Heritage > Rulers

Charles II, 1630-1685

Charles was born in 1630, and married Catherine of Braganza, daughter of King John IV of Portugal. He had no legitimate children but plenty of bastards.

King of Great Britain and Ireland, whose restoration to the throne in 1660 came after eleven years of Oliver Cromwell's republican rule.

Faced with a puritanical parliament and popular anti-Catholic sentiment (including the Popish Plot), Charles introduced the test act and other anti-Catholic measures, despite his preference for religious toleration and his secret alliance with Catholic France.

He refused, however, to allow parliament to exclude his Catholic brother James from the succession. Charles's reign saw the reintroduction of pastimes such as bear-bating and theatre-going, banned during the Commonwealth. His own enthusastic pursuit of pleasure earned him the nickname 'the merry monarch'. Nell Gwyn was one of his many mistresses. His marriage was childless, but he fathered at least 14 illegitimate offsprings.

After his defeat at Worcester in the civil war, Charles took refuged from Cromwell's Roundheads at Boscobel House in Shropshire, hiding by day in a hallow oak tree in the grounds. 'The 'Royal Oak' which can be seen there today is said to have grown from an acorn of that tree. Charles II's dying words were reportedly 'Let not poor Nelly (Nell Gwyn) starve'.

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