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The Royall Oake of Brittayne

  • Object:

    Print

  • Place of origin:

    England (printed)

  • Date:

    1649 (printed)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Engraving

  • Credit Line:

    Purchased through the Julie and Robert Breckman Print Fund

  • Museum number:

    E.217-2002

  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level C, case EE, shelf 136

This satirical print depicts Oliver Cromwell ordering the felling of the Royal Oak of Britain, symbol of the English monarchy. It was made in 1649 during the English Civil War in the year of the execution of Charles I. The image is believed to have been the frontispiece to the book 'Anarchia Anglicana or the history of independency. The second part', by Clement Walker, a pamphleteer and member of Parliament, writing under the pseudonym Theodorus Verax. Although initially sympathetic to Parliament during the Civil War, Walker became disillusioned with Cromwell and believed that he had become a religious radical and despot whose actions had led Britain into anarchy. This print expresses Walker’s unease at developments during this period.

The image is full of references to Oliver Cromwell’s dismantling of the regime of Charles I. Cromwell is shown to the left of the image standing on a sphere suspended over the mouth of hell from which he draws diabolical inspiration. The sphere is inscribed in Latin 'Locus Lubricus' or ‘slippery place’ indicating Cromwell’s precarious position. The print portrays him as a hypocrite, driven by ambition and greed, and various quotes from the Bible link him to notorious biblical figures. Suspended in the branches of the tree are the royal crown, sceptre and coat of arms with the Bible and Magna Carta, and a copy of 'Eikon Basilike', a book supposedly written by Charles I in the days before his execution. The tree is being felled by republican soldiers and its branches gathered by the ignorant multitude. The references are clear that if Cromwell was allowed to continue in his rise to power his rule would result in lawless tyranny.

Clement Walker was arrested for writing 'Anarchia Anglicana' and charged with high treason. However his case never came to trial and he died in the Tower of London in 1651.

Physical description

Engraved print depicting Oliver Cromwell ordering the felling of the Royal Oak of Britain which bears on its branches the Royal coat of arms, the Bible, Magna Carta, statutes, reports, and the book Eikon Basilike. The tree symbolises the monarchy and the regime of Charles I.

Oliver Cromwell, attired in armour, stands to the left of the image on a ball described as a 'slippery place', above the entrance to hell. A group of men assist with felling the tree, using axes, poles and ropes, whilst some pigs feed near the base of the tree.

Place of Origin

England (printed)

Date

1649 (printed)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Engraving

Marks and inscriptions

'THE ROYALL OAKE OF BRITTAYNE'
Engraved text at the top of the image.

Dimensions

Height: 17 cm image, Width: 23 cm image, Height: 19.2 cm paper, Width: 26 cm paper

Descriptive line

'The Royall Oake of Brittayne'; Anonymous; satire of Oliver Cromwell ordering the felling of the Royal Oak of Britain; engraving; England; 1649

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Ashley, Maurice. The English Civil War. Sutton publishing, 1990 (first published by Thames and Hudson 1974).
p. 178
Adair, John. By the Sword Divided: Eyewitness accounts of the English Civil War. Sutton Publishing, 1998 (first published by Century Publishing Co Ltd, 1983).
p. 179
The Print in Early Modern England: An Historical Oversight; Malcolm Jones; published for the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art; 2010
pages 102 and 103

Labels and date

This satirical print depicts Oliver Cromwell (1599–1658) ordering the felling of the Royal Oak of Britain, a symbol of the English monarchy. It was made in 1649, the year in which King Charles I was executed during the English Civil War. It was intended as the frontispiece to a book by a writer who feared that Cromwell’s rise to power would lead to chaos and tyranny.
[11/09/2017]

Materials

Paper (fiber product); Printing ink

Techniques

Engraving (printing process)

Subjects depicted

Pig; Tree, Royal Oak; Coats of arms; Trees; Men; Axes; Bible; Satire

Categories

Politics; Prints; Propaganda; Royalty

Collection

Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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