Today I’d like to finish my write up on King Charles II of England, Scotland and Ireland. After the death of Cromwell his son Richard took over as Lord Protector. It was soon realized that he was not the same as his father and he was not respected by either the Army or Parliament. He fell from power within a year. The Army fell under the power and control of General Monck. After the Protectorate was dissolved there was no stable government and things were falling into anarchy. Monck knew that unless order was restored the country would fall further into anarchy. Monck marched the army into London and demanded the Rump Parliament return the members who had been evicted in Pride’s Purge. New elections to Parliament were held and restrictions against royalists were abolished. The new pro-monarchy Parliament that convened recalled Charles II to the throne. He arrived in London on May 29, 1660, his 30th birthday.
One of the things I admire about Charles II is that he was a patron of the arts and sciences. Two areas of study very close to my heart. During the Puritanical rule of Cromwell arts and theater were abolished and the study of science was negligible. Charles founded the Royal Observatory and gave patronage to the Royal Society, a scientific group whose members included Robert Hooke, Robert Boyle and Sir Isaac Newton. Charles was also the personal patron of Sir Christopher Wren, the architect who helped rebuild London after the Great Fire of 1666. The Commonwealth period of the Cromwells is often seen as a melancholy period where a dark cloud hung over England. The restoration of Charles II with the coming to life of the culture of arts and science is seen as a new birth of spring, a golden area.
That doesn’t mean all was rosy. Charles was not always soundly on the throne. Despite his recall by Parliament the conflicts between Crown and Parliament, which had lead to Civil War, were never resolved or faced and there were times when they two bodied butted heads. It took skill and bravery on the part of Charles to navigate the Crown during these times. There were moments when it was feared that Civil War would once again raise its ugly head. One time was when he challenged Parliament over the Royal Declaration of Indulgence which would give the right of the freedom of worship (mainly for Catholics) and the repeal of anti Catholic laws. Parliament would have none of that. They did not think the king had the right to dismiss laws which they had legally established. In his enlightened view of freedom of worship he was a man ahead of his times. I could list many other problems between Charles and Parliament but many of them surround the fears of Catholic uprisings. The fact that he also was clandestinely dealing with his cousin, King Louis XIV of France who was very Catholic, was probably foolhardy. In the end Charles had to concede to the wishes of Parliament. To have done otherwise would have cost him his head.
Charles II died in February of 1685 and was only 54. Despite a string of illegitimate children from a string of mistresses Charles did not have any legitimate children with his wife, the Portuguese Princes, Catherine de Braganza. Therefore the throne passed to his brother, Prince James, Duke of York who became King James II-VII of England, Scotland and Ireland.
The “Merry Monarch” as he was called was a man ahead of his times in many ways and also a product of his times. He tried to be a good king and in many ways he did successfully navigate England and Scotland and Ireland through difficult times and brought stability to a nation torn apart by war. He was a man of arts and science and of culture. He over came adversity and struggle and became a better and not embittered person because of it.