Jane Lane and Charles II

Jane Lane and Charles II

Monday, September 5, 2011

September 4, 1651 - Spring Coppice, Hobbal Grange, and a journey

When Charles and his handful of friends arrived at Whiteladies at about three a.m. on September 4, 1651, the door was opened by George Penderel, one of five surviving staunchly Royalist brothers who were tenants of Charles Giffard of Boscobel.

Whiteladies in 1660

Ruins of Whiteladies Priory in October 2009
He asked if there was news from Worcester. Learning that it was the king himself who sought shelter, he not only welcomed Charles but led the king’s exhausted horse into the hall to be hidden before sending for his brothers William, who lived at Boscobel, and Richard, who lived at a small farm called Hobbal Grange.

Fields near Whiteladies
George Penderel gave Charles a biscuit and a glass of sack, and also the alarming news that there was a detachment of Commonwealth troops at Codsall, only three miles away, and that it would be safer for everyone if the king’s companions went to Tong Castle where General Leslie was with what remained of Charles’s cavalry.

Some of the king’s followers urged him to join General Leslie and make for Scotland, but Charles thought this “was absolutely impossible, knowing very well that the country would all rise upon us, and that men who had deserted me when they were in good order would never stand to me when they were beaten.” Charles still wanted to go to London, but his friends “with one voice begged of me not to tell them what I intended to do,” “because they knew not what they might be forced to confess.”
Inside the walls of Whiteladies, October 2009
So Charles gave his diamond encrusted George – the badge of the Order of the Garter – to Colonel Blague, distributed his gold among his servants, and gave his watch to Lord Wilmot, and all but Wilmot departed, taking Charles’s horse with them.

Richard Penderel
whom Charles called "Trusty Dick"
Charles stripped off his clothes breeches and buff coat and put on the clothes of a woodsman, provided by Richard Penderel – rough grey breeches, a threadbare green doublet, battered leather jerkin, heavy stockings darned at the knees, and a shapeless and greasy hat. He kept his boot stockings but cut off their embroidered tops. William Penderel shaved Charles and cut the hair off his head “as short on the top as the scissors would do it but leaving some about the ears according to the country mode,” and Charles smeared his face with soot. His fine boots had to go, but no one had shoes big enough for his feet, so he slit the borrowed shoes to have room enough for his toes.

Glove left by Charles
at Whiteladies
Charles changing into the clothes of a woodsman
One of seven paintings by Isaac Fuller
commissioned by Charles after his Restoration

Walls of Whiteladies and countryside, October 2009
It was now broad daylight, and troops of cavalry were looking for the king, so Richard Penderel took him into the Spring Coppice in the woods surrounding Whiteladies. It began to rain, so Richard went back to get a blanket for the king. Charles stayed in the woods all day, and “by greate good Fortune it rained all the time, which hindered them … from coming (into the Woods) to search for men that might be fledd thither.”
Richard Penderel’s sister, the wife of Frances Yates, brought the king a dish of scrambled eggs. He was happy for the food – he probably hadn’t had a meal since breakfast the day before – but worried. “Good woman,” he asked, “Can you be faithful to a distressed Cavalier?” “Yes, sir,” she promised him. “I will rather die than discover you.”

Joan Penderel
 the mother of the Penderel brothers

Woods near Whiteladies

It is possible Charles may have had some other company. I was intrigued to read in Allan Fea’s 1904 After Worcester Fight about a letter “supposed to have been written by Waller to St. Evremond” describing “an honest Worcestershire baronet” telling Charles after the Restoration about a blacksmith’s wife who “has sworn a child to Your Majesty.”

Fea goes on to describe a letter he had from “the daughter of the late Dean Howard of Lichfield, with reference to a family of the name of Radford, who formerly lived at Shakerley (a village a little over a mile to the southwest of Whiteladies.” A member of that family, the letter said, had married Nan Clarges before she married George Monck, Duke of Albemarle, who was enormously instrumental in bringing about Charles’s Restoration. “About the years 1850-1868 there were three generations … all blacksmiths. They all had the same swarthy complexions, long noses, large drooping eyelids, and dark eyes,” and the old curate, the Rev. J. Dale, said “these Radfords were descended from King Charles.”
Countryside near Boscobel and Whiteladies

On the road to Whiteladies from Boscobel
October 2009 - photo by Alice Northgreaves

But Charles had plenty of time to worry, too. He had asked Richard Penderel what men of quality he knew on the way to London. Penderel didn’t know any. And from the coppice Charles could see a party of Cromwell’s cavalry pass on the road, looking for him and other Royalists fleeing Worcester. Getting to London might be as impossible as reaching Scotland. The next option was Wales, which was lightly held, had plenty of Royalists, including some he knew, and also had the port of Swansea, which had frequent trade with France.

Blackberries on road between Boscobel and Whiteladies

Hobbal Grange around the turn of the 20th century
from Allan Fea's The Flight of the King
At about five o’clock Richard Penderel brought Charles out of the woods to his own house, Hobbal Grange, to give him supper of bacon and eggs. Charles told Richard of the plan to head for Wales, and visited with Richard’s little girl and elderly mother before he and Richard set out at dusk for the ferry crossing over the Severn halfway between Bridgenorth and Shrewsubry, about nine miles away.

Hobbal Grange in about 1933
photo by H.P. Kingston included in The Wanderings of
Charles II in Staffordshire and Shropshire
The journey was across rough country, through swamps and streams and thorn hedges. Charles’s feet, in the too small shoes, were in agony, and for the only time in his odyssey he was ready to give up, throwing himself on the ground and crying in despair that he would rather stay there until day and risk being caught than continue. Richard took a deep breath and coaxed the king to his feet, “sometimes promising that the way should be better, and sometimes assuring him that he had but little further to go.”

Stone wall on road between Boscobel and Whiteladies
Meanwhile, John Penderel had left Charles’s friend Lord Wilmot and his horses in separate neighboring houses and gone looking for a safer hiding place. He happened to run into John Huddleston, a Catholic priest who had fought for Charles I in the Civil Wars and who served as tutor and chaplain at Moseley Hall, a few miles away. Huddleston took John Penderel to Thomas Whitgreave, the owner of Moseley, who urged that Wilmot be brought to his house for hiding.

Father John Huddleston
Decades later, he effected Charles's
deathbed conversion to Catholocism

Moseley Old Hall 2009
photo by Alice Northgreaves
Whitgreave was a Catholic, and Moseley boasted a priest hole, something frequently found in the houses of Recusants during the years when it was against the law to be a Papist. Priest holes were hiding spaces built between floors or otherwise hidden in the architecture of houses. The hiding holes were small, perhaps four feet square and maybe not even that high, just big enough for a man or contraband such as crucifixes. The entry hatches were sometimes in closets and covered by chamber pots, the smell of which would throw off any searching dogs.

Wilmot had a safe refuge, but Moseley Hall was too near the road to chance taking in strange horses. So Whitgreave sent to Colonel John Lane at nearby Bentley Hall to ask if he would shelter Wilmot’s horses. Lane had served under Wilmot and was happy to do what he could, so he took the horses into his stables, and promised to go to Moseley the next night to see Wilmot. And thus the fate of John’s sister, Jane Lane, was about to become entwined with that of the king.

Colonel John Lane of Bentley

Sources and Further Reading:

If you want to read more about the Royal Miracle, as Charles’s escape came to be called, I can recommend Charles II’s Escape from Worcester, edited by William Matthews, which presents Pepys’s transcription of Charles’s account and his edited version side by side, as well as other contemporary accounts; The Escape of Charles II After the Battle of Worcester by Richard Ollard; A. M. Broadley’s 1912 The Royal Miracle: A Collection of Rare Tracts, Broadsides, Letters, Prints, & Ballads Concerning the Wanderings of Charles II After the Battle of Worcester, which also chronicles the delightfully daffy 1911 reenactment of the events; both the 1897 and 1908 editions of The Flight of the King by Allan Fea, as well as his After Worcester Fight; The Boscobel Tracts, a collection of contemporary accounts edited by J. Hughes and published in 1857; The Wanderings of Charles II in Staffordshire and Shropshire by H.P. Kingston; and Jean Gordon Hughes’s A King in the Oak Tree.

Most of the old photos, drawings, and engravings used in subsequent posts are from Fea's books and The Royal Miracle.
Also of interest is the blog “In Pursuit of History,” by Tom Skyes, who is coincidentally also writing about Charles’s escape right now. http://inpursuitofhistory.com/2011/08/21/in-pursuit-of-charles-ii-boscobel

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