Cambridge Historical Reader: Primary - Cambridge Press

King Charles II and "The Royal Oak"

Soon after the death of "the Great Marquis," prince Charles crossed over from Holland to Scotland. The Scots were quite ready to crown him king, if he would only worship God in the way they thought best. Charles did not like their form of worship very much; but, as he had made up his mind to be king, he gave them the promise they wanted.

A fine army, under the careful and wise general Leslie, was now ready to fight for the young king. But things soon began to turn out badly for Charles; for that great soldier, Oliver Cromwell, led his famous soldiers against Leslie, and beat him at the battle of Dunbar.

Then Charles led his army into England, but, by the time he reached the city of Worcester, Cromwell and his army overtook him. A fierce fight took place, partly in the city itself, and partly outside it; and again the king's army was beaten, for no troops could withstand the famous Ironsides of Cromwell's army.

Charles II


Charles II was now a wanderer, as his army was quite scattered. He was in great danger of being caught, for Cromwell offered a thousand pounds to anyone who would give the king into his hands.

In all the country round, Cromwell's soldiers were iii search of Charles Stewart; and many were the escapes he had.

Of course, the first thing he did, was to disguise himself. So he cut off his long hair, and put on the dress of a countryman.

He stayed at the house of some poor woodcutters, named Penderell, and, although they knew him to be the king, they would have died, rather than have betrayed him. Once, when they thought the soldiers were coming to search their house, they sent Charles into a thick wood close by, where he climbed up into an oak-tree.

Here he stayed all day, and, from his leafy hiding-place, he saw the Roundhead soldiers looking for him on all sides. They little thought how near they were to the king.

Royal Oak


At night, when all the soldiers were gone, Charles was taken by Richard Penderell to the house of a gentleman named Lane. This gentleman had a sister who was travelling to the port of Bristol, in the west of England. Now Charles wished to find a ship which would take him to France.

So it was settled that he should go as the lady's servant, and soon he was on horseback, with his supposed mistress behind him, for that was the way in which ladies travelled in those days. At last, Bristol was reached, but there was no ship ready to sail from that port.

So the king left Bristol, and, with one or two faithful friends, pushed on until he reached Brighton, then only a little seaside village. Here a ship was found, and, in a very short time, king Charles had joined his mother and friends in France. For several years, there was no king in Britain, and the country was ruled by Oliver Cromwell. When he died, nearly everyone in our island wanted Charles to return. This he was delighted to do; and, on a fine day in May, in the year 1660, he landed at Dover.

The people were mad with joy, to know that the king had got his own again. The church bells rang, bonfires blazed, the fountains ran with wine, and crowds cheered the king, as he drove in his fine coach to London.

"Really," said king Charles, who was very witty, "I have been very foolish not to come back sooner, for everyone seems very glad to see me."

He entered London on 29 May, which was also his birthday. For 250 years this day has been called "Royal Oak" day, or "Oak Apple" day, to remind us of the way in which the king hid from his enemies. In country places, most boys and girls wear sprigs of oak on Oak Apple day.