We tend to start our story here at Culloden with James VII & II but before he became king, it was his brother Charles II who ruled in Scotland and England.
Charles II was king of Scotland from 1649 when he was proclaimed by the Parliament of Scotland on 5th February. He was eventually crowned at Scone in 1651. However, he only became King of Scotland, England & Ireland in 1660 when the English restored the monarchy following a period of republican rule led by Cromwell.
Prior to the restoration of the monarchy Charles II operated in exile. He attempted to lead a force against Cromwell and the republic. It was during this time that the famous story of Charles hiding in an oak tree to escape capture originates. Charles II was unsuccessful in his attempts to overthrow Cromwell and following his defeat he spent ten years moving from country to country to stay out of Cromwell’s reach.
When Cromwell died in 1659 Charles issued a declaration in which he promised to uphold the Anglican church and offered his enemies a pardon if he was restored to the throne. Finally, he was eventually invited back and became King of England, Scotland and Ireland. He was crowned at Westminster Abbey in 1661 for which a new set of crown jewels had to be made after Cromwell melted down the previous set.
Charles II’s reign was filled with some major events, including an awful plague in 1665 and the Great Fire of London in 1666. He unsuccessfully led the English against the Dutch in the Second Anglo-Dutch War (1665-1667) and then joined forces with the French to fight again in the Third Anglo-Dutch War (1672-1674) which ended with the Treaty of Westminster.
Part of his agreement with the French when he joined to fight with them was a treaty he signed in which he agreed to convert to Catholicism. Although he did not do this straight away it was still a worry for the parliament who did not want a Catholic ruler. Charles and his wife, Queen Catherine, had not managed to produce an heir to the throne and many were already concerned that the crown would pass to his brother James who had become a Catholic. To try and dispel some of the worry amongst his subjects Charles II arranged for his niece Mary to marry William of Orange, a protestant, in 1677.
However, this did not solve the issue. A year later there was a plot to assassinate Charles II’s brother and the tension between Charles II and his subjects appeared to take a toll on him. Eventually, apparently fed up with all the conflict, he dissolved the Parliament in 1679 and decided to rule alone.
He continued as King for another 6 years when he suffered a suspected stroke. On his deathbed he finally made good on his treaty with France and did indeed convert to Catholicism. The suddenness of Charles II’s death led some to believe he had been poisoned but this has been shown, through modern analysis, to be false. Charles II was buried in Westminster Abbey in Henry VII’s chapel but there was no monument raised for him. Instead, a life size wax effigy was placed over his grave and this figure can still be seen in the museum at Westminster Abbey.
We hoped you enjoyed this little insight to Charles II. As always please like, tweet, comment and share and feel free to delve deeper into the history of what many would call the most popular member of the Stuarts.
All the best, K & D