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British Monarchs: Charles II (Stuarts (Restored)) 1660-1685

Charles II

House: Stuarts (Restored)
Reign: 1660-1685

Charles II (29 May 1630 6 February 1685) was the King of England, King of Scots, and King of Ireland from 30 January 1649 (de jure) or 29 May 1660 (de facto) until his death. His father Charles I had been executed in 1649, following the English Civil War; the monarchy was then abolished and England, and subsequently Scotland and Ireland became a united republic under Oliver Cromwell, the Lord Protector , albeit with Scotland and Ireland under military occupation
and de facto martial law. In 1660, shortly after Cromwell's death, the monarchy was restored under Charles II. He was popularly known as the 'Merry Monarch', in reference to the liveliness and hedonism of his court.

The exact date at which Charles became King is vague due to the uncertain political situation of the time. His father was executed on 30 January 1649, making him in theory King Charles II from that moment. He was immediately proclaimed King in Scotland on 5 February and Jersey on 16 February 1649--but also recognised in a few British colonies (especially the Colony and Dominion of Virginia). In Scotland Charles was for some time king in title only. It took two years of negotiation with the Presbyterians before he was finally crowned King of Scots in Scone on 1 January 1651. However, his reign there was short lived as he was soon driven out by the republican armies, led by Oliver Cromwell. His coronation in England would not be until after Cromwell's death and the monarchy's restoration in May 1660, spending most of the intervening time exiled in France.

Much like his father, Charles II struggled for most of his life in his relations with parliament, although the tensions between the two never reached the same levels of hostility. He was only able to achieve true success towards the end of his reign, by dispensing with parliament and ruling alone. Unlike his father however, this did not lead to widespread popular opposition, as he avoided the imposition of any new taxes, thanks in part to money he received as a result of his close relationship with the French king, Louis XIV. The principle conflicts of his reign revolved around a number of interlinked issues, many of them related to the conflict between Protestants and Catholics then raging across Europe.As a consequence of this, Charles' reign was racked by political factions and intrigue, and it was at this time that the Whig and Tory political parties first developed. He famously fathered numerous illegitimate children, of whom he acknowledged fourteen; but no legitimate children that lived. Charles was also a patron of the arts, and was largely responsible for the revival of public drama and music, after their virtual prohibition under the earlier Protectorate. Some historians, such as Maurice Ashley, believe that Charles was secretly a Roman Catholic for much of his life like his brother James while others, such as Antonia Fraser, disagree. All that is known for certain is that he converted to Roman Catholicism on his deathbed.

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