Charles II (England)

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King Charles II (around 1680), painting by Thomas Hawker.

Karl's signature:CharlesIISig.svg

Charles II ( English Charles II , also called The Merry Monarch ; * May 29, 1630 in London ; † February 6, 1685 ibid) from the House of Stuart was King of England , Scotland and Ireland (by the monarchists on January 30, 1649 proclaimed; accession to the throne after the reestablishment of royal dignity on May 29, 1660).


Childhood and adolescence

Charles was the second son of King Charles I of England, Scotland and Ireland and Queen Henrietta Maria , a born princess of France. When he was born on May 29, 1630, he was the hoped-for heir to the throne after his older brother had died a year earlier on the day of his birth. On June 27, 1630, he was baptized according to the rites of the Church of England . The ceremony was performed by the Bishop of London William Laud , a friend of King Charles I.

Although all hopes rested on him, his mother Henrietta Maria was not very enthusiastic about the child's appearance. In a letter to her sister, she is said to have written that she had a black child and was ashamed to show it. On May 6, 1631, she wrote about little Karl in a letter to Madame St. George, equally dismayed:

"[...] he is so ugly I am ashamed [...] but his size and fatness supply what he lacks in beauty."

"[...] he's so ugly that I'm ashamed [...], but his size and corpulence make up for what he lacks in beauty."

Charles II as a child, painting by Anthony van Dyck 1637

In 1631, Charles was given to his future governess, Mary Sackville, Countess of Dorset , who was reputed to be an immaculate Anglican. In the care of the Countess, Mrs. Christabella Wyndham looked after him as his tutor; it should still play a role in his life. He received a loving and comprehensive upbringing from various teachers, including by Thomas Hobbes , and was introduced to the affairs of the country by his father at an early age.

He and his brother Jakob were with their father Karl I when he hoisted the war banner in Nottingham Castle on August 22, 1642 , thus opening the next battle (see also English Civil War ). When the royal children hid in a barn from the parliamentary troops in the chaos of the battle the next day , a traditional story came about that describes the young prince's courage. When the children were found, Karl is said to have drawn his pistol, aimed at the men and said: I fear them not. (I'm not afraid of them.) Karl was relieved of this test of courage, because at that moment royalist troops stormed the barn and freed the children.

He accepted the title of Prince of Wales , which was never formally bestowed on him because the English Civil War prevented this. Around 1643/44 Karl was assigned his own council of advisers (also called the Crown Prince's Privy Council ). This council of advisers consisted, among others, of Edward Hyde , Sir Arthur Capel , Ralph Hopton, 1st Baron Hopton , and a selection of staunch royalists of impeccable reputation. Sir Edward Hyde later remained one of the closest confidants and advisers of the later King Charles II.

Charles II as Prince of Wales, painting by William Dobson around 1642

Marriage plans and escape from England

At this time, around 1644, Karl's mother began to forge marriage plans for her son. One of the most promising marriage candidates was Luise Henriette von Oranien . Their father Friedrich Heinrich von Orange was not willing to send his daughter into a civil war. Luise Henriette later married Elector Friedrich Wilhelm von Brandenburg . The plans to marry Charles with Johanna, the second daughter of King John IV of Portugal , or with the daughter of Jean-Baptiste Gaston, Duke of Orléans , Anne Marie Louise d'Orléans , also came to nothing. Karl later married Katharina Henrietta von Braganza , the younger sister of Joan of Portugal.

Completely unaffected by the important marriage alliances his mother planned for him, Karl is said to have established his first known sexual relationship with his former teacher Christabella Wyndham at the age of 14. Contemporary writings tell of the seduction of the precocious prince by Mrs. Wyndham. Mrs. Wyndham was considered a celebrated and opulent beauty in her day and in view of the later mistress economy of the future king, this amorous encounter was probably ascribed to both of them. No contemporary source can prove whether this seduction actually took place. After all, the young prince's acquaintance with Mrs. Wyndham was so familiar that she spontaneously drew him close in public and covered his face with kisses (this is what Edward Hyde reports in his memoirs ( Claredon's History )).

In the meantime, Karl's mother, together with his younger sister Henriette Anne , had already escaped from insecure England to French exile. When Ruprecht von der Pfalz, Duke of Cumberland , the generalissimo of all royal British armies, could no longer hold the city of Bristol from 1645 and handed it over to Lord Fairfax in September 1645 , a safe exile for Karl was also discussed. While his mother Henrietta Maria favored her homeland France as exile, Charles I pleaded for Holland. Already on the run since the beginning of 1646, Karl and his staff landed on March 4, 1646 at St Mary’s on the Isles of Scilly .

The king himself knew nothing of his son's flight and his new abode. On March 22nd, 1646 he wrote in a letter to his son: Hoping that this will find you safe with your mother .. (Hopefully this {letter} will reach you in safety with your mother ...). The English Parliament also showed interest in the Prince of Wales. He was invited in a formal letter to return to his homeland. Charles II politely but firmly declined this invitation. His father was out of all contact for him in Oxford, which was besieged by Cromwell's troops .

Charles II sailed for Jersey on April 16, 1646 , where he was enthusiastically received by the population. He moved to the old castle from the time of Elizabeth I , the Elizabeth Castle in Saint Helier , as his new residence . Here he is said to have met his second documented lover, Marguerite or Margaret de Carteret, daughter of the Seigneur of Trinity Manor , and to have spent a carefree summer with her. Marguerite soon gave birth to a son whom she named James. James de la Cloche , or Jean de la Cloche, was never officially recognized by Karl, although Karl did not hesitate later to confess his illegitimate children. When he later wanted to become a Jesuit , letters were circulated from him in which he cited his allegedly royal descent.

At the end of the summer of 1646, Charles sailed from Jersey to France after receiving letters from his father asking him to reunite with his mother and sister. Queen Henrietta Maria already lived in the old castle of Saint-Germain near Paris. Of her income, which was fixed at 1200 francs a day and paid by the French government, she sent most of the money to England to support her husband's struggle. She had already sold her jewels, as well as silver cutlery and gold bowls, in England, so that the royal family lived very poorly in French exile. Her youngest daughter Henriette Anne was smuggled out of besieged Exeter in 1646 and lived in Paris, separated from her mother. The royal family was torn.

Exile and civil war

Charles II, painting by Peter Lely

In France, Charles's best friend, George Villiers, 2nd Duke of Buckingham , shared the royal life in exile and the full lessons with the prince. Both were tutored in math by Thomas Hobbes , literature by John Earle , and science by Brian Duppa .

It was not until August 14 that Karl and his family were officially received by the young French King Louis XIV and his mother Anna of Austria . The meeting was rather distant, the 18-year-old Karl couldn't do anything with the only ten-year-old king, and Karl hardly spoke French, which is why the two cousins ​​only looked at each other in silence. No other personal encounters with his cousin Ludwig are known. Only when Charles ascended the throne in 1660 did the relationship deepen. Until Karl's death, the two should consider each other as political friends and maintain a lively correspondence.

In the course of 1648 the situation of the English king, who was still under Scottish protection, became more threatening. After all military options had failed, Charles I first sought refuge with the Scottish Army. He negotiated secretly with the Scots and the English Parliament and tried to play both sides off against each other. Its advantage was that no constitutional change in the form of government in England was possible without his consent.

Henrietta decided to send her son to Calais so that she could intervene more quickly in future developments in England. But Cardinal Mazarin , as the ruling minister of France, stopped this advance. He sent word that Karl was not allowed to leave France.

King Charles II at a young age

The king's waving, meanwhile, led to a second civil war in which the Scottish army stood on his side. Oliver Cromwell's forces opposed their attack on northern England and defeated their former allies. King Charles I tried to come to an agreement with the parliamentary majority and signed the Newport Treaty , which provided for a law against heresy , in which the Puritans had to see an attack on their freedom of belief . Cromwell and the army officers, mostly Puritan, had believed they could come to an agreement with the king and had negotiated with him themselves.

In June 1648, Cardinal Mazarin, who had to defend himself against the outbreak of the Fronde , decided that Karl's house arrest had been lifted. The prince's plans to travel directly to Scotland to join his father's troops were changed again at short notice. Although reactions to news of the Prince of Wales leading Scottish troops alone would be immense, those plans were thwarted by the anti-parliamentary revolt of the English fleet.

Karl traveled to The Hague and met his younger brother Jakob there after three years . In The Hague, Karl also met his first known mistress , the Welsh noblewoman Lucy Walter . Their son James, who was born on April 9, 1649, was immediately recognized by Karl and later became James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth . Rumors later circulated that Karl had married Lucy and that James was actually a legitimate child and the official heir to the throne. This rumor was later only too gladly believed and supported by the anti-Catholic mood-makers in England, since Charles II and his future wife Katharina von Braganza had no children and Katharina was also a Catholic. A certificate or other proof that Lucy Walter and Charles II were married could never be produced.

The revolt of the English fleet, meanwhile, turned out to be a revolt of dissatisfied sailors, who were supported by Jacob. The plans to sail to Scotland were resumed and on July 24, 1648, Charles and his entourage arrived in Yarmouth ( Isle of Wight ). After landing, Karl and his troops liberated the city of Colchester , which had already been taken by Fairfax. He confiscated several ships and organized a blockade of the parliamentary fleet at the mouth of the Thames . On August 10th, John Maitland, 2nd Earl of Lauderdale , tried to persuade Karl to travel to Scotland. Shortly before Karl could make a decision, the Scottish troops were defeated by Cromwell's army at Preston . Karl returned to The Hague, separated from his mother, but together with his brother Jakob.

King of Scotland

Charles II, portrait by John Michael Wright (1617–1700)

Gradually, Oliver Cromwell realized that Charles I was not ready to be incorporated into a new constitutional order. When the king refused to establish the Presbyterian Church in England, the Scots handed him over to the English parliamentary troops. As long as the king lived he would be a constant threat to Parliamentary troops and Oliver Cromwell, and could provoke new civil wars. Charles I was therefore taken prisoner and the parliament forced to charge him with high treason. Charles was found guilty and beheaded on January 30, 1649 outside the Banqueting House in London . On February 7, 1649, he was buried in the cemetery at Windsor Castle in Berkshire .

It was not until February 5, 1649 that Karl found out about his father's death. On February 16, 1649, Charles II, tellingly only in Jersey, was proclaimed the new King of England with the words: "Vive le Roy Charles Second" (Long live King Charles II). A few weeks later the House of Commons declared England a republic, which was ruled by Oliver Cromwell under the newly created title of Lord Protector until his death in 1658. The European rulers reacted to the beheading of Charles I with shocked letters to the new king. Elector Friedrich Wilhelm von Brandenburg wrote the following lines to Charles II in a letter:

"The occasion seems suitable for all Christian princes
to come to the help of His Majesty, to avenge as befits,
the dreadful and never-before-heard-of deed ..."

"On this occasion it seems appropriate for every Christian prince
to come to the aid of His Majesty to atone, as it is due, for
this terrible and unprecedented act ..."

Landgravine Amalie Elisabeth von Hessen-Kassel sent a letter of the same name, but could only provide moral support due to a lack of money and troops, as well as the letters from Wolfgang Wilhelm von Pfalz-Neuburg , the Archbishop of Mainz and Bishop of Würzburg Johann Philipp von Schönborn and Melchior Graf von Hatzfeldt , who all condemned the beheading of Karl I, but could not or did not want to raise real support for a campaign.

After his father's death , when he was proclaimed King of Scotland in Edinburgh , Charles was given the opportunity to ascend the throne of Scotland if he would sign the Scottish Covenant , the assurance of freedom of belief for Scottish Presbyterians . When he arrived in Scotland on June 23, 1650, he signed the declaration. So he was crowned King of Scotland on January 1, 1651 in Scone . In Scotland he also found the necessary support to take action against the Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell.

The fight against Cromwell failed on September 3, 1651 with the defeat of Charles in the Battle of Worcester . Only the fact that he was able to hide in the crown of an oak tree at Boscobel House gave him the opportunity to escape to the continent in disguise. The English Parliament put a £ 1000 bounty on Karl. All those who helped him escape England were sentenced to death for high treason. After fleeing through England for six weeks, Charles managed to land in Fécamp in Normandy on October 16, 1651 . Although he was King of Scotland, he was once again living in exile.

Charles was now forced to live in The Hague, mainly due to the royal family's chronic lack of money. Although related to the French court through his mother and to the Dutch court through his sister Mary, he could not raise enough funds to assemble an effective and powerful army against Cromwell.

Life in exile

Although Karl was king, he had no kingdom and therefore no income. His life depended on payments from his mother, who received money from the French government. Henrietta Maria had to keep a precise record of her expenses and even went so far as to write down all expenses for her son whenever she had to spend money on him, even on his food. Due to her financial situation and the feeling of complete dependence, Henrietta Maria became increasingly bitter and the relationship with her eldest son suffered from tension. With the outbreak of the French Civil War, maintenance payments for the English Queen and her family were temporarily suspended. From the summer of 1653, Karl, like his mother, received their full salaries again.

Occasionally treated as a guest by Cardinal Mazarin , then placed under house arrest again without money, Karl seized the opportunity and left for Spa ten days after receiving the money from France . In Spa, Karl allowed himself the luxury of a carefree life with his small court and met his sister Mary . Mary had married the Dutch governor Wilhelm II of Orange , who had died in the meantime, and she was a widow and in debt with his young son and successor Wilhelm III. left behind by Orange .

Together with his sister, Karl traveled to Aachen on September 7, 1654 . In Aachen they visited the Aachen Cathedral and the grave of Charlemagne . The company stayed there until autumn and later traveled on to Cologne . Over the winter, almost a whole year, Karl stayed in Cologne. In 1654 he paid a state visit from Cologne to the Duke of Pfalz-Neuburg , Jülich and Berg , Philipp Wilhelm von der Pfalz , in nearby Düsseldorf . In autumn 1655 he traveled to Frankfurt am Main to visit the well-known trade fair. In March 1656 he received permission to travel to Brussels in order to set up a permanent household in Bruges from there . His household goods were only partially delivered from Cologne, as he still had outstanding bills in the city. Until these bills were paid, his creditors kept part of the royal household.

In Bruges, the English king without a land was treated very friendly and made him the patron of the guilds of St. George and St. Sebastian. Karl's entourage, who also settled in Bruges, had a reputation for celebrating dissolute and rampant orgies. One of John Thurloe's spies reported that drunkenness, fornication, and adultery were common sins in the king's entourage ( A Collection of the State Papers of John Thurloe ). The new women with whom Karl was associated were described and mentioned in detail in every report. Since the birth of his son James Croft, Karl had also committed himself to the paternity of Charlotte Jemima Henrietta Maria Boyle, his daughter with Elizabeth Killigrew. Charles's main mistress in Bruges, however, was Catherine Pegge, Lady Green. From Bruges, Karl moved back to The Hague, where his affair with Barbara Villiers began.

Although their affair had ended in 1655, Karl's life and the company of his lover Lucy Walter were obviously troublesome. Around 1655 Lucy threw herself into numerous affairs in quick succession, until Charles II, who was just fine with any common whore (a common whore is good enough) , got too much. In 1655 he asked his friend and confidante Theobald Taaffe, 1st Earl of Carlingford , to remove Lucy from the Hague area as quickly as possible.

Advise her, both for her sake and mine,
that she goes to some place other than the Hague,
for her stay there is very prejudicial to us both.
Advise her, for her sake and for my sake,
that she goes to another place except The Hague,
staying there is very detrimental to both of us

In 1656 Lucy was even accused of having aborted two more illegitimate children whose fathers remained unknown. She was also accused of murdering a maid. Both charges were later dropped. In the summer of that year she returned to England with her children James and Mary. Upon arrival, the family was arrested by Oliver Cromwell's envoys and sent to prison. When she was arrested, Lucy Walter was officially referred to as the wife and mistress of Charles Stuart for the first time , which would later fuel the rumor of a secret wedding between Charles II and Lucy. Lucy Walter managed to get out of prison with her children and she traveled back to The Hague. Taaffe, meanwhile again acting as a mediator between Lucy and Charles II, assured her a regular pension payment, especially to see their son James well looked after. In 1658 the royal mediators achieved that Lucy placed her son James under Charles' care. Lucy initially refused to give up her son, but was changed. James never saw his mother again. Lucy died in Paris in September or October 1658.

At the same time, on September 3, 1658, Oliver Cromwell died in England. His son Richard Cromwell , his glorious successor, only ruled until April 1659. The way to the throne of England was freer than ever for Charles.

Restoration of monarchy and rule

royal coat of
arms of Charles II.
Charles II, painting by John Michael Wright (1617–1700)

The English parliament granted Charles II the royal dignity in May 1660. On May 23, 1660, Karl reached Dover, and on his thirtieth birthday, May 29, 1660, he entered London in a cheered procession. The restoration of the monarchy (Restoration) became one of the most important epochs of England and Charles II is considered to be the last English king to bring an absolute monarchy into being and to rule his country charismatically.

A very flattering, but detailed, portrait of Karl, was written by Sir Samuel Tuke in 1660:

He is somewhat taller than the middle stature
of Englishmen [...] His face is rather grave
than severe which is very much softened
whensoever he speaks; his complexion is
somewhat dark, but much enlightened by his eyes,
which are quick and sparkling.
[…] His hair, which he hath in great plenty
is of shinig black, not frizzle, but so naturally
curling into great rings that they do very much
recommend his person when he either walks, dances,
plays at pall mall, at tennis, or rides the great horse
which are his usual exercise. To the gracefulness
of his deportment may be joined his easiness of
access, his patience in attention, and the gentleness
both in the tune and style of his speech ...
(Sir Samuel Tuke, A Character of Charles II (1660))
He is slightly taller than the average stature
of an Englishman [...] His face is rather
serious than strict, which is very mild,
when he speaks; his skin color is a bit dark,
but is very lightened by his eyes,
that are quick and luminous […] His hair
which he has a lot of is of brilliant black
not frizzy, but so naturally curled in large
Lure that it makes his person sympathetic,
when he runs, dances, plays Pall Mall, plays tennis,
or when he rides his warhorse, what
his normal exercises are. The grace of his
Attitude and his demeanor goes along with
its accessibility, its patient
Attention and kindness in the
Melody and the style of his speech (language) ...

In the early years of his reign, Edward Hyde was the advisor to Karl, whom he made Earl of Clarendon in 1661 . Clarendon was also the father-in-law of Charles II's younger brother, the Duke of York and later Jacob II. Jacob had secretly married Lady Anne Hyde on November 24, 1659 in Breda (Holland). The official wedding took place on September 3, 1660 in London.

When he moved into Whitehall , Barbara Villiers , the king's official mistress , also moved into her apartment in the royal palace. In 1661 she gave birth to her first of five children with Karl, Anne Palmer. Barbara's beauty was often described and praised by Samuel Pepys , and Sir Peter Lely painted several portraits of her. Lely was so entranced by Barbara that, according to Pepys, he was unable to capture her beauty in pictures:

it was beyond the compass of art to give {her} her due,
as to her sweetness and exquisite beauty.
(Samuel Pepys, Diary)
it was beyond artistic possibilities
to do justice to their sweetness and exquisite beauty (in one picture).

Since Barbara was married and her close relationship with the king was not kept secret, Karl made her husband Roger Palmer Earl of Castlemaine and Baron Limerick on December 11, 1661 . The main purpose of these titles was to provide the children with Barbara Palmer.

Marriage and mistress economy

Catherine of Braganza

Since Karl had previously only had illegitimate children with different wives and in order to ensure the succession to the throne, the wedding to Katharina von Braganza , a Portuguese princess, was set for May 31, 1662 after many years of engagement and negotiation .

As dowries, Katharina brought the port city of Tangier , the Indian city of Bombay as well as trade privileges for Brazil , all of East India and 300,000 English pounds into the marriage. Charles II had to guarantee his new wife the free exercise of her faith, guarantee all English subjects in Portugal full commercial and religious freedom and guarantee Portugal military protection from Spain and France. On April 25, 1662 Katharina sailed with her entourage to England, where she landed in Portsmouth on May 13 .

The alleged statement made by Karl when he saw his future wife for the first time has been recorded. The English king, confused by Portuguese hair fashion, is said to have said: My god, they sent me a bat instead of a woman. (My god, they sent me a bat instead of a woman) . According to the biographer of Charles II, Antonia Fraser, Katharina's request for a cup of tea and Karl's answer: We don't drink tea in England have also been handed down. But maybe some ale will do (We don't drink tea in England. Maybe a beer would be enough?). At that time, tea was hardly known in England.

At the time of their wedding, Katharina knew little about court life. She had been raised in the seclusion of a monastery and was very religious. She spoke little English and little French, so talking to or getting close to her husband was a problem. She knew even less about the courtly intrigues or intrigues and that her husband was a great lover of women and at the time of their marriage was already the father of some illegitimate children. His favorite at the time was undisputed Barbara Villiers, Lady Castlemaine.

Barbara Villiers, painting by Peter Lely

In 1662 the so-called Bedchamber Crisis occurred , in which Barbara was even able to assert herself against Katharina's express wishes. Against Katharina's request, Barbara kept her apartment in Whitehall and a little later became the Queen's chambermaid (Lady of the Bedchamber) , so she had access to Katharina's private rooms. The relationship with the queen, who in contrast to Barbara remained childless and had to accept her as the official mistress, was very tense. In the same year Barbara obtained the dismissal of a lady-in-waiting from Katharina, because she had dared to quarrel with her. The king, it seemed for a long time, was pure wax in the hands of his mistress. Until 1663 she had more influence at the English court than the queen and many advisors to the king. Especially in the royal advisor Edward Hyde, Barbara had an archenemy who disliked her position as Queen Katharina's chambermaid. In 1667 Hyde was accused of high treason after the defeats in the war with Holland and then fled to France. When Barbara officially declared herself a Catholic in 1662, Karl gave her permission to set up a private chapel in Whitehall. When his ministers asked whether this was wise, Karl replied: I am less concerned with women's souls than with their bodies.

Nell Gwyn, painting by Peter Lely
Louise de Kérouaille, Duchess of Portsmouth

Over time, Katharina learned her husband's many love affairs, including to Nell Gwyn and Louise de Kérouaille , to ignore or accept. The extent of the mistress economy at the English court was so large and well-known that contemporary authors and diplomats also spoke of the rule of petticoats when they reported about the English royal court. Despite this humiliation, Katharina quickly learned to deal with her competitors, who were socially inferior to her. When Katharina wanted to visit her husband, who had allegedly had a cold, not showing up for dinner and saw the foot of Nell Gwyn, a later mistress of Karl, under the bed, she is said to have exclaimed: Ha, I will be off. I see it is not you who had the cold (Ha, I'll go then. I see that it's not you who had the cold). Not only did Katharina get to know and appreciate English humor and expression, she was known as a talented archer and became the patron of many shooting clubs.

Despite her complete disinterest in English politics, Protestant fanatics accused Katharina of putting pressure on Charles II in favor of English Catholics and of being involved in conspiracies. Katharina never interfered in political affairs, which earned her the sympathy of her husband, who later made her his closest confidante. When she became critically ill due to a miscarriage, Charles II interrupted a company to which he had been invited and cared for it. Childlessness was interpreted negatively by the anti-Catholic opposition in England, since the king's fertility was proven by numerous illegitimate children. Her sterility was interpreted as a sign from heaven that her marriage was not wanted, and she was later accused ( Popish Plot ) of even plotting to murder her husband.

In 1662, Charles sold the city of Dunkirk to his cousin Louis XIV. In recognition of his support for the restoration of the monarchy, Charles gave the North American lands of Carolina (named after his father) to eight English nobles .

Dutch Gift

In the years 1660/61, Amsterdam, as the then political, cultural and economic center of the Republic of the United Netherlands, pursued a pro-English strategy, which secured military support against Spain and free trade ( vrij schip, vrij goed ). Ultimately, it took a strong ally to secure the republican system in the Netherlands. For this reason, a commission was founded under the leadership of the brothers Cornelis and Andries de Graeff , which presented numerous valuable paintings and art objects to King Charles II of England. This donation was named Dutch Gift .

Disasters and missing heirs to the throne

After London was struck by a devastating plague epidemic , the Great Plague , which claimed more than 70,000 lives in 1665 , the Great Fire devastated large parts of the City of London in September 1666 . Around 13,000 houses and 89 churches fell victim to the flames. Katharina and her Catholic faith were also made a scapegoat for these catastrophes. In Protestant circles there was a demand for an official divorce from Katharina. Since she remained childless, the next heir to the throne was Karl's younger brother Jacob, the Duke of York. Jakob had officially declared himself a Catholic as early as 1672 and thus conjured up the old specter of most Protestants. The Protestant persecution of St. Bartholomew's Night in France and Queen Mary I of England were the greatest fears of most of the English who opposed the return of a Catholic king in England. The childlessness of Katharina triggered a state affair at the same time, which made the illegitimate son of her husband with the Welsh aristocrat Lucy Walter for many Englishmen the legitimate heir to the throne - James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth . James was illegitimate, but he was a Protestant and the firstborn of Charles II. The calls for a divorce from Katharina and recognition of his firstborn, so that the Protestant succession to the throne in England could be ensured, became louder over time. Charles II expressly contradicted these demands and refused to divorce his marriage from parliament. He also expressly refused to give food to public pressure and rumors of a secret marriage between him and Lucy Walter by having his son James confirmed as heir to the throne by Parliament.

The reasons why Charles II did not divorce and also did not legitimize his son James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth, do not lie in his strong love for Catherine or an aversion to James. Karl felt himself to be a monarch and an absolutist ruler who did not want to play a precedent into the hands of the English parliament to decide on the private affairs of the king. His royal dignity was for him the will of God, and at the same time it was his task to defend this will of God against the will of parliament and the people. Since his father had been sentenced to death by the decision of the parliament, Charles II was all the more relentless in protecting his interests.

Foreign policy conflicts

The previous restrictions on Dutch trade ( Navigation Acts, 1650 ) led to the Second Dutch War ( Anglo-Dutch War (1665–1667) ) between 1665 and 1667 . First, England was able to conquer the Dutch possession of Nieuw Amsterdam . Nieuw Amsterdam was later in honor of Charles's younger brother, James, Duke of York , in New York renamed. In 1667 the Dutch fleet launched a surprise attack on English soil . The Dutch fleet sailed up the Thames , sank all the ships at anchor and towed the flagship (the Royal Charles ) back to Holland as a trophy. With the Peace of Breda in 1667 all fighting with Holland was ended. As a direct result of the defeat of the English fleet, Edward Hyde, 1st Earl of Clarendon, was dismissed from all services and offices of the king. The English parliament accused him of high treason and Hyde fled to France, where he died in Rouen in 1674 . After Karl used his closest and long-time advisor as a scapegoat for the defeat of the English fleet, a new advisory board was formed around the king, who called himself Cabal , and consisted of the following people: George Villiers, 2nd Duke of Buckingham , Anthony Ashley Cooper, 1st Earl of Shaftesbury , Thomas Clifford , Henry Bennet and John Maitland, 1st Duke of Lauderdale .

In 1668 England allied itself with Sweden and the former enemy Holland to form the Triple Alliance in order to better counter the aggressive foreign policy ( war of devolution 1667–1668) of Louis XIV . The triple alliance was destroyed by the Treaty of Dover (Treaty of Dover) , in the drafting of which Karl's youngest sister, Henriette Anne , played a key role. Louis XIV made an agreement with his cousin Charles which provided for annual payments of £ 200,000 to Charles II. In return, Karl promised to support the French king with troops and to publicly profess his Catholic faith. The clause of faith was tied to the following restriction: as soon as the welfare of his realm will permit (as soon as the welfare of his kingdom allows). Louis XIV promised Charles the support of 6,000 soldiers for the implementation of his new creed. The English king was wise enough to keep this agreement a secret. It remains unclear to this day whether Charles II ever really intended to implement the faith clause.

Faith Conflicts

Charles II (around 1661)

On March 15, 1672, Charles issued the Royal Declaration of Indulgence . His plan to have it approved by parliament failed. This declaration had its origin in the Dover Treaty mentioned above. Even if Karl officially retained the Protestant faith until his death, the declaration reflects another goal of the agreement: tolerance towards the English Catholics. In this declaration of Charles II the immediate suspension of the criminal laws against dissenters and recusants was demanded. The Protestant dissenters should then be allowed to hold public services only at fixed locations with legally authorized preachers, the Catholics were again promised permission to hold private services. In addition, the king pardoned nearly 500 incarcerated dissenters. The declaration was only in force for one year and was then withdrawn.

Another step taken by Parliament to marginalize the papist forces in England was the First Test Act . It stipulated that all officials in administration, justice, church or the military had to take the supreme and loyalty oath under witnesses. They also had to sign a declaration against the doctrine of transubstantiation of the Catholic Church, which they then had to confirm by publicly receiving communion in the Church of England . On February 5, 1673, a law followed that regulated that only clergy of Portuguese nationality were allowed to work in the chapels of Catherine of Braganza. The British were expressly forbidden from attending masses in Catholic chapels, and Katharina was also made liable for compliance with this ban. A direct development of the Test Act was that Barbara Villiers, whose relationship with the king had not been at its best since 1670, lost her position at court.

The problem of succession to the throne, and the fear of a Catholic king, intensified when Anne Hyde , mother of the later English queens Maria II and Anne , professed Catholicism. Jacob's second wife, the Italian princess Maria Beatrix of Modena , was also Catholic. After 1672, the specter of a line of Catholic rulers in England arose for many Anglicans, as Jacob already had two children with Anne and the chances of having children with Mary who would also be baptized Catholics were very high. Parliament tried to have Karl's declaration of freedom of conscience (Declaration of Indulgence) withdrawn by the king himself. When this demand did not impress Karl, a campaign began aimed at excluding Jacob from the line of succession.

In 1678 Parliament passed a law prohibiting Catholics from taking a seat in either House of Parliament. This legislation also arose on suspicion of a possible counter-reformation in England. Since the Counter-Reformation was on the advance across Europe, the aim was to counteract this development and remove all remaining secret Catholics from important offices for good.

The panic fear of Catholic intrigues and papist conspiracies in England played into the hands of the preacher Titus Oates . Together with Israel Tonge , he spread rumors in 1678 about a conspiracy to murder the king and the extermination of Protestantism in England ( "Popish Plot" ). Although the king called the tales of Titus Oates lies, they spread quickly and gained credibility, largely thanks to the support of Lord Danby. Private letters were published in which the former secretary of James II, Edward Colemann , corresponded with Jesuits and French agents over the overthrow of English Protestantism with the help of France. In addition, Sir Edmund Godfrey , the justice of the peace who recorded Titus Oates' testimony, was murdered. In his statements, Titus Oates named the names of members of an allegedly really existing Catholic shadow cabinet. The 72-year-old Henry Arundell, 3rd Baron Arundell of Wardour , and the 64-year-old John Belasyse, 1st Baron Belasyse , as well as other members of the Peers and the House of Lords, were charged with high treason.

As a result of these false accusations, a second Test Act was enacted, which definitively excluded Catholics from parliament and again required a declaration from all members of parliament in which the doctrine of transubstantiation and any other idolatrous and superstitious rites of the Catholic Church were rejected. When Titus Oates accused Katharina von Braganza of wanting to poison her husband, Karl's wife was in acute danger. Oates' allegations were taken so seriously that on November 8, 1678, their Somerset House apartments were searched. On November 28, she was charged with high treason by the Commission of Inquiry. The charges were later dropped. Titus Oates, whom the king interrogated personally and revealed inconsistencies and contradictions in his statements, had the king arrested and taken to a prison. Parliament freed Oates, who until 1681, as a free man, repeatedly reported plots and, above all, accused innocent people. The English judge George Jeffreys , also known as Hanging Judge Jeffreys , called Oates a shame for humanity . In 1681 Oates was sentenced to prison, he died on July 13, 1705.

Dissolution of parliament

Thomas Osborne, Lord Danby , a staunch anti-Catholic who assisted Titus Oates in making his accusations public, was charged with treason in the course of 1678 by the British House of Commons. The charges were based on his support for Oates' allegations. Without his interference, Oates' allegations could never have reached such proportions as to seriously undermine peace in the country. Although the mood in England was in favor of war with Catholic France, Charles had reached an agreement in secret negotiations with the French king. In the event of a military riot, England would act officially in a neutral manner, in return for payment of certain funds from France. Lord Danby, who was opposed to France, bowed to the king's wishes in this case. Despite his relenting, the charges against him were upheld. On January 24, 1679, Charles dissolved Parliament to save Lord Danby from charge and conviction.

In March of the same year a new parliament was set up, which was rather hostile towards the king and blocked his decisions. Lord Danby was forced to give up his post as Lord High Treasurer and received a pardon from the King. Despite the royal pardon and the dissolution of the old parliament, all charges against Lord Danby were immediately resumed by the new parliament. While the House of Lords proposed exile as a punishment for Lord Danby, it was not a sufficiently harsh punishment for the House of Commons. It was jointly decided to drop the charges and condemn them in parliament. In this case, Charles bowed to the wishes of his opponents and undertook to have Lord Danby delivered to the Tower of London , where he remained for five years.

Jacob , Duke of York (from 1685 Jacob II)

The new parliament passed the Exclusion Bill in the same year . The aim of this act of exclusion was to exclude the king's brother (later James II) from the line of succession and to prevent forever that a Catholic king would ascend the throne of England. Anthony Ashley Cooper, 1st Earl of Shaftesbury and former member of the Cabal, brought the Exclusion Bill to a vote in Parliament. The demand for the legitimation of James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth, was also discussed again in Parliament. From the Adhorrers - the parliamentarians who voted against the Exclusion Bill - the English Tory party later developed . The English Whig Party later developed from the Petitioners - the parliamentarians who supported the Exclusion Bill .

In December 1679, the parliament was dissolved again by Charles. The viewpoint of the English king was clear: no secular power had to intervene in the succession to the throne, which in his view was conferred by divine right. Fearing that the Exclusion Bill would be approved by parliament, parliament was repeatedly dissolved in 1680 and 1681.

In the course of 1680, broad parliamentary approval for the Exclusion Bill began to dissolve. The mood in the upper and lower houses, as well as that of the contemporary sources, changed from open hostility towards the king to an increase in expressions of loyalty. Nevertheless, Karl left the parliament dissolved and continued to rule from 1681 as an absolutist monarch without a parliament.

End of life

Charles II coin, 1683. The mint reads: CAROLUS II DEI GRATIA (Charles II by the grace of God)

In the spring of 1683 a plot to murder the King and Duke of York was uncovered ( Rye House Plot ). The plan was to kill both of them while attending the Newmarket horse races . A large fire that broke out shortly before in Newmarket prevented the royal brothers from visiting and thus thwarted the murder plans. Protestant politicians Algernon Sidney and Lord William Russell were accused of being the driving force behind the planning and charged with treason. Despite the scant evidence, both were sentenced to death.

Karl died unexpectedly and after a short illness of urine poisoning ( uremia ). Shortly before his death, he converted to the Catholic faith. On the morning of February 6, 1685 (a Wednesday) he received the sacraments of death from the priest John Huddleston, shortly afterwards he died. Karl was buried in Westminster Abbey .


Charles II left no legitimate offspring, but a large number of illegitimate children, almost all of whom he officially recognized and ennobled. His most famous descendants today are Diana, Princess of Wales , and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall . He was succeeded by his younger brother, James II of England and James VII of Scotland, who converted to Catholicism and was generally unpopular with the people. The illegitimate son of Charles II. James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth, also claimed the throne in place of his uncle James II, but his troops were defeated on July 6, 1685 near the village of Sedgemoor, and he was captured on July 15, 1685 and finally executed in the Tower of London. Jacob was the last Catholic King of England when he was dethroned in 1688 in the wake of the Glorious Revolution .

During the reign of Charles II, the creative period of the probably greatest English composer, Henry Purcell, fell . Charles II was a great patron of the arts and sciences. He helped found the Royal Society , a scientific group whose first members included Robert Hooke , Robert Boyle, and Sir Isaac Newton . He was also the personal sponsor of Sir Christopher Wren , the architect who rebuilt London after the great fire (1666). Wren also drew up plans for the Royal Hospital Chelsea , which Karl established in 1682 as a retirement home for Army veterans . His monument is still standing in front of the hospital today.

The day of remembrance of Charles regaining power (restoration), which is also his birthday (May 29), is celebrated in England as Oak Apple Day , a reminder of his hiding in an oak tree through which he escaped from England in 1651.

Charles's relationships, as well as the history of his reign, were portrayed in the 2003 BBC film Charles II: The Power and The Passion .

brothers and sisters

  1. Karl Jakob (* / † May 13, 1629), Duke of Cornwall and Rothesay
  2. Mary (1631–1660) ∞ Willem II of Orange
  3. James II (1633-1701)
  4. Elisabeth (December 29, 1635– September 8, 1650)
  5. Anne (March 17, 1637– November 5, 1640)
  6. Catherine (* / † June 29, 1639)
  7. Henry (July 8, 1640– September 13, 1660), Duke of Gloucester
  8. Henriette Anne , called Minette (1644–1670) ∞ Philippe d'Orléans.


King Charles II left no legitimate children or heirs to the throne. He was the father of numerous children with his official mistresses, almost all of whom he recognized. The number of other illegitimate children is said to be 350, a number that was attributed to him during his lifetime and was never verified.

  • Child with Marguerite or Margaret de Carteret:
  • Some authors report that she gave birth to a son in 1646: James de la Cloche, also known as de Carteret, and that he died in 1667.
  • Child with Elizabeth Killigrew (* 1622; † 1680):
  • Charlotte Jemima Henrietta Maria Boyle, Fitzcharles (* 1650; † 1684)
  • Children with Catherine Pegge, Lady Green:
  • Charles Fitzcharles, (* 1657; † 1680), 1st Earl of Plymouth, also called Don Carlos , elevated to Earl of Plymouth (1675)
  • Catherine Fitzcharles (* 1658, died in infancy)
  • Child with Mary 'Moll' Davis:
  • Lady Mary Tudor (* 1673; † 1726), ⚭ (1) 1687 Edward Radclyffe, 2nd Earl of Derwentwater (1655–1705), ⚭ (2) 1705 Henry Graham, MP, ⚭ (3) 1707 James Rooke.

Other famous mistresses and lovers:

  • Cristabella Wyndham, his foster mother who allegedly seduced him when he was fourteen
  • Hortensia Mancini , Duchess of Mazarin (* 1646; † 1699)
  • Winifred Wells, one of the Queen's ladies-in-waiting
  • Mrs. Jane Roberts, a minister's daughter
  • Mary Bagot (1665–1679), widow of Charles Berkeley, 1st Earl of Falmouth
  • Lady Elizabeth Holles († 1666), wife of Wentworth FitzGerald, 17th Earl of Kildare


Henry Stewart
Maria Stuart
Frederick II of Denmark
Sophie of Mecklenburg
Anton of Bourbon
Johanna von Albret
Francis I de 'Medici
Johanna of Austria
Jacob VI of Scotland
Anna of Denmark
Henry IV of France
Maria de 'Medici
Charles I.
Henrietta Maria of France
Charles II

See also


  • Allen Andrews: The Royal Whore, Barbara Villiers, Countess Castlemaine . Hutchinson, London 1971, ISBN 0-09-107040-6 .
  • John Childs : The army of Charles II (= Studies in social history ). University of Toronto Press, Buffalo 1976, ISBN 0-8020-2180-8 .
  • Peter Cunningham: The Story of Nell Gwyn and the sayings of Charles II . WW Gibbings, London 1892, ISBN 1-4179-5888-X .
  • Antonia Fraser: King Charles II . Phoenix Books, London 2004, ISBN 0-7538-1403-X .
  • Eleanor Herman: Love in the Shadow of the Crown. The story of the royal mistresses . Fischer, Frankfurt / M. 2004, ISBN 3-596-15987-3 .
  • TG Lamford: The Defense of Lucy Walter . Salus Publications, Hampshire 2001, ISBN 0-9539249-0-4 .
  • Derek Parker: Nell Gwyn . Sutton, London 2000, ISBN 0-7509-1992-2 .
  • Kathleen Winsor: Amber . Heyne, Munich 2004, ISBN 3-453-87348-3 .
  • Charles Beauclerk: Nell Gwyn. Actress and lover of the king , Osburg Verlag Berlin 2008, ISBN 978-3-940731-10-4

Film adaptations

Web links

Commons : Charles II (England)  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Antonia Fraser: King Charles II. Kindle Edition, Phoenix 2011, Chapter 6: A Candle to the Devil
  2. Kurt Düwell : "Operation Marriage". British obstetrics during the founding of North Rhine-Westphalia ( Memento of the original from December 6, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. , Lecture from September 14, 2006, PDF file in the portal , accessed on December 13, 2013 @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  3. Castlemaine, Earl of (I, 1661-1705) at Cracroft's Peerage
  4. Google Book Search: Israel, JI (1995) The Dutch Republic , p. 750
  5. Wikisource: Text of the Royal Declaration of Indulgence (English)
predecessor Office successor
New title created Prince of Wales
Duke of Cornwall
Earl of Chester
Title merged with the crown
Charles I
(until 1649)
King of England
King of Scotland
King of Ireland
Jacob II