Shropshire

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King Charles II Escape

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Escape of King Charles II

 

 

Charles, Prince of Wales, had left Britain in 1648 as the King had been captured and the Royalist cause looked bleak.  He lived in Holland until 1650, when he travelled to Scotland.  There he was crowned King Charles II of Scotland at Scone on January 1st 1651.  He planned to march south with a Scottish army and recover his crown but the number of men in his army was disappointingly small.  Nevertheless, he marched into England but his army was defeated by Cromwell's New Model Army at the Battle of Worcester on 3 September 1651.  He became a wanted man and a reward of £1,000 was offered for his capture. Being very tall and swarthy, he had a distinctive appearance and wanted posters were pasted up throughout the country

 

 

Wanted poster

 

Cavalry patrols were sent out to try to find him but he managed to evade them.  Charles had fled the city of Worcester in the company of Lord Wilmot, Lord Derby, Charles Gifford and many others. He decided to head into Shropshire, which he regarded as a Catholic stronghold with many hiding places. They stopped for refreshments after five miles at an inn in Ombersley and it was felt that it would be safer for the King to travel almost alone.  He left the main group near Hartlebury and headed towards Stourbridge. Lord Derby and the main group headed towards Kidderminster but were found by a troop of Parliamentary cavalry. Lord Derby was captured and later executed. Charles continued on towards Stourbridge, passing through the parish of Chaddesley Corbett, Hagley and Pedmore. Stourbridge was garrisoned by Parliamentary troops but Charles bypassed it by crossing the river near the village of Wolverley, passing through a dell below Lea Castle and over Hay Bridge. Tradition has it the King halted at Whittington Manor. From there he passed through Kinver into Staffordshire and stopped again at Wordsley before passing into Shropshire. 

 

Remains of White Ladies Priory

 

He arrived at the White Ladies Priory in the early hours of 4th September. Here he was met George Penderel, who sent for his brother Richard, from his farm at Hobbal Grange near Tong. They disguised the King as a woodsman and cut his long hair.

 

Charles disguised as woodsman

 

Since there were Roundhead patrols in the area, Charles and Richard Pendrell hid in Spring Coppice on the estate. Shortly after the King had left the Priory, a company of Parliamentary soldiers rode up and ransacked the place in their search. Charles recalled: "In this wood I stayed all day without meat or drink and by great fortune it rained all the time which hindered them, as I believe, from coming into the wood to search for men that might be fled there."  After dark, Richard Penderel took Charles to Hobball Grange, where he had a meal and then immediately set off for Madeley.  They hoped to cross the River Severn into Wales, where the Royalists had strong support. At Evelith Mill, they were challenged by the miller and the pair fled, finally arriving at Madeley Court.  The owner, Francis Wolfe, fed Charles and provided a barn for him to hide in. 

 

  

Madeley Court and barn

 

Richard Everel and Francis Wolfe scouted the Severn crossings but found that the river was very closely guarded and impossible to cross.  The following day, they set off back to Boscobel House, arriving early on 6th September. On the same day a Major William Careless, who had fought at Worcester, also arrived at Boscobel House where William Penderel was caretaker.

 

Charles meeting with William Careless

 

Since Parliamentary cavalry patrols were still in the area, Charles and William Careless spent all day hiding in a nearby oak tree (The Royal Oak), while Parliamentary troops searched the surrounding woodland. The exhausted king slept for some of the time, supported by Careless. Charles spent the night in one of Boscobel House’s priest-holes.

 

  

Royal Oak and Boscobel House

 

Late in the evening of 7th September, Charles and Careless left Boscobel House for Moseley Old Hall in Warwickshire.  They were accompanied by the 5 Penderel brothers and Humphrey Penderel (the local miller) provided Charles with the old mill horse. Soon after leaving Boscobel House, the horse stumbled, and Humphrey Penderel joked that it was “not to be wondered at, for it had the weight of three kingdoms upon its back”.

 

Charles on Humphrey Penderel’s horse

 

They stopped at Pendeford Mill, where Charles continued on foot as he was more likely to be sighted on a horse.  Three of the Penderels took the horse back, while Richard and John Penderel continued with the King to Moseley Old Hall, home of Thomas Whitgreave. At Moseley, Charles was given a meal and dry clothes. A Catholic priest, Father John Huddleston, bathed the King’s bruised and bleeding feet. Charles spent that night and the next two days hiding at Moseley Hall, sleeping in a bed for the first time since 3rd September. Later that morning he saw some of his fleeing Scottish troops passing by. Parliamentary troops arrived at Moseley Hall and accused Thomas Whitgreave of fighting for the King at Worcester but they went away without searching the house.  The King no longer felt safe at Moseley Hall and, shortly after midnight on 10th September, Charles left Moseley Hall and went to Bentley Hall near Walsall.  He finally escaped to France on October 13th.