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CHARLES I.—HOW A WOMAN STRUCK A BLOW FOR FREEDOM
 LIKE Queen Elizabeth, King James had favourites. But
unfortunately the favourites he chose were not good and wise
men who helped him to govern well, but men who although
clever were bad, and who thought only of themselves. Some of
these men liked money and fine clothes, and James spent so
much on them that he was always poor and in debt, and this
led him into quarrels with the people and Parliament.
The Tudors had been a very autocratic race of kings.
Autocratic is a word made from Greek words and means that
the Tudors wanted to rule quite by themselves without help
or advice from any one. During the time of the Tudors,
especially in the reigns of Henry VIII. and Elizabeth, the
power of Parliament had been much lessened. James tried to
lessen it still more.
James knew how autocratic Elizabeth had been, and he meant
to be the same. But Elizabeth, although she had her own way
in many things, knew when to yield and let the people have
their way. James did not know how to yield. He wanted to be
a despot which is another word taken from Greek and really
means "master," but has come to mean "cruel master." "The
King can do no wrong," said James. "What he does must be
right and the people must obey and ask no questions."
King James wrote several books, and in one of them
 he set
down his ideas about the power of a king. But the people did
not agree with these ideas. They thought many of the things
which the King did were wrong. As they would not do
everything he wished them to do, James dismissed Parliament
and ruled for many years without calling another.
When James died, in 1625 A.D., no one was very sorry. He had
reigned for fifty-eight years—thirty-six years as King of
Scotland and twenty-two as King of Great Britain and
Ireland, and his people, English, Scots, and Irish, were
discontented with his rule. Yet in spite of all he had tried
to do, the people were really nearer freedom than before,
for they had shown that they would not quietly submit to the
rule of a despot.
James was succeeded by his son Charles. He had been taught
by his father to believe that the King could do no wrong,
and like his father, Charles wanted to be autocratic.
Charles, too, dismissed Parliament, because he could not
have entirely his own way. He tried to make the people pay
taxes and give him money without the consent of Parliament,
and this made them very angry.
Like King James, King Charles had bad advisers, and one of
the worst, perhaps, was his own wife, of whom he was very
fond. She was a French princess called Henrietta Maria and
was a Roman Catholic. She hated the Puritans, who were
growing more and more important in England. Charles hated
them too, and, with the advice of Archbishop Laud, who was
one of his chief advisers, he treated the Puritans very
Many of the people in Scotland had become Protestant. They
were called Presbyterians, and like the Puritans, they chose
to have a very simple form of worship, and very simple
churches. This did not please Charles. He said that the
 Scottish Church must use the same service as the English
Church. He ordered a new Prayer Book to be made which was
almost the same as the English Prayer Book. This he sent to
all the Scottish ministers commanding them to begin to use
it on Sunday, 23rd July 1637 A.D.
There was great excitement among the Scottish people when
this order became known. On the Sunday morning many crowded
to the Cathedral of St. Giles in Edinburgh, wondering what
When the Dean entered, it was seen that he was
wearing a white robe instead of the black one in which the
Scottish clergy usually preached.
The Dean little knew of the anger which was rising in the
hearts of the stern-faced men and women round him as the
words of the new prayers rang strangely through the silent
He began the service, using the new Prayer Book. But he had
not gone far when an old woman called Jenny Geddes sprang
up. "Thou false thief," she cried, "wilt thou say Mass at my
ear?" and with that she threw the stool upon which she had
been sitting at the Dean's head.
In a moment the whole church was in confusion. "The Mass!
the Mass! popery! popery!" shouted the people. "Down with
the Pope! down with him!" The women rushed at the Dean and
tore his white surplice from his shoulders, and he was so
hardly used that he ran the risk of being killed. The Bishop
of Edinburgh went into the pulpit and tried to calm the
people. But they would not listen to him.
"A Pope! a Pope!" they cried,
"down with him! down with him!"
At last soldiers were sent for, the church was cleared, the
doors were locked and the new service was read to the few
who were in favour of it. Outside the crowd yelled and
hooted, breaking the windows with
 stones and hammering on
the doors, which were locked and barred against them.
The Bishop barely escaped with his life. He was carried
through the crowd surrounded by soldiers with drawn swords
in their hands.
All Scotland was in arms. High and low banded together to
resist the King. They drew up a paper which was signed by
thousands, binding themselves to fight for the freedom of
religion. This paper was called the National Covenant, and
the people who signed it the Covenanters. Scotland was ready
for war, and Charles was forced to recall the Prayer Book
and allow the Scottish Church to be free.
Charles promised the Scottish Church freedom, but he could
never keep his word. Soon he raised an army intending to
force them to do as he wished. But the Scots were ready to
fight and they marched into England to meet Charles. The
English Puritans were on the side of the Scots and for the
first time in all history a Scottish army coming into
England was welcomed by the English. The fighting ended in a
victory for the Scots, and once more Charles promised them
freedom in religion.
If you should ever go to St. Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh
you will see there a brass plate in memory of Jenny Geddes
and her deed. It is set there, not because it is right or
wrong to use a Prayer Book, not because it is better to
worship God in one way rather than another, but because it
is right that people should be free to pray to God and
worship God in their own way. Neither Pope nor King has a
right to say how any man or woman shall pray, and it is not
because Jenny Geddes fought against a Prayer Book, but
because she struck a blow for freedom, that we remember her.