Young Folks' History of England HTML version

38. James II, A.D. 1685—1688
James II. had, at least, been honest in openly joining the Church in which he
believed; but the people disliked and distrusted him, and he had not the
graces of his brother to gain their hearts with, but was grave, sad, and stern.
The Duke of Monmouth came across from Holland, and was proclaimed king
in his uncle's stead at Exeter. Many people in the West of England joined him,
and at Taunton, in Somersetshire, he was received by rows of little girls
standing by the gate in white frocks, strewing flowers before him. But at
Sedgemoor he was met by the army, and his friends were routed; he himself
fled away, and at last was caught hiding in a ditch, dressed in a laborer's
smock frock, and with his pockets full of peas from the fields. He was taken
to London, tried, and executed. He did not deserve much pity, but James
ought not to have let the people who favored him be cruelly treated. Sir
George Jeffreys, the chief justice, was sent to try all who had been
concerned, from Winchester to Exeter; and he hung so many, and treated all
so savagely, that his progress was called the Bloody Assize. Even the poor
little maids at Taunton were thrown into a horrible, dirty jail, and only
released on their parents paying a heavy sum of money for them.
This was a bad beginning for James's reign; and the English grew more angry
and suspicious when they saw that he favored Roman Catholics more than
anyone else, and even put them into places that only clergymen of the
Church of England could fill. Then he put forth a decree, declaring that a
person might be chosen to any office in the State, whether he were a
member of the English Church or no; and he commanded that every
clergyman should read it from his pulpit on Sunday mornings. Archbishop
Sancroft did not think it a right thing for clergymen to read, and he and six
more bishops presented a petition to the king against being obliged to read it.
One of these was Thomas Ken, Bishop of Bath and Wells, who wrote the
morning hymn, "Awake, my soul, and with the sun," and the evening hymn,
"All praise to Thee, my God, this night." Instead of listening to their petition,
the king had all the seven bishops sent to the Tower, and tried for libel—that
is, for malicious writing. All England was full of anxiety, and when at last the
jury gave the verdict of "not guilty," the whole of London rang with shouts of
joy, and the soldiers in their camp shouted still louder.
This might have been a warning to the king; for he thought that, as he paid
the army, they were all on his side, and would make the people bear
whatever he pleased. The chief comfort people had was in thinking their
troubles would only last during his reign: for his first wife, an Englishwoman,
had only left him two daughters, Mary and Anne, and Mary was married to
her cousin William, Prince of Orange, who was a great enemy of the King of
France and of the pope; and Anne's husband, Prince George, brother to the
King of Denmark, was a Protestant. He was a dull man, and people laughed