Soon after the outbreak of the Civil War in 1642, King Charles I had his headquarters in Oxford and despite Henley's Lord of the Manor, Sir Bulstrode Whitelock, supporting the Parliamentarians the town was occupied for about three months by the King's nephew, Prince Rupert, and his troops.
The Prince was a flamboyant leader of cavalry and he and his officers took over the Bell Inn at Northfield End for use as their base. During the occupation of Henley, Prince Rupert is reputed to have had a spy from the Parliamentarian side hanged on an elm tree in front of the building.
After the execution of Charles I, Prince Rupert turned to life as a pirate, attacking shipping of the south and west coasts until, after the restoration of Charles II, he returned to live in London.
Neither the Bell Inn nor the tree still exist in their original form. The Bell Inn subsequently became the home of Henley Grammar School and was later converted into private houses as it is at present.
The elm tree survived for another 350 years but finally succumbed to the effects of age and Dutch elm disease. Its dead stump was felled in 1995 and a piece of this historic tree can be seen in the River and Rowing Museum in Henley.
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