Royal oak

23rd May 2003 at 01:00
May 29: Oak Apple Day.

For many years this day was observed as a celebration of the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660.

For 11 years, Britain had not had a king or queen. Back in 1649, Oliver Cromwell, the leader of the Parliamentary forces in the English Civil War, had declared Britain a republic - and the king, Charles I, had been publicly beheaded in London.

His son, also called Charles, went into hiding. Following a battle two years later, he escaped from the Parliamentary forces who were hunting him, by hiding in an oak tree. For the next nine years, he lived abroad. Then in 1660, he made a number of promises and Parliament accepted him as king.Charles II (as he was now known) returned to England and was crowned on May 29. People were still divided between those who had supported Parliament and those who had secretly always supported the king. But now the "Royalists" could be open about their support and began wearing of a sprig of oak on the anniversary of his coronation to show their loyalty and to remember the time he'd hidden in the oak tree.

If you didn't wear an oak-sprig, you might be teased or even set upon. In those less "correct" times, children began playing a game in which they'd challenge others to show them their sprig of oak leaves. If you didn't have one, you got your bottom pinched. In some parts of the country, May 29 was known as Pinch-Bum-Day.

Follow-up

Create a display of modern day signs of allegiance. For example, football scarves or shirts, lapel ribbons, car window stickers - even school uniforms.

Discuss how those who support political parties or other causes or are followers of various religions demonstrate their loyalties. What are the pleasures, benefits and obligations of supporting a cause?

A description of how Oak Apple Day is still observed in the Wiltshire village of Great Wishford near Wilton can be found at www.linekey.freeserve.co.ukgtwshfd1

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