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Chapter I. AITTHONY CROSSES THE SEA
"He either fears his fate too much,
- Marquis of Montrose.
England, by the end of the sixteenth century was rapidly passing through one of the several stages of development which was to make her ultimately the center of a great over-seas empire. A young nation still politically distinct from Scotland, Ireland and Wales, and whose population constituted but a fourth of that of France, she was as yet uncouth and crude as compared to the older civilizations of Spain, France or Italy. And probably because she was so rustic in temperament and background, there had developed within her borders a class of people which fit well into that fair countryside. These, the free hold yeomenry had no exact counterpart in the society of the continent, and while socially they merged above with the gentry, and below with the dependent farmers, they were withall a complete strata of society in themselves. Due, howover, to several factors then prevalent, not a few of these yeomen and their sons were gradually as a class facing extinction. They were becoming squeezed, as it were, between the gentry above and the dependent farmers and cottagers below. It so happened, however, that there was still a third avenue open to them. Trades and crafts were, at that time, becoming an increasingly popular field, and even some of the sons of gentry but particularly many of the sons at the yeomanry were entering this new type of occupational pursuit. Some were highly successful in their new undertakings. Many, however, were not; and all, no doubt, whether they became gentry, ott agers, tradesmen or craftsmen, missed something of the freedom and independence of their earlier days, and became uneasy and dissatisfied. It was perhaps natural, therefore, that many came to look upon conditions as a whole as responsible for their own economic plight.
And in their search to discover whatever might account for their uneasiness, they thought they found the causes--or at least some of them--close at hand. For the Age of Queen Elizabeth, Drake, and Shakespeare, glorious as they were, had wrought certa in easily recognized changes in the older England they loved. At the time, England, flushed with a vision of a great future, perhaps, was obsessed with the splendor and extravagances of the unreal. And politics and religion, two of the most important parts of 17th