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42. George II, A.D. 1725—1760

The reign of George II. was a very warlike one. Indeed he was the last king of England who ever was personally in a battle; and, curiously enough, this battle—that of Fontenoy—was the last that a king of France also was present in. It was, however, not a very interesting battle; and it was not clear who really won it, nor are wars of this time very easy to understand.

The battle of Fontenoy was fought in the course of a great war to decide who would be emperor of Germany, in which France and England took different sides; and this made Charles Edward Stuart, the eldest son of James, think it was a good moment for trying once again to get back the crown of his forefathers. He was a fine-looking young man, with winning manners, and a great deal more spirit than his father: and when he landed in Scotland with a very few followers, one Highland gentleman after another was so delighted with him that they all brought their clans to join him, and he was at the head of quite a large force, with which he took possession of the town of Edinburgh; but he never could take the castle. The English army was most of it away fighting in Germany, and the soldiers who met him at Prestonpans, close to Edinburgh, were not well managed, and were easily beaten by the Highlanders. Then he marched straight on into England: and there was great terror, for the Highlanders—with their plaids, long swords, and strange language—were thought to be all savage robbers, and the Londoners expected to have every house and shop ruined and themselves murdered: though on the whole the Highlanders behaved very well. They would probably have really entered London if they had gone on, and reached it before the army could come home, but they grew discontented and frightened at being so far away from their own hills; and at Derby. Charles Edward was obliged to let them turn back to Scotland.

The English army had come back by this time, and the Scots were followed closely, getting more sad and forlorn, and losing men in every day's march, till at last, after they had reached Scotland again, they made a stand against the English under the king's second son, William, Duke of Cumberland, at the heath of Culloden. There they were entirely routed, and the prince had to fly, and hide himself in strange places and disguises, much as his great uncle, Charles II., had done before him. A young lady named Flora Macdonald took him from one of the Western Isles to another in a boat as her Irish maid, Betty Bourke; and, at another time, he was his in a sort of bower, called the cage, woven of branches of trees on a hill side, where he lived with three Highlanders, who used to go out by turns to get food. One of them once brought him a piece of ginger-bread as a treat—for they loved him heartily for being patient, cheerful, and thankful for all they did for him; and when at last he found a way of reaching France, and shook hands with them on bidding the farewell, one of them tied up his right hand, and vowed that no meaner person should ever touch it.

The Empress Maria Theresa, of Germany, had a long war with Frederick, King of Prussia, who was nephew to George II., and a very clever and brave man, who made his little kingdom of Prussia very warlike and brave. But he was not a very good man, and these were sad times among the great people, for few of them thought much about being good: and there were clever Frenchmen who laughed at all religion. You know one of the Psalms, "The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God." There were a great many such fools at that time, and their ways, together with the selfishness of the nobles, soon brought terrible times to France, and all the countries round.

The wars under George II. were by sea as well as by land: and, likewise, in the distant countries where Englishmen, on the one hand, and Frenchmen, on the other, had made those new homes that we call colonies. In North America, both English and French had large settlements; and when the kings at home were at war, there were likewise battles in these distant parts, and the Indians were stirred up to take part with the one side or the other. They used to attack the homes of the settlers, burn them, kill and torment the men, and keep the children to bring up among their own. The English had, in general, the advantage, especially in Canada, where the brave young General Wolfe led an attack, on the very early morning, to the Heights of Abraham, close to the town of Quebec. He was struck down by a shot early in the fight, and lay on the ground with a few officers round him. "They run, they run!" he heard them cry. "Who run?" he asked. "The French run." "Then I die happy," he said; and it was by this battle that England won Lower Canada, with many French inhabitants, whose descendants still speak their old language.

In the East Indies, too, there was much fighting. The English and French both had merchants there; and these had native soldiers to guard them, and made friends with the native princes. When these princes quarreled they helped them, and so obtained a larger footing. But in this reign the English power was nearly ended in a very sad way. An Indian army came suddenly down on Calcutta. Many English got on board the ships, but those who could not—146 in number—were shut up all night in a small room, in the hottest time of the year, and they were so crushed together and suffocated by the heat that, when the morning came, there were only twenty-three of them alive. This dreadful place was known as the Black Hole of Calcutta. The next year Calcutta was won back again; and the English, under Colonel Clive, gained so much ground that the French had no power left in India, and the English could go on obtaining more and more land, riches and power.

George II. had lost his eldest son, Frederick, Prince of Wales, and his lively and clever wife, Queen Caroline, many years before his death. His chief ministers were, first, Sir Robert Walpole, and afterwards the Earl of Chatham—able men, who knew how to manage the country through all these wars. The king died at last, quite suddenly when sixty-eight years old, in the year 1760.