Greenwich Park, one of the eight Royal Parks in London, is home to a rather decrepit piece of Royal history; Queen Elizabeth’s Oak.
This huge oak tree dates back to the 12th century and has a strong link to the Tudor Royal Family. According to legend, King Henry VIII once danced around this oak tree with Anne Boleyn, and Queen Elizabeth I was said to have often taken refreshment whilst relaxing in its shade.
It should be remembered that by the time of the Tudors, the ancient oak tree was already around 400 years old. As AD Webster comments in his book Greenwich Park – Its History and Associates:
The old oak referred to, beneath which Royalty have frequently congregated, must, in its heyday, have been a tree of giant proportions, the hollowed trunk in which Queen Elizabeth oft partook of refreshements, and where offenders against the Park rules have been confined, being fully twenty feet in girth, while the internal cavity is six feet in diameter.
Although the tree died sometime in the 19th century, the patchwork of ivy that had grown around it had held it upright for a further 150 years. In fact, the tree stood all the way up until 1991 when a heavy rain storm brought it tumbling down. Apparently the soil that had been propping up the decrepit old oak was washed away, thus leaving the tree free to fall back to earth.
Luckily the tree is still there, albeit at a rather horizontal angle and covered in a wonderful variety of bugs and fungus. Alongside it is a new baby oak, planted in its memory by The Duke of Edinburgh in 1992, along with a plaque dedicated to the legacy of this grand and ancient tree.
And if you’re in the area…
It’s worth visiting the ancient burial ground to the south-west of Flamsteed House, containing up to 25 Saxon and Bronze Aged tumulis.
Easily accessible by both bus and rail, please try our London Transport Guide for help in getting around the capital.
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