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
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, and
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
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,
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.
1 Early life, civil war and exile
2.1 Clarendon Code
2.2 Great Plague and Great Fire
3 Foreign and colonial policy
4 Conflict with Parliament
5 Later years
7 Titles, styles, honours and arms
7.1 Titles and styles
13 Further reading
14 External links
Early life, civil war and exile
Charles II as an infant in 1630, painting attributed to Justus van
Portrait by William Dobson, c. 1642 or 1643
Charles II was born at
St James's Palace
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
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
Puritan forces in the English Civil War. Charles
accompanied his father during the
Battle of Edgehill
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
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
Duke of Monmouth
Duke of Monmouth and Duke of Buccleuch), was one of
Charles's many illegitimate children who became prominent in British
Despite his son's diplomatic efforts to save him, King Charles I was
beheaded in January 1649, and England became a republic. On 5
Parliament of Scotland
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
"The Scots Holding Their Young King's Nose To the Grindstone", from a
satirical English pamphlet
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
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
A king in exile: Charles II painted by Philippe de Champaigne, c. 1653
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
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
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]
Instrument of Government
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
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
Further information: Restoration (1660)
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 had
little experience of either military or civil administration. In 1659,
Rump Parliament was recalled and Richard resigned. During the
civil and military unrest that 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
City of London and
Rump Parliament to re-admit members of the Long Parliament
who had been 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 defined 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 that 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 welcomed the Declaration of
Breda, in which Charles promised lenience and tolerance. There would
be liberty of conscience and
Anglican church policy would not be
harsh. He would not exile past enemies nor confiscate their wealth.
There would be pardons for nearly all his opponents except the
regicides. Above all, Charles promised to rule in cooperation with
English Parliament resolved to proclaim Charles
king and invite him to return, a message that reached Charles at Breda
on 8 May 1660. In Ireland, a convention had been called earlier in
the year, and had already declared for Charles. On 14 May, he was
proclaimed king in Dublin.
Charles sailed from his exile in the Netherlands to his restoration in
England in May 1660. Painting by Lieve Verschuier.
He set out for England from Scheveningen, arrived in
Dover on 25 May
1660 and reached London on 29 May, his 30th birthday. Although Charles
and Parliament granted amnesty to nearly all of Cromwell's supporters
in the Act of Indemnity and Oblivion, 50 people were specifically
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
Henry Ireton and John Bradshaw were subjected to the
indignity of posthumous decapitations.
English Parliament granted him an annual income to run the
government of £1.2 million, generated largely from customs
and excise duties. The grant, however, proved to be insufficient for
most of Charles's reign. For the most part, the actual revenue was
much lower, which led to attempts to economise at court by reducing
the size and expenses of the royal household and raise money
through unpopular innovations such as the hearth tax.
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
Earl of Clarendon and his position as Charles's favourite minister was
Coronation portrait of Charles II, c. 1661.
Charles was crowned at
Westminster Abbey on 23 April 1661.
The Convention Parliament was dissolved in December 1660, and, 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
Corporation Act 1661
Corporation Act 1661 required municipal officeholders
to swear allegiance; the
Act of Uniformity 1662
Act of Uniformity 1662 made the use of
Book of Common Prayer
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 expelled non-conforming 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
The Restoration was accompanied by social change. Puritanism lost its
momentum. Theatres reopened after having been closed during the
protectorship of Oliver Cromwell, and bawdy "Restoration comedy"
became a recognisable genre. Theatre licences granted by Charles
required that female parts be played by "their natural performers",
rather than by boys as was often the practice before; and
Restoration literature celebrated or reacted to the restored court,
which included libertines such as John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester.
Of Charles II, Wilmot supposedly said:
We have a pretty witty king,
Whose word no man relies on,
He never said a foolish thing,
And never did a wise one"
To which Charles is reputed to have replied "that the matter was
easily accounted for: For that his discourse was his own, his actions
were the ministry's".
Great Plague and Great Fire
In 1665, Charles was faced with a great health crisis: the Great
Plague of London. The death toll reached a peak of 7,000 per week in
the week of 17 September. Charles, with his family and court, fled
London in July to Salisbury; Parliament met in Oxford. Plague
cases ebbed over the winter, and Charles returned to London in
After a long spell of hot and dry weather through mid-1666, what later
became known as the
Great Fire of London
Great Fire of London started on 2 September 1666
in a bakehouse on Pudding Lane. Fanned by a strong easterly wind and
fed by stockpiles of wood and fuel that had been prepared for the
coming colder months, the fire eventually 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 Catholic conspirators for the fire, and one Frenchman,
Robert Hubert, was hanged on the basis of a false confession even
though he had no hand in starting the fire.
Foreign and colonial policy
Dutch engraving of Charles II and Catherine of Braganza
Since 1640, Portugal had been fighting a war against Spain to restore
its independence after a dynastic union of sixty years between the
crowns of Spain and Portugal. Portugal had been helped by France, but
Treaty of the Pyrenees
Treaty of the Pyrenees in 1659 Portugal was abandoned by its
French ally. Negotiations with Portugal for Charles's marriage to
Catherine of Braganza
Catherine of Braganza began during his father's reign and upon the
restoration, Queen Luísa of Portugal, acting as regent, reopened
negotiations with England that resulted in an alliance. On 23 June
1661, a marriage treaty was signed; England acquired Catherine's dowry
Tangier (in North Africa) and the
Seven islands of Bombay
Seven islands of Bombay (the
latter having a major influence on the development of the British
Empire in India), together with trading privileges in
Brazil and the
East Indies, religious and commercial freedom in Portugal and two
million Portuguese crowns (about £300,000); while Portugal obtained
military and naval support against Spain and liberty of worship for
Catherine. Catherine journeyed from Portugal to
13–14 May 1662, but was not visited by Charles there until 20
May. The next day the couple were married at
Portsmouth in two
ceremonies—a Catholic one conducted in secret, followed by a public
The same year, in an unpopular move, Charles sold Dunkirk to his first
Louis XIV of France
Louis XIV of France for about £375,000. The channel
port, although a valuable strategic outpost, was a drain on Charles's
Charles II in profile on a medal struck in 1667 by
John Roettier to
commemorate the Second Dutch War
Before Charles's restoration, the
Navigation Acts of 1650 had hurt
Dutch trade by giving English vessels a monopoly, and had started the
First Dutch War
First Dutch War (1652–1654). To lay foundations for a new beginning,
envoys of the States General appeared in November 1660 with the Dutch
Second Dutch War
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 on England (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, Royal Charles, which was taken back to the
Netherlands as a trophy.[f] The
Second Dutch War
Second Dutch War ended with the
signing of the Treaty of Breda.
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 concert, and the court was often divided between two
factions led by Arlington and Buckingham, with Arlington the more
In 1668, England allied itself with Sweden, and with its former enemy
the Netherlands, 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 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
Meanwhile, by a series of five charters, Charles granted the East
India Company the rights to autonomous government of its 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 its possessions in the Indies. Earlier
in 1668 he leased the islands of
Bombay to the company for a nominal
sum of £10 paid in gold. The Portuguese territories that
Catherine brought with her as a dowry proved too expensive to
Tangier was abandoned in 1684. In 1670, Charles granted
control of the entire
Hudson Bay drainage basin to the Hudson's Bay
Company by royal charter, and named the territory Rupert's Land, after
his cousin Prince Rupert of the Rhine, the company's first
Conflict with Parliament
Although previously favourable to the Crown, the
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 Catholics and
other religious dissenters. In the same year, he openly supported
Catholic France and started the Third Anglo-Dutch War.
Cavalier Parliament opposed the Declaration of Indulgence on
constitutional grounds by claiming that the king had no right to
arbitrarily suspend laws passed by Parliament. 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
Catholic Church as "superstitious and
idolatrous". Clifford, who had converted to Catholicism, resigned
rather than take the oath, and committed suicide 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 was presented with the first pineapple grown in England in
1675. Painting by Hendrick 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 Catholic brother, James, Duke of York.
Partly 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
Anglican and 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 Danby seems to have been
rightly 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, 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. 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 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. Many members feared that he had intended to
use the standing army to suppress dissent or impose Catholicism.
However, with insufficient funds voted by Parliament, Charles was
forced to gradually disband his troops. Having lost the support of
Parliament, 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
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 Danby to the Tower of London, in which he was held for
another five years.
Charles faced a political storm over his brother James, a Catholic,
being next in line 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). Shaftesbury's 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 on 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—were called Whigs (after a term for rebellious
Portrait by John Riley, c. 1680–1685
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
mid-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
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. Lord Shaftesbury was prosecuted (albeit
unsuccessfully) for treason in 1681 and later fled to Holland, where
he died. For the remainder of his reign, Charles ruled without
Charles's opposition to the
Exclusion Bill angered some Protestants.
Protestant conspirators formulated the Rye House Plot, a plan to
murder him 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
Titus Oates was convicted and imprisoned for
Charles suffered a sudden apoplectic fit on the morning of 2 February
1685, and died aged 54 at 11:45 am four days later at Whitehall
Palace. The suddenness of his illness and death led to suspicion
of poison in the minds of many, including one of the royal doctors;
however, a more modern medical analysis has held that the symptoms of
his final illness are similar to those of uraemia (a clinical syndrome
due to kidney dysfunction). In the days between his collapse and
his death, Charles endured a variety of torturous treatments including
bloodletting, purging and cupping in hopes of effecting a
On his deathbed Charles asked his brother, James, to look after his
mistresses: "be well to Portsmouth, and let not poor Nelly
starve". He told his courtiers, "I am sorry, gentlemen, for being
such a time a-dying", and expressed regret at his treatment of his
wife. On the last evening of his life he was received into the
Catholic Church, though the extent to which he was fully conscious or
committed, and with whom the idea originated, is unclear. He was
Westminster Abbey "without any manner of pomp" on 14
Charles was succeeded by his brother, who became James II of England
and Ireland and James VII of Scotland.
Statue of Charles II as a Roman Caesar, erected 1685, Parliament
Ronald Hutton says Charles was a popular king in his own
day and a "legendary figure" in British history.
Other kings had inspired more respect, but perhaps only Henry VIII had
endeared himself to the popular imagination as much as this one. He
was the playboy monarch, naughty but nice, the hero of all who prized
urbanity, tolerance, good humour, and the pursuit of pleasure above
the more earnest, sober, or material virtues.
Hilaire Belloc states:
Charles was universally beloved, beloved not only by the crowd of
individuals with whom he came in contact, not only adored by his
dependents, but thoroughly popular with the mass of his subjects and
particularly with the poorer populace of London who knew him best.
Charles had no legitimate children, but acknowledged a dozen by seven
mistresses, including five by Barbara Villiers, Lady Castlemaine,
for whom the Dukedom of Cleveland was created. His other mistresses
included Moll Davis, Nell Gwyn, Elizabeth Killigrew, Catherine Pegge,
Lucy Walter and Louise de Kérouaille, Duchess of Portsmouth. As a
result, in his lifetime he was often nicknamed "Old Rowley", the name
of one of his horses notable as a stallion.
His subjects resented paying taxes that were spent on his mistresses
and their children, many of whom received dukedoms or earldoms.
The present Dukes of Buccleuch, Richmond, Grafton and St Albans
descend from Charles in unbroken male line. Diana, Princess of
Wales, was descended from two of Charles's illegitimate sons: the
Dukes of Grafton and Richmond. Diana's son, Prince William, Duke of
Cambridge, second in line to the British throne, is likely to be the
first British monarch descended from Charles II.
Charles's eldest son, the Duke of Monmouth, led a rebellion against
James II, but was defeated at the
Battle of Sedgemoor
Battle of Sedgemoor on 6 July 1685,
captured and executed. James was eventually dethroned in 1688, in the
course of the Glorious Revolution.
Statue of Charles II (c. 1682) in ancient Roman dress by Grinling
Gibbons at the Royal Hospital Chelsea
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 him without the taint of
partisanship, and he is seen as more of a lovable rogue—in the words
of his contemporary John Evelyn, "a prince of many virtues and many
great imperfections, debonair, easy of access, not bloody or
cruel". John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester, wrote more lewdly of
Restless he rolls from whore to whore
A merry monarch, scandalous and poor.
Charles, a patron of the arts and sciences, founded the Royal
Observatory and supported the Royal Society, a scientific group whose
early members included Robert Hooke,
Robert Boyle and Sir Isaac
Newton. He was the personal patron of Sir Christopher Wren, the
architect who helped rebuild London after the Great Fire and who
constructed the Royal Hospital Chelsea, which Charles founded as a
home for retired soldiers in 1682.
The anniversary of the Restoration (which was also Charles's
birthday)—29 May—was recognised 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. Charles II is commemorated by statues in
London's Soho Square, in Edinburgh's Parliament Square, in St
Mary's Square in Gloucester, and near the south portal of
Lichfield Cathedral, and is depicted extensively in literature and
other media. Charleston, South Carolina, and South Kingstown, Rhode
Island, are named after him.
Titles, styles, honours and arms
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
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 monarch since Edward III, regardless of the
amount of French territory actually controlled.
KG: Knight of the Garter, 21 May 1638
As Prince of Wales, Charles's coat of arms was the royal arms (which
he later inherited), differenced by a label of three points
Argent. 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 double tressure flory-counter-flory
Scotland); III Azure a harp Or stringed
Argent (for Ireland).
Coat of arms as Prince of Wales
Coat of arms of Charles II as king (outside Scotland)
Coat of arms of Charles II used as king in Scotland
Main article: Descendants of Charles II of England
By Marguerite or Margaret de Carteret
Letters claiming that she bore Charles a son named James de la Cloche
in 1646 are dismissed by historians as forgeries.
Lucy Walter (c. 1630 – 1658)
James Crofts, later Scott (1649–1685), created Duke of Monmouth
(1663) in England and
Duke of Buccleuch
Duke of Buccleuch (1663) in Scotland. Ancestor
of Sarah, Duchess of York. Monmouth was born nine months after Walter
and Charles II first met, and was acknowledged as his son by Charles
II, but James II suggested that he was the son of another of her
lovers, Colonel Robert Sidney, rather than Charles.
Lucy Walter had a
daughter, Mary Crofts, born after James in 1651, but Charles II was
not the father, since he and Walter parted in September 1649.
By Elizabeth Killigrew (1622–1680), daughter of Sir Robert
Killigrew, married Francis Boyle, 1st Viscount Shannon, in 1660
Charlotte Jemima Henrietta Maria FitzRoy (1650–1684), married
firstly James Howard and secondly William Paston, 2nd Earl of Yarmouth
By Catherine Pegge
Charles FitzCharles (1657–1680), known as "Don Carlo", created Earl
of Plymouth (1675)
Catherine FitzCharles (born 1658; she either died young or became a
nun at Dunkirk)
By Barbara née Villiers (1641–1709), wife of Roger Palmer, 1st Earl
of Castlemaine; created Duchess of Cleveland in her own right
Lady Anne Palmer (Fitzroy) (1661–1722), married Thomas Lennard, 1st
Earl of Sussex. She may have been the daughter of Roger Palmer, but
Charles accepted her. Sarah, Duchess of York, descends from Anne
by both parents.
Charles Fitzroy (1662–1730), created
Duke of Southampton
Duke of Southampton (1675),
Duke of Cleveland
Duke of Cleveland (1709)
Henry Fitzroy (1663–1690), created
Earl of Euston
Earl of Euston (1672), Duke of
Grafton (1675), also 7-greats-grandfather of Diana, Princess of Wales
Charlotte Fitzroy (1664–1717), married Edward Lee, 1st Earl of
George Fitzroy (1665–1716), created
Earl of Northumberland
Earl of Northumberland (1674),
Duke of Northumberland
Duke of Northumberland (1678)
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.
Nell Gwyn (1650–1687)
Charles Beauclerk (1670–1726), created
Duke of St Albans
Duke of St Albans (1684)
James, Lord Beauclerk (1671–1680)
By Louise Renée de Penancoet de Kérouaille (1649–1734), created
Portsmouth in her own right (1673)
Charles Lennox (1672–1723), created
Duke of Richmond
Duke of Richmond (1675) in
Duke of Lennox
Duke of Lennox (1675) in Scotland. Ancestor of Diana,
Princess of Wales; Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall; and Sarah, Duchess of
By Mary 'Moll' Davis, courtesan and actress of repute
Lady Mary Tudor (1673–1726), married Edward Radclyffe, 2nd Earl of
Derwentwater; after Edward's death, she married Henry Graham (of
Levens), and upon his death she married James Rooke.
Other probable mistresses:
Hortense Mancini, Duchess of Mazarin
Winifred Wells – one of Queen Catherine's Maids of Honour
Jane Roberts – the daughter of a clergyman
Mrs Knight – a famous singer
Elizabeth Berkeley, née Bagot, Dowager Countess of Falmouth – the
widow of Charles Berkeley, 1st Earl of Falmouth
Elizabeth Fitzgerald, Countess of Kildare
Ancestors of Charles II of England
8. Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley
4. James I of England (VI of Scotland)
9. Mary, Queen of Scots
2. Charles I of England
10. Frederick II of Denmark
5. Anne of Denmark
11. Sophia of Mecklenburg
1. Charles II of England
12. Anthony, Duke of Vendôme
6. Henry IV of France
13. Joan III of Navarre
3. Henrietta Maria of France
14. Francis I de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany
7. Marie de' Medici
15. Joanna of Austria
^ The traditional date of the Restoration marking the first assembly
of King and Parliament together since the abolition of the English
monarchy in 1649. The
English Parliament recognised Charles as king by
unanimous vote on 2 May 1660, and he was proclaimed king in London on
8 May, although royalists had recognised him as such since the
execution of his father on 30 January 1649. During Charles's reign all
legal documents were dated as if his reign began at his father's
^ From the death of his father to his defeat at the Battle of
^ All dates in this article unless otherwise noted are given in the
Julian calendar with the start of year adjusted to 1 January (see Old
Style and New Style dates).
^ One thousand pounds was a vast sum at the time, greater than an
average workman's lifetime earnings.
^ It cost the Treasury £321,000 per year.
^ The ship's transom is on display at the
Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.
^ Ogg 1955, p. 139.
^ a b c d e f Weir 1996, pp. 255–257.
^ Fraser 1979, p. 13; Hutton 1989, pp. 1–4.
^ Fraser 1979, p. 32; Hutton 1989, pp. 6–7.
^ Fraser 1979, pp. 38–45; Miller 1991, p. 6.
^ Fraser 1979, pp. 55–56.
^ Fraser 1979, pp. 57–60.
^ Fraser 1979, pp. 65–66, 155; Hutton 1989, p. 26; Miller
1991, p. 5.
^ RPS, 1649/1/71.
^ Fraser 1979, p. 97; Hutton 1989, p. 53.
^ Fraser 1979, pp. 96–97; Hutton 1989, pp. 56–57.
^ Fraser 1979, pp. 98–128; Hutton 1989, pp. 53–69.
^ Fraser 1979, p. 117.
^ Hutton 1989, pp. 74–112.
^ Fraser 1979, pp. 156–157.
^ Childs, John. Army of Charles II. Routledge, 2013 p. 2
^ Tucker, S Battles That Changed History: An Encyclopedia of World
^ Fraser 1979, pp. 160–165.
^ Diary of Samuel Pepys, 16 March 1660.
^ a b Miller 1991, pp. 24–25.
^ Haley 1985, p. 5.
^ Hutton 1989, p. 131.
^ a b Seaward 2004.
^ Fraser 1979, p. 190.
^ The Royal Household 2009.
^ Fraser 1979, p. 185.
^ a b Falkus 1972, p. 94.
^ Fraser 1979, pp. 210–202; Hutton 1989, pp. 155–156;
Miller 1991, pp. 43–44.
^ Hutton 1989, p. 169.
^ Hutton 1989, p. 229.
^ Hutton 1989, p. 185.
^ Papers of Thomas Hearne (17 November 1706) quoted in Doble 1885,
^ Hume 1778, p. 212.
^ Fraser 1979, p. 238.
^ Miller 1991, p. 120.
^ Falkus 1972, p. 105.
^ a b Porter 2007.
^ Fraser 1979, pp. 243–247; Miller 1991, pp. 121–122.
^ a b c Wynne 2004.
^ Miller 1991, pp. 93, 99.
^ Hutton 1989, p. 184.
^ Israel 1998, pp. 749–750.
^ Hutton 1989, pp. 250–251.
^ Hutton 1989, p. 254; Miller 1991, pp. 175–176.
^ Fraser 1979, p. 275.
^ Fraser 1979, pp. 275–276; Miller 1991, p. 180.
^ For doubts over his intention to convert before 1685 see, for
example, Seaward 2004; for doubts over his intention to convert on his
deathbed see, for example, Hutton 1989, pp. 443, 456.
^ Chisholm 1911, p. 835.
^ British Library Learning.
^ Hutton 1989, p. 426.
Hudson's Bay Company
Hudson's Bay Company 2017.
^ Fraser 1979, pp. 305–308; Hutton 1989, pp. 284–285.
^ Raithby 1819, pp. 782–785.
^ Raithby 1819a, pp. 894–896.
^ Fraser 1979, pp. 347–348; Hutton 1989, pp. 345–346.
^ Hutton 1989, pp. 359–362.
^ Fraser 1979, p. 360.
^ Fraser 1979, p. 375.
^ Miller 1991, pp. 278, 301–304.
^ Hutton 1989, pp. 367–374; Miller 1991, pp. 306–309.
^ Hutton 1989, pp. 373, 377, 391; Miller 1991,
^ Hutton 1989, pp. 376–401; Miller 1991, pp. 314–345.
^ Hutton 1989, pp. 430–441.
^ Fraser 1979, p. 426.
^ Hutton 1989, pp. 420–423; Miller 1991, pp. 366–368.
^ Fraser 1979, p. 437.
^ Fraser 1979, p. 450; Hutton 1989, p. 443.
^ BMJ 1938.
^ Roberts 2015.
^ Fraser 1979, p. 456.
^ a b Bryant 2001, p. 73.
^ Hutton 1989, pp. 443, 456.
^ Fraser 1979, p. 459.
^ Hutton 1989, p. 446.
^ Belloc, Hilaire (2003) , Charles II: The Last Rally,
^ Fraser 1979, p. 411.
^ Pearson 1960, p. 147.
^ Hutton 1989, p. 338.
^ Fraser 1979, p. 413.
^ Miller 1991, pp. 382–383.
^ Miller 1991, p. 95.
^ Fraser 1979, p. 118.
^ Sheppard 1966, pp. 51–53.
Gloucester City Council.
^ Guinness Book of Answers (1991), p. 708
^ Ashmole 1715, p. 534.
^ Fraser 1979, pp. 43–44; Hutton 1989, p. 25.
^ Hutton 1989, p. 125.
^ Cokayne 1926, pp. 706–708.
^ Miller 1991, pp. 97, 123.
^ Fraser 1979, pp. 65, 286.
^ Fraser 1979, p. 287.
^ Fraser 1979, p. 37; Miller 1991, p. 5.
^ Fraser 1979, pp. 341–342; Hutton 1989, p. 336; Miller
1991, p. 228.
^ a b c d Fraser 1979, p. 285; Hutton 1989, p. 262.
^ BBC staff 2003.
^ Melville 2005, p. 91.
^ a b Louda & Maclagan 1999, p. 27.
^ a b Louda & Maclagan 1999, p. 50.
^ a b c d Louda & Maclagan 1999, p. 140.
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Charles II of England
House of Stuart
Born: 29 May 1630 Died: 6 February 1685
King of Scotland
Title last held by
King of England
King of England and Ireland
James II & VII
King of Scotland
Title last held by
Duke of Cornwall
Duke of Rothesay
Title next held by
James Francis Edward
Prince of Wales
English, Scottish and British monarchs
Monarchs of England before 1603
Monarchs of Scotland before 1603
Alfred the Great
Edward the Elder
Edgar the Peaceful
Edward the Martyr
Æthelred the Unready
Edward the Confessor
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Mary I and Philip
Kenneth I MacAlpin
Margaret of Norway
Monarchs of England and Scotland after the
Union of the Crowns
Union of the Crowns in 1603
James I & VI
James II & VII
William III & II and Mary II
British monarchs after the Acts of Union 1707
Debatable or disputed rulers are in italics.
Dukes of Cornwall
Richard (1460; disputed)
Henry Frederick (1603–1612)
Albert Edward (1841–1901)
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