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Charles II of England

Charles II (May 29, 1630 - February 6, 1685) was King of England, Scotland and Ireland (proclaimed by monarchists January 30, 1649; assumed throne at the restoration May 29, 1660 - February 6, 1685). He was the eldest son of King Charles I of England and Queen Henrietta Maria. Although he took the title of Prince of Wales, he was never formally invested with it, partly because of the civil war that was brewing during his childhood and broke out violently in 1642. By the time his father, the King, was executed on January 30, 1649, Charles had only just reached maturity (though he already had considerable military experience). He had been forced to flee to France in 1646.


Charles II
King of England, Ireland and Scotland

Charles lived for some time in The Hague with his remaining family. Shortly after his father's death, on February 5, 1649 with his declaration as King of Scotland in Edinburgh he had been given the opportunity to acquire the throne of Scotland, on the understanding that he would sign the Scottish Covenant[?]. He did this upon his arrival in Scotland on the June 23, 1650. As a result, on January 1, 1651, he was crowned King of Scots at Scone[?]. It was in Scotland that he found the support he needed to mount a serious challenge to Oliver Cromwell. This ended after his own defeat at the Battle of Worcester in 1651, following which Charles is said to have hidden in an oak tree at Boscobel House[?], subsequently escaping to the continent in disguise.

He remained abroad, living a rather licentious life and fathering numerous illegitimate children (350 or so by rumour), who included James, Duke of Monmouth, born in 1649 to a Welsh noblewoman, Lucy Walter[?], whom Charles was alleged to have secretly married. Charles returned to England only in 1660, after the death of Oliver Cromwell. He was declared King by the Parliament on May 8, 1660 although he didn't reache England until May 23, 1660 and London until May 29, 1660 which is concidered the day of his restoration to the throne. He was crowned king at Westimister Abbey on 23 April 1661. This "Restoration" of the monarchy became a recognisable period of English history, characterised by the rebuilding of London following the great plague of 1665 and Great Fire of London in 1666. Theatres reopened with women eventually allowed to perform on stage and the Church of England became more liberal after the severe restrictions of Cromwell's administration. Charles himself became known as "The Merry Monarch".

During the early years of his reign, Charles's chief advisor was Edward Hyde, whom he created Earl of Clarendon in 1661. Clarendon was also the father-in-law of Charles's younger brother, the Duke of York. However, by 1667, after a disastrous war with the Dutch, Clarendon had fallen out of favour and was sent into exile. Clarendon was replaced by a quintet of advisors: Clifford, Henry Bennet, 1st Earl of Arlington, George Villiers, 2nd Duke of Buckingham, Ashley and Lauderdale, whose initials are believed by some to be the origin of the term cabal. There was considerable religious controversy, even within this small group, and the groundswell of opinion in the country reached an anti-Catholic climax with the discovery of the so-called "Popish Plot[?]", the invention of a charlatan, Titus Oates[?].

Charles II dissolved Parliament on January 24, 1679.

Charles continued to keep mistresses, the most famous of whom was the actress, Nell Gwyn. In 1662, he had married Catherine of Braganza, a Portuguese princess, but their marriage was childless, resulting in some uncertainty about the succession when he died of a stroke at Whitehall Palace. He was succeeded by his younger brother as James II of England and James VII of Scotland.

Preceded by:
Richard Cromwell
List of British monarchs Succeeded by:
James II of England/
James VII of Scotland



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