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King Charles II of England

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November 30, 1660
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Mirza Firuz Shah
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People
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Aurangzeb 1658–1707

King Charles II of England

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Charles II (29 May 1630 – 6 February 1685) was King of Scotland from 1649 until 1651, and King of Scotland, England and Ireland from the 1660 Restoration of the monarchy until his death in 1685.

 

Charles II was the eldest surviving child of Charles I of England, Scotland and Ireland and Henrietta Maria of France. After Charles I's execution at Whitehall on 30 January 1649, at the climax of the English Civil War, the Parliament of Scotland proclaimed Charles II king on 5 February 1649. But England entered the period known as the English Interregnum or the English Commonwealth, and the country was a de facto republic led by Oliver Cromwell. Cromwell defeated Charles II at the Battle of Worcester on 3 September 1651, and Charles fled to mainland Europe. Cromwell became virtual dictator of England, Scotland and Ireland. Charles spent the next nine years in exile in France, the Dutch Republic and the Spanish Netherlands. The political crisis that followed Cromwell's death in 1658 resulted in the restoration of the monarchy, and Charles was invited to return to Britain. On 29 May 1660, his 30th birthday, he was received in London to public acclaim. After 1660, all legal documents stating a regnal year did so as if he had succeeded his father as king in 1649.

 

Charles's English parliament enacted laws known as the Clarendon Code, designed to shore up the position of the re-established Church of England. Charles acquiesced to the Clarendon Code even though he favoured a policy of religious tolerance. The major foreign policy issue of his early reign was the Second Anglo-Dutch War. In 1670, he entered into the Treaty of Dover, an alliance with his cousin King Louis XIV of France. Louis agreed to aid him in the Third Anglo-Dutch War and pay him a pension, and Charles secretly promised to convert to Catholicism at an unspecified future date. Charles attempted to introduce religious freedom for Catholics and Protestant dissenters with his 1672 Royal Declaration of Indulgence, but the English Parliament forced him to withdraw it. In 1679, Titus Oates's revelations of a supposed Popish Plot sparked the Exclusion Crisis when it was revealed that Charles's brother and heir presumptive, James, Duke of York, had become a Roman Catholic. The crisis saw the birth of the pro-exclusion Whig and anti-exclusion Tory parties. Charles sided with the Tories, and after the discovery of the Rye House Plot to murder Charles and James in 1683, some Whig leaders were executed or forced into exile. Charles dissolved the English Parliament in 1681 and ruled alone until his death in 1685. He was allegedly received into the Catholic Church on his deathbed.

 

Traditionally considered one of the most popular English kings, Charles is known as the Merry Monarch, a reference to the liveliness and hedonism of his court. He acknowledged at least 12 illegitimate children by various mistresses, but left no legitimate children and was succeeded by his brother, James.

 

Foreign policy and marriage

 

Since 1640, Portugal had been fighting a war against Spain to restore its independence after a dynastic union of sixty years between the crowns of Spain and Portugal. Portugal had been helped by France, but in the Treaty of the Pyrenees in 1659 Portugal was abandoned by its French ally. Negotiations with Portugal for Charles's marriage to Catherine of Braganza began during his father's reign and upon the restoration, Queen Luísa of Portugal, acting as regent, reopened negotiations with England that resulted in an alliance. On 23 June 1661, a marriage treaty was signed; England acquired Catherine's dowry of Tangier (in North Africa) and the Seven islands of Bombay (the latter having a major influence on the development of the British Empire in India), together with trading privileges in Brazil and the East Indies, religious and commercial freedom in Portugal and two million Portuguese crowns (about £300,000); while Portugal obtained military and naval support against Spain and liberty of worship for Catherine. Catherine journeyed from Portugal to Portsmouth on 13–14 May 1662, but was not visited by Charles there until 20 May. The next day the couple were married at Portsmouth in two ceremonies—a Catholic one conducted in secret, followed by a public Anglican service.

 

Before Charles's restoration, the Navigation Acts of 1650 had hurt Dutch trade by giving English vessels a monopoly, and had started the First Dutch War (1652–1654). To lay foundations for a new beginning, envoys of the States General appeared in November 1660 with the Dutch Gift. The Second Dutch War (1665–1667) was started by English attempts to muscle in on Dutch possessions in Africa and North America. The conflict began well for the English, with the capture of New Amsterdam (renamed New York in honour of Charles's brother James, Duke of York) and a victory at the Battle of Lowestoft, but in 1667 the Dutch launched a surprise attack on England (the Raid on the Medway) when they sailed up the River Thames to where a major part of the English fleet was docked. Almost all of the ships were sunk except for the flagship, Royal Charles, which was taken back to the Netherlands as a prize. The Second Dutch War ended with the signing of the Treaty of Breda.

 

As a result of the Second Dutch War, Charles dismissed Lord Clarendon, whom he used as a scapegoat for the war. Clarendon fled to France when impeached for high treason (which carried the penalty of death). Power passed to five politicians known collectively by a whimsical acronym as the Cabal—Clifford, Arlington, Buckingham, Ashley (afterwards Earl of Shaftesbury) and Lauderdale. In fact, the Cabal rarely acted in concert, and the court was often divided between two factions led by Arlington and Buckingham, with Arlington the more successful.

 

In 1668, England allied itself with Sweden, and with its former enemy the Netherlands, to oppose Louis XIV in the War of Devolution. Louis made peace with the Triple Alliance, but he continued to maintain his aggressive intentions towards the Netherlands. In 1670, Charles, seeking to solve his financial troubles, agreed to the Treaty of Dover, under which Louis XIV would pay him £160,000 each year. In exchange, Charles agreed to supply Louis with troops and to announce his conversion to Catholicism "as soon as the welfare of his kingdom will permit". Louis was to provide him with 6,000 troops to suppress those who opposed the conversion. Charles endeavoured to ensure that the Treaty—especially the conversion clause—remained secret. It remains unclear if Charles ever seriously intended to convert.

 

Meanwhile, by a series of five charters, Charles granted the East India Company the rights to autonomous government of its territorial acquisitions, to mint money, to command fortresses and troops, to form alliances, to make war and peace, and to exercise both civil and criminal jurisdiction over its possessions in the Indies. Earlier in 1668 he leased the islands of Bombay to the company for a nominal sum of £10 paid in gold. The Portuguese territories that Catherine brought with her as a dowry proved too expensive to maintain; Tangier was abandoned in 1684. In 1670, Charles granted control of the entire Hudson Bay drainage basin to the Hudson's Bay Company by royal charter, and named the territory Rupert's Land, after his cousin Prince Rupert of the Rhine, the company's first governor.

 

Death

 

Charles suffered a sudden apoplectic fit on the morning of 2 February 1685, and died aged 54 at 11:45 am, four days later, at the Palace of Whitehall. The suddenness of his illness and death led to suspicion of poison in the minds of many, including one of the royal doctors; however, a more modern medical analysis has held that the symptoms of his final illness are similar to those of uraemia (a clinical syndrome due to kidney dysfunction). Charles had a laboratory among his many interests, where prior to his illness he had been experimenting with mercury. Mercuric poisoning can produce irreversible kidney damage; but the case for this being a cause of his death is unproven. In the days between his collapse and his death, Charles endured a variety of torturous treatments including bloodletting, purging and cupping in hopes of effecting a recovery, which may have exacerbated his uraemia through dehydration instead of helping alleviate it.

 

On his deathbed Charles asked his brother, James, to look after his mistresses: "be well to Portsmouth, and let not poor Nelly starve". He told his courtiers, "I am sorry, gentlemen, for being such a time a-dying", and expressed regret at his treatment of his wife. On the last evening of his life he was received into the Catholic Church in the presence of Father John Huddleston, though the extent to which he was fully conscious or committed, and with whom the idea originated, is unclear. He was buried in Westminster Abbey "without any manner of pomp" on 14 February.

Charles was succeeded by his brother James II and VII.

 

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Ismail Mazari

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Very good information.

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