As I am doing my research on the English republican exiles in Europe, I notice more and more what an important role was played by their wives. In particular the regicide Edmund Ludlow (1617-92), who fled to Switzerland after the Restoration of Charles II, on many occasions relied on the help of his wife Elizabeth (c 1630-1702). Throughout his flight and exile she remained his close companion, trusted advisor and friend, as might be expected from a good Puritan wife. But she was also much more than that. Elizabeth Ludlow was well-connected in political circles in her own right and served as a mediator, messenger and organiser behind the scenes.
When Charles Stuart issued his proclamation calling on all the King’s judges to surrender themselves to him, Edmund records in his memoirs that his ‘deare wife’ went ‘to informe herself, from knowing friends, what they would advise me to doe in this case.’ Among other things, Elizabeth went to see the Speaker of the Convention, Sir Harbottle Grimstone, to discuss Edmund’s case with him and to obtain a pass for her husband, so he would not be seized on the way to his surrender.
The wives of contemporary political figures also formed their own networks, discussing political issues in the absence of their husbands. Edmund Ludlow recorded, for instance, that he had little hope of a pardon from the King because the wife of his fellow republican Sir Henry Vane had informed Elizabeth ‘that she was assured [General George] Monke’s wife had sayd she would seeke to the King, upon her knees, that Sir Henry Vane, Major Generall [John] Lambert and myself should be hanged.’
When Ludlow has to hide from the authorities, Elizabeth goes to live with him at a friend’s house, and when he finally decides to go abroad to escape from the claws of the government, they settle the affairs of his estate together, before she accompanies him from his hiding place to Southwark, where a horse for his flight is waiting for him.
While Ludlow managed to escape via France to Geneva, Lausanne and finally Vevey in Switzerland, it was Elizabeth who looked after his affairs in England and provided him with money and news from home, before joining him in exile in 1663. Edmund’s memoirs are full of love and praise for his ‘deare wife’, and their marriage was one of mutual respect. They stayed together until Edmund’s death in 1692.
Quotes from: Edmund Ludlow, A Voyce from the Watch Tower. Part Five: 1660-1662, ed. A. B. Worden, Camden Fourth Series, 21 (London: Royal Historical Society, 1978).