Jane Lane and Charles II

Jane Lane and Charles II

Thursday, October 15, 2009

In the beginning...

The month of September, 1651 began with little prospect of excitement for Jane Lane, a bright and lively young woman living with her family in Staffordshire, England. Her family was urging her to marry a respectable older neighbor, and though Jane knew that at the age of twenty-five she might have few other prospects, she was reluctant. She longed for adventure, for the chance to do something real and vital before she settled down to being a mere wife.

Within days, Jane got her wish, and she was unexpectedly thrust into a pivotal role in saving the life of the King and ensuring the future of the monarchy.

And thus begins our tale!

It was only a couple of months ago -- as soon as my wonderful agent, Kevan Lyon of Marsal Lyon Literary Agency, had submitted my novel about Nell Gwynn, "The Darling Strumpet" to editors -- that we discussed which project I should tackle next, and mutually agreed that it should be Jane Lane! The gods of fiction must be with me, because Kevan sold not only "Darling Strumpet" but also the Jane Lane book to Berkley Publishing Group -- so now I've got to write it!

Jane's story is extraordinary, and as far as I can tell, has not been told in fiction until now. I learned of her during my research about Nell, as she played a very important part in the life of Charles II, Nell's long-time lover.

I will not give you a detailed account of the English Civil War, but these are the main events that lead up to Jane's story. When King Charles the First of England was executed in 1649, his son Charles, then in exile in Holland, became Charles II. The problem was, England was in the iron grip of Oliver Cromwell, who was determined to end the monarchy.

In 1650, Charles accepted overtures from Scotland to help him regain his throne, and in July, 1651, he marched into England with a Scottish army, expecting that English Royalists would rise and join him. Some did, but not enough, and his badly outnumbered army was crushed -- and the Royalist cause was lost -- at the Battle of Worcester on September 3, 1651.

Three thousand of the Royalist troops were killed, another eight thousand taken prisoner, and Charles barely escaped with his life. Legend has it that he was leaving by the back door of the house which had been his headquarters as Commonwealth officers were entering by the front door to arrest him.

For the future of his throne and country, it was imperative that Charles not be taken prisoner, and he embarked on what would become a six week odyssey -- in disguise, on foot, frequently hungry, never safe -- before he was finally able to reach the southern coast of England and a boat that took him to safety in France.

Dozens of the King's loyal subjects helped him on his way, although they risked a grisly traitor's death for doing so, and despite the reward of 1000 pounds for turning him in -- this in a period when, according to historian Liza Picard, a shopkeeper or tradesman might earn about 10 pounds in a year.

Jane's part in the story came about this way. Known Royalists -- as well as Catholics -- were not permited to travel more than five miles from home without a pass. She had obtained a pass for herself and a manservant to travel to visit a cousin who was expecting a baby, and in a daring escapade, she disguised the King as her servant, and riding behind him on horseback, enabled him to reach his next safe destination.

I'm leaving next Friday for England, where I will trace the route of Jane and Charles's perilous journey, so watch this spot for my photos, maps, and what I learn in my adventure of discovery!


  1. This is so exciting! I hope the part of the south coast where Jane was able to get a boat does not now have some ghastly holiday camp plopped there. Keep copious notes about your OWN experiences on the way... and take videos. These will be very useful for documenting "The Making of Gillian's Second Novel"!!!

  2. Congratulations on your book sales and best of luck with your research on the journey of Charles & Jane.

    Royal Escape by Georgette Heyer (better known for her regencies) is a historical novel about the same subject. It was republished by Sourcebooks in trade paperback.

    For a variety of reasons I look forward to reading your Nell Gwyn novel.