Young Folks' History of England HTML version

33. Charles I, A.D. 1625—1649
So many of the great nobles had been killed in the Wars of the Roses, that
the barons had lost all that great strength and power they had gained when
they made King John sign Magna Carta. The kings got the power instead; and
all through the reigns of the five Tudors, the sovereign had very little to
hinder him from doing exactly as he pleased. But, in the meantime, the
country squires and the great merchants who sat in the House of Commons
had been getting richer and stronger, and read and thought more. As long as
Queen Elizabeth lived they were contented, for they loved her and were
proud of her, and she knew how to manage them. She scolded them
sometimes, but when she saw that she was really vexing them she always
changed, and she had smiles and good words for them, so that she could
really do what she pleased with them.
But James I. was a disagreeable man to have to do with; and, instead of
trying to please them, he talked a great deal about his own power as king,
and how they ought to obey him; so that they were angered, and began to
read the laws, and wonder how much power properly belonged to him. Now,
when he died, his son Charles was a much pleasanter person; he was a
gentleman in all his looks and ways, and had none of his father's awkward,
ungainly tricks and habits. He was good and earnest, too, and there was
nothing to take offence at in himself; so for some years all went on quietly,
and there seemed to be a great improvement. But several things were against
him. His friend, the Duke of Buckingham, was a proud, selfish man, who
affronted almost everyone, and made a bad use of the king's favor; and the
people were also vexed that the king should marry a Roman Catholic
princess, Henrietta Maria, who would not go to church with him, nor even let
herself be crowned by an English archbishop.
You heard that, in Queen Elizabeth's time, there were Puritans who would
have liked to have the Prayer-book much more altered, and who fancied that
every pious rule of old times must be wrong. They did not like the cross in
baptism, nor the ring in marriage; and they could not bear to see a clergyman
in a surplice. In many churches they took their own way, and did just as they
pleased. But under James and Charles matters changed. Dr. Laud, whom
Charles had made archbishop of Canterbury, had all the churches visited, and
insisted on the parishioners setting them in order; and if a clergyman would
not wear a surplice, not make a cross on the baptized child's forehead, nor
obey the other laws of the Prayer-book, he was punished.
The Puritans were greatly displeased. They fancied the king and Dr. Laud
wanted to make them all Roman Catholics again; and a great many so hated
these Church rules, that they took ship and went off to North America to
found a colony, where they might set up their own religion as they liked it.
Those who staid continued to murmur and struggle against Laud.