Jane Lane and Charles II

Jane Lane and Charles II

Friday, September 9, 2011

September 9, 1651 - "The traitor, Charles Stuart"

Tuesday, September 9, was a day in which the king’s position, already dangerous, grew considerably more so.  Parliament issued a proclamation headed “A Reward of a Thousand Pounds for the Capture of the Traitor Charles Stuart,” which was to be posted all over England.  The broadsheet went on, “For better discovery of him take notice of him to be a tall man above two yards high, his hair a deep brown, near to black, and has been, as we hear, cut off since the destruction of his army at Worcester, so that it is not very long. Expect him in disguise, and do not let any pass without a due and particular search, and look particularly to the by-creeks and places of embarkation in or belonging to your port.”

Charles in about 1651
The net was tightening. And that afternoon, Thomas Whitgreave heard that soldiers were approaching Moseley Hall with “Southall the priest catcher.” The king climbed into the priest hole, but that was no guarantee he would not be found, and his capture would certainly mean his death.  Whitgreave made a bold gamble.  He threw open all the doors of the house to show that he had nothing to hide, and met the soldiers when they arrived.  They accused him of having been at the Battle of Worcester, but he denied it, and neighbors gathered to attest to the fact that Whitgreave had not been away from home at the time of the battle.

Of course the soldiers searched the house anyway, but didn’t discover the priest hole. One of them approached an ostler working in the yard and told him he could earn an easy thousand pounds by turning the king in.  Luckily, the man didn’t know that Charles was hiding only yards away.  Eventually the frustrated searching party left, but it was clear that every hour Charles remained in the neighborhood increased the likelihood he would be taken.  Fortunately, all was in place for him to be moved to Bentley Hall that night and to depart in the morning.

Entrance to the chapel at Moseley Hall

Moseley Hall, view through garden gate
October 2009

Late that night, John Lane rode to Moseley and waited near a stile.  Whitgreave met him there and then brought him to the corner of the orchard and went inside to get the king.  Charles took leave of old Mrs. Whitgreave, Thomas’s mother, who gave him some almonds and raisins to take with him.  He had already been given a catechism which he had admired as being a very pretty book.  The night was cold, and Huddleston begged the king to take his cloak, which the king accepted, promising to send it back.  Then John Lane, Lord Wilmot, Wilmot’s serving man Robert Swan, and the king set forth for Bentley, about eight miles away, arriving around midnight.
Bentley Hall in 1685

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