In my new historical novel, The soldier, the gaoler, the spy and her lover, the spy is Jane Whorwood – a tireless and inventive secret agent for the king, who became his lover along the way.
Jane had been helping Charles since the civil war, leaving her family to do so.
On one occasion, she’d smuggled a considerable amount of gold into Oxford where the king was surrounded, besieged by parliamentary forces. She did this by hiding the gold in bars of soap, carried through enemy lines by a laundry woman.
Who would search a laundry woman?
She was also involved in various escape plans for the king; and kept in close touch with the famous – or infamous - astrologist William Lilly. It’s a relationship which particularly interests me and their first encounter is where our story starts.
She’s pestering Lilly for astrological information about escape plans for Charles. What did the stars have to say on the matter?
She was a woman prepared to try anything, risk anything...though, ever practical, she also smuggled cutters and grinders into the king’s bedroom, to deal with the prison bars.
(Having paid the guards to look the other way.)
And Jane, from time to time, also smuggled herself into the king’s bedroom, where she offered both encouragement and relief to the royal prisoner... though Charles remembered with particular fondness some moments they shared alone in the guard room, where he’d been allowed some privacy to write his spiritual memoirs.
For a moment, the spiritual memoirs were put down and quite forgotten.
Charles was a man alone, his wife Queen Henrietta in exile; but sadly, Jane’s appalling husband was not. Her marriage to Brome Whorwood was a disaster from the start, with the father of the groom dying on the morning of their wedding.
Their relationship continued on a downward trajectory. Brome’s shameless womanising made Jane’s commitment to the king - body and soul - an easier choice.
She was not treated kindly by the royalist writers after the Restoration.
They wanted a royal martyr, not a royal adulterer, which made the heroic Jane an embarrassment. Despite her singular loyalty to the king, they wrote her out of the story, as did Charles 2nd... but I have written her in.
‘My travels,’ she wrote in 1648, ‘the variety of accidents (and especially dangers) more become a Romance than a letter.’
This is true.
Jane, part of the Scottish émigré community in London, fought fearlessly and passionately for two people in her life – herself...and the king.