The story of Charles II's return to France after the defeat at Worcester has often been told, and it is remarkable for the number of relatively humble people who cared for him during his month and a half on the run. Quitting Worcester in the general rout of 3 September, he entrusted himself to Charles Giffard at Kinver Heath and was brought to Boscobel by way of Stourbridge and Wordsley. With his hair cut and a change of clothes, on the 4th he hid in a nearby coppice and moved at night to Hobbal Grange, home of Richard Penderel. Early on the 5th he came to Madeley, home of Francis Wolfe, then returned to Boscobel where he met up with Colonel William Carlos, another Worcester fugitive. Whilst the King rested there, the Penderels worked on his behalf, seeking out Lord Wilmot who had taken refuge at Bentley near Wolverhampton, and arranging for the King to move to Moseley Hall which he did on 8 September. The next day Colonel Lane offered to escort the King to Bentley from where he would leave for the coast disguised as a servant to Lane's sister, Jane. On the 10th the journey to Bentley began, setting off towards Bristol at dawn. Skirting Birmingham to the west, via Bromsgrove, the Forest of Arden, Snitterfield and Stratford, the overnight stop was at Long Marston. On the 12th the King reached Abbots Leigh, having come through Stow on the Wold, Northleach and Cirencester and touching Bristol. On the 13th Wilmot arrived at Abbots Leigh, and one John Pope went to Bristol to seek out a suitable ship. On the 15th it was decided to go to Trent, near Sherborne, home of the royalist Colonel Frank Wyndham, and next day Charles journeyed there with Jane Lane. After spending the night at Castle Cary, he reached Trent on the 17th, and on the following day Jane Lane left for home. Frank Wyndham travelled down to Lyme Regis seeking a boat for France, and managed to agree upon a vessel for the 22nd leaving from Charmouth. A room was booked at the local inn for the night previous to departure. On the 22nd the King quit Trent and came to the Queen's Arms at Charmouth by way of Over Compton and Berwick, but to no avail, for no ship appeared.
On the 23rd, therefore, he removed to Bridport, but this time under close pursuit from a troop of militia commanded by a Captain Massey, alerted by an employee at the Queen's Arms in Charmouth. Warned of the pursuit by Wilmot, whose Midlands-shoed horse had excited the suspicions of the Charmouth smithy, the King turned north off the London road, barely eluding Massey's men who headed on towards Dorchester. The King returned to Trent and the Wyndhams, where he passed a full week in hiding. Frank Wyndham contacted another former royalist, Colonel Robert Phelips at Salisbury, who agreed to try to locate a ship in either Sussex or Hampshire. On 6 October Phelips took the King on a fifty mile journey to Heale, by way of Sandford Orcas, Wincanton, Mere, Hindon, Chilmark, Teffont and Wilton. The King remained at Heale for five full days, but on 11 October Colonel George Gunter of Racton, another former royalist officer, managed to negotiate passage overseas with Nicholas Tattersall of Brighton, who consented to ferry an unknown fugitive from Shoreham. On the 13th the King left Heale moving east of Salisbury, passing through the Test Valley and, coming by way of Mottisfont, Hursley and Twyford, met up with Gunter and Wilmot at Old Winchester Hill above the township of Warnford. They rested overnight at
Hambledon, On the 14th the group crossed the River Arun at Houghton Bridge, passed along the crest of the Downs, and came to Brighton, where the King lodged at the George Inn. This time the shipmaster kept his part of the bargain, and on 16 October the King made safe landing at Fecamp. His personal survival was crucial to any hope of an eventual restoration of the monarchy; and the Restoration would not have been possible without the country gentlemen and their families and servants who had been instrumental in his escape.
Was this article helpful?