Sunday, 31 October 2010

For the Love of a Spy - The Story of Anne Halkett

Following on from my last blog about Thurloe, I had intended to write about the double agent, Colonel Joseph Bampfield, but in doing the research I came across an intriguing story and one
entirely appropriate for the Hoydens and Firebrands, the story of Anne Halkett.

Like Lucy Hutchinson, in her later years Lady Halkett saw fit to write notes of her life in her "Auto Biography". Unfortunately much of the manuscript is fragmentary but what it reveals is one of those spirited young ladies who so characterised the period of the English Civil War.

Born in 1623 and highly educated (her parents were tutor and governess to the children of Charles I), young Anne Murray began her tumultuous love life with an unfortunate liaison with a young man. Both sets of parents disapproved and the young lovers were forcibly parted - Anne being made to say farewell to her lover while wearing a blindfold. This caused an estrangement with her mother and poor Anne was not pleased to hear that her loyal and faithful swain promptly married another!

But it is her relationship with Colonel Joseph Bampfield that is most intriguing. She appears to have met him through her brother, Will Murray. Bampfield was much of her own age and by 1648 when they met,  he already had a long history of espionage for Charles I.  Anne writes that, “...his discourse was serious, handsome, and tending to imprese the advantages of piety, loyalty, and vertue; and these subjects were so agreeable to my owne inclination that I could nott butt give them a good reception...”. Bampfield was tramelled with an inconvenient wife but as she lived in the country and he in London, it did not prevent the two from becoming better acquainted.

The three youngest children of Charles I,
a likeness done during their captivity
Parliament had in its custody, the young prince, James Duke of York. He was held at St. James’ palace with his younger brother, Henry, and sister Elizabeth (Anita did a lovely blog on the fate of these two youngsters in *). Bampfield confided in Anne that the King had entrusted him with the task of securing the escape of the Duke of York. It was agreed between them that the best means of escape would be to disguise the young man as a woman. Anne made clothes for him and on 20 April 1648 they put their plan into action.

The Prince had instigated a nightly game of “hide and seek” with his brother and sister. Having inveigled a key to the garden gate from a gardener, under cover of the game, James went swiftly into the garden where he met CB (Anne’s nickname for Colonel Bampfield) who smuggled the boy down to the water and into a boat to take them to a private house where Anne waited. Anne was under strict instructions to leave if they had not turned up by ten o’clock but ignoring these instructions, Anne waited faithfully.

Bampfield and the prince arrived and Anne dressed the boy in the gown she had made, remarking that he “...looked very pretty in it...”.  Bampfield then took the Prince by barge to Gravesend where a Dutch ship waited to take him to France. The captain of the barge had his suspicions:  “Mr. Andrews and his sister” were accompanied by no less than three other people, none of whom appeared to have any luggage and the “sister” was seen to pull up her stockings in a most unladylike manner! 

Failing to find the Prince in the game of Hide and Seek, some hours had passed before the hue and cry went up and the ports were closed. By that time the Prince was well and truly at sea and safe. No suspicion appears to have attached to Anne and she waited the return of CB. 

On his return to London, CB sent for Anne and told her  the sad news that his wife was dead (she wasn’t!). Anne fell for the story hook line and sinker and became “betrothed” to him.  She sighs: “...hee was unquestionably loyall, handsome, a good skollar, which gave him the advantages of writting and speaking well, and the cheefest ornamentt hee had was a devout life and conversation...”. They lived together (probably in Holland) as man and wife for nearly a year before she returned to Scotland where Bampfield continued to court her.

Their on-off relationship continued for some years, resulting in a duel with one of her brothers but it was inevitable Anne would discover that Bampfield’s wife was alive and well and, her reputation ruined she took service in the household of Sir James Halkett as governess to his children. She  eventually married Halkett and enjoyed twenty years happy marriage with him.

Bampfield fell out with Charles II and  by the early 1650s, was already a double agent in Thurloe’s pay. He spent the remainder of the interregnum on the Continent and on the restoration was imprisoned in the Tower for more than a year. He returned to the continent where he “...screwed his way into the service of the Prince of Orange...”(State Papers). Shortly before his death in 1685 he wrote an “Apologie”, an account of his life and career.  For her part, Anne Halkett died in 1699 leaving behind a literary legacy of 21 volumes of her writing.

(PS:  I could not resist including Joseph Bampfield in my own story of Thurloe's spy ring, THE KING'S MAN)

1 comment:

Marg said...

Another article about a fascinating woman from history. Keep up the good work!