Parliament had ordered the 29th of May, the King’s birthday, to be forever kept as a day of thanksgiving for our redemption from tyranny and the King’s return to his Government, he returning to London that day.
— Samuel Pepys’s Diary 1st June 1660
Oak is the national tree of the English people. It represents strength and endurance. Oak is traditionally seen as the protector of our way of life. Royal Oak Day (also known as Oak Apple Day or Restoration Day) marks the restoration of England’s Monarchy. It recalls how Charles II hid in an oak tree to escape following his defeat in the battle of Worcester.
Many who fought the king and his troops under the military command of Cromwell were fuelled with outrage at high taxes and the unaccountable lavish lifestyle of their Monarchy. They were united in a desire for freedom and political liberties.
As a political leader, Cromwell placed the interests of his elite minority above the civil liberties of our nation. There were many problems, arguments and new laws based on his strict puritanism. Cromwell considered many things English people enjoyed as sins to be outlawed - eating plum pudding, theatres, singing and dancing were made against the law. Cromwell ruled by force – not by the will of the people.
Cromwell’s dictatorship and tyranny was not acceptable to those who opposed Charles II. Not long after Cromwell’s death, many of those who had previously fought the king under Cromwell united with English royalists to secure the king’s peaceful return. Charles II arrived in London on his 30th Birthday - 29th May 1660.
Charles II’s arrival marked the beginning of Restoration - the return of Monarchy for England. And this time not only Royalists welcomed him. His arrival meant everyone could enjoy singing, dancing, and plum pudding once more. On the day of his arrival there were fireworks, bonfires, dancing in the streets; church bells rang and cannons roared!
Royal Oak Day is a celebration of our freedom, liberty and nationhood - all of which are depicted in the strength and stability of the Oak. Royal Oak Day traditions such as enjoying plum pudding and ale are specific reminders of our redemption from tyranny.
This day was celebrated nationally throughout England for over 200 years. It has been customary to wear a sprig of oak on this day for centuries. There have been numerous naval ships, a train and a London underground station named ‘The Royal Oak’ and it remains a popular name for our pubs and hotels. The image of the Royal Oak continues to be found on our stamps and coins. Yet apart from within a few English village communities, this important day and its traditions have now almost been forgotten. As we mark the 350th Anniversary of this celebration in 2010, let us consider its significance and forever keep the 29th May as a day of thanksgiving for our redemption from tyranny – this Royal Oak Day you are free to wear a sprig of oak and enjoy traditional English plum pudding!