Charles I

Charles I

Oil painting of Charles I


King Charles I was under house arrest at Hampton Court... but managed to escape.

Captured by Parliamentarians

By the summer of 1647, after six years of fighting, it was clear that King Charles I and his Royalist army had lost the Civil War.  Although the King’s son had made a daring escape to France, Charles I had lost control of his army. He was captured by his Parliamentarian enemies, and moved to Hampton Court Palace.

A very posh prison

Although the King was now a prisoner  he was treated very well by his captors.  He was allowed to have his own servants, the palace furnishings were improved for him, and paintings were brought down from Whitehall for his pleasure.

He lived in the suite of royal rooms overlooking the Privy Garden; the rooms themselves were later rebuilt by King William III.

Do not disturb

However, the Parliamentarians later regretted their generously lax regime.  Colonel Edward Whalley was in charge of security.  On the evening of 11th November, he arrived at the King’s bedchamber at five o’clock to accompany the royal prisoner to the chapel as usual.  The King was writing letters, he was told, and could not be disturbed.  The same thing happened at six o’clock.  By seven, Whalley was worried.

Tricked!

Now Whalley was determined to find out what had happened, and suspected that the King’s servants were being less than helpful.  He looked in through the keyhole to see if the King was ill, and banged on the door.  Getting no answer, he now insisted on being taken into the bedchamber the back way, through the Privy Garden and up the Privy Stairs. 

Getting inside at last, he found the King’s cloak lying on the dressing room floor.  But there was no sign of the King!

In fact, Charles I had been long gone.  The King had locked his bedchamber room, left via the garden stairs, found a boat waiting for him at the river’s edge, and escaped to the Isle of Wight.  He had a head start of about five hours.   

But why was the king able to escape so easily?  Perhaps Oliver Cromwell allowed the escape to happen, because he knew that the renewed danger would re-unite and re-energise the tired Parliamentarian army. 

In any case, Charles I would never return to Hampton Court Palace.  The Parliamentarians soon re-captured him, and he was executed at The Banqueting House in Whitehall on 30 January 1649.    

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