Childhood & Early Life
Charles II was born in the St. James's Palace, London to Charles I and Henrietta Maria. His father was the ruler of the kingdoms of Scotland, England and Ireland.
He was baptised at The Chapel Royal, by the Anglican Bishop of London, William Laud. At the time of his birth, he was conferred with the title of Duke of Cornwall and Duke of Rothesay. At the age of eight, he acquired the title of Prince of Wales.
During the 1640s, he fully supported his father, who in turn fought the Parliamentary and Puritan forces in English Civil War.
By the time he turned fourteen, he was made titular commander of the English forces in the West Country and participated in the campaigns of 1645. However, with the imminent loss of his father, he fled first to Isles of Scilly, followed by Jersey and finally to France.
By 1648, he relocated to The Hague, South Holland, where his sister Mary and brother-in-law William II, Prince of Orange aided him in the royalist cause.
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Accession & Reign
In 1649, his father was beheaded and that year the Parliament of Scotland declared him to be the King of Great Britain and Ireland. However, the English Parliament made the declaration unlawful.
He was not allowed to enter Scotland unless he accepted Presbyterianism in the British Isles. He later assigned General Montrose to threaten the Scots with an invasion that would force to bring upon an agreement which would be in favour of him. .
On June 23, 1650 he landed in Scotland, where he formally accepted Presbyterian Church governance and abandoned the Espiscopal governance in Britain. Though he won the support from Scotland, his move made him largely unpopular in Britain. He was crowned as the King of Scotland on January 1, 1651.
Later in 1651, the English Civil War came to an end after The Battle of Worcester, in which the Scottish forces were defeated by Oliver Cromwell. Evading capture, Charles II fled to England.
After the Battle of Worcester, Oliver Cromwell became the Lord Protector of Scotland, England, British Isles and Ireland while Charles II went in exile to France, the United Provinces and the Spanish Netherlands.
In 1658, Oliver Cromwell passed away and eventually his son Richard became the next Lord Protector. Richard, however, did not have any power in the Parliament and was abdicated the following year after the Protectorate was put to an end.
In April 1660, the Convention Parliament voted for a resolution and later chose to elect a free parliament. Later that year after the Declaration of Breda, Charles II agreed to pardon his father’s enemies.
In May 1660, he was invited by the English Parliament to return after the monarchy was restored. He arrived in London on May 29th where he was well received and declared to be the king.
On April 23 1661, he was crowned at the Westminster Abbey, City of Westminster in London. The previous day, he went on the traditional procession from Tower of London to Westminster Abbey. He was the last sovereign to do so.
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During his reign as the monarch, the English parliament passed the Clarendon Code. This was passed in order to discourage the non-conformity to the Church of England.
In 1665, he faced one of the biggest challenges of his monarchy - the Great Plague of London, in which the death toll rose to 7000 per week. All the attempts made to contain the disease failed as it spread rapidly.
The 1666 Great Fire of London acted as a fuel to fire. Though it marked the end of the Great Plague, the fire which started on September 2, engulfed about 13, 200 houses and 87 churches, including the St Paul’s Cathedral.
Meanwhile, the war against Holland resulted unfavourably as the English navy lost to the Dutch Fleet. Fearing that the weakened condition would result in the French invasion of England, he sent his sister Henrietta to strike a deal with Louis XIV of France.
Playing it slowly, he tried persuading people from the parliament by bribing them. He even advised them to get friendly with the French government. However, the majority of the members of the House of Common were loyal Protestants.
Despite his word to Louis XIV, he failed to prevent the Catholics from Protestant persecution. Also, he could not appoint Catholics to important offices and as Member of Parliament.
In 1672, he passed The Royal Declaration of Indulgence, which was an attempt to grant religious liberty to Protestant nonconformists and Roman Catholics. This was however withdrawn by the English Parliament.
Towards the end, the question as to who would succeed the throne became a matter of much contemplation. He dissolved the parliament many a times so that the Exclusion Bill should not be passed, as it would exclude his brother James from succeeding the throne.
Personal Life & Legacy
Around 1648, while he was living in The Hague, South Holland, he was romantically involved with Lucy Walter. The couple did not marry but had a son named, James Crofts.
In 1662, he married Catherine of Braganza, the daughter of the King of Portugal. Though Catherine did not bear him a child, he fathered many children through his illegitimate affairs with his mistresses including Barbara Villiers, Lady Castlemaine, Moll Davis, Nell Gwyn, Elizabeth Killigrew, Catherine Pegge, and Louise de K�rouaille, Duchess of Portsmouth.
He died at the age of 54 at the Whitehall Palace, London after suffering from an apoplectic fit four days earlier. At the time of his death, he admitted to being a Roman Catholic.
Numerous statues have been erected all over England, including Soho Square, Edinburgh's Parliament Square, Three Cocks Lane in Gloucester and Lichfield Cathedral, to pay a tribute to him. He has been depicted in popular culture. A city on South Carolina, Charleston, has been named after him.
He was a patron of arts and science and founded the Royal Observatory. Furthermore, he supported the Royal Society, then led by Robert Hooke, Robert Boyle and Sir Isaac Newton.