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  • King Charles the Second told this tale to all with whom he spoke

  • How he escaped a terrible fate by hiding in an oak

  • After the Battle of Worcester King Charles, who lost, had fled

  • Pursued by Cromwell's soldiers with a price upon his head

  • With his royal manor it was feared his foes would recognise him

  • And so his loyal followers thought they needed to disguise him

  • They found a coat, a hat and shoes that were rough and unpleasant

  • To give Charles the appearance of a poor and lowly peasant

  • But King Charles still looked too regal; his skin was soft and fair

  • So they rubbed his face with walnut oil and cut the royal hair!

  • Near Boscobel House there stood an oak with leaves and branches thick

  • King Charles was taken to the tree and told to climb up quick

  • As Cromwell's soldiers swarmed about, still searching for their prey

  • They did not notice that King Charles was only feet away...

  • [dramatic music]

  • King Charles escaped to exile 'til he was restored to glory

  • And the legend of the Royal Oak was one of his favourite stories

  • Boscobel House is a mansion in Shropshire with a very significant oak tree growing in

  • a field nearby. That oak tree is the descendant of the one in which King Charles II hid and

  • so saved his life when he was being chased by his enemies after losing a battle.

  • In 1651 the young King Charles invaded England with a Scottish army. It was intended to avenge

  • his father who'd been executed by English revolutionaries two years before. Instead

  • it was destroyed at the Battle of Worcester and the king had to escape.

  • The king escaped because he fell into the hands of Roman Catholics, people practicing

  • a forbidden religion who were used to hiding their priests. They owned a house at Boscobel

  • and when the house itself became too dangerous they put the king into an old oak tree nearby

  • in a field and he was able to hide there through the day.

  • The Boscobel story is odd among legends in that it's actually real history but it has

  • these mythological overtones. Associating the king with spirits of nature, with the

  • tree that is the king of the wood, rooting him literally in the English landscape for

  • all time and providing monarchists with an actual physical object which represents the

  • survival of monarchy against all odds. In that sense it has all the classic trappings

  • of a legend.

  • The sources for the Boscobel Royal Oak story are Charles himself who kept on retelling

  • the story to sometimes wearying extent after he was restored as king, but everybody else

  • involved in his escape also wrote their own accounts which got published. And of course

  • there's the tree itself and the house which remain today in the same places and in much

  • like the same condition. When the original tree died a sapling was planted from it and

  • so that's the tree we see today.

  • The moral of the Boscobel story is not to give up hope when the whole world seems against

  • you, it's to trust the natural world when civilisation lets you down and it's that when

  • the world seems to be your enemy a few faithful friends can see you through.

King Charles the Second told this tale to all with whom he spoke

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B1 charles king oak tree oak tree escaped

Tales From English Folklore #4: Charles II and the Oak Tree

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    Summer posted on 2020/04/28
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