Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.

Charles II

Charles II. (1630-1685), King of England, was born at St. James's Palace. He was present in 1642 at the battle of Edgehill, and in 1646 succeeded in escaping to France. After remaining in Paris for two years he proceeded to Holland, and in 1648 he made a futile expedition to the Thames. It was in this year that he offered to the Parliament carte blanche, provided they would only spare his father's life. He accepted the invitation of the Scots in 1650, and was crowned at Scone in 1651. Wearied with the Puritanism of the Scots, and hoping to make good his footing in England, he left Scotland in August, 1651, with 10,000 men upon the campaign that ended so disastrously at Worcester on the 3rd of September. The next few weeks of his life were exciting enough, till upon the 15th of October he was able to escape from England by embarking from Shoreham for France. He spent three years in France, three years in Cologne, and three in the Low Countries, and then in 1660, in response to the invitation of General Monk and a majority of the nation, he arrived to take up his kingdom on the 26th of May. Scott gives a graphic account in Woodstock of his entry into London. His reign was not a very bright one for England, though it is hardly fair to charge its faults solely to the king. To exile him, and drive him from place to place, and then to expect him to come back when the nation pleased to change its temper, and take his place meekly, and live as decorously as though he had been comfortably installed at St. James's, instead of leading a shifty life upon the Continent, was expecting too much from human nature. After the Convention had made liberal terms with the king, the so-called Cavalier Parliament was called, which sat from 1661 to 1679, and saw many political changes. So long as Clarendon had influence things went comparatively smoothly, but after him troubles soon began. The acceptance of a subsidy from France in 1661, and the sale of Dunkirk in 1662, raised grave fears in the hearts of many, and when in 1667 the Dutch under De Ruyter sailed into the Medway, and burnt Chatham dockyards, the national disgrace seemed complete. In 1670 a secret treaty with France, and the acceptance by the king of a pension from Louis XIV., and the promise, with which he was credited, to endeavour to bring about the conversion of England, gave dire offence. With a view to counteracting French and Catholic influence the country almost forced the king to consent to the marriage of his niece Mary to the Prince of Orange. The year 1679 is memorable in English history as having seen the passing of the Habeas Corpus Act, which is looked on as the complement of the Great Charter, and as an almost equally valuable bulwark of English liberty. Whether the indulgence which was granted in the early part of the king's reign was intended to make things easy for the Catholics especially, or from a desire for general tolerance, is of little moment, since in any case it had the effect of making the king's government unpopular, and led to the sharp division of politicians into the court and country parties which existed in the latter part of the reign. The dread of the Catholic succession expressed itself in the readiness with which the country allowed itself to be gulled into a belief in the existence of a "Popish Plot." and was also the governing motive of the abortive" Rye House Plot." The Great Plague and the Great Fire of London are events which make Charles II.'s reign memorable.

The king's marriage with Catherine of Braganza almost escapes notice, since there were no children born of the marriage, and it is chiefly notable as leading to the founding of our Indian Empire, since Bombay was part of Catherine's marriage portion.

Of the king's character and actions it is difficult to judge fairly. Every allowance ought to be made, on account of the wandering life of his early years, and much of what was called his unpatriotic truckling to France may have been a feeling of gratitude towards those who had befriended him in adversity. That he was shrewd and clever we know, and that he treated most things with a cynical and careless good nature is established, but to put him down as utterly selfish seems hardly warranted by facts. He tried hard to save his father, he resented the attempt to implicate his neglected wife in the supposed Popish Plot, and he risked much to prevent his brother's exclusion from the succession. It has been said that he was ungrateful to the Cavaliers who had made great sacrifices for the Crown, but it would have been impossible to satisfy all their expectations. Perhaps the gravest blot on his character is the fact of his allowing people to die for taking part in a plot which he did not believe to exist. On the whole, it is impossible not to like if one cannot respect "the Merry Monarch," who was "Old Rowley" to his intimates, was generous to his mistresses and their offspring, and who apologised to his courtiers for being "such an unconscionable time dying," and with almost his last breath bade them "not let poor Nelly starve." He at least was no hypocrite, and that in itself was a virtue at that epoch. Of his mistresses the most known are Nell Gwynn, who was a woman of many good qualities; Lucy Walters, the mother of the Duke of Monmouth; and Louise de Querouaille, whose house is still to be seen in Lincoln's Inn Fields decorated with the Rose and the Fleur de Lys. Possibly as good an idea of Charles's personality as can be formed is to be got from Scott's Woodstock and Peveril of the Peak.