THE ROYAL OAK OF BOSCOBEL
T was in June, 1650, about eighteen months after the decapitation of his father, that Charles was ready to set
out on his expedition to attempt the recovery of his rights to the English throne. He was but twenty years of
age. He took with him no army, no supplies, no resources. He had a small number of attendants and followers,
personally interested themselves in his success, and animated also, probably, by some degree of disinterested
attachment to him. It was, however, on the whole, a desperate enterprise. Queen Henrietta, in her retirement at
the Louvre, felt very anxious about the result of it. Charles himself, too, notwithstanding his own buoyant and
sanguine temperament, and the natural confidence and hope pertaining to his years, must have felt many
forebodings. But his condition on the Continent was getting every month more and more destitute and forlorn. He
was a mere guest wherever he went, and destitute of means as he was,
 he found himself continually sinking in public consideration. Money as well as rank is very essentially
necessary to make a relative a welcome guest, for any long time, in aristocratic circles. Charles concluded,
therefore, that, all things considered, it was best for him to make a desperate effort to recover his kingdoms.
His kingdoms were three, England, Scotland, and Ireland. Ireland was a conquered kingdom. Scotland, like
England, had descended to him from his ancestors; for his grandfather, James VI., was king of Scotland, and
being on his mother's side a descendant of an English king, he was, of course, one of the heirs of the English
crown; and on the failure of the other heirs, he succeeded to that crown, retaining still his own. Thus both
kingdoms descended to Charles.
It was only the English kingdom that had really rebelled against, and put to death King Charles's father. There
had been a great deal of difficulty in Scotland, it is true, and the republican spirit had spread quite
extensively in that country. Still, affairs had not proceeded to such extremities there. The Scotch had, in
some degree, joined with the English in resisting Charles the First, but it was not their wish to throw off the
royal authority altogether. They
 abhorred episcopacy in the Church, but were well enough contented with monarchy in the state. Accordingly, soon
after the death of the father, they had opened negotiations with the son, and had manifested their willingness
to acknowledge him as their king, on certain conditions which they undertook to prescribe to him. It is very
hard for a king to hold his scepter on conditions prescribed by his people. Charles tried every possible means
to avoid submitting to this necessity. He found, however, that the only possible avenue of access to England
was by first getting some sort of possession of Scotland; and so, signifying his willingness to comply with the
Scotch demands, he set sail from Holland with his court, moved northward with his little squadron over the
waters of the German Ocean, and at length made port in the Frith of Cromarty, in the north of Scotland.
The Scotch government, having but little faith in the royal word of such a youth as Charles, would not allow him
to land until he had formally signed their covenant, by which he bound himself to the conditions which they had
thought it necessary to impose. He then landed. But he found his situation very far from such as
 comported with his ideas of royal authority and state. Charles was a gay, dissipated, reckless young man. The
men whom he had to deal with were stern, sedate, and rigid religionists. They were scandalized at the looseness
and irregularity of his character and manners. He was vexed and tormented by what he considered their ascetic
bigotry, by the restraints which they were disposed to put upon his conduct, and the limits with which they
insisted on bounding his authority. Long negotiations and debates ensued, each party becoming more and more
irritated against the other. At last, on one occasion, Charles lost his patience entirely, and made his escape
into the mountains, in hopes to raise an army there among the clans of wild Highlanders, who, accustomed from
infancy to the most implicit obedience to their chieftains, are always very loyal to their king. The Scotch
nobles, however, not wishing to drive him to extremities, sent for him to come back, and both parties becoming
after this somewhat more considerate and accommodating, they at length came to an agreement, and proceeding
together to Scone, a village some miles north of Edinburgh, they crowned Charles King of Scotland in a
venerable abbey there, the ancient place
 of coronation for all the monarchs of the Scottish line.
In the mean time, Cromwell, who was at the head of the republican government of England, knowing very well that
Charles's plan would be to march into England as soon as he could mature his arrangements for such an
enterprise, determined to anticipate this design by declaring war himself against Scotland, and marching an
Charles felt comparatively little interest in what became of Scotland. His aim was England. He knew, or
supposed that there was a very large portion of the English people who secretly favored his cause, and he
believed that if he could once cross the frontier, even with a small army, these his secret friends would all
rise at once and flock to his standard. Still he attempted for a time to resist Cromwell in Scotland, but
without success. Cromwell penetrated to the heart of the country, and actually passed the army of Charles. In
these circumstances, Charles resolved to leave Scotland to its fate, and boldly to cross the English frontier,
to see what he could do by raising his standard in his southern kingdom. The army acceded to this plan with
acclamations. The king accordingly
 put his forces in motion, crossed the frontier, issued his manifestoes, and sent around couriers and heralds,
announcing to the whole population that their king had come, and summoning all his subjects to arm themselves
and hasten to his aid. This was in the summer of 1651, the year after his landing in Scotland.
It certainly was a very bold and almost desperate measure, and the reader, whether Monarchist or Republican,
can hardly help wishing the young adventurer success. The romantic enterprise was, however, destined to fail.
The people of England were not yet prepared to return to royalty. Some few of the ancient noble families and
country gentlemen adhered to the king's cause, but they came in to join his ranks very slowly. Those who were
in favor of the king were called Cavaliers. The other party were called Roundheads. Queen Henrietta
Maria had given them the name, on account of their manner of wearing their hair, cut short and close to their
heads all around, while the gay Cavaliers cultivated their locks, which hung in long curls down upon their
shoulders. The Cavaliers, it turned out, were few, while the Roundheads filled the land.
It was, however, impossible for Charles to
 retreat, since Cromwell was behind him; for Cromwell, as soon as he found that his enemy had actually gone into
England, paused only long enough to recover from his surprise, and then made all haste to follow him. The two
armies thus moved down through the very heart of England, carrying every where, as they went, universal terror,
confusion, and dismay. The whole country was thrown into extreme excitement. Every body was called upon to take
sides, and thousands were perplexed and undecided which side to take. Families were divided, brothers
separated, fathers and sons were ready to fight each other in their insane zeal, the latter for the Parliament,
the former for the king. The whole country was filled with rumors, messengers, parties of soldiers going to and
fro, and troops of horsemen, with robberies, plunderings, murders, and other deeds of violence without number,
and all the other elements of confusion and misery which arouse the whole population of a country to terror and
distress, and mar the very face of nature in time of civil war. What dreadful struggles man will make to gain
the pleasure of ruling his fellow man!
VIEW OF WORCESTER.
Along the frontiers of England and Wales
 there flows the beautiful River Severn, which widens majestically at its mouth, and passes by the Bristol
Channel to the sea. One of the largest towns upon this river is Worcester. It was in those days strongly
fortified. It stands on the eastern side of the river, with a great bridge opposite one of the gates leading
across the Severn in the direction toward Wales. There are other bridges on the stream, both above and below,
and many towns and villages in the vicinity, the whole presenting, at ordinary times, a delightful scene of
industry and peace.
Worcester is, perhaps, three hundred miles from the frontiers of Scotland, on the way to London, though
somewhat to the westward of the direct route. Charles's destination was the capital. He pushed on,
notwithstanding the difficulties and disappointments which embarrassed his march, until at last, when he
reached the banks of the Severn, he found he could go no further. His troops and his officers were wearied,
faint, and discouraged. His hopes had not been realized, and while it was obviously dangerous to stop, it
seemed still more dangerous to go on. However, as the authorities of Worcester were disposed to take sides with
the king, Charles determined to stop there for a
lit-  tle time, at all events, to refresh his army, and consider what to do.
He was received in the city with all due honors. He was proclaimed king on the following day, with great parade
and loud acclamations. He established a camp in the neighborhood of the city. He issued great proclamations,
calling upon all the people of the surrounding country to come and espouse his cause. He established his court,
organized his privy council, and, in a word, perfected, on a somewhat humble scale it is true, all the
arrangements proper to the condition of a monarch in his capital. He began, perhaps, in fact, to imagine
himself really a king. If he did so, however, the illusion was soon dispelled. In one short week Cromwell's
army came on, filling all the avenues of approach to the city, and exhibiting a force far too great,
apparently, either for Charles to meet in battle, or to defend himself from in a siege.
Charles's forces fought several preliminary battles and skirmishes in resisting the attempts of Cromwell's
columns to get possession of the bridges and fords by which they were to cross the river. These contests
resulted always in the same way. The detachments which Charles
 had sent forward to defend these points were one after another driven in, while Charles, with his council of
war around him, watched from the top of the tower of a church within the city this gradual and irresistible
advance of his determined enemy, with an anxiety which gradually deepened into dismay.
The king, finding his situation now desperate, determined to make one final attempt to retrieve his fallen
fortunes. He formed his troops in array, and marched out to give the advancing army battle. He put himself at
the head of a troop of Highlanders, and fought in person with the courage and recklessness of despair. The
officers knew full well that it was a question of victory or death; for if they did not conquer, they must die,
either by wounds on the field of battle, or else, if taken prisoners, by being hung as traitors, or beheaded in
the Tower. All possibility of escape, entrapped and surrounded as they were in the very heart of the country,
hundreds of miles from the frontiers, seemed utterly hopeless. They fought, therefore, with reckless and
desperate fury, but all was in vain. They were repulsed and driven in on all sides, and the soldiers fled at
length, carrying the officers with them, in tumult and disorder, back through the gates into the city.
 An army flying in confusion to seek refuge in a city can not shut the gates behind them against their pursuers.
In fact, in such a scene of terror and dismay, there is no order, no obedience, no composure. At the gate where
Charles endeavored to get back into the city, he found the way choked up by a heavy ammunition cart which had
been entangled there, one of the oxen that had been drawing it being killed. The throngs of men and horsemen
were stopped by this disaster. The king dismounted, abandoned his horse, and made his way through and over the
obstruction as he could. When he got into the city, he found all in confusion there. His men were throwing away
their arms, and pressing onward in their flight. He lightened his own burdens by laying aside the heaviest of
his armor, procured another horse, and rode up and down among his men, urging and entreating them to form again
and face the enemy. He plead the justice of his cause, their duty to be faithful to their rightful sovereign,
and every other argument which was capable of being expressed in the shouts and vociferations which, in such a
scene, constitute the only kind of communication possible with panic stricken men; and when he found that all
was in vain
 he said, in despair, that he would rather they would shoot him on the spot than let him live to witness such an
abandonment of his cause by the only friends and followers that had been left to him.
The powerful influence which these expostulations would otherwise have had, was lost and overborne in the
torrent of confusion and terror which was spreading through all the streets of the city. The army of Cromwell
forced their passage in, and fought their way from street to street, wherever they found any remaining
resistance. Some of the king's troops were hemmed up in corners, and cut to pieces. Others, somewhat more
fortunate, sought protection in towers and bastions, where they could make some sort of conditions with their
victorious enemy before surrendering. Charles himself, finding that all was lost, made his escape at last from
the city, at six o'clock in the evening, at the head of a troop of horse. He could not, however, endure the
thought of giving up the contest, after all. Again and again, as he slowly retreated, he stopped to face about,
and to urge his men to consent to turn back again and encounter the enemy. Their last halt was upon a bridge
half a mile from the city. Here
 the king held a consultation with the few remaining counselors and officers that were with him, surveying, with
them, the routed and flying bodies of men, who were now throwing away their arms and dispersing in all
directions, in a state of hopeless disorganization and despair. The king saw plainly that his cause was
irretrievably ruined, and they all agreed that nothing now remained for them but to make their escape back to
Scotland, if by any possibility that could now be done.
But how should they accomplish this end? To follow the multitude of defeated soldiers would be to share the
certain capture and death which awaited them, and they were themselves all strangers to the country. To go on
inquiring all the way would only expose them to equally certain discovery and capture. The first thing,
however, obviously was to get away from the crowd. Charles and his attendants, therefore, turned aside from the
high road—there were with the king fifty or sixty officers and noblemen, all mounted men—and moved along in
such secluded by-paths as they could find. The king wished to diminish even this number of followers, but he
could not get any of them to leave him. He complained afterward, in the
 account which he gave of these adventures, that, though they would not fight for him when battle was to be
given, he could not get rid of them when the time came for flight.
There was a servant of one of the gentlemen in the company who pretended to know the way, and he accordingly
undertook to guide the party; but as soon as it became dark he got confused and lost, and did not know what to
do. They contrived, however, to get another guide. They went ten miles, attracting no particular attention, for
at such a time of civil war a country is full of parties of men, armed and unarmed, going to and fro, who are
allowed generally to move without molestation, as the inhabitants are only anxious to have as little as
possible to say to them, that they may the sooner be gone. The royal party assumed the air and manner of one of
these bands as long as daylight lasted, and when that was gone they went more securely and at their ease. After
proceeding ten miles, they stopped at an obscure inn, where they took some drink and a little bread, and then
resumed their journey, consulting with one another as they went as to what it was best to do.
About ten or twelve miles further on there
 was a somewhat wild and sequestered region, in which there were two very secluded dwellings, about half a mile
from each other. One of these residences was named Boscobel. The name had been given to it by a guest of the
proprietor, at an entertainment which the latter had given, from the Italian words bosco bello, which
mean beautiful grove. It was in or near a wood, and away from all high roads, having been built, probably, like
many other of the dwellings reared in those days, as a place of retreat. In the preceding reigns of Charles and
Elizabeth, the Catholics, who were called popish recusants, on account of their refusing to take an
oath acknowledging the supremacy of the British sovereign over the English Church, had to resort to all
possible modes of escape from Protestant persecution. They built these retreats in retired and secluded places,
and constructed all sorts of concealed and secure hiding places within them, in the partitions and walls, where
men whose lives were in danger might be concealed for many days. Boscobel was such a mansion. In fact, one of
the king's generals, the Earl of Derby, had been concealed in it but a short time before. The king inquired
particularly about it, and was induced himself to seek refuge there.
 This house belonged to a family of Giffards, one of whom was in the suite of King Charles at this time. There
was another mansion about half a mile distant. This other place had been originally, in the Catholic days, a
convent, and the nuns who inhabited it dressed in white. They were called, accordingly, the white
ladies, and the place itself received the same name, which it retained after the sisters were gone. Mr.
Giffard recommended going to the White Ladies' first. He wanted, in fact, to contrive some way to relieve the
king of the encumbrance of so large a troop before going to Boscobel.
They went, accordingly, to the White Ladies'. Neither of the houses was occupied at this time by the
proprietors, but were in charge of housekeepers and servants. Among the tenants upon the estate there were
several brothers of the name of Penderel. They were woodmen and farm servants, living at different places in
the neighborhood, and having charge, some of them, of the houses above described. One of the Penderels was at
the White Ladies'. He let the fugitives in, tired, exhausted, and hungry as they were, with the fatigue of
marching nearly all the night. They sent immediately for
Rich-  ard Penderel, who lived in a farm house nearby, and for another brother, who was at Boscobel. They took the
king into an inner room, and immediately commenced the work of effectually disguising him.
They gave him clothes belonging to some of the servants of the family, and destroyed his own. The king had
about his person a watch and some costly decorations, such as orders of knighthood set in jewels, which would
betray his rank if found in his possession. These the king distributed among his friends, intrusting them to
the charge of such as he judged most likely to effect their escape. They then cut off his hair short all over,
thus making him a Roundhead instead of a Cavalier. They rubbed soot from the fire place over his face, to
change the expression of his features and complexion. They gave him thus, in all respects, as nearly as
possible, the guise of a squalid peasant and laborer of the humblest class, accustomed to the privations and to
the habits of poverty.
In the mean time Richard Penderel arrived. Perhaps an intimation had been given him of the wishes of the king
to be relieved of his company of followers; at any rate, he urged the whole retinue, as soon as he came to the
 to press forward without any delay, as there was a detachment of Cromwell's forces, he said, at three miles'
distance, who might be expected at any moment to come in pursuit of them Giffard brought Penderel then into the
inner room to which the king had retired. "This is the king," said he. "I commit him to your charge. Take care
Richard undertook the trust. He told the king that he must immediately leave that place, and he conducted him
secretly, all disguised as he was, out of a postern door, without making known his design to any of his
followers, except the two or three who were in immediate attendance upon him. He led him away about half a mile
into a wood, and, concealing him there, left him alone, saying he would go and see what intelligence he could
obtain, and presently return again. The troop of followers, in the mean time, from whom the king had been so
desirous to get free, when they found that he was gone, mounted their horses and rode away, to escape the
danger with which Richard had threatened them. But, alas for the unhappy fugitives, they did not get far in
their flight; they were overtaken, attacked, conquered, captured, and treated as traitors. Some were shot,
 one was beheaded, and others were shut up in prisons, where they pined in hopeless privation and suffering for
many years. There was, however, one of the king's followers who did not go away with the rest. It was Lord
Wilmot, an influential nobleman, who concealed himself in the vicinity, and kept near the king in all his
But we must return to the king in the wood. It was about sunrise when he was left there, the morning after the
battle. It rained. The king tried in vain to find a shelter under the trees of the forest. The trees themselves
were soon thoroughly saturated, and they received the driving rain from the skies only to let the water fall in
heavier drops upon the poor fugitive's defenseless head. Richard borrowed a blanket at a cottage near, thinking
that it would afford some protection, and brought it to his charge. The king folded it up to make a cushion to
sit upon; for, worn out as he was with hard fighting all the day before, and hard riding all the night, he
could not stand; so he chose to use his blanket as a protection from the wet ground beneath him, and to take
the rain upon his head as it fell.
Richard sent a peasant's wife to him
present-  ly with some food. Charles, who never had any great respect for the female sex, was alarmed to find that a woman
had been entrusted with such a secret.
"My good woman," said he, "can you be faithful to a distressed Cavalier?"
"Yes, sir," said she; "I will die rather than betray you."
Charles had, in fact, no occasion to fear. Woman is, indeed, communicative and confiding, and often, in
unguarded hours, reveals indiscreetly what it would have been better to have withheld; but in all cases where
real and important trusts are committed to her keeping, there is no human fidelity which can be more safely
relied upon than hers.
Charles remained in the wood all the day, exposed to the pelting of the storm. There was a road in sight, a
sort of by-way leading across the country, and the monarch beguiled the weary hours as well as he could by
watching this road from under the trees, to see if any soldiers came along. There was one troop that appeared,
but it passed directly by, marching heavily through the mud and rain, the men intent, apparently, only on
reaching their journey's end. When night came on, Richard Penderel returned, approaching cautiously, and,
finding all safe, took the king into the house with him. They
 brought him to the fire, changed and dried his clothes, and gave him supper. The homeless monarch once more
enjoyed the luxuries of warmth and shelter.
During all the day, while he had been alone in the wood, he had been revolving in his mind the strange
circumstances of his situation, vainly endeavoring, for many hours, to realize what seemed at first like a
dreadful dream. Could it be really true that he, the monarch of three kingdoms, so recently at the head of a
victorious army, and surrounded by generals and officers of state, was now a friendless and solitary fugitive,
without even a place to hide his head from the cold autumnal storm? It seemed at first a dream; but it soon
became a reality, and he began to ponder, in every form, the question what he should do. He looked east, west,
north, and south, but could not see, in any quarter, any hope of succor, or any reasonable prospect of escape.
He, however, arrived at the conclusion, before night came on, that it would be, on the whole, the best plan for
him to attempt to escape into Wales.
He was very near the frontier of that country. There was no difficulty to be apprehended on the road thither,
excepting in the
cross-  ing of the Severn, which, as has already been remarked, flows from north to south not far from the line of the
frontier. He thought, too, that if he could once succeed in getting into Wales, he could find secure retreats
among the mountains there until he should be able to make his way to some sea-port on the coast trading with
France, and so find his way back across the Channel. He proposed this plan to Richard in the evening, and asked
him to accompany him as his guide. Richard readily consented, and the arrangements for the journey were made.
They adjusted the king's dress again to complete his disguise, and Richard gave him a bill-hook—a sort of
woodman's tool—to carry in his hand. It was agreed, also, that his name should be Will Jones so far as there
should be any necessity for designating him by a name in the progress of the journey.
They set out at nine o'clock that same night, in the darkness and rain. They wished to get to Madely, a town
near the river, before the morning. Richard knew a Mr. Woolf there, a friend of the Royalist cause, who he
thought would shelter them, and aid them in getting across the river. They went on very well for some time,
until they came to a stream, a
 branch of the Severn, where there was a bridge, and on the other side a mill. The miller happened to be
watching that night at his door. At such times everybody is on the alert, suspecting mischief or danger in
every unusual sight or sound.
Hearing the footsteps, he called out, "Who goes there?"
"Neighbors," replied Richard. The king was silent. He had been previously charged by Richard not to speak,
except when it could not possibly be avoided, as he had not the accent of the country.
"Stop, then," said the miller, "if you be neighbors." The travelers only pressed forward the faster for this
challenge. "Stop!" repeated the miller, "if you be neighbors, or I will knock you down;" and he ran out in
pursuit of them, armed apparently with the means of executing his threat. Richard fled, the king closely
following him. They turned into a lane, and ran a long distance, the way being in many places so dark that the
king, in following Richard, was guided only by the sound of his footsteps, and the creaking of the leather
dress which such peasants were accustomed in those days to wear. They crept along, however, as silently, and
yet as rapidly as possible, until at length Richard turned suddenly aside, leaped
 over a sort of gap in the hedge, and crouched down in the trench on the other side. Here they remained for some
time, listening to ascertain whether they were pursued. When they found that all was still, they crept forth
from their hiding places, regained the road, and went on their way.
At length they arrived at the town. Richard left the king concealed in an obscure corner of the street, while
he went to the house of Mr. Woolf to see if he could obtain admission. All was dark and still. He knocked till
he had aroused some of the family, and finally brought Mr. Woolf to the door.
He told Mr. Woolf that he came to ask shelter for a gentleman who was wishing to get into Wales, and who could
not safely travel by day. Mr. Woolf hesitated, and began to ask for further information in respect to the
stranger. Richard said that he was an officer who had made his escape from the battle of Worcester, "Then,"
said Mr. Woolf, "I should hazard my life by concealing him, which I should not be willing to do for any body,
unless it were the king." Richard then told him that it was his majesty. On hearing this, Mr. Woolf
decided at once to admit and conceal
 the travelers, and Richard went back to bring the king.
When they arrived at the house, they found Mr. Woolf making preparations for their reception. They placed the
king by the fire to warm and dry his clothes, and they gave him such food as could be provided on so sudden an
emergency. As the morning was now approaching, it was necessary to adopt some plan of concealment for the day,
and Mr. Woolf decided upon concealing his guests in his barn. He said that there were holes and hiding places
built in his house, but that they had all been discovered on some previous search, and, in case of any
suspicion or alarm, the officers would go directly to them all. He took the travelers, accordingly, to the
barn, and concealed them there among the hay. He said that he would himself, during the day, make inquiries in
respect to the practicability of their going on upon their journey, and come and report to them in the evening.
Accordingly, when the evening came, Mr. Woolf returned, relieved them from their confinement, and took them
back again to the house. His report, however, in respect to the continuance of their journey, was very
unfavorable. He thought it would be impossible, he
 said, for them to cross the Severn. The Republican forces had stationed guards at all the bridges, ferries, and
fords, and at every other practicable place of crossing, and no one was allowed to pass without a strict
examination. The country was greatly excited, too, with the intelligence of the king's escape; rewards were
offered for his apprehension, and heavy penalties denounced upon all who should harbor or conceal him. Under
these circumstances, Mr. Woolf recommended that Charles should go back to Boscobel, and conceal himself as
securely as possible there, until some plan could be devised for effecting his escape from the country.
The king had no alternative but to accede to this plan. He waited at Mr. Woolf's house till midnight, in order
that the movement in the streets of the town might have time entirely to subside, and then, disappointed and
discouraged by the failure of his hopes, he prepared to set out upon his return. Mr. Woolf made some changes in
his disguise, and bathed his face in a decoction of walnut leaves, which he had prepared during the day, to
alter his complexion, which was naturally very dark and peculiar, and thus exposed him to danger of
discov-  ery. When all was ready, the two travelers bade their kind host farewell, and crept forth again through the silent
streets, to return, by the way they came, back to Boscobel.
They went on very well till they began to approach the branch stream where they had met with their adventure
with the miller. They could not cross this stream by the bridge without going by the mill again, which they
were both afraid to do. The king proposed that they should go a little way below, and ford the stream. Richard
was afraid to attempt this, as he could not swim; and as the night was dark, and the current rapid, there would
be imminent danger of their getting beyond their depth. Charles said that he could swim, and that he
would, accordingly, go first and try the water. They groped their way down, therefore, to the bank, and
Charles, leaving his guide upon the land, waded in, and soon disappeared from view as he receded from the
shore. He returned, however, after a short time, in safety, and reported the passage practicable, as the water
was only three or four feet deep; so, taking Richard by the hand, he led him into the stream. It was a dismal
and dangerous undertaking, wading thus through a deep and rapid current in
dark-  ness and cold, but they succeeded in passing safely over.
They reached Boscobel before the morning dawned, and Richard, when they arrived, left the king in the wood
while he went toward the house to reconnoiter, and see if all was safe. He found within an officer of the
king's army, a certain Colonel Carlis, who had fled from Worcester some time after the king had left the field,
and, being acquainted with the situation of Boscobel, had sought refuge there; William Penderel, who had
remained in charge of Boscobel, having received and secreted him when he arrived.
Richard and William brought Colonel Carlis out into the wood to see the king. They found him sitting upon the
ground at the foot of a tree, entirely exhausted. He was worn out with hardship and fatigue. They took him to
the house. They brought him to the fire, and gave him some food. The colonel drew off his majesty's heavy
peasant shoes and coarse stockings. They were soaked with water and full of gravel. The colonel bathed his
feet, which were sadly swollen and blistered, and, as there were no other shoes in the house which would answer
for him to wear, Dame Penderel warmed and dried
 those which the colonel had taken off, by filling them with hot ashes from the fire, and then put them on
THE KING AT BOSCOBEL.
The king continued to enjoy such sort of comforts as these during the night, but when the morning drew near it
became necessary to look out for some place of concealment. The Penderels thought that no place within the
house would be safe, for there was danger every hour of the arrival of a band of soldiers, who would not fail
to search the mansion most effectually in every part. There was the wood near by, which was very secluded and
solitary; but still they feared that, in case of a search, the wood would be explored as effectually as the
dwelling. Under these circumstances, Carlis was looking around, perplexed and uncertain, not knowing what to
do, when he perceived some scattered oaks standing by themselves in a field not far from the house, one of
which seemed to be so full and dense in its foliage as to afford some hope of concealment there. The tree, it
seems, had been headed down once or twice, and this pruning had had the effect, usual in such cases, of making
the branches spread and grow very thick and full. The colonel thought that though, in making a search for
fugitives, men might
 very naturally explore a thicket or a grove, they would not probably think of examining a detached and solitary
tree; he proposed, accordingly, that the king and himself should climb up into this spreading oak, and conceal
themselves for the day among its branches.
The king consented to this plan. They took some provisions, therefore, as soon as the day began to dawn, and
something to answer the purpose of a cushion, and proceeded to the tree. By the help of William and Richard the
king and the colonel climbed up, and established themselves in the top. The colonel placed the cushion for the
king on the best support among the limbs that he could find. The bread and cheese, and a small bottle of beer,
which Richard and William had brought for their day's supplies, they suspended to a branch within their reach.
The colonel then seated himself a little above the king, in such a manner that the monarch's head could rest
conveniently in his lap, and in as easy a position as it was possible, under such circumstances, to attain.
Richard and William, then, after surveying the place of retreat all around from below, in order to be sure that
the concealment afforded by the foliage was every where complete, went away, promising to keep faithful watch
during the day,
 and to return in the evening. All things being thus arranged in the oak, the colonel bade his majesty to close
his eyes and go to sleep, saying that he would take good care that he did not fall. The king followed his
directions, and slept safely for many hours.
In the course of the day the king and Carlis saw, by means of the openings between the leaves, through which,
as through loop holes in a tower, they continually reconnoitered the surrounding fields, men passing to and
fro, some of whom they imagined to be soldiers searching the wood. They were not, however, themselves molested.
They passed the day undisturbed, except by the incessant anxiety and alarm which they necessarily suffered, and
the fatigue and pain, which must have become almost intolerable before night, from their constrained and
comfortless position. Night, however, came at last, and relieved them from their duress. They descended from
the tree and stole back cautiously to the house, the king resolving that he could not bear such hardship
another day, and that they must, accordingly, find some other hiding place for him on the morrow. We can
scarcely be surprised at this decision. A wild beast could hardly have endured a second day in such a lair.
Other plans of concealment for the king were
 accordingly formed that night, and measures were soon concerted, as we shall see in the next chapter, to effect
his escape from the country. The old tree, however, which had sheltered him so safely, was not forgotten. In
after years, when the monarch was restored to his throne, and the story of his dangers and his escape was made
known throughout the kingdom, thousands of visitors came to look upon the faithful tree which had thus afforded
his majesty its unconscious but effectual protection. Every one took away a leaf or a sprig for a souvenir, and
when, at last, the proprietor found that there was danger that the whole tree would be carried away unless he
interposed, he fenced it in and tilled the ground around it, to defend it from further mutilation. It has borne
the name of the Royal Oak from that time to the present day, and has been the theme of narrators and poets
without number, who have celebrated its praises in every conceivable form of composition. There is, however,
probably no one of them all who has done more for the wide extension of its fame among all the ranks and
gradations of society than the unknown author of the humble distich,
"The royal oak, it was the tree,
That saved his royal majesty."
Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics