Charles II (1630-1685) was the King of Great Britain and Ireland from 1660, when Parliament accepted the restoration of the monarchy; son of Charles I.
His chief minister Clarendon arranged his marriage 1662 with Catherine of Braganza, but was replaced in 1667 with the 'Cabal' of advisers. His plans to restore Catholicism in Britain led to war with the Netherlands 1672-1674 and a break with Parliament, which he dissolved in 1681. He was succeeded by James II.
Charles was born in St. James's Palace, London; during the Civil War he lived with his father at Oxford 1642-1645, and after the victory of Cromwell's Parliamentary forces withdrew to the Continent. Accepting a Scottish offer to make him king, he landed in Scotland in 1650, and was crowned at Scone in 1 Jan
uary 1651. An attempt to invade England was ended in 3 September by Cromwell's victory at Worcester.
Charles escaped, and for nine years he wandered through France, Germany, Flanders, Spain, and Holland until the opening of negotiations by George Monck (1608-70) 1660. In Apr Charles issued the Declaration of Breda, promising a general amnesty and freedom of conscience. Parliament accepted the Declaration and he was proclaimed king 8 May 1660, landed at Dover on the 26th, and entered London three days later.
Charles wanted to make himself absolute, and favoured Catholicism for his subjects as most consistent with absolute monarchy. The disasters of the Dutch war furnished an excuse for banishing Clarendon in 1667, and he was replaced by the Cabal of Clifford and Arlington, both secret Catholics, and Buckingham, Ashley Lord Shaftesbury, and Lauderdale, who had links with the Dissenters (non-conformists).
In 1670 Charles signed the Secret Treaty of Dover, the full details of which were known only to Clifford and Arlington, whereby he promised Louis XIV of France he would declare himself a Catholic, re-establish Catholicism in England, and support Louis's projected war against the Dutch; in return Louis was to finance Charles and in the event of resistance to supply him with troops. War with the Netherlands followed in 1672, and at the same time Charles issued the Declaration of Indulgence, suspending all penal laws against Catholics and Dissenters.
In 1673, Parliament forced Charles to withdraw the Indulgence and accept a Test Act excluding all Catholics from office, and in 1674 to end the Dutch war. The Test Act broke up the Cabal, while Shaftesbury, who had learned the truth about the treaty, assumed the leadership of the opposition. Danby, the new chief minister, built up a court party in the Commons by bribery, while subsidies from Louis relieved Charles from dependence on Parliament.
In 1678 Titus Oates's announcement of a 'popish plot' released a general panic, which Shaftesbury exploited to introduce his Exclusion BUI, excluding James, Duke of York, from the succession as a Catholic; instead he hoped to substitute Charles' illegitimate son Monmouth.
In 1681 Parliament was summoned at Oxford, which had been the Royalist headquarters during the Gvil War. The Whigs attended armed, but when Shaftesbury rejected a last compromise, Charles dissolved Parliament and the Whigs fled in terror. Charles now ruled without a Parliament, financed by Louis XIV.
When the Whigs plotted a revolt their leaders were executed, while Shaftesbury and Monmouth fled to the Netherlands.
Charles was a patron of the arts and science. His mistresses included Lady Castlemaine, Nell Gwyn, Lady Portsmouth, and Lucy Walter.
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Charles II was the king of England, Scotland, and Ireland.
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