The Restoration. When Charles II crossed the Channel to return to England in 1660, he took up the throne that had been vacant since his father was executed. Charles knew he had to be careful not to disturb Parliament too much, so he was never a strong, effective ruler.
Charles II had a French mother, Henrietta Maria, the sister of Louis XIII. Charles admired French taste and was very cosmopolitan in his outlook.
London was a “swinging” place during the restoration. Though it had a sizeable Puritan population, Theaters were re-opened and lively parties ensued. Women were allowed to be actresses—no longer did young men take that role.
Charles II, havingspent years in France, tended to be pro-Catholic. He married a Portuguese Princess. Though he grew to love her, they never had an heir. It was just a matter of time before religion became an issue.
To discuss Charles II’s reign we must examine his religious leanings and his relationships with other countries. Let’s examine the English/Dutch Wars first.
The First Dutch War (1652-1654) actually occurred during Cromwell’s time. Parliament had passed the Navigation Acts which required that all ships in the English Channel salute English Warship. The Acts also placed limits on goods entering England. The Acts precipitated conflicts with the Dutch.
The Second Dutch War begins in 1664. Charles II is now on the throne. It also began over trade conflicts—in the colonies, the Dutch were underselling the English in the slave trade. And in America, the English take New Amsterdam (New York) from the Dutch.
Start spreading the news, New York is ours!
Charles’ brother, James, the Duke of York commands the navy and wins a major battle against the Dutch at Lowestoft. But the next battle rages for four days and the English lose 5,000 men. The English continue with more naval victories.
Despite these victories—England is hit by two disasters which weaken England and distract the King.The Plague-and-The Great Fire of London
While there, he lays down the laws of the universe: gravity, force, action, and develops calculus
The Third Dutch War (1662-1674). This is the most interesting of the three wars, because it now involves two other major players who have emerged as leaders of their countries:
Charles signs a secret treaty with France (1670) and agrees to support France in its war against the Dutch. In exchange, Charles will receive millions of dollars.
This third Dutch war begins 1672, when the English support the French in their war against the Dutch—the Dutch are only saved when they break the dikes and flood the country around Amsterdam
But the Dutch, the underdogs, manage some victories. De Ruyter is the great naval commander. He defeats the English and French in numerous sea battles.
Still, the Dutch are left to fight off both of these great powers. This time, the Spanish come to the rescue—they form an alliance with the Dutch to withstand the English/French alliance.
This war ends with the Treaty of Breda
James, Charles’ brother, converts to Catholicism. Charles shows that he favors Catholicism by loosening restrictions on dissenters (as Catholics were known).
Now let us turn to political affairs during this time…
In 1673, Parliament retaliates by passing the Test Act, which requires all those who are government officials must take the communion (sacrament) of the Church of England.
Therefore—it is a test of whether you are Catholic or Protestant. Many Catholics didn’t want to take the communion—therefore, this “Test” excluded Catholics from holding public office.
There were much plotting underway to support both sides—an Anglican priest named Titus Oakes said that there was a Popish (Catholic) Plot to turn England Catholic. Many men were executed under false witness—this undermines the King.
No doubt, Charles II was under Catholic influence. And he never had a legitimate son with Catherine of Portugal, despite fathering many sons out of wedlock.
The big problem, however, was his brother James II. He was a known Catholic. He had married Anne Hyde and had two daughters. At least those daughters were Protestant. But England did not want another Catholic King!
Therefore, many in Parliament came up with the idea to “exclude” James from the line of succession, and support his Protestant daughters. These were called Whigs.The Tories supported the King.
Charles II died in 1688 after a brief illness. He actually converted to Catholicism on his deathbed! His brother—his Catholic brother—became King! King James II.
Charles I (executed)
Charles II and James II (both brothers)
(Charles dies without heir—throne goes to his brother, James, a Catholic)
Mary and Anne (both Protestant)
James liberalized laws against Catholics. Parliament would have none of this. So James began to go back to the pre-civil war idea that a King could make or unmake laws. This was most unpopular. England would not have another “divine right” monarch dictating terms.
James had only been on the throne for two years when another huge complication developed. You see, after Anne Hyde died, leaving two daughters (who were raised Protestant), James had married a Catholic. She became pregnant shortly thereafter-- Breaking News—a son is born to James II!
A son! Never had the arrival of a baby shook England than the birth of that son. So their Catholic King now had a Catholic son who would take precedent over his half-sisters.
Mary, at the time, was not living in England. She was now married to William of Holland, or known as William of Orange (for his family’s ruling house).
William and Mary were first cousins: James I was Mary’s father, and his sister, Mary Stuart, was William III’s mother. In fact, William’s mother had died of smallpox when she went to see her brother’s coronation when he returned to England as Charles I.
Mary is invited with her husband, William, to be co-rulers of England. Both William and Mary are grandchildren of the executed Charles I, so they technically both have claims on the throne.
A year later, Parliament enacts one of its most important documents: The English Bill of Rights. This was the condition for them to take the throne.
And in 1701, things are made final when the Act of Settlement says that no King or Queen of England can ever be Catholic, and all heirs lose their place in the succession if they become Catholic or marry a Catholic.
The Acceptance of the Bill of Rights, the “peaceful” takeover of the throne by William and Mary, and the idea of a limited monarchy (constitutional) without Catholic influence is called:
THE GLORIOUS REVOLUTION