| Our Island Story|
|by H. E. Marshall|
|A child's history of England from earliest legendary times delightfully retold. Beginning with the stories of Albion and Brutus, it relates all the interesting legends and hero tales in which the history of England abounds through the end of the reign of Queen Victoria. Ages 9-12 |
THE COMMONWEALTH—THE ADVENTURES OF A PRINCE
 KING CHARLES was beheaded on 30th January 1649 A.D., and
Parliament immediately proclaimed that kings were bad and
useless, so England would have no more. The Government would
be a commonwealth. Common here means "belonging to all," and
wealth, although we now use it to mean money, at one time
meant well-being or happiness. Commonwealth really means the
well-being or happiness of all. No one was to be greater
than another; all were to be equal. The House of Lords was
therefore, they said, useless and dangerous, and they did
away with it. They also made it a crime for any one to call
Prince Charles king, although he was the eldest son of
The people of Scotland and Ireland, however, were very angry
when they heard what had happened. The Scots had never
wished the King to be killed; they had hoped to force him to
rule better. Now that he was dead they proclaimed his son
Charles king. At the same time the Irish rebelled, and
Cromwell and his Ironsides went to subdue them. Very many of
the Irish were Roman Catholics, and some years before they
had risen and cruelly murdered the Irish Protestants.
Cromwell hated the Roman Catholics, and he intended now to
punish them for their cruelty to the Protestants, as well
for rebelling against the Commonwealth, as the Government of
Britain was now called.
Cromwell remained nine months in Ireland, and so cruel and
pitiless was he, that for many years no Irishman could hear
his name without a shudder and a curse. The country was
utterly subdued. Many of the people were killed, others were
sent as slaves to the West Indies, and all who could fled to
far countries to escape the fury of Cromwell.
When he had finished this dreadful work, Cromwell returned
to England, and then marched into Scotland. The Ironsides
had never been defeated, and now they won battle after
battle, and at last Charles decided to march into England
and fight for his crown there.
Cromwell was very much astonished when he heard what Charles
was doing, and he hurried after him as fast as he could. The
English did not flock to join Charles as he had expected,
and when the two armies met at Worcester, Cromwell's army
was nearly twice as large as that of the Prince. A dreadful
battle followed. The Scots fought gallantly for their
Prince, but they were utterly defeated. Hardly any escaped,
and those who were not killed were sold as slaves.
Cromwell called this battle his "crowning mercy," for with
it Charles lost all hope of regaining his kingdom. It was
fought on what Cromwell used to think was his
"lucky day," the third of September.
Charles fled from Worcester, and had many adventures before
he reached safety. Great rewards were offered to any one who
would tell where he was hiding, punishment and death
threatened those who helped him. Yet so many were faithful
to him that he escaped.
He cut off his beautiful hair, stained his face and his
white hands brown, and instead of silk and satin, he put
coarse clothes which were much patched and darned, so that
he looked like a labouring man. Then with an axe over his
shoulder, he went into the woods with four brothers, who
really were working men, and pretended to cut wood.
All day long they stayed in the wood, and at night the four
brothers guided the Prince to another place. There they
found so many of Cromwell's men that it was not safe for
Charles to stay in a house. That night he slept in a
hay-loft. Next day, finding that even there he was not safe,
he climbed into an oak-tree, and lay among the branches. As
it was September, the leaves were very thick and hid him
Charles lay very still and quiet. His heart thumped against
his ribs, and he held his breath when some of Cromwell's
soldiers rode under the tree. They were so close that he
could hear them talk.
"The Lord hath given the ungodly one into our hands," said
"Yea, he cannot be afar off."
"We will use well our eyes. Perchance the Lord may deliver
the malignant even unto us."
But the kind green leaves kept close, and little did the
Roundheads think that the very man for whom they were
looking was close above their heads and could hear every
word they said.
For a whole long day Charles lay in the oak, and at last
Cromwell's men, having searched and searched in vain for
him, went away. Then Charles climbed down from the tree and
walked many weary miles till his feet were blistered and
sore, and his bones ached.
At length he reached the house of a Royalist lady and
gentleman, who were kind to him.
The lady pretended that she had to go on a journey
 to visit
a sick friend. Charles was dressed as her servant and
mounted upon a horse, and the lady got up behind him. In
those days, before there were trains or even coaches, ladies
very often travelled like this. They did not ride upon a
horse by themselves, but mounted behind a servant or a
For many miles Charles travelled as this lady's servant,
having many adventures and escapes by the way. As Charles
was supposed to be the servant, he had, of course, to look
after the horse. One evening, as he went into the
stable-yard of the inn in which they were to spend the
night, he found it full of Cromwell's men. One of them
looked hard at the Prince.
"My friend," he said, "I seem to know your face."
"Like enough," replied Charles, "I have travelled a good
deal with my masters."
"Surely," said the man, "you were with Mr. Baxter?"
"Yes," replied the Prince calmly, "I was with him. But now
make way, my man, till I see after my beast. I will talk to
So Charles busied himself with his horse, and escaped from
the man who took him to be a fellow-servant.
After many dangers, often being recognised in spite of his
disguises, the Prince arrived at Lyme Regis, and there a
little boat was found to take him over to France. But when
the captain's wife heard who was going to sail in her
husband's boat, she was afraid. She was afraid that Cromwell
might hear of it, and perhaps kill her husband. So she told
him he must not go.
"I must go," said the captain, "I have promised."
"You shall not go," said his wife, and, seeing that talking
did no good, she locked him into a room and took the key
 Charles and his friends waited in vain for the captain, and
at last they left Lyme Regis in despair. After more
adventures they reached Brighton, and there they really did
find a boat and a captain willing to take them over to
The evening before starting, Charles was having supper at a
little inn in Brighton, when the landlord came behind him
and kissed his hand. Again he had been recognised. But the
landlord was faithful, and would not betray him.
"God bless your Majesty," he said, "perhaps I may live to be
a lord, and my good wife a lady." He thought that if Charles
ever came back to the throne he would not forget those who
had helped and served him when he was poor and in trouble.
For more than six weeks Charles had travelled in fear and
danger among his bitter enemies. In spite of his disguises,
many people had recognised him. Yet not one had betrayed
him. Instead, they had taken a great deal of trouble and run
many risks to help and save him, and now his difficulties
and dangers were over.
Very early next morning, while it was still almost dark, the
little party crept down to the shore. In the grey dawn
Charles stepped on board the boat, the sails were set, and
slowly he was carried away from his kingdom which he was not
to see again for many long days.
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