British Royalty: King Charles II (1630-85)


Figure 1.--The children of Charles I and Henrietta Maria were painted by Van Dyck in 1637. This portion of the portrait show Princess Mary, James Duke of York (future James II), amd the Prince of Wales (future Charles II). Note that James still wears dresses.

Charles was the second, but eldest surviving son of Charles I. His father, Charles I, had been executed by Cromwell, bit he and his younger brother James had been spirited away to France for saftey. The throne was restored to Charles in 1660 after the death of Cromwell. Charles pursued a moderate policy offering amnesty to all but the regecides who had signed the orders for his father's execution. Charles' reign was marked a period of relative stability after the upheaval of the English Revolution.

Parents

Charles was the second, but eldest surviving son of Charles I amd Henrietta Maria. Having broken an engagement to the Spanish infanta, he had married a Roman Catholic, Herietta Maria of France, and this only made matters worse. Although Charles had promised Parliament in 1624 that there would be no advantages for recusants (people refusing to attend Church of England services), were he to marry a Roman Catholic bride, the French insisted on a commitment to remove all disabilities upon Roman Catholic subjects. Charles's lack of scruple was shown by the fact that this commitment was secretly added to the marriage treaty, despite his promise to Parliament.

Family

King Charles and Queen Henrietta Maria had nine children. There were four sons and five daughters. His eldest son died at birth. His two other sons both were crowned kings of England.

Charles James (1629)

Charles James was given the title Duke of Cornwall.

Charles II (1630- )

Charles was born in 1630. He lived in exile in France after his father's execution and was restored to the throne in 16??. Charles was the second, but eldest surviving son of Charles I. His father, Charles I, had been executed by Cromwell, but he and his younger brother James had been spirited away to France for saftey. The throne was restored to Charles in 1660 after the death of Cromwell. Charles pursued a moderate policy offering amnesty to all but the regecides who had signed the orders for his father's execution. Charles' reign was marked a period of relative stability after the upheaval of the English Revolution.

Mary Henrietta (1631- )

Mary Henrietta was born in 1631 and was the Princess Royal. Princess Mary Henrietta married William II, Prince of Orange, at Whitehall Palace in London in 1641. They had one child, William III of Orange (1650- ). William was to marry Princess Mary, eldest daughter of King James II and in 1688 at the request of seven of the most powerful men uin the country, depose his father-in-law in the Glorious Revolution.

James II (1633- )

James was born in 1631. He was the third of his father's four sons. James appears to have learned nothing during his long exile and cautious reign of his older brother. He succeded his brother as King James II, but he ruled only 3 years before being deposed.

Other children

King Charles and Queen Henrietta Maria had five other legitimate children daughters: Elizabeth (1635- ), Anne (1637- ), Catherine (1639- ), Henry of Gloucester, Duke of Gloucester (1640- ), and Henrietta Anne (1644- ).

Childhood

Charles was born in London on May 29, 1630. He was the second, but eldest surviving, son of King Charles I and was Prince of Wales from birth.

Childhood Clothes

Charles presumbably wore dresses similar to his sisters as a young boy. The Van Dyck portrait shows James wearing a dress amd Charles probably did also until 4-5 yeas of age. At about age 7 he wears an adult satin suit with a lace collar and cut sleves with knee breeches and matching red stockings. Such fancy clothes were precisely how artistocratic adults dressed at the time.

The Civil War (1642-51)

The Tudors did a great deal to strengthen the authority of the monarchy, but were deft politicans and managed Parliament carefully. The Stuarts had a different mindset. They were commited to not only divine-right monarchy, but royal absolutism as well. Rather than attempting to mamage Patliament, the Stuarts were affronted by Parliament's perogatives. The conflict between the Stuart monarchy and Parliament culminated in the English Civil War. Charles I's son Charles took his seat in the House of Lords in 1641 and held a nominal military command in the early campaigns of the first civil war of the English Revolution.

Exile

Charles fled from England and went into exile at The Hague, the Netherlands, from where he made two attempts to save his father. On the execution of Charles I in 1649, Charles II assumed the title of king and was so proclaimed in Scotland and sections of Ireland, and in England, then ruled by Oliver Cromwell. After an acknowledgment of the faults of his father, Charles accepted the Scottish crown on January 1, 1651, at Scone from the Scottish noble Archibald Campbell, 8th Earl of Argyll. He invaded England the following August with 10,000 men and was proclaimed king at Carlisle and other places along his route. His army, however, was routed by Cromwell at Worcester on September 3, 1651.

After this battle Charles fled to France. He spent 8 years in poverty and dissipation while in exile on the Continent. In 1658, following the death of Cromwell and the succession of his son, Richard, as Lord Protector, the demand for the restoration of royalty increased.

The Restoration (1660)

General George Monck in February 1660, led an army into London and forced the Rump Parliament to dissolve. In April, in the Declaration of Breda, Charles announced his intention to accept a parliamentary government and to grant amnesty to his political opponents. A new Parliament requested Charles to return and proclaimed him king on May 8, 1660. He landed at Dover on May 26 and was welcomed at Whitehall by Parliament 3 days later. Charles was crowned on April 23, 1661. Noted for subservience and insistence on royal prerogative, his first Parliament was overwhelmingly Royalist and gave him free rein. Edward Hyde, 1st Earl of Clarendon, his companion in exile, was appointed chief minister. Clarendon restored the supremacy of the Church of England, and English and Scottish Nonconformists and Presbyterians were persecuted contrary to the Declaration of Breda. Extravagant and always in want of money, Charles assented to the abolition of the feudal rights of knight service, wardship, and purveyance in consideration of a large annuity that, however, was never fully paid.

Marriage (1662)

Charles on May 20, 1662, he married the Catholic Portuguese princess Catherine of Braganza (1638-1705). Her parents were King John IV the Fortunate de Braganša Portugal (1604- ). Her mother was Luiza Maria de Guzman (1613- ). A major attraction was her her large dowry. There were, however, no children from the marriage. As as result, his younger brother who openly expoused Catholocism was the heir apparent.

Children

It was not that Charles had no children. In fact he had quite a number of children. The problem was that they were with his many misttresses. Charles is believed to have had 13 illegitimate children. The best known is James Scott, Duke of Monmouth and Buccleuch (1649-1685).

Conflict with Parliament

The failure of Parliament to produce the amount agreed on and the chronic mismanagement of the English finances brought the king to a desperate need of money. In return for subsidies from Louis XIV of France, Charles formed a secret alliance with that country; in 1672 that alliance plunged England into a war with the Netherlands. The war was popular. Commercial and colonial rivalry had already brought about two wars between the two countries, the last one occurring between 1665 and 1667. The Dutch War of 1672 resulted in the English acquisition of the Dutch colony of New Netherland (now New York). While England benefitted in the short term, allowing Louis to expand his power in the Lowlands was not in England's strategic interests. Knowledge of his negotiations with France, together with his efforts to become an absolute ruler, brought Charles into conflict with Parliament, which, buoyed by French subsidies, he dissolved in 1681. The struggle was heightened by enactment of the anti-Catholic Test Acts and by the so-called popish plot fabricated by Titus Oates. From 1681 until his death on February 6, 1685, Charles ruled without Parliament.

Catholocism

Charles was always assumed by his parliamentary enemies to be a secret Catholic. Although a nominal member of the Anglican church, Charles received the last rites of the Roman Catholic church on his deathbed. As he died childless he was succeeded by his younger brother James II.





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Created: February 26, 1999
Last updated: April 18, 2004