Charles II

Charles II
1. See Charles I (def. 2).
2. ("Charles the Fat") A.D. 809-888, king of France 884-887; as Charles III, emperor of the Holy Roman Empire 881-887.
3. 1630-85, king of Great Britain 1660-85 (son of Charles I of England).
4. 1661-1700, king of Spain 1665-1700.

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born May 29, 1630, London, Eng.
died Feb. 6, 1685, London

King of Great Britain and Ireland (1660–85).

Son of Charles I and Henrietta Maria, he supported his father in the English Civil Wars. After his father's execution, he invaded England in 1651 but was defeated at Worcester. He then spent years in exile until Oliver Cromwell died and conditions favored a return to the monarchy. His Declaration of Breda paved the way for him to be proclaimed king in May 1660 (see Restoration). He became known as "the Merry Monarch" for his lifting of Puritan restrictions on entertainment and his own love of pleasure; his best-known mistress was the actress Nell Gwyn. Important events of his reign included the controversial Treaty of Dover and two wars with the Dutch (see Anglo-Dutch Wars). By the 1670s the miscarriages of his queen, Catherine of Braganza, had reduced hopes that he would have a legitimate heir (though he left at least 14 illegitimate offspring). He almost lost control of his government when hysteria arose over the Popish Plot to replace him with his Roman Catholic brother James (the future James II). Charles kept his nerve, reestablished his political control, and eventually enjoyed a resurgence in loyalty. His political adaptability and acumen enabled him to steer his country through the struggle between Anglicans, Catholics, and dissenters that marked his reign.

born Nov. 6, 1661, Madrid, Spain
died Nov. 1, 1700, Madrid

King of Spain (1665–1700), the last monarch of the Spanish Habsburg dynasty.

Son of Philip IV and Maria Anna of Austria, he was slow-witted and became known as Charles the Mad. His reign opened with a 10-year regency under the queen mother. The first phase of his personal government was concerned with resistance to the French imperialism of Louis XIV, and the second was dominated by the succession problem, for it was clear that he would father no children. His death led to the War of the Spanish Succession.
known as Charles of Anjou or Charles the Lame

born с 1254
died May 5, 1309, Naples

King of Naples and ruler of several other European territories.

He guarded Naples while his father, Charles I, launched a campaign to regain Sicily from the Aragonese. He was captured and imprisoned (1284–88); on being freed he promised to give up his claim to Sicily, but the pope released him from the vow, and he fought unsuccessfully for Sicily until 1302. He built alliances through the marriages of his children and extended his control over Piedmont, Provence, Hungary, Athens, and Albania.
known as Charles the Bad

born 1332
died Jan. 1, 1387

King of Navarra (1349–87).

He acquired Normandy from John II of France by threatening an English alliance. Arrested for his treachery in 1356, he escaped a year later and regained Normandy. He pursued shifting alliances in Spain in an effort to expand Navarrese power. Charles V voided his claims in France, and the discovery of his plot to poison the French king cost him all of Normandy except Cherbourg.
known as Charles the Bald

born June 13, 823
died Oct. 6, 877, Brides-les-Bain, Fr.

Carolingian king (843–77) and emperor (875–77).

He was the son of the emperor Louis I and his second wife Judith. Louis's efforts to include Charles in the succession led to revolts against the emperor by his three older sons. After the death of Louis, Charles fought his two surviving half brothers in a bloody civil war (840–43) that was concluded with the Treaty of Verdun, which settled the terms of succession. Charles was granted the kingdom of the western Franks, which he ruled with the support of the bishops despite the wavering loyalties of his vassals and the attacks of Norsemen, Bretons, and Germans. In 864 he won control of Aquitaine, and in 870 he gained western Lorraine. He was crowned emperor in 875 but died two years later in the midst of invasion and internal revolt. Inspired by his grandfather, Charlemagne, Charles was a patron of the arts and oversaw the revival of the splendours of the Carolingian renaissance.

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▪ Holy Roman emperor
byname  Charles the Bald , French  Charles le Chauve , German  Karl der Kahle 
born June 13, 823
died Oct. 6, 877, Brides-les-Bain, France

      king of France (i.e., Francia Occidentalis, the West Frankish kingdom) from 843 to 877 and Western emperor from 875 to 877. (He is reckoned as Charles II both of the Holy Roman Empire and of France.)

      Son of the emperor Louis I the Pious and his second wife, Judith, Charles was the unwitting cause of violent discord when, in 829, he was granted lands by his father; Louis's action precipitated a series of civil wars, lasting until 838, in which the three sons of his first marriage, Lothair I (Lothar I), Louis II the German, and Pippin I, strove to maintain or to increase the rights that they had been guaranteed by the succession settlement of 817, the Ordinatio imperii. Pippin died in 838, but after the death of Louis I in 840 the civil war resumed and continued until Louis the German joined with Charles to force Lothair to accept the Treaty of Verdun (Verdun, Treaty of) in 843, by which Charles received all the lands west of a line roughly following the Scheldt, Meuse, and Saône rivers, the eastern mountains of the Massif Central, and the lower reaches of the Rhône River, and Louis the German and Lothair received respectively the lands of the East Franks (Germany) and the middle kingdom, lying between the other two.

      Until 864 Charles's political situation was precarious because few vassals were loyal to him. His lands suffered from raids by Northmen, who left only after receiving bribes; he was defeated by the Bretons and, in 858, faced an invasion by Louis the German. Yet he succeeded in gaining control of Aquitaine after the capture of Pippin's son in 864; and, by the Treaty of Meersen (870) with Louis the German, he received western Lorraine.

      When Lothair's eldest son, the emperor Louis II, died in 875, Charles went to Italy and was crowned emperor on December 25 by Pope John VIII. In 876, after the death of Louis the German, Charles invaded Louis's possessions but was defeated at Andernach by Louis's son, Louis III the Younger. Charles's death in the next year occurred when another son of Louis the German, Carloman, was marching against him and when his own major vassals were in revolt.

      During Charles's reign some of the splendours of the Carolingian renaissance were revived, and his close collaboration with the church enhanced his prestige and authority.

▪ king of Great Britain and Ireland
byname  The Merry Monarch 
born May 29, 1630, London
died Feb. 6, 1685, London
 king of Great Britain and Ireland (1660–85), who was restored to the throne after years of exile during the Puritan Commonwealth. The years of his reign are known in English history as the Restoration period. His political adaptability and his knowledge of men enabled him to steer his country through the convolutions of the struggle between Anglicans, Catholics, and dissenters that marked much of his reign.

Birth and early years
      Charles II, the eldest surviving son of Charles I and Henrietta Maria of France, was born at St. James's Palace, London. His early years were unremarkable, but before he was 20 his conventional education had been completely overshadowed by the harsh lessons of defeat in the Civil War (English Civil Wars) against the Puritans and subsequent isolation and poverty. Thus Charles emerged into precocious maturity, cynical, self-indulgent, skilled in the sort of moral evasions that make life comfortable even in adversity.

      But though the early years of tawdry dissipation have tarnished the romance of his adventures, not all his actions were discreditable. He tried to fight his father's battles in the west of England in 1645; he resisted the attempts of his mother and his sister Henrietta Anne (Henrietta Anne Of England) to convert him to Catholicism and remained openly loyal to his Protestant faith. In 1648 he made strenuous efforts to save his father; and when, after Charles I's execution in 1649, he was proclaimed Charles II by the Scots in defiance of the English republic, he was prepared to go to Scotland and swallow the stringently anti-Catholic and anti-Anglican Presbyterian Covenant (Solemn League and Covenant) as the price for alliance. But the sacrifice of friends and principles was futile and left him deeply embittered. The Scottish army was routed by the English under Oliver Cromwell at Dunbar in September 1650, and in 1651 Charles's invasion of England ended in defeat at Worcester. The young king became a fugitive, hunted through England for 40 days but protected by a handful of his loyal subjects until he escaped to France in October 1651.

      His safety was comfortless, however. He was destitute and friendless, unable to bring pressure against an increasingly powerful England. France and the Dutch United Provinces were closed to him by Cromwell's diplomacy and he turned to Spain, with whom he concluded a treaty in April 1656. He persuaded his brother James (James II) to relinquish his command in the French army and gave him some regiments of Anglo-Irish troops in Spanish service, but poverty doomed this nucleus of a royalist army to impotence. European princes took little interest in Charles and his cause, and his proffers of marriage were declined. Even Cromwell's death did little to improve his prospects. But George Monck (Monck, George, 1st duke of Albemarle, earl of Torrington, Baron Monck of Potheridge, Beauchamp and Teyes), one of Cromwell's leading generals, realized that under Cromwell's successors the country was in danger of being torn apart and with his formidable army created the situation favourable to Charles's restoration in 1660.

      Most Englishmen now favoured a return to a stable and legitimate monarchy, and, although more was known of Charles II's vices than his virtues, he had, under the steadying influence of Edward Hyde (Clarendon, Edward Hyde, 1st earl of, Viscount Cornbury), his chief adviser, avoided any damaging compromise of his religion or constitutional principles. With Hyde's help, Charles issued in April 1660 his Declaration of Breda, expressing his personal desire for a general amnesty, liberty of conscience, an equitable settlement of land disputes, and full payment of arrears to the army. The actual terms were to be left to a free parliament, and on this provisional basis Charles was proclaimed king in May 1660. Landing at Dover on May 25, he reached a rejoicing London on his 30th birthday.

Restoration settlement
 The unconditional nature of the settlement that took shape between 1660 and 1662 owed little to Charles's intervention and must have exceeded his expectations. He was bound by the concessions made by his father in 1640 and 1641, but the Parliament elected in 1661 was determined on an uncompromising Anglican and royalist settlement. The Militia Act of 1661 gave Charles unprecedented authority to maintain a standing army, and the Corporation Act of 1661 allowed him to purge the boroughs of dissident officials. Other legislation placed strict limits on the press and on public assembly, and the 1662 Act of Uniformity created controls of education. An exclusive body of Anglican clergy and a well-armed landed gentry were the principal beneficiaries of Charles II's restoration.

      But within this narrow structure of upper-class loyalism there were irksome limitations on Charles's independence. His efforts to extend religious toleration to his Nonconformist and Roman Catholic subjects were sharply rebuffed in 1663, and throughout his reign the House of Commons was to thwart the more generous impulses of his religious policy. A more pervasive and damaging limitation was on his financial independence. Although the Parliament voted the king an estimated annual income of £1,200,000, Charles had to wait many years before his revenues produced such a sum, and by then the damage of debt and discredit was irreparable. Charles was incapable of thrift; he found it painful to refuse petitioners. With the expensive disasters of the Anglo-Dutch War of 1665–67 the reputation of the restored king sank to its lowest level. His vigorous attempts to save London during the Great Fire of September 1666 could not make up for the negligence and maladministration that led to England's naval defeat in June 1667.

Foreign policy
      Charles cleared himself by dismissing his old adviser, Edward Hyde, Earl of Clarendon, and tried to assert himself through a more adventurous foreign policy. So far, his reign had made only modest contributions to England's commercial advancement. The Navigation Acts of 1660 and 1663, which had been prompted by the threat to British shipping of the rise of the Dutch carrying trade, were valuable extensions of Cromwellian policies, and the capture of New York in 1664 was one of his few gains from the Dutch. But although marriage to Princess Catherine of Braganza of Portugal in 1662 brought him the possession of Tangier and Bombay, they were of less strategic value than Dunkirk, which he sold to Louis XIV in 1662. Charles was, however, prepared to sacrifice much for the alliance of his young cousin. Through his sister Henrietta Anne, Duchess of Orléans, he had direct contact with the French court, and it was through her that he negotiated the startling reversal of the Protestant Triple Alliance (England, the Dutch United Provinces, Sweden) of 1668. By the terms of the so-called Secret Treaty of Dover (Dover, Treaty of) of May 1670, not only did England and France join in an offensive alliance against the Dutch but Charles promised to announce his conversion to Roman Catholicism. If this provoked trouble from his subjects he was assured of French military and financial support. Charles saw to it that the conversion clause of the treaty was not made public.

      This clause, which was the most controversial act of Charles II's reign, can be explained as a shortsighted bid for Louis XIV's confidence. In this, however, it failed. Louis neither welcomed Charles's intentions nor believed in them and, in the event, it was only upon his deathbed that Charles was received into the Roman Catholic church. But Charles had now fatally compromised himself. Although he subsequently attempted to pursue policies independent of Louis, he remained bound to him by inclination as well as by the fear of blackmail. More seriously, he had lost the confidence of his subjects, who deplored the French alliance and distrusted the whole tendency of Charles's policies.

      Other circumstances deepened Englishmen's discontent with their king. By the 1670s, the miscarriages of the queen had reduced hopes that Charles would have a legitimate heir, and in 1673 the second marriage of his brother James, Duke of York, to Mary of Modena, increased the possibility of the Catholic line of succession, for James's conversion to the Roman church was well known. But it was for his autocratic character as much as for his religion that James was feared as his brother was not, and it was on his brother's behalf that Charles eventually had to face the severest political storm of his reign.

      The Popish Plot of 1678 was an elaborate tissue of fictions built around a skeleton of even stranger truths. The allegations of Titus Oates (Oates, Titus), a former Anglican cleric who had been expelled from a Jesuit seminary, that Roman Catholics planned to murder Charles to make James king, seemed to be confirmed by scraps of evidence of which Charles was justifiably skeptical. But Charles was obliged to bow before the gusts of national hysteria that sought to bar his brother from the line of succession. Between 1679 and 1681 Charles very nearly lost control of his government. Deprived of his chief minister, the Earl of Danby, who had been compromised by his negotiations with France, the king had to allow the Earl of Shaftesbury and his Whig supporters, who upheld the power of the Parliament—men whom he detested—to occupy positions of power in central and local government. Three general elections produced three equally unmanageable parliaments; and although Charles publicly denied the legitimacy of his first son, the Protestant Duke of Monmouth, he had to send his Catholic brother James out of the country and offer a plan of limitations that would bind James if he came to the throne. The plan proved to be unacceptable both to the Whigs and to James, and, when Charles fell seriously ill in the summer of 1679, there was real danger of civil conflict.

      But Charles kept his nerve. He defended his queen against slanders, dismissed the intractable parliaments, and recovered control of his government. His subjects' dread of republican anarchy proved stronger than their suspicion of James, and from March 1681, when he dissolved his last Parliament, Charles enjoyed a nationwide surge of loyalty almost as fervent as that of 1660. He had made yet another secret treaty with France and in addition to a French subsidy could now count upon a healthy public revenue. Reforms at the Treasury, which he had inaugurated in 1667, provided the crown with a firm basis of administrative control that was among Charles II's most valuable legacies to English government.

      As a result of these actions, Charles, who died in February 1685 at Whitehall in London, was able to end his reign in the kind of tranquil prosperity he had always sought.

      Believing that God would not “make a man miserable only for taking a little pleasure out of the way,” he had made quite sure of his own share and left at least 14 illegitimate offspring, of whom only James, Duke of Monmouth, played any part in English politics. Mistresses like Barbara Villiers, Duchess of Cleveland, and Louise de Kéroualle, Duchess of Portsmouth, were always costly and often troublesome, but Charles probably paid a smaller price for his amours than for his laziness. He was tall and active and loved riding and sailing but, although robust enough to outsit his advisers at the Council board, he hated routine and prolonged application. This failing undermined the effectiveness of his government and led to his dependence on France. But the relaxed tolerance he brought to religious matters in the end may have contributed more to the stability of his reign than was lost by his shifty insincerity.

      Charles fully shared the interests of the skeptical, materialist century that saw the foundation of the Royal Society under his charter, and he did something to foster technological improvements in navigation and ship design. The sincerity of his interest in England's naval advancement is held by some historians to be the most important of his redeeming features, although, like his reputation for wit and high intelligence, it may not stand up to close examination. Any verdict on Charles is therefore controversial. A contemporary wrote of him that “he had as good a claim to a kind interpretation as most men,” and on this basis it may be agreed that his image as a man remains more attractive than his reputation as a king.

Henry Godfrey Roseveare

Additional Reading
Both Arthur Bryant, King Charles II, rev. ed. (1955); and Antonia Fraser, Royal Charles: Charles II and the Restoration (1979), are sympathetic vindications of Charles, but many scholars remain unconvinced of these views. The most penetrating assessment of Charles and his interpreters is K.H.D. Haley, Charles II (1966). Other biographies include Maurice Ashley, Charles II, the Man and the Statesman (1971); Christopher Falkus, The Life and Times of Charles II (1972); J.R. Jones, Charles II: Royal Politician (1987); Ronald Hutton, Charles the Second, King of England, Scotland, and Ireland (1989); and John Miller, Charles II (1991). Richard Ollard, The Image of the King: Charles I and Charles II (1979), is a critical character study, focusing primarily on Charles II.

▪ king of Naples
byname  Charles Of Anjou, or Charles The Lame,  Italian  Carlo D'angiò, or Carlo Lo Zoppo 
born c. 1254
died May 5, 1309, Naples

      king of Naples and ruler of numerous other territories, who concluded the war to regain Sicily started by his father, Charles I. By making astute alliances and treaties, he greatly enlarged his dominions.

      Named prince of Salerno (1269) by his father and married by him to Maria, daughter of the king of Hungary (1270), Charles was engaged in acquiring more lands and titles when his father lost Sicily to the Aragonese (1282). When Charles I initiated his ill-fated campaign to regain Sicily, Charles of Salerno was in charge of Naples during his father's absence. In 1284, he was lured out of the port of Naples by the enemy's admiral, Ruggiero di Lauria, and was captured.

      Charles I died (1285) during his son's imprisonment, and it was not until 1288 that Charles II was able to arrange his release, using Edward I of England and Pope Nicholas IV as intermediaries. Charles promised to give up his claim to Sicily, but, once released, the Pope absolved him from his promise and the war for Sicily continued. It was resolved by the Peace of Caltabellotta (1302), under which Charles agreed to give up his claim to Sicily during the lifetime of Frederick III of Aragon (ruled Sicily 1296–1337).

      Thenceforth Charles carefully built up an extremely complex set of alliances, usually by arranging the marriages of his children. In that way he increased or extended his control over Piedmont, Provence, Hungary, Athens, and Albania, among other territories.

      Charles was considered an extremely pious man, closely allied with the church. Ruling over an enlightened court, he eliminated many of his father's harsh measures. He is also noted for making Naples into something of a European capital by fostering trade and the arts, patronizing the university, and building monasteries and churches.

▪ king of Navarre
byname  Charles The Bad,  Spanish  Carlos El Malo,  French  Charles Le Mauvais 
born 1332
died Jan. 1, 1387

      king of Navarre from 1349, who made various short-lived attempts to expand Navarrese power in both France and Spain.

      He was the son and successor of Joan of France, queen of Navarre, and Philip, count of Évreux. Married in 1352 to Joan, daughter of John II of France, he demanded Champagne, Brie, and Angoulême as fiefs once held by his mother. Because John had granted these to the constable of France, Charles of La Cerda, Charles II's supporters assassinated the constable (1354); but, since Charles II was meanwhile negotiating with the English, John had to make terms with him, ceding extensive lands in Normandy. When Charles continued plotting with the English, John had him arrested at Rouen (April 1356). Soon afterward the English captured John at Poitiers. Escaping from prison in November 1357, Charles began a series of treacherous dealings with every party in France and, in his dealings with the dauphin (later Charles V), recovered Normandy. He then went back to Navarre.

      In Spain he first supported Peter the Cruel of Castile against Peter IV of Aragon (1362), then allied himself with Peter IV and Henry of Trastámara against Peter (1363). Then John of France died (1364) and Charles (Charles III) V by military action forced Charles to renounce almost all his major claims in France.

      In 1378 Charles II's son and future successor Charles the Noble had to acknowledge evidence found in France, proving that his father had been planning not only a new alliance with England but also the poisoning of Charles V. This meant the final loss of all Navarre's Norman possessions except Cherbourg. An attempt to seize Logroño from Castile (1378) ended in defeat, and the treaty of Briones (1379) tied Navarre to Castilian policy.

▪ king of Spain
byname  Charles The Mad,  Spanish  Carlos El Hechizado 
born Nov. 6, 1661, Madrid
died Nov. 1, 1700, Madrid
 king of Spain from 1665 to 1700 and the last monarch of the Spanish Habsburg dynasty.

      Charles's reign opened with a 10-year regency under the queen mother, during which the government was preoccupied with combatting the ambitions of the French king Louis XIV in the Low Countries and with intrigues at court involving the Queen, her Jesuit confessor Johann Eberhard Nithard, her subsequent favourite Fernando de Valenzuela, and the King's bastard brother Juan José (1629–79) de Austria. Of the two phases in the King's personal government, the first, concerned with resistance to the French imperialism of Louis XIV, ended with the peace of Rijswijk in 1697; the second, the last three years of the reign, was dominated by the succession problem, for by then it was clear that Charles would father no children.

      At the peak of the succession problem, when the Austrian and French parties at the Spanish court were prepared to use any means to gain the support of the wretched king, Charles II obstinately defended the majesty of the crown and was determined to preserve its territorial integrity. In this latter aim he failed, for his death led to the War of the Spanish Succession (Spanish Succession, War of the) and the dismembering of Spain's European possessions.

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Universalium. 2010.

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