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Charles II of England

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Charles II
Charles II in the robes of the Order of the Garter, c. 1675, as painted by Sir Peter Lely.
King of Scots
Reign 30 January 1649 – 3 September 1651
Coronation 1 January 1651
Predecessor Charles I
Successor The Covenanters
King of England, Scots, and Ireland ( more...)
Reign 29 May 1660 – 6 February 1685
Coronation 23 April 1661
Predecessor Charles I ( de jure)
Council of State ( de facto)
Successor James VII & II
Spouse Catherine of Braganza
more illegitimate issue...
James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth
Charles FitzCharles, 1st Earl of Plymouth
Charles FitzRoy, 2nd Duke of Cleveland
Charlotte Lee, Countess of Lichfield
Henry FitzRoy, 1st Duke of Grafton
George FitzRoy, 1st Duke of Northumberland
Charles Beauclerk, 1st Duke of St Albans
Charles Lennox, 1st Duke of Richmond
House House of Stuart
Father Charles I of England
Mother Henrietta Maria of France
Burial Westminster Abbey

Charles II (29 May 1630 OS – 6 February 1685) was the King of England, Scotland, and Ireland.

Charles II's father King Charles I was executed at Whitehall on 30 January 1649, at the climax of the English Civil War. The English Parliament did not proclaim Charles II king at this time. Instead they passed a statute making such a proclamation unlawful. England entered the period known to history as the English Interregnum or the English Commonwealth and the country was a de facto republic, led by Oliver Cromwell. The Parliament of Scotland, however, proclaimed Charles II King of Scots on 5 February 1649 in Edinburgh. He was crowned King of Scots at Scone on 1 January 1651. Following his defeat by Cromwell at the Battle of Worcester on 3 September 1651, Charles fled to mainland Europe and spent the next nine years in exile in France, the United Provinces and the Spanish Netherlands.

A political crisis following the death of Cromwell in 1658 resulted in Charles being invited to return and assume the throne in what became known as the Restoration. Charles II arrived on English soil on 27 May 1660 and entered London on his 30th birthday, 29 May 1660. After 1660, all legal documents were dated as if Charles had succeeded his father in 1649. Charles was crowned King of England and Ireland at Westminster Abbey on 23 April 1661.

Charles's English parliament enacted anti-Puritan 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 himself favoured a policy of religious tolerance. The major foreign policy issue of Charles's early reign was the Second Anglo-Dutch War. In 1670, Charles entered into the secret treaty of Dover, an alliance with his first cousin King Louis XIV of France under the terms of which Louis agreed to aid Charles in the Third Anglo-Dutch War and pay Charles a pension, and Charles promised to convert to Roman 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 Roman Catholic. This 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 killed or forced into exile. Charles dissolved the English Parliament in 1679, and ruled alone until his death on 6 February 1685. He converted to Roman Catholicism on his deathbed.

Charles was popularly known as the Merrie 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 Oliver Cromwell and the Puritans. Charles's wife, Catherine of Braganza, bore no children, but Charles acknowledged at least 12 illegitimate children by various mistresses.

Early life

Charles II as an infant
Charles II when Prince of Wales by William Dobson, circa 1642 or 1643.

Charles Stuart, the eldest surviving son of King Charles I of England and Scotland and Henrietta Maria of France, was born in St. James's Palace on 29 May 1630 (8 June 1630 NS). He was baptised in the Chapel Royal on 27 June by the Anglican Bishop of London William Laud and brought up in the care of the Protestant Countess of Dorset, though his godparents included his mother's Catholic relations, King Louis XIII and the Dowager Queen of France. At birth, he automatically became (as the eldest surviving son of the Sovereign) 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 with the Honours of the Principality of Wales.

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, going 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 of France, sat on the throne.

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 the Queen'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 Engagers army of the Duke of Hamilton, before it was defeated at the Battle of Preston.

At The Hague, Charles had a brief affair with Lucy Walter, who later falsely claimed that they had secretly married. Their son, James Crofts (afterwards Duke of Monmouth and Duke of Buccleuch), was to become the most prominent of Charles's many illegitimate sons in British political life.

Charles I was captured in 1647. He escaped and was recaptured in 1648. Despite his son's diplomatic efforts to save him, Charles I was beheaded in 1649, and England became a republic. Immediately following the execution of Charles I however, the Parliament of Scotland declared Charles II King of Scots in succession to his father on 5 February 1649 provided he accept certain conditions. To succeed, Charles was reluctantly induced to make promises 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 authorized Presbyterian church governance across Britain. Upon his arrival in Scotland on 23 June 1650, Charles 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.

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 Scots at Scone 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 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, following which Charles hid 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 was unusually tall at over 6 feet (185 cm) high.

Cromwell was appointed Lord Protector of England, Scotland and Ireland, essentially placing them 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 United Provinces allied themselves with Cromwell's government from 1654, forcing Charles to turn for aid to Spain, which at that time ruled the Southern Netherlands. He attempted to raise an army, but failed for lack of finance.


Scottish and English Royalty
House of Stuart
Coat of Arms of England (1660-1689).svg
Charles II
Illegitimate sons included
    James sScott, Duke of Monmouth
    Charles FitzRoy, Duke of Cleveland
    Henry FitzRoy, Duke of Grafton
    George FitzRoy, Duke of Northumberland
    Charles Beauclerk, Duke of St Albans
    Charles Lennox, Duke of Richmond

After the death of Cromwell in 1658, Charles's chances of regaining the Crown at first seemed slim as Cromwell was succeeded as Lord Protector by his son, Richard. However, the new Lord Protector, with no power base in either Parliament or the New Model Army, was forced to abdicate in 1659 and the Protectorate was abolished. During the civil and military unrest which followed, George Monck, the Governor of Scotland, was concerned that the nation would descend into anarchy. Monck and his army marched into the City of London and forced the Rump Parliament to re-admit members of the Long Parliament excluded in December 1648 during Pride's Purge. The Long Parliament dissolved itself and for the first time in almost 20 years, there was a general election. The outgoing Parliament designed the electoral qualifications so as to ensure, as they thought, the return of a Presbyterian majority.

The restrictions against royalist candidates and voters were widely ignored, and the elections resulted in a House of Commons which was fairly evenly divided on political grounds between Royalists and Parliamentarians and on religious grounds between Anglicans and Presbyterians. The new so-called Convention Parliament assembled on 25 April 1660, and soon afterwards received news of the Declaration of Breda, in which Charles agreed, amongst other things, to pardon many of his father's enemies. The English Parliament resolved to proclaim Charles king and invite him to return, which message reached Charles at Breda on 8 May 1660. In Ireland, a convention had been called earlier in the year, and on 14 May it declared for Charles as King.

Charles set out for England, arriving in Dover on 25 May 1660 and reaching London on 29 May (which is considered the date of the Restoration, and was Charles's 30th birthday). Although Charles and Parliament granted amnesty to Cromwell's supporters in the Act of Indemnity and Oblivion, this made specific provision for 50 people to be excluded. In the end nine of the regicides were executed: they were hanged, drawn and quartered; others were given life imprisonment or simply excluded from office for life. The bodies of Oliver Cromwell, Henry Ireton and John Bradshaw were subjected to the indignity of posthumous decapitations.

Charles agreed to give up feudal dues which had been revived by his father; in return, the English Parliament granted him an annual income of £1,200,000 generated largely from customs and excise dues with which to run the government. The grant, however, proved to be insufficient for most of Charles's reign. The aforesaid sum was only an indication of the maximum the King was allowed to withdraw from the Treasury each year; for the most part, the actual revenue was much lower, which led to mounting debts, and further attempts to raise money through poll taxes, land taxes and hearth taxes.

In the latter half of 1660, Charles's joy at the Restoration was tempered by the deaths of his youngest brother, Henry, and sister, Mary, of smallpox. At around the same time, Anne Hyde, the daughter of the Lord Chancellor Edward Hyde, revealed that she was pregnant by Charles's brother, James, whom she had secretly married. Edward Hyde, who had not known of either the marriage or the pregnancy, was created Earl of Clarendon and his position as Charles's favourite minister was strengthened.


Charles in his Coronation robes.

The Convention Parliament was dissolved in December 1660 and Charles's coronation took place at Westminster Abbey on 23 April 1661. Charles was the last sovereign to make the traditional procession from the Tower of London to Westminster Abbey the day before the coronation. Shortly after the coronation, the second English Parliament of the reign assembled. Dubbed the Cavalier Parliament, it was overwhelmingly Royalist and Anglican. It sought to discourage non-conformity to the Church of England, and passed several acts to secure Anglican dominance. The Corporation Act 1661 required municipal officeholders to swear allegiance; the Act of Uniformity 1662 made the use of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer compulsory; the Conventicle Act 1664 prohibited religious assemblies of more than five people, except under the auspices of the Church of England; and the Five Mile Act 1665 prohibited clergymen from coming within five miles (8 km) of a parish from which they had been banished. The Conventicle and Five Mile Acts remained in effect for the remainder of Charles's reign. The Acts became known as the "Clarendon Code", after Lord Clarendon, even though he was not directly responsible for them and even spoke against the Five Mile Act.

Social change

The English Restoration represented much change socially after the Interregnum. Puritanism lost its momentum. Restoration literature celebrated or reacted to the "Restoration Court." Theatres reopened after having been closed during the protectorship of Oliver Cromwell. Bawdy "Restoration Comedy" became a recognizable genre. In addition, women were allowed to perform on stage for the first time. Libertines like John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester, joined the restored court. Of Charles II, Wilmot wrote:

God bless our good and gracious king,
Whose promise none relies on;
Who never said a foolish thing,
Nor ever did a wise one.

To which Charles is reputed to have replied:

"That is true; for my words are my own, but my actions are those of my ministers."

Great Plague and Fire

In 1665, Charles was faced with a great health crisis: the Great Plague of London. The death toll at one point reached a peak of 7000 in the week of 17 September. Charles, his family and court fled London in July to Salisbury; Parliament met in Oxford. Various attempts at containing the disease by London public health officials all fell in vain and the disease continued to spread rapidly.

Adding to London's woes, but marking the end of the plague, was what later became famously known as the Great Fire of London, which started on 2 September 1666. The fire consumed about 13,200 houses and 87 churches, including St. Paul's Cathedral. Charles, and his brother James, joined and directed the fire-fighting effort. The public blamed Roman Catholic conspirators for the fire, though it had actually started in a bakehouse in Pudding Lane.

Foreign and colonial policy

Since 1640, Portugal had been fighting a war against Spain to restore its independence after a dynastic union of 60 years between the crowns of Spain and Portugal. Portugal had been helped by France, but in the Treaty of the Pyrenees in 1659 Portugal was abandoned by its French ally. Upon Charles's restoration, Queen Luísa of Portugal, acting as regent, opened negotiations with England that resulted in an alliance. On 23 June 1661, a marriage treaty was signed, and in May 1662, Charles married Catherine of Braganza in the parish of St Thomas à Becket, Portsmouth. Catherine's dowry brought the territories of Tangier and Bombay to British control. The latter had a major lasting influence on the development of the British Empire in India. During the same year, in an unpopular move, he sold Dunkirk, which (although a valuable strategic outpost) was a drain on Charles's limited finances, to his first cousin King Louis XIV of France for about £375,000..

Appreciative of the assistance given to him in gaining the throne, Charles awarded North American lands then known as Carolina—named after his father—to eight nobles (known as Lords Proprietors) in 1663.

A medal struck in 1667 by John Roettier to commemorate the Second Dutch War, showing Charles II's full titles around the edge

Whereas the Navigation Acts of 1650, which hurt Dutch trade by giving English vessels a monopoly, started the First Dutch War (1652–1654), the Second Dutch War (1665–1667) was started by English attempts to muscle in on Dutch possessions in Africa and North America. The conflict began well for the English, with the capture of New Amsterdam (renamed New York in honour of Charles's brother James, Duke of York) and a victory at the Battle of Lowestoft, but in 1667 the Dutch launched a surprise attack upon the English (the Raid on the Medway) when they sailed up the River Thames to where a major part of the English fleet was docked. Almost all of the ships were sunk except for the flagship, the HMS Royal Charles, which was taken back to the Netherlands as a trophy. The Second Dutch War ended with the signing of the Treaty of Breda (1667).

As a result of the Second Dutch War, Charles dismissed Lord Clarendon, whom he used as a scapegoat for the war. Clarendon fled to France when impeached for high treason (which carried the penalty of death). Power passed to five politicians known collectively by a whimsical acronym as the Cabal— Clifford, Arlington, Buckingham, Ashley (afterwards Earl of Shaftesbury) and Lauderdale. In fact, the Cabal rarely acted in consort, and the court was often divided between two factions led by Arlington and Buckingham, with Arlington the more successful.

In 1668, England allied itself with Sweden, and with its former enemy the Netherlands, in order to oppose Louis XIV in the War of Devolution. Louis made peace with the Triple Alliance, but he continued to maintain his aggressive intentions towards the Netherlands. In 1670, Charles, seeking to solve his financial troubles, agreed to the Treaty of Dover, under which Louis XIV would pay him £160,000 each year. In exchange, Charles agreed to supply Louis with troops and to announce his conversion to Roman Catholicism "as soon as the welfare of his kingdom will permit". Louis was to provide him with 6,000 troops to suppress those who opposed the conversion. Charles endeavoured to ensure that the Treaty—especially the conversion clause—remained secret. It remains unclear if Charles ever seriously intended to convert.

Meanwhile, by a series of five charters, Charles granted the British East India Company the rights to autonomous territorial acquisitions, to mint money, to command fortresses and troops, to form alliances, to make war and peace, and to exercise both civil and criminal jurisdiction over the acquired areas in India. Earlier in 1668 he leased the islands of Bombay for a nominal sum of £10 paid in gold. The Portuguese territories that Catherine brought with her as dowry had proved too expensive to maintain; Tangier was abandoned.

In 1670, Charles also granted a royal charter to establish the Hudson's Bay Company. The company eventually became the oldest corporation in Canada. It started out in the lucrative fur trade with the native peoples, but eventually governed and colonized about 7,770,000 square kilometres (3,000,000 square miles) of North America.

Conflict with Parliament

Although previously favourable to the Crown, the Cavalier Parliament was alienated by the king's wars and religious policies during the 1670s. In 1672, Charles issued the Royal Declaration of Indulgence, in which he purported to suspend all penal laws against Roman Catholics and other religious dissenters. In the same year, he openly supported Catholic France and started the Third Anglo-Dutch War.

The Cavalier Parliament opposed the Declaration of Indulgence on constitutional grounds (claiming that the King had no right to arbitrarily suspend laws) rather than on political ones. Charles withdrew the Declaration, and also agreed to the Test Act, which not only required public officials to receive the sacrament under the forms prescribed by the Church of England, but also later forced them to denounce certain teachings of the Roman Catholic Church as " superstitious and idolatrous". Clifford, who had converted to Catholicism, resigned rather than take the oath, and died shortly after. By 1674 England had gained nothing from the Anglo-Dutch War, and the Cavalier Parliament refused to provide further funds, forcing Charles to make peace. The power of the Cabal waned and that of Clifford's replacement, Lord Danby, grew.

Charles presented with the first pineapple grown in England (1675 painting by Hendrik Danckerts).

Charles's wife Queen Catherine was unable to produce an heir; her four pregnancies had ended in miscarriages and stillbirths in 1662, February 1666, May 1668 and June 1669. Charles's heir-presumptive was therefore his unpopular Roman Catholic brother, James, Duke of York. Partly in order to assuage public fears that the royal family was too Catholic, Charles agreed that James's daughter, Mary, should marry the Protestant William of Orange. In 1678, Titus Oates, who had been alternately both Anglican and a former Jesuit priest, falsely warned of a " Popish Plot" to assassinate the king, even accusing the Queen of complicity. Charles did not believe the allegations, but ordered his chief minister Lord Danby to investigate. While Lord Danby seems to have been sceptical about Oates's claims, the Cavalier Parliament took them seriously. The people were seized with an anti-Catholic hysteria; judges and juries across the land condemned the supposed conspirators; numerous innocent individuals were executed.

Later in 1678, Lord Danby was impeached by the House of Commons on the charge of high treason. Although much of the nation had sought war with Catholic France, Charles had secretly negotiated with Louis XIV, trying to reach an agreement under which England would remain neutral in return for money. Lord Danby had publicly professed that he was hostile to France, but had reservedly agreed to abide by Charles's wishes. Unfortunately for him, the House of Commons failed to view him as a reluctant participant in the scandal, instead believing that he was the author of the policy. To save Lord Danby from the impeachment trial, Charles dissolved the Cavalier Parliament in January 1679.

The new English Parliament, which met in March of the same year, was quite hostile to Charles. Having lost the support of Parliament, Lord Danby resigned his post of Lord High Treasurer, but received a pardon from the king. In defiance of the royal will, the House of Commons declared that the dissolution of Parliament did not interrupt impeachment proceedings, and that the pardon was therefore invalid. When the House of Lords attempted to impose the punishment of exile—which the Commons thought too mild—the impeachment became stalled between the two Houses. As he had been required to do so many times during his reign, Charles bowed to the wishes of his opponents, committing Lord Danby to the Tower of London. Lord Danby would be held there for another five years.

Later years

Another political storm which faced Charles was that of succession to the Throne. The prospect of a Catholic monarch was vehemently opposed by Anthony Ashley Cooper, 1st Earl of Shaftesbury (previously Baron Ashley and a member of the Cabal, which had fallen apart in 1673), and his power base was strengthened when the House of Commons of 1679 introduced the Exclusion Bill, which sought to exclude the Duke of York from the line of succession. Some even sought to confer the Crown to the Protestant Duke of Monmouth, the eldest of Charles's illegitimate children. The Abhorrers—those who thought the Exclusion Bill was abhorrent—were named Tories (after a term for dispossessed Irish Catholic bandits), while the Petitioners—those who supported a petitioning campaign in favour of the Exclusion Bill—became called Whigs (after a term for rebellious Scottish Presbyterians).

Half-Crown of Charles II, 1683. The inscription reads CAROLUS II DEI GRATIA (Charles II by the Grace of God).

Fearing that the Exclusion Bill would be passed, and bolstered by some acquittals in the continuing Plot trials, which seemed to him to indicate a more favourable public mood towards Catholicism, Charles dissolved the English Parliament, for a second time that year, in the summer of 1679. Charles's hopes for a more moderate Parliament were not fulfilled, within a few months he had dissolved Parliament yet again, after it sought to pass the Exclusion Bill. When a new Parliament assembled at Oxford in March 1681, Charles dissolved it for a fourth time after just a few days. During the 1680s, however, popular support for the Exclusion Bill ebbed, and Charles experienced a nationwide surge of loyalty, for many of his subjects felt that Parliament had been too assertive. Lord Shaftesbury was charged with treason and fled to Holland, where he died. For the remainder of his reign, Charles ruled as an absolute monarch.

Charles's opposition to the Exclusion Bill angered some Protestants. Protestant conspirators formulated the Rye House Plot, a plan to murder the King and the Duke of York as they returned to London after horse races in Newmarket. A great fire, however, destroyed Charles's lodgings at Newmarket, which forced him to leave the races early thus, inadvertently, avoiding the planned attack. News of the failed plot was leaked. Protestant politicians such as Arthur Capell, 1st Earl of Essex, Algernon Sydney, Lord William Russell and the Duke of Monmouth were implicated in the plot. Lord Essex slit his own throat while imprisoned in the Tower of London; Sydney and Russell were executed for high treason on very flimsy evidence; and the Duke of Monmouth went into exile at the court of William of Orange. Lord Danby and the surviving Catholic lords held in the Tower were released and the King's Catholic brother, James, acquired greater influence at court. Titus Oates was convicted and imprisoned for defamation.

Charles suffered a sudden apoplectic fit on the morning of 2 February 1685, and died at 11:45 a.m. four days later at Whitehall Palace (at the age of 54). The symptoms of his final illness are similar to those of uraemia (a clinical syndrome due to kidney dysfunction). On his deathbed Charles asked his brother, James, to look after his mistresses: "be well to Portsmouth, and let not poor Nelly starve", and told his courtiers: "I am sorry, gentlemen, for being such a time a-dying." On the last evening of his life he was received into the Roman Catholic Church, though the extent to which he was fully conscious or committed, and with whom the idea originated, is unclear. He was buried in Westminster Abbey "without any manner of pomp" on 14 February and was succeeded by his brother who became James II of England and Ireland and James VII of Scotland.

Posterity and legacy

A monument to Charles II at Lichfield Cathedral

Charles left no legitimate heir. He did, however, have a dozen children by seven mistresses; five of those children were borne by a single woman, the notorious Barbara Palmer, Countess of Castlemaine, for whom the Dukedom of Cleveland was created. His other mistresses included Catherine Pegge, Louise de Kérouaille, Duchess of Portsmouth, Lucy Walter, Elizabeth Killigrew and Nell Gwyn. Many of his children received dukedoms or earldoms; the present Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry, Duke of Richmond and Gordon, Duke of Grafton and Duke of St Albans all descend from Charles in direct male line. The public resented paying taxes that were spent on maintaining Charles's mistresses and illegitimate children; John Wilmot wrote of Charles:

Restless he rolls from whore to whore
A merry monarch, scandalous and poor.

Diana, Princess of Wales was descended from two of Charles's illegitimate sons, the Duke of Grafton and the Duke of Richmond. Diana's son, Prince William of Wales, second in line to the British Throne, is likely to be the first monarch descended from Charles II.

Charles II by Grinling Gibbons (1676), Royal Hospital Chelsea.

Charles's eldest son, the Duke of Monmouth, led a rebellion against James II, but was defeated at the battle of Sedgemoor on 6 July 1685, captured, and executed. James II, however, was eventually dethroned in 1688 in the course of the Glorious Revolution. James was the last Catholic monarch to rule Britain.

Looking back on Charles's reign, Tories tended to view it as a time of benevolent monarchy whereas Whigs perceived it as a terrible despotism. Today it is possible to assess Charles without the taint of partisanship, and he is seen as more of a lovable rogue—in the words of John Evelyn: "a prince of many virtues and many great imperfections, debonair, easy of access, not bloody or cruel".—and is depicted extensively in literature and other media.

Charles, a patron of the arts and sciences, helped found the Royal Society, a scientific group whose early members included Robert Hooke, Robert Boyle and Sir Isaac Newton, and the Royal Observatory, Greenwich. Charles was the personal patron of Sir Christopher Wren, the architect who helped rebuild London after the Great Fire in 1666. Wren also constructed the Royal Hospital Chelsea, which Charles founded as a home for retired soldiers in 1682. Theatre licenses granted by Charles were the first in England to permit women to play female roles on stage (they were previously played by boys).

The anniversary of Charles's Restoration (which was also his birthday)—29 May—was recognized in England until the mid-nineteenth century as Oak Apple Day, after the Royal Oak in which Charles hid during his escape from the forces of Oliver Cromwell. Traditional celebrations involved the wearing of oak leaves but these have now died out. The anniversary of the Restoration is also an official Collar Day.

London's Soho Square, built in the late 1670s was originally called King Square in honour of Charles II, and a statue of him, erected in 1681, still stands in the square. A statue of Charles II in ancient Roman dress by Grinling Gibbons (1676), has stood since 1692 in the Figure Court of the Royal Hospital Chelsea. He is also commemorated by a statue near the south portal of Lichfield Cathedral to honour his restoration of that cathedral following the English Civil War.(See pictures)

Titles, styles, honours and arms

Royal styles of
Charles II of England
Royal Arms of England (1198-1340).svg
Reference style His Majesty
Spoken style Your Majesty
Alternative style Sire
Royal styles of
Charles II, King of Scots
Royal Arms of the Kingdom of Scotland.svg
Reference style His Grace
Spoken style Your Grace
Alternative style Sire

Titles and styles

  • 29 May 1630 – May 1638: The Duke of Cornwall
  • May 1638 – 30 January 1649: The Prince of Wales
  • 30 January 1649 – 6 February 1685: His Majesty The King
    • in Scotland: His Grace The King

Charles's full titles as Prince of Wales were Prince Charles, Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester, Duke of Cornwall, Duke of Rothesay, Earl of Carrick, Baron Renfrew, Lord of the Isles, Prince and Great Steward of Scotland, Knight Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter

The official style of Charles II was Charles the Second, by the Grace of God, King of England, Scotland, France and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, etc. (The claim to France was only nominal, and had been asserted by every English King since Edward III, regardless of the amount of French territory actually controlled.)



As Prince of Wales, Charles's arms were those of the kingdom (which he later inherited), differenced by a label argent of three points. His arms as monarch were: Quarterly, I and IV Grandquarterly, Azure three fleurs-de-lis Or (for France) and Gules three lions passant guardant in pale Or (for England); II Or a lion rampant within a tressure flory-counter-flory Gules (for Scotland); III Azure a harp Or stringed Argent (for Ireland).



By Marguerite or Margaret de Carteret

  1. Letters claiming that she bore Charles a son named James de la Cloche in 1646 are dismissed by historians as forgeries.

By Lucy Walter (c.1630–1658)

  1. James Crofts, later Scott (1649–1685), created Duke of Monmouth (1663) in England and Duke of Buccleuch (1663) in Scotland. Ancestor of Sarah, Duchess of York. Lucy Walter had a daughter, Mary Crofts, born after James, but Charles II was not the father.

By Elizabeth Killigrew (1622–1680), daughter of Sir Robert Killigrew, married Francis Boyle, 1st Viscount Shannon in 1660

  1. Charlotte Jemima Henrietta Maria FitzRoy (1650–1684), married William Paston, 2nd Earl of Yarmouth

By Catherine Pegge

  1. Charles FitzCharles (1657–1680), known as "Don Carlo", created Earl of Plymouth (1675)
  2. Catherine FitzCharles (born 1658; she either died young or became a nun at Dunkirk)

By Barbara Villiers Palmer (1641–1709), wife of Roger Palmer, 1st Earl of Castlemaine created Duchess of Cleveland in her own right

  1. Anne Palmer (Fitzroy) (1661–1722), Countess of Sussex, married Thomas Lennard, 1st Earl of Sussex. She may have been the daughter of Roger Palmer, but Charles accepted her anyway.
  2. Charles Fitzroy (1662–1730) created Duke of Southampton (1675), became 2nd Duke of Cleveland (1709)
  3. Henry Fitzroy (1663–1690), created Earl of Euston (1672), Duke of Grafton (1675), also 7-greats-grandfather of Diana, Princess of Wales
  4. Charlotte Fitzroy (1664–1717). She married Edward Lee, 1st Earl of Lichfield.
  5. George Fitzroy (1665–1716), created Earl of Northumberland (1674), Duke of Northumberland (1678)
  6. Barbara (Benedicta) Fitzroy (1672–1737) – She was probably the child of John Churchill, later Duke of Marlborough, who was another of Cleveland's many lovers, and was never acknowledged by Charles as his own daughter.

By Nell Gwyn (1650–1687)

  1. Charles Beauclerk (1670–1726), created Duke of St Albans (1684)
  2. James, Lord Beauclerk (1671–1680)

By Louise Renée de Penancoet de Kérouaille (1649–1734), created Duchess of Portsmouth in her own right (1673)

  1. Charles Lennox (1672–1723), created Duke of Richmond (1675) in England and Duke of Lennox (1675) in Scotland. Ancestor of Diana, Princess of Wales, Camilla, The Duchess of Cornwall, and Sarah, Duchess of York.

By Mary 'Moll' Davis, courtesan and actress of repute

  1. Lady Mary Tudor (1673–1726), married Edward Radclyffe, 2nd Earl of Derwentwater; after Edward's death, she married Henry Graham, and upon his death she married James Rooke.

Other probable mistresses:

  1. Christabella Wyndham
  2. Hortense Mancini, Duchess of Mazarin
  3. Winifred Wells – one of the Queen's Maids of Honour
  4. Jane Roberts – the daughter of a clergyman
  5. Elizabeth Berkeley, née Bagot, Dowager Countess of Falmouth – the widow of Charles Berkeley, 1st Earl of Falmouth
  6. Elizabeth Fitzgerald, Countess of Kildare
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