Another in the occasional series on contemporary accounts of events in the history of London, this one of the return to the City of Prince Charles (*) in 1660, from an anonymous source:
“On Tuesday, May the 29th (which happily fell out to be the anniversary of his majesty’s birth-day), he set forth of Rochester in his coach; but afterwards he took horse on the farther side of Black-heath … .
… [P]roceeding towards London, there were placed in Deptford … above an hundred proper maids, … who, having prepared many flaskets …, which … were full of flowers and sweet herbs, strowed the way before him as he rode.
From thence he came to St George’s Fields in Southwark, where the lord mayor and aldermen of London … waited for him in a large tent, hung with tapestry; in which they had placed a chair of state … . When he came thither, the lord mayor presented him with the city sword, and the recorder made a speech to him; which being done, he alighted, and went into the tent, where a noble banquet was prepared for him … .
In magnificent fashion his majesty entered the borough of Southwark, about half an hour past three of the clock … ; and, within an hour after, the city of London at the bridge; where he found the windows and streets exceedingly thronged with people to behold him; and the walls adorned with hangings … ; and in many places … loud musick; all the conduits … running claret wine; and the … companies in their liveries … ; as also the trained bands … standing along the streets … , welcoming him with joyful acclamations.
And within the rails where Charing-cross formerly was, a stand of six-hundred pikes, consisting of knights and gentlemen, as had been officers of the armies of his majesty of blessed memory … .
From which place, … his majesty … entered Whitehall at seven of the clock, the people making loud shouts, and the horse and foot several vollies of shot, at this his happy arrival. Where … parliament received him, and kissed his royal hand. At the same time … the Reverend Bishops … , with divers of the long oppressed orthodox clergy, met in that royal chapel of king Henry the Seventh, at Westminster [Abbey], there also sang Te Deum, & c. in praise and thanks to Almighty God, for … his … deliverance of his majesty from many dangers, and … restoring him to rule these kingdoms, according to his just and undoubted right”.
May 29th was made a public holiday, “to be for ever kept as a Day of Thanksgiving for our Redemption from Tyranny and the King’s Return to his Government, he entering London that day”. Although the public holiday, popularly known as “Oak Apple Day” or, more rarely, “Royal Oak Day”, was abolished in 1859, May 29th is still marked by celebrations at the Royal Hospital Chelsea, which was founded by Charles II in 1681.
Westminster Abbey, where the King went on to be formally crowned in April 23rd, 1661, is visited, although not entered, on our “St Paul’s to Westminster Abbey” standard walk, and on our “Medieval London”, “Medieval City Highlights” and “Legal London” themed specials.
Further details of all our walks are available in the “Our Guided Walks” section of our web-site.
(*) Formally crowned King Charles II on April 23rd, 1661 (see April 23rd posting).