CHAPTER III. QUEEN HENRIETTA'S FLIGHT.
The brightening of the prospects in King Charles's affairs which was produced, for a time, by the queen's vigorous and energetic action, proved to be only a temporary gleam after all. The clouds and darkness soon returned again, and brooded over his horizon more gloomily than ever. The Parliament raised and organized new and more powerful armies. The great Republican general, Oliver Cromwell, who afterward became so celebrated as the Protector in the time of the Commonwealth, came into the field, and was very successful in all his military plans. Other Republican generals appeared in all parts of the kingdom, and fought with great determination and great success, driving the armies of the king before them wherever they moved, and reducing town after town, and castle after castle, until it began to appear evident that the whole kingdom would soon fall into their hands.
In the mean time, the family of the queen were very much separated from each other, the children having been left in various places, exposed each to different privations and dangers. Two or three of them were in London in the hands of their father's enemies. Mary, the young bride of the Prince of Orange, was in Holland. Prince Charles, the oldest son, who was now about fourteen years of age, was at the head of one of his father's armies in the west of England. Of course, such a boy could not be expected to accomplish any thing as a general, or even to exercise any real military command. He, however, had his place at the head of a considerable force, and though there were generals with him to conduct all the operations, and to direct the soldiery, they were nominally the lieutenants of the prince, and acted, in all cases, in their young commander's name. Their great duty was, however, after all, to take care of their charge; and the army which accompanied Charles was thus rather an escort and a guard, to secure his safety, than a force from which any aid was to be expected in the recovery of the kingdom.
The queen did every thing in her power to sustain the sinking fortunes of her husband, but in vain. At length, in June, 1644, she found herself unable to continue any longer such warlike and masculine exposures and toils. It became necessary for her to seek some place of retreat, where she could enjoy, for a time at least, the quiet and repose now essential to the preservation of her life. Oxford was no longer a place of safety. The Parliament had ordered her impeachment on account of her having brought in arms and munitions of war from foreign lands, to disturb, as they said, the peace of the kingdom. The Parliamentary armies were advancing toward Oxford, and she was threatened with being shut up and besieged there. She accordingly left Oxford, and went down to the sea- coast to Exeter, a strongly fortified place, on a hill surrounded in part by other hills, and very near the sea. There was a palace within the walls, where the queen thought she could enjoy, for a time at least, the needed seclusion and repose. The king accompanied her for a few miles on her journey, to a place called Abingdon, which is in the neighborhood of Oxford, and there the unhappy pair bade each other farewell, with much grief and many tears. They never met again.
Henrietta continued her sorrowful journey alone. She reached the sea- coast in the south-western part of England, where Exeter is situated, and shut herself up in the place of her retreat. She was in a state of great destitution, for Charles's circumstances were now so reduced that he could afford her very little aid. She sent across the Channel to her friends in France, asking them to help her. They sent immediately the supplies that she needed - articles of clothing, a considerable sum of money, and a nurse. She retained the clothing and the nurse, and a little of the money; the rest she sent to Charles. She was, however, now herself tolerably provided for in her new home, and here, a few weeks afterward, her sixth child was born. It was a daughter.
The queen's long continued exertions and exposures had seriously impaired her health, and she lay, feeble and low, in her sick chamber for about ten days, when she learned to her dismay that one of the Parliamentary generals was advancing at the head of his army to attack the town which she had made her refuge. This general's name was Essex. The queen sent a messenger out to meet Essex, asking him to allow her to withdraw from the town before he should invest it with his armies. She said that she was very weak and feeble, and unable to endure the privations and alarms which the inhabitants of a besieged town have necessarily to bear; and she asked his permission, therefore, to retire to Bristol, till her health should be restored. Essex replied that he could not give her permission to retire from Exeter; that, in fact, the object of his coming there was to escort her to London, to bring her before Parliament, to answer to the charge of treason.