Charles I (deposed 1649)
|King of England, Scotland, and Ireland
29 May 1660 - 06 Feb 1685
James II & VII
Charles II (29 May 1630 – 6 February 1685) was monarch of the three kingdoms England, Scotland, and Ireland.
Charles Stuart was the second-born son of Charles I, King of England, Scotland and Ireland, and his consort Henrietta Maria, daughter of King Henri IV of France. Their first-born son, Charles James Stuart, died at birth on 13 May 1629. Charles was born the following year on 29 May 1630 and was immediately recognized as heir to the crown, receiving the titles of Duke of Cornwall and Duke of Rothesay (Scotland). He was christened at the chapel of the Palace of St James on 27 June. The queen's brother, King Louis XIII of France, and her mother, the Dowager Queen of France, were named as godparents but declined the honor on the grounds that the ceremony was a protestant one.
The issue of religion overshadowed Charles' life from the outset. The marriage treaty between Charles I and Maria Henrietta included a clause requiring their children to be raised as Catholics. Charles I, knowing this would have been unacceptable to the English, ignored the clause and zealously raised his family in the established protestant episcopal church of England, although his queen did occasionally take the children to Mass.
In 1638, before his eighth birthday, Charles was named a Knight of the Garter. At about the same time, he was placed in an establishment of his own, under a governor. From that time, he was generally known as the Prince of Wales, although he was never formally invested with the title.
In 1641, after two failed wars against Scotland and the king and Parliament at odds over such issues as religion and the royal prerogative, the prince presented a letter to the House of Lords, begging for clemency for the king's minister Strafford, who had been attainted for treason. The appeal was unsuccessful.  
The next year, the king took the Prince of Wales with him when he raised forces for war with Parliament. The prince was appointed nominal colonel of a regiment of horse which fought at the battle of Edgehill, October 1642. Young Charles had to be restrained by his guards from charging a troop of parliamentary cavalry.
In March 1645, he was made nominal Captain-General of a royalist army in the West Country. By this time, however, the defeat of the king's forces was imminent, and Charles was forced to retreat.  In June 1647, he finally fled to France, where his mother had been given the royal palace of St Germaine-en-Laye, near Paris. On 4 February 1649, Charles learned of the death of his father Charles I, executed by members of Parliament's New Model Army on 30 January. On 5 February, the Parliament of Scotland declared Charles II their lawful king.
While the kingdom of Scotland had been ruled by the Stuart dynasty since the 14th century king Robert II, the dominant force was then the Presbyterian Kirk under the National Covenant. What the Scots wanted from Charles was a "Covenanted King" who would defend the Kirk and establish it in all three kingdoms. What Charles wanted from the Scots was an army to invade England and take back his crown. On 1 May 1650 he signed the Treaty of Breda, "an agreement based on false expectations and mutual bad faith" and sailed for Scotland, where he soon found himself the virtual prisoner of the Covenanters, and in fact attempted escape.
The English under Oliver Cromwell regarded Charles' presence in Scotland as a declaration of war and inflicted a major defeat on the Scots at the Battle of Dunbar in September 1650. This forced the feuding Scottish faction to reconcile, and on 1 January 1651, Charles II of Scotland was crowned at Scone. He then made the fatal decision to invade England where, he hoped, large numbers of royalist supports would join him. They did not. Cromwell trapped Charles' inferior force at the Battle of Worcester in September 1651, where the Scots army was essentially annihilated.
Charles, who had fought bravely, was one of the few survivors, and after a long trek across the length of England, which was swarming with soldiers seeking to capture him, and with a £1000 reward on his head, he managed to take ship and escape back to the continent.   In later years, he often retold the story of his escape, and it was published by, among others, Samuel Pepys. One thing notable about this account is the bitterness of his complaints about the men who had fought for him, that "I could not get them to stand by me against the enemy."
Charles now found himself head of a court of quarrelsome hangers-on, with no regular income to support his royal position. His primary occupation was plotting to retake the English throne, but Cromwell's intelligence service thwarted most of these attempts. However, in 1658, the event for which Charles had plotted in vain finally took place without his intervention: Oliver Cromwell died on 3 September. By 1660, the English were ready to restore the Stuart monarchy.
In April 1660, Charles sent Parliament the Declaration of Breda declaring his terms for peace, and Parliament, on 8 May, proclaimed him king.
The year 1660 brought the fulfillment of Charles' ambitions, but it also brought personal grief, as his sister, the widowed Princess of Orange, and his youngest brother, Henry Duke of Gloucester, both died of smallpox, leaving him with only two surviving siblings: James Duke of York and his youngest sister Henrietta Anne, called Minette, who shortly afterward married her cousin Philip Duc d'Orléans, brother of Louis XIV of France. 
Now Charles needed a wife - one of high rank who would bring him a large dowry. Portugal made the winning bid for the king's daughter Catherine of Braganza. The marriage took place on 20 May 1662 in both English and Catholic ceremonies, but it was not a productive or happy one. Catherine bore no living children and Charles preferred the company of his many mistresses. Catherine's promised dowry was not paid in its entirety, and while she brought the territory of Tangier, it proved to be a money sink that England eventually abandoned. 
The primary problems that Charles encountered after the euphoria of the Restoration had worn off were essentially those that had faced his father: religion, finance, and Parliament. Things went well in the Convention Parliament (called a Convention because it had not been summoned by a king), which met between 25 April and 19 December 1660. The most essential business was addressed, largely along the lines of Charles' Declaration of Breda: on 8 May, Charles was proclaimed king as of the date of his father's death on 29 January 1649, with the current regnal year beginning on 30 Jan. 1660 as the 13th year of the reign. The general pardon was passed, excepting regicides, the army was disbanded, and a sum of £1,200,000 was voted to supply the king's expenses. This was doubtless considered quite generous, but as was common in this era, the monies actually raised fell short of the amount voted. 
The next Parliament, seated on 8 May 1661, was known as the Cavalier Parliament, and in some respects, such as religion, it could be considered more royalist than the king. Charles had called for toleration in the Declaration of Breda, but the Cavalier Parliament rejected the idea. One of its first acts was to restore the bishops to their seats in the House of Lords. It passed an increasingly severe series of acts mandating uniformity of worship based on the principles of the established Anglican church. When Charles attempted in December 1662 to use his royal prerogative in a Declaration of Indulgence, Parliament only stiffened its acts penalizing dissenters - most notably Catholics. Charles was more inclined to favor Catholics, who had fought for the royalists, than the Presbyterians; his experiences in Scotland had prejudiced him against them.
From that point, king and Parliament were more or less constantly at odds.
A low point of Charles' reign came in the middle of the 1660s, when the English decided to make war on the Dutch United Provinces, which in the mid-17th century was the dominant maritime power of Europe. The war was a disaster for England, which lacked the understanding of the finance necessary to fight a 17th-century naval war. Parliament voted Charles the sum of £2,500,000 - the greatest supply ever made to an English monarch to that date. The war was declared on 4 March 1665; by autumn the money was gone, leaving none to pay off the fleet. The blackest day came on 12 June 1667, when the Dutch fleet sailed up the Medway to the royal naval base at Chatham, where they burned three warships and towed the fleet flagship Royal Charles, home to Holland. Parliament blamed Charles and the extravagance of his court.  Samuel Pepys remarked how ". . . every body do now-a-days reflect upon Oliver (Cromwell), and commend him, what brave things he did, and made all the neighbour princes fear him;" 
In those same years came the great outbreak of plague of 1665, which decimated the supply of seamen. Then in 1666 was the Great Fire of London, when Charles was fearlessly active, directing the firemen. "He and his brother waded ankle-deep in a conduit, filling buckets . . . " But this was not enough to restore good relations with Parliament.
Charles had always insisted on the royal prerogative to direct foreign affairs, but the next decade demonstrated the unwisdom of this policy. Louis XIV of France had built a navy greater than either the Dutch or England, which formed a defensive alliance along with the Scandinavians. But at the same time Charles was plotting a secret offensive alliance with his cousin Louis against the Dutch, signing the secret Treaty of Dover on 22 May 1670. This involved significant secret payments to Charles, which he did not have to disclose to Parliament, as well as an additional amount if he made a public conversion to Catholicism.
Even with the French payments, the English naval debt was too high to afford a new war. Charles asked the bankers in London for a loan but was refused, so he resorted to the desperate move of defaulting: the infamous Stop of the Exchequer at the beginning of 1672, suspending all payments to his creditors, which bankrupted many English bankers and merchants, as well as ruining Charles' credit.  He had hoped to recoup his fortunes with the capture of rich Dutch prizes, but this did not materialize.
The war began in April 1672, and shortly thereafter came the decisive naval battle of Sole Bay, fought at 28 May 1672 - a loss for the English, who quickly became disillusioned with a war they hadn't wanted in the first place. "Charles had succeeded only in building a formidable opposition within the country." The 1674 Peace of Westminster put an end to the offensive alliance with France and Charles' wars.  From this point, his conflicts were internal.
The Treaty of Dover had been made through the medium of Charles' sister Minette, now Duchesse d'Orléans, his favorite sibling. She died the next month on 30 June 1670, leaving him griefstricken, with his brother James now the only other survivor of his immediate family and his heir presumptive - and secretly a Catholic convert.
On 15 March 1672, just before the war, Charles had issued a second Declaration of Indulgence - perhaps testing the waters of his proposed conversion - but it only aroused the English phobia against Catholics, who were associated with France and French tyranny. When Charles called Parliament in met February 1673 to vote an additional supply for the war, it refused to act until the Declaration was declared illegal. Parliament then passed the first Test Act, aka "An act for preventing dangers which may happen from popish recusants," which required oaths of all office-holders that a Catholic could not accept. James Duke of York refused to swear according to the Test, thus openly declaring himself Catholic, resigning his office of High Admiral and creating a crisis of government. 
By this time, it was apparent that Queen Catherine, after four miscarriages in the prior decade, was not likely to produce a legitimate heir to the throne; James was thus Charles' heir apparent. James' protestant wife Anne had died 31 March 1671, and he married a Catholic bride, Mary of Modena, in November 1673. The prospect of a Catholic king and dynasty drove many members of Parliament to extreme measures. In 1678, a troublemaker named Titus Oates began to spread reports of a fabricated "Popish Plot" to overturn the government by force. The skeptical Charles didn't give this tale any credit, but alarmists and opportunists in Parliament created a frenzy aimed at James and Queen Catherine. Great pressure was placed on Charles to either divorce his queen and remarry or to legitimate his popular protestant son the Duke of Monmouth. Charles refused to do either, eventually sending Monmouth into exile where he couldn't be a focus of dissent.
The anti-Catholic party, to become known as Whigs, doubled down by persisting in introducing an Exclusion Bill which would remove James from the line of succession and declare Monmouth in his place; Charles only forestalled this move by repeatedly dissolving Parliament. In March 1683, there was an alleged attempt known as the Rye House Plot to assassinate the king and duke on the road from Haymarket to London. A dozen figures supposed to be involved, including peers, were executed for treason, and the resulting backlash empowered the opposition Tory party as well as increasing support for the king and his family. The Exclusion Crisis faded.
Charles II was notorious for his many mistresses and their illegitimate offspring, whom his critics deplored both for the great drain they placed on the Exchequer as well as the public immorality they displayed. He was not simply a serial adulterer; many of his affairs were concurrent, and the number of women he bedded will undoubtedly never be exactly known.
Charles had always had excellent health and was physically vigorous, participating in a wide variety of sports and taking regular walks in which he outpaced his more sluggish courtiers. He was unexpectedly stricken with a sudden unidentified illness on 2 February 1685 and died on 6 February, after four days of torment from his doctors. At some point near the end, it appears that he was officially received into the Catholic church. His Catholic mistress the Duchess of Portsmouth was recorded as being present, as well as his brother James, but it does not appear that his queen was there.
He was buried at Westminster Abbey.
Charles II was succeeded on the English and Scottish thrones by his brother James II and VII.
The reputation of Charles II has depended largely on party differences. To some, he was the Merry Monarch, restorer of theatre, alehouses and Christmas after the puritan interregnum. This title may have originated in the following verse:
Restless he rolls from whore to whore
A merry monarch, scandalous and poor.
To more critical others, such as the editors of the Encyclopedia Britannica's 11th edition, he was a traitor who sold out English interests to the French.
Pepys may have gotten it right when he quoted the insightful remark of Abraham Cowley:
“There is a good, honest, able man, that I could name, that if your Majesty would employ, and command to see all things well executed, all things would soon be mended; and this is one Charles Stuart, who now spends his time in employing his lips … about the Court, and hath no other employment; but if you would give him this employment, he were the fittest man in the world to perform it.” This, he says, is most true. But the King do not profit by any of this, but lays all aside, and remembers nothing, but to his pleasures again; which is a sorrowful consideration.
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