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 Herne's Oak (Windsor Park-Berkshire)

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Mauro

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PostSubject: Herne's Oak (Windsor Park-Berkshire)   Fri 19 Oct 2007, 2:41 am

I would like to have someone more knowledgeable helping me out with this one.
"Mainstream" tradition has it that the celebrated Herne's Oak in Windsor Park died of natural causes in 1864 and was replaced by order of Queen Victoria with a young sapling that has grown to a large tree. Some folklorists contend this date and point as the right date either 1796 (during George III's reign) or 1906 (during Edward VII's reign).
Years ago I read in a book (which I am currently trying to trace down because it contained many alternative versions to popular ghost stories) that this was not the case.
Henry VIII, "after the Battle of the Spurs" [1513], decided he had had enough with Herne and his hellhounds playing havoc in the Royal enclosure of Windsor Park. After consulting his closest and most trusted advisors (as well as the obligatory soothsayers and warlocks) he decided that the best course of action was to cut down the oak. He assembled a large squad of workers and personally oversaw the operations (I remember an engraving of the young-looking king on horseback overseeing the whole operation). The oak was cut down, its roots dug out and everything down to the last splinter was immediately cast in the fire.
It is said that ever since Herne dramatically cut down his activities, contenting himself with riding out in occasion of a sovereign's death or other times of troubles.
What do you think? Have you ever heard of this version?
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Ian
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PostSubject: Re: Herne's Oak (Windsor Park-Berkshire)   Fri 19 Oct 2007, 6:46 am

I'll check some books and get back to you if I find anything.

http://www.tradamis.co.uk/su9776.htm This site says Hernes Oak was on a map dated 1897.

http://www.homestead.com/englishheathenism/folklore.html This site says it was chopped down in 1790.

http://www.mspong.org/picturesque/windsor_park.html Not sure when this is supposed to be based but the whole book is available on PDF (see the link below) and might be worth looking at.

http://www.mspong.org/picturesque/contents.html
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DJP

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PostSubject: Re: Herne's Oak (Windsor Park-Berkshire)   Fri 19 Oct 2007, 1:08 pm

Never heard the Henry version before. The best account of the legend of Herne and the Oak I have found is in Jennifer Westwoods 'Albion', quite a convulted legend but the main evidence quoted about the Oak is that the Oak was cut down in the reign of George III, it was commemorated in the Whitehall Evening Post:‘Upon Herne’s Oak being cut down in the spring of 1796’ (obviously before snappy tabloid headlines Smile ).

George had given orders for a number of old oaks to be cut down in the park, which included Herne’s Oak. George is said to have sown confusion about whether the tree had actually been cut down (after all he was a bit mad) and Queen Victoria believed that the Oak still stood. Edward VII looked into the story and found it had indeed been cut down in George’s reign. He had Herne’s Oak II planted in 1906 on the original site (or at least the site mentioned in 'The Merry Wives').

There is a drawing of Herne’s Oak dated 1792 by Samuel Ireland shown in the same book. If you can track the book down Jennifer goes into great detail about the legend, and her book and research is excellent. Again other sources seem to mention different dates including the Oak having been blown down in 1863. It could be that there were many Oaks in the Park that the legend became associated with, but who knows.

I think it is a fascinating legend with a lot of possible roots, perhaps dating back to ancient religions.
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PostSubject: Re: Herne's Oak (Windsor Park-Berkshire)   Fri 19 Oct 2007, 1:21 pm

Wasn't the Merry Wives written in Elizabethan times, after Henry VIII? If Henry had chopped the oak surely it would have been mentioned.
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PostSubject: Re: Herne's Oak (Windsor Park-Berkshire)   Fri 19 Oct 2007, 1:58 pm

Is this the image you have seen?

http://www.allposters.com/-sp/Windsor-Castle-Henry-VIII-Directs-the-Search-for-Herne-the-Hunter-Posters_i1866232_.htm

It suggests that Henry is looking for Herne, not uprooting the tree. Then again, looking at the print....it would appear they are doing something with axes.
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PostSubject: Re: Herne's Oak (Windsor Park-Berkshire)   Fri 19 Oct 2007, 2:26 pm

That picture shows there is a tradition about Henry and Herne the Hunter and possibly an earlier source to the story. It's by George Cruickshank born in 1792 he may have been caracaturing an older tradition for a publication. He did a lot of political caracatures and also a lot of drawings for the works of Dickens, and also a lot of Fairy tale illustrations

He died in 1878.
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Mauro

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PostSubject: Re: Herne's Oak (Windsor Park-Berkshire)   Fri 19 Oct 2007, 11:12 pm

Thanks, those surely are some replies and that's the print accompanying the story I've read. I'll have the book on Monday (yes, it seems like I've found it... don't ask me where!) so I'll have more to say by then.
From what I have been able to patch up using the Internet it would appear that over the years many oaks have been associated with Herne the Hunter. I strongly suspect that by the time Shakespeare wrote "The Merry Wives" there was already some confusion over the matter. Maybe the original oak was already gone before the XVI century started or even before.
Also the fact that Herne's original master was Richard II, the last of the Plantagents, and an unpopular king (at least among the great noble landowners and captains), has always been a source of puzzlement to me. Maybe there's more than a single tradition at play here, especially when you consider that it is said that Herne "returned to Windsor after King Richard's death", without saying when.
To end this reply what about the mysterious "Philip Urswick" fellow? I strongly suspect he's a key figure to understand the legend better but I have been unable to find deeper studies on the matter.
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PostSubject: Re: Herne's Oak (Windsor Park-Berkshire)   Sun 21 Oct 2007, 9:43 am

I'm glad we could help Mauro. If we ever get this tale untangled we should make an article about it for the main site. I'd love to hear if your book can shed any light on the Henry VIII angle. In his youth I think he was supposed to be a prolific hunter and I can imagine he might have been interested in the tale of Herne or at least heard of it.
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PostSubject: Re: Herne's Oak (Windsor Park-Berkshire)   Sun 21 Oct 2007, 10:38 am

No thank to you!
According to the historian Charles Oman Henry VIII was both a keen hunter and an excellent bowman in his youth, but he doesn't mention an interest in Herne the Hunter nor in Windsor Park.
Anyway let's wait until tomorrow, then I'll be able to shed some light.
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PostSubject: Re: Herne's Oak (Windsor Park-Berkshire)   Mon 22 Oct 2007, 5:54 am

Now I have the book here in front of me and I can be more precise.

Frank Smyth "Ghosts and Poltergeists" Aldus Books Ltd, London 1975

It says pretty much what I remembered with one notable exception: "Herne was a Royal Gamekeeper and a superb deer hunter during an unidentified period of the Middle Ages" [Italic mine]. It also says that King Henry ordered the oak cut to stop Herne "harming the fields and cattle of the good people living near Windsor Park". This would suggest that Herne didn't content himself with haunting the Park and killing deer but roamed far afield.
The story is accompanied by the aforementioned Cruinckshank engraving and another one, representing Herne on his great black horse accompanied by a couple of hounds and an owl.

The book is not terribly well researched, by it is lavishly illustrated and contains a wealth of poorly known cases.
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PostSubject: Re: Herne's Oak (Windsor Park-Berkshire)   Sat 10 May 2008, 1:30 pm

I ahve just been browsing 'Haunted England' by Christina Hole published 1940. It mentions the tree being gone, but says whenever disaster threatens the Royal Family or the nation itself, the ghost of Herne and th etree appear. She says they were seen in 1931 before the economic crisis.

Better keep an eye out, he maybe coming back Shocked

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PostSubject: Re: Herne's Oak (Windsor Park-Berkshire)   Tue 13 May 2008, 3:30 am

Is that book the original source of the story about the group of lads who stumbled on Herne in Windsor Park and one was found with an arrow in his back? - a tall story but I wondered if it started in Haunted England or had an earlier source? I mentioned it in the bit about Windsor Great Park on the main site but have not got an original copy of the book
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PostSubject: Re: Herne's Oak (Windsor Park-Berkshire)   Tue 13 May 2008, 4:25 am

Smyth mentions a tradition according to which Herne appears when either a King or a direct heir to the Crown is about to die.
In my opinion this is somewhat linked to the "King in the Mountain" (Bergentruckung in German) tradition, a Germanic theme of which King Arthur awakening from his deadly slumber when Britain is threatened is the best known example.
I have also heard of similar traditions (though I have always been unable to confirm the source) in Spain, the Southern United States (usually involving a fully armoured and horsed knight or conquistador appearing every time the country is about to go to war) and France (a dwarfish being who supposedly appears only to French rulers either in time of deep crisis or before their death).
Ian, are you aware of any reprints of Haunted England in the works? Would love to get myself a copy...
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PostSubject: Re: Herne's Oak (Windsor Park-Berkshire)   Tue 13 May 2008, 6:07 am

Quote :
Ian, are you aware of any reprints of Haunted England in the works? Would love to get myself a copy...

Not that i'm aware of Mauro, I found mine in a second hand book shop. It's a great book with lots of old ghost stories. It doesn't menyion much more about th eherne sighting, so I doubt it is the original source Dan is looking for.

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PostSubject: Re: Herne's Oak (Windsor Park-Berkshire)   Fri 27 Jun 2008, 6:19 am


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PostSubject: Re: Herne's Oak (Windsor Park-Berkshire)   Tue 01 Jul 2008, 1:46 am

Thanks Ian. I've managed to trace a decent copy of Haunted England on the Internet but I am waiting for pictures to see if it's worth my money.
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