CHAPTER IV. ESCAPE OF THE CHILDREN.
We left the mother of Prince Charles, at the close of the last chapter, in the palace of the Louvre in Paris. Though all her wants were now supplied, and though she lived in royal state in a magnificent palace on the banks of the Seine, still she was disconsolate and unhappy. She had, indeed, succeeded in effecting her own escape from the terrible dangers which had threatened her family in England, but she had left her husband and children behind, and she could not really enjoy herself the shelter which she had found from the storm, as long as those whom she so ardently loved were still out, exposed to all its fury. She had six children. Prince Charles, the oldest, was in the western part of England, in camp, acting nominally as the commander of an army, and fighting for his father's throne. He was now fourteen years of age. Next to him was Mary, the wife of the Prince of Orange, who was safe in Holland. She was one year younger than Charles. James, the third child, whose title was now Duke of York, was about ten. He had been left in Oxford when that city was surrendered, and had been taken captive there by the Republican army. The general in command sent him to London a prisoner. It was hard for such a child to be a captive, but then there was one solace in his lot. By being sent to London he rejoined his little sister Elizabeth and his brother Henry, who had remained there all the time. Henry was three years old and Elizabeth was six. These children, being too young, as was supposed, to attempt an escape, were not very closely confined. They were entrusted to the charge of some of the nobility, and lived in one of the London palaces. James was a very thoughtful and considerate boy, and had been enough with his father in his campaigns to understand something of the terrible dangers with which the family were surrounded. The other children were too young to know or care about them, and played blindman's buff and hide and go seek in the great saloons of the palace with as much infantile glee as if their father and mother were as safe and happy as ever.
Though they felt thus no uneasiness and anxiety for themselves, their exiled mother mourned for them, and was oppressed by the most foreboding fears for their personal safety. She thought, however, still more frequently of the babe, and felt a still greater solicitude for her, left as she had been, at so exceedingly tender an age, in a situation of the most extreme and imminent danger. She felt somewhat guilty in having yielded her reluctant consent, for political reasons, to have her other children educated in what she believed a false system of religious faith, and she now prayed earnestly to God to spare the life of this her last and dearest child, and vowed in her anguish that, if the babe were ever restored to her, she would break through all restrictions, and bring her up a true believer. This vow she afterward earnestly fulfilled.
The child, it will be recollected, was left, when Henrietta escaped from Exeter, in the care of the Countess of Morton, a young and beautiful, and also a very intelligent and energetic lady. The child had a visit from its father soon after its mother left it. King Charles, as soon as he heard that Essex was advancing to besiege Exeter, where he knew that the queen had sought refuge, and was, of course, exposed to fall into his power, hastened with an army to her rescue. He arrived in time to prevent Essex from getting possession of the place. He, in fact, drove the besieger away from the town, and entered it himself in triumph. The queen was gone, but he found the child.
The king gazed upon the little stranger with a mixture of joy and sorrow. He caused it to be baptized, and named it Henrietta Anne. The name Henrietta was from the mother; Anne was the name of Henrietta's sister-in-law in Paris, who had been very kind to her in all her troubles. The king made ample arrangements for supplying Lady Morton with money out of the revenues of the town of Exeter, and, thinking that the child would be as safe in Exeter as any where, left her there, and went away to resume again his desperate conflicts with his political foes.
Lady Morton remained for some time at Exeter, but the king's cause every where declined. His armies were conquered, his towns were taken, and he was compelled at last to give himself up a prisoner. Exeter, as well as all the other strongholds in the kingdom, fell into the hands of the parliamentary armies. They sent Lady Morton and the little Henrietta to London, and soon afterward provided them with a home in the mansion at Oatlands, where the queen herself and her other children had lived before. It was a quiet and safe retreat, but Lady Morton was very little satisfied with the plan of remaining there. She wished very much to get the babe back to its mother again in Paris. She heard, at length, of rumors that a plan was forming by the Parliament to take the child out of her charge, and she then resolved to attempt an escape at all hazards.