Home > Categories > Politics and Government > Royalty > Charles II's Biography

Charles II's Biography

Browse biogs A-Z

Charles II was born on the 29th May 1630, and was the eldest surviving son of Charles I and Henrietta Maria of France.

When he was 12 the English Civil war began and at only 14 he was given the role of "nominal commander in chief in Western England".

Once Oliver Cromwell had defeated the Royalists, Charles fled to the continent and, in 1649, he heard of his father's execution.

In 1650, Charles made a deal with the Scots that meant that they would proclaim him king. He then, in 1651, tried to invade England with a Scottish army but was defeated by Oliver Cromwell at the Battle of Worcester. Again, he escaped.

Although Cromwell had ordained that his son, Richard should follow him in his rule, in 1660, this was overturned because Richard was unpopular in parliament and unable to rule. So, Charles was invited to take the throne and, to the people's happiness, he landed in Dover on 25th May 1660.

As king, Charles II pursued political tolerance and power-sharing as policies, although he had a rather stormy relationship with parliament and, in 1681, he dissolved it and ruled alone for the rest of his life.

Whilst king, Charles II had fourteen illegitimate children with a host of different mistresses, but none with his wife, whom he married in 1662. Her name was Catherine of Braganza and she was the daughter of the king of Portugal.

The two most famous events of his reign were, in 1665, the Great Plague spreading through London and the rest of the country, and, in 1666, the Great Fire of London.

Along with the Great Plague, 1665 saw the start of an Anglo-Dutch war which ended with defeat for England, in 1667. After this defeat, because Charles was worried about the safety of his realm, he sent messengers to talk with the King of France, Louis XIV. They were sent to ask whether the two nations could become allies.

In 1670 a treaty between the two rulers was signed in secret. It was called the Treaty of Dover and in it, Louis agreed to give Charles a yearly pension, and promised he would send over 6,000 French soldiers should Charles need it to fight the English if they turned against him. Charles then agreed that he would help the French fight the Dutch and try to stop Protestants in England from persecuting Catholics.

The treaty was kept secret as Charles was trying to persuade parliament to be kinder to the French and their Government. Charles tried to bribe certain members of parliament. The MPs who supported Charles's Catholic policies, then were known as Tories by their opponents.

Throughout his life he was sympathetic to Catholicism but, it became clear to Members of parliament that Charles II actually was a Catholic, which he admitted to on his death bed.

Charles II died on February 6th 1685. He was succeeded by his brother James, who was also a Catholic.

Back to Top

Latest User CommentsAdd your comment
Add your comment
To ensure you are a real person and not a computer please enter the following characters shown below: