King Charles II’s oak tree ‘saviour’ to be honoured for first time

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A memorial to Colonel William Carlos, the man credited with saving King Charles II by hiding him in an oak tree following his defeat at the battle of Worcester, will today be unveiled in Chelsea.

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Carlos, a royalist officer of the Civil War, hid the fugitive king in the Boscobel Oak for more than 24 hours following his defeat at the battle in September 1651.

Convinced Colonel Carlos was the main reason for his own – and thus the royal family’s – survival, Charles ordered the Colonel’s surname be changed to Carlos, Spanish for Charles.

Today at the Royal Hospital Chelsea, 362 years after the Boscobel Oak affair, Prince Michael of Kent will unveil a plaque in the Colonel’s memory.

Surrounded by 90 of the Colonel’s descendants, Prince Michael will reveal the plaque at the foot of the King Charles II statue, which stands in Figure Court in the heart of the hospital.

King Charles II is recognised as the founder of the Royal Hospital Chelsea.

It is believed Carlos, also known as Carelesse, Carless, Carles and Carlis, took part in the battle of Worcester in 1651, and did not leave the battlefield until the royalists were defeated.

At this point he fled to the woods surrounding Boscobel House and hid in an oak tree.

after Unknown artist, line engraving, 18th century
While escaping from the Commonwealth soldiers, King Charles II was urged by Colonel Carlos to hide with him.

The pair stayed in the tree for more than 24 hours, during which time Colonel Carlos sourced food and prevented Charles from falling from the tree while he slept.

Carlos died in 1689.

The oak tree still stands in Boscobel Wood, and is referred to as the Royal Oak.

A spokesperson for the Royal Hospital Chelsea said: “Colonel William Carlos hid founder King Charles II in the Boscobel Oak after the battle of Worcester in 1651, thereby saving the King’s life.

“Without Carlos, it is quite possible that the Royal Hospital Chelsea, which has been providing a gold standard of care to army veterans on the banks of the Thames for 300 years, may never have come into being.

“At the Royal Hospital Chelsea we remember Colonel Carlos’ heroic deed at our Founder’s Day celebration each June by placing an Oak wreath onto the statue of Charles II.

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“Today we are delighted to be able to make this commemoration permanent in the form of a plaque. The Royal Hospital Chelsea and the plaque will continue to stand as a symbol of the nation’s covenant with the armed forces for at least the next 300 years.”