tea for months; and in fact this came to be known as the “Boston Tea Party” but as it was England got very annoyed and in the end it led to war (as usual), and this war was known as the American War of Independence, which the American colonists won, helped by the French (of course!). – and that’s how America happened.
After this George took more notice of his Prime Minister, who was now Pitt the Younger, who was the son of Pitt the Elder, and was the one I told you we should hear more of Not that it made any difference to the war situation, because soon we were at war again with You Know Who.I don’t know if King George said “I told you so!”, but it wasn’t the fault of Pitt, this really was all to do with the French, who didn’t just get difficult with us, they got very difficult with themselves
- In France, you see, the difference between the rich dukes and princes and landowners and the ordinary peasants and workers was huge: the rich, called the Aristocracy lived in palaces or huge houses with oodles of money, while the poor really were very poor, sometimes with not enough to eat. The result was the French Revolution, and the ordinary folk got out their guns if they had them, or tools or anything they could fight with, and they let all the prisoners out of the main prison in Paris, the Bastille, and they fought and killed hundreds of theA istocrats, formed their own government, – a republic, just like we had under Cromwell. The they started to execute the richest, having invented a great big axe affair called a guillotine, and finally cut off the heads of the King and Queen – still called Louis, by the way, No.16 by now – and of course all the Kings and Queens got a bit nervous at this, and decided to put a stop to it So, of course, they all went to was with France, and, of course, England joined in. Remember the King had to agree to that, because Pitt the Younger, the Prime Minister, said so, though I think King George quite agreed.
Well, at first it all went very well, because all the kings and dukes in Europe had proper armies, properly trained and all the French peasants were – well; just French peasants. Then a little man from Corsica (an island in the Mediterranean which France owned) called Napoleon Bonaparte, and he was something else! He organised the French army which began to win victories, he organised several European countries which he took over, sometimes organising jobs as rulers for his relations, he organised the French government, and organised the job as Emperor for himself, and began to occupy most of Europe the only thing he couldn’t organise was a powerful navy, not one as good as England’s , for England had had a strong navy since Elizabeth’s time, with some great sea captains from Drake onwards, and right now there was one called Horatio Nelson. Nelson won several sea battles against the French fleet, and certainly interrupted their trade with the West Indies.He was a very courageous and independent young man, and did not seem to suffer from the fact that he had lost the sight in one eye. There is one story that in one battle he was ordered by his admiral to withdraw. Signals between ships in those days were sent by flying a string of small flags which had a sort of code; when Nelson’s friends showed him the signal “Withdraw”, Nelson looked through his telescope, but put it to his blind eye. “Signal?” he said; “I see no signal.”, and carried on and of course wun the battle. But his greatest battle was at Trafalgar, just off the coast of Spain, when he beat a much bigger French fleet, which never really recovered. Sadly, he was hit by a stray bullet, and killed at the moment of his victory And now, when you go to London, to that great big square known, of course as Trafalgar Square, it is a statue of Nelson that stands at the top of that very high column.
So Napoleon didn’t do very well at sea, but did very well in battles on land, and soon had control of much of Europe. But successful people do tend to let it go to their heads, and having put various relations in charge of Spain,part of Italy, and defeated Austria, Napoleon looked around rather smugly, and then said to himself :”Now, what Russia?” And he marched his army into Russia.
But Russia is a very big country, full of Russians who had a hard life, and were used to all sorts of troubles. When the French troops came along, ther #Russians didn’t fight them , they burnt their crops and backed away, so that the French had nothing to feed on. What’s more, the Russians had another friend – The Winter.. The French army found themselves not only hungry, but also freezing cold.. napoleon kept on going, but could get no foof nor fight any ba\ttles, and by the time he got near Moscow he had lost much of his army, and could do nothing else but march all the way back again.
To crown it all, when he got back to Europe, he found the various countries had clubbed together to form an Alliance. Then Napoleon came up against another English enemy, this time a soldier called the Duke of Wellington. (He’s the man you Wellies are named after, for wellington boots were invented just for him, so are always called after him. Well, first Wellington defeated the French armies in Spain, and then finally defeated Napoleon at Waterloo (in 1815), captured him and sent him in to exile on a little island.
So old George III was able to end his reign in peace, but it was only peace of a sort. In his ;ater years the King had a severe illness which affected his brain, and he would have periods of madness when he didn’t know who he was, or who he was talking to. (Sometimes he would even talk to a tree!). He obviously could not carry on as King when he was like that, so they made his son Regent, – that is, temporary ruler.But the son was a fat, ugly bad-mannered prince, so it was just as well we had a sensible Prime Minister in Pitt.,. King George would not have been too happy that he was to be succeeded by his fat, bad-mannered son, but that’s the way it turned out. And that’s how we got a fat, bad- mannered son King George IV on the throne. Mind you, nobody’s totally bad: George had good taste in art, and bought some great pictures for Buckingham Palace, and also built a very attractive mini-Palace in Brighton, which still exists today.
And this is where Parliament is so useful, for the Prime <Minister really ruled the country. Aqnd it was doubly useful, because when George IV died he was succeeded by his brother William, so we got to our fourth William. However. He wasn’y a bit interested in being King, he said he’d rather go sailing; in fact he became known as the Sailor King; and often, because he wasn’t very bright, he became known as Silly Billy. The one useful thing about him is that he had a young niece called Victoria. And she is so important we’ll have to put her in a heading, with here dates:
Queen Victoria 1837 – 1901
Can you imagine what it was like for Victoria when, as a young girl of 18, she was woken from her bed in Kensington Palace, and four or five elderly gentlemen came in (tut tut!) and knelt down in front of her and called her “Your Majesty”? I should think she tried to get back into bed and stop dreaming. But it was true; and it was to be true for over 60 years. One day when you are in London, go to Kensington Palace, where you can see that bedroom exactly as it was
Now the pictures you have probably seen of Queen Victoria look liker a grumpy ;looking old lady. This is because photos in those days took a long time, and it was difficult to keep a smile going for long. Actually, she as quite a sprightly young woman, who was lucky enough to love very much the husband chosen for her, for the Queen can’t marry just anybody. He was Albert, a German prince, and he proved a very wise advisor and a very loving husband. (They say he brought the Christmas tree to our country, so he can’t have been bad)
Now you may have noticed , for you are an acute little girl (or a cute little girl if you prefer), that during this long history we have gone from talking about family names, like Plantagenet,Tudor or Stuart,, and talked more about Parliaments and Prime Ministers and this is because very gradually over the years, or over the pages, Parliament had been growing into the Government and not the King, and England has been growing into those great long words – a Parliamentary Democracy,; and you know from all those Greek words you know that a Democracy is Government by the people’ but to keep it tidy they rule through a Parliament. And that is why they say the Monarch (that’s the King or Queen) reigns but the Parliament rules, or governs. And Queen Victoria chose as the men to rule her country the men Parliament had chosen to lead them She didn’t always actually like the prime Ministers she had to choose, for she was very friendly to one named Disraeli, and she hated one called Gladstone, who was a terribly serious, lecturing sort of man. though both were very good for their country. And they were both men of Parliament and not the Queen’s choice to govern. ; And having said all that, perhaps we had better run quickly through the story of what happened in the Nineteenth Century (which as you know really means the 1800’s.