Today is of course the May Bank Holiday, but previously, it was celebrated as Oak Apple Day or simply Royal Oak Day, to commemorate the restoration of the English monarchy in May 1660. Appropriately celebrated on the birthday of King Charles II (the founder of the Household Cavalry, who had been born on May 29th 1630), Parliament declared it a national holiday "to be for ever kept as a day of thanksgiving for our redemption from tyranny and the King's return to his Government, he entering London that day".
Traditionally, celebrations to commemorate the event often entailed the wearing of oak apples or sprigs of oak leaves, in reference to the occasion after the Battle of Worcester during the English Civil War in September 1651, when the then Prince Charles escaped the Roundhead army by hiding in the boughes of an oak tree near Boscobel House, Shropshire. Anyone who failed to wear a sprig of oak risked being pelted with bird's eggs or thrashed with nettles.
Although the holiday was formally abolished by the Anniversary Days Observance Accordance of 1859, it is still acknowledged in certain parts of the country, and the date is accorded some significance in local or institutional customs. It is, for instance, kept as Founder's Day at the Royal Chelsea Hospital, which was founded by Charles II in 1681.
Image copyright: National Gallery
View All Events
Open to the public 7 days a week, there’s always something to see at the museum.