I find it interesting that all the Celtic fringes acknowledge the likelihood that Lucy Walters and Charles I were married, while the “official” history doesn’t give them any credence what so ever. Who said History is written by the conquerors?
I am certain that it was thoughts such as these that started Elizabeth off on the long, often arduous journey that all authors take when they begin a new work. She wrote some of the book in the beautiful county of Pembrokeshire, in a low, long house over looking the sea at Newport. She found out about the family who had lived in the romantic castle, seen on the skyline of Newgale, by being given a copy of a book by a friend “who was one of the leaders in the fight to defend the beauty of Pembrokeshire from modern development” (Goudge 1970 p259). She insisted that Elizabeth read it and then write a story in keeping with the book, something which Elizabeth was inspired to do after only reading a few chapters.
The story begins at Roche Castle, one of the Pembrokeshire homes of the Walter family. It is the only book that Elizabeth wrote that doesn’t start with a quote or poem to set the scene. It does however describe in vivid detail the setting of Lucy’s childhood, a place that had overwhelmed Elizabeth with its wild beauty. On my visit I saw no sign of the stream running down to the sea, although the old part of the village was still heavily wooded, so I don’t know if a certain liberty has been taken with the site, or whether it has altered greatly in the last 400 years. There is in fact a place called Roch Bridge, which crosses a stream that runs into the bay at Newgale. It is only a few fields away from the castle, and maybe the route that Lucy took to the sea. But the castle, unlike the cover illustration of the book is not on the coast.
The first section entitled The Child, sets out the background that Lucy grew up in and frames the possible meeting places that could have been used the first time that Charles and Lucy met. Most Historians feel it likely that they met at Golden Grove, as Charles I visited the Earl there, and Lucy would have visited often as a near and dear relative.
We live with Lucy in Pembrokeshire, her natural milieu of freedom from convention and the delights of rural life, and share with her the discovery of the Sin Eater and the sadness and mental anguish she shares with Old Parson in his distress. Here she is brought into contact with the precarious state of children born out of wedlock, as her much loved half brother and sister are packed off back to the servant girl’s family on a Welsh hill farm, a lesson which she was to take to heart in later life.” The departure of Dewi and Betsi left a scar on Lucy or some thing more than a scar, for the wound never quite healed. That two good people like her Father and Mother could throw two babies out of their nest as though they were of no more worth than a couple of sparrows shocked her deeply, and frightened her too. For the first time she was aware of sin as something that tangled up all human life, even the life of her father and mother and their children. She was never entirely a child again after Dewi and Betsi went away.” (Goudge 1970 p 113)
But for some reason, Elizabeth decided to make their meeting place in London, possibly because it was an extremely unhappy time for them both; with Lucy’s parents going through an acrimonious divorce and Charles having to witness and be a party to the trials and recriminations that lead up to the Civil War. His Mother, Queen Henrietta Maria had fled to France, close friends and advisors to his family were put on trial, and in some cases executed.
It also enabled Lucy to be acquainted with Old Sage, in one of those synchronicity of plots that Elizabeth so delights in and which occur more frequently in life than we suppose.
So, two lonely frightened children meet who are both finding out that life doesn’t always work out how one would want it to. They share the same group of friends, have similar backgrounds, and both have a charisma and charm that would ignite the other. “Something or someone, some day, would pull her as moon and sun pull the tides and larks and she would go.” (Goudge. 1970 p19)
We must remember that the age of consent for marriage in the 17th century was 14 for boys and 12 for girls. They grew up fast and died young. John Evelyn the diarist calls her “the daughter of some mean creatures”( Lucy Walters, Wife or Mistress 1947 p 27) But Lucy’s father was directly descended from Sir Rhys ap Thomas about whom was said” though never more than a knight, was never less than a prince” in South Wales. He facilitated the march of Henry Tudor to Bosworth Field, and is credited with finding the fallen crown and placing it on the head of Henry Tudor. The three Ravens on his heraldic Arms were held in high esteem and fear in the Tudor court. On her maternal side her mother was related to the Earl of Carberry, the Vaughans of Golden Grove, who owned just about all of Carmarthenshire. The Earl had been the Comptroller of the King’s Household, during Charles I reign, and from her maternal Grandmother Mary Rhys, Lucy was a descendant of Lady Catherine Howard, aunt to both Anne Boleyn and Queen Katherine Howard. So Lucy would have been a good match for any future Monarch. The act of Parliament that forbids Royalty to marry commoners was not past until 1772.
At Golden Grove, she begins to understand the fascination she can have over the opposite sex, as she beguiles the Earl with her good looks and charm. “I think you may have difficulty in the upbringing of that child Elizabeth said Lady Carberry gently. I have seldom seen my husband so infatuated.” (Goudge 1970 p 125).
We follow her on her sad journey to London and to her new home with Mrs Gwinne, her Grandmother, who lives in the “village” of St Giles. Here Lucy is brought onto the stage of National History, meeting people such as the eminent Dr Cosins, Master of Peterhouse and Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge, Tom Howard, whose brother was the Duke of Suffolk, Algernon and Robert Sidney, friendships deepened by family connections that would eventually lead to her meeting Charles.
In some ways this is my favourite part of the book, Elizabeth is able to communicate the atmosphere of 17th century London so well, that not only do we peer up narrow alleys, saunter down wide fashionable streets, and travel the broad sweep of the Thames, we can smell the stinking kennels and open drains, and rejoice in the peace and perfume of Old Sage’s herb stall. Her description of Covent Garden is typical.
“Lucy and Jacob went warily past the open doors lest a bucket full of slops, flung in the direction of the open kennel, should catch them. When they reached the Garden it was full of activity. The flower girls and fruit and vegetable men were at their stalls, spreading out their wares. Nan’s big red hands moved so quickly in posy-making, bunching the flowers together and twisting long grasses round their stalks, that the posies fell from her fingers to her lap almost as though she were shelling pease, but she allowed a few extra seconds to Lucy’s choosing the flowers with care so that Lucy had a variety of pinks, frilled white ones, white ones stitched with scarlet round the edges, pale pink, a couple of sops-in-wine, and one deep red clove carnation in the centre. Lucy leaned forward and kissed Nan’s rough cheek which smelt of carnations. Nan was steeped in her flowers and smelled of them from head to foot, as did Old Sage of his herbs” (Goudge 1970 p170/171) How different from the brightly coloured but scentless blooms we now purchase, wrapped in cellophane from a supermarket bucket.
Elizabeth likes to root her characters to a place, and Old Sage fits his perfectly. Old Sage had his stall as close as possible to St Paul’s church because he kept his main supply of herbs in the church loft. There were trees at his end of the Garden and it was sheltered from the sun by a great yew tree which must have been growing here in the days of the monks……Old Sage sold herbs of every sort, bunches and packets of dried herbs, fresh bunches of mint, lavender, rosemary and marjoram, and also cloves and peppercorns and oranges stuck with cloves to keep away infection. when he moved herb dust sprayed from his person like pepper from a pot.” (Goudge 1970 p 171)
Elizabeth’s father’s side of the family had lived in London, and indeed were part of the French immigration of silk weavers that came over to live in London at the time of the French revolution. They probably planted Mulberry trees in their gardens to facilitate their trade, which would have been old and venerable to young Elizabeth’s eyes, she would have noticed the way that towns and cities have their green and pleasant spots. London although bigger and brasher in Edwardian times, wouldn’t have been that different from the London of 200 years earlier. It’s changed rapidly of cause in the last 50/60 years.
She also manages to bring personal remembrances into the story, memories of her Father’s study for example are used to describe Mr Gwinne’s, Lucy’s Grandfather. “Lucy knocked on the library door and receiving no answer lifted the latch and walked in. Mr Gwinne’s library resembled a clearing in a forest, but the open space was by no means uncluttered, having a minor undergrowth of books piled on the floor, like stumps of felled trees. Around the clearing great bookcases loomed from floor to ceiling, dark but yet alive with a glint of gold or crimson here and there, as though light shone faintly through massed leaves, and ominous with a motionless power.” (Goudge 1970 p 151)
“the narrow doorway of the study and on entering found a wall to the right and on the left the ominous darkness of that invaluable bookcase, Somewhere round on the other side of it was my father at work, but it was very dark between that wall and the bookcase.” (Goudge 1974 p103),being a description of her father’s study at Ely.
The plot flows on, in and out of sadness enriched with flashes of joy, as Lucy and her brothers come to terms with their parents divorce, the deaths of Besti, and her beloved Nan-Nan, the loneliness of William, showing her the separateness of the human condition, and the history of Old Sage, which will prove a vital link in the narrative of the story later on, pulling us right up to the execution of the Earl of Strafford. Lucy sees Charles met the Mayor of London and finds a chance to throw him her present of the dark webbed purse she had made him. It would be the last time they met for years.
The middle section is entitled The Idyll, and as such is the shortest part of the book, as it was the shortest of Lucy’s life. It opens in Devon where Lucy is living with her father’s parents, and Dewi. Roch Castle has been almost destroyed and Algernon Sidney has been badly wounded in the fighting. The Civil War is raging, and she is safe at the moment deep in Royalist held Devon. After a further meeting with the Prince cements her feelings even further than the childish passion she had started with, Lucy travels with her father and Dewi back to Pembrokeshire, to make a home for them in the shadow of their broken castle. It’s as good a place as any to wait out the war.
The meeting and marriage of Charles and Lucy is part of Welsh myth, which is why Elizabeth allows them to meet at the romantic and symbolic place of St David’s cathedral. In reality it is unlikely that he would have had the time or opportunity in the midst of civil war, to go to the west of Wales for four days.
It is a clever devise to have them unwittingly married by a de-frocked or at least un-ordained priest, because of cause; no one has been able to produce a marriage certificate. There were however persistent rumours that they had married before the Prince went to France. Sir Edward Hyde writes in the march of 1646/7 ” I am far from being secure, for many reasons, that the intelligence from London of the Prince’s marriage may not be true; we were apprehensive of it before he went, and spoke freely to him our opinions of the fatal consequences of it.” (Hyde, 1646/7 p 346)
What ever the historical niceties, the second part ends with Charles re-joining the war, and Lucy doomed to wait it out in Pembrokeshire. Elizabeth must have known many young women who sent their men off to war, wondering if they would ever met again, hoping that there would/wouldn’t be a child to comfort them, or concerned with bringing one up alone.
The third and longest part of the story is The Woman, and chronicles Lucy’s travels around Europe and her fight to be accepted as Wife of the Prince and Mother of his child, the future Duke of Monmouth. Part of the problem was that the Royal family had no personal income at all and were reliant on the generosity of other Royals, who after the glamour of the situation had wore off, and Cromwell had won the Civil war with the hearts and minds of the British behind him, found other things they would rather spend their money on. So, the enlarging of the household was most unwelcome. Charles’s mother was extremely angry and begged him not to tell people, as she still hoped for a moneyed match to be made, helping them out of their poverty. I suspect that she hoped Lucy would fall victim to any number of fatal diseases prevalent at that time, thereby freeing Charles from his youthful mistake.
There is evidence to suggest that the Marriage Certificate was stolen from her, during the debacle of her misguided and ultimately self-destructive journey to England with her young son.
This part of the book has been the subject of much conjecture and discussion. Why did Lucy decide to travel to England, taking Jackie with her? She must have realised how dangerous it was and the advantage to the Commonwealth if she was captured. Surely she was frightened about the safety of her son, as a future King of England. The reason given in the book is the bequest left to Lucy by her Mother. “Our Mother left some money for you too. There is still some legal business to be done and it would be a help to Richard and to me if you would come back to England with us and stay for a while. You know what London is like in the spring and summer; a jewel girdled by the little villages among their meadows and flowers. Will you come? You and the children and Anne.”(Goudge 1974 p 663). Justus implores her to return to England with him, and finally she accepts. But I don’t understand why she took the children with her, unless she thought that on her return to the Continent they would have been taken away from her, Charles had tried to kidnap “Jackie” before.
But really I think that Lucy privately gave to much credence to her brother Richards’s position in Cromwell’s staff and Government. She was used to her family being in a position to ensure her safety. She also trusted Tom Howard as an old friend and distant relation, not knowing that he was a double agent, and would be only to happy to hand such a prize over to Cromwell to smooth his own path.
The fact that Cromwell didn’t try and execute them speaks of the sensitive nature of the situation. Killing the Grand father was one thing, but to murder a royal child and his Mother, no such thing had been done since the bad old days of Richard III and the Princes in the Tower.
The relationship between Lucy and her personal maid Anne Hill has caused considerable debate among Goudge readers as it appears to be one of almost Saintly Scapegoat and Judas kiss complexity.
Elizabeth had a deep reverence for the relationship between servant and Master, or as is more politically correct today, Employer and Employee. It was something she had seen and experienced all her life. To our modern comprehension it seems as out dated as clubbing your woman over the head and dragging her cave-wards, but to Elizabeth it was one of equality through the act of service and acceptance. It is the Path for all those of Christian faith to try and live by the example of Christ, and Lucy realised that Anne was truly repentant of her former disloyalty. She would have wanted to believe so, as whom else did she have to turn to at this, the lowest point of her life. Anne had become the stable pivot of her and more importantly of her children in an increasingly chaotic life. click here for the record of the interrogation of Anne Hill
I find the weakness and politically motivated cruelty and neglect with which Charles treated Lucy, hard to understand. I suppose that the desire to be accepted by his peers, his family and his subjects after decades of war, flight and fight was too beguiling. as well as the old adage about Power and corruption. How convenient poor Lucy died before he became King, thereby side stepping the issue completely.
I will finish the article with a quote from the diary of Samuel Peyps, the famous Restoration Diarist, and two from Historical websites, one chronicling the History of Scotland the other from a west country town.
At that time the restoration of the monarchy looked unlikely, and the Stewarts were not the most eligible of bachelors. Charles’ brother James (later James VII) married a commoner, Anne Hyde and Charles II married Lucy Walter, while Louis XIV of France married Françoise d’Aubign, after the death of his first wife. Charles’ mother, Queen Henrietta Marie, was furious when she heard of the marriage and threatened to have her brother, the King of France, cut off Charles’ pension if he did not repudiate Lucy Walters and her child. Charles accepted and went on to marry the Portuguese princess Catherine of Braganza in 1662, four years after the death of Lucy Walters. Charles died in 1685 without any acknowledged legitimate children and was succeeded by his brother, James II.
‘What is whispered about is that young Crofts is lawful son of the King, the King being married to his mother. How true it is, God knows.’
Samuel Pepys Diary, October 1662.
Taken from the Scottish Politics web site by Alba Publishing, Scotland.
Monmouth was the illegitimate son of King Charles II, born to Lucy Walters in 1649 during Charles II’s exile at The Hague. Monmouth was much loved and favoured by his father and despite his illegitimate status was given a place of great authority within English society. In 1674 Monmouth was made ‘Commander in Chief’ of the army; gaining great respect as a soldier among the English people.
Shaftesbury urged King Charles II to recognise his son by the legitimisation of his marriage to Lucy Walters. Charles refused declaring he had only ever been married to the Queen. Monmouth later confessed that his father had told him in private that he would have no legal right to the throne. Rumours abounded about a black box being discovered in which the marriage papers of Charles and Lucy Walters were hidden but these were never produced as evidence.
Goudge.E. 1970. Child From the Sea Hodder & Stoughton
Scott.G Lord 1947 Lucy Walters: Wife or Mistress. Harrap & Co Ltd
Lamford T. G. 2001 The Defence of Lucy Walter The Better Book Company.
Samuel P 1662 The Dairies of Samuel Pepys
Rev C. P. Brown Minehead On Line
Goudge E. 1974 Joy Of The Snow Hodder & Stoughton