King Charles II and Colonel William Carlos (Careless) in the Royal Oak

1 portrait of King Charles II

King Charles II and Colonel William Carlos (Careless) in the Royal Oak, by Isaac Fuller, 1660s? - NPG 5249 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

King Charles II and Colonel William Carlos (Careless) in the Royal Oak

by Isaac Fuller
oil on canvas, 1660s?
83 3/4 in. x 124 1/4 in. (2127 mm x 3156 mm)
Purchased, 1979
Primary Collection
NPG 5249

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  • Isaac Fuller (1606-1672), Painter. Artist associated with 12 portraits, Sitter in 3 portraits.

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The third of a set of five scenes that commemorate Charles II's dramatic escape from Parliamentarian forces following his defeat in the final battle of the civil wars. King Charles I was executed in 1649 and two years later his son Charles returned from exile in an attempt to regain the throne. He rallied his supporters at Worcester but on 3 September 1651 the royalists were decisively defeated by Oliver Cromwell's New Model Army. For the next six weeks the fugitive evaded Parliamentarian forces by travelling in disguise between a succession of safe houses. A reward of £1000 was offered for his capture and anyone caught helping him faced execution. With the aid of a network of royalist supporters, he finally sailed for France on 15 October. Charles II was restored to the throne in 1660 and the story of his daring escape nine years earlier became a cornerstone of Royal propaganda. Episodes such as the king taking refuge in the 'Royal Oak' passed into popular culture through written accounts, plays and prints. However, the scale and ambition of Isaac Fuller's painted treatment of the narrative is unique.

This picture shows the most celebrated episode of Charles II's escape. Having met earlier in the day, the king and Colonel Careless take shelter in an oak tree in Boscobel Wood. After three days on the run, Charles sleeps as Colonel Careless vigilantly watches over him.

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