THURSDAY 4 SEPTEMBER
King Charles II and his supporters arrive at White Ladies at 3.00 am. This property is close to the intended destination, Boscobel House, and is in fact in common ownership of Mr Gifford and for the next few days Charles’s fate is in the hands of the Catholic Underground, which is well versed in protecting Roman Catholic Priests from Parliamentary forces.
It is learned that Parliamentarian troops are only 3 miles away from White Ladies at Codsall, whilst Royalist horsemen are at Tong some two miles to the west. Charles, who is eager to reduce the size of his party, refuses to join up with these forces, most of the group decide to join them in the hope of escaping to Scotland, only to be later captured.
At White Ladies, local men, George Pendrel assisted by two of his brothers, cut the Kings hair and provide him with rough clothes so that he can pass himself off as a countryman. The only shortcoming in the new wardrobe is the shoes, which do not fit properly.
Charles passes what must have been a miserable day, particularly as it was raining, in the woods posing as a woodcutter, and decides that rather than make for London, he will be better off crossing the border into Wales, where he could make for Swansea or another port and take a boat for Europe.
After a meal one of the Pendrel brothers, Richard, escorts Charles on foot to another safe house at Madeley, from where it is possible to cross the River Severn into Wales. The ill fitting shoes blister the Kings feet and the journey becomes a low point in the adventure. The noise of a gate latch disturbs a local Miller who gives chase; the King and Pendrel run for their lives along a lane described later by Charles as “very deep and very dirty” and hide behind a hedge until the coast is clear.
At Madeley, there is bad news, all crossings into Wales are strongly guarded and it is impossible to cross. Charles decides to change back to the original plan of making for London and passes the night hidden in a barn at Madeley. There is a plaque on the wall of the barn at Madeley which records the event.
The Fugitive King