This Saturday will mark the 350th anniversary of the anniversary of the day that King Charles II returned to London from exile overseas after the Restoration of the Monarchy. To celebrate “his Majesty’s Return to his Parliament” the politicians of the time decided to declare May 29th as a public holiday, popularly known as Oak Apple Day, or Royal Oak Day.

The reference to the Oak is a reminder of how Charles II originally escaped by hiding in the oak tree, and on Royal Oak Day, branches are traditionally placed around statues of Charles II, while people wear a sprig of Oak, ideally with an “oak apple” attached on their clothes.

So strong was the custom at the time, that to fail to wear an sprig of Oak would result in a ritual attack, typically a pinch on the bum or a slap with a bundle of nettles. Sadly, I suspect that wandering round the local shopping centre on Saturday thwacking people with a bunch of nettles would lead to being arrested for public nuisance.

Oh well

The national holiday was abolished in 1859, as part of a general trend against holidays which were deemed to be insulting to Catholics. However, various traditions still carry on, and as part of the revival tradition of old customs, are starting to become more popular again. The most famous tradition is held in the grounds of the Chelsea Pensioners where the statue of King Charles II is decorated with oak leaves by a member of the Royal Family. This year the event happens on 10th June (they rarely turn up on the right day) and The Duke of Gloucester gets the job.

Although no longer observed, during the 1700s, the monument of Richard Penderell (in the churchyard of St. Giles-in-the-Fields, next to the CenterPoint tower) was decorated with oak branches every Royal Oak Day in memory of his efforts to help the King escape. Today, his tomb remains in the churchyard, although the tablet from the top of the tomb was brought into the church in 1922 to preserve it.

Maybe it is time to revive that tradition?

Another tradition is to drink a toast to King Charles II, as the holiday marked not only his return to London, but also his birthday. Should you feel up to it – a mighty long pub crawl is therefore a theoretical possibility – and the below list from Beer in the Evening, is of every Royal Oak pub in London.

Royal Oak Pubs Rating
out of 10
Name: The Royal Oak – Location: Wandsworth
Address: 135 East Hill, Wandworth, London, London, SW18 2QB
Name: The Famous Royal Oak – Location: Muswell Hill
Address: 73, St. James Lane, London, N10 3QY
Name: The Royal Oak – Location: Barking
Address: Longbridge Road, Barking, London, IG11 8UF
Name: The Royal Oak – Location: Bethnal Green
Address: 73 Columbia Road, London, E2 7RG
Name: The Royal Oak – Location: Borough
Address: 44 Tabard Street, Borough, London, SE1 4JU
Name: The Royal Oak – Location: Charlton
Address: 54, Charlton Lane, London, SE7 8LA
Name: The Royal Oak – Location: Chingford
Address: 219 Kings Head Hill, Chingford, London, E4 7PP
Name: The Royal Oak – Location: Clapham North
Address: 10 Clapham High St, London, SW4 7UT
Name: The Royal Oak – Location: Harlesden
Address: 95 High Street, Harlesden, London, NW10 4TS
Name: The Royal Oak – Location: North Woolwich
Address: 83, Woodman St, London, E16 2LN
Name: The Royal Oak – Location: Penge
Address: 2, Oakfield Road, Penge, London, SE20 8QT
Name: The Royal Oak – Location: Stratford
Address: 83, Leytonstone Rd, Stratford, London, E15 1JA
Name: The Royal Oak – Location: Upper Holloway
Address: 250, St. Johns Way, London, N19 3RJ
Name: The Royal Oak – Location: Vauxhall
Address: 78 Fitzalan Street, Vauxhall, London, SE11 6QU
Name: The Royal Oak – Location: Vauxhall
Address: 355 Kennington Lane, Vauxhall, London, SE11 5QY
Name: The Royal Oak – Location: Westminster
Address: 2, Regency St, London, SW1P 4BZ


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  1. Matt says:


    Just thought I’d let you know about the Royal Oak Day Website:



  2. IanVisits says:

    Thanks, although I had already linked to the website in the article.

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