The Tudor Society

Elizabeth I’s Accession and the oak tree at Hatfield

On 17th November 1558, according to tradition, twenty-five-year-old Elizabeth, daughter of King Henry VIII and Queen Anne Boleyn, was sitting under an old oak tree in the parkland around the palace of Hatfield, reading a book. She was disturbed by lords of the council who had travelled to Hatfield to give her news of her half-sister Queen Mary I's death and her subsequent accession.

Overcome with emotion, Elizabeth sank to her knees and said in Latin what translates to "This is the Lord's doing: it is marvellous in our eyes", from Psalm 118.

I was in Hatfield back in September on the Discover the Tudors tour and made sure I visited the spot where she was said to have received the news. The tree is not the original oak, but this one was planted on the spot where Elizabeth's oak stood.

17th November, Accession Day, was celebrated throughout the reign of Elizabeth I and the reigns of many of her successors. Click here to read more.

There are 7 comments Go To Comment

  1. C

    Looking good, Claire!

    1. C - Post Author

      Thank you! It was such a blustery day!

  2. J

    I grew up in Hatfield and spent a lot of time at the house and gardens. I remember the original tree being there. I am not as old as that may sound – lol. It was less a tree, and more of a wizened trunk with a sign to tell you what it was. When I was very small you go up and touch it but later theyfenced it off, and later still relocated it and planted the new one (I presume). I hung out there a lot during my teens, thinking about Elizabeth and the uncertainties she faced so it was nice to see it again through your eyes Claire.

  3. R

    Very interesting about the old oak. Some of these trees have been around for husbands, if not a few thousand years. We have our Allerton Oak, known for the place that trials were held and the records go back to Saxon times. The tree is believed to be between 1500 and 1000 years old from dendro records. It is now supported by steel stands and has a protective fence, is very spreading and very old to look at. It’s just a beautiful vibrant tree in our local old park which the council wants to illegally sell to Redrow Homes (deeds say they can’t and people are buying the trees to protect them individually). Two old oaks are in the centre of Speke Hall and a couple of years ago we went to Croft Castle which has an ancient wood with some really old oaks and other trees, well over 2000 years old. You can see the age in those trees and almost feel the history they have witnessed.

    The old oak at Hatfield certainly witnessed a great piece of national history in 1558. Interesting Judith that it was still there as you were growing up. As a historian and recreator you must live that history every day. May I ask have you ever dressed up and had the pleasure of being Elizabeth I?



  4. C

    My parents live just down the road from the house, and I used to work there. A beautiful place and when it reopens will make sure to take more advantage of it.

  5. D

    This is not the site of the original tree as locals know

  6. I

    Well I remember the original tree supported with metal rods and part concrete. I’ve no idea if it still was part alive but sadly probably not . It was around 60 years ago and in the park was also an original if not the original WW1 tank . A cricket ground where I’ve played and Hatfield House in the distance .

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Elizabeth I’s Accession and the oak tree at Hatfield