When Oliver Cromwell’s New Model Army won the Battle of Worcester in 1651, the British Monarchy seemed to be at an end. The only hopes for survival lay with the son of the executed King Charles I, the young man who claimed the title King Charles II but who was now a fugitive. After the battle was lost and won, his only chance to keep hopes of a restoration alive was to escape the country. And so, the flight was on.
This site offers a telling of this story in a number of ways – by a narrative account, through a structured timeline, via a consideration of the characters involved, by examining the important locations of the journey and by listing his nine journeys. It also presents a collection of resources about Charles’s 43-day journey, which culminated in his escape to France and consequent survival to reclaim the throne in 1660. The map below shows a broad outline of the route he took:
In short, this site records how Charles was on the run in Southern England for 43 days, making 9 different journeys, travelling for 17 days, covering an estimated 441 miles (nearly all on horseback), employing at least 38 key helpers, engaging with around 45 key locations, surviving 11 near encounters with troops, sleeping in 16 different places and hiding in 4 priest holes and 1 oak tree. Quite a story.
The Monarch’s Way
This website has been inspired by the Monarch’s Way, a 625-mile walking route which approximately follows the path taken by Charles. I have completed around 90% of the walk with two friends and will complete the rest of the walk by October of this year. The story of our journey so far is to be found here.
The Monarch’s Way walk does not attempt to follow the precise roads taken by Charles as he sought to escape from the Roundhead troops – most such roads have long since been surfaced over. What the Monarch’s Way does instead is to join together the various towns, villages, country houses and inns associated with the escape using walker-friendly rights-of-way and, in so doing, adding considerably to the mileage covered by Charles. The result is a unique lost-distance path – not merely because it is comfortably the longest way-marked inland walk in the UK, but also because it covers a wide variety of different landscapes. It passes through the Midlands, including the Black Country and the related World Heritage Site of Ironbridge Gorge, then extensively explores four Areas of Natural Beauty – the Cotswolds, the Mendips, Dorset and Cranborne Chase – before a memorable journey through the South Downs National Park and finally arriving at the Sussex coast. It is a spectacular tour of much of Western and Southern England.
The sources of information about the events of Charles’s escape are many and various. Not least, he dictated his own account to Samuel Pepys for his private purposes and this was eventually published many years after his death. In addition, about ten of the thirty or so people who assisted in his journey either had their own accounts published or contributed in a major way to accounts of the events written by another party. Overall, there is very little of the broad sweep of the adventure that is not attested to by at least two sources, between which, only minor discrepancies ever occur. Of course, individual details such as which Inns were used for refreshment and overnight stops are not always explicit, and, on these occasions, local traditions often step in and make claims that are, to say the least, uncertain. I also concede that issues can be raised with any source material as authors always have their own agenda to promote. Nonetheless, the story of Charles’s travels is as well attested as could possibly be expected for events of the time. For those interested in further research, both the primary and key early secondary sources are reproduced in full in two of the books available on this site. They are The Boscobel Tracts and The Flight of the King.
Please note, this website has been independently compiled by myself; it has no connection with the Monarch’s Way Association, who do much great work in way-marking and promoting the route.
John Price – firstname.lastname@example.org