To Catch A King: Charles II’s Great Escape
How did the most wanted man in the country outwit the greatest manhunt in British history?
In January 1649, King Charles I was beheaded in London outside his palace of Whitehall and Britain became a republic. When his eldest son, Charles, returned in 1651 to fight for his throne, he was crushed by the might of Cromwell’s armies at the battle of Worcester.
With 3,000 of his supporters lying dead and 10,000 taken prisoner, it seemed as if his dreams of power had been dashed. Surely it was a foregone conclusion that he would now be caught and follow his father to the block? At six foot two inches tall, the prince towered over his contemporaries and with dark skin inherited from his French-Italian mother, he stood out in a crowd. How would he fare on the run with Cromwell’s soldiers on his tail and a vast price on his head?
The next six weeks would form the most memorable and dramatic of Charles’ life. Pursued relentlessly, Charles ran using disguise, deception and relying on grit, fortitude and good luck. He suffered grievously through weeks when his cause seemed hopeless. He hid in an oak tree an event so fabled that over 400 English pubs are named Royal Oak in commemoration. Less well-known events include his witnessing a village in wild celebrations at the erroneous news of his killing; the ordeal of a medical student wrongly imprisoned because of his similarity in looks; he disguised himself as a servant and as one half of an eloping couple. Once restored to the throne as Charles II, he told the tale of his escapades to Samuel Pepys, who transcribed it all.
In this gripping, action-packed, true adventure story, based on extensive archive material, Charles Spencer, bestselling author of Killers of the King, uses Pepys’s account and many others to retell this epic adventure.
TO CATCH A KING was published on 5th October 2017 by HarperCollins.
“It’s a wonderful tale, and Spencer tells it with journalistic flair” – The Times
“Riveting…To Catch a King is as gripping as any thriller” – Sunday Telegraph
“One of the joys of this book…is just how close the reader gets to the action. The day-by-day account of the fugitive’s doings provide delicious details. Charles Spencer is the perfect person to pass the story onto a new generation. His pacey, readable prose coasts elegantly through the great tale. To Catch a King is a cracking read and those who come to it knowing little of the famous tale will find they have a treat in store” – Literary Review
“In this pacey slice of narrative history Charles Spencer…constructs this spare but atmospheric account of six weeks that changed the course of English history” – Mail on Sunday