Изображения страниц


REIGN OF JAMES I.-(continued).


(From 1606 to 1625.)

DURING the first nine years of the reign of James the First, Robert Cecil, son of the wise Lord Burleigh, was at the head of the government. But after his death, the king threw almost all the power of the state into the hands, first of one favourite, then of another. The most mischievous of these favourites was George Villiers, a young gentleman whose courtly accomplishments and handsome person pleased the king so much, that he quickly made him knight, viscount, earl, marquis, and finally Duke of Buckingham, and gave him many of the highest dignities in the kingdom.

One of his posts of honour was that of Lord High Admiral of England. Buckingham wished for this post, and so the brave Lord Howard, the admiral who had fought the Armada, and carried the flag of England in many a battle besides, was forced to give up his well-earned dignity to the young courtier, who knew nothing about ships or matters relating to the Every one who wished to rise at court bought Buckingham's favour with money and presents. Unfortunately, he was as great a favourite with Prince Charles as with his father, and Charles, though he had much good sense and many virtues, was often led into wrong and foolish conduct by the evil counsels of Buckingham.




The prince was now twenty-two years of age; his marriage with the Spanish princess had been talked about for several years, but still the Spaniards made delays, and Charles became impatient to have the affair concluded. Buckingham persuaded him to go to Madrid in disguise, and see his intended wife, and her brother the king: so Charles and Buckingham set out, calling themselves James and Thomas Smith; but when they reached Spain, it was soon found out who they were, and the Spaniards were very much pleased with Charles, who was polite and grave like themselves. But they could not endure Buckingham, he was so rude and arrogant. His pride was offended, and after Charles had left Madrid, he persuaded him to break off his marriage with the Spanish princess.

Coming home through France, the prince saw the beautiful Princess Henrietta Maria, and chose her for his wife. The Spaniards were very angry, as they well might be, but the English, although they did not like the thought of a French queen-for she also was a Roman Catholic-were delighted to go to war with Spain. And King James was forced, much against his will, to consent to it. The war was very ill conducted; Englishmen fought as bravely as ever, but no one seemed to know how to command them.

In the midst of the disasters, James the First died, 27th March, 1625, aged fifty-eight. He was bitterly grieved that he had plunged into a war in his old age, after trying through all his reign to keep at peace with the Spaniards. To secure their good-will, he had even put to death Sir Walter Raleigh. Of all the great seamen and commanders who had attacked

the Spaniards during the reign of Queen Elizabeth, Raleigh was the only survivor. He had been in prison during a great part of the reign of James, but in the year 1616 he was allowed to come out of the Tower, and prepare an expedition to Guiana, where, he said, he was sure he could find a gold-mine. But the voyage ended only in sorrow and loss. Raleigh was so ill, he could not command; his men had a fight with the Spanish colonists, in which his eldest son was killed; some of his captains deserted him; and when he returned to England, worn down with grief and vexation, the king put him to death, to please the Spanish ambassador, whose brother had been killed by Raleigh's men.

In the time of King James, the English took possession of the Bermuda Islands, and planted colonies in Virginia and New England. Some brave navigators, of whom Baffin was the most celebrated, explored the northern part of America.

At home, the people improved much both in manufactures and farming, and began to grow a great deal more corn than before. But we are coming to a time when the beautiful peaceful country was to be made the scene of war. Many a grand old castle and manorhouse was to be made a desolate ruin, many a noble estate wasted and destroyed-not by foreign enemies, but by Englishmen fighting against Englishmen. The causes of this unhappy war must be explained in the next chapter.





THE government of England is called a monarchy. But there are two kinds of monarchies: one, in which the sovereign governs the people just as he pleases; he makes the laws, and they have only to obey them. This is an absolute monarchy.. The other, in which the people choose some of themselves to help to make the laws which every one is to obey. This is a limited monarchy: the power of the sovereign is restrained within bounds or limits.

The Queen of England is a monarch with limited power. She can declare war, make peace, and rule all that concerns our relations with foreign countries; but she cannot by her own will and authority make a law, or impose a tax upon her subjects. Any new law must first be proposed in parliament, and when both houses of parliament have agreed to it, it is laid before the queen; when the queen has given her consent to it, it becomes a law which we are all bound to obey.

Some of our kings have tried to make laws without the parliament, and James the First often made the English people angry by proclaiming that such and such things were to be done, and expecting his subjects to obey these proclamations as if they had been laws made in the proper legal manner. They were still more angry when the king said, as he often did, that the parliament had no power of their own, that it was only by his permission they could help to make the laws, or settle what taxes the people were to pay.

For James never could or would understand that an English king has no right to make his people obey a law, or pay a tax, to which the parliament has not consented. And he brought up his son Charles in the same mistaken notions.

The nation had borne with James; for he was a timid man, who hated the trouble of governing, and whenever he found that he had made the parliament angry, he drew back. Not so Charles; he had great ability and great industry, and liked to govern as if he were an absolute king. But by the time that he came to the throne, the people had made up their minds that it should be clearly settled, how much power belonged to the king, and how much to the parliament. Above all, they were determined that the king should not make laws by himself, and punish his subjects for disobeying them; nor ask the people to pay him taxes which the parliament had not ordered to be paid.

These things were no more than right; and if the people could have been contented with these, and Charles would have agreed to them, it would have been happy for England. But the king was not willing to grant even these, and some of the people wanted much more; they wanted not only to have the power which justly belonged to them, but also to have all the power which rightly belonged to the king. And at last they determined to have no king; but to make England a republic. A republic is a state in which the people elect one or more persons to govern them.

Most of the men who wished to take away the king's power were Puritans. There were two kinds

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »