A grim and supernatural tale for the anniversary on this day of the birth of King Charles I of England.
No spot appears more entirely calculated for monastic seclusion than Dunfermline. Formerly the walls of the abbey and palace covered a vast extent of that ground, which is now a great part of the town. The deep sequestered woods in which the palace rests, are full of solemn beauty. The high embowering trees almost overshadow the mouldering walls, and give a pensive gloom in unison with the character of the ruin, while the trees clad in their variegated autumnal robes, are rich in all the glow of luxuriant beauty.
The south aspect of the palace is now merely a ruinous and solitary wall, containing two rows of mutilated windows. One of the higher ones belonged to the apartment which Charles the First inhabited. A singular tradition is related, which shews the dark superstition of those times.
When the royal infant was first taken from his mother’s chamber, and placed in his cradle, in the adjoining room, the window suddenly burst open, with a tremendous noise, and a crimson sheet floating in, envelopped the cradle, and shrowded the babe as far as the throat. His Majesty, on being informed of the cause of the noise, prophesied that the child would end his days in blood. On learning that the sheet or mantle reached to the throat, he said that he would lose his head.
Letters from the North highlands, during the summer 1816, Elizabeth Isabella Spence, 1816
Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: It seems inevitable that, long after the fact, strange stories of omens and portents should be told of tragic Kings and Queens. Mrs Daffodil has previously told of a fortune-teller who predicted the death of Queen Marie Antoinette. And that royalist person over at the Haunted Ohio blog has told of predictions of the death of the Sun King. There were many ominous tales foreshadowing King Charles’s martyrdom on the scaffold.
There was also this perhaps apocryphal story from an 1840 biography of Cromwell:
There was a rumour prevalent in Huntingdon, that Oliver Cromwell and Charles I., when children nearly of the same age, met at Hinchinbrooke House, the seat of sir Oliver Cromwell, the uncle and godfather of the former. “The youths had not been long together,” says [the Rev. Mark Noble, author of Memoirs of the Protectoral House of Cromwell], “before Charles and Oliver disagreed; and as the former was then as weakly as the latter was strong, it was no wonder that the royal visitant was worsted; and Oliver, even at this age, so little regarded dignities that he made the royal blood flow in copious streams from the prince’s nose. This,” adds the same author, “was looked upon as a bad presage for that king, when the civil wars commenced.”
[The account of this pugilistic encounter between Charles and Cromwell is, to say the least of it, by no means improbable. It is well known that Sir Oliver, a true and loyal knight, sumptuously entertained King James on more than one occasion; and the young prince, being twice, at least, of the party, such a falling out is not unlikely to have occurred.] The Life of Oliver Cromwell, George Robert Gleig, 1840
Noble’s Memoirs is said to be “full of errors.” An embellishment of this tale says that the lads fell out when Cromwell refused to yield in some matter, Charles struck him, and young Cromwell vigorously defended himself. In a case of hammering home the moral, it is said that King James declared that “the blow was to be forgiven, as it was given in defense of a right, and his son must learn to know that right was greater than kings.”
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You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.