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King Charles II of England, Scotland and Ireland.

Charles II is probably one of the kings I most admire. I find his life fascinating and I also think he lived at an interesting point in history. Yesterday I featured Frederick Louis, Prince of Wales, a man who did not become King and Charles II almost did not become king himself. His life is a story of struggle and triumph, of loss and pain as well as well as success. There is a lot in his life I can relate to and admire. His life demonstrates the difficulties of the human condition as well as the spirit within us all, that keeps us moving forward in the face of adversities.

Charles was born on May 29, 1630 to King Charles I of England, Scotland and Ireland and his wife Princess Henrietta-Maria de Bourbon of France, the daughter of King Henri IV of France and Navarre. King Henri’s wife was the Italian princess, Marie de’ Medici, which brought Italian blood into the English royal family. Charles inherited a darker complexion due to his Italian ancestry and his darker complexion gave his mother much shame and many whispers at court. This is one area I can relate to. Although it wasn’t my skin color that brought me struggles, I am a pale Irishman, but I had a physical condition (Pectus excavatum) which brought me shame and a lot of whispers from people. 

Charles’ up bringing was typical for the time, educated at home by tutors and also cared for by nurses and servants. In 1640 Charles was designated Prince of Wales, though he was never formally invested with the Honours of the Principality of Wales. Everything seemed secure and the future assured and that one day young Charles would come into his inheritance and take up the mantel as King of England, Scotland and Ireland. However, as life often does, things changed and for a long while some of these changes seemed permanent. Within two years of being destined Prince of Wales, Civil War broke out and his father took charge of the Cavaliers who were fighting against the Parliamentarians. Fearing for his safety Charles sought refuge in Sicily. His first of many trips into exile.

As the years rolled on and war continued in England Charles finally made it to France where he was reunited with his mother who had also fled England. Both mother and son stayed at the court of Louis XIV who was Charles’ first cousin. Charles and his mother were separated during these early teen years and I often speculate if his insatiable desire for women stems from these stressful times separated from his mother? It was while in France Charles began one of his many love affairs. This first one was with Lucy Walter. She would falsely claim years later that they had secretly married and that their son, James Crofts, Duke of Monmouth, was the rightful heir to the throne.

Shortly before the birth of their son, Charles experienced one of his great losses. The Civil War in England had come to an end. Although at one point there was a bright light at the end of the tunnel and that King and Parliament were to reconciled, this hope was short lived as Pride’s Purge got rid of all those in government that supported the king. Those who were left placed the king on trial. He was found guilty of treason and was beheaded on January 29, 1649. At the time Charles was only 19…too young to lose a parent. I can relate to that, I was 17 when I lost my father suddenly.

Charles, technically now Charles II, King of England, Scotland and Ireland, was a man on the run. He spent the next years in exile. At one point he was crowned King of Scots in 1651 but was soon exiled from that country as Cromwell’s forces chased him from the country. He was defeated at the Battle of Battle of Worcester on September 3,1651. He spent one night in a tree, a Royal Oak, at Boscobel House. He wore disguises and was only one step ahead of his captors. With a large bounty on his head he finally escaped England and returned to the European continent. I know life can be stressful and difficult at times but I Cannot contemplate the stress one would be under being forcefully chased from ones country under the threat of death. 

He stayed in France until 1654 when Louis XIV, because of his own ambitions, sought an alliance with Cromwell’s government. This forced Charles to seek refuge in Spain. There were times when money was in short supply and the man who was King in name only lived in poverty at times. Things looked dark and bleak with no hope for the future until 1658 hope glimmered a little with the death of Oliver Cromwell, the military dictator who had ruled England.

This is where I will end the first half of our story. I can relate to the pain and loss and struggle he lived with, however, I do not know what it is like to live with a bounty on ones head. This would have left me a bit paranoid. I think what it did for Charles was gave him issues of trust. It was hard to know who was there to help you and serve you, who was there looking for a favor (even though he had none to give) or who was there to kill you.

Copyright ⌐2012 WJFoley