Charles II (May 29, 1630 – February 6, 1685) was King of Scotland from 1649 until 1651, and King of Scotland, England and Ireland from the 1660 Restoration of the monarchy until his death in 1685.
Charles II was the eldest surviving child of Charles I of England, Scotland and Ireland and Henrietta Maria de Bourbon France, daughter of King Henri IV of France and Navarre and Marie de Medici.
After Charles I’s execution at Whitehall on January 30, 1649, at the climax of the English Civil War, the Parliament of Scotland proclaimed Charles II king on February 5, 1649. But England entered the period known as the English Interregnum or the English Commonwealth, and the country was a de facto republic led by Oliver Cromwell.
Cromwell defeated Charles II at the Battle of Worcester on September 3, 1651, and Charles fled to mainland Europe. Cromwell became virtual dictator of England, Scotland and Ireland. Charles spent the next nine years in exile in France, the Dutch Republic and the Spanish Netherlands.
The political crisis that followed Cromwell’s death in 1658 resulted in the restoration of the monarchy, and Charles was invited to return to Britain. On May 29, 1660, his 30th birthday, he was received in London to public acclaim. After 1660, all legal documents stating a regnal year did so as if he had succeeded his father as king in 1649.
Charles’s English parliament enacted laws known as the Clarendon Code, designed to shore up the position of the re-established Church of England. Charles acquiesced to the Clarendon Code even though he favoured a policy of religious tolerance.
Catherine of Braganza (1638 – 1705) was was born at the Ducal Palace of Vila Viçosa, as the second surviving daughter of João, 8th Duke of Braganza and his wife, Luisa de Guzmán. Following the Portuguese Restoration War, her father was acclaimed King João IV of Portugal, on 1 December 1640.
King João IV of Portugal, became the first king from the House of Braganza in 1640 after overthrowing the 60-year rule of the Spanish Habsburgs over Portugal and restoring the Portuguese throne which had first been created in 1143.
With her father’s new position as one of Europe’s most important monarchs, Portugal then possessing a widespread colonial empire, Catherine became a prime choice for a wife for European royalty, and she was proposed as a bride for Johann of Austria, François de Vendôme, duc de Beaufort, Louis XIV and Charles II.
The consideration for the final choice was due to her being seen as a useful conduit for contracting an alliance between Portugal and England, after the Treaty of the Pyrenees in 1659 in which Portugal was arguably abandoned by France.
Negotiations for the marriage began during the reign of King Charles I, were renewed immediately after the Restoration, and on June 23, 1661, in spite of Spanish opposition, the marriage contract was signed.
Catherine arrived at Portsmouth on the evening of May 13–14, 1662, but was not visited there by Charles until May 20. The following day the couple were married at Portsmouth in two ceremonies – a Catholic one conducted in secret, followed by a public Anglican service.
The major foreign policy issue of his early reign was the Second Anglo-Dutch War. In 1670, he entered into the Treaty of Dover, an alliance with his cousin King Louis XIV of France. Louis agreed to aid him in the Third Anglo-Dutch War and pay him a pension, and Charles secretly promised to convert to Catholicism at an unspecified future date.
Charles attempted to introduce religious freedom for Catholics and Protestant dissenters with his 1672 Royal Declaration of Indulgence, but the English Parliament forced him to withdraw it.
In 1679, Titus Oates’s revelations of a supposed Popish Plot sparked the Exclusion Crisis when it was revealed that Charles’s brother and heir presumptive, James, Duke of York, was Catholic. The crisis saw the birth of the pro-exclusion Whig and anti-exclusion Tory parties. Charles sided with the Tories, and after the discovery of the Rye House Plot to murder Charles and James in 1683, some Whig leaders were executed or forced into exile.
Charles dissolved the English Parliament in 1681 and ruled alone until his death in 1685. He was allegedly received into the Catholic Church on his deathbed.
Traditionally considered one of the most popular English kings, Charles is known as the Merry Monarch, a reference to the liveliness and hedonism of his court. He acknowledged at least 12 illegitimate children by various mistresses, but left no legitimate children and was succeeded by his brother, James.