In Search of Better Stories

To Catch A King

It’s a shame that such a great story is attached to such a loser, but so it is.

The hero of our story is Charles II, king of England from 1660-1685.
His father, King Charles, the 1st, managed to get his head chopped off after a bloody civil war that saw Oliver Cromwell and his new model army victorious over the monarchists. It was a brutal conflict in which hundreds of thousands of English, Scottish, and Irish lost their lives. Charles the 1st had enough foresight to launch his son into exile before the parliamentarians could offer the young teenager the same fate as his dad.

While in exile, Charles’ most noteworthy accomplishments were limited to bedroom conquests and various other exploits in debauchery. The bizarre tryst that launched Charles’s notable sexual career happened at the tender age of 13 when his wet nurse, who raised him from infancy, took it upon herself to give young Charles a full education in carnal knowledge.

Lucy Walter one of Charles’ many many many mistresses

The Earl of Rochester sums up the king’s endless promiscuity with the following poem:

Restless he rolls from whore to whore

A very monarch, scandalous and poor

When Charles wasn’t busy impregnating women or out drinking with his buddies he spent his spare time trying to to get his kingdom back. Finally he hatched a plan. The Scots would make him king and fight for him but only if he would become a Presbyterian. The reprobate wanna be king signed on the dotted line. Foolishly, instead of letting the English army come to him in Scotland, he defied his generals, and launched an offensive straight into the heart of England. Over-stretched and under-supplied. Cromwell’s army completely routed Charles and the Scots at Worcester. Charles managed to escape capture and for the next six weeks, he was the target of the largest manhunt in English history.

Roman Catholic supporters of the monarchy hid him and put together a most daring effort to get him to the coast and over to the safety of France. Against all odds, the audacious plan worked. The king became a stable servant to a maid; he acted briefly as a chef’s helper and a woodsman. He cut his hair and exchanged his royal clothes for rags. He hid in a large leafy oak tree one day with enemies all around. Enemies who managed somehow not to look up!

Fortunately, his connections with the Catholics put an intricate life-saving network of “priest holes” at his disposal. In the 1600s in England, it was a capital offence to be a Catholic priest. Priests of the R.C. variety were devils spawn according to Anglicans. Naturally, those loyal to the R.C rendition of the faith didn’t see it quite the same way, so to protect their beloved priests, a master carpenter by the name of Nicholas Owen spent a couple of decades secretly building a series of elaborate hiding places all over England. His work halted when he was captured, condemned and then drawn and quartered for his clandestine work. His entrails were lifted out of his body to the delight of the crowd and the satisfaction of the Anglicans. Happily for Charles, Owen didn’t spill the locations of his hiding places even as his own guts spilled out. During his six weeks on the run, the fugitive king on more than one occasion got to hear first hand what his subjects thought of him! All accounts seem to indicate that the king rather enjoyed this high stakes subterfuge, perhaps even more than being king!?

He escaped, waited ten years while England’s first attempt at a republic slowly imploded. Eventually, he was invited back, and the monarchy was restored. Charles returned, killed all his enemies and rewarded all who helped him escape. Roman Catholicism was still a no-no, but Charles was happy to wink and look the other way for a lot of it. Charles didn’t really take to ruling once he got his crown. Debauchery was more his specialty. When he lay dying probably of syphilis or cirrhosis of the liver, he secretly snuck in a Catholic priest to give him last rites. The Catholics had helped him more than the Anglicans or Presbyterians ever did, so he would die a Catholic.

Truthfully the medical experts were the ones that finished him off. They were trying their best, of course, to help, but to say their methods were counterproductive would be an understatement!

  1. Over 30 ounce’s of blood extracted to get the sickness out
  2. Shoulders burned to stimulate the body.
  3. Several oral and rectal enema’s filled with horrendous concoctions to purge the body.
  4. Hair shaved off, and acidic blistering agents applied to his scalp.
  5. Nose membrane burned
  6. Poultices applied in various places made of hydrochloric acid and pigeon poo.

Mercifully after so much torture in the name of good medical practice, he died.

If you are from the 1600’s you don’t really want to see a doctor…ever!
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