BOSCOBEL HOUSE, which has obtained so much historical celebrity, in connection with the romantic adventures of Charles II., after his defeat at Worcester, is situated in Shropshire, on the borders of Staffordshire, lying between Tong Castle and Brewood. It was built in the reign of James I., by John Giffard, Esq., a Roman Catholic gentleman, who, when it was completed, having invited his neighbors to a house-warming feast, requested his friend Sir Basil Brook, to give his new-built mansion a name. Sir Basil called it “Boscobel,” from the Italian word boscobella, because it was seated in the midst of many fair woods. The founder of the house had caused various places of concealment to be constructed, for the purpose of affording shelter to proscribed persons of his own religion, whom the severity of the penal laws often compelled to play at hide and seek, in queer corners.
The first fugitive of note who sought refuge, in his distress at Boscobel House, was the unfortunate Earl of Derby, whose defeat at Bolton-le-Moors, near Wigan was the precursor to that of the young king at Worcester, eight days later. The Earl of Derby, having escaped from his lost battle, with Colonel Roscarrock and two servants, got into the confines of Shropshire and Staffordshire, where he had the good luck to encounter an old friend, Richard Snead, an honest gentleman of that country, to whom he told the news of his own overthrow, and inquired if he knew of any private house, near at hand, where he might repose himself and his company in safety, till he could find an opportunity of joining the king. Mr. Snead, like a good Samaritan, conducted his noble friend to Boscobel House, where they arrived on Friday, August 29th, but found no one at home, except William Penderel, the housekeeper, and his wife, who, on their own responsibility, ventured to receive the noble cavalier, his companion, and servants, and kindly entertained them till the Sunday; and then, according to the earl’s desire, conveyed them safely to Gataker Park, nine miles on their way to Worcester, where he arrived in time to take his part in that engagement which was emphatically styled by Stapylton, the roundhead, “the setting of the young king’s glory.”
The Earl of Derby and Colonel Roscarrock were in close attendance on Charles’s person during the retreat from Worcester. they all made a stand on Kinner Heath, on the road to Kidderminster, as the night set in, to hold a consultation, when his majesty, being very tired, inquired of them and Lord Wilmot, “If they thought there was any place where he might venture to take a few hours’ rest?” The Earl of Derby told him, “how, in his flight from Wigan to Worcester, he had met with that rara avis, a perfectly honest man, and a great convenience of concealment at Boscobel House; which, nevertheless, he thought it his duty to inform his majesty, was the abode of a recusant.” At another time, some of the party might have objected to the young sovereign going to such quarters, but the danger being so imminent, now it was suggested, “that these people being accustomed to persecutions and searches, were most likely to possess the most ingenious contrivances to conceal him.” At all events, the king made up his mind to proceed thither. When this decision was made known to Lord Talbot, he called for a young kinsman of the recusant master of Boscobel, Mr. Charles Giffard, who was fortunately among the sixty cavaliers who still shared the fortunes of their fugitive king. Lord Talbot inquired of this gentleman, if he could conduct his majesty to Boscobel. Charles Giffard cheerfully undertook to do so, having with him a servant of the name of Yates, who understood the country perfectly.
At a house about a mile beyond Stourbridge, the king drank a little water, and ate a crust of bread, the house affording no better provision. After this scanty refection, his majesty rode on, discoursing apart with Colonel Roscarrock about Boscobel House, and the security which he and the Earl of Derby had enjoyed at that place. Another privy-council was held, in the course of the journey, between the king and his most trusty friends, at which it was agreed, that the secret of his destination was too important to be confided to more than a select few of his followers; and Charles Giffard was asked if it were not possible to conduct him, in the first instance, to some other house in the neighborhood, the better to mask his design of concealing himself at Boscobel. The young cavalier replied, “Yes, there was another seat of the Giffards, about half a mile from Boscobel — Whiteladies; so called from its having been formerly a monastery of Cistercian nuns, whose habit was white.” On which the king, and about forty of the party, separating themselves from the others, proceeded thither, under his faithful guidance. They arrived at break of day; and Giffard, alighting from his horse, told the king “that he trusted they were now out of immediate danger of pursuit.” George Penderel, who had the charge of the house, opened the doors, and admitted the king and his noble attendants; after which, the king’s horse was brought into the hall, and they all entered into an earnest consultation how to escape the fury of their foes; but their greatest solicitude was for the preservation of the king, who was, for his part, both tired and hungry with his forced march. Col. Roscarrock immediately dispatched a boy, of the name of Bartholomew Martin, to Boscobel, for William Penderel: Mr. Charles Giffard sent for another of these trusty brethren, Richard Penderel, who lived at Hobbal Grange, hard by. Both speedily obeyed the summons, and were brought into the parlor, where they 11 found their old acquaintance, the Earl of Derby, who introduced them into the inner parlor, which formed then the presence chamber of their throneless sovereign: the earl, reversing the order of courtly etiquette on this occasion, instead of presenting these two noble men, of low degree, to their royal master, he presented him to them; addressing himself in particular to William Penderel, and pointing at his majesty, he said, “This is the king; thou must have a care of him, and preserve him, as thou didst me.”
William, in the sincerity of an honest heart, promised that he would do so, while Charles Giffard was at the same time exhorting Richard Penderel to have an especial care of his charge.
The loyal associates next endeavored to effect a transformation in the personal appearance of their royal master, by subjecting him to a process very similar to that technically styled by gipsies, “cutting a horse out of his feathers.” In the first place, Richard Penderel trimmed off his majesty’s flowing black ringlets in a very blunt and irreverent fashion, using his woodman’s bill, which he happened to have in his girdle, instead of scissors, none being at hand, and time being too precious to stand on ceremony. His majesty was then advised to rub his hands on the back of the chimney, and with them to besmear his face, to darken his peculiar Italian-like complexion with a more swarthy tint. This done, he divested himself of his blue ribbon and jeweled badge of the Garter, and other princely decorations, his laced ruff and buff coat, and put on a noggan coarse shirt belonging to Edward Martin, a domestic living in the house, and Richard Penderel’s green suit and leathern doublet, but had not time to be so exactly disguised as he was afterward, for both William and Richard Penderel warned the company to use dispatch, because there was a troop of rebels, commanded by Col. Ashenhurst, quartered at Cotsal, but three miles distant, some of which troop arrived within half an hour after the noble company was dispersed.
Richard Penderel conducted the king out through a back door, unknown to any of his followers, except a trusted few of the lords, who followed him into the back premises, and as far as an adjacent wood, belonging to the domain of Boscobel, called Spring Coppice, about half a mile from Whiteladies, where they took a sorrowful farewell of him, leaving him under the watchful care of three of the trusty Penderel brethren — William, Humphrey, and George. The Earl of Derby and the other gentlemen then returned to their comrades at Whiteladies, where, mounting in hot haste, with the intrepid Charles Giffard for their conductor, they scoured off on the north road; but a little beyond Newport they were surrounded by the rebels, and after some resistance, were made prisoners. Charles Giffard contrived to effect his escape from the inn at Banbury, where they halted, but the loyal Earl of Derby, who had sacrificed his own personal safety by resigning to his sovereign the little city of refuge at Boscobel, instead of occupying it himself, was subjected to the mockery of a pretended trial by the rebels, and beheaded, although he had only surrendered on a solemn promise of receiving quarter — promise which were never regarded by Cromwell and his associates. The cool-blooded malignity with which, in his dispatch, announcing his triumph at Worcester, Cromwell points out the noble captives, whom the fortunes of war had placed in his magnanimous hands, to his merciless tools as “objects of their justice,” what was it but signing their death-warrants by anticipation, before the mock trials took place of the fore-doomed victims? and how revolting, after that death-whoop, appears the Pharisaical cant of his concluding sentences:
“The dimensions of this mercy are above my thoughts — it is, for aught I know, a crowning mercy. I am bold humbly to beg that the fatness of these continued mercies may not occasion pride and wantonness, as formerly the life hath done to a chosen people.”
If Cromwell had understood the true meaning of the Saviour’s words, “I will have mercy, and not sacrifice,” he would probably have acted more like a Christian and written less like a Jew.
“But to return,” saith the quaint chronicler of Boscobel, “to the duty of my attendance on his majesty in Spring Coppice. By that time Richard Penderel had conveyed him to the obscurest part of it, it was about sun-rising on Thursday morning, and the heavens wept bitterly at these calamities, insomuch that the thickest tree in the wood was not able to keep his majesty dry, nor was their any thing for him to sit on; wherefore Richard went to Francis Yates’s house, a trusty neighbor, who had married his wife’s sister, where he borrowed a blanket, which he folded and laid on the ground for his majesty to sit on.” A three-legged stool would have been a luxury, at that comfortless period, to the throneless monarch, who claimed three realms as his rightful inheritance.
Richard Penderel, when he borrowed the blanket of his sister-in-law, the good-wife Yates, considerately begged her to proved a comfortable breakfast and bring it to him, at a place which he appointed in the wood. She presently made ready a mess of milk, and brought it, with bread, butter, and eggs, to the cold, wet, and half-famished king. Charles was, at first, a little startled at her appearance, but, perceiving she came on a kindly errand, he frankly appealed to her feminine compassion in these words:
“Good woman, can you be faithful to a distressed cavalier?”
“Yes, sir,” she replied; “I will die rather than discover you!”
The king, well satisfied with the honest plainness of her answer, was able to eat with a hearty relish the simple fare she had brought 12 him. In the course of that day, he made up his mind to leave his woodland retreat, and endeavor to get into Wales. Richard Penderel, having consented to attend him in the capacity of a guide, conducted him first to his own house, Hobbal Grange, “where the good-wife Penderel had not only the honor to see his majesty,” pursues our authority, “but to see him attended by her son.” A greater honor far, it was for her to feel that she was the mother of five sons, whom all the wealth of England would not have bribed, nor all the terrors of a death of torture intimidated, to betray their fugitive sovereign to those who thirsted for his blood. Cornelia, the mother of the Gracchi, had less reason to feel proud of her filial jewels, than this rustic English matron of her brave Shropshire lads. She had lost a sixth son, who had been slain fighting in the cause of King Charles I. Hobbal Grange was the paternal farm where these six brethren, William, John, Richard, Humphrey, Thomas, and George, were born. Thomas, George, and John, had all enlisted in the service of the late king, and fought for him as long as he had an army in the field; William was the house steward at Boscobel; Humphrey was the miller at Whiteladies; and Richard rented a part of his mother’s farm and house, Hobbal Grange; he also pursued the business of a woodman. At Hobbal Grange, the king’s disguise was completed, and he was furnished with a woodman’s bill, to enable him the better to act the part of Richard Penderel’s man, and it was agreed that he should assume the name of Will Jones. When all these arrangements had been made, and his homely supper ended, his majesty set out at nine o’clock, with intent to walk that night to Madely, in Shropshire, about five miles from Whiteladies, within a mile of the river Severn, which he would have to cross, in order to get into Wales.
Charles found his clouted shoes so uneasy to his feet on this pedestrian journey, that more than once he was fain to walk without, as less painful. About two miles from Madely, in passing Evelin Mill, the king and his trusty guide got an alarm; for Richard unwittingly permitting the gate to clap, the miller came out and challenged them, by asking, gruffly, “Who was there?” Richard to avoid him, hastily drew the king out of the usual track, and led him through a brook, which they were compelled to ford, and the king’s shoes getting full of water increased the uneasiness of his galled and blistered feet. His majesty was afterward wont, in recounting his adventures, to say, that “here he was in great danger of losing his guide, but the rustling of Richard’s calf-skin breeches was the best direction he had to follow him in that dark night.”
Charles was unconscious at the time how near he was to a party of his own friends, who had just taken refuge in Evelin Mill, and that the honest miller who had caused him so much alarm and distress by his challenge, was only doing his duty by the fugitive cavaliers in keeping guard to prevent a surprise from skulking foes or spies.
His majesty arrived at Madely about midnight, in weary plight; Richard conducted his royal master to the house of a loyal gentleman there, of the name of Woolf, on whose integrity he knew he could rely. The family had retired to rest, but Richard took the liberty of knocking till Mr. Woolf’s daughter came to the door and inquired, “Who that late comer was?” he replied, “The king.” An announcement that would, doubtless, have put any young lady into a flutter at a period less disastrous to royalty, but such was the tragic romance of the epoch, that persons of all classes were familiarized to the most startling events and changes; the only source of surprise to honest gentlefolks was, the circumstance of finding their heads safe on their own shoulders in the midst of the horrors of military executions, which nearly decimated the neighborhood. Miss Woolf neither questioned the fact, nor hesitated to imperil herself and family be receiving the proscribed fugitive within her doors. She knew the integrity of Richard Penderel, and appreciated the tribute he paid to her courage and her truth, by confiding such a trust to her. The king refreshed and reposed himself beneath this hospitable roof for awhile, but as the rebels kept guard upon the passage of the Severn, and it was apprehended that a party of them, who were expected to pass through the town, might quarter themselves, which frequently happened, in that house, it was judged safer for the royal stranger to sleep in the adjacent barn. His majesty accordingly retired thither, attended by his trusty guide and life-guardsman, Richard Penderel, and remained concealed in that humble shelter the whole of the next day.
The intelligence which Mr. Woolf procured, meantime, was such as to convince him that it would be too hazardous for the king to attempt to prosecute his journey into Wales, and that the best thing he could do would be to return to Boscobel House, as affording facilities for his concealment till a safer opening for his retreat could be found. The king being of the same opinion, it was resolved that he should retrace his steps the next night, and meantime, his hands not being sufficiently embrowned for the character he personated, Mrs. Woolf brought some walnut-leaves and stained them. At eleven o’clock, he and the faithful Richard Penderel resumed their march, but midway between Madely and Boscobel, Charles was so completely overcome with grief, fatigue, and the pain he endured from his blistered feet, in his attempts to walk in the stiff shoes, that at last he flung himself on the ground, “declaring life was not worth the struggle of preserving, and that he would rather die than endure the misery he suffered.” Richard gave him such comfort as his kindly nature suggested, and bidding him be of good cheer, and wait God’s time for better fortunes, at last persuaded him to make a successful effort to reach Boscobel. 13 They arrived in the immediate vicinity about three o’clock on the Sunday morning; Richard left his majesty in the wood, while he went to reconnoitre, not knowing whether a party of Cromwell’s soldiers might not have occupied the house in their absence. Fortunately, he found no one there but William Penderel, his wife, and the brave cavalier, Colonel Carlis, who had been the last man to retreat from Worcester, and, having succeeded in making his escape, had been for some time concealed in Boscobel Wood, and had come to ask relief of William Penderel, his old acquaintance. Richard informed him and William Penderel that the king was in the wood, and they all three went to pay their devoir, and found his majesty sitting, like melancholy Jacques, on the root of a tree. He was very glad to see the colonel, and proceeded with him and the Penderels to Boscobel House, and there did eat bread and cheese heartily, and, as an extraordinary treat, William’s wife, whom his majesty was pleased to address merrily by the title of “My dame Joan,” made a posset for him of thin milk and small beer — no “very dainty dish,” one would think, “to set before a king;” but doubtless, in his present condition, more acceptable than the most exquisite plate of dilligrout that was ever served up by the lord of the Manor of Bardolf, cum privilegio, at the coronation banquet of any of his royal predecessors.
“My dame Joan,” also performed another charitable service for her luckless liege lord, by bringing some warm water to bathe his galled and travel-soiled feet. Colonel Carlis pulled off his majesty’s shoes, which were full of gravel, and his wet stockings, and there being no other shoes that would fit the royal fugitive, the good wife rendered these still more stiff and uncomfortable, in her zeal to dry them, by putting hot embers in them while the colonel was washing his master’s feet.
When his majesty was thus refreshed, they all united in persuading him to go back into the wood, having great reason to apprehend that the roundhead troopers, who were then hunting the country round with blood-hounds, on a keen scent for their prey, would come and search Boscobel House. Humphrey Penderel, the miller, had been to Shefnal the day before, to pay some military imposts to the roundhead Captain Broadwaye, at whose house he encountered one of Cromwell’s colonels, who had just been dispatched from Worcester in quest of the king. This man, having learned that the king had been at Whiteladies, and that Humphrey dwelt in that immediate neighborhood, examined him strictly, and laid before him both the penalty of concealing the royal fugitive “which,” he said, “was death without mercy, and the reward for discovering him, which should be a thousand pounds ready money.”
Neither threats nor bribes could overcome the loyal integrity of the stout-hearted miller, who pleaded ignorance so successfully that he was dismissed, and hastening, to Boscobel, brought the alarming tidings of the vicinity of the soldiers, and the price that had been set on is majesty’s head.
The danger of his remaining in Boscobel House being considered imminent, it was determined by the faithful brothers to conceal the king and Colonel Carlis, whose life was in no less danger than that of his master, in a thick spreading oak. Having made choice of one which appeared to afford the greatest facility for concealment, they assisted the king and Colonel Carlis to ascend it, brought them such provisions as they could get, and a cushion for the king to sit on. In this unsuspected retreat they passed the day. The king having gone through much fatigue, and taken little or no rest for several nights, was so completely worn out, that having placed himself in a reclining position, with his head resting on Colonel Carlis’s knee, he fell asleep, and slumbered away some hours — the colonel being careful to preserve him from falling.
Pope’s popular, but long suppressed line,
always makes me think that he must have been familiar with the incident which my father’s mother, Elizabeth Cotterel, who was the grand-daughter of a cadet of the old loyal family of that name, in Staffordshire, and maternally descended from one of the honest Penderel brothers, was accustomed to relate as a fact, derived from family tradition, connected with the perils and hair-breadth escapes of Charles II., at Boscobel.
“The roundhead troopers,” she said, “having tracked the king, first to Whiteladies, and then to Boscobel Forest, were led, by the keen scent of their bloodhounds, just at the twilight hour, to the very tree in which he and Colonel Carlis were hidden. The traitors, a sergeant and five others of the same company, made a halt under the Royal Oak, and began to reconnoitre it, while their dogs came baying and barking round about the trunk. Suddenly the leaves began to rustle, and one of the villains cried out,
“ ‘Hallo! some one is surely hidden here! — look how the branches shake.’
“ ‘It will be worth a thousand pounds to us if it be the young king,’ said another.
“Then the sergeant asked ‘who would volunteer to ascend the tree, and earn a larger share of the reward by taking the supposed prize alive;’ but, as no one appeared willing to risk the chance of encountering a clapperclawing from the royal lion, dealt from a vantage height, he was just giving the word for them to fire a volley into the tree, ‘when, by the grace of God,’” the old lady would add, with impressive solemnity, “a white owl flew out from the thickest covert of the branches and screeched ‘fie upon them!’ as well she might; where upon the false traitors hooted out a curse as bitter as that of Meroz on the poor bird, and growled to each other ‘that it was she that had misled 14 their dogs, and had stirred the leaves withal, to mock themselves; howsomever, they would have a shot at her, to teach her better manners than to screech at the soldiers of the Lord.’ But though five of the sorry knaves banged off their musketoons at the harmless bird, not one of them was marksman enough to hit a feather of her. Lastly, the sergeant took out a printed copy of the proclamation, promising ‘the reward of a thousand pounds for the apprehension of the young man, Charles Stuart, eldest son of the late King Charles,’ and fastened it on the trunk of the royal oak where his majesty was sitting in the branches above them, hearing all they said, and an eye-witness of their treason.”
The breathless interest which this oral chronicle was wont to excite among juvenile loyalists of the third generation may be imagined, but the old lady had another tradition, of yet more thrilling import, engraven on the tablets of her memory, “derived, like the first,” as she declared, “from those who could well vouch for its authenticity.” As it forms a curious sequel to the other, and is really too good to be lost, I take leave to relate it, without expecting my readers to put the same degree of faith in my grandmother’s traditionary lore as I have always been dutifully accustomed to do.
“The roundhead sergeant and his comrades, after they had retired from the vicinity of the royal oak, proceeded to Hobbal Grange, to refresh themselves at the expense of Richard Penderel, where, finding his wife alone, rocking the cradle of her infant boy, who was not well and very fractious, they, after she had brought out the best perry and mead the house afforded began to cross-question her about the king’s previous appearance at Whiteladies, and, as they had done by her brother-in-law, Humphrey Penderel, to ply her with alternate threats and temptations, in order to induce her to discover any thing she might have learned on the subject. The amount of the reward for the apprehension of the royal fugitive had hitherto been concealed by Richard from his wife, probably from the painful consciousness of her weak point. At any rate, she heard it now with astonished ears, and the sergeant, in confirmation of his statement, displayed one of the printed copies of the proclamation to that effect. ‘A thousand pounds! — a sum beyond her powers of calculation! The price of blood! — what then? Some one would earn it, why should not she? She held parley with her besetting sin, and her desire of ‘the accursed thing’ grew stronger. At that moment her husband appeared, followed by the disguised king, who, cramped and exhausted with sitting so many hours in the tree, was coming to her hearth to warm and refresh himself, unconscious what unwelcome guests were already in possession of the Grange. The young wife hastened to Richard Penderel, showed him the paper, and whispered —
“ ‘What is the king to us? A thousand pounds would make our fortunes.’
“ ‘I’ll cleave thy skull next moment, woman, an’ thou dost,’ was Richard Penderel’s stern rejoinder, grasping his wood-ax with a significant gesture.
“He spoke in a tone which, though so low as to be audible to no other ear than hers, thrilled every vein in her body with terror. She knew he was a man who never broke his word, and she trembled lest the suspicions of the sergeant and his gang should have been excited by the emotions betrayed by her husband and herself during their brief passionate conference. She glanced at them, and saw they were watching her husband, and scrutinizing the disguised king, who, yielding to the force of habit, had forgot his assumed character of Richard’s serving-man so far as to seat himself uninvited on the only unoccupied stool in the room. Luckily, the cross baby, offended at the presence of so many strangers, set up his pipes, and began to scream and cry most lustily; at which Mistress Richard Penderel, affecting to be in a violent passion, snatched him out of the cradle, and thrusting him into the arms of the astonished king, on whom she bestowed a sound box on the ear at the same time, exclaimed, ‘Thou lazy, good-for-naught fellow, wilt thou no so much as put out thy hand to rock the cradle? Take the boy to thee, and quiet him; he makes such a bawling, thy betters can’t hear themselves speak.’
“The baby, finding himself in the hands of an unpracticed male nurse, continued to scream, and the mother to scold, till the sergeant rose up, with a peevish execration, implying that he would rather hear the roar of all the cannon that were fired at Worcester, than a chorus like that; and giving the word to his company, marched off in the full persuasion that Charles was the awkwardest lout in Shropshire, and his mistress the bitterest shrew he had seen for many a day.”
After this alarm, it was judged better for the king to return to Boscobel House, and betake himself to the secret place of concealment, where the Earl of Derby had been safely hidden before the battle of Worcester. Dame Joan had provided some chickens that night, and cooked them in her best style for supper, for her royal guest — a dainty to which he had been unaccustomed for some time. She also put a little pallet in the secret recess for his majesty’s use, who was persuaded to let William Penderel shave him, and cut his hair close with a pair of scissors, according to the country fashion. Colonel Carlis told the king, “Will was but a mean barber; “ his majesty replied, “That he had never been shaved by any barber before,” and bade William burn the hair he cut off. William, however, carefully preserved the royal locks, as precious memorials of this adventure, which were afterward in great request among the noble families of the neighborhood, who were eager to obtain the smallest portion of those relics.
After supper, Colonel Carlis asked the king, “What meat he would like for his Sunday’s 15 dinner?” his majesty said, “Mutton, if it might be had.” Now, there was none in the house, and it was considered dangerous for William to go to any place to purchase it; so Colonel Carlis repaired to Mr. William Staunton’s fold, chose the fattest sheep there, stuck it with his dagger, and sent Will Penderel to bring it home. *
On Sunday morning, Charles, finding his dormitory none of the best, rose early, and entering the gallery near it, was observed to spend some time in prayer. After the fulfillment of this duty, which was doubtless performed with unwonted fervency, “his majesty, coming down into the parlor, his nose fell a bleeding, which put his poor faithful servants in a fright,” till he reassured them, by saying it was a circumstance of frequent occurrence. He was very cheerful that day, and merrily assisted in cooking some mutton-collops from the stolen sheep provided by Colonel Carlis, on which subject he was afterward fond of joking with that devoted companion of his perils. The Penderel brothers, keeping watch and ward, in readiness to give the alarm, if any soldiers approached the mansion, the king felt himself in a state of security, “and spent some part of this Lord’s-day in a pretty arbor in Boscobel Garden, situated on a mount, with a stone table and seats within. In this place, he passed some time in reading, and commended it for its retiredness.”
John Penderel having meantime, brought the welcome intelligence that Lord Wilmot, to whom he had acted as a guide when he left Whiteladies, had found a safe asylum at the house of Mr. Whitgreave, of Mosely, the king sent him back to inform those gentlemen “that he would join them there at twelve that night.” The distance being about five miles, John returned to tell his majesty they would be in readiness to meet him there.
The king not being yet recovered from the effect of his walk to Madely and back, it was agreed that he should ride on Humphrey’s mill-horse, which was forthwith fetched home from grass, and accoutred with a pitiful old saddle and worse bridle. Before mounting, the king bade farewell to Colonel Carlis, who could not safely attend him, being to well known in that neighborhood.
The night was dark and rainy, dismal as the fortunes of the fugitive king, who, mounting Humphrey’s mare, rode toward Mosely, attended by an especial body-guard of the five Penderels and their brother-in-law, Francis Yates; each of these was armed with a bill and pikestaff, having pistols in their pockets. Two marched before, one on each side their royal charge, and two came behind, a little in the rear — all resolutely determined, in case of danger, to have shown their valor in defending as well as they had done their fidelity in concealing their distressed sovereign. After some experience of the horse’s paces, the king declared, “It was the heaviest, dull jade he ever bestrode.” Humphrey, who was the owner of the beast, wittily replied —
“My liege, can you blame the mare for going heavily when she bears the weight of three kingdoms on her back?”
When they arrived at Penford Mill, within two miles of Mr. Whitgreave’s house, his majesty was recommended by his guides to dismount, and proceed the rest of the way on foot, being a more private path, and nearer withal. At last, they arrived at the place appointed, which was a little grove of trees, in a close near Mr. Whitgreave’s house, called Lea Soughes. There, Mr. Whitgreave and Mr. John Huddleston, the priest, met his majesty, in order to conduct him, by a private way, to the mansion, Richard and John Penderel, and Francis Yates continuing their attendance, but William, Humphrey and George returned to Boscobel with the horse. Charles, not quite aware of this arrangement, was going on without bidding them farewell, but turning back, he apologized to them in these words:
“My troubles make me forget myself: I thank you all.”
And so, giving them his hand to kiss, took a gracious leave of those true liegemen.
Mr. Whitgreave conducted the king into the secret chamber occupied by Lord Wilmot, who was expecting his return with great impatience, fearing lest the king should have missed his way, or been taken. As soon as Wilmot saw his royal master, he knelt and embraced his knees, and Charles, deeply moved, kissed him on the cheek, and asked, with much solicitude.
“What has become of Buckingham, Cleveland, and the others?”
Wilmot could only answer, doubtfully, “I hope they are safe.” Then turning to Mr. Whitgreave and Huddleston, to whom he had not then confided the quality of the fugitive cavalier for whom he had requested this asylum, he said:
“Though I have concealed my friend’s name all this while, I must now tell you this is my master, your master, and the master of us all.”
Charles gave his hand to Whitgreave and Huddleston for them to kiss, and after commending their loyalty, and thanking them for their fidelity to his friend, which, he assured them, he never should forget, desired to see the place of concealment he was to occupy. Having seen it, and expressed his satisfaction, he returned to Lord Wilmot’s chamber, where, his nose beginning to bleed again, he seated himself on the bedside, and drew forth such a pocket-handkerchief as was never seen in royal hands before, but it accorded with the rest of his array. Charles was dressed, at that time, in an old leathern doublet, a pair of green breeches, and a peasant’s upper garment, known 16 in this country by the name of a “jump coat,” of the same color; a pair of his own stockings, with the tops cut off, because they were embroidered, a pair of stirrup stockings over them, which had been lent him at Madely; a pair of clouted shoes, cut and slashed, to give ease to his royal feet, an old gray, greasy hat, without a lining, and a noggen shirt, of the coarsest manufacture. Mr. Huddleston, observing that the roughness of the shirt irritated the king’s skin so much as to deprive him of rest, brought one of his own, made of smooth flaxen linen, to Lord Wilmot, and asked, “If his majesty would condescend to make use of it?” which Charles gladly did. Mr. Huddleston then pulled off his majesty’s wet, uncomfortable shoes and stockings, and dried his feet, when he found that some white paper, which had been injudiciously put between his stockings and his skin, having got rucked and rolled up, had served to increase, instead of alleviating the inflammation.
Mr Whitgreave brought up some biscuits and a bottle of sack, for the refreshment of his royal guest, who, after he had partaken of them, exclaimed with some vivacity,
“I am now ready for another march; and if it shall please God to place me once more at the head of eight or ten thousand good men, of one mind, and resolved to fight, I should not despair of driving the rogues out of my kingdom.”
Day broke, and the king, feeling in need of repose, was conducted to the artfully concealed hiding-place, where a pallet was placed for his accommodation, for his host durst not put him into a bed in one of the chambers.
After some rest taken in the hole, which was unfortunately too close and hot to allow of comfortable repose, Charles rose, and seeing Mr. Whitgreave’s mother, was pleased to greet her with great courtesy, and to honor her with a salute. His place, during the day, was a closet over the porch, where he could see, unseen, every one who came up to the house.
That afternoon, a party of the roundhead soldiers arrived, with intent to arrest Mr. Whitgreave, having had information that he had been at Worcester fight.
“If,” said Lord Wilmot to him, “they carry you off, and put you to the torture, to force you to confession, I charge you to give me up without hesitation, which may, perhaps, satisfy them, and save the king.”
Charles was then lying on Mr. Huddleston’s bed, but his generous host, instead of caring for his own danger, hurried him away into the secret hiding place; then, setting all the chamber doors open, went boldly down to the soldiers, and assured them that the report of his having been in the battle of Worcester was untrue, for he had not been from his own home for upward of a fortnight; to which all his neighbors bearing witness; the soldiers not only left him at liberty, but departed without searching the house.
The same day, only a few hours after his majesty had left Boscobel, two parties of the rebels came thither in quest of him. The first, being a company of the county militia, searched the house with some civility, but the others, who were Captain Broadwaye’s men, behaved in a very ruffianly manner, searched the house with jealous scrutiny, plundered it of every thing portable, and after devouring all the little stock of provisions, presented a pistol at William Penderel, to intimidate him into giving them some information, and much frightened “my dame Joan,” but failed to extort any confessions touching the royal guest who had so recently departed. They also paid a second visit to Whiteladies, and not only searched every corner of it, but broke down much of the wainscot, and finished by beating a prisoner severely who had been frightened into informing them that he came in company with the king from Worcester to that place, and had left him concealed there.
On the Tuesday, old Mrs. Whitgreave, who did her best to amuse her royal guest, by telling him all the news she could collect, informed him that a countryman, who had been up to the house that morning, had said, “that he heard that the king on his retreat, had rallied and beaten his enemies at Warrington Bridge, and that three kings had come in to his assistance.”
“Surely,” rejoined Charles, with a smile, “they must be the three kings of Cologne ** come down from heaven, for I can imagine none else.”
Looking out of his closet window, that day, Charles saw two soldiers pass the gate, and told Mr. Huddleston, “he knew one of them to be a Highlander of his own regiment, who little thought his king and colonel were so near.”
Mr. Huddleston had three young gentlemen under his care for education, staying in the same house — young Sir John Preston, Mr. Thomas Patyn, and Mr. Francis Reynolds. These he stationed at several garret windows that commanded the road, to watch and give notice if they saw any soldiers approaching, pretending to be himself in danger of arrest. The youths performed this service with diligent care all day, and when they sat down to supper, Sir John said merrily to his companions, “Come, lads, let us eat heartily, for we have been upon the life-guard to-day.”
Lord Wilmot’s friend, Colonel Lane, of Bentley, had, previously to the king’s arrival, offered to pass him on to Bristol, as the escort of his sister, Mrs. Jane Lane, who had fortunately obtained from one of the commanders, a passport for herself and her groom to go to Bristol, to see her sister, who was near her confinement. This offer Lord Wilmot had actually accepted, when John Penderel, bringing him word that the king was coming to Mosely, he generously transferred that chance for escape to his royal master. Lord Wilmot, having apprised the colonel and fair mistress Jane of the king’s intention to personate her groom Colonel 17 Lane came, by appointment, on Tuesday night, between twelve and one, to the corner of Mr. Whitgreave’s orchard, to meet and convey his majesty to Bentley. The night was dark, and cold enough to render the loan of a cloak, which Mr. Huddleston humbly offered for his sovereign’s use, extremely acceptable. Charles took his leave courteously of old Mrs. Whitgreave, whom he kissed, and gave many thanks for his entertainment, and used warm expressions of gratitude to her son and Mr. Huddleston, telling them, “that he was very sensible of the danger with which their concealing him might be attended to themselves,” and considerately gave them the address of a merchant in London, who should have orders to supply them with money, and the means of crossing the sea, if they desired to do so, and promised, “if ever God were pleased to restore him to his dominance, not to be unmindful of their services to him.” They knelt and kissed his hand, and prayed Almighty God to bless and preserve him, then reverentially attended him to the orchard, where Mr. Whitgreave told Colonel Lane “he delivered his great charge into this hands, and besought him to take care of his majesty.”
Charles proceeded safely to Bentley with Colonel Lane, where as he was to perform the part of a menial, he was under the necessity of taking a seat by the kitchen fire, next morning, to prevent suspicion.
The cook, observing that he appeared an idle hand, ordered him to “have a care that the roast meat did not burn” — a command that must have reminded the incognito majesty of England of the adventure of his illustrious ancestor, Alfred, in the herdsman’s cottage, when he got into disgrace with the good wife by not paying a proper degree of attention to the baking of the cakes.
The same morning, we are told, a person suspected of being a spy and informer, coming into Colonel Lane’s kitchen, and casting a scrutinizing eye on the king, observed that he was a stranger, and began to ask a leading question or two, when one of the servants, who knew his royal master, and feared he would commit himself, gave him two or three blows with the basting ladle, and bade him “mind his own business, which was to keep the spit going, and not turn round to prate, or he would get basted by the cook.”
Charles only staid at Bentley, till some articles of Colonel Lane’s livery could be prepared for his use, before he escorted Mrs. Jane Lane to Bristol, she riding on a pillion behind him, and Lord Wilmot following at a little distance. Mistress Jane conducted herself with great prudence and discretion to the royal bachelor during the journey, treating him as her master when alone, and as her servant before strangers. When they arrived at the house of her sister, Mrs. Norton, in Bristol, the first person the king saw was one of his own chaplains sitting at the door, amusing himself with looking at some people playing at bowls. His majesty, after performing his duty as Colonel Lane’s servant, by taking proper care of the horse which had carried him and his fair charge from Bentley, left the stable, and came into the house, feigning himself sick of the ague, Mrs. Jane having suggested that device as an excuse for keeping his room, which she had caused to be prepared for him. The butler, who had been a royalist soldier in the service of Charles I., entering the room to bring the sick stranger some refreshment, as soon as he looked in his pale woe-worn face, recognized the features of his young king, and falling on his knees, while the tears overflowed his cheeks, exclaimed,
“I am rejoiced to see your majesty.”
“Keep the secret from every one, even from your master,” was the reply, and the faithful creature rendered implicit obedience. He, and Mrs. Jane Lane, constituted Charles’s Privy Council at Bristol. No ship being likely to sail from that port for a month to come, the kind considered it dangerous to remain there so long. He therefore repaired to the residence of Colonel Wyndham, in Dorsetshire, where he was affectionately welcomed by that loyal cavalier and his lady, who had been his nurse. The venerable mother of the colonel, though she had lost three sons and one grandchild in his service, considered herself only too happy to have the honor of receiving him as her guest.
Finally, after adventures too numerous to be recorded here, the fugitive king succeeded in securing a passage toward the end of October, in a little bark from Shoreham to Dieppe, where he landed in safety, more then forty persons, some of them in very humble circumstances, having been instrumental to his escape, not one of whom could be induced by the large reward offered by the Parliament for his apprehension, to betray him.
A certain eloquent Scottish essayist, who endeavors to apologize for the conduct of Algernon Sidney, and other worthies of his party, in accepting the bribes of France by impugning the integrity of the English character, and goes so far as to express a doubt whether there were an honest man to be met with at that epoch, save Andrew Marvel, appears to have forgotten the glorious instances of stainless honesty and virtue afforded by the Penderel brothers, and other noble men of all degrees, who proved themselves superior to all temptations that could be offered.
When England had, by general acclamation, called home her banished king, the five Shropshire brothers were summoned to attend him at Whitehall, on Wednesday, the 13th of June, 1661, when his majesty was pleased to acknowledge their faithful services, and signified his intention of notifying his gratitude by a suitable reward, inquiring if they had any particular favor to ask. They only asked an exemption from the penal laws, with liberty for 18 themselves and their descendants to enjoy the free exercise of their religion, being members of the Romish church. This request was granted, and their names, together with those of their kinswoman Mrs. Yates, Mr. Huddleston, and Mr. Whitgreave, were especially exempted in the statute from the pains and penalties of recusancy.
King Charles granted a moderate pension to them and their descendants for ever.
“The Oak,” says a contemporary, whose pleasant little chronicle of Boscobel was published in 1660, the year of the restoration, “is now properly called ‘The Royal Oake of Boscobel,’ nor will it lose that name while it continues a tree: and since his majesty’s happy restoration that those mysteries have been revealed, hundreds of people for many miles round, have flocked to see the famous Boscobel, which, as you have heard, had once the honor to be the palace of his sacred majesty, but chiefly to behold the Royal Oake, which has been deprived of all its young boughs by the visitors of it, who keep them in memory of his majesty’s happy preservation.”
Charles himself subsequently made a pilgrimage to the scene of his past troubles: when he visited the Royal Oak, he was observed to gather a handful of the acorns. Some of these he planted with his own hand in Saint James’s Park. A promising young tree, which sprang from one of those acorns, which Charles had planted in the queen’s pleasure garden, within sight of his bed-chamber in Saint James’s Palace, and was accustomed to water and tend with great pleasure, was called the King’s Royal Oak, and had become an object of interest to the people as a relic of that popular sovereign; but was destroyed by Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, as soon as her husband obtained the grant of the ground on which it stood, for the site of Marlborough House. This was regarded as an outrage on popular feeling.
Of all our national commemorations, that of the restoration of monarchy, on the 29th of May, held the strongest hold on the affections of the people; the firmness with which they continued to observe that anniversary for a century after the expulsion of the royal line of Stuart, affords a remarkable proof of the constitutional attachment of this country to the cause of legitimacy. As long as that feeling lasted, the grave of William Penderel, in St. Giles’s church-yard, was duly decked with oaken garlands by nameless loyalists of low degree, as often as the 29th of May came round; and men, women, and children, wore oak leaves and acorns in memory of the fact,
* When honest William Penderel subsequently waited on Mr. Staunton, and acknowledged the abstraction of the sheep, offering at the same time, to pay for it, that loyal gentleman laughed heartily at the incident, and said, “He was glad to hear that his majesty had tasted his mutton, and much good might it do him.”
** Elf Note. The Three Kings of Cologne were “the representatives of the three magi who came from the East to offer gifts to the infant Jesus. Tradition makes them Eastern kings, and at Cologne, the names ascribed to them are Kaspar, Melchior, and Balthazar.”. See Albert Southwick’, Quizzism and It’s Key, Question #168, p. 53.
* From Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, Volume II, Number VII, December, 1850; Harper & Bros; New York; 1906; pp. 10-18.