CHAPTER VII. THE ROYAL OAK OF BOSCOBEL.
It was in June, 1650, about eighteen months after the decapitation of his father, that Charles was ready to set out on his expedition to attempt the recovery of his rights to the English throne. He was but twenty years of age. He took with him no army, no supplies, no resources. He had a small number of attendants and followers, personally interested themselves in his success, and animated also, probably, by some degree of disinterested attachment to him. It was, however, on the whole, a desperate enterprise. Queen Henrietta, in her retirement at the Louvre, felt very anxious about the result of it. Charles himself, too, notwithstanding his own buoyant and sanguine temperament, and the natural confidence and hope pertaining to his years, must have felt many forebodings. But his condition on the Continent was getting every month more and more destitute and forlorn. He was a mere guest wherever he went, and destitute of means as he was, he found himself continually sinking in public consideration. Money as well as rank is very essentially necessary to make a relative a welcome guest, for any long time, in aristocratic circles. Charles concluded, therefore, that, all things considered, it was best for him to make a desperate effort to recover his kingdoms.
His kingdoms were three, England, Scotland, and Ireland. Ireland was a conquered kingdom, Scotland, like England, had descended to him from his ancestors; for his grandfather, James VI., was king of Scotland, and being on his mothers side a descendant of an English king, he was, of course, one of the heirs of the English crown; and on the failure of the other heirs, he succeeded to that crown, retaining still his own. Thus both kingdoms descended to Charles.
It was only the English kingdom that had really rebelled against, and put to death King Charles's father. There had been a great deal of difficulty in Scotland, it is true, and the republican spirit had spread quite extensively in that country. Still, affairs had not proceeded to such extremities there. The Scotch had, in some degree, joined with the English in resisting Charles the First, but it was not their wish to throw off the royal authority altogether. They abhorred episcopacy in the Church, but were well enough contented with monarchy in the state. Accordingly, soon after the death of the father, they had opened negotiations with the son, and had manifested their willingness to acknowledge him as their king, on certain conditions which they undertook to prescribe to him. It is very hard for a king to hold his scepter on conditions prescribed by his people. Charles tried every possible means to avoid submitting to this necessity. He found, however, that the only possible avenue of access to England was by first getting some sort of possession of Scotland; and so, signifying his willingness to comply with the Scotch demands, he set sail from Holland with his court, moved north ward with his little squadron over the waters of the German Ocean, and at length made port In the Frith of Cromarty, in the north of Scotland.
The Scotch government, having but little faith in the royal word of such a youth as Charles would not allow him to land until he had formally signed their covenant, by which he bound himself to the conditions which they had thought it necessary to impose. He then landed. But he found his situation very far from such as comported with his ideas of royal authority and state. Charles was a gay, dissipated, reckless young man. The men whom he had to deal with were stern, sedate, and rigid religionists. They were scandalized at the looseness and irregularity of his character and manners. He was vexed and tormented by what he considered their ascetic bigotry, by the restraints which they were disposed to put upon his conduct, and the limits with which they insisted on bounding his authority. Long negotiations and debates ensued, each party becoming more and more irritated against the other. At last, on one occasion, Charles lost his patience entirely, and made his escape into the mountains, in hopes to raise an army there among the clans of wild Highlanders, who, accustomed from infancy to the most implicit obedience to their chieftains, are always very loyal to their king. The Scotch nobles, however, not wishing to drive him to extremities, sent for him to come back, and both parties becoming after this somewhat more considerate and accommodating, they at length came to an agreement, and proceeding together to Scone, a village some miles north of Edinburgh, they crowned Charles King of Scotland in a venerable abbey there, the ancient place of coronation for all the monarchs of the Scottish line.
In the mean time, Cromwell, who was at the head of the republican government of England, knowing very well that Charles's plan would be to march into England as soon as he could mature his arrangements for such an enterprise, determined to anticipate this design by declaring war himself against Scotland, and marching an army there.