On January 30, 1649, the Stuart monarchy took a major hit when Charles I was tried and executed by the Rump Parliament, making way for the Commonwealth of England to take control. His eldest son, Charles II, fled England leaving the control of the country in the hands of Oliver Cromwell. Two years later, in 1651, Charles tried to make his triumphant return to restore the monarchy. However, it failed miserably at the Battle of Worcester on September 3, 1651; Charles II was able to escape with the help of those loyal to the crown. The story of his escape from Cromwell’s men and his exile in Europe are told in Martyn R. Beardsley’s book, “Charles II and His Escape into Exile: Capture the King.”
I would like to thank Pen and Sword Books for sending me a copy of this book. I know that this book is not in the particular timeline that I normally read, but it looked intriguing to me for some reason. It is one of those subjects that I knew absolutely nothing about, so I was looking forward to learning something new.
Charles II was known as the “Merry Monarch” who restored the monarchy, his very extravagant lifestyle, and his numerous mistresses who produced quite a few illegitimate children. His wife, Catherine of Braganza, was unable to provide him with the desired heir that would be able to continue his legacy. He would also endure plots that would try to remove him from the throne and the quagmire of religious struggles between Catholics and Protestants, plus a small event known as the Great Fire of London of 1666. This legacy would come after he became king, but his struggle to achieve his father’s crown was just as dramatic as his actual reign.
Charles II had been in exile ever since his father, Charles I, was executed and replaced by the Commonwealth led by Oliver Cromwell. He returned to his native England with the support of the Scottish soldiers and decided to engage Cromwell’s men in battle at Worcester on September 3, 1651, which ended in a horrific defeat for the royalists. Charles II was able to miraculously escape the carnage with the help of those loyal to the crown, like the Penderel brothers and Jane Lane, Lady Fisher. His rescuers did everything they could to smuggle the young king out of the country, from hiding the king in a tree to disguising him as a Shropshire countryman.
Beardsley does an excellent job to take his readers along the same route that Charles II took to freedom. He uses the writings of Samuel Pepys to start each chapter, goes into depth about each stop, and includes a few fun notes at the end.
It is a relatively easy book to follow, but the problem for me is the fact that I did not the background behind the conflict between the Parliamentarians and the Royalists. Beardsley tries to explain the concepts behind the conflict, but it a bit too brief for my liking.
Overall, I think this was a very well written book about a king on the run for his life. It makes me wonder if other kings escaping their countries had a similar experience. It takes guts to return to a country that you called home after your own countrymen kick you out time after time to become king. The adventures of Charles II and the stories of those who helped him escape to fight another day are thrilling. If you are like me and want to read a daring story from a different dynasty full of action and danger, check out “Charles II and His Escape into Exile: Capture the King” by Martyn R. Beardsley.