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Charles II of England
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Charles II of England

Charles II, Charles Stuart (May 29, 1630 - February 6, 1685) was King of England, Scotland and Ireland (proclaimed by monarchists January 30, 1649; assumed throne at the restoration May 29, 1660 - February 6, 1685).

Table of contents
1 Childhood
2 King of the Scots
3 Restoration of the English Monarchy
4 Finance, France and Catholicism
5 Politics
6 Marriage
7 Death
8 The illegitimate children of Charles II
9 External link


Charles was the eldest son of King Charles I of England and Queen Henrietta Maria, born at St James's Palace on May 29 1630. Although he took the title of Prince of Wales, he was never formally invested with it, partly because of the English Civil War that was brewing during his childhood and broke out violently in 1642.

Charles fought for his father in the war, notably at the Battle of Edgehill, and gained considerable military experience. By the time his father, the King, was executed on January 30, 1649, Charles had only just reached maturity. He had been forced to flee to France in 1646.

King of the Scots

Charles lived for some time in The Hague with his remaining family. Shortly after his father's death, on February 5, 1649 with his declaration as King of Scotland in Edinburgh he had been given the opportunity to acquire the throne of Scotland, on the understanding that he would sign the Scottish Covenant. He did this upon his arrival in Scotland on the June 23, 1650. As a result, on January 1, 1651, he was crowned King of Scots at Scone. It was in Scotland that he found the support he needed to mount a serious challenge to Oliver Cromwell. This ended after his own defeat at the Battle of Worcester in 1651, following which Charles is said to have hidden in the Royal Oak at Boscobel House, subsequently escaping to the continent in disguise.

He remained abroad, living a rather licentious life and fathering numerous illegitimate children (350 or so by rumour), who included James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth, born in 1649 to a Welsh noblewoman, Lucy Walter, whom Charles was alleged to have secretly married.

Restoration of the English Monarchy

After Richard Cromwell's resignation in 1659 and the civil and military unrest that followed, General George Monck sent a delegation to Charles in Holland, headed by Thomas Fairfax to negotiate terms under which Monck would support Charles' return as King, resulting in the 1660 Declaration of Breda. As a result, the Convention Parliament declared Charles to be King on May 8, 1660.

Charles set out for England, arriving on May 23, 1660, reaching London on May 29, 1660 which is considered the day of his restoration to the throne. On January 30 1661, the anniversary of King Charles I's execution, Oliver Cromwell's body was exhumed from Westminster Abbey and hung from the gallows at Tyburn. Cromwell's head was removed for display at Westminster Hall. On 23 April, Charles was crowned King Charles II at Westminster Abbey.

Although Charles granted an amesty to Cromwell's supporters in the Act of Indemnity and Oblivion, this was not extended to those judges and officials involved in his father's trial and execution. Nine (ten?) of these regicides were hanged, drawn and quartered in 1660, nineteen were given life imprisonment, and others fled overseas. Three of these were extradited and hanged in 1662. In addition to Oliver Cromwell, the bodies of Henry Ireton and John Bradshaw were exhumed and hung in chains at Tyburn, while the body of Admiral Robert Blake was exhumed from Westminster Abbey and dumped in a common grave.

Appreciative of the assistance given to him in gaining the throne, on March 24, 1663, Charles awarded eight nobles lands then known as the colony of Carolina -- named after his father -- now in the USA.

The period following the "Restoration" of the Monarchy became a recognisable period of English history, characterised by the Great Plague of 1665, the Great Fire of London in 1666 and the subsequent rebuilding of London. Theatres reopened with women eventually allowed to perform on stage and the Church of England became more liberal after the severe restrictions of Cromwell's administration. Charles himself became known as "The Merry Monarch".

The Republican new nobility

The Commonwealth's written constitutions gave the King power to grant titles of honour to the Lord Protector. Cromwell created over thirty new knights. These were all declared invalid at the Restoration of Charles II. Many were regranted by the restored King, but being non-hereditary, these titles have long since become extinct.

Of the 12 Cromwellian baronetcies, Charles II regranted half of them. Only two now continue Sir George Howland Francis Beaumont Bt, 12th baronet, and Sir Richard Thomas Williams-Bulkeley, 14th baronet, are the direct successors of Sir Thomas Beaumont and Sir Griffith Williams

Edmund Dunch was created Baron Burnell of East Wittenham in April 1658. It was not regranted. The male line failed in 1719, so no one can lay claim to the title.

The one hereditary viscountcy Cromwell created (making Charles Howard Viscount Howard of Morpeth and Baron Gilsland) continues to this day. In April 1661 Howard was created Earl of Carlisle, Viscount Howard of Morpeth, and Baron Dacre of Gillesland. The present Earl is a direct descendant of this Cromwellian creation and Restoration recreation.

Finance, France and Catholicism

Parliament granted Charles a lifetime revenue. In return Charles gave up the remaining mediaeval rights including knight service and feudal dues from wardships.

To raise cash, in 1662 Charles sold Dunkirk to France for 40,000 pounds. In 1667 he was responsible for appointing George Downing, (the builder of Downing Street,) to radically reform the Treasury and the collection of taxes. And, in a secret protocol to the 1670 Treaty of Dover he received French financial assistance of 200,000 pounds each year in exchange for agreeing to enter the Third Anglo-Dutch War and his agreement to "declare himself a Catholic as soon as the welfare of his realm will permit". When the protocol later became known, it seriously compromised Charles, losing him the nation's trust, though it did recover in the 1680s.


During the early years of his reign, Charles's chief advisor was Edward Hyde, for whom he created the title Earl of Clarendon in 1661. Clarendon was also the father-in-law of Charles's younger brother, the Duke of York. However, by 1667, after the disastrous Second Anglo-Dutch War, Clarendon had fallen out of favour and was sent into exile. Clarendon was replaced by a quintet of advisors: Clifford, Henry Bennet, 1st Earl of Arlington, George Villiers, 2nd Duke of Buckingham, Ashley and Lauderdale, whose initials are believed by some to be the origin of the term cabal. There was considerable religious controversy, even within this small group, and the groundswell of opinion in the country reached an anti-Catholic climax with the discovery of the so-called "Popish Plot", the invention of a charlatan, Titus Oates.

Charles II dissolved the Cavalier Parliament on January 24, 1679.


Charles continued to keep mistresses, the most famous of whom was the actress, Nell Gwyn or Gwynne. Others included Louise de Keroualle (Duchess of Portsmouth), and Barbara Villiers (Duchess of Cleveland and Countess of Castlemaine). In 1662, he had married Catherine of Braganza, a Portuguese princess, who gave him possession of Bombay and Tangier. Their marriage was childless (Catherine gave birth to three stillborn children between 1666 and 1669), resulting in some uncertainty about the succession when he died.


Charles died of a stroke at the Palace of Whitehall. He converted to Roman Catholicism on his deathbed. He was succeeded by his younger brother as James II of England and James VII of Scotland. In 1692 Catherine moved to Portugal.

The illegitimate children of Charles II

Charles left no legitimate heirs but fathered an unknown number of illegitimate children. He acknowledged 14 children to be his own, including Barbara Fitzroy, who almost certainly wasn't his child.

  1. By Lucy Walter (1630 - 1658)
    1. James Crofts "Scott" (1649 - 1685), created James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth (1663)
    2. Mary Crofts. (c. 1693) Not acknowledged. She married a William Sarsfield and later a William Fanshaw and became a faith healer operating in Covent Garden.
  2. By Elizabeth Killigrew (1622 - 1680)
    1. Charlotte Jemima Henrietta Maria Boyle, "Fitzcharles" (1650 - 1684)
  3. By Catherine Pegge, Lady Green
    1. Charles Fitzcharles (1657 - 1680), known as "Don Carlos", created Earl of Plymouth (1675)
    2. Catherine Fitzcharles (born 1658, died young)
  4. By Barbara Palmer (1640 - 1709) (née Villiers), Countess of Castlemaine and Duchess of Cleveland
    1. Anne Palmer (Fitzroy) (1661 - 1722)
    2. Charles Fitzroy (1662 - 1730) created Duke of Southampton (1675), Duke of Cleveland (1709)
    3. Henry Fitzroy (1663 - 1690), created Earl of Euston (1672), Duke of Grafton (1709)
    4. Charlotte Fitzroy (1664 - 1718), Countess of Lichfield
    5. George Fitzroy (1665 - 1716), created Earl of Northumberland (1674), Duke of Northumberland (1683)
    6. Barbara (Benedicta) Fitzroy (1672 - 1737) - She was acknowledged as Charles' daughter, but was probably the child of John Churchill, later Duke of Marlborough
  5. By Eleanor "Nell" Gwynne (c.1642 - 1687)
    1. Charles Beauclerk (1670 - 1726), created Duke of St Albans
    2. James Beauclerk (1671 - 1681)
  6. By Louise Renée de Penancoet da Kéroualle (1648 - 1734), Duchess of Portsmouth (1673)
    1. Charles Lennox (1672 -1723), created Duke of Richmond (1675)
  7. By Mary 'Moll' Davis
    1. Mary Tudor (1673 - 1726)
  8. Other mistresses
    1. Hortense Mancini, Duchess of Mazarin
    2. Winifred Wells - one of the Queen's Maids of Honour
    3. Mrs Jane Roberts - the daughter of a clergyman
    4. Mary Sackville (formerly Berkeley, née Bagot) - the widowed Countess of Falmouth
    5. Elizabeth Fitzgerald, Countess of Kildare
    6. Frances Stuart, later Countess of Lichfield

External link

Preceded by:
The Commonwealth (de facto)
Charles I (de jure)
King of England Succeeded by:
James II/VII
King of Scots
King of Ireland