THE ANCIENT OAK TREE KNOWN AS THE ‘ELIZABETH’ OAK. With thanks to Spitalfieldlife for this photo.
In the words of Sir John Howard, Duke of Norfolk, Richard III’s loyal friend, I get as ‘wode as a Wilde bullok‘ when I read yet another tedious reference to Henry VIII stayed here, Elizabeth I stayed there, blah blah blah, especially in places that predate the Tudors and already had a history before their unfortunate arrival on the scene. So what if Henry, that hateful, monstrous cruel tyrant and medieval Pol Pot stayed there with his gammy leg? I care not. What about the Magnificent Plantagenets!? Tell me they stayed anywhere and you have my attention. This daft belief of thinking the World and his Wife are only interested in somewhere as long as Henry danced there with the unfortunate Anne Boleyn, you know, the wife he had judicially murdered, or kipped there for a couple of nights along with his gammy leg – well la di dah di dah – is tiresome and leaves me cold. Even the ancient trees that were part of the hunting grounds of Greenwich Palace, favourite residence of Lancastrian nobility and Yorkists queens, that have survived over the centuries and were there well before Fat Henry have been been hijacked. Duh! Whats wrong with mentioning King Richard III may have danced with his Queen, Anne Neville, below a tree that was ancient in his time or rested in its shade as he enjoyed a day’s hunting…hmmmm?
One particular tree, now known as the Elizabeth Oak, standing in a dell in the midst of the hunting park, would definitely have been there in 1483 as it is said to date from the 12th century. Anyway rant over and back to the wonderful old oaks and sweet chestnuts of Greenwich Park.
A print by an unknown artist now in the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich depicting the Palace c 1487
The beautiful Palace of Greenwich is long gone. In 1433, Henry V’s younger brother Humphrey Duke of Gloucester, built a glorious palace there and was also granted a licence to ’empark 200 acres of land, pasture, weed, heath and furze’ part of which was used for hunting. It was also became known as Placentia or the manor of Plesaunce , and was popular with our medieval kings and queens with many memorable events taking place there. Richard III visited there with his queen, Anne Neville immediately after his Coronation in 1483 spending several days there. He would have remembered how he had spent part of his childhood there with his siblings, Margaret and George. Edward IV granted it to his queen Elizabeth Wydeville, who seems to have used it as a kind of royal nursery and it was there their daughter Mary died at the age of 15 in May 1482. Anne Mowbray, child bride of Richard of Shrewsbury and Elizabeth Wydvilles’ daughter in law, had predeceased Mary in that very same place in November 1481 aged 8.
It was demolished in the days of Charles II who probably tired of it medievalness and wanted to build something brand spanking new. He made a start but never quite finished it but it is thanks to Charles for the number of ancient trees, mostly Sweet Chestnuts, which have survived to this day in the park. However lurking among those 17th century trees are some much older including the one known as the ‘Elizabeth Oak‘ because Elizabeth I was supposed to have sat beneath its shade. Her father, Henry VIII, despot extraordinaire, is said to have danced beneath it with Anne Boleyn but I suppose the ‘Henry Oak‘ does not have the same ring about it. Hmmmm – a great deal of pain and suffering would have been avoided if only a large branch had snapped off and landed on his pate launching him off this mortal coil then and there. Unfortunately it did not happen and we are where we are.
For an interesting post with numerous photos of the old Sweet Chestnut trees click here. The stunning photos below as well as the photo of the Elizabeth Oak are all from this article, Old Trees in Greenwich Park.