Charles II of England

Charles II
Charles is of thin build and has chest-length curly black hair
Charles in Garter robes by John Michael Wright or studio, c. 1660–1665
King of England, Scotland and Ireland
Reign29 May 1660[a]
6 February 1685
Coronation23 April 1661
PredecessorCharles I
SuccessorJames II & VII
King of Scotland
Reign30 January 1649 –
3 September 1651[b]
Coronation1 January 1651
PredecessorCharles I
SuccessorMilitary government
Born29 May 1630
(N.S.: 8 June 1630)
St James's Palace, London, England
Died6 February 1685 (aged 54)
(N.S.: 16 February 1685)
Whitehall Palace, London
Burial14 February 1685
SpouseCatherine of Braganza
Issue
more...
HouseStuart
FatherCharles I of England
MotherHenrietta Maria of France
SignatureCharles II's signature

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 facto republic, 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. 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 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 Catholic Church on his deathbed.

Charles was one of the most popular and beloved kings of England,[1] 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

Baby in white christening robe
Charles II as an infant in 1630, painting attributed to Justus van Egmont
Charles as a boy with shoulder-length black hair and standing in a martial pose
Portrait by William Dobson, c. 1642 or 1643

Charles II was born at 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 child. Their first son was born about a year before Charles, but died within a day.[2] England, Scotland, and Ireland were respectively predominantly Anglican, Presbyterian, and Catholic. Charles was baptised in the Chapel Royal, on 27 June, by the Anglican Bishop of London, William Laud. He was brought up in the care of the Protestant Countess of Dorset, though his godparents included his maternal uncle Louis XIII and his maternal grandmother, Marie de' Medici, the Dowager Queen of France, both of whom were Catholics.[3] 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.[2]

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.[4] 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, he went 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.[5] Charles I surrendered into captivity in May 1646.

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 his mother's French relations.[6] 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 Engager army of the Duke of Hamilton before it was defeated at the Battle of Preston by the Parliamentarians.[7]

At The Hague, Charles had a brief affair with Lucy Walter, who later falsely claimed that they had secretly married.[8] 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.[2]

Despite his son's diplomatic efforts to save him, King Charles I was beheaded in January 1649, and England became a republic. On 5 February, the Covenanter Parliament of Scotland proclaimed Charles II "King of Great Britain, France and Ireland" at the Mercat Cross, Edinburgh,[9] but refused to allow him to enter Scotland unless he accepted the imposition of Presbyterianism throughout Britain and Ireland.

When negotiations with the Scots 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.[10]

Cast gold coronation medal of Charles II, dated 1651

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.[11] 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.[12][d]

A king in exile: Charles II painted by Philippe de Champaigne, c. 1653

Under the Instrument of Government passed by Parliament, Cromwell was appointed Lord Protector of England, Scotland and Ireland in 1653, 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.[14]

Charles made the Treaty of Brussels with Spain in 1656. This gathered Spanish support for a restoration in return for Charles's contribution to the war against France. 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.[15] The Commonwealth made the Treaty of Paris with France in 1657 to join them in war against Spain in the Netherlands. Royalist supporters in the Spanish force were led by Charles's younger brother James, Duke of York.[16] At the Battle of the Dunes in 1658, as part of the larger Spanish force, Charles's army of around 2,000 clashed with Commonwealth troops fighting with the French. By the end of the battle Charles's force was about 1,000 and with Dunkirk given to the English the prospect of a Royalist expedition to England was dashed.[17]

Other Languages
беларуская: Карл II Сцюарт
български: Чарлз II
čeština: Karel II. Stuart
eesti: Charles II
Gàidhlig: Teàrlach II
한국어: 찰스 2세
Bahasa Indonesia: Charles II dari Inggris
ქართული: ჩარლზ II
македонски: Чарлс II
მარგალური: ჩარლზ II
norsk nynorsk: Karl II av England
संस्कृतम्: चार्ल्स २
Simple English: Charles II of England
српски / srpski: Чарлс II Стјуарт
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Charles II od Engleske
Tiếng Việt: Charles II của Anh