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AN IMPENDING CRISIS.
In the memoirs of Lady Fanshawe, wife of one of his most devoted adherents, there is a very touching account of her last interview with King Charles at this palace.
“During the King's stay at Hampton Court," writes she, “my husband was with him, to whom he was pleased to talk much of his concerns. I went three times to pay my duty to him, both as I was the daughter of his servant and wife of his servant. The last time I ever saw him, when I took my leave, I could not refrain weeping; when he had saluted me, I prayed God to preserve his Majesty with long life and happy years, he stroked me on the cheek, and said, 'Child, if God pleaseth, it shall be so; but both you and I must submit to God's will, and you know in what hands I am ;' then turning to your father, he said, 'Be sure, Dick, to tell my son all that I have said, and deliver those letters to my wife; pray God bless her! I hope I shall do well;' and taking him in his arms, said, 'Thou hast ever been an honest man, and I hope God will bless thee and make thee a happy servant to my son.
The tone of Charles's conversations with Sir Richard and Lady Fanshawe seems to indicate that he was beginning, as we have said, to have forebodings concerning the future, and, as no progress was made in the negotiations towards an accommodation with his enemies, he could not but grow uneasy as to his position. Nor could he be indifferent to the ominous rumours current, which were frequently carried to him, that he was in danger of assassination while he remained at Hampton Court, nor to the strong, hints, amounting to warnings, which he received on several sides, that it would be wise for him to secure his own safety by flight.
He had, however, given his word to his custodian, Colonel Whalley, that he would not make any attempt to escape without giving him notice and formally withdrawing his promise.
Accordingly Charles felt bound in honour before taking any step in the matter, to notify to the colonel that he wished to be held discharged from his pledge. This he did, through Ashburnham, who sought an interview with Whalley, and told him that the King would no longer consider himself bound to his engagement. Whalley asked
him the reason, to which Ashburnham replied, “the multiplicity of the Scots about the Court was such, and the agitators in the army so violently set against the King, as (for ought I knew) either party might as well take him from Hampton Court."
This was immediately reported by Whalley at the headquarters of the army; and as a result, Ashburnham, who, it may be observed, had used very similar language to Cromwell, was next day dismissed from his post of attendant about the person of the King, and forbidden the precincts of the palace, while the guards about his Majesty were doubled.
Nevertheless, no new restraints were put upon Charles's liberty, and his children were still allowed to visit him as before, the Princess Elizabeth coming to see him at the end of October, and being lodged in a chamber near the King's, opening on to the Long Gallery.
Here were stationed two sentinels, who, according to the Princess, made such a noise at night that she could not sleep, so that Charles, perhaps with the hope that they might be removed, complained to Whalley about it. The Colonel, however, assured him that if the soldiers made any noise it was contrary to his express desire and command, and that he would “double his commands upon them, and give them as strict a charge as he could, not to disturb her Highness.” This he did. Notwithstanding, a second complaint was made, when Whalley told the King that stricter commands he could not give, and that the soldiers assured him they came so gently through the gallery and made so little noise that they conceived it impossible for the Princess to hear them. However, “if his Majesty would be pleased to renew his engagement,” he said, "he would place the sentinels at a more remote distance." This, however, Charles refused to do. “To renew my engagements were a point of honour. You had my engagement; I will not renew it; keep your guards.”
CHARLES I. RESOLVES TO ESCAPE.
CHARLES I.'s ESCAPE FROM HAMPTON COURT.
AFTER the events narrated in our last chapter, things went on at Hampton Court much as before, except that Charles, having now relieved himself from the obligation of his pledged word, immediately set about scheming how he should effect his escape. He sent Mr. Legge, who was now the only one of his old attendants still permitted to remain with him, to see and confer with Ashburnham, who lingered in the neighbourhood, and who himself afterwards entered into communications with Sir John Berkeley on the subject. The result of their discussions was that a meeting between them and the King was arranged to take place one evening in the Long Gallery, to which Ashburnham and Berkeley were to gain access secretly.
In the meanwhile the rumours as to the peril he incurred in remaining at Hampton Court grew so persistent that all hesitation in Charles's mind as to the wisdom of the step he was about to take was dissipated ere the time for adopting a final resolution arrived. Indeed, on the morning of the very day when the meeting was to take place, he received an anonymous letter signed only with the initials E. R., warning him against a design formed by the agitators to take away his life.
This was on the roth of November, on the afternoon of which day Berkeley and Ashburnham were let in through the back way by Colonel Legge, and ushered into the King's presence.
Ashburnham, who was the chief spirit in the enterprise, began by assuring his Majesty that he was ready to obey him in everything, but still he "did most humbly beg of him that he would be pleased to say whether really and in very deed he was afraid of his life in that place, for his going from thence seemed to them an occasion of a very great change in his affairs." His Majesty "protested to God,
that he had great cause to apprehend some attempt upon his person, and did expect every hour when it should bee."
Ashburnham replied that "it did not then become them to make any further inquiry, but to apply themselves to the discharge of their duties, and therefore if his Majesty would be pleased to say whither he would go, they would carry him thither, or lose themselves in the endeavour of it.” The King then told them that "he had some thoughts of going out of the kingdom, but for the shortness of the time to prepare a vessel to transport him, and for the other reasons Ashburnham had sent him by Major Legge, he was resolved to go to the Isle of Wight.”
The details of the plan were then settled, and Ashburnham and Berkeley withdrew to prepare for their execution on the following day.
Next morning being a Thursday, which was one of the days on which Charles wrote his letters abroad, he remained most of the day occupied in his own room. He granted an audience, however, to Colonel Whalley, who asked to see him in order to show him the following remarkable letter from Oliver Cromwell :
“For my beloved cousin Colonel Whalley, at Hampton Court, These.
“Putney, November, 1647. “Dear Cos. Whalley,
“There are rumours abroad of some intended attempt on his Majesty's person. Therefore I pray have a care of your guards. If any such thing should be done, it would be accounted a most horrid
This letter is especially interesting as lending some colour to the accusations brought against Cromwell
, that not only was he aware that the King was meditating an escape and took no steps to prevent it, but that he was even fostering it by retailing the alarming rumours current-if indeed he had not himself set them afloat for that very purpose, and was,
effect, treacherously working for this end in order to entrap and ruin him.
After showing Cromwell's letter to Charles, Colonel Whalley withdrew, and the King was left alone and undis