We take a closer look at Charles II of England, the King who would restore the monarchy in the United Kingdom.
The British Isles over the last several centuries, have seen some truly remarkable monarchs come and go.
Charles II may not be quite as infamous or well known as some monarchs that have come and gone over the years, but he certainly left his mark during the Restoration era of the 17th Century, which is why we’re learning more about the ‘Merry Monarch’ today.
Here is a quick overview of the life and times of Charles II of England.
Who was Charles II of England?
Charles II was the monarch of Scotland, Ireland, and England during the latter half of the 17th century.
After his father, King Charles I was executed, Charles II lived a life of exile until he was eventually crowned as king in 1661.
Charles’ reign marked the Restoration Era/Period and was not without controversy. The King had a larger-than-life personality, he lived life fast, and would often engage in bitter feuds with parliament.
Just before he died in 1685, Charles II converted to Catholicism, which again, did not go down well with many.
Charles II was born on the 29th of May, 1630, at St James’s Palace, England.
Thanks to the fact that his father, two years prior, had agreed to the controversial passage of the Petition of Right which actually placed limits upon the king’s authority, political turmoil loomed like a black cloud.
In 1642, things came to a head and Charles I and parliament went to war over the king’s claim of the divine right to rule. Eventually, Charles II fled to France in exile, and his father was executed.
For 11 years, despite being the rightful heir, Charles II was prevented from becoming king. The king was reckless but brave, and he led an army at the Battle of Worcester, England, though he was easily defeated.
He once again went into exile and was forced to move from country to country for nearly a decade.
Following the death of Puritan Oliver Cromwell in 1658, the government collapsed and Charles II was made king.
He was given an army and was granted the authority to purge any officials who played a hand in his father’s execution. In exchange for this, Charles had agreed to honour the Petition of Right and agreed to take the equivalent of a pay cut.
Charles was inexperienced as king and often neglected his royal duties, choosing instead to drink wine, party, dance, and frolic with women. Because of the king’s hedonistic and laidback lifestyle, he was known as the ‘Merry Monarch’.
Charles’ final years
Charles signed a treaty with Louis XIV of France in which he agreed to convert to Catholicism in 1670, though he kept postponing this. He would convert and support France in their war against the Dutch, in exchange for subsidies.
Queen Catherine, his wife, did not produce a male heir and many feared his Catholic brother, James, Duke of York, would take the throne.
As a way of appeasing the public, Charles arranged for his niece Mary to marry Protestant, William of Orange.
Eventually, fed up with political turmoil, Charles dissolved parliament in 1679 and for the last few years, he ruled alone.
Whilst on his deathbed, the protestant Charles, finally upheld his deal with France and converted to Catholicism, which went down like a lead balloon with many of his peers.
He died on the 6th of February, 1685, in Whitehall Palace, London.