|King of England, Scotland and Ireland (more…)|
|Reign||29 May 1660[a] –
6 February 1685
|Coronation||23 April 1661|
|Successor||James II & VII|
|King of Scotland|
|Reign||30 January 1649 –
3 September 1651[b]
|Coronation||1 January 1651|
|Born||29 May 1630
(N.S.: 8 June 1630)
St James’s Palace, London, England
|Died||6 February 1685 (aged 54)
(N.S.: 16 February 1685)
Whitehall Palace, London
|Burial||Westminster Abbey, London|
|Spouse||Catherine of Braganza|
|Mother||Henrietta Maria of France|
|Religion||Church of England, converted to Catholicism on his deathbed|
Charles II (29 May 1630 – 6 February 1685)[c] was king of England, Scotland, and Ireland. He was king of Scotland from 1649 until his deposition in 1651, and king of England, Scotland, and Ireland from the restoration of the monarchy in 1660 until his death.
Charles II’s father, Charles I, was executed at Whitehall on 30 January 1649, at the climax of the English Civil War. Although the Parliament of Scotland proclaimed Charles II King on 5 February 1649, England entered the period known as the English Interregnum or the English Commonwealth, and the country was a de factorepublic, led by Oliver Cromwell. Cromwell defeated Charles II at the Battle of Worcester on 3 September 1651, and Charles fled to mainland Europe. Cromwell became virtual dictator of England, Scotland and Ireland, and Charles spent the next nine years in exile in France, the Dutch Republic, and the Spanish Netherlands. A political crisis that followed the death of Cromwell in 1658 resulted in the restoration of the monarchy, and Charles was invited to return to Britain. On 29 May 1660, his 30th birthday, he was received in London to public acclaim. After 1660, all legal documents were dated as if he had succeeded his father as king in 1649.
Charles’s English parliament enacted laws known as the Clarendon Code, designed to shore up the position of the re-established Church of England. Charles acquiesced to the Clarendon Code even though he favoured a policy of religious tolerance. The major foreign policy issue of his early reign was the Second Anglo-Dutch War. In 1670, he entered into the secret treaty of Dover, an alliance with his first cousin King Louis XIV of France. Louis agreed to aid him in the Third Anglo-Dutch War and pay him a pension, and Charles secretly promised to convert to Catholicism at an unspecified future date. Charles attempted to introduce religious freedom for Catholics and Protestant dissenters with his 1672 Royal Declaration of Indulgence, but the English Parliament forced him to withdraw it. In 1679, Titus Oates‘s revelations of a supposed “Popish Plot” sparked the Exclusion Crisis when it was revealed that Charles’s brother and heir (James, Duke of York) was a Catholic. The crisis saw the birth of the pro-exclusion Whig and anti-exclusion Tory parties. Charles sided with the Tories, and, following the discovery of the Rye House Plot to murder Charles and James in 1683, some Whig leaders were executed or forced into exile. Charles dissolved the English Parliament in 1681, and ruled alone until his death on 6 February 1685. He was received into the Roman Catholic Church on his deathbed.
Charles was popularly known as the Merry Monarch, in reference to both the liveliness and hedonism of his court and the general relief at the return to normality after over a decade of rule by Cromwell and the Puritans. Charles’s wife, Catherine of Braganza, bore no live children, but Charles acknowledged at least twelve illegitimate children by various mistresses. He was succeeded by his brother James.
Early life, civil war, and exile
Charles II was born in St James’s Palace on 29 May 1630. His parents were Charles I (who ruled the three kingdoms of England, Scotland and Ireland) and Henrietta Maria (the sister of the French king Louis XIII). Charles was their second son and child. Their first son was born about a year before Charles but died within a day. England, Scotland and Ireland were respectively predominantly Anglican, Presbyterian and Roman Catholic. Charles was baptised in the Chapel Royal on 27 June by the Anglican Bishop of London, William Laud, and brought up in the care of the Protestant Countess of Dorset, though his godparents included his maternal uncle and grandmother, Marie de’ Medici, both of whom were Catholics. At birth, Charles automatically became Duke of Cornwall and Duke of Rothesay, along with several other associated titles. At or around his eighth birthday, he was designated Prince of Wales, though he was never formally invested with the Honours of the Principality of Wales.
During the 1640s, when Charles was still young, his father fought Parliamentary and Puritan forces in the English Civil War. Charles accompanied his father during the Battle of Edgehill and, at the age of fourteen, participated in the campaigns of 1645, when he was made titular commander of the English forces in the West Country. By Spring 1646, his father was losing the war, and Charles left England due to fears for his safety, setting off from Falmouth after staying at Pendennis Castle, going first to the Isles of Scilly, then to Jersey, and finally to France, where his mother was already living in exile and his first cousin, eight-year-old Louis XIV, was king.
In 1648, during the Second English Civil War, Charles moved to The Hague, where his sister Mary and his brother-in-law William II, Prince of Orange, seemed more likely to provide substantial aid to the royalist cause than the Queen’s French relations. However, the royalist fleet that came under Charles’s control was not used to any advantage, and did not reach Scotland in time to join up with the royalist Engagers army of the Duke of Hamilton, before it was defeated at the Battle of Preston by the Parliamentarians.
At The Hague, Charles had a brief affair with Lucy Walter, who later falsely claimed that they had secretly married. Her son, James Crofts (afterwards Duke of Monmouth and Duke of Buccleuch), was one of Charles’s many illegitimate children who became prominent in British society.
Charles I surrendered in 1646. He escaped and was recaptured in 1648. Despite his son’s diplomatic efforts to save him, Charles I was beheaded in January 1649, and England became a republic. On 5 February, the Covenanter Parliament of Scotland had proclaimed Charles II “King of Great Britain, France and Ireland” at the Mercat Cross, Edinburgh, but refused to allow him to enter Scotland unless he accepted Presbyterianism throughout Britain and Ireland.
When negotiations stalled, Charles authorised General Montrose to land in the Orkney Islands with a small army to threaten the Scots with invasion, in the hope of forcing an agreement more to his liking. Montrose feared that Charles would accept a compromise, and so chose to invade mainland Scotland anyway. He was captured and executed. Charles reluctantly promised that he would abide by the terms of a treaty agreed between him and the Scots Parliament at Breda, and support the Solemn League and Covenant, which authorised Presbyterian church governance across Britain. Upon his arrival in Scotland on 23 June 1650, he formally agreed to the Covenant; his abandonment of Episcopal church governance, although winning him support in Scotland, left him unpopular in England. Charles himself soon came to despise the “villainy” and “hypocrisy” of the Covenanters.
On 3 September 1650, the Covenanters were defeated at the Battle of Dunbar by a much smaller force led by Oliver Cromwell. The Scots forces were divided into royalist Engagers and Presbyterian Covenanters, who even fought each other. Disillusioned by the Covenanters, in October Charles attempted to escape from them and rode north to join with an Engager force, an event which became known as “the Start”, but within two days the Presbyterians had caught up with and recovered him. Nevertheless, the Scots remained Charles’s best hope of restoration, and he was crowned King of Scotland at Scone Abbey on 1 January 1651. With Cromwell’s forces threatening Charles’s position in Scotland, it was decided to mount an attack on England. With many of the Scots (including Lord Argyll and other leading Covenanters) refusing to participate, and with few English royalists joining the force as it moved south into England, the invasion ended in defeat at the Battle of Worcester on 3 September 1651, after which Charles eluded capture by hiding in the Royal Oak at Boscobel House. Through six weeks of narrow escapes Charles managed to flee England in disguise, landing in Normandy on 16 October, despite a reward of £1,000 on his head, risk of death for anyone caught helping him and the difficulty in disguising Charles, who, at over 6 ft (1.8 m), was unusually tall.[d]
Cromwell was appointed Lord Protector of England, Scotland and Ireland, effectively placing the British Isles under military rule. Impoverished, Charles could not obtain sufficient support to mount a serious challenge to Cromwell’s government. Despite the Stuart family connections through Henrietta Maria and the Princess of Orange, France and the Dutch Republic allied themselves with Cromwell’s government from 1654, forcing Charles to turn for aid to Spain, which at that time ruled the Southern Netherlands.Charles raised a ragtag army from his exiled subjects; this small, underpaid, poorly equipped, and ill-disciplined force formed the nucleus of the post-Restoration army.
After the death of Cromwell in 1658, Charles’s chances of regaining the Crown at first seemed slim as Cromwell was succeeded as Lord Protector by his son, Richard. However, the new Lord Protector had no power base in either Parliament or the New Model Army. He was forced to abdicate in 1659 and the Protectorate was abolished. During the civil and military unrest which followed, George Monck, the Governor of Scotland, was concerned that the nation would descend into anarchy. Monck and his army marched into the City of London and forced the Rump Parliament to re-admit members of the Long Parliament excluded in December 1648 during Pride’s Purge. The Long Parliament dissolved itself and for the first time in almost 20 years, there was a general election. The outgoing Parliament defined the electoral qualifications so as to ensure, as they thought, the return of a Presbyterian majority.
The restrictions against royalist candidates and voters were widely ignored, and the elections resulted in a House of Commons which was fairly evenly divided on political grounds between Royalists and Parliamentarians and on religious grounds between Anglicans and Presbyterians. The new so-called Convention Parliament assembled on 25 April 1660, and soon afterwards received news of the Declaration of Breda, in which Charles agreed, amongst other things, to pardon many of his father’s enemies. The English Parliament resolved to proclaim Charles king and invite him to return, a message that reached Charles at Breda on 8 May 1660. In Ireland, a convention had been called earlier in the year, and had already declared for Charles. On 14 May, he was proclaimed king in Dublin.
He set out for England from Scheveningen, arrived in Dover on 25 May 1660 and reached London on 29 May, his 30th birthday. Although Charles and Parliament granted amnesty to Cromwell’s supporters in the Act of Indemnity and Oblivion, 50 people were specifically excluded. In the end nine of the regicides were executed: they were hanged, drawn and quartered; others were given life imprisonment or simply excluded from office for life. The bodies of Oliver Cromwell, Henry Ireton, and John Bradshawwere subjected to the indignity of posthumous decapitations.
Charles agreed to the abolition of feudal dues; in return, the English Parliament granted him an annual income to run the government of £1.2 million, generated largely from customs and excise duties. The grant, however, proved to be insufficient for most of Charles’s reign. The sum was only an indication of the maximum the King was allowed to withdraw from the Treasury each year; for the most part, the actual revenue was much lower, which led to mounting debts, and further attempts to raise money through poll taxes, land taxes and hearth taxes.
In the later half of 1660, Charles’s joy at the Restoration was tempered by the deaths of his youngest brother, Henry, and sister, Mary, of smallpox. At around the same time, Anne Hyde, the daughter of the Lord Chancellor, Edward Hyde, revealed that she was pregnant by Charles’s brother, James, whom she had secretly married. Edward Hyde, who had not known of either the marriage or the pregnancy, was created Earl of Clarendon and his position as Charles’s favourite minister was strengthened.
The Convention Parliament was dissolved in December 1660, and, shortly after the coronation, the second English Parliament of the reign assembled. Dubbed the Cavalier Parliament, it was overwhelmingly Royalist and Anglican. It sought to discourage non-conformity to the Church of England, and passed several acts to secure Anglican dominance. The Corporation Act 1661 required municipal officeholders to swear allegiance; the Act of Uniformity 1662 made the use of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer compulsory; the Conventicle Act 1664 prohibited religious assemblies of more than five people, except under the auspices of the Church of England; and the Five Mile Act 1665 prohibited expelled non-conforming clergymen from coming within five miles (8 km) of a parish from which they had been banished. The Conventicle and Five Mile Acts remained in effect for the remainder of Charles’s reign. The Acts became known as the “Clarendon Code”, after Lord Clarendon, even though he was not directly responsible for them and even spoke against the Five Mile Act.
The Restoration was accompanied by social change. Puritanism lost its momentum. Theatres reopened after having been closed during the protectorship of Oliver Cromwell, and bawdy “Restoration comedy” became a recognisable genre. Theatre licences granted by Charles required that female parts be played by “their natural performers”, rather than by boys as was often the practice before; and Restoration literature celebrated or reacted to the restored court, which included libertines like John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester. Of Charles II, Wilmot supposedly said:
- We have a pretty witty king,
- Whose word no man relies on,
- He never said a foolish thing,
- And never did a wise one”
to which Charles supposedly riposted, “That’s true, for my words are my own, but my actions are those of my ministers”.
Great Plague and Great Fire
In 1665, Charles was faced with a great health crisis: the Great Plague of London. The death toll reached a peak of 7,000 per week in the week of 17 September. Charles, with his family and court, fled London in July to Salisbury; Parliament met in Oxford. All attempts by London public health officials to contain the disease failed, and the plague spread rapidly.
Adding to London’s woes, but marking the end of the plague, was what later became known as the Great Fire of London, which started on 2 September 1666. The fire consumed about 13,200 houses and 87 churches, including St Paul’s Cathedral. Charles and his brother James joined and directed the fire-fighting effort. The public blamed Catholic conspirators for the fire, although it had actually started in a bakehouse in Pudding Lane.
Foreign and colonial policy
Since 1640, Portugal had been fighting a war against Spain to restore its independence after a dynastic union of sixty years between the crowns of Spain and Portugal. Portugal had been helped by France, but in the Treaty of the Pyrenees in 1659 Portugal was abandoned by its French ally. Negotiations with Portugal for Charles’s marriage to Catherine of Braganza began during his father’s reign and upon the restoration, Queen Luísa of Portugal, acting as regent, reopened negotiations with England that resulted in an alliance. On 23 June 1661, a marriage treaty was signed, Catherine’s dowry securing to England Tangier (in North Africa) and the Seven islands of Bombay (the latter having a major influence on the development of the British Empire in India), together with trading privileges in Brazil and the East Indies, religious and commercial freedom in Portugal and two million Portuguese crowns (about £300,000); while Portugal obtained military and naval support against Spain and liberty of worship for Catherine. Catherine journeyed from Portugal to Portsmouth on 13–14 May 1662, but was not visited by Charles there until 20 May. The next day the couple were married at Portsmouth in two ceremonies – a Catholic one conducted in secret, followed by a public Anglican service.
In an unpopular move, also in 1662, Charles sold Dunkirk to his first cousin King Louis XIV of France for about £375,000. The channel port, although a valuable strategic outpost, was a drain on Charles’s limited finances.[e]
Before Charles’s restoration, the Navigation Acts of 1650 had hurt Dutch trade by giving English vessels a monopoly, and had started the First Dutch War (1652–1654). To lay foundations for a new beginning, envoys of the States General appeared in November 1660 with the Dutch Gift. The Second Dutch War (1665–1667) was started by English attempts to muscle in on Dutch possessions in Africa and North America. The conflict began well for the English, with the capture of New Amsterdam (renamed New York in honour of Charles’s brother James, Duke of York) and a victory at the Battle of Lowestoft, but in 1667 the Dutch launched a surprise attack on the English (the Raid on the Medway) when they sailed up the River Thames to where a major part of the English fleet was docked. Almost all of the ships were sunk except for the flagship, Royal Charles, which was taken back to the Netherlands as a trophy.[f] The Second Dutch War ended with the signing of the Treaty of Breda.
As a result of the Second Dutch War, Charles dismissed Lord Clarendon, whom he used as a scapegoat for the war. Clarendon fled to France when impeached for high treason(which carried the penalty of death). Power passed to five politicians known collectively by a whimsical acronym as the Cabal—Clifford, Arlington, Buckingham, Ashley (afterwards Earl of Shaftesbury) and Lauderdale. In fact, the Cabal rarely acted in concert, and the court was often divided between two factions led by Arlington and Buckingham, with Arlington the more successful.
In 1668, England allied itself with Sweden, and with its former enemy the Netherlands, to oppose Louis XIV in the War of Devolution. Louis made peace with the Triple Alliance, but he continued to maintain his aggressive intentions towards the Netherlands. In 1670, Charles, seeking to solve his financial troubles, agreed to the Treaty of Dover, under which Louis XIV would pay him £160,000 each year. In exchange, Charles agreed to supply Louis with troops and to announce his conversion to Catholicism “as soon as the welfare of his kingdom will permit”. Louis was to provide him with 6,000 troops to suppress those who opposed the conversion. Charles endeavoured to ensure that the Treaty—especially the conversion clause—remained secret. It remains unclear if Charles ever seriously intended to convert.
Meanwhile, by a series of five charters, Charles granted the East India Company the rights to autonomous government of its territorial acquisitions, to mint money, to command fortresses and troops, to form alliances, to make war and peace, and to exercise both civil and criminal jurisdiction over the its possessions in the Indies. Earlier in 1668 he leased the islands of Bombay for a nominal sum of £10 paid in gold. The Portuguese territories that Catherine brought with her as a dowry proved too expensive to maintain; Tangier was abandoned in 1684. In 1670, Charles granted control of the entire Hudson Bay drainage basin to the Hudson’s Bay Company by royal charter, and named the territory Rupert’s Land, after his cousin Prince Rupert of the Rhine, the company’s first Governor.
Conflict with Parliament
Although previously favourable to the Crown, the Cavalier Parliament was alienated by the king’s wars and religious policies during the 1670s. In 1672, Charles issued the Royal Declaration of Indulgence, in which he purported to suspend all penal laws against Catholics and other religious dissenters. In the same year, he openly supported Catholic France and started the Third Anglo-Dutch War.
The Cavalier Parliament opposed the Declaration of Indulgence on constitutional grounds by claiming that the King had no right to arbitrarily suspend laws passed by Parliament. Charles withdrew the Declaration, and also agreed to the Test Act, which not only required public officials to receive the sacrament under the forms prescribed by the Church of England, but also later forced them to denounce certain teachings of the Catholic Church as “superstitious and idolatrous“. Clifford, who had converted to Catholicism, resigned rather than take the oath, and committed suicide shortly after. By 1674 England had gained nothing from the Anglo-Dutch War, and the Cavalier Parliament refused to provide further funds, forcing Charles to make peace. The power of the Cabal waned and that of Clifford’s replacement, Lord Danby, grew.
Charles’s wife Queen Catherine was unable to produce an heir; her four pregnancies had ended in miscarriages and stillbirths in 1662, February 1666, May 1668 and June 1669. Charles’s heir presumptive was therefore his unpopular Catholic brother, James, Duke of York. Partly to assuage public fears that the royal family was too Catholic, Charles agreed that James’s daughter, Mary, should marry the Protestant William of Orange. In 1678, Titus Oates, who had been alternately an Anglican and Jesuit priest, falsely warned of a “Popish Plot” to assassinate the King, even accusing the Queen of complicity. Charles did not believe the allegations, but ordered his chief minister Lord Danby to investigate. While Lord Danby seems to have been rightly sceptical about Oates’s claims, the Cavalier Parliament took them seriously. The people were seized with an anti-Catholic hysteria; judges and juries across the land condemned the supposed conspirators; numerous innocent individuals were executed.
Later in 1678, Lord Danby was impeached by the House of Commons on the charge of high treason. Although much of the nation had sought war with Catholic France, Charles had secretly negotiated with Louis XIV, trying to reach an agreement under which England would remain neutral in return for money. Lord Danby had publicly professed that he was hostile to France, but had reservedly agreed to abide by Charles’s wishes. Unfortunately for him, the House of Commons failed to view him as a reluctant participant in the scandal, instead believing that he was the author of the policy. To save Lord Danby from the impeachment trial, Charles dissolved the Cavalier Parliament in January 1679.
The new English Parliament, which met in March of the same year, was quite hostile to Charles. Many members feared that he had intended to use the standing army to suppress dissent or impose Catholicism. However, with insufficient funds voted by Parliament, Charles was forced to gradually disband his troops. Having lost the support of Parliament, Lord Danby resigned his post of Lord High Treasurer, but received a pardon from the King. In defiance of the royal will, the House of Commons declared that the dissolution of Parliament did not interrupt impeachment proceedings, and that the pardon was therefore invalid. When the House of Lords attempted to impose the punishment of exile—which the Commons thought too mild—the impeachment became stalled between the two Houses. As he had been required to do so many times during his reign, Charles bowed to the wishes of his opponents, committing Lord Danby to the Tower of London. Lord Danby would be held there for another five years.
Charles faced a political storm over the succession to the Throne. The prospect of a Catholic monarch was vehemently opposed by Anthony Ashley Cooper, 1st Earl of Shaftesbury (previously Baron Ashley and a member of the Cabal, which had fallen apart in 1673). Shaftesbury’s power base was strengthened when the House of Commons of 1679 introduced the Exclusion Bill, which sought to exclude the Duke of York from the line of succession. Some even sought to confer the Crown to the Protestant Duke of Monmouth, the eldest of Charles’s illegitimate children. The Abhorrers—those who thought the Exclusion Bill was abhorrent—were named Tories (after a term for dispossessed Irish Catholic bandits), while the Petitioners—those who supported a petitioning campaign in favour of the Exclusion Bill—were called Whigs (after a term for rebellious Scottish Presbyterians).
Fearing that the Exclusion Bill would be passed, and bolstered by some acquittals in the continuing Plot trials, which seemed to him to indicate a more favourable public mood towards Catholicism, Charles dissolved the English Parliament, for a second time that year, in the summer of 1679. Charles’s hopes for a more moderate Parliament were not fulfilled, within a few months he had dissolved Parliament yet again, after it sought to pass the Exclusion Bill. When a new Parliament assembled at Oxford in March 1681, Charles dissolved it for a fourth time after just a few days. During the 1680s, however, popular support for the Exclusion Bill ebbed, and Charles experienced a nationwide surge of loyalty. Lord Shaftesbury was prosecuted (albeit unsuccessfully) for treason in 1681 and later fled to Holland, where he died. For the remainder of his reign, Charles ruled without Parliament.
Charles’s opposition to the Exclusion Bill angered some Protestants. Protestant conspirators formulated the Rye House Plot, a plan to murder the King and the Duke of York as they returned to London after horse races in Newmarket. A great fire, however, destroyed Charles’s lodgings at Newmarket, which forced him to leave the races early, thus, inadvertently, avoiding the planned attack. News of the failed plot was leaked. Protestant politicians such as Arthur Capell, 1st Earl of Essex, Algernon Sydney, Lord William Russell and the Duke of Monmouth were implicated in the plot. Lord Essex slit his own throat while imprisoned in the Tower of London; Sydney and Russell were executed for high treason on very flimsy evidence; and the Duke of Monmouth went into exile at the court of William of Orange. Lord Danby and the surviving Catholic lords held in the Tower were released and the King’s Catholic brother, James, acquired greater influence at court. Titus Oates was convicted and imprisoned for defamation.
Charles suffered a sudden apoplectic fit on the morning of 2 February 1685, and died aged 54 at 11:45 am four days later at Whitehall Palace. The suddenness of his illness and death led to suspicion of poison in the minds of many, including one of the royal doctors; however, a more modern medical analysis has held that the symptoms of his final illness are similar to those of uraemia (a clinical syndrome due to kidney dysfunction). In the days between his collapse and his death, Charles endured a variety of torturous treatments including bloodletting, purging and cupping in hopes of effecting a recovery.
On his deathbed Charles asked his brother, James, to look after his mistresses: “be well to Portsmouth, and let not poor Nelly starve”, and told his courtiers: “I am sorry, gentlemen, for being such a time a-dying”. On the last evening of his life he was received into the Catholic Church, though the extent to which he was fully conscious or committed, and with whom the idea originated, is unclear. He was buried in Westminster Abbey “without any manner of pomp” on 14 February.
Charles was succeeded by his brother, who became James II of England and Ireland and James VII of Scotland.
Posterity and legacy
Charles had no legitimate children, but acknowledged a dozen by seven mistresses, including five by the notorious Barbara Villiers, Lady Castlemaine, for whom the Dukedom of Cleveland was created. His other mistresses included Moll Davis, Nell Gwyn, Elizabeth Killigrew, Catherine Pegge, Lucy Walter, and Louise de Kérouaille, Duchess of Portsmouth. As a result, in his lifetime he was often nicknamed “Old Rowley”, the name of one of his horses which was notable at the time as a stallion.
His subjects resented paying taxes that were spent on his mistresses and their children, many of whom received dukedoms or earldoms. The present Dukes of Buccleuch, Richmond, Grafton and St Albans descend from Charles in unbroken male line. Diana, Princess of Wales, was descended from two of Charles’s illegitimate sons: the Dukes of Grafton and Richmond. Diana’s son, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, second in line to the British throne, is likely to be the first British monarch descended from Charles II.
Charles’s eldest son, the Duke of Monmouth, led a rebellion against James II, but was defeated at the Battle of Sedgemoor on 6 July 1685, captured and executed. James was eventually dethroned in 1688, in the course of the Glorious Revolution. He was the last Catholic monarch to rule Britain.
Looking back on Charles’s reign, Tories tended to view it as a time of benevolent monarchy whereas Whigs perceived it as a terrible despotism. Today it is possible to assess him without the taint of partisanship, and he is seen as more of a lovable rogue—in the words of his contemporary John Evelyn, “a prince of many virtues and many great imperfections, debonair, easy of access, not bloody or cruel”. John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester, wrote more lewdly of Charles:
Restless he rolls from whore to whore
A merry monarch, scandalous and poor.
Charles, a patron of the arts and sciences, founded the Royal Observatory and supported the Royal Society, a scientific group whose early members included Robert Hooke, Robert Boyle and Sir Isaac Newton. He was the personal patron of Sir Christopher Wren, the architect who helped rebuild London after the Great Fire and who constructed the Royal Hospital Chelsea, which Charles founded as a home for retired soldiers in 1682.
The anniversary of the Restoration (which was also Charles’s birthday)—29 May—was recognised in England until the mid-nineteenth century as Oak Apple Day, after the Royal Oak in which Charles hid during his escape from the forces of Oliver Cromwell. Traditional celebrations involved the wearing of oak leaves but these have now died out. Charles II is commemorated by statues in London’s Soho Square, in Edinburgh’s Parliament Square, in Three Cocks Lane in Gloucester, and near the south portal of Lichfield Cathedral, and is depicted extensively in literature and other media. Charleston, South Carolina, and South Kingstown, Rhode Island, are named after him.
Titles, styles, honours and arms
Titles and styles
- 29 May 1630 – May 1638: The Duke of Cornwall
- May 1638 – 30 January 1649: The Prince of Wales
- 30 January 1649 – 6 February 1685: His Majesty The King
The official style of Charles II was “Charles the Second, by the Grace of God, King of England, Scotland, France and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, etc.” The claim to France was only nominal, and had been asserted by every English monarch since Edward III, regardless of the amount of French territory actually controlled.
As Prince of Wales, Charles’s coat of arms was the royal arms (which he later inherited), differenced by a label of three points Argent. His arms as monarch were: Quarterly, I and IV Grandquarterly, Azure three fleurs-de-lis Or (for France) and Gules three lions passant guardant in pale Or (for England); II Or a lion rampant within a double tressure flory-counter-flory Gules (for Scotland); III Azure a harp Or stringed Argent (for Ireland).
|Coat of arms as Prince of Wales||Coat of arms of Charles II as king (outside Scotland)||Coat of arms of Charles II used as king in Scotland|
By Marguerite or Margaret de Carteret
- Letters claiming that she bore Charles a son named James de la Cloche in 1646 are dismissed by historians as forgeries.
By Lucy Walter (c. 1630 – 1658)
- James Crofts, later Scott (1649–1685), created Duke of Monmouth (1663) in England and Duke of Buccleuch (1663) in Scotland. Ancestor of Sarah, Duchess of York. Monmouth was born nine months after Walter and Charles II first met, and was acknowledged as his son by Charles II, but James II suggested that he was the son of another of her lovers, Colonel Robert Sidney, rather than Charles. Lucy Walter had a daughter, Mary Crofts, born after James in 1651, but Charles II was not the father, since he and Walter parted in September 1649.
- Charlotte Jemima Henrietta Maria FitzRoy (1650–1684), married firstly James Howard and secondly William Paston, 2nd Earl of Yarmouth
- Charles FitzCharles (1657–1680), known as “Don Carlo”, created Earl of Plymouth (1675)
- Catherine FitzCharles (born 1658; she either died young or became a nun at Dunkirk)
- Lady Anne Palmer (Fitzroy) (1661–1722), married Thomas Lennard, 1st Earl of Sussex. She may have been the daughter of Roger Palmer, but Charles accepted her. Sarah, Duchess of York, descends from Anne by both parents.
- Charles Fitzroy (1662–1730), created Duke of Southampton (1675), became 2nd Duke of Cleveland (1709)
- Henry Fitzroy (1663–1690), created Earl of Euston (1672), Duke of Grafton (1675), also 7-greats-grandfather of Diana, Princess of Wales
- Charlotte Fitzroy (1664–1717), married Edward Lee, 1st Earl of Lichfield
- George Fitzroy (1665–1716), created Earl of Northumberland (1674), Duke of Northumberland (1678)
- Barbara (Benedicta) Fitzroy (1672–1737) – She was probably the child of John Churchill, later Duke of Marlborough, who was another of Cleveland’s many lovers, and was never acknowledged by Charles as his own daughter.
By Nell Gwyn (1650–1687)
- Charles Lennox (1672–1723), created Duke of Richmond (1675) in England and Duke of Lennox (1675) in Scotland. Ancestor of Diana, Princess of Wales; Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall; and Sarah, Duchess of York.
- Lady Mary Tudor (1673–1726), married Edward Radclyffe, 2nd Earl of Derwentwater; after Edward’s death, she married Henry Graham, and upon his death she married James Rooke.
Other probable mistresses:
- Christabella Wyndham
- Hortense Mancini, Duchess of Mazarin
- Winifred Wells – one of the Queen’s Maids of Honour
- Jane Roberts – the daughter of a clergyman
- Mrs Knight – a famous singer
- Elizabeth Berkeley, née Bagot, Dowager Countess of Falmouth – the widow of Charles Berkeley, 1st Earl of Falmouth
- Elizabeth Fitzgerald, Countess of Kildare
- The traditional date of the Restoration marking the first assembly of King and Parliament together since the abolition of the English monarchy in 1649. The English Parliament recognised Charles as King of England by unanimous vote on 2 May 1660, and he was proclaimed King in London on 8 May, although royalists had recognised him as such since the execution of his father on 30 January 1649. During Charles’s reign all legal documents were dated as if his reign began at his father’s death.
- From the death of his father to his defeat at the Battle of Worcester
- All dates in this article unless otherwise noted are given in the Julian calendar with the start of year adjusted to 1 January (see Old Style and New Style dates).
- One thousand pounds was a vast sum at the time, greater than an average workman’s lifetime earnings.
- It cost the Treasury £321,000 per year.
- The ship’s transom is on display at the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam.
- Weir 1996, pp. 255–257.
- Fraser 1979, p. 13; Hutton 1989, pp. 1–4.
- Fraser 1979, p. 32; Hutton 1989, pp. 6–7.
- Fraser 1979, pp. 38–45; Miller 1991, p. 6.
- Fraser 1979, pp. 55–56.
- Fraser 1979, pp. 57–60.
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