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Title: A Humorous History of England

Author: C. Harrison

Release Date: August 22, 2008 [EBook #26388]

Language: English

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[front cover]
A Humorous History of England
The essentials of England’s History Told in Rhyme
Light and Amusing
Told and Pictured By C. Harrison.
Price 3d.
With Forty Eight Illustrations




Published by
4, Nile Street, London, N.1.

An After-Dinner Speech in Ye Olden Time. (And any other Time.)



“Arms and the man” was Virgil’s strain;
But we propose in lighter vein

To browse a crop from pastures (Green’s)
Of England’s Evolution scenes.

Who would from facts prognosticate
The future progress of this State,

Must own the chiefest fact to be
Her escalator is the Sea.

“Take cover”

HISTORIANS erudite and sage,
When writing of the past stone age,

Tell us man once was clothed in skins
And tattooed patterns on his shins.

Rough bearded and with shaggy locks
He lived in dug-outs in the rocks.

Was often scared and run to earth
By creatures of abnormal girth:

Mammoths and monsters; truth to tell
We find their names too long to spell.

He joined in little feuds no doubt;
And with his weapons fashioned out

Of flint, went boldly to the fray;
And cracked a skull or two per day.

WE read of priests of Celtic day,
Ancient Druids, holding sway

By smattering of Occult law
And man’s eternal sense of awe.

They used Stonehenge on Salisbury Plain
Reputed Prehistoric Fane;

Note each megalithic boulder;
No Monument in Europe’s older.


“Veni, Vidi, Vici”

MERCHANT explorers of that day,
Hustling Phœnicians, came this way

To ship tin ore from Cornish mines
Three thousand years before these lines.

But still in spite of petty strife
Man lived what’s termed the ‘simple life’

Julius Cæsar B.C. 55
Till Julius Cæsar in five-five
With his galleys did arrive.

He wrote despatches of the best,
‘Veni, Vidi’ and the rest,

Sending the news of victory home;
And flags then fluttered high in Rome.

His ‘photo’ one plain fact discloses
He brought in fashion Roman noses.

Of this great General ’tis allowed
The best ‘Life’ is by J. A. Froude.

Boadicea A.D. 62
Boadicea earns our praise.
First woman leader in those days;

For Freedom strove all she could do,
’Twas lost in A.D. sixty-two.

Then came Agricola one day
And gained a battle near the Tay.

He started trimming up this isle,
And laid out roads in Roman style.

East, North, South, West, it’s safe to say
His handiwork is traced to-day.

The Natives too were taught to know
By busy merchants’ constant flow

The wisdom that great Empire held;
Their ignorance was thus dispelled.

Romans left A.D. 410
About four hundred-ten A.D.
The Romans left sans cérémonie.

Can it be wondered at when Rome
Was needing help ’gainst Huns at home.

Our antiquarians often find
The relics which they left behind;

A Villa here and pavement there,
Coins galore and Roman ware.

Anglo-Saxons A.D. 430
AND so we run our flippant rhymes
Right on to Anglo-Saxon times.

Hengist and Horsa with their men
Came from their Jutish pirate den,

And paid us visits in their ships
Bent on their ruthless looting trips.

And Angles landing in the Humber
Gave that district little slumber.

They plundered morning, noon, and night,
Were rough, uncouth, and impolite,

No ‘By your leave’ or ‘S’il vous plait’
They came to rob, remained to prey.

Horsa 455
Horsa was slain in four-five-five,
Leaving Hengist still alive

To live out his allotted term,
Surviving partner of the Firm.

King Arthur
Time has many a fable wound
About King Arthur’s table round,

Where Knights quaffed cordials, wines and ales,
And told their little fairy tales.

Augustine 597
About six hundred years A.D.
To teach us Christianity

Came Augustine. Wondrous Story;
Canterbury’s Pile his glory.

Heptarchy 827
Called ‘Heptarchy’ the seven Saxon
States each other made attacks on;

After four hundred years they’d striven
They coalesced in eight-two-seven.



Alfred 872–901
OF good King Alfred we’ve all heard
How when hiding he incurred

A lady’s anger for not taking
Care of Cakes which she was baking.

(Most probably she left the King
While she went out a-gossiping.)

Before he died in nine-nought-one,
Old England’s Navy had begun.

He laid a tax on every town
To aid his fleet to gain renown.

He was the best of Saxon Kings
And did a lot of useful things;

Built Oxford with its noble spires
And mapped out England into Shires.

Danes 783
IN seven-eight-three first came the Danes
Who caused the Saxons aches and pains.

They sailed right up our rivers broad,
Putting the natives to the sword.

“Danegeld” 991
For centuries our sadly fated
Towns by them were devastated.

Etheldred the ‘Unready Toff’
By ‘Danegeld’ tries to buy them off.


Canute 1014–1036
TWO hundred years the raiding Danes
Came over. Then their Canute reigns.

We’ll merely mention that he tried
An object lesson with the tide.

Hardicanute 1039–1041
Hardicanute, sad to confess,
Died from drinking to excess.

He couldn’t conquer love of wine
And with him went the Danish line.

Edward the Confessor 1041–1066
EDWARD the Confessor staid
The Saxon line renewed. Remade

At Westminster the Abbey grand,
And signed the first ‘Will’ in this land.

And since his time (’tis not refuted)
Scores of Wills have been disputed.

Ah! legal quibbles such as these
Mean Lawyers waxing rich on fees.

Harold 1066
HAROLD last of the Saxon line
At Hastings made an effort fine

And lost his life—it was to be,
Crushed by the men of Normandy.

From Scandinavia they’d come,
And made fair Normandy their home;

William the Conquerer 1066–1087
Whence William spying out our shore,
Oliver-Twist-like, wanted more.

In ten-six-six he won the day
In that tough fight out Hastings way.

Of course, no record in our reach,
Depicts ‘ole Bill’ thus on the beach.



William the Conquerer 1066–1087
BUT one thing’s certain. Camera men,
If only they’d existed then,

Would have journeyed many a mile
To ‘snap’ King William’s happy smile.

They made him King and schoolbooks say
He ruled with arbitrary sway;

Demanding with sharp battle axes
Instant payment of big taxes.

And p’raps it’s just as well to tell
He introduced the Curfew Bell;

So at the early hour of eight
Each doused his glim, raked out his grate.

In bed at eight P.M. each day
Life was but sombre, dull and grey;

No cutting fancy ball room capers,
No Cinemas or evening papers.

He was a bully it is true,
But to allow him his just due

He made reforms; he also took
In hand the bulky Doomsday book.

IN William’s time we’re glad to write
People began to be polite;

Ladies curtseyed to their beaux,
Who smartly raised their gay chapeaux.

The Jews
The Jews he introduced from Spain
Bringing much knowledge in their train

Of Arts and Science; but ‘Longshanks’
Expelled them with no word of thanks.

These were the well known Feudal days,
Tenants were slaves in many ways

To mighty Lords who owned the land
And ruled them with an iron hand.

Not free from duties were the Lords,
The King could call upon their swords

And men to fight in time of need.
So feudal laws of old decreed.

William Rufus 1087–1100
WILLIAM Rufus or the ‘Red’
In ten-eight-seven ruled instead;

This may be; but we know, alack,
Though he was red his deeds were black.

Crusades 1095
The first Crusade in ten-nine-five,
A million men, a very hive,

Swarm to the East, the Holy plain
From the Mohammedans to gain.

Henry I. 1100–1135
HENRY the First, of wisdom rife,
Saxon Matilda makes his wife,

Saxon and Norman line uniting,
A learned chap who loved not fighting.

Stephen 1135–1154
STEPHEN of Blois ascends the throne
And ’gainst Matilda holds his own;

Grandson of the Conqueror;
Died in eleven-fifty-four.

Henry II. 1154–1189
HENRY the Second claims our rhyme
‘The hardest worker of his time’;

A wiser King we never had
Nor father with his sons so bad.

This the first ‘Plantagenet’ King
With Becket strove like anything;

Church v. Crown
Which should be Master, Church or Crown
Pull-King Pull-Bishop; both went down.

Thomas was murdered by four Knights
On steps of Altar—Sorry wights:

With bleeding feet the King atones
By pilgrimage to Becket’s bones.

Despite his struggles with the Church
He knocked the barons off their perch,

Fifteen hundred Castles razing
In a manner quite amazing.

Trial by jury further grows;
The King’s Court in this reign arose;

Our Parliaments from this proceed
And all our other Courts indeed.

Linen’s first used in twelve-five
Woollens alone in vogue before.

Glass Windows
In eleven-eight-nought first came to pass
The novelty of window glass.

And doubtless playful little boys
Full of children’s simple joys,

Cracked as our youngsters often do
With stones or ball a pane or two.

Richard Cœur de Lion 1189–1199
Cœur de Lion from one Crusade
Returning was a prisoner made.

But Blondel played an Air he knew,
The King joined in; Voilà the clue.

This catchy tune in a pleasant key
Opened the door to liberty.



John 1199–1216
AND so we’ll quickly journey on
Until we reach the reign of John;

A King whose list of crimes was heavy;
He treated badly his young ‘Nevvy’.

Magna Charta 1215
He signed the Magna Charta. Yes;
In twelve-fifteen, but we may guess

With much ill grace and many a twist;
For King John wrote an awful fist.

John loses Normandy to France
And by this beneficial chance

In England comes amalgamation;
Normans and Saxons form one Nation

Robin Hood
And now we come to Robin Hood,
The Forest bandit of Sherwood,

A popular hero much belauded
But not by folks whom he’d defrauded.

There’s no need to descant upon
His boon companion ‘Little John’;

Or ‘Friar Tuck’ so overblown
He tipped the scale at fifteen stone.

Henry III. 1216–1272
AND what of Henry number Three,
The King who suffered poverty?

It’s very awkward we must own
To be ‘hard up’ when on a Throne;


To have to scrape up an amount
To pay the butcher on account,

Or ask a dun in Kingly way
To kindly call some other day.

Coinage 1257
In twelve-five-seven it is stated
Gold was coined and circulated,

Ha’pence and farthings just before;
In those times worth a great deal more.

Langton Died 1228
The Bible which from over seas
Had no chapters and no verses

Was by Archbishop Langton’s skill
Divided as we use it still.


Why was it Henry III. allowed
At court a huge rapacious crowd

To drain his coffers nearly dry
Flattering with cajolery?


MANY simple folk, (it’s queer)
Used to patronise the seer

And pay cash down for magic spell
Perchance a Horoscope as well.

Or open wide at special rate
That musty tome the Book of Fate;

Or seek the Philtre’s subtle aid
To win the hand of some fair maid.

We mus’nt miss the Troubadours
Who went forth on their singing tours,

Twanging harps and trilling lays
To maids of medieval days.

And Oh! the right good merry times
With Maskers, Mummers and the Mimes,

Hobby horses gaily prancing,
Bats and Bowls and Maypole dancing.

When folks would take a lengthy journey
To see the Knights at Joust or Tourney:

Or watch the early English ‘Knuts’
Show their skill at Archery butts.

Then come gloomy History pages
On torture of the Middle ages;

The clanking fetters grim and black,
The thumbscrew and the awful rack,

The horrors of the dungeon deep
Beneath the moat or castle keep,

Rusty locks and heavy keys
And—let us change the subject, please.

First House of Commons twelve-six-five,
At Westminster they all arrive.

Simon de Montfort 1265
Simon de Montfort was the man
Who ‘engineered’ this useful plan.

And we can picture these M.P.s
Newly fledged and ill at ease

Doing their level best to try
To catch the embryo speaker’s eye.


Edward I. 1272–1307
EDWARD First ‘Longshanks’ nicknamed
For his lengthy stride far-famed.

Here he is in twelve-seven-two
Bounding along with much ado.

A Soldier, Statesman and a King
His lofty ideals picturing

That England, Scotland, Wales all three,
United should one country be.


First Prince of Wales 1282
In twelve-eight-two annexes Wales;
Where afterwards no strife prevails.

He promised a Prince with English
So gave his new-born speechless son.



Edward I. 1272–1307 (continued)
NEXT Scotland Edward tries to tackle
No easy task the Scotch to shackle;

Wallace and Bruce resistance make,
The King dies ere he gains the stake.

In Edward’s reign some author writes
They first used candle dips for lights;

And coal came in about this date
Mixed (as to-day) with lots of slate.


So Monarchs, Barons, Dukes and Knights
Warmed their toes with Derby Brights;

But those in hovels had the smuts
Arising from cheap Kitchen Nuts.

Roger Bacon 1293
Roger Bacon (ob. twelve-nine-three)
Versed was in arts of alchemy;

Gunpowder’s composition knew;
And many another chemic brew.

Many Mortmain Acts are passed;
Six centuries these efforts last

To stop the hungry Hierarchy
Devouring all the Squirearchy.

Lollards 1307
Lollards in thirteen-seven arose
Popish rituals to oppose;

John Wycliffe gives to old and young
The Bible in the vulgar tongue.

With John of Gaunt’s protection strong
He dared to preach ’gainst cleric wrong;

Precursor of the Reformation
To liberal thought attuned the nation.

Edward II. 1307–1327
EDWARD the Second with his minions
Governs badly these dominions

Edward III. 1327–1377
His son a man of different mould
Was Edward Three, both wise and bold.

Through clinging to their French domains
Our Kings are French through many reigns

And Edward fighting in this cause
Commenced a hundred years of Wars.

A century’s struggle. For our pains
Only Calais town remains.

French Wars
A century after this ’twas lost,
In Mary’s reign. Oh! what a frost.

Weaving 1331
In thirteen-three-one England’s taught
Weaving by men from Flanders brought.

Ryghte goode cloth with lots of ‘body’
The world was then not up to ‘shoddy.’

Blanket of Bristol in this year
Invented blankets for our cheer;

And since that time its been our boast
Our beds have been as warm as toast.

Edward ‘Black Prince’ One-three-four-six,
A brave and noble warrior, ‘licks’

Crecy 1346
The valiant French in Crecy’s fray;
Cannon first used upon this day,

Causing panic with their rattle;
But the Yeomen win the battle,

For, flicking arrows from their bows
They ‘filled the air as when it snows.’

Thereon the English Calais seize
And of the channel hold the keys;

The Spanish pirates bend the knee
Then Edward III’s ‘King of the sea.’

Parliament 1376
Lords and Commons from this date
Have their meetings separate,

The Commons first a Speaker make
The Chancellors the Woolsack take.

Ten lady members have the Lords
But doubtless fearful of their words,

Or thinking it not orthodoxy,
They only let them vote by proxy.

While Church and Barons have their squabbles
The House of Commons more power nobbles;

On laws and taxes dares speak out
And give the Pope the right-about.


Kinge Rychard Ye II quarrelinge withe hysse People

LEASING or Farming, we are taught,
Was introduced ’bout twelve-nought-nought;

The Feudal system’s weakened and
The Tenants ‘usufruct’ the land.

On various counts the serfs go free
And work for wages (Edward Three).

The Black Death and the foreign wars
In labour ranks commotion cause;

Strikes and craftsmen’s combination
Then arise among the nation;

These movements preached by one John Ball,
Who, born too soon, was hanged withal.

Richard II. 1377–1399
NOW comes the Second Richard’s reign.
It is recorded very plain

That he was full of discontent
Quarrelling with his Parliament.

“By my Halidom I’ll not pay it”

Poll Tax 1380
With his taxes super-sated
The peasants grew exasperated;

They threw their spades and pitchforks down
And marched as rebels into town.

Thirteen-eighty’s Poll taxation
Puts equal tax on all the nation;

Lays seven thousand peasants dead;
Wat Tyler and Jack Straw at head.

Præmunire Act is passed
To check the Papal Bulls at last.

Chaucer the Poet this same year
Makes Pilgrimage to Becket’s bier.


Age of Chivalry
This was the age, aye verily,
Of ryghte goode noble chivalry,

When Knights went forth through storm and stress
To rescue beauty in distress.



Or sallied out in valiant way
A monster dragon for to slay,

Or with lance or trusty blade
Defend from harm the hapless maid.

Henry IV. 1399–1413
HENRY Four, called ‘Bolingbroke’
In Richard’s wheel puts many a spoke;

Compels him to resign the throne
Which thereupon he makes his own.

Through John of Gaunt, Lancastrian famed,
His title to the crown he claimed;

The Parliament confirms his right
And thus he’s king without a fight.

Lollards 1401
In this reign persecution’s turned
Against the Lollards—Cobham’s burned.

Incredible! The records show
A statute ‘de Comburondo.’

Henry V. 1413–1422
FROM fourteen-thirteen, Henry Five,
For many years with France did strive;

His Widow founds the Tudor House
By taking Owen for her spouse.

Henry VI. 1422–1461
HENRY Six, next in our rhymes,
For fifty years had troublous times;

Wars of Roses, Wars with France,
The poor man never had a chance.

Joan of Arc 1430
Joan of Arc the peasant Maid
Inspired the French with Mystic aid;

Disunited, we make peace,
All France but Calais we release.

Constantinople 1453
Constantinople’s seized by Turks
Causing Greek Scholars (with their works)

To fly to Italy; and thence
Learning’s reborn—‘The Renaissance.’

Edward IV. 1461–1483
IN Edward Fourth, fourteen-six-one
The House of York obtains the Throne.

He wins at Towton’s bloody fray,
No quarter given on that day.

Guy, Earl of Warwick in these frays
Was always turning different ways;

Barnet 1471
On Barnet Field he met his doom
The Rose of York’s now well abloom.

The Barons, Church and Commons fall,
The King emerges Boss of all.

Benevolences he exacts,
An early form of Super Tax.

Earl of Warwick
‘Kingmaker’ was Earl Warwick styled
With his manner scarcely mild

He set Kings up and bowled them down
Playing at ninepins with the Crown.


Wars of Roses 1485
White and Red Rose warring madly
Bled the country very sadly,

Three-and-thirty years contending;
At Bosworth Field we see the ending.

Printing 1473
First in fourteen-seventy-three
We print from type in this Countree.

Now it is that time’s first measured
By monster watches greatly treasured.

Thomas Parr this centurie
His hundred-fifty years did see;

But Henry Jenkins, so ’tis said,
In age was seventeen years ahead.

Hoary patriarchs were these
Retaining p’raps their faculties;

What a comfort ’tis to mention
Neither drew the old age pension.


Ye Bookeworme burninge ye Midnyghte Oile

PRINTING started through the Nation
A taste for higher education;

Here is a citizen at home;
Note his very brainy Dome.

Richard III. 1483–1485
RICHARD (Crookback) in fateful hour
Smothered his nephews in the Tower,

He murdered them the Crown to gain;
A heavy price for three years’ reign.

The Scutcheon’s blotted terribly
Of this King Richard number Three,

For it seems his recreation
Was ordering decapitation.

On Bosworth Field when sorely pressed
He made a bid th’uncommonest

‘My kingdom for a horse’ he cried;
No offers coming, there he died.

Henry VII. 1485–1509
LANCASTRIAN Richmond wins the fight
And to make his title right

Elizabeth of York espouses,
Thus uniting the two Houses.

This Henry Seven of Tudor line
To misers’ habits did incline;

Twelve millions stated to possess,
A tidy little fortune! Yes!

Star Chamber
Much he managed to extort
By means of a Star Chamber Court

From the rich nobles; A new wile
For adding to the kingly pile.

With cash in hand he could attain
His wish as Autocrat to reign;

As sole possessor of the guns
The King no risk from rebels runs.

Skyscrape Flats to be erected here;
       Buy Hustles chewing gum;
       Fifth Avenue

Columbus 1498
COLUMBUS, full of travellers’ lore,
By going West sought India’s shore;

But found America’s wondrous land;
His ‘exes’ paid by Ferdinand.

Of voyagers we’ve now a lot
Vasco da Gama and Cabot,

Who sailed from Bristol, whence it grew
Bristolians claim this fine cuckoo.

Henry VIII Pops the Question

Henry VIII. 1509–1547
NOW Henry Eight comes on the screen,
A stalwart youth, ætat. eighteen;

With youthful hope the nation’s buoyed;
Only, alas! to be destroyed.


Henry Ye Eighth Thynkynge offe Ye Past

Henry VIII. 1509–1547 (continued)
THIS King Henry number Eight
Six times tried the married state;

And certainly of all the Kings
Spent the most on wedding rings.

But to search through old Archives
For tales of Henry and his wives

And all their little tiffs to trace
We cannot spare the time or space.

Yet there are some who fain would sing
The praises of this rotund King;

But as a husband we’re afraid
His category’s lowest grade.

He wielded harsh the despot’s power,
And packed his wives off to the Tower;

Consigned them to a fate most dreaded;
Two, alas! he had beheaded.



Reformation 1517
MARTIN Luther, fifteen-one-seven,
Sows his Reformation leaven;

It finds a culture medium here
In the ‘New Learning’s’ atmosphere.

Of this New Learning More’s the chief,
Utopia’s Author, He’s ’mid grief

Beheaded, saying cool and calm,
‘Cut not my beard, that’s done no harm.’

His friend Erasmus, Logic’s Master,
Trimmed his sails and ’scaped disaster.

A third, Dean Colet who St. Paul’s
School London into being calls.

Wolsey 1530
In fifteen-thirty Wolsey great,
A Cardinal and Man of State,

From Butcher’s son had risen high.
Reader! consult your Shakespeare nigh.

Blamed by some; by others praised;
He fell; but still the pile he raised

Most nobly graces Hampton Court.
Give Wolsey then a tender thought.

His main ambition that the King
Should be supreme in everything;

Thomas Cromwell
And Thomas Cromwell followed suit
To make his master absolute

Head of the Church within his realm.
These two most able at the helm;

But not with skill enough endued
To ’scape their King’s ingratitude.

Despotical the King’s power grew.
He’s England’s Pope by Act of Su-

Premacy; as, to gain divorce,
The foreign Pope is banned perforce.

Now Bluff King Harry gives the Monks
A series of most awful funks;

Three thousand odd of their domains
He ‘collars’ for his Courtiers’ gains.

Edward VI. 1547–1553
EDWARD Six to the throne succeeds
A pious youth of goodly deeds;

One, well known in the Capital,
The Blue Coat School (Christ’s Hospital).

Mary 1553–1558
QUEEN Mary One, in Smithfield Square,
At Oxford, Gloucester and elsewhere,

Burned poor Martyrs by the score;
The Romish faith she would restore.

Elizabeth 1558–1603
HAIL now to thee our good Queen Bess,
Garbed in the puffed and padded dress,

Farthingale and starched up frills,
Meaning heavy laundry bills.

Od’s Bodikins; what monstrous ruffs,
What gowns of rich embroidered stuffs

Piped and scolloped, trimmed with furs,
And shaped like huge gasometers.

Now we’ve warfare of the Creeds,
For their thoughts all Europe bleeds;

Each party seeks by force to make
The other side its faith forsake.

Spain the Great Power of those days
In these contentions first part plays.

Plymouth Hoe Bowling Club

Drake at bowls on Plymouth Hoe
Left his game to meet this foe

And came home laden we are told
With seachests full of Spanish gold.

Armada 1588
In fifteen-eight-eight Armada strong
From Spain to squash us comes along;

Which Howard, Frobisher and Drake
And stormy weather overtake.


       Ye Tragedye offe Hamlette
       by William Shakspere

Shakespeare 1564–1616
AND in these epoch making days
Shakespeare wrote and staged his plays;

Weaving a thread whose magic strands
Entwine all English-speaking lands.

Fifteen-eight-seven Scots’ Queen Mary
Lost her head through fate contrary.

When Henry Eight had robbed the Church
’Twas found the poor were in the lurch;

Poor Law
A law was passed about this date
To place the poor upon the rate.


Sir Walter Raleigh 1552–1618
SIR Walter Raleigh, best of Knights,
The first to taste the keen delights

Of the enchantress so serene,
The Ryghte Goode Ladye Nicotine.

No information’s yet to hand
Concerning Raleigh’s favourite brand;

Was it coarse-cut shag which burns
The tongue, or birdseye or returns?

Queen Elizabeth
Good Queen Bess we understand
Had crowds of suitors for her hand;

And here we beg to give a view
Of suitors waiting in a queue.



Queen Elizabeth (continued)
AS time rolled on this Good Queen Bess
Lost somewhat of her sprightliness;

She got into a nervous state
Was mopish and disconsolate.

Now, as everyone will own,
Had ‘Iron Jelloids’ been but known

In Bess’s time; why, it’s conceded
’Twas just the Tonic that she needed.

East India Company 1600
The great ‘John Comp’ny’ now began
Its fine career without a plan.

Great! The Elizabethan Age.
In History’s book a glorious page.

Somewhere or other we’ve heard snuff
Came in the days of frill and ruff;

And here’s a noble ill at ease
Giving the first recorded sneeze.

James I. 1603–1625
JAMES Six of Scotland, miscalled a ‘fule’
As James One of England comes to rule.

Gramercy! ’tis a canny thing
To be a ‘double-barrelled’ King.

The son of Mary Queen of Scots
Of learning he had lots and lots,

Writing sundry ponderous books
’Gainst ’bacca, witches and their spooks.

James thought his kingly power divine
And, loathing Puritanic ‘whine,’

He vowed to make them all comply
Or else he’d ‘know the reason why.’

Pilgrim Fathers 1620
His persecution to escape
Some Zealots in the ‘Mayflower’ shape

Their course for an uncharted world
Where Freedom’s Flag could be unfurled.

These ‘Pilgrim Fathers’ found a state
‘New England,’ blessed with happy fate.

Folks have called the first King James
Most uncomplimentary names;

To wit ‘a sloven’ and ‘a glutton’;
Perhaps his weakness was Scotch Mutton.

And as to gluttony, ‘Gadzooks’!
If what we read in History books

Is true, they all were trenchermen;
There were no diet faddists then.

It startles us, one must declare,
To read their breakfast bill of fare;

All ‘Kynes’ of ale, some highly spiced
And divers meats, roast, boiled and sliced.

In James’ reign a man could get
For money down a coronet

And titles with the greatest ease
Like folks to-day buy soap and cheese.

Yet a learned time; for Harvey shows
That blood’s not stagnant, but it flows;

Lord Bacon
‘Experiment!’ Lord Bacon cries
‘There is no progress otherwise.’


Model of the notorious Guy Fawkes
       which however is not considered historically accurate

5th November 1605
OF troubles James had quite a lot,
For instance the Gunpowder Plot.

It fizzled out but left to-day
A liking for Firework display.

The First Cracker

So rockets with their sweeping curves,
Crackers which upset the nerves

And squibs with their infernal din
To this date owe their origin.

Charles I. 1625–1649
HIS son Charles One we understand
Ruled England with a grasping hand;

For he was never loth to levy
Taxes burdensome and heavy.

He moved in an expensive set,
Was always heavily in debt;

In fact this monarch with his frills
Was snowed up to the neck with bills.

He was courtly, graceful, distingué,
And when the scaffold came his way

‘He nothing common did or mean
Upon that memorable scene.’

He had a very taking way
And made his taxed up subjects pay;

And over taxing it is said
This Monarch fairly lost his head.

Petition of Right—1628
The ‘Petition of Right’ a famous Act,
The Commons from the King exact;

Giving the subject on his own
A remedy against the throne.

First Newspaper 1621
In sixteen-hundred-twenty-one
Our first news-sheet began its run;

For twenty years ’twas going strong
Then the first Censor came along.

This journal cribbing from the Dutch
Lacked the smart journalistic touch;

And also photographic views,
‘Sporting pars’ and ‘Stop-press News.’

The Great Struggle in Charles’ Time.
       King trying to get money from Taxpayer.
       Creditor trying to get money from King



Cotton 1630
COTTON first came from India’s shore
In sixteen-thirty, less or more;

Where for three thousand years it grew,
Also in Egypt and Peru.

Grim reading is the note confessing
Gangs went out for Navy pressing,

Forcing many a timid knave
To spend his life on ocean wave.

Ship Money 1636
Charles raises the ship money tax;
He thought he only had to ‘ax’;

When Hampden strenuously objected,
The King was very much affected.

Strafford 1641
Earl Strafford (‘Thorough’) in his pride
‘The King shall rule the Commons’ cried;

The Commons would not brook such stuff
And cut his head off. ‘Quantum Suff.’

The ‘Grand Remonstrance’ is put forth
By the Commons who are wrath

With the King’s despotic ways
Quite unsuited to these days.

The King tries hard to put in jail
Five Members but without avail;

Hollis, Strode, Haslerig and Pym
And Hampden (we must mention him);

They’re guarded from the Royal hands
By Watermen and City Bands.

The ‘die is cast’ and Civil War
For seven long years the Nation tore.

Civil Wars 1642–1648
CROMWELL greatest of the foemen
With his faithful English Yeomen;

These ‘Roundheads’ sober, grim, religious
To ‘Cavaliers’ gave blows prodigious.

Their character’s seen in the cry
‘Trust God and keep your powder dry.’

Naseby 1645
The Cavaliers and Roundheads fought
In many a field, ’till Naseby brought

To Generals Cromwell and Fairfax
A crowning victory, though not ‘pax.’

The King’s beheaded, but the State
Experiences no headless fate;

A commonwealth’s forthwith proclaimed
And Cromwell’s soon Protector named.

Dunbar 1650
In sixteen-fifty Dunbar sees
The Royal Scots brought to their knees;

And in the second Worcester fight
Cromwell for good asserts his might.

Worcester 1651
And there are those who love to tell
About that day at Boscobel

When Charles the Second’s Majestye
Found itself doubly ‘up a tree.’

And now we meet that quiet man
Known as the early Puritan;

Mild and placid in his talk,
Calm and measured in his walk.

“Paint me warts and all”

Commonwealth 1649–1660
Oliver Cromwell bluff and bold,
Was cast in Nature’s sternest mould,

Lacking maybe the courtly grace
And proud of warts upon his face.

He fought the Irish and the Scotch
And with his navy beat the Dutch

Let all his faults condonéd be,
He kept us up on land and sea.


“Take away that bauble”

Commonwealth (continued)
HE seemed to like bold argument
And wordy wars with Parliament;

He made things lively we infer
Frequently at Westminster.


With M.P.s he had many a bout
And one day cleared the whole lot out;

Locked the door and took the key;
Those not the days of ‘Wait and See.’

Charles II. 1660–1685
CROMWELL’S death brings Restoration
And Charles Two lands ’mid acclamation.

After his leaps from twig to twig
He now has ‘Otium cum Dig.’

In merry Charles the Second’s age
Woman first acted on the stage;

The King encouraged much this vogue
He was a pleasure seeking rogue.

‘He never said a foolish thing,
Nor did a wise one’; this the King

Countered with ‘My words my own
My acts my ministers’ alone’;

In sixteen-six-two year of grace,
Charles taxed every fire-place;

And citizens who couldn’t pay
Shivered and grumbled as to-day.

These were the times of Musketeers
And proud and dashing Cavaliers;

When words were few and tempers hot
And duels fought out on the spot.

John Bunyan
THE tinker preacher Bunyan wrote
The ‘Pilgrim’s Progress’ we still quote,

The prison bars no barrier wrought
To lowly Bunyan’s lofty thought.

Milton 1678
In stately language Milton’s muse
The Bible story doth diffuse;

From ‘Paradise Lost’ we get our view
Of Adam and Eve and Satan too.

The Reverend Titus Oates, a scamp,
Egregious Popish plots did vamp,

Lied roundly for dishonest gains,
Got Cat-o’-nine-tails for his pains.

Habeas Corpus 1679
The ‘Habeas Corpus’ best of laws
Shields us from prison without cause;

’Twas passed in sixteen-seventy-nine,
And means ‘Produce him here,’ in fine.

Van Tromp
Admiral Van Tromp, Dutchman bold,
With broom at masthead, so ’tis told,

The Channel sailed, suggesting he’s
Swept all the English from the seas.

But Blake laughed loud and spread his sails
Nought the Dutchman now avails;

For he got an awful shocker
Right to Davy Jones’ locker.

But though the Dutch failed to invade,
They were not disinclined to trade;

So we get ‘Hollands,’ cheese and hams
Fresh from the land of Dykes and Dams.

Peace of Breda 1667
For fifteen years these Navies fought,
’Till sixteen-six-seven respite brought;

The Peace of Breda then succeeded;
New York to England was conceded.

In sixty-five the Plague appears
And then the Fire; two awful years

Fire of London 1665–1666
For London—And if more you’d know
Consult the Pages of Defoe.



James II. 1685–1688
WHEN Charles Two died his brother James
Soon put the country into flames;

Papistry he would advance,
And for that purpose leagued with France.

In sixteen-eight-eight his bigot zeal
Religious Test Act would repeal;

Seven bold Bishops who defied
To the Tower were sent and tried.

The country raised a hue and cry
So off to France the King doth fly.

William III. 1689–1702
HIS place is filled by William Three
His son-in-law from Dutch countree.

This Orange sprig most brave of men
With Mary reigns and all things then

Went well with us. Macaulay’s page
Hails him as Hero of the age.

In this reign of William Three,
Laws were harsh ’gainst burglary;

For they’d a very drastic way
And hanged the ‘Bill Sykes’ of that day.

National Debt 1694
In sixteen-nine-four we have heard
The National Debt was first incurred;

To careful folk who would invest
’Twas not devoid of interest.

Another National Debt we owe
To Iron Jelloids which the foe

Depression’s worries keep at bay
And drive our nervous fears away.

Bill of Rights 1689
The ‘Bill of Rights,’ a Charter grand,
In sixteen-eight-nine frees this land

From all encroachments of the Crown
Hoi Polloi are no longer down.

Queen Anne 1702–1714
GOOD Queen Anne we know is dead;
She reigned twelve years but it is said

‘Mrs. Morley,’ Marlborough’s wife
Ruled her more than half her life.

This was the Duke of Marlborough’s day,
Who beat the French in every fray;

Known for his famous victories
At Blenheim and at Ramillies.

In seventeen-seven by statute passed
English and Scotch unite at last;

‘One coinage and one Parliament’
Both Nations ever since content.

About this time, so runs the story,
Much is heard of ‘Whig and Tory’;

And shortly after there was rife
Many a sign of party strife.

Dr. Watts 1674–1748
Good Dr. Watts’ moral lays
Were much reputed in these days;

And still we lisp at Mother’s knee
‘How doth the little Busy Bee.’

Pope 1688–1744
Pope, letter-writer and great poet,
Most quotable of all (ye know it),

At Twickenham penned his caustic verse
Epigrammatic, smooth and terse.

George I. 1714–1727
THE House of Stuart being ended,
George of Hanover (descended

From daughter of King Jamie One)
Comes over to ascend our throne.

Of English George knew not a word,
Most awkward, not to say absurd,

At Cabinet Councils to preside;
So from this time the practice died.

George II. 1727–1760
HIS son George Two succeeding then
In person fought at Dettingen.

Both these Kings had various fights
In Scotland with the Jacobites.

William Tull brings in Post Chaises;
Now the people ride like ‘blazes.’;

Many can’t for they’re in trouble,
Ruined by the South Sea Bubble.

Wesleys 1703–1791
John and Charles Wesley, men of mind,
Revive Religion in Mankind.

Founding a Church both broad and low,
One-seven-three-nought A. Domini.

Clive 1746
Beginning as an office clerk
As soldier Clive soon made his mark,

And conquered India for this Nation;
Self ’stounded at his moderation.

Bridgwater, Gilbert, Brindley, three
Great Engineers this Centurie,

Useful canals in England made,
The flowing arteries of trade.

Quebec 1759
General Wolfe seventeen-five-nine
Captures Quebec—a victory fine,

And Canada’s the splendid prize
For old ‘John Bull’ to colonise.

George III. 1760–1820
AND now of Georgey number Three:
Ut mulus obstinatus he

Had full sixty years of reign
And a big family to train.



Georgian Times
WE will but very lightly scan
The customs known as ‘Georgian’;

The times of powdered Belles and Beaux;
Patches, paint and furbelows;

Of beauteous maids and gallants gay
And merry routs at Ranelagh;

Gaming parties, cards or pool
And ‘Fops’ of the Beau Brummel School.

“Odds faith they say there’s iron in it”

When rank and fashion History tells
All took their cures among the Wells;

And sipped in manner hesitating
Daily doses nauseating.

But we know better how to act
Our cures we purchase more compact

For in the Chemists’ you can see
‘Iron Jelloids’ priced at ‘One and Three.’

Lord ‘Periwig’ and gay ‘Fallal’
In Sedan Chairs frequent the Mall.

‘Taxis’ and ‘Tubes’ we beg to state
Came in at a much later date.

When Brummel, the historic Beau,
Made laws for dress and outward show;

Whose vests were poems, whose coats were dreams
Of gorgeous beauty, so it seems;

Who figured in the public gaze
A ‘Star turn’ with his courtly ways;

Who fixed the style of a cravat,
Lord of Appeal anent a hat.

And My Lord Chesterfield was quite
The model of the most polite

Wrote famous letters. It’s a shame,
A settee has usurped his name.

Dr. Johnson 1709–1784
And Dr. Johnson at his ease
Sipped his tea at the ‘Cheshire Cheese,’

Or at the ‘Mitre’ of renown,
Spreading his wit throughout the Town.

When Garrick as the ‘Moody Dane’
Drew the Town to Drury Lane,

Mrs. Siddons
Sarah Siddons was all the rage
Tragedy Queen of every age.

Highwaymen arméd to the teeth
Waited for prey on Hounslow Heath;

Per contra the Highwayman’s pate
Was oft strung up at Tyburn Gate.

Capt. Cook 1728–1779
It’s only right a History book
Should mark the feats of Captain Cook;

So jot it down in these our Rhymes
That round the World he sailed three times.

Inventions 1767
These are the days of much invention
The ‘Spinning Jenny’ we will mention;

The ‘Cotton Mule’ and ‘Power Loom’;
For Authors’ names there’s lack of room.

Adam Smith 1766
In his book ‘The Wealth of Nations’
Adam Smith shows the relations

Governing the Art of Trading;
With influences far pervading.

‘Man buys as cheaply as he can
And sells as dearly, that’s his plan.’

‘Supply Demand each other feed
Dearer markets cheap ones bleed.’

Jenner 1796
Jenner brings in vaccination,
Boon to every generation;

By similar methods now devised
Many an ill is exorcised.



American War 1775
IN seventeen-sixty and fifteen
Our Taxes raise the Yankees’ spleen.

‘Unrepresented, you’ve no right
To tax us, therefore we will fight.’

Washington, Franklin and the rest
Formed a Republic quite the best;

We’ve long been friends. Let us rejoice;
But at the time we had no choice.

French Revolution
IN France in times of Louis Seize (says)
Oppression dire through countless days

Roused Revolution with its tears
Mainly through books with wrong ideas.

Napoleon I. 1793–1815
From Revolution’s putrid mess
A Conqueror’s born, quite conscienceless,

Millions of men and women died
Victims to Napoleon’s pride.

He plunged all Europe into Wars
His own ambition the sole cause.

England as usual did her ‘bit’
And ‘Boney’ Europe had to quit.

During these years of storm and stress
Two noble pilots we possess

‘Chatham and Son’ (Pitt is their name),
Illustrious on the scroll of fame.

Nelson 1805
Here we must our homage pay
To Nelson of Trafalgar Day;

To Wellington the same is due,
Who crowned his fame at Waterloo.


AND ‘Shiver my timbers,’ ‘Heave ahoy,’
The Tar, those times a breezy boy

With shiny hat and pigtail long
And love for lass and glass and song.

Discovery of Electric Force
About this date Electric Force
Dawns on mankind. Before, of course,

In Lightning it was all about,
With noise enough to be found out.

Coelo eripuit fulmen,
’Twas said of Franklin, as ye ken.

Philosopher of bygone age
Accept our homage on this page.

But who’d have thought it that Galvani
When making soup, (this is no blarney)

By his power of observation
On a frog’s legs’ oscillation

Should find how by chemic ways
Electric currents we can raise?

To call him ‘great’ is no flattery;
He set us on the wondrous battery.

This simple little frog, Heigh Ho!
The frog who would a-wooing go;

Thy part in electricity
Is unmatched eccentricity.

This new discovered fact, of course,
Leads to the Telegraph of Morse,

The Motor and Electric Light
The Telephone and more in sight.


Early Victorian—Mid Victorian

OF Ireland but a word or two.
Celts were her people and they knew

Not benefit of Roman Ruling;
Young Europa’s Infant Schooling.

In century five St. Patrick great
Converts them to the Christian state;

And from this Western Isle afar,
English and Scotch converted are.

Danes and Ireland
Two hundred years from nine-nought-nought
Danes raiding Erin trouble brought;

And left them in chaotic state
No longer masters of their fate.

In those days ’twas ‘Woe to the weak,’
Saxons and Danes had made us squeak,

Then came the Normans in great force
And civilised us in due course.

They tried the same with Ireland green;
But only sowed a feud between

The land they’d conquered and Erin,
Leading to endless quarrelling.

England accepts the Reformation,
Catholic still the Irish nation

Sees Cromwell with them battle join
And William beat them at the Boyne.

William Pitt in eighteen-nought-nought
Ireland and England’s welfare sought

Act of Union 1800
By ‘Act of Union’ which he passed;
But still the wretched squabbles last.

George IV.
NOW come George Four and Will his brother;
With these two kings we need not bother;

William IV.
The first a gourmand, bon viveur,
The next a sailor, bluff, sans peur.

Trevithick, Newcomen, and Watt
Are names will never be forgot;

For their crude engines were the source
Of man’s control of Steam’s wild force.

Steam 1830
By eighteen-thirty man has tamed
Steam to his use; and widely famed

Was puffing ‘Rocket’ with the power
Of doing thirty miles an hour.

Steam prompts man to make machines
And Factories rise with all that means;

Divided more and more is labour
Each man leans more on his neighbour.

For twenty million pounds the nation
Buys our slaves’ emancipation.

Reform Act
In eighteen-three-two, happy year,
The great Reform Act doth appear.

Steam vessels the Atlantic cross.
The penny post comes into force.

And double knocks bring joys and thrills
Sometimes cheques, more often bills.

Corn Law Repeal 1846
The Corn Law duty’s brushed away,
Hence we enjoy cheap bread to-day.

WE fain would linger, but alas,
These are the periods we must pass.

So gentle reader do not grin
At sight of cumbrous crinoline.

Victoria 1837–1901
Since Queen Victoria’s palmy days
Woman has altered all her ways.

In those days she was meek and mild
And treated almost like a child;

Woman’s Status
Was brought up in a narrow zone;
And couldn’t call her soul her own.

She vegetated, ’tis well known
Under the ‘cloche’ of Chaperone.

But now the ‘Franchise’ she obtains,
And her own property retains.

What a difference from then,
She ‘carries on’ just like the men.

And now at Westminster we see
A lady sitting as M.P.

Darwin 1809–1882
CHARLES Darwin offers us a Key
To help unlock the mystery

Of Evolution’s wondrous span
From Protoplasm up to Man.

Livingstone 1813–1873
The traveller, great Scotch Livingstone,
Wandered o’er Afric’s trackless Zone;

Where no white man had ever trod
Teaching the blacks the Word of God.

Crimean War
English, French and Turks unite
’Gainst Russia in Crimean fight.

Indian Mutiny
The Indian Mutiny now arose,
‘Fat’ was the cause that led to blows.

Atlantic Cable
With efforts many men most able
Lay the great Atlantic Cable.

Suez Canal
Lesseps unites for you and me
The Medit’ranean and Red Sea.

Education Act
The Education Act proposes
To make us all as wise as Moses;

In eighteen-seven-nought it passed,
But each is learning to the last.

Ballot Act 1872
A couple of years from this we note
The Ballot Act gives secret vote;

Before this Act, e’en since we fear,
Folks sold their votes for draughts of beer.



Edward VII. 1901–1910
EDWARD Seven, ‘Peacemaker’ named,
His efforts to this end far famed.

We know it was no idle chance
His ‘Entente cordiale’ with France.

True friendship and the peace we want
The outcome of this grand Entente.

Though not accented in our rhyme
We’ve been fighting all the time;

And it’s a fact which must be stated
Our chief opponent (so ’twas fated)

Wars with France
Our nearest neighbour o’er the Sea
Whose ‘No’ is ‘Non’; whose ‘Yes’ is ‘Oui’;

Like two schoolboys always sparring
Eight hundred years together warring;

From Hastings unto Waterloo
We’d battles with the brave ‘Mossoo.’

Now Honi soit qui still y pense;
Hurrah for England! Vive la France!

AND here we come to end our rhymes
We’ve reached the present stirring times,

When one and all lent helping hand
To keep secure the Motherland.

When men went forth to fight the foe
And women took to spade and hoe,

And donning smocks of nattiest styles,
Worked on the land for Farmer Giles.

Now three cheers for the dainty maids,
Government clerks of different grades;

Nor are we likely to forget
Our debt to the Munitionette.

The Present Time
We seem to have subdued the Hun
And so farewell (our task is done)

To Anzacs-Indians-Poilus-Yanks—

[back cover]

Transcriber's Note

Details of minor typographical corrections and retained mis-spellings are provided in the source code (search for class="TN").

End of Project Gutenberg's A Humorous History of England, by C. Harrison


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