The Gallery holds the most extensive collection of portraits in the world. Search over 215,000 works, 150,000 of which are illustrated from the 16th Century to the present day.

Advanced Collection search

Charles II and the Oak Tree

Charles II and the Oak Tree

Charles II and the Oak Tree

After his defeat by the Parliamentarian forces at the Battle of Worcester in 1651 Charles's life was in terrible danger. Descriptions of him were circulated; he was very tall and dark which made him very conspicuous. Soldiers were ordered to hunt for him; there was a reward of £1000 for his capture. Charles survived through the bravery of a small number of his loyal subjects who risked their own lives to help him.

Immediately after the battle the five Penderell brothers assisted him. They disguised him as a woodcutter, dressing him in old clothes. During the day he hid in an oak tree, accompanied by Major Carless. There Charles, exhausted, fell asleep while Major Carless held him, terrified that the soldiers below searching the woods would look up and see them. Slowly, by night, they moved Charles from one safe house to another. He accompanied a brave young woman, Jane Lane, to the coast as her servant, calling himself 'Will Jackson'. There he eventually found a boat to take him to safety in France. It was nearly ten years before he was able to come back and reclaim his rightful throne.

Background to the paintings

King Charles II loved to tell the story of his escape. He therefore commissioned a set of paintings to show the key moments in his adventure. Oddly, in these paintings, Charles is shown not at the age that he was when the events took place but as he looked when the pictures were painted.

Note for teachers, parents and carers

Find the object or person mentioned in the red text, and then click on the red outline in the picture to continue story.

And now, let's begin...

Click here to continue

This is Charles.
He was in a big fight.
He lost the fight.

King Charles II
after Adriaen Hanneman
© National Portrait Gallery, London

NPG 1449 - King Charles II

King Charles II
after Adriaen Hanneman
© National Portrait Gallery, London

Charles needs to hide.
He puts on a big hat.
He puts on old clothes.

King Charles II at Whiteladies (King Charles II; Richard Penderel)
by Isaac Fuller
© National Portrait Gallery, London

NPG 1449 - King Charles II

King Charles II at Whiteladies (King Charles II; Richard Penderel)
by Isaac Fuller
© National Portrait Gallery, London

He goes into the woods.
His friends help him.
They want him to be king.

King Charles II in Boscobel Wood
by Isaac Fuller
© National Portrait Gallery, London

NPG 1449 - King Charles II

King Charles II in Boscobel Wood
by Isaac Fuller
© National Portrait Gallery, London

He hides in a tree.
He falls asleep.
No one can find him there.

King Charles II and Colonel William Carlos (Careless) in the Royal Oak
by Isaac Fuller
© National Portrait Gallery, London

NPG 1449 - King Charles II

King Charles II and Colonel William Carlos (Careless) in the Royal Oak
by Isaac Fuller
© National Portrait Gallery, London

He rides on an old horse.
It is in the night.
He must get away.

King Charles II on Humphrey Penderel's Mill Horse
by Isaac Fuller
© National Portrait Gallery, London

NPG 1449 - King Charles II

King Charles II on Humphrey Penderel's Mill Horse
by Isaac Fuller
© National Portrait Gallery, London

He rides on a horse with Jane Lane.
She calls him Will.
He has to do what she tells him.

King Charles II and Jane Lane riding to Bristol
by Isaac Fuller
© National Portrait Gallery, London

NPG 1449 - King Charles II

King Charles II and Jane Lane riding to Bristol
by Isaac Fuller
© National Portrait Gallery, London

At last he gets away.
After nine years he comes back.
Now he is king.

King Charles II
by John Michael Wright
© National Portrait Gallery, London

NPG 1449 - King Charles II

King Charles II
by John Michael Wright
© National Portrait Gallery, London

Read the story again