CHARLES II (of England) (1630-1685), King of England, Scotland, and Ireland (House of Stuart), (30th January 1660 to 6th February 1685).
Charles was born in London on May 29th, 1630. He was the second, but eldest surviving, son of King Charles I, and Prince of Wales from birth. He 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. He later fled from England and went into exile at The Hague, 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 acknowledgement 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 eight years in poverty and dissipation 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. In February 1660, General George Monck 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 a general amnesty to his political opponents. A new Parliament requested Charles to return and, proclaimed him king on May 8th, 1660. He landed at Dover on May 26th and was welcomed at Whitehall by Parliament three days later.
Charles was crowned on April 23rd, 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. On May 20th, 1662, he married the Portuguese princess Catherine of Braganza for her large dowry. 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, an alliance that plunged England into war with the Netherlands in 1672.
Yet 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). 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 6th, 1685, Charles ruled without Parliament. Although a member of the Anglican church, Charles received the last rites of the Roman Catholic church. He was succeeded by his brother James II.