Escape of the Children
W E left the mother of Prince Charles, at the close of the last chapter, in the palace of the Louvre in Paris. Though all her wants were now supplied, and though she lived in royal state in a magnificent palace on the banks of the Seine, still she was disconsolate and unhappy. She had, indeed, succeeded in effecting her own escape from the terrible dangers which had threatened her family in England, but she had left her husband and children behind, and she could not really enjoy herself the shelter which she had found from the storm, as long as those whom she so ardently loved were still out, exposed to all its fury. She had six children. Prince Charles, the oldest, was in the western part of England, in camp, acting nominally as the commander of an army, and fighting for his father's throne. He was now fourteen years of age. Next to him was Mary, the wife of the Prince of Orange, who was safe in Holland. She was one year younger than Charles. James, the third child, whose title was now Duke of York, was about ten. He had been left in Oxford when that city was surrendered, and had been taken captive there by the Republican army. The general in command sent him to London a prisoner. It was hard for such a child to be a captive, but then there was one solace in his lot. By being sent to London he rejoined his little sister Elizabeth and his brother Henry, who had remained there all the time. Henry was three years old and Elizabeth was six. These children, being too young, as was supposed, to attempt an escape, were not very closely confined. They were entrusted to the charge of some of the nobility, and lived in one of the London palaces. James was a very thoughtful and considerate boy, and had been enough with his father in his campaigns to understand something of the terrible dangers with which the family were surrounded. The other children were too young to know or care about them, and played blindman's buff and hide and go seek in the great saloons of the palace with as much infantile glee as if their father and mother were as safe and happy as ever.
Though they felt thus no uneasiness and anxiety for themselves, their exiled mother mourned for them, and was oppressed by the most foreboding fears for their personal safety. She thought, however, still more frequently of the babe, and felt a still greater solicitude for her, left as she had been, at so exceedingly tender an age, in a situation of the most extreme and imminent danger. She felt somewhat guilty in having yielded her reluctant consent, for political reasons, to have her other children educated in what she believed a false system of religious faith, and she now prayed earnestly to God to spare the life of this her last and dearest child, and vowed in her anguish that, if the babe were ever restored to her, she would break through all restrictions, and bring her up a true believer. This vow she afterward earnestly fulfilled.
The child, it will be recollected, was left, when Henrietta escaped from Exeter, in the care of the Countess of Morton, a young and beautiful, and also a very intelligent and energetic lady. The child had a visit from its father soon after its mother left it. King Charles, as soon as he heard that Essex was advancing to besiege Exeter, where he knew that the queen had sought refuge, and was, of course, exposed to fall into his power, hastened with an army to her rescue. He arrived in time to prevent Essex from getting possession of the place. He, in fact, drove the besieger away from the town, and entered it himself in triumph. The queen was gone, but he found the child.
The king gazed upon the little stranger with a mixture of joy and sorrow. He caused it to be baptized, and named it Henrietta Anne. The name Henrietta was from the mother; Anne was the name of Henrietta's sister-in-law in Paris, who had been very kind to her in all her troubles. The king made ample arrangements for supplying Lady Morton with money out of the revenues of the town of Exeter, and, thinking that the child would be as safe in Exeter as any where, left her there, and went away to resume again his desperate conflicts with his political foes.
Lady Morton remained for some time at Exeter, but the king's cause every where declined. His armies were conquered, his towns were taken, and he was compelled at last to give himself up a prisoner. Exeter, as well as all the other strongholds in the kingdom, fell into the hands of the parliamentary armies. They sent Lady Morton and the little Henrietta to London, and soon afterward provided them with a home in the mansion at Oatlands, where the queen herself and her other children had lived before. It was a quiet and safe retreat, but Lady Morton was very little satisfied with the plan of remaining there. She wished very much to get the babe back to its mother again in Paris. She heard, at length, of rumors that a plan was forming by the Parliament to take the child out of her charge, and she then resolved to attempt an escape at all hazards.
Henrietta Anne was now two years old, and was beginning to talk a little. When asked what was her name, they had taught her to attempt to reply princess, though she did not succeed in uttering more than the first letters of the word, her answer being, in fact, prah. Lady Morton conceived the idea of making her escape across the country in the disguise of a beggar woman, changing, at the same time, the princess into a boy. She was herself very tall, and graceful, and beautiful, and it was hard for her to make herself look old and ugly. She, however, made a hump for her back out of a bundle of linen, and stooped in her gait to counterfeit age. She dressed herself in soiled and ragged clothes, disfigured her face by reversing the contrivances with which ladies in very fashionable life are said sometimes to produce artificial youth and beauty, and with the child in a bundle on her back, and a staff in her hand, she watched for a favorable opportunity to escape stealthily from the palace, in the forlorn hope of walking in that way undetected to Dover, a march of fifty miles, through a country filled with enemies.
Little Henrietta was to be a boy, and as people on the way might ask the child its name, Lady Morton was obliged to select one for her which would fit, in some degree, her usual reply to such a question. She chose the name Pierre, which sounds, at least, as much like prah as princess does. The poor child, though not old enough to speak distinctly, was still old enough to talk a great deal. She was very indignant at the vile dress which she was compelled to wear, and at being called a beggar boy. She persisted in telling every body whom she met that she was not a boy, nor a beggar, nor Pierre, but the princess, saying it all, however, very fortunately, in such an unintelligible way, that it only alarmed Lady Morton, without, however, attracting the attention of those who heard it, or giving them any information.
Contrary to every reasonable expectation, Lady Morton succeeded in her wild and romantic attempt. She reached Dover in safety. She made arrangements for crossing in the packet boat, which then, as now, plied from Dover to Calais. She landed at length safely on the French coast, where she threw off her disguise, resumed her natural grace and beauty, made known her true name and character, and traveled in ease and safety to Paris. The excitement and the intoxicating joy which Henrietta experienced when she got her darling child once more in her arms, can be imagined, perhaps, even by the most sedate American mother; but the wild and frantic violence of her expressions of it, none but those who are conversant with the French character and French manners can know.
It was not very far from the time of little Henrietta's escape from her father's enemies in London, though, in fact, before it, that Prince Charles made his escape from the island too. His father, finding that his cause was becoming desperate, gave orders to those who had charge of his son to retreat to the southwestern coast of the island, and if the Republican armies should press hard upon him there, he was to make his escape, if necessary, by sea.
The southwestern part of England is a long, mountainous promontory, constituting the county of Cornwall. It is a wild and secluded region, and the range which forms it seems to extend for twenty or thirty miles under the sea, where it rises again to the surface, forming a little group of islands, more wild and rugged even than the land. These are the Scilly Isles. They lie secluded and solitary, and are known chiefly to mankind through the ships that seek shelter among them in storms. Prince Charles retreated from post to post through Cornwall, the danger becoming more and more imminent every day, till at last it became necessary to fly from the country altogether. He embarked on board a vessel, and went first to the Scilly Isles.
From Scilly he sailed eastward toward the coast of France. He landed first at the island of Jersey, which, though it is very near the French coast, and is inhabited by a French population, is under the English government. Here the prince met with a very cordial reception, as the authorities were strongly attached to his father's cause. Jersey is a beautiful island, far enough south to enjoy a genial climate, where flowers bloom and fruits ripen in the warm sunbeams, which are here no longer intercepted by the driving mists and rains which sweep almost perceptibly along the hill-sides and fields of England.
Prince Charles did not, however, remain long in Jersey. His destination was Paris. He passed, therefore, across to the main land, and traveled to the capital. He was received with great honors at his mother's new home, in the palace of the Louvre, as a royal prince, and heir apparent to the British crown. He was now sixteen. The adventures which he met with on his arrival will be the subject of the next chapter.
James, the Duke of York, remained still in London. He continued there for two years, during which time his father's affairs went totally to ruin. The unfortunate king, after his armies were all defeated, and his cause was finally given up by his friends, and he had surrendered himself a prisoner to his enemies, was taken from castle to castle, every where strongly guarded and very closely confined. At length, worn down with privations and sufferings, and despairing of all hope of relief, he was taken to London to be tried for his life. James, in the mean time, with his brother, the little Duke of Gloucester, and his sister Elizabeth, were kept in St. James's Palace, as has already been stated, under the care of an officer to whom they had been given in charge.
The queen was particularly anxious to have James make his escape. He was older than the others, and in case of the death of Charles, would be, of course, the next heir to the crown. He did, in fact, live till after the close of his brother's reign, and succeeded him, under the title of James the Second. His being thus in the direct line of succession made his father and mother very desirous of effecting his rescue, while the Parliament were strongly desirous, for the same reason, of keeping him safely. His governor received, therefore, a special charge to take the most effectual precautions to prevent his escape, and, for this purpose, not to allow of his having any communication whatever with his parents or his absent friends. The governor took all necessary measures to prevent such intercourse, and, as an additional precaution, made James promise that he would not receive any letter from any person unless it came through him.
James's mother, however, not knowing these circumstances, wrote a letter to him, and sent it by a trusty messenger, directing him to watch for some opportunity to deliver it unobserved. Now there is a certain game of ball, called tennis, which was formerly a favorite amusement in England and on the Continent of Europe, and which, in fact, continues to be played there still. It requires an oblong enclosure, surrounded by high walls, against which the balls rebound. Such an enclosure is called a tennis court. It was customary to build such tennis courts in most of the royal palaces. There was one at St. James's Palace, where the young James, it seems, used sometimes to play. Strangers had the opportunity of seeing the young prince in his coming and going to and from this place of amusement, and the queen's messenger determined to offer him the letter there. He accordingly tendered it to him stealthily, as he was passing, saying, "Take this; it is from your mother." James drew back, replying, "I can not take it. I have promised that I will not." The messenger reported to the queen that he offered the letter to James, and that he refused to receive it. His mother was very much displeased, and wondered what such a strange refusal could mean.
Although James thus failed to receive his communication, he was allowed at length, once or twice, to have an interview with his father, and in these interviews the king recommended to him to make his escape, if he could, and to join his mother in France. James determined to obey this injunction, and immediately set to work to plan his escape. He was fifteen years of age, and, of course, old enough to exercise some little invention.
He was accustomed, as we have already stated, to join the younger children in games of hide and go seek. He began now to search for the most recondite hiding places, where he could not be found, and when he had concealed himself in such a place, he would remain there for a very long time, until his playmates had given up the search in despair. Then, at length, after having been missing for half an hour, he would reappear of his own accord. He thought that by this plan he should get the children and the attendants accustomed to his being for a long time out of sight, so that, when at length he should finally disappear, their attention would not be seriously attracted to the circumstance until he should have had time to get well set out upon his journey.
He had, like his mother, a little dog, but, unlike her, he was not so strongly attached to it as to be willing to endanger his life to avoid a separation. When the time arrived, therefore, to set out on his secret journey, he locked the dog up in his room, to prevent its following him, and thus increasing the probability of his being recognized and brought back. He then engaged his brother and sister and his other playmates in the palace in a game of hide and go seek. He went off ostensibly to hide, but, instead of doing so, he stole out of the palace gates in company with a friend named Banfield, and a footman. It was in the rear of the palace that he made his exit, at a sort of postern gate, which opened upon an extensive park. After crossing the park, the party hurried on through London, and then directed their course down the River Thames toward Gravesend, a port near the mouth of the river, where they intended to embark for Holland. They had taken the precaution to disguise themselves. James wore a wig, which, changing the color and appearance of his hair, seemed to give a totally new expression to his face. He substituted other clothes, too, for those which he was usually accustomed to wear. The whole party succeeded thus in traversing the country without detection. They reached Gravesend, embarked on board a vessel there, and sailed to Holland, where James joined the Prince of Orange and his sister, and sent word to his mother that he had arrived there in safety.
His little brother and sister were left behind. They were too young to fly themselves, and too old to be conveyed away, as little Henrietta had been, in the arms of another. They had, however, the mournful satisfaction of seeing their father just before his execution, and of bidding him a last farewell. The king, when he was condemned to die, begged to be allowed to see these children. They were brought to visit him in the chamber where he was confined. His parting interview with them, and the messages of affection and farewell which he sent to their brothers and sisters, and to their mother, constitute one of the most affecting scenes which the telescope of history brings to our view, in that long and distant vista of the past, which it enables us so fully to explore. The little Gloucester was too young to understand the sorrows of the hour, but Elizabeth felt them in all their intensity. She was twelve years old. When brought to her father, she burst into tears, and wept long and bitterly. Her little brother, sympathizing in his sister's sorrow, though not comprehending its cause, wept bitterly too. Elizabeth was thoughtful enough to write an account of what took place at this most solemn farewell as soon as it was over. Her account is as follows:
"What the king said to me on the 29th of January, 1648, the last time I had the happiness to see him.
"He told me that he was glad I was come, for, though he had not time to say much, yet somewhat he wished to say to me, which he could not to another, and he had feared 'the cruelty' was too great to permit his writing. 'But, darling,' he added, 'thou wilt forget what I tell thee.' Then, shedding an abundance of tears, I told him that I would write down all he said to me. 'He wished me,' he said, 'not to grieve and torment myself for him, for it was a glorious death he should die, it being for the laws and religion of the land.' He told me what books to read against popery. He said 'that he had forgiven all his enemies, and he hoped God would forgive them also;' and he commanded us, and all the rest of my brothers and sisters, to forgive them too. Above all, he bade me tell my mother 'that his thoughts had never strayed from her, and that his love for her would be the same to the last;' withal, he commanded me (and my brother) to love her and be obedient to her. He desired me 'not to grieve for him, for he should die a martyr, and that he doubted not but God would restore the throne to his son, and that then we should be all happier than we could possibly have been if he had lived.'
"Then taking my brother Gloucester on his knee, he said, 'Dear boy, now will they cut off thy father's head.' Upon which the child looked very steadfastly upon him. 'Heed, my child, what I say; they will cut off my head, and perhaps make thee a king; but, mark what I say! You must not be a king as long as your brothers Charles and James live; therefore, I charge you, do not be made a king by them.' At which the child, sighing deeply, replied, 'I will be torn in pieces first.' And these words, coining so unexpectedly from so young a child, rejoiced my father exceedingly. And his majesty spoke to him of the welfare of his soul, and to keep his religion, commanding him to fear God, and he would provide for him; all which the young child earnestly promised to do."
After the king's death the Parliament kept these children in custody for some time, and at last they became somewhat perplexed to know what to do with them. It was even proposed, when Cromwell's Republican government had become fully established, to bind them out apprentices, to learn some useful trade. This plan was, however, not carried into effect. They were held as prisoners, and sent at last to Carisbrooke Castle, where their father had been confined. Little Henry, too young to understand his sorrows, grew in strength and stature, like any other boy; but Elizabeth pined and sunk under the burden of her woes. She mourned incessantly her father's cruel death, her mother's and her brother's exile, and her own wearisome and hopeless captivity. "Little Harry", as she called him, and a Bible, which her father gave her in his last interview with her, were her only companions. She lingered along for two years after her father's death, until at length the hectic flush, the signal of approaching dissolution, appeared upon her cheek, and an unnatural brilliancy brightened in her eyes. They sent her father's physician to see if he could save her. His prescriptions did no good. One day the attendants came into her apartment and found her sitting in her chair, with her cheek resting upon the Bible which she had been reading, and which she had placed for a sort of pillow on the table, to rest her weary head upon when her reading was done. She was motionless. They would have thought her asleep, but her eyes were not closed. She was dead. The poor child's sorrows and sufferings were ended forever.
The stern Republicans who now held dominion over England, men of iron as they were, could not but be touched with the unhappy fate of this their beautiful and innocent victim; and they so far relented from the severity of the policy which they had pursued toward the ill-fated family as to send the little Gloucester, after his sister's death, home to his mother.