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House of Stuart - King Charles II

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King Charles II
Name: King Charles II
Father: Charles I
Mother: Henrietta Maria
Born: May 29, 1630 at St. James Palace
Ascended to the throne: May 29, 1660 aged 30 years
Crowned: April 23, 1661 at Westminster Abbey, and at Scone as King of Scots, 1 January 1651
Married: Catherine of Braganza, on May 1662
Children: Three children who died in infancy, and about 17 illegitimate children by at least 8 different mistresses
Died: February 6, 1685 at Whitehall Palace, London, aged 54 years, 8 months, and 10 days
Buried at: Westminster

Charles II was born in St James's Palace, London. During the Civil War he lived with his father in Oxford 1642–45, and after the victory of Cromwell's Parliamentary forces he was in exile in France. Accepting the Scottish Covenanters' offer to make him King, he landed in Scotland in 1650, and was crowned at Scone on 1 January 1651. An attempt to invade England was ended on 3 September 1651 by Cromwell's victory at the Battle of Worcester. Charles escaped according to legend by hiding in an oak tree, and for nine years he was in exile in Holland, France, Germany, Flanders, and Spain. The death of Cromwell and the collapse of the English Commonwealth lead to opening of negotiations in 1659 by George Monk for the restoration of the monarchy.

In April 1660 Charles issued the Declaration of Breda, promising a general amnesty and freedom of conscience. Parliament accepted the Declaration and he was proclaimed King on 8 May 1660. Charles landed at Dover on 26 May 1660, and entered London three days later. He was crowned at Westminster on 23 April 1661. Despite the Declaration there was retribution. The body of Oliver Cromwell was dug up and posthumously decapitated, Charles I was venerated a Saint by the Anglican Church, and all legal documents were post-dated as though Charles II had succeeded on his father’s death in 1649. The Act of uniformity required all Puritans to accept the doctrines of the Church of England. Many who refused sought a new life in the colonies in North America. The Restoration brought liberalizing social changes including the re-opening of theatres and study of sciences that had been banned by the Puritans. The Royal Society for the study of Science was established and the Royal Observatory at Greenwich. In May 1662 Charles married the Portuguese Princess Catherine of Braganza. Her dowry brought Tangiers and Bombay to British control, but despite four pregnancies she produced no children. Charles did however have at least 17 illegitimate children by his various mistresses who included Lady Castlemaine, Nell Gwyn, Lady Portsmouth, and Lucy Walter.

England was at war with Holland and in 1664 seized the Dutch settlement of New Amsterdam in North America and renamed it New York. However the Dutch Navy sailed up the River Medway and humiliated the Royal Navy by capturing the English flagship and burning other ships. In 1665 the Great Plague struck London killing over 60,000 people, and was followed in 1666 by the Fire of London which destroyed a large part of the city including St Paul’s cathedral. Sir Christopher Wren was commissioned to rebuild the cathedral. The Dutch war furnished an excuse for banishing Lord Clarendon who was made a scapegoat in 1667, and he was replaced by the Cabal of Clifford and Arlington, both secret Catholics, and Buckingham, Ashley (Lord Shaftesbury), and Lauderdale. In 1670 Charles signed the Secret Treaty of Dover, whereby he promised Louis XIV of France he would declare himself a Catholic, re-establish Catholicism in England, and support the French king's projected war against the Dutch; in return Louis was to finance Charles and in the event of resistance to supply him with troops. The third Dutch War followed in 1672, and at the same time Charles issued the Declaration of Indulgence, suspending all penal laws against Catholics and Dissenters.

In 1673, Parliament forced Charles to withdraw the Indulgence and accept a Test Act excluding all Catholics from office, and in 1674 to end the Dutch war. The Test Act broke up the Cabal, while Shaftesbury, who had learned the truth about the treaty, assumed the leadership of the opposition. In 1678 Titus Oates's announcement of a 'Popish plot' released a general panic, which Shaftesbury exploited to introduce his Exclusion Bill, excluding Charles’s brother James, Duke of York, from the succession as he was openly Catholic and instead he hoped to substitute Charles's illegitimate son the Duke of Monmouth. Charles dissolved Parliament in 1679 declaring there would be no talk of change of succession. He now ruled as absolute monarch without a parliament, financed by Louis XIV. When the Whigs plotted a revolt, their leaders were executed, and Shaftesbury and Monmouth fled to the Netherlands to William of Orange. Charles died in 1685, and was received into the Roman Catholic Church on his deathbed. He was succeeded by his brother James II.

King Charles II's Signature

Signature of King Charles II

View Movie Trailer
Title: Charles II: The Power & the Passion
Starring: Rufus Sewell as King Charles II
Released: 2003
Production: BBC Films


‘You had better have one King than five hundred’ – King Charles II (speaking to Parliament)

’I always admired virtue - but I could never imitate it’ – King Charles II

’Let not poor Nelly starve’ – King Charles II (request to his brother on his death bed to provide for his mistress Nell Gwyn)



 Death of Oliver Cromwell. He is succeeded by his son Richard Cromwell 


 Richard Cromwell is forced to resign. The Rump Parliament is restored. 


 Charles II returns to England from Holland and is restored to the throne. 


 Act of Uniformity compels Puritans to accept the doctrines of the Church of England or leave the church. 


 Royal Society for the improvement of science founded 


 England seizes the Dutch settlement of New Amsterdam, changing its name to New York.  


 Outbreak of the Second Anglo-Dutch War. 


 The Great Plague strikes London and over 60,000 die. 


 The Great Fire of London rages for four days and three nights. Two thirds of central London is destroyed and 65,000 are left homeless. 


 The Earl of Clarendon is replaced by a five-man Cabal. 


 Paradise Lost by John Milton published 


 A Dutch fleet sails up the River Medway captures the English flagship The Royal Charles and sinks three other great ships 


 Secret Treaty of Dover, by which Charles agrees to declare himself a Catholic and restore Catholicism in England in return for secret subsidies from Louis XIV of France. 


 Hudson Bay Company founded in North America 


 Thomas Blood caught stealing the Crown Jewels 


 Outbreak of the Third Dutch War. 


 Test Act keeps Roman Catholics out of political office. 


 Death of John Milton 


 Peace made with the Dutch 


 Royal Observatory founded at Greenwich 


 John Bunyan publishes The Pilgrims Progress


 The Popish Plot is fabricated by Titus Oates. He alleges a Catholic plot to murder the King and restore Catholicism. The Government over-reacts, and many Catholic subjects are persecuted. 


 Exclusion Bill attempts to exclude James, Charles’s Catholic brother, from the succession. 


 Habeas Corpus act passed which forbids imprisonment without trial 


 Pennsylvania founded in America by William Penn 


 The Rye House Plot a conspiracy to kill Charles and his brother James and return to parliamentary rule is uncovered.  


 Charles is received into the Roman Catholic Church on his deathbed. 

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