The classic account of Charles II’s escape in 1651 is the account he gave to Samuel Pepys in 1680. Yet as Pepys himself realized, the story as the King gave it was full of mistakes some of which Pepys corrected in footnotes. However, researchers have other accounts to draw upon, some of which are based on first hand research though many are little more than rumour and hearsay. Of the more reliable commentaries the book published by Thomas Blount in 1660, BOSCOBEL, seemed to be accurate and was initially backed by the King. This was much nearer to the events so the King’s poor memory of what happened when he spoke to Pepys did not appear crucial.
But reading Allan Fea’s book AFTER WORCESTER FIGHT (1904) ended my belief this was an option and created an even more puzzling series of mysteries. There is more than one version of the book, and the one Fea published was the third edition which had been used by Thomas Hughes in 1830 in his book THE BOSCOBEL TRACTS. Blount’s version looked valid when Hughes published. However, Fea pointed out a number of problems
The first edition had been published by the King’s stationer, Henry Seile, in 1660 shortly after the Restoration and ended with the King arriving at Bentley Hall. The first edition was given approval by Royal Authority, Fea quoting from state papers of August 1660-1 the statement “It is the King’s pleasure that Thomas Blount, author of ‘Boscobel’, continue to perfect that history of his wonderful preservation after the Battle of Worcester….”. (xiv) . The second edition, also by Seile, was published in 1662.
But when the second edition appeared in 1662 taking the story beyond Jane Lane and the King leaving Bentlry, the King made known (The King’s Intelligencer 1661-2) his discontent, The comment the book “hath divers errors and mistakes in it, and (is) therefore not to be admitted as a true and perfect narrative of his sacred Majesties deliverance” (xiv) damaged its credibility. Fea thinks the King objected to additional matter which “Had some less reliable matter supplemented to it” (xv). The extended version is thus suspect. However far worse than this, is the denial of authorship which Fea goes on to discuss.
Blount Denies Authorship
Fea comments “far more perplexing is the fact that Thomas Blount, the Royalist Roman Catholic lawyer of the Inner temple…. Declared that he did not write “Boscobel”. He saw it, by his own account, in the library at Brampton Bryan, and when asked by Lord Oxford if he was not the author of it, observed that… he had no claim to it… Further, in a letter to his son, he desired that “if the same opinion prevails amongst any friends in your part of the world, I desire you will contradict it, for I do not so much as know the author of the piece”. (xv)
Fea argues “As the original ‘Boscobel’ is full of minute details of all that occurred in the vicinity of the old house that bears its name, Madeley and Moseley, it would almost appear that the author was a native of Staffordshire or Shropshire, and perhaps was a member of the old Staffordshire family of Blount of Blount Hall, which became extinct in the middle of the eighteenth century. Though Thomas Blount of the Inner Temple was born in Worcestershire, his father and grandfather came from Herefordshire… On the other hand, as Mr Charles G Thomas points out in his 1894 edition, in the lawyer Blount’s criticism of the account of Charles’s escape in “Baker’s Chronicle” he calls attention to an error which shows that he was conversant with the details of the story” (xv- xvi).
A resolution to the problem has not emerged to my knowledge. The Blounts of Blount Hall came from near Uttoxeter, and while in Staffordshire were on the Eastern side of the county.. Thomas Blount was not from Staffordshire or Shropshire, but is certainly capable of researching the first part of the story – up to Bentley Hall – and had knowledge of what had taken place and could easily have spoken to some of the main actors in the escape of the King. However, there is no obvious solution for this problem as far as I know. The King’s statement endorsing the earlier version of the book allows credibility to the account up to his arrival at Bentley. After that, Blount has less credibility and who wrote the book is an issue which needs to be cleared up. Advice welcome.
Trevor Fisher 16 8 21