Jane Lane and Charles II

Jane Lane and Charles II

Monday, October 17, 2011

October 15, 1651 - Farewell to England

Colonel Gounter had persuaded Charles and Lord Wilmot to lie down and get some rest late on the night of October 14, and in the wee hours he “called them up, shewing them how the tyme went by my watch. Horses beeing led by the back way toward the beach, we came to the boate and found all readie.”

Charles described this last leg of his journey through England, from Brighton to Shoreham, to Samuel Pepys in 1683.  “About 4 a Clock in the morning, my selfe and the Company before named went toward Shoram, takeing the Maister of the Shipp with us on horseback, behinde one of our Company, and came to the Vessells side, which was not above 60 Tunn.”
Map of Charles's route
from Allan Fea's 1897 The Flight of the King
Gounter, who it seemed had finally achieved the near impossible in finding passage for the king away from England, recalled his final moments with Charles.   

“Soe I tooke my leave, craving his Majesties pardon if anything had happened through error, not want of will or loyaltie.  How willingly I would have waited further but for my family (being many), which would want mee; and I hope his Majestie would not, not doubting but in a very little tyme hee should bee where he would.”

"A proclamation for the Discovery and
Apprehension of Charles Stuart, and other
Traytors his Adherents and Abettors"
Gounter, like the many other people who had sheltered and helped Charles over the six weeks since the Battle of Worcester, had risked his life for the king, as he would have been arrested and executed for treason if what he had done became known to Parliament. 

“My only request to his Majestie,” Gounter recalled, “was that he would conceale his instruments, wherein their preservation was soe much concerned.  His Majestie promist noebody should knowe.”

Charles was no doubt ready to drop with exhaustion and stress, and probably wanted desperately to be aboard in case anything else should go wrong.  “It being low Water, and the Vessell lying dry, I and my Lord Willmott got up with a ladder into her and went and lay downe in the little Cabbin, til the tide came to fetch us off.

“But I was no sooner gott into the Shipp and Layn downe upon the Bedd, but the Maister came in to me, fell downe upon his Knees and kist my hand, telling me that he knew me very well, and that he would venture Life and all that he had in the World to sett me downe safe in France.
“Soe about 7 a Clock in the Morning it being High-Water, we went out of the Port.  But the Maister being bound for Poole laden with Sea Coole, because he would not have it seene from Shoram that he did not goe his intended Voyage; but stood all the day with a very easy sayle toward the Isle of Wight (only my Lord Willmott and my selfe of my Company on board), and as we were sayleing the Maister came to me and desired me that I would perswade his Men to use their endeavours with me to get him to sett us on shoare in France, the better to cover him from any suspicion thereof.

Shoreham by J.M.W. Turner
“Upon which I went to the Men (which were 4 and a Boy) and told them, truely, that we were 2 Merchants that had some misfortunes and were a Little in Debt, that we had some money owing us at Roan in France and were afraid of being arrested in England, that if they would perswade the Maister (the Winde being very faire) to give us a Tripp over to Diepe or one of those ports neere Roan, they would oblige us very much; and with that I gave them 20s to drinck.  Upon which they undertook to second me if I would propose it to the Maister, soe I went to the Maister and told him our condicion, and that if he would give us a Tripp over to France, we would give him Consideracion for it.  Upon which, he counterfeited difficulty, saying that it would hinder his Voyage.  But his men, as they had promised me, Joyned their perswacions to ours, and at last he yeilded to sett us over.
“So about 5 a Clock in the afternoon (as we were in sight of the Isle of Wight) we stood directly over for the Coast of France, the Winde being then full North.”

 Colonel Gounter stood watching from the shore.  “At 8 of the clock I saw them on sayle, and it was the afternoon before they were out of sight.  The wind (O providence!) held very good till next morning to ten of the clock.”

Charles didn’t know it yet, but his friend and faithful ally the Earl of Derby, who had accompanied him on his desperate flight from Worcester to Whiteladies on the night after the battle, was executed for treason on the same day the king was finally making his way toward France.

A miniature of Charles by Samuel Cooper
from The Flight of the King

And there is little doubt that Charles would have suffered the same fate if he had been captured.  To the end, luck was with him.  Gounter marveled, “I was not gone out of the towne twoe houres but souldiers came thither to search for a tall black man, 6 foot and 2 inches high.”

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