Please be aware – this article was an April Fools’ Day prank!
A manuscript that researchers suggest could rewrite the narrative of British royal history has been discovered in Germany. Experts believe that the 500-page document was written by English king Charles I, after the time of his supposed execution during the Civil War in 1649. It reveals that Charles in fact escaped death, and was replaced on the scaffold by a body double.
“This diary redefines the course of British history as we know it,” said Dr Samuel Meadcalf, head of a team of researchers from the Centre For Seventeenth Century Studies (CFSCS). “It really is the smoking gun of 17th-century manuscripts.”
The manuscript was discovered hidden in the walls of a remote 17th-century farmhouse in the German town of Dunkelnberg earlier this year, during an extensive restoration project. Over the last few months, the team at CFSCS has undertaken extensive testing on the manuscript, in order to verify its authenticity. Following rigorous analysis of the handwriting and patterns of speech used, experts have confirmed the monarch himself must have written the document. “It would have been near on impossible for even the most experienced forgers of the time to recreate Charles’s style and tone so closely. It’s a near perfect match,” stated Dr Meadcalf.
Carbon dating of the parchment places its creation at around 1672–1676. Meanwhile, references to events such as the 1666 Great Fire of London [described as “the most woeful of eventes my homeland ever was cursed to witness”] also reveal that it was indeed written after the date of Charles’s ‘death’ in 1649.
A woodcut depicting Charles I’s execution. However, new evidence suggests it was not him on the scaffold, but a body double. (Getty Images)
Instead, the memoir reveals that while Charles was awaiting execution, his aristocratic supporters hatched an elaborate plot to smuggle him out of prison by night. He was replaced by an unfortunate body double who later took his place on the scaffold outside Banqueting House in Whitehall.
After his escape, Charles disguised himself as beggar and boarded a boat bound for the continent. Keen to avoid detection, and aware that returning to England would mean certain death, he spent the remainder of his life travelling around Europe. “The revelations about Charles’s secret life contained in the diary are extraordinary,” stated Dr Meadcalf. “It recounts how he lived under the pseudonym Bartram Brannagan, moving from town to town as part of a travelling troupe of players. It really does read like the plot of a top-class Restoration drama.”
In 1670, aged 70, the ex-king settled in the small German town of Dunkelnberg, where it is believed he wrote the 500-page autobiographical manuscript documenting his secret life.
Responding to the news, royal historian Professor Nigel Prendlegrast told History Extra, “this is arguably the biggest discovery since the remains of Richard III were discovered under a carpark in 2012. The entire way we view the Civil War – one of the most tumultuous and bloody periods in British history – will have to be re-examined.”
This was, of course, an April Fools’ Day prank! Did you fall for it?