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Charles II

History of Britain - The Restoration
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Charles II
Charles II
King of England, Ireland and Scotland
Related Articles
  • British Monarchs 
  • English Civil War 
  • 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). 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 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 considered 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

    Childhood

    Charles was the eldest son of King Charles I of England and Queen Henrietta Maria, born at St James's Palace on May 29, 1630. Although he took the title of 
    Prince of Wales, he was never formally invested with it, partly because of the English Civil War that was brewing during his childhood and broke out violently in 
    1642. 

    Charles fought for his father in the war, notably at the Battle of Edgehill, and gained considerable military experience. By the time his father, the King, was executed 
    on January 30, 1649, Charles had only just reached maturity. He had been forced to flee to France in 1646. 

    King of the Scots

    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 the Royal Oak 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 Scott, 1st Duke of 
    Monmouth, born in 1649 to a Welsh noblewoman, Lucy Walter, whom Charles was alleged to have secretly married. 

    Restoration of the English Monarchy

    After Richard Cromwell's resignation in 1659 and the civil and military unrest that followed, General George Monck sent a delegation to Charles in Holland, headed 
    by Thomas Fairfax to negotiate terms under which Monck would support Charles' return as King, resulting in the 1660 Declaration of Breda. As a result, the 
    Convention Parliament declared Charles to be King on May 8, 1660. 

    Charles set out for England, arriving on May 23, 1660, reaching London on May 29, 1660 which is considered the day of his restoration to the throne. On January 
    30, 1661, the anniversary of King Charles I's execution, Oliver Cromwell's body was exhumed from Westminster Abbey and hung from the gallows at Tyburn. 
    Cromwell's head was removed for display at Westminster Hall. On 23 April, Charles was crowned King Charles II at Westminster Abbey. 

    Although Charles granted an amesty to Cromwell's supporters in the Act of Indemnity and Oblivion, this was not extended to those judges and officials involved in 
    his father's trial and execution. Nine (ten?) of these regicides were hanged, drawn and quartered in 1660, nineteen were given life imprisonment, and others fled 
    overseas. Three of these were extradited and hanged in 1662. In addition to Oliver Cromwell, the bodies of Henry Ireton and John Bradshaw were exhumed and 
    hung in chains at Tyburn, while the body of Admiral Robert Blake was exhumed from Westminster Abbey and dumped in a common grave. 

    Appreciative of the assistance given to him in gaining the throne, on March 24, 1663, Charles awarded eight nobles lands then known as the colony of Carolina -- 
    named after his father -- now in the USA. 

    The period following the "Restoration" of the Monarchy became a recognisable period of English history, characterised by the Great Plague of 1665, the Great Fire 
    of London in 1666 and the subsequent rebuilding of London. 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". 

    The Republican new nobility 

    The Commonwealth's written constitutions gave the King power to grant titles of honour to the Lord Protector. Cromwell created over thirty new knights. These 
    were all declared invalid at the Restoration of Charles II. Many were regranted by restored King, but being non-hereditary, these titles have long since become 
    extinct. 

    Of the 12 Cromwellian baronetcies, Charles II regranted half of them. Only two now continue Sir George Howland Francis Beaumont Bt, 12th baronet, and Sir 
    Richard Thomas Williams-Bulkeley, 14th baronet, are the direct successors of Sir Thomas Beaumont and Sir Griffith Williams

     Edmund Dunch was created Baron Burnell of East Wittenham in April 1658. It was not regranted. The male line failed in 1719, so no one can lay claim to the title. 

    The one hereditary viscountcy Cromwell created (making Charles Howard Viscount Howard of Morpeth and Baron Gilsland) continues to this day. In April 1661 
    Howard was created Earl of Carlisle, Viscount Howard of Morpeth, and Baron Dacre of Gillesland. The present Earl is a direct descendant of this Cromwellian 
    creation and Restoration recreation. 

    Finance, France and Catholicism

    Parliament granted Charles a lifetime revenue. In return Charles gave up the remaining mediaeval rights including knight service and feudal dues from wardships. 

    To raise cash, in 1662 Charles sold Dunkirk to France for 40,000 pounds. In 1667 he was responsible for appointing George Downing, (the builder of Downing 
    Street,) to radically reform the Treasury and the collection of taxes. And, in a secret protocol to the 1670 Treaty of Dover he received French financial assistance of 
    200,000 pounds each year in exchange for agreeing to enter the Third Anglo-Dutch War and his agreement to "declare himself a Catholic as soon as the welfare of 
    his realm will permit". When the protocol later became known, it seriously compromised Charles, losing him the nation's trust, though it did recover in the 1680s. 

    Politics

    During the early years of his reign, Charles's chief advisor was Edward Hyde, for whom he created the title 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 the disastrous Second Anglo-Dutch War, 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 the Cavalier Parliament on January 24, 1679. 

    Marriage

    Charles continued to keep mistresses, the most famous of whom was the actress, Nell Gwyn or Gwynne. Others included Louise de Keroualle (Duchess of 
    Portsmouth), and Barbara Villiers (Duchess of Cleveland and Countess of Castlemaine). In 1662, he had married Catherine of Braganza, a Portuguese princess, 
    who gave him possession of Bombay and Tangier. However their marriage was childless, resulting in some uncertainty about the succession when he died. 

    Death

    Charles died of a stroke at the Palace of Whitehall. He converted to Roman Catholicism on his deathbed. He was succeeded by his younger brother as James II of 
    England and James VII of Scotland. In 1692 Catherine moved to Spain. 

    The illegitimate children of Charles II


    Charles left no legitimate heirs but fathered an unknown number of illegitimate children. He acknowledged 14 children to be his own, including Barbara Fitzroy, who 
    almost certainly wasn't his child. 

    By Lucy Walter (1630 - 1658)

      James Crofts "Scott" (1649 - 1685), created James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth (1663)
      Mary Crofts. (c. 1693) Not acknowledged. She married a William Sarsfield and later a William Fanshaw and became a faith healer operating in Covent 
      Garden.

    By Elizabeth Killigrew (1622 - 1680)

      Charlotte Jemima Henrietta Maria Boyle, "Fitzcharles" (1650 - 1684)

    By Catherine Pegge, Lady Green

      Charles Fitzcharles (1657 - 1680), known as "Don Carlos", created Earl of Plymouth (1675)
      Catherine Fitzcharles (born 1658, died young)

    By Barbara Palmer (1640 - 1709) (n&eacutee Villiers), Countess of Castlemaine and Duchess of Cleveland

      Anne Palmer (Fitzroy) (1661 - 1722)
      Charles Fitzroy (1662 - 1730) created Duke of Southampton (1675), Duke of Cleveland (1709)
      Henry Fitzroy (1663 - 1690), created Earl of Euston (1672), Duke of Grafton (1709)
      Charlotte Fitzroy (1664 - 1718), Countess of Lichfield
      George Fitzroy (1665 - 1716), created Earl of Northumberland (1674), Duke of Northumberland (1683)
      Barbara (Benedicta) Fitzroy (1672 - 1737) - She was acknowledged as Charles' daughter, but was probably the child of John Churchill, later Duke of 
      Marlborough

    By Eleanor "Nell" Gwynne (c.1642 - 1687)

      Charles Beauclerk (1670 - 1726), created Duke of St Albans
      James Beauclerk (1671 - 1681) 

    By Louise Renée de Penancoet da Kéroualle (1648 - 1734), Duchess of Portsmouth (1673)

      Charles Lennox (1672 -1723), created Duke of Richmond (1675)

    By Mary 'Moll' Davis

      Mary Tudor (1673 - 1726)

    Other mistresses

      Hortense Mancini, Duchess of Mazarin
      Winifred Wells - one of the Queen's Maids of Honour
      Mrs Jane Roberts - the daughter of a clergyman
      Mary Sackville (formerly Berkeley, n&eacutee Bagot) - the widowed Countess of Falmouth
      Elizabeth Fitzgerald, Countess of Kildare
      Frances Stuart, later Countess of Lichfield
     
     
     

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


    This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License, which means that you can copy and modify it as long as the entire work (including additions) remains under this license. See http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html for details. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Charles_II_of_England

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