Early life, civil war and exile
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. 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. 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.
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, 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. 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. 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.
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.
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, 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.
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. 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]
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.
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. 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. 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.