Queen Elizabeth's Oak, Hatfield House

Queen Elizabeth's Oak
Cook elizabeth oak.png
Drawn by Joel Cook, 1882
Location Hatfield House, Hertfordshire, England
Date felled Early 20th century

Queen Elizabeth's Oak was a tree in the grounds of Hatfield House, Hertfordshire, England. Elizabeth I is said to have been sitting beneath the tree when she was told of her accession to the throne in 1558. The tree was visited by Queen Victoria and Albert in 1846 and they were presented with a branch and an acorn from it as a memento. The tree had deteriorated by the early 20th century and its remains were removed in 1978. A replacement oak was planted on the site by Elizabeth II in 1985.

History

Hatfield Palace was acquired by Henry VIII in 1538 and served as a nursery for his children including Mary, Elizabeth and Edward. When the Catholic Mary came to the throne in 1553 she kept Protestant Elizabeth under house arrest at the palace to prevent her from plotting to seize the throne.[1] Elizabeth would often sit beneath the oak tree which came to bear her name as, being 1 mile (1.6 km) from the house, it marked the farthest point she was permitted to travel.[2]

When Mary died on 17 November 1558, Elizabeth succeeded to the throne. It is said that the messenger from London bearing this news imparted it to Elizabeth while she was sitting beneath this tree, reading the bible or eating an apple (or perhaps both).[3] Elizabeth's famous response was supposedly "this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes".[3] Hatfield Palace was later swapped by James I for Theobalds House, owned by Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury, one of Elizabeth's advisers. Cecil demolished much of the palace and built a new house nearby.[2] The oak was located near to one of the avenues leading to the new house.[4]

George III visited Hatfield House in 1800 and may have viewed the oak.[3] Victoria and Albert visited in 1846, by which time the tree was enclosed by a fence and protected by a lead covering. A small branch from the tree and an acorn were presented to the queen as a memento.[3][5][6] The American journalist Joel Cook visited the site and, in an 1882 book, described the remains of the oak as "one of the most precious memorials at Hatfield".[7] By 1935 the tree was little more than a stump supported by props and bound with iron.[3] The dead stump was removed on 17 November 1978, the 420th anniversary of the accession of Elizabeth and the remains are kept in storage.[3] Elizabeth II planted a replacement oak tree on the site of the original on 22 July 1985.[3][8]

Modern times

The field the oak stands in has hosted a number of events. These have included an annual agricultural show, the Slam Dunk Festival South (pop-punk, ska punk, emo, metal and alternative rock festival) and, since 2008, the Folk by the Oak folk music festival.[8][9][10]

References

  1. ^ "The Old Palace". Hatfield House. Retrieved 10 June 2020.
  2. ^ a b Lewis, Samuel (1840). A topographical dictionary of England. p. 380.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Hight, Julian (2011). Britain's Tree Story. London: National Trust. p. 54. ISBN 978-1-907892-20-2.
  4. ^ Wells, Daniel White; Wells, Reuben Field. A History of Hatfield, Massachusetts, in Three Parts. p. 463.
  5. ^ Lawrence, Brian G. (2017). Changing Times: Stories of Hatfield Old and New. Lulu.com. p. 22. ISBN 978-0-9928416-7-6.
  6. ^ English Forests and Forest Trees, Historical, Legendary, and Descriptive. Ingram, Cooke, and Company. 1853. p. 47.
  7. ^ Cook, Joel (2018). England, Picturesque and Descriptive – A Reminiscence of Foreign Travel. BoD – Books on Demand. p. 277. ISBN 978-3-7340-3294-3.
  8. ^ a b Davies, Alan (25 May 2018). "How to find Slam Dunk Festival South's new site in Hatfield Park". Welwyn Hatfield Times. Retrieved 10 June 2020.
  9. ^ Trainor, Terry. Victorian London Slums Seven Dials. Lulu.com. p. 87. ISBN 978-1-4716-9668-8.
  10. ^ Davies, Alan (9 April 2020). "'It is the right thing to do' – organisers postpone annual music festival". Welwyn Hatfield Times. Retrieved 11 June 2020.

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