King on the Run

King on the Run

The English Civil War ran for nine seasons, but by the end they were scraping the bottom of the barrel for new plot lines. The main villain (or hero, depending on your point of view) had been executed in the season seven finale, and the English were so sick and tired of fighting each other they were willing to settle down and be puritans if that was the fashionable thing to be. But it was still getting good ratings, so the historians decided to pad it out for another couple of years.

First Historian: Maybe Cromwell could turn into a dictator and Parliament could turn on him?
Second Historian: No, they already offered the crown and he turned it down.
First Historian: Perhaps he has an illegitimate son who…
Third Historian: Be serious. He’s a puritan. If he’d enjoyed sex he’d have been a cavalier.
Second Historian: Maybe we could do something with his son? The one who ran away to Holland?
First Historian: He’s only a teenager.
Third Historian: I like that idea. We could call him Charles the Second. That would bring in the younger demographic.
First Historian: Nobody in England would be stupid enough to want a teenage king replacing Oliver Cromwell.
Second Historian: How about the Scots?
All together: The Scots…

So Charles Stuart (son of Charles I) left Holland for Scotland, raised an army of Scots (season eight) and invaded England (season nine). He was defeated at the Battle of Worcester, and fled, disguised as someone who was not dressed like a king.

After a few days he turned up at the the back door of Moseley Old Hall, a Staffordshire farmhouse which looked nothing like this.
Moseley Old Hall
That is in fact the same building, more or less, except that it fell into disrepair, so the Victorians rebuilt the outer walls in brick. The family living there when Charles dropped in were catholics and royalists, and they undertook to shelter the claimant to the throne. They gave him the use of the many priest holes scattered about the building. He is said to have spent about five hours in this one.
Priest Hole
It’s under the floor of a wardrobe, next to a fireplace, so it would have been warm and probably smelled of urine.

The original furniture of the house has long since been sold off, but the bed that Charles is said to have slept in was bought by the family that owned Wightwick Manor, and they donated it back to the National Trust so that it could be returned to Moseley. I don’t have a picture of that because the room is kept in very dim light to preserve the curtains which are also 17th century. The back door matches description (three panels and heavily studded) that Charles II gave to Samuel Pepys.
Back Door
This means that it is either the original door, or someone read Pepys diary and made a door to match the description.

At the time catholics and royalists required a passport to travel more than five miles from their home, but one of the neighboring royalist families had a lady with just such a passport. The Lane Family lived in Bentley Hall, near my old home town of Walsall. Bentley Hall is no more but next time you go past junction 10 on the M6 there’s a Holiday Inn that is pretty close to the site. This is Jane Lane.
Jane Lane
She had a passport to visit a family member in Bristol, and was allowed to take servants along, so she included Charles in her party disguised as a servant. They shared a horse all the way to Bristol. Charles eventually made his escape and when her part in the plot became known, she had to leave the country as well. According to some rumors she became one of Charles’s many mistresses, and was certainly friends with both Charles and his wife Catherine of Braganza, who had a relaxed attitude towards Charles’ many affaires.

Moseley Old Hall does have a letter that Charles wrote to Jane Lane, apologizing that all he could send her was a letter and not money.
Letter from Charles I
When Charles was finally invited to become king, ten years later, he granted Jane Lane a pension of a thousand pounds a year (an immense sum in those days).

The Hall has a nice knot garden (17th century design recreated in 1962) …
Knot Garden
Knot Garden
… and a peacock.
Peacock
The peacock is planning to escape disguised as a chicken.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *