Saturday, 2 January 2016

A King in Clova (not clover)

While the Braes of Angus held happy times for Queen Victoria on her occasional forays over the hills from Deeside, the glens were altogether inhospitable for one of her royal predecessors.  King Charles II landed in  the north of Scotland in June 1650, after an unhappy period of exile on the Continent.  His main military champion, the Marquis of Montrose, had been executed the month before in Edinburgh and now Charles decided he could afford to make a pact with his killers, agreeing to the Solemn League and Covenant and Presbyterian rule throughout Britain.  But Charles Stuart and Presbyterianism was a match neither in heaven nor on earth and he decided one day to make a break for it, out of the clutches of his hard line allies, hoping to seek less demanding support among more traditional royalists.  Pretending to the gentlemen of the Estates at Perth that he fancied a bit of hawking (which no doubt they only grudgingly agreed to), he tried to escape from them and fled across the Tay and east along the Carse of Gowrie, clad in just a ‘thin ryding sutte of stuffe’, accompanied by only a few attendants.  He reached Dudhope Castle in Dundee, then veered north to Auchterhouse, where he met the Earl of Buchan, and on to the Ogilvy stronghold of Cortachy. Despite being in the hands of true friends now it was felt that he would not be safe for the night in the castle and he was bundled away north again.

Unhappy royal hiding ground:  Glen Clova.


 After a break neck journey of forty-two miles he was conducted to a cottage belonging to a tenant of the Laird of Clova, and here, ‘lying in a nastie roume, one ane old bolster, aboue a matte of segges and rushes, ouerweiried and werey fearfull,’ he spent a rough night.  The date was 4th October, 1650, and the incident – known as ‘The Start’ – has none of the romantic drama which is associated with Charles hiding in the royal oak the following year.  If the hovel in Glen Clova was still standing (and it probably vanished years ago), I doubt whether this dandified king would have liked having a blue plaque affixed to its wall in remembrance of his desperation.  His ‘friends’ from Perth soon rooted him out (as the Duke of Buckingham blabbed about the escape, having heard the details from Charles himself) and he was accompanied back to that town again, spending the night at Castle Huntly in the Carse on the way back.  The twenty year-old king in the making may have been almost glad to be back in the bosom of his reluctant friends, but that feeling probably dissipated when he was subjected to a massive judgemental sermon delivered personally to him the next Sunday, having unfortunately arrived too late in town to hear the public sermon.  He was forced to write and deliver a grovelling apology to his captors at Perth.  All was forgiven, after a fashion, and Charles was proclaimed king on the traditional site at Scone on New Year’s Day, 1651.

English government propaganda of 1651:  The Scots holding the nose of their young king to the grindstone.

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