The Escape of the King by Jane Lane was first published in 1954. I read some of her historical fiction back in the 1970s, but hadn’t read any which were aimed at children as this wee one is. It’s a quick but fairly entertaining read at just 156 pages. Jane Lane started writing books for children when her young son asked her to tell him stories from history.
In The Escape of the King she fills in the gaps between the known history of King Charles II’s flight after his army was defeated at the Battle of Worcester when the much larger rebel army of Oliver Cromwell’s Roundheads trounced the Royalist Cavalier army. Apparently all the events in this book are true and the characters are real. Jane Lane says that she just invented the conversations thoughts and feelings of the people involved.
All the Roundheads are looking for Charles, and when a £1,000 reward is put up for Charles alive or dead it seems like his escape from Worcester is an unlikely prospect, but well disguised as Will Jones – a peasant – and walking by night from safe house to safe house, when necessary hiding in holes that had previously been used by Catholic priests in houses owned by people who had been sticking to the ‘old religion’. He had some very close calls but of course did manage to reach the coast and hitch a ride on a ship to France and safety.
I must admit that I only recently realised that I had imagined his escape wrongly, as in that well-known part of the story when Charles II hid in a tree to avoid capture, I had assumed that it was a hollow tree he was in as it was supposed to be an oak tree, and they can be hollow. Now of course I realise that he was hiding up a tree, within the branches! It’s a mystery to me why teachers always said he was in a tree. In fact I’m sure I even asked a teacher about that at the time and she was the one who thought it might have been a hollow oak – oh well – you live and learn!