Charles I.—The Story of How the King and the Parliament Quarrelled and at Last Fought
AS Parliament would not do exactly as King Charles wished, he ruled without one for nearly twelve years. During these years he was often in need of money and raised it in many wrong ways. But at last he could get no more money by right or by wrong ways, and he was obliged to call a Parliament.
In 1640 A.D., what is known as the Long Parliament began to sit. It was called the Long Parliament because it lasted so long. The people chose the members for this Parliament very carefully, and they were not slow to show the King how strong they were. They beheaded one of the King's advisers because they said he had been guilty of treason. To commit treason means to do anything that is hurtful to the state or government. To commit high treason is to do anything hurtful to the King. The Parliament also imprisoned Archbishop Laud, and three years later he was beheaded.
King Charles had quarrelled with every Parliament he had had during his reign. Now the quarrels grew worse and worse. At last, one day, Charles marched to the House, followed by his soldiers, meaning to seize five members, who, he thought, were his worst enemies.
Leaving his soldiers at the door of the House, Charles went in and marched up to the Speaker's chair.
"Mr. Speaker," he said, "I must borrow your seat for a time."
The Speaker rose and fell upon his knee before the King, the members standing bare-headed, while the King sat down in the Speaker's chair.
Charles looked keenly round the House, but none of the five members were to be seen. They had been warned and were not there. He called them each by name. Only silence answered.
"Mr. Speaker," said Charles at last, "where are those five members whom I have called? Are any of them in the House? Do you see them?"
"Your Majesty," said the Speaker, again falling upon his knees, "I have neither eyes to see nor tongue to speak in this place but as the House may be pleased to direct me."
"Ah!" said Charles, "I see the birds are flown." Then, after making a very angry and bitter speech, he left the House. As he passed out the silence was broken by cries of rage, for the people felt that the King was trampling on all their rights.
The quarrels grew worse and worse, and at last war broke out, war between Briton and Briton. English, Scots, and Irish, all joined in this war and it was called the Great Rebellion.
The King and the lords were on one side, and the Parliament and the people on the other. Those who followed the King were called Cavaliers or Royalists, those who followed the Parliament were called Parliamentarians or Roundheads. Cavalier comes from a word which means "horse," and the Cavaliers were so called because most of them rode upon horses. The Roundheads were so called because they wore their hair short instead of long and curling like the Cavaliers. The Roundheads were for the most part Puritans, while the Cavaliers belonged to the Church of England.
At this time there was no regular army in Britain, such as we have now, and a great many of those who fought were quite untrained. The King's army was in some ways better than the army of the Parliament, for it contained many gentlemen who were accustomed to danger and who were able to ride.
The Parliamentarians were chiefly working men who knew very little about fighting. But among them there was a brave, strong man called Oliver Cromwell. He knew how hard it would be for these working men to conquer, if they were not taught how to fight, so he drilled them and taught them quickness and obedience. So thoroughly did they learn that they became most splendid soldiers, and were called Oliver Cromwell's Ironsides.
Never were such strange soldiers seen. In those days a camp was a wild, rough place, but from the camp of Cromwell's soldiers, instead of the sound of drunkenness and laughter, came the sound of psalm singing and prayer. To many of them the war was a holy war, a battle for the freedom of religion.
"Trust in God and keep your powder dry," was Cromwell's advice to his soldiers, as one day they were crossing a river to attack the enemy.
For four years the war went on. The Royalist leaders were Lord Lindsey and the King's nephew, Prince Rupert. Prince Rupert was so fiery and eager in battle that he was called "Dashing Prince Rupert." But although he was very brave, he was not a good general and often did rash things.
The chief of the Roundhead leaders were Oliver Cromwell, Ireton and Fairfax.
Many battles were fought, sometimes one side winning, sometimes the other. But at last, at a battle called Naseby, the Cavaliers were utterly defeated. Then Charles lost all hope. He had no money left and very few friends. He felt that his cause was ruined, and thinking that the Scots would be kinder to him than the English, he gave himself up to them.
The Scots and the English were still friends and they agreed that if Charles would grant to England the same kind of religion as Scotland, they would set him on the throne again. But Charles would not promise this, so the Scots gave him up to the Parliamentarians.
But when the war was over, it was found that neither King nor Parliament ruled the land, but the army. The King being now a prisoner, the Parliament said there was no longer any need for the army, and told the soldiers to go back to their homes. But the soldiers refused to go. They knew how powerful they had become, and they resolved to become yet more powerful and get possession of the King.
One evening a man called Cornet Joyce, with about eight hundred soldiers behind him, rode to the house in which King Charles was kept prisoner. Going into the King's room he told him politely and kindly that he had come to take him away. After some talk Charles said he was willing to go, but as it was now late, Cornet Joyce must come again in the morning.
Accordingly at six o'clock next morning the King rose and, going out to the courtyard, found Joyce and all his soldiers waiting there, mounted and ready.
"I pray you, Mr. Joyce," said the King, as he looked at the company of stern men in steel armour, "deal honestly with me and show me your commission."
By a commission, the King meant a letter to say that Joyce really had orders to take him away.
"Here is my commission," said Joyce.
"Where?" said the King.
"Here," said Joyce.
"Where?" again asked the King.
"Behind me," said Joyce, pointing to the mounted soldiers. "I hope it will satisfy your Majesty."
Then Charles smiled and said, "It is as fair a commission and as well written as ever I have seen a commission in my life. It may be read without spelling. But what if I refuse to go with you? I hope you would not force me. I am your King, and you ought not to lay violent hands upon your King. I acknowledge none to be above me here but God."
"We will not hurt you, your Majesty," replied Joyce. "Nay, we will not even force you to come with us against your will."
So Charles consented to go with them, and asked, "How far do you intend to ride to-day?"
"As far as your Majesty can conveniently ride," replied Joyce.
"I can ride as far as you or as any man here," said Charles, smiling, and so they set out.
In this way the King became the prisoner of the army instead of the prisoner of the Parliament.