Knights of The Royal Oak

The Knights of the Royal Oak was an intended order of knighthood. It was proposed in 1660 at the time of the restoration of Charles II of England, known as the English Restoration. It was to be a reward to those Englishmen who faithfully & actively supported him during his exile in France. The knights so created were to be called "Knights of the Royal Oak", and bestowed with a silver medal, on a ribbon, depicting the king in the Royal oak tree, a reference to the oak tree at Boscobel House, then called the "Oak of Boscobel", in which King Charles II hid to escape the Roundheads after the Battle of Worcester in 1651. Men were selected from all the counties of England and Wales, with the number from each county being in proportion to the population. William Dugdale in 1681 noted 687 names, each with a valuation of their estate in pounds per year. The estates of 18 men were valued at more than £3,000 per year. The names of the recipients are also listed in the baronetages, published in five volumes, 1741.

The award was abandoned before being formally established, out of concerns that it might perpetuate dissension and keep alive the differences between Parliament and the King, which were better left forgotten:

"...it being wisely judged," says Noble, in his 'Memoirs of the Cromwell family', "that the order was calculated only to keep awake animosities, which it was the part of wisdom to lull to sleep." Henry Cromwell, a zealous royalist and first cousin once removed to Oliver Cromwell, was one of the men proposed to be one of these knights. He had by then changed his name to Williams.

Instead of individual honours being made, the 29th of May, Charles' birthday, was set aside as "Royal Oak Day," and "Oak Apple Day" to commemorate the Restoration. Celebration was made by the wearing of oak leaves in the hat; oak apples gilded, with a few leaves surrounding them, were sold in the streets of London. The statue of Charles I of England, at Charing Cross, was also decorated with branches of oak on this day. The holiday is still celebrated today as Oak Apple Day.

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