CHAPTER XXXVIII. 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 at him - because, whenever he heard any news, he never said anything but "_Est il possible?_" is it possible? But he had a little son, of whom there was much hope.
But James had married again, Mary Beatrice d'Este, an Italian princess; and, though none of her babies had lived before, at last she had a little son who was healthy and likely to live, and who was christened James. Poor little boy! Everyone was so angry and disappointed that he should have come into the world at all, that a story was put about that he was not the son of the king and queen, but a strange baby who had been carried into the queen's room in a warming-pan, because James was resolved to prevent Mary and William from reigning.
Only silly people could believe such a story as this; but all the Whigs, and most of the Tories, thought in earnest that it was a sad thing for the country to have an heir to the throne brought up by a Roman Catholic, and to think it right to treat his subjects as James was treating them. Some would have been patient, and have believed that God would bring it right, but others were resolved to put a stop to the evils they expected; and, knowing what was the state of people's minds, William of Orange set forth from Holland, and landed at Torbay. Crowds of people came to meet him, and to call on him. It was only three years since the Bloody Assize, and they had not forgotten it in those parts. King James heard that one person after another had gone to the Prince of Orange, and he thought it not safe for his wife and child to be any longer in England. So, quietly, one night he put them in charge of a French nobleman who had been visiting him, and who took them to the Thames, where, after waiting in the dark under a church wall, he brought them a boat, and they reached a ship which took them safely to France.
King James staid a little longer. He did not mind when he heard that Prince George of Denmark had gone to the Prince of Orange, but only laughed, and said "_Est il possible?_" but when he heard his daughter Anne, to whom he had always been kind, was gone too, the tears came into his eyes, and he said, "God help me, my own children are deserting me." He would have put himself at the head of the army, but he found that if he did so he was likely to be made prisoner and carried to William. So he disguised himself and set off for France; but at Faversham, some people who took him for a Roman Catholic priest seized him, and he was sent back to London. However, as there was nothing the Prince of Orange wished so little as to keep him in captivity, he was allowed to escape again, and this time he safely reached France, where he was very kindly welcomed, and had the palace of St. Germain given him for a dwelling-place.
It was on the 4th of November, 1688, that William landed, and the change that now took place is commonly called the English Revolution.