Jane Lane and Charles II

Jane Lane and Charles II

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

October 16, 1651 - France - at last

On October 15, Charles, with Lord Wilmot, finally boarded Captain Tattersall’s boat and set sail for France.  But, in keeping with the events of the past six weeks, there was one final scare, as Charles described to Samuel Pepys in 1683.

“The next morning a little before day we saw the Coast.  But the tyde fayling us and the Winde comeing about to the South-West, we were forced to come to an Anchor within 2 Myles of the share, till the tide of Flood was done.
Oostend fisheman/privateers
“We found our selves just before an Harbour in France called Feckham [Fécamp], and just as the tyde of Ebb was made, espied a Vessell to Leeward of us, which by her nimble working, I suspected to be an Ostend-Privateer.  Upon which I went to my Lord Willmott, and telling him my oppinion of that ship proposed to him our goeing a Shoare in the Little Cock-Boate, for feare they should prove soe, as not knowing but finding us goeing into a Port of France (there being then a Warr between France and Spaine) they might plunder us and possibly carry us away and sett us a-shoare in England; the Maister himselfe had the same opinion of her being an Ostender, and came to me to tell me soe.  Which though I made it my business to diswade him from, for feare it should tempt him to sett sayle back againe with us for the Coast of England, yet soe sensible I was of it that I and my Lord Willmott went both on shoare in the Cock-Boate, and goeing up into the Towne of Feckham stayed there all the Day to provide horses for Roan [Rouen]. But the Vessell which had soe affrighted us proved afterwards only a French sloop.
Rouen in 1680
“The next day we got to Roan to an Inn (one of the best in the Towne) in the Fish-Market, where they made difficulty to receive us, takeing us by our Cloathes to be some Theeves, or persons that had beene doeing some very ill thing, untill Mr. Sandburne a Merchant (for whome I sent) came and answered for us.

One particular more there is observable in Relacion to this our Passage into France, that the Vessell that brought me over had noe sooner Landed me, and I given her Maister a Pass, for feare of meeting with any of our Jerzey-Friggates, but the Winde turned soe happily for her as to carry her directly for Poole, without its being knowne that she had ever beene upon the Coast of France.
17th century drawing of St. Hillary's Gate into Rouen
“We stayed at Roan one day to provide our selves better Cloathes and give notice to the Queene my Mother (who was then at Paris) of my being safely Landed.  After which setting out in a hired coach I was mett by my Mother with Coaches short of Paris, and by her conducted thither, where I safely arrived.”
Rouen, with buildings that would have
been there when Charles was
Charles arrived in Paris on October 20.  He had been on the run, and in fear for his life, since September 3.  As of October 29, there were rumors in England that he had been lost at sea, as there had been so many rumors since the Battle of Worcester about where he might be.  But on October 30, newspapers in England proclaimed the momentous news that he was at the French court, where he was welcomed by his mother, Queen Henrietta Maria; his brother James, the Duke of York; and his youngest sister Henrietta Anne, affectionately known as Minette.

Charles's mother, Queen Henrietta Maria
Against all odds, and despite innumerable and overwhelming difficulties, many times when he came close to being discovered, and the fact that he was recognized by dozens of people who could have claimed a vast reward for turning him, Charles had outrun and outwitted Cromwell and Parliament.  The next eight and a half years were to be hard, with constant penury and frequent despair.  But when Charles once again set foot on English soil, on May 25, 1660, it was as king, returning in triumph to a nation joyful at his Restoration.

The six weeks that came to be known as the Royal Miracle because Charles so many times escaped what seemed to be certain disaster were an enormously formative period in his life.  When he returned to the throne, he rewarded the many people who had helped them, and told the story of his adventures for the rest of his life.

Charles II, with his brothers
riding into London in May 1660

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