Oliver Cromwell’s victory at Worcester 1651 marked the end of the Civil Wars.
The escape of Charles II.
Charles II escaped, and now entered upon a scene of adventures the most romantic that can be imagined. After his hair was cut off, the better to disguise his persn, he worked for some days in the habit of a peasant, cutting faggots in a wood. He next made an attempt to retire into Wales, under the conduct of one Pendrel, a poor farmer, who was sincerely attached to his cause. In this attempt, however, he was disappointed; every pass being guarded to prevent their escape. Being obliged to return, he met one Colonel Careless, who had escaped the carnage at Worcester.
In his company the king Charles II was obliged to climb a spreading oak; among the thick branches of which they spent the day together, while they heard the soldiers of the enemy in pursuit of them below. From thence he passed with imminent danger, feeling all the varieties of famine, fatigue, and pain, till he arrived at the house of Colonel Lane, a zealous royalist in Staffordshire. There he deliberated about the means of escaping into France; and Bristol being supposed the properest port, it was resolved that he should, ride thither before this gentleman’s sister, on a visit to one Mrs. Norton, who lived in the neighborhood of that city.
During this journey, he every day met with persons whose faces he knew, and at one time passed through a whole regiment of the enemy’s army. When they arrived at Mrs. Norton’s, the first person they saw was one of his own chaplains sitting at the door, and amusing himself with seeing people play at bowls. Charles II, after taking proper care of his horse in the stable, was shown to an apartment which Mrs. Lane had provided for him as it was said he had the ague.
The butler, however, being sent to him with some refreshment, no sooner beheld his face, which was very pale with anxiety and fatigue, than here collected his king and master; and, failing on his knees, while the tears streamed down his cheeks, cried out, “I am rejoiced to see your majesty.” Charles II was alarmed but made the butler promise that he would keep the secret from every mortal, even from his master: and the honest servant punctually obeyed him.
No ship being found that would for a month set sail from Bristol either for France or Spain, the king was obliged to go elsewhere for a passage. He therefore repaired to the house of Colonel Wyndham in Dorsetshire, where he was cordially received. His mother, a venerable matron, seemed to think the end of her life nobly rewarded in having it in her power to give protection to her king. She expressed no dissatisfaction at having lost three sons and one grandchild in the defence of his cause, since she was honoured in being instrumental in his own preservation. — Pursuing from thence his journey to the sea-side, he once more had a very narrow escape at a little inn, where he set up for the night.
The day had been appointed for a solemn fast; and a fanatical weaver, who had been a soldier in the parliamentary army, was preaching against the king in a little chapel fronting the house. Charles II, to avoid suspicion, was himself among the audience. It happened that a smith, of the same principles with the weaver, had been examining the horses belonging to the passengers, and came to as sire the preacher, that he knew, by the fashion of the shoes, that one of the strangers horses came from the north.
The preacher immediately affirmed, that this horse could belong to no other than Charles II, Stuart, and instantly went with a constable to search the inn. But Charles had taken timely precautions, and left the inn before the constable’s arrival. At Shoreham, in Sussex, a vessel was at at last found, in which he embarked. He was known to so many, that if he had not set fail at that critical moment, it had been impossible for him to escape. After forty-one days concealment, he arrived safely at Feschamp in Normandy. No less than forty men and women had at different times been privy to his escape.
Source: The Naval and Military History of the Wars of England; including the Wars of Scotland and Irland. Vol III. Wars of England during the Reign of the Stuarts.