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Charles' failed escape

Updated Sunday, 7th January 2001
It was fear of land reform that led to Charles' failed escape

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When news of the Leveller ideas reached Charles, then under house arrest at Hampton Court, he was genuinely scared. Their plans for democracy and equality did not seem to leave much room for a King. He became convinced he was about to be assassinated by Leveller insurrectionists. Once more he followed his instincts and fled, and, as usual he got lost.

On November 11th 1647, Charles gave his guards the slip and headed from Hampton Court, through the New Forest towards the coast. In the dark of night, his cunning plan ended in calamity as he and his companions rode round and round the forest hopelessly losing their way. With dawn breaking, time began to run out.

So instead of heading for Jersey, Charles ended up on the Isle of Wight. And there he was taken into captivity at Carisbrooke Castle by the Parliamentary Governor of the island, Robert Hammond. It was a strategic disaster. No one could save him now. Yet it didn't stop him plotting.

But unfortunately for Charles, allies were thin on the ground. Earlier in the summer of 1647, his agent in Ireland the Duke of Ormond had wisely made peace with the Westminster Parliament. The Irish Confederate forces, Charles's sole remaining ally, were quickly put under pressure from a now united English army. After years of success, Owen Roe O'Neill and his Gaelic troop of Catholic rebels were put on the back foot. Charles could no longer hope for any help from the Confederates.

Given that the Westminster Parliament was increasingly hapless in the face of the New Model Army, there could be no help from there either. The conservative, Presbyterian faction were being systematically out-manoeuvred by the pro-Army Independents. All that was left were the Scots. Once more, the politics of the three kingdoms was to take another amazing twist.


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