Young Folks' History of England HTML version

37. Charles II, A.D. 1660-1685
It is sad to have to say that, after all his troubles, Charles II. disappointed
everybody. Some of these disappointments could not be helped, but others
were his own fault. The Puritan party thought, after they had brought him
home again he should have been more favorable to them, and grumbled at
the restoration of the clergymen and of the Prayer-book. The Cavaliers
thought that, after all they had gone through for him and his father, he ought
to have rewarded them more; but he said truly enough, that if he had made a
nobleman of everyone who had deserved well of him, no place but Salisbury
Plain would have been big enough for the House of Lords to meet upon. Then
those gentlemen who had got into debt to raise soldiers for the king's service,
and had paid fines, or had to sell their estates, felt it hard not to have them
again; but when a Roundhead gentleman had honestly bought the property,
it would have been still more unjust to turn them out. These two old names
of Cavaliers and Roundheads began to turn into two others even more
absurd. The Cavalier set came to be called Tories, an Irish name for a robber,
and the Puritans got the Scotch name of Whigs, which means buttermilk.
It would have taken a very strong, wise, and good man to deal rightly with
two such different sets of people; but though Charles II. was a very clever
man, he was neither wise nor good. He could not bear to vex himself, nor
anybody else; and, rather than be teased, would grant almost anything that
was asked of him. He was so bright and lively, and made such droll, good-
natured answers, that everyone liked him who came near him; but he had no
steady principle, only to stand easy with everybody, and keep as much power
for himself as he could without giving offence. He loved pleasure much better
than duty, and kept about him a set of people who amused him, but were a
disgrace to his court. They even took money from the French king to
persuade Charles against helping the Dutch in their war against the French.
The Dutch went to war with the English upon this, and there were many
terrible sea-fights, in which James, Duke of York, the king's brother, shewed
himself a good and brave sailor.
The year 1665 is remembered as that in which there was a dreadful sickness
in London, called the plague. People died of it often after a very short illness,
and it was so infectious that it was difficult to escape it. When a person in a
house was found to have it, the door was fastened up and marked with a red
cross in chalk, and no one was allowed to go out or in; food was set down
outside to be fetched in, and carts came round to take away the dead, who
were all buried together in long ditches. The plague was worst in the summer
and autumn; as winter came on more recovered and fewer sickened, and at
last this frightful sickness was ended; and by God's good mercy, it has never
since that year come to London.