King Charles's escape from the embattled city of Worcester and his flight out of England makes one of the great escape stories of history. The King had hoped to rally Royalist support for the Scots troops he brought to Worcester, but on September 3, 1651, the battle there ended in a disastrous rout of the Royalists by Cromwell's men. Charles was lucky to get out of Worcester alive, and for the next six weeks he was a hunted man, hiding in friendly houses (and once in a tree) or travelling in disguise as he made his way across England to safety in France. The King himself considered this episode the most notable of his career, and in 1680 he dictated a full and vivid account of it to Samuel Pepys. Author Richard Ollard agrees with Charles's estimation, and he shows that the King was at his best during the escape--he displayed bravery and endurance, quickness of mind and excellent judgement, as well as a remarkable ability, when necessary, to play the role of a servant or young farmer. In later years the "Merry Monarch" developed less laudable traits, but as a 21-year-old youth in 1651, Charles was an admirable and capable commander of his own destinies. From Worcester, King Charles fled north; his first thought was to get back to Scotland. But he soon realized that this route of escape was particularly perilous, and his next idea was to cross into heavily Royalist Wales. In that direction too, bridges were carefully watched, and the King decided he could only move south, to some port where he might hope to find passage abroad. Everywhere he went, the King relied on an underground network of Royalist sympathizers. In the North, these people were most often poor Catholic recusants whose houses provided "priest holes," useful too for hiding kings. As Charles moved south, his helpers also included Anglican gentry, ship captains and army officers, pastry cooks and chambermaids. More than once, Charles met Cromwellian soldiers on the road; his instinct, the correct one, was to brazen it out and ride on past. Often in such situations, it fell to the King to calm his companions' panic. His party waited all night at the Dorset shore, but the ship's captain they had engaged never appeared--the captain's wife, a staunch Presbyterian and upholder of Parliament, detected something suspicious, and simply locked her husband in his room for the night. Finally, near Brighton, Charles secured passage on the Surprise (in 1660 renamed the Royal Escape), and favorable winds carried him to France. He guarded the details of his escape for the nine years remaining before the Restoration, to protect those who had helped him, and when he returned to England he rewarded the ones who were still alive with a liberality quite uncharacteristic of the Stuarts. Ollard recounts the King's adventures with wit and elegance, and he succeeds in presenting an affable, attractive young monarch, far different from the lecherous and cynical old king of the history books. One imagines that the King would have read this book with pride--and with enjoyment as well, for the book has the suspense and humor of a good thriller. --Adapted from dust jacket.