Charles II (b.1630 r.1660-1685)
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Charles II (b.1630 r.1660-1685)

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He lived with his Ministers as he did with his Mistresses; he used them, but he was not in love with them.
George Saville, Marquis of Halifax, A character of King Charles II.

Additional Information on
Charles II (b.1630 r.1660-1685)

Charles II was the eldest son and heir of King Charles I who was beheaded in 1649. He took the oath of The Covenant in 1650 in Scotland, where the Scots proclaimed him king. Charles gathered supporters and in 1651 joined battle with the Scots Royalist forces, however he was defeated at the Battle of Worcester. It was after this battle that he was reputed to have hid in an oak tree, hence the popular name for inns and taverns - 'The Royal Oak'. Charles then fled the country to join his mother in safety in France.

It was not until nine years later, after the death of Oliver Cromwell and the uncertainty of the situation that followed, that the Royalist forces (under the leadership of General Monck) gathered enough strength to bring Charles to the throne. In 1660 he returned from France and the monarchy was restored. Charles was welcomed by huge crowds who were excited by the prospect of a new king after Cromwell's stern rule. He then cancelled all of Cromwell's Acts. Charles was determined not to lose the throne, and kept very quiet about his beliefs in Catholicism and the Divine Right of Kings. His father's execution had a profound effect on him, making him somewhat cynical and sceptical of people, yet he was always open minded. Charles took a particular interest in science and architecture, giving support to architects and scientists alike, such as Christopher Wren (St. Paul's Cathedral), Isaac Newton and Boyle.

Two expensive European wars in the earlier years of Charles' rule put pressure on the crown's financial resources. Luckily, Charles was a devious diplomat and spent a great deal of his reign involved in securing as much financial support as possible from the Catholic Louis XIV of France. In 1670 Charles went so far as to sign The Treaty of Dover in which he declared himself a Catholic and agreed to restore Catholicism in England in return for secret subsidies from Louis XIV. However, tactics such as this served only to highlight his Catholic tendencies.

Charles was nicknamed the 'Merry Monarch' and was renowned for his love of pleasure. He was very tall with long dark hair, sparkling eyes and a sensuous mouth - regarded at the time as a very handsome and attractive man. Although Charles was a married man he is probably best remembered for his series of mistresses, sometimes even two at a time. The most famous at the time were Barbara Villiers and the Duchess of Portsmouth, but we tend to remember his favourite - Nell Gwynne. Nell was a leading actress of her day, and was much loved by the general public for her charm and wit. She was totally devoted to Charles. Unfortunately, although Charles had fourteen illegitimate children with his mistresses, his wife Catherine bore none, so on his death the throne had to pass to his brother James.


Charles II changed his ministers almost as often as he changed his linen, and much of his immunity must be attributed to this sanitary precaution.
- J.P. Kenyon, The Stuarts, 1958.

Charles II was always very merry and was therefore not so much a king as a Monarch. During the civil war he had rendered valuable assistance to his father's side by hiding in all the oak-trees he could find. He was thus very romantic and popular and was able after the death of Cromwell to descend to the throne.
- W.C. Sellar and R.J. Yeatman, 1066 And All That.

He was utterly without ambition. He detested business, and would sooner have abdicated his crown than have really undergone the trouble of directing the administration.
- T.B. Macaulay, History of England, 1848.

Kings are not born: they are made by artificial hallucination. When the process is interrupted by adversity at a critical age, as in the case of Charles II, the subject becomes sane and never completely recovers his Kingliness.
- George Bernard Shaw, 'Maxims for Revolutionists', Man and Superman.

Here lies our Sovereign Lord, the King
Whose word no man relies on
Who never said a foolish thing
Nor ever did a wise one
- John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, written on the door of the King's bedchamber.

Better than a play!
- Referring to a House of Lords debate on the Divorce Bill. Advanced Category Search

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