Charles, Prince of Wales, (King Charles II), 1630-85
Exiled after the execution of his father and the failure of his attempts to regain the throne; finally invited to return as King Charles II after the collapse of the Cromwellian régime
The eldest surviving son of King Charles I and Queen Henrietta Maria, Charles was born in St James' Palace, London, on 29 May 1630. In 1638, William Cavendish, Earl of Newcastle, was appointed the Prince's governor. His tutor was Dr Brian Duppa, the Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, a protégé of Archbishop Laud.
The First Civil War erupted when Charles was 12 years old. Although he took the title Prince of Wales, he was never formally invested. He was made an honorary captain in the King's Horse Guards and was present at the battle of Edgehill (1642), where he had to be dissuaded from making a high-spirited charge at a troop of Roundhead cavalry. Charles accompanied the King either at Oxford or on campaign until March 1645 when he was appointed Captain-General of Royalist forces in the West. With his headquarters at Bristol, Charles nominally presided over a Council composed of moderate Royalists, including Lord Hopton and Sir Edward Hyde. During the final stages of the First Civil War, the Prince's Council struggled to co-ordinate the volatile commanders Sir Richard Grenville and Lord Goring until Fairfax led the New Model Army on its triumphant invasion of the West in 1645-6.
After the fall of Bristol in September 1645, the Prince withdrew into Cornwall. King Charles issued orders that he should escape to France to join Queen Henrietta Maria, but Hyde and others on the Prince's Council were concerned that the move would damage the Royalist cause because of the Queen's Catholicism. After Lord Hopton's defeat at Torrington in February 1646, the Prince and his Council sailed from Cornwall to the Isles of Scilly. A Parliamentarian fleet sent after them was providentially dispersed in a storm, after which the Prince went to Jersey. Finally, with the support of the Queen's envoy Lord Jermyn, Charles overruled his Council and joined his mother at St Germain near Paris in June 1646 where he remained for two years at the expense of the French government.
In the spring and early summer of 1648, uprisings in England and Wales signalled the beginning of the Second Civil War. Prince Charles moved to the Netherlands to take command of ten warships that had defected to the Royalists during the naval revolt against Parliament, but his attempts to support the uprisings in East Anglia and Kent were thwarted. A Parliamentarian fleet confronted him in the Thames estuary during late August. The two fleets prepared for battle, but were driven apart by a sudden storm. Prince Charles sailed back to the Netherlands and retired to The Hague while his cousin Prince Rupert took over command of the Royalist fleet.
After the execution of King Charles I by the English Parliament in January 1649, Prince Charles was proclaimed King of Scotland in Edinburgh — on condition that he would sign the Covenant and undertake to enforce a Presbyterian religious settlement in England. Moderate English Royalists were opposed to an alliance with the Covenanters, but Charles' appeals to other European heads of state for military help against the new republican government of England came to nothing and a Scottish army was his only hope for regaining the English throne. In May 1650, Charles signed the Treaty of Breda in which he agreed to the Covenanters' terms, abandoned the loyal Marquis of Montrose and repudiated the Marquis of Ormond's treaty with the Irish. Charles landed in Scotland in June 1650.
Meanwhile, an English army commanded by Oliver Cromwell invaded Scotland and defeated the Scots at the battle of Dunbar (September 1650). Covenanters on the ruling Committee of Estates blamed the defeat on the lack of religious commitment shown by Charles and his followers. They demanded the removal of all former Engagers and "ungodly" Cavaliers from the army and from Charles' retinue. Charles attempted to overthrow the Covenanters in October 1650. The plot, known as "The Start", failed through Charles' last-minute indecision, but it helped to weaken the power of the Kirk Party on the Committee of Estates in favour of the Royalists and Engagers. Charles was crowned King of Scots at Scone on 1 January 1651.
With Cromwell's army tightening its grip on Scotland, Charles decided to lead his Scots-Royalist army into England. He marched from Scotland on 31 July 1651 but the expected uprising of English Royalists failed to materialise. Cromwell followed him south and gathered an overwhelming concentration of forces at Worcester, where Charles was decisively defeated on 3 September 1651. Charles' escape through England after the battle of Worcester became legendary. He evaded capture for six weeks, travelling in disguise, helped by loyal subjects and at one point hiding from Roundhead soldiers in the famous oak tree at Boscobel. He finally got away to France in mid-October.Charles rejoined his mother in exile at the palace of the Louvre in Paris. Reliant upon a pension granted by the government of France and surrounded by a group of quarrelsome advisers, Charles became gloomy and withdrawn. His liaisons with women from among the English exiles produced several illegitimate children. The Royalist court-in-exile split into three main factions: the "Louvre" party, which revolved around Henrietta Maria and her close confidante Lord Jermyn; the "Old Royalist" faction, led by conservatives like Sir Edward Hyde, Sir Edward Nicholas and Lord Hopton; and the "Swordsmen" who looked to Prince Rupert for leadership. The Louvre group was willing to seek alliances with foreign powers or to make concessions to the Presbyterians and other parliamentary factions in order to restore the Monarchy at the earliest opportunity, whereas Hyde and his followers argued that it was better to rely exclusively upon old Royalists whose loyalty was assured and to wait for opinion in England to swing over to the King rather than to make compromises for short-term gains. The Swordsmen had no coherent policies but were motivated by personal feuds and jealousies against members of the other factions.
By 1654, Cromwell was negotiating with Cardinal Mazarin of France for an alliance against Spain. For diplomatic reasons, Charles and his entourage were obliged to leave Paris. Charles moved to Cologne and then to Bruges in the Spanish Netherlands when war broke out between Spain and the English Protectorate in alliance with France. Charles' representatives negotiated with Spain for help in regaining the throne of England and the exiled Royalists raised an army of 3,000 English, Scottish and Irish soldiers commanded by Charles' brother James, Duke of York (later James II), to help the Spanish defend Flanders against Marshal Turenne's Anglo-French army.
During Charles' exile, there were three serious attempts to incite Royalist uprisings in Britain: Glencairn's Uprising in Scotland during 1653-4, Penruddock's Uprising in the West Country of 1655 and Booth's Uprising in Cheshire of 1659. All three were easily suppressed through superior military strength and, in the case of the English uprisings, an efficient intelligence network that infiltrated Royalist conspiracies and allowed the Commonwealth and Protectorate governments to stay one step ahead of their enemies. The Restoration of the monarchy in 1660 came about after the death of Oliver Cromwell when the collapse of the Protectorate resulted in a power struggle between republicans and army officers that brought political turmoil to England. Popular calls for the return of the King were given vital military backing by General Monck who, during the early months of 1660, moved cautiously from a position of support for the Commonwealth to support for the Restoration. Charles was declared rightful King of England by the newly-elected Convention Parliament on 8 May 1660 and invited to return to England. He landed at Dover on 25 May. Amid wild rejoicing across the nation, he made a triumphal entry into London on his 30th birthday, 29 May 1660. His coronation at Westminster Abbey took place on St George's Day, 1661.
The initial Restoration settlement was conciliatory. With a few exceptions, only the regicides who had participated directly in the trial and execution of Charles I in 1649 were singled out for punishment. An interim Church settlement that partly reconciled Episcopalians and Presbyterians was formulated; the validity of land sales to which the vendors had consented was confirmed. However, former Church and Crown lands were restored to their former owners and from 1661 the Cavalier Parliament enacted a more repressive religious settlement in favour of the Anglican Church. The Restoration is a distinctive period of British history, characterised by the establishment of the Royal Society for scientific research in 1662 and the rebuilding of London after the Great Fire of 1666. The re-opening of theatres resulted in the new theatrical genre known as Restoration Comedy, concerned with fashionable society and characterised by wit, cynicism and bawdy language. The loose morals associated with the Restoration Court stand in marked contrast to the sobriety of Charles I's reign and the Cromwellian régime.
Ronald Hutton, Charles II, King of England, Scotland & Ireland, 1989
Paul Seaward, Charles II, King of England, Scotland & Ireland, Oxford DNB, 2004
David Underdown, Royalist Conspiracy in England 1649-60, 1960
A.W. Ward, Charles II, King of England, Scotland & Ireland, DNB, 1887