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Charles Dickens
A Child's History of England 34
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CHAPTER XXXIV
ENGLAND UNDER OLIVER CROMWELL



BEFORE sunset on the memorable day on which King Charles the First
was executed, the House of Commons passed an act declaring it
treason in any one to proclaim the Prince of Wales - or anybody
else - King of England. Soon afterwards, it declared that the
House of Lords was useless and dangerous, and ought to be
abolished; and directed that the late King's statue should be taken
down from the Royal Exchange in the City and other public places.
Having laid hold of some famous Royalists who had escaped from
prison, and having beheaded the DUKE OF HAMILTON, LORD HOLLAND,
and LORD CAPEL, in Palace Yard (all of whom died very courageously),
they then appointed a Council of State to govern the country. It
consisted of forty-one members, of whom five were peers. Bradshaw
was made president. The House of Commons also re-admitted members
who had opposed the King's death, and made up its numbers to about
a hundred and fifty.

But, it still had an army of more than forty thousand men to deal
with, and a very hard task it was to manage them. Before the
King's execution, the army had appointed some of its officers to
remonstrate between them and the Parliament; and now the common
soldiers began to take that office upon themselves. The regiments
under orders for Ireland mutinied; one troop of horse in the city
of London seized their own flag, and refused to obey orders. For
this, the ringleader was shot: which did not mend the matter, for,
both his comrades and the people made a public funeral for him, and
accompanied the body to the grave with sound of trumpets and with a
gloomy procession of persons carrying bundles of rosemary steeped
in blood. Oliver was the only man to deal with such difficulties
as these, and he soon cut them short by bursting at midnight into
the town of Burford, near Salisbury, where the mutineers were
sheltered, taking four hundred of them prisoners, and shooting a
number of them by sentence of court-martial. The soldiers soon
found, as all men did, that Oliver was not a man to be trifled
with. And there was an end of the mutiny.

The Scottish Parliament did not know Oliver yet; so, on hearing of
the King's execution, it proclaimed the Prince of Wales King
Charles the Second, on condition of his respecting the Solemn
League and Covenant. Charles was abroad at that time, and so was
Montrose, from whose help he had hopes enough to keep him holding
on and off with commissioners from Scotland, just as his father
might have done. These hopes were soon at an end; for, Montrose,
having raised a few hundred exiles in Germany, and landed with them
in Scotland, found that the people there, instead of joining him,
deserted the country at his approach. He was soon taken prisoner
and carried to Edinburgh. There he was received with every
possible insult, and carried to prison in a cart, his officers
going two and two before him. He was sentenced by the Parliament
to be hanged on a gallows thirty feet high, to have his head set on
a spike in Edinburgh, and his limbs distributed in other places,
according to the old barbarous manner. He said he had always acted
under the Royal orders, and only wished he had limbs enough to be
distributed through Christendom, that it might be the more widely
known how loyal he had been. He went to the scaffold in a bright
and brilliant dress, and made a bold end at thirty-eight years of
age. The breath was scarcely out of his body when Charles
abandoned his memory, and denied that he had ever given him
orders to rise in his behalf. O the family failing was strong in that
Charles then!

Oliver had been appointed by the Parliament to command the army
in Ireland, where he took a terrible vengeance for the sanguinary
rebellion, and made tremendous havoc, particularly in the siege of
Drogheda, where no quarter was given, and where he found at least
a thousand of the inhabitants shut up together in the great church:
every one of whom was killed by his soldiers, usually known as
OLIVER'S IRONSIDES. There were numbers of friars and priests
among them, and Oliver gruffly wrote home in his despatch that
these were 'knocked on the head' like the rest.

But, Charles having got over to Scotland where the men of the
Solemn League and Covenant led him a prodigiously dull life and
made him very weary with long sermons and grim Sundays, the
Parliament called the redoubtable Oliver home to knock the Scottish
men on the head for setting up that Prince. Oliver left his son-
in-law, Ireton, as general in Ireland in his stead (he died there
afterwards), and he imitated the example of his father-in-law with
such good will that he brought the country to subjection, and laid
it at the feet of the Parliament. In the end, they passed an act
for the settlement of Ireland, generally pardoning all the common
people, but exempting from this grace such of the wealthier sort as
had been concerned in the rebellion, or in any killing of
Protestants, or who refused to lay down their arms. Great numbers
of Irish were got out of the country to serve under Catholic powers
abroad, and a quantity of land was declared to have been forfeited
by past offences, and was given to people who had lent money to the
Parliament early in the war. These were sweeping measures; but, if
Oliver Cromwell had had his own way fully, and had stayed in
Ireland, he would have done more yet.

However, as I have said, the Parliament wanted Oliver for Scotland;
so, home Oliver came, and was made Commander of all the Forces of
the Commonwealth of England, and in three days away he went with
sixteen thousand soldiers to fight the Scottish men. Now, the
Scottish men, being then - as you will generally find them now -
mighty cautious, reflected that the troops they had were not used
to war like the Ironsides, and would be beaten in an open fight.
Therefore they said, 'If we live quiet in our trenches in Edinburgh
here, and if all the farmers come into the town and desert the
country, the Ironsides will be driven out by iron hunger and be
forced to go away.' This was, no doubt, the wisest plan; but as
the Scottish clergy WOULD interfere with what they knew nothing
about, and would perpetually preach long sermons exhorting the
soldiers to come out and fight, the soldiers got it in their heads
that they absolutely must come out and fight. Accordingly, in an
evil hour for themselves, they came out of their safe position.
Oliver fell upon them instantly, and killed three thousand, and
took ten thousand prisoners.

To gratify the Scottish Parliament, and preserve their favour,
Charles had signed a declaration they laid before him, reproaching
the memory of his father and mother, and representing himself as a
most religious Prince, to whom the Solemn League and Covenant
was as dear as life. He meant no sort of truth in this, and soon
afterwards galloped away on horseback to join some tiresome
Highland friends, who were always flourishing dirks and
broadswords. He was overtaken and induced to return; but this
attempt, which was called 'The Start,' did him just so much
service, that they did not preach quite such long sermons at him
afterwards as they had done before.

On the first of January, one thousand six hundred and fifty-one,
the Scottish people crowned him at Scone. He immediately took
the chief command of an army of twenty thousand men, and marched
to Stirling. His hopes were heightened, I dare say, by the
redoubtable Oliver being ill of an ague; but Oliver scrambled out
of bed in no time, and went to work with such energy that he got
behind the Royalist army and cut it off from all communication with
Scotland. There was nothing for it then, but to go on to England;
so it went on as far as Worcester, where the mayor and some of
the gentry proclaimed King Charles the Second straightway. His
proclamation, however, was of little use to him, for very few
Royalists appeared; and, on the very same day, two people were
publicly beheaded on Tower Hill for espousing his cause. Up came
Oliver to Worcester too, at double quick speed, and he and his
Ironsides so laid about them in the great battle which was fought
there, that they completely beat the Scottish men, and destroyed
the Royalist army; though the Scottish men fought so gallantly that
it took five hours to do.

The escape of Charles after this battle of Worcester did him good
service long afterwards, for it induced many of the generous
English people to take a romantic interest in him, and to think
much better of him than he ever deserved. He fled in the night,
with not more than sixty followers, to the house of a Catholic lady
in Staffordshire. There, for his greater safety, the whole sixty
left him. He cropped his hair, stained his face and hands brown as
if they were sunburnt, put on the clothes of a labouring
countryman, and went out in the morning with his axe in his hand,
accompanied by four wood-cutters who were brothers, and another
man who was their brother-in-law. These good fellows made a bed for
him under a tree, as the weather was very bad; and the wife of one
of them brought him food to eat; and the old mother of the four
brothers came and fell down on her knees before him in the wood,
and thanked God that her sons were engaged in saving his life. At
night, he came out of the forest and went on to another house which
was near the river Severn, with the intention of passing into
Wales; but the place swarmed with soldiers, and the bridges were
guarded, and all the boats were made fast. So, after lying in a
hayloft covered over with hay, for some time, he came out of his
place, attended by COLONEL CARELESS, a Catholic gentleman who
had met him there, and with whom he lay hid, all next day, up in the
shady branches of a fine old oak. It was lucky for the King that
it was September-time, and that the leaves had not begun to fall,
since he and the Colonel, perched up in this tree, could catch
glimpses of the soldiers riding about below, and could hear the
crash in the wood as they went about beating the boughs.

After this, he walked and walked until his feet were all blistered;
and, having been concealed all one day in a house which was
searched by the troopers while he was there, went with LORD WILMOT,
another of his good friends, to a place called Bentley, where one
MISS LANE, a Protestant lady, had obtained a pass to be allowed to
ride through the guards to see a relation of hers near Bristol.
Disguised as a servant, he rode in the saddle before this young
lady to the house of SIR JOHN WINTER, while Lord Wilmot rode there
boldly, like a plain country gentleman, with dogs at his heels. It
happened that Sir John Winter's butler had been servant in Richmond
Palace, and knew Charles the moment he set eyes upon him; but, the
butler was faithful and kept the secret. As no ship could be found
to carry him abroad, it was planned that he should go - still
travelling with Miss Lane as her servant - to another house, at
Trent near Sherborne in Dorsetshire; and then Miss Lane and her
cousin, MR. LASCELLES, who had gone on horseback beside her all the
way, went home. I hope Miss Lane was going to marry that cousin,
for I am sure she must have been a brave, kind girl. If I had been
that cousin, I should certainly have loved Miss Lane.

When Charles, lonely for the loss of Miss Lane, was safe at Trent,
a ship was hired at Lyme, the master of which engaged to take two
gentlemen to France. In the evening of the same day, the King -
now riding as servant before another young lady - set off for a
public-house at a place called Charmouth, where the captain of the
vessel was to take him on board. But, the captain's wife, being
afraid of her husband getting into trouble, locked him up and would
not let him sail. Then they went away to Bridport; and, coming to
the inn there, found the stable-yard full of soldiers who were on
the look-out for Charles, and who talked about him while they
drank. He had such presence of mind, that he led the horses of his
party through the yard as any other servant might have done, and
said, 'Come out of the way, you soldiers; let us have room to pass
here!' As he went along, he met a half-tipsy ostler, who rubbed
his eyes and said to him, 'Why, I was formerly servant to Mr.
Potter at Exeter, and surely I have sometimes seen you there, young
man?' He certainly had, for Charles had lodged there. His ready
answer was, 'Ah, I did live with him once; but I have no time to
talk now. We'll have a pot of beer together when I come back.'

From this dangerous place he returned to Trent, and lay there
concealed several days. Then he escaped to Heale, near Salisbury;
where, in the house of a widow lady, he was hidden five days, until
the master of a collier lying off Shoreham in Sussex, undertook to
convey a 'gentleman' to France. On the night of the fifteenth of
October, accompanied by two colonels and a merchant, the King rode
to Brighton, then a little fishing village, to give the captain of
the ship a supper before going on board; but, so many people knew
him, that this captain knew him too, and not only he, but the
landlord and landlady also. Before he went away, the landlord came
behind his chair, kissed his hand, and said he hoped to live to be
a lord and to see his wife a lady; at which Charles laughed. They
had had a good supper by this time, and plenty of smoking and
drinking, at which the King was a first-rate hand; so, the captain
assured him that he would stand by him, and he did. It was agreed
that the captain should pretend to sail to Deal, and that Charles
should address the sailors and say he was a gentleman in debt who
was running away from his creditors, and that he hoped they would
join him in persuading the captain to put him ashore in France. As
the King acted his part very well indeed, and gave the sailors
twenty shillings to drink, they begged the captain to do what such
a worthy gentleman asked. He pretended to yield to their
entreaties, and the King got safe to Normandy.

Ireland being now subdued, and Scotland kept quiet by plenty of
forts and soldiers put there by Oliver, the Parliament would have
gone on quietly enough, as far as fighting with any foreign enemy
went, but for getting into trouble with the Dutch, who in the
spring of the year one thousand six hundred and fifty-one sent a
fleet into the Downs under their ADMIRAL VAN TROMP, to call upon
the bold English ADMIRAL BLAKE (who was there with half as many
ships as the Dutch) to strike his flag. Blake fired a raging
broadside instead, and beat off Van Tromp; who, in the autumn,
came back again with seventy ships, and challenged the bold Blake -
who still was only half as strong - to fight him. Blake fought him all
day; but, finding that the Dutch were too many for him, got quietly
off at night. What does Van Tromp upon this, but goes cruising and
boasting about the Channel, between the North Foreland and the Isle
of Wight, with a great Dutch broom tied to his masthead, as a sign
that he could and would sweep the English of the sea! Within three
months, Blake lowered his tone though, and his broom too; for, he
and two other bold commanders, DEAN and MONK, fought him three
whole days, took twenty-three of his ships, shivered his broom to
pieces, and settled his business.

Things were no sooner quiet again, than the army began to complain
to the Parliament that they were not governing the nation properly,
and to hint that they thought they could do it better themselves.
Oliver, who had now made up his mind to be the head of the state,
or nothing at all, supported them in this, and called a meeting of
officers and his own Parliamentary friends, at his lodgings in
Whitehall, to consider the best way of getting rid of the
Parliament. It had now lasted just as many years as the King's
unbridled power had lasted, before it came into existence. The end
of the deliberation was, that Oliver went down to the House in his
usual plain black dress, with his usual grey worsted stockings, but
with an unusual party of soldiers behind him. These last he left
in the lobby, and then went in and sat down. Presently he got up,
made the Parliament a speech, told them that the Lord had done
with them, stamped his foot and said, 'You are no Parliament. Bring
them in! Bring them in!' At this signal the door flew open, and
the soldiers appeared. 'This is not honest,' said Sir Harry Vane,
one of the members. 'Sir Harry Vane!' cried Cromwell; 'O, Sir
Harry Vane! The Lord deliver me from Sir Harry Vane!' Then he
pointed out members one by one, and said this man was a drunkard,
and that man a dissipated fellow, and that man a liar, and so on.
Then he caused the Speaker to be walked out of his chair, told the
guard to clear the House, called the mace upon the table - which is
a sign that the House is sitting - 'a fool's bauble,' and said,
'here, carry it away!' Being obeyed in all these orders, he
quietly locked the door, put the key in his pocket, walked back to
Whitehall again, and told his friends, who were still assembled
there, what he had done.

They formed a new Council of State after this extraordinary
proceeding, and got a new Parliament together in their own way:
which Oliver himself opened in a sort of sermon, and which he said
was the beginning of a perfect heaven upon earth. In this
Parliament there sat a well-known leather-seller, who had taken the
singular name of Praise God Barebones, and from whom it was called,
for a joke, Barebones's Parliament, though its general name was the
Little Parliament. As it soon appeared that it was not going to
put Oliver in the first place, it turned out to be not at all like
the beginning of heaven upon earth, and Oliver said it really was
not to be borne with. So he cleared off that Parliament in much
the same way as he had disposed of the other; and then the council
of officers decided that he must be made the supreme authority of
the kingdom, under the title of the Lord Protector of the
Commonwealth.

So, on the sixteenth of December, one thousand six hundred and
fifty-three, a great procession was formed at Oliver's door, and he
came out in a black velvet suit and a big pair of boots, and got
into his coach and went down to Westminster, attended by the
judges, and the lord mayor, and the aldermen, and all the other
great and wonderful personages of the country. There, in the Court
of Chancery, he publicly accepted the office of Lord Protector.
Then he was sworn, and the City sword was handed to him, and the
seal was handed to him, and all the other things were handed to him
which are usually handed to Kings and Queens on state occasions.
When Oliver had handed them all back, he was quite made and
completely finished off as Lord Protector; and several of the
Ironsides preached about it at great length, all the evening.



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