Jane Lane and Charles II

Jane Lane and Charles II

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

September 25 – October 5, 1651 - a second stay at Trent

Charles arrived back at Trent with Frank Wyndham and Juliana Coningsby on September 24.  It had now been three weeks since the Battle of Worcester, and he was seemingly no closer to getting out of England than he had been when he arrived at Whiteladies towards dawn on September 4.  Rumors of what had become of him were flying and there were printed accounts of his having escaped to Scotland and of his having been killed at Worcester.  There were also persistent rumors of his being somewhere in disguise, possibly dressed as a woman, or even wearing a red periwig and serving under a Roundhead gentleman in Cromwell’s army.
Autumn foliage near Trent Manor
Now once more an escape had fallen through and he had to try to come up with a new plan. He was fortunate to have the Wyndhams working to find a way to help him get out of the country, as they had more connections than others who had helped him, and were able to keep him concealed while they worked on his behalf.  As it turned out, Charles remained hidden in the house through October 5, occupying his time by boring holes in gold coins to give as souvenirs and cooking his own meals at the fireplace in Lady Wyndham’s room.

The garden of Trent Manor from Charles's room
Fortuitously, Frank Wyndham’s brother-in-law Edward Hyde, a cousin of Charles's chancellor Edward Hyde, came to dinner at Trent on the day the king returned there.  He happened to mention to Frank that he had seen Colonel Robert Phelips at Salisbury.  The Phelipses were a well-known Royalist family who had had their estates sequestered because of their support of Charles I, and it seemed likely that they might be able to help the king.  Wyndham consulted with Charles, who agreed that Robert Swan, leaving to join Lord Wilmot at Salisbury, where Wilmot hoped to find a way to get Charles out of the country, should instruct Wilmot to make contact with Robert Phelips.
Col. Francis Wyndham
from The Flight of the King
Wilmot reached Salisbury on September 25.  As Wyndham had previously suggested, he went to the King’s Arms, sent for Wyndham’s relative John Coventry, and explained the king’s predicament.  

John Coventry's House, Salisbury
from The Flight of the King
Coventry sent for Colonel Phelips, who fortunately knew Wilmot as well as Wyndham.  Even so, it was risky discussing things openly, so Coventry went into the next room to smoke a pipe of tobacco with Hewett, the landlord of the inn, leaving Wilmot and Phelips to talk privately.
Interior of the King's Arms, Salisbury
from The Flight of the King

Wilmot asked Phelips “whether he could help a gentleman in distress out of the kingdome.” Phelips was a little cold, and soon it came out that he had heard that Wilmot had been too friendly with the Earl of Argyll’s faction, to the detriment of the king.  At this, Wilmot told Phelips that not only was that not true, but that it was the king who needed his assistance.  Phelips was astonished, and dismayed at the difficulty of finding a way to get Charles to safety, but agreed to do whatever he could. 

When Coventry returned and asked, “Well, gentlemen, are you agreed?” they said they were.  Before parting, the three men shared a bottle or two of wine, and Wilmot regaled them with the story of what had happened at Worcester and since then.  Wilmot sent Henry Peters back to Trent to report to the king “this joyful message … that he doubted not … to be able in some short time to effect his desires.”
The next day, September 26, Phelips went to Southampton to speak to a merchant named Horne who he thought could be of assistance, but didn’t manage to connect with him until the next day.  Phelips told Horne he needed a ship to take him and a friend or two to France.  Horne, no doubt understanding that whatever was going on needed to be handled discreetly, said he knew a captain who was “soe honest a fellow that I would trust ten thousand lives, if I were master of as many, in his hands,” and that he would speak to him.   Phelips instructed him, “Doe not only speake with him but come to some agreement with him.”  Horne replied, “I will, and because I would not have you appear soe much in the towne I will bring him to you to morrow by 3 of the clock in the afternoon to Redbridge.”   

When they met the next day, the master of the ship agreed to carry some passengers to France for forty pounds.  Phelips gave him twenty pounds to provision his boat and hire his crew, and the master promised that his vessel would be at anchor between Southampton and Calshot Castle by the following Wednesday, October 1.

Meanwhile, Wyndham had also enlisted the help of his neighbor, Captain Thomas Littleton, and Littleton had gone off to Hampshire to see if he could find a ship for the king. He spoke to a Mr. Standish, who introduced him to a ship captain who agreed to take Lord Wilmot and some friends away from England.  But when Colonel Phelips’s brother Edward Phelips arrived at Trent with the news that his brother had hired a boat at Southampton, Littleton’s efforts were put on hold.
Since plans seemed to be moving along well, Charles’s friends wanted him close at hand.  They thought he could safely hide at Heale House, about three miles from Salisbury.  This was the home of Mary Hyde, the widow of a cousin of Charles’s chancellor, and “a worthy discreet loyall lady.”

The King's Arms, Salisbury
from The Flight of the King
On October 1, Coventry’s chaplain John Sellick arrived at Trent with a letter for Charles, informing him of the latest developments.  “In answer to which the king wrote back, that he desired all diligence might be used in providing a vessel, and if it should prove difficult at Hampton; trial should be made farther; that they should be ascertained of a ship before they sent to remove him, so that he might run no more hazards than what of necessity he must meet with in his passage from Trent to the place of his transportation.”
Ancient outbuildings at Trent Manor
Unfortunately, when Colonel Phelips arrived on October 1 for the rendezvous with the master of the bark he had hired, he learned that the vessel had been pressed into service to carry provisions to Cromwell’s fleet at Jersey.  Thinking it unwise to make further attempts to hire a boat there, he went back to Salisbury and consulted with Wilmot, John Coventry, and a cleric named Humphrey Henchman, who had been ejected as Canon of Salisbury Cathedral during the wars, and after Charles’s Restoration became Bishop of Salisbury and London. 

Humphrey Henchman
painted by Sir Peter Lely
These gentleman now decided to extend their efforts eastward, and to see if they could hire a boat on the Sussex coast.  Both Phelips and Henchman knew a Colonel George Gounter, who lived at Racton, near Chichester.  Gounter was married to Katherine Hyde, a first cousin of Charles’s chancellor and sister-in-law to the Mrs. Hyde at Heale House.  So Katherine’s nephew Lawrence Hyde of Hinton Daubnay in Hampshire was sent to Gounter with a letter asking for his help.

For some reason Wilmot decided to speak to Lawrence Hyde himself, and set off with his trusty man Robert Swan.  On his way to Hinton Daubnay, he went to see Thomas Henslow at Burchant, near Titchfield, the home of the Earl of Southampton, one of Charles I’s most loyal supporters.  Henslow got a message to Southampton, who offered to do all that he could to find a ship for the king.

When Wilmot arrived at Lawrence Hyde’s house he encountered Captain Thomas Gounter, a cousin of Colonel George Gunther, who took him to meet George Gounther at Racton.
Charles's chancellor Edward Hyde
about 1648-55
Meanwhile, Colonel Phelips had set off for Trent to convince Charles to move closer to the scene of the action.  On Sunday, October 5, according to Anne Wyndham, Phelips "came from the Lord Wilmot and Mr. Coventry to his majesty with this assurance, that all things were ready, and that he had informed himself with the most private ways, that so he might with greater probability of safety guide his majesty to the sea-side.  As soon as the king heard this message, he resolved upon his journey.  Colonel Wyndham earnestly petitioned his majesty that he might wait on him to the shore; but his majesty gave no grant, saying it was no way necessary, and might prove very inconvenient.  Upon the renewing this request, the king commanded the contrary, but sweetened his denial with this promise, that if he were put to any distress, he would again retreat to Trent.”

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