Catherine of Braganza, Charles II of England, Clarendon Code, Commonwealth, King Charles I of England, King John IV of Portugal, Oliver Cromwell, Poppish Plot, Restoration, Scotland and Ireland, the Duke of York, Titus Oates, Treaty of Dover
Charles II (May 29, 1630 – February 6, 1685) was King of Scotland from 1649 until 1651, and King of England, Scotland 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 of France. 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. However, England entered the period known as the English Interregnum or the English Commonwealth, with a government 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 Lord Protector 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.
Catherine of Braganza was born November 25, 1638 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 December 1, 1640.
Negotiations for the marriage began during the reign of King Charles I and were renewed immediately after the Restoration. On June 23, 1661, in spite of Spanish opposition, the marriage contract was signed. England secured Tangier (in North Africa) and the Seven Islands of Bombay (in India), trading privileges in Brazil and the Portuguese East Indies, religious and commercial freedom for English residents in Portugal, and two million Portuguese crowns (about £300,000).
In return, Portugal obtained English military and naval support (which would prove to be decisive) in her fight against Spain and liberty of worship for Catherine. She arrived at Portsmouth on the evening of May 13–14, 1662, but was not visited there by Charles until May 20th. The following day the couple were married at Portsmouth in two ceremonies – a Catholic one conducted in secret, followed by a public Anglican service.
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. 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 fabrication of a supposed Popish Plot sparked the Exclusion Crisis when it was revealed that Charles’s brother and heir presumptive, James, Duke of York, had become a 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.
Following his restoration, he became known for his affability, friendliness and for allowing his subjects easy access to his person. However, he also showed an almost impenetrable reserve, especially concerning his political agendas. His court gained a reputation for moral laxity. Charles acknowledged at least 12 illegitimate children by various mistresses, but left no legitimate children and was succeeded by his brother, James.