The original order was created by King Charles II to thank the 687 lords who had supported him during his period of exile (1651 – 1660).
Each knight was to receive a silver medal on a ribbon depicting the royal oak tree. The tree where King Charles hid to escape the Roundheads after the Battle of Worcester.
The knights never received their medals as Oliver Cromwell felt it would “keep awake animosities”. Instead, 29th May was set aside as Royal Oak Day (now Oak Apple Day) to commemorate the Restoration. On this day oak leaves should be warn in the hat.
Although the order did not become active, the knights were recorded in key historic records in 1681 and 1741.
The Knights of the Royal Oak has been resurrected in order to create a community of Knights/Dames that can inspire others to improve their lives.
So why the Royal Oak……..
When King Charles I was executed in 1649, during the English Civil Wars, the country was without a monarch for the first and only time in its history.
It was only a matter of time until his son Charles attempted to regain his father’s throne. In 1650–51, he came out of hiding and launched his first attack, but the prince was defeated and forced to flee once more.
The future king hid from Parliamentarian forces at Boscobel House in Shropshire during his escape, giving English history one of its greatest true-life adventure stories.
At 3am on 4 September 1651, a party of 60 Royalist soldiers rode quietly up to the gates of an old converted priory, White Ladies, on the northern border of Shropshire.
It was dark, and they had passed unnoticed through 40 miles of countryside. Among them was a wanted man: the 21-year-old son of Charles I, and newly crowned King of Scotland.
A few hours earlier the Royalist army had been decisively defeated at the Battle of Worcester, where 5,000 of its troops had been killed or captured. The man who would become King Charles II had escaped with some of his men, and now required urgent refuge.
At White Ladies, Charles’s coat and breeches were removed and he was dressed in country clothes: green breeches, a leather doublet, a coarse hemp shirt and an old grey hat. Shears were produced and the long, dark royal locks cropped short.
The other troops left and Richard Penderel, the eldest of five brothers summoned to the house, led Charles out to a wood. They stayed there through a long, wet day – reportedly with just a blanket to sit on and a ‘mess of milk and some butter and eggs’ – and planned an escape.
They decided to cross the river Severn into Wales and from there sail to France.
As soon as it was dark Charles and Richard set out on foot. Charles practised his disguise, learning from Richard, a country fellow’s speech and manner of walking – a ‘lobbing jobsons gate’, as one 17th-century writer describes it. At one point they were forced to run down a country lane and hide behind a hedge after being challenged by the miller at Evelith Mill.
They reached the house of a trusted ally in a town called Madeley, but learned that the Severn was heavily guarded. Their hopes of reaching Wales dashed, Richard and Charles were forced to turn back. They resolved to head out on foot once more under cover of darkness – this time heading for Boscobel House, a mile from White Ladies.
Built by the Giffard family about 30 years earlier, and buried in thick woodland, Boscobel House was even more remote than White Ladies. Indeed, it had been designed for privacy. Like many other houses belonging to Catholics persecuted during the late 16th and early 17th centuries, it had hiding places for Catholic priests, known as priest holes.
Exhausted, hungry and soaked through from wading across a river, Richard and Charles arrived at Boscobel at around 3am on Saturday 6 September. The future king was brought into Boscobel’s parlour by William and Joan Penderel. Charles’s wet stockings and ill-fitting shoes were set by the fire to dry and he was given bread, cheese and ‘a Posset of thick milk and small beer’.
But Parliamentarian soldiers had already raided White Ladies, and Charles and his friends knew that not even Boscobel was safe.
Charles consulted with William Careless, another fugitive staying at the house. The king’s account, dictated 30 years later to Samuel Pepys, records their decision:
he told me that it would be very dangerous either to stay in the house or go into the wood (there being a great wood hard by Boscobel) and he knew but one way how to pass all the next day and that was to get up into a great oak in a pretty plain place where we could see round about us for they would certainly search all the wood for people that had made their escape. … [We] got up into a great oak that had been lopped some 3 or 4 years before and so was grown out very bushy and thick not to be seen through. And there we sat all the day.
At White Ladies the pursuing soldiers had been confident of having their man ‘within a day or two’, and as Charles and Careless sheltered in the oak, Cromwell’s troops drew close. The king recalled:
“While we were in the tree we see soldiers going up and down in the thickest of the wood searching for persons escaped, we seeing them now and then peeping out of the woods.”
The soldiers left and at dusk Charles and Careless returned to the house.