Charles was the eldest son of King Charles I of England and Queen Henrietta Maria, born at St James's Palace. Although he took the title of Prince of Wales, he was never formally invested with it, partly because of the English Civil War that was brewing during his childhood and broke out violently in 1642.
Charles fought for his father in the war, notably at the Battle of Edgehill, and gained considerable military experience. By the time his father, the King, was executed on January 30, 1649, Charles had only just reached maturity. He had been forced to flee to France in 1646.
King of the Scots
Charles lived for some time in The Hague with his remaining family. Shortly after his father's death, on February 5, 1649 with his declaration as King of Scotland in Edinburgh he had been given the opportunity to acquire the throne of Scotland, on the understanding that he would sign the Scottish Covenant. He did this upon his arrival in Scotland on the June 23, 1650. As a result, on January 1, 1651, he was crowned King of Scots at Scone. It was in Scotland that he found the support he needed to mount a serious challenge to Oliver Cromwell. This ended after his own defeat at the Battle of Worcester in 1651, following which Charles is said to have hidden in an oak tree at Boscobel House, subsequently escaping to the continent in disguise.
He remained abroad, living a rather licentious life and fathering numerous illegitimate children (350 or so by rumour), who included James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth, born in 1649 to a Welsh noblewoman, Lucy Walter, whom Charles was alleged to have secretly married.
Restoration of the Monarchy
After Richard Cromwell's resignation in 1659 and the civil and military unrest that followed, General George Monck sent a delegation to Charles in Holland, headed by Thomas Fairfax to negotiate terms under which Monck would support Charles' return as King, resulting in the 1660 Declaration of Breda. As a result, the Convention Parliament declared Charles to be King on May 8, 1660.
Charles set out of England, arriving on May 23, 1660, reaching London on May 29, 1660 which is considered the day of his restoration to the throne. Charles was crowned king at Westminster Abbey on 23 April, 1661.
Although Charles granted an amesty to Cromwell's supporters in the Act of Indemnity and Oblivion, this was not extended to those judges and officials involved in his father's trial and execution. Nine (ten?) of these regicides were hanged, drawn and quartered in 1660, nineteen were given life imprisonment, and others fled overseas. Three of these were extradited and hanged in 1662. In addition, the bodies of Oliver Cromwell, Henry Ireton and John Bradshaw were exhumed and hung in chains at Tyburn, while the body of Admiral Robert Blake was exhumed from Westminster Abbey and dumped in a common grave.
Appreciative of the assistance given to him in gaining the throne, on March 24, 1663, Charles awarded eight nobles lands then known as the colony of Carolina -- named after his father -- now in the USA.
The period following the "Restoration" of the monarchy became a recognisable period of English history, characterised by the rebuilding of London following the great plague of 1665 and Great Fire of London in 1666. Theatres reopened with women eventually allowed to perform on stage and the Church of England became more liberal after the severe restrictions of Cromwell's administration. Charles himself became known as "The Merry Monarch".
To raise cash, in 1662 Charles sold Dunkirk to France for 40 000 pounds. In 1667 he was responsible for appointing George Downing, (the builder of Downing Street,) to radically reform the Treasury and the collection of taxes. And, in a secret protocol to the 1670 Treaty of Dover he received French financial assistance of 200,000 pounds each year in exchange for agreeing to enter the Third Anglo-Dutch War and his agreement to "declare himself a Catholic as soon as the welfare of his realm will permit". When the protocol later became known, it seriously compromised Charles, losing him the nation's trust, though it did recover in the 1680s.
During the early years of his reign, Charles's chief advisor was Edward Hyde, whom he created Earl of Clarendon in 1661. Clarendon was also the father-in-law of Charles's younger brother, the Duke of York. However, by 1667, after the disastrous Second Anglo-Dutch War, Clarendon had fallen out of favour and was sent into exile. Clarendon was replaced by a quintet of advisors: Clifford, Henry Bennet, 1st Earl of Arlington, George Villiers, 2nd Duke of Buckingham, Ashley and Lauderdale, whose initials are believed by some to be the origin of the term cabal. There was considerable religious controversy, even within this small group, and the groundswell of opinion in the country reached an anti-Catholic climax with the discovery of the so-called "Popish Plot", the invention of a charlatan, Titus Oates.
Charles continued to keep mistresses, the most famous of whom was the actress, Nell Gwyn. Others included Louise de Keroualle (Duchess of Portsmouth), and Barbara Villiers (Duchess of Cleveland and Countess of Castlemaine). In 1662, he had married Catherine of Braganza, a Portuguese princess, which gave him posession of Bombay and Tangier. However their marriage was childless, resulting in some uncertainty about the succession when he died.
Charles died of a stroke at the Palace of Whitehall. He converted to Roman Catholicism on his deathbed. He was succeeded by his younger brother as James II of England and James VII of Scotland. In 1692 Catherine moved to Spain.
By Lucy Walter (1630-1658):
The illegitimate children of Charles II
Charles left no legitimate heirs but fathered an unknown number of illegitimate children. He acknowledged 14 children to be his own, including Barbara Fitzroy who almost certainly wasn't his child.
By Elizabeth Killigrew (1622-1680):
By Catherine Pegge, Lady Green:
By Barbara Palmer (1640-1709) (nee Villiers), Countess of Castlemaine and Duchess of Cleveland:
By Eleanor "Nell" Gwynne (c.1642-1687)
By Louise Renée de Penancoet da Kéroualle (1648-1734), Duchess of Portsmouth (1673)
By Mary 'Moll' Davis:
List of British monarchs
James II of England/
James VII of Scotland
By Lucy Walter (1630-1658):