On 29th May 1630, Queen Henrietta Maria gave birth to a son at St James’ Palace London. The child’s father was, of course, the famous Charles I who would eventually be executed for apparent treason against his country. The little boy, Charles, was their second son – their first having been born about a year previously and died at less than a year old. When he was born, little Charles was automatically given the titles of Duke of Cornwall and Rothesay, and was officially given the title of Prince of Wales around the time of his 8th birthday.
On his 30th birthday, 29th May 1660, Charles returned to London to reclaim the crown that was taken from his father. The day was full of rejoicing, the people were glad to have their King back and be rid of Puritan rule. The new monarch also reinstated things that had been banned under Puritan rule including theatres and sport. This day was known for a very long time as “Oak Apple Day” and was a celebration every year to mark the Restoration of the Monarchy.
You all know how much I love Charles II (or Charlie as I more commonly call him, because of reasons) and so I thought on this day which marks two very important occasions in his life I would write a little bit about how and why I love him so much, and why he was an amazing monarch.
When Charles was born, his mother Henrietta Maria was embarrassed due to his darker colouring (which came from her side of the family, her mother was the famous Marie De Medici), and called him ugly saying, “He is so ugly that I am ashamed of him, but his size and fatness supply the want of beauty”. It looks like Henrietta got her comeuppance as Charlie grew up as he did indeed grow to be a rather handsome young man with a passion for the ladies! I mean he was an exceptionally adorable child. I mean just look at him!
When his father Charles I went to war with Parliament in 1642, little Charlie got his first taste of battle. He accompanied his father to the Battle of Edgehill (which famously ended up with no clear victor!) and during 1645 took part in a number of campaigns aged just 14!! Brave boy! But when it was clear he was losing the war, Charles escaped abroad where he lived in exile. Whilst there he made the er…acquaintance of Lucy Walter who became his mistress, and bore him his first son – James, who would later become Duke of Monmouth. He was also an exceptionally handsome young man…
When I saw this little miniature at “The Wild, The Beautiful and the Damned” I thought “HGFKSDHFFS HE LOOKS LIKE HIS DAD!”…ahem
After he became King, he restored the theatres and general fun which would eventually lead to him having the lovely Nell Gwynne as a mistress. In the mean time however he was too busy with his maitresse-en-titre Barbara Villiers (fascinating women but just naaaasty) who went on to bear him many illegitimate children. I read an excellent story that involved Charles going to Barbara’s house where they spent the evening chasing a moth and giggling. Typical Charlie.
As we know, Charlie loved the theatre and he often frequented the theatres, even allowing women to act on stage. One of his great friends was the famous John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester (a man who deserves a post in his own right!) who wrote a rather amusing ditty about Charles:
We have a pretty witty King
And whose word no man relies on
He never said a foolish thing
And never did a wise one.
Good ole Rochester also wrote some excellent bawdy plays – basically 17th century pornography!
The thing that gets me the most about Charles II is how he loved his people. In 1666, when the Great Fire of London hit, he helped. He actually went down into the streets and helped with the bucket work, helped try and stop the fire. Good old Charles ordered buildings to be destroyed to try and stop the spread of fire, but it didn’t work all that well, so he ended up working with the common men to stop the spread of fire. Whenever I read of the Great Fire I always well up at his bravery, and working with his people. Just…it makes me want to cry.
Charles was also a huuuuuge advocate of science and helped bring about the Royal Society. Charlie signed a charter in 1660 which allowed it to keep going, and throughout the years it got stronger and stronger, with members such as the lovely Prince Rupert!!
Also, his foreign policy was a little bit daft and it’s no wonder that his advisers and parliament got a little bit peeved with him. To cut a very long story short, Charles ended up agreeing to ally with France, agreeing to the Treaty of Dover in which France would give him £16000 per year, and in agreement Charles agreed to give France troops and announce his conversion to Roman Catholicism…except he didn’t convert…until he was on his death bed. Oh Charlie, you sneaky little bugger!!
Despite his many mistresses, including Barbara Villiers, Nell Gwynne, Louise De Kerouelle and Moll Davis etc; he was very much in love with his wife. There is a wonderful story in Brain Masters’ book “The Mistresses of Charles II” in which Masters describes Charles going to bed with his wife Catherine of Braganza and she felt sick in the middle of the night. As she was throwing up, he went and fetched her a bowl and spent his night clearing up after her. That is LOVE!
And that is just a few reasons as to why I love Charles II – I won’t mention his fabulous legs, love of nice shoes and general good looks…Not only that but he is the man who kept the famous Ravens in the Tower of London after his astrologer started moaning about them getting in the way of his telescope. Whilst he may have made some mistakes and later on alienated his parliament, he was a good man who believed in doing the best for his country.
Charles II brought fun back to his kingdom, despite parliament constantly trying to outmanoeuvre him. I guess that’s why he dissolved them and spent the last years of his reign in self reign. He loved many, fathered many, loved his subjects. He refused to make the mistakes his father did, despite making many of his own, and was a resounding success.
Charles II is a man to be looked up to. He brought fun back to his subjects, fought against parliament at the same time as trying desperately to work with them to save himself from the same mistakes his subjects made. yet despite his setbacks he still knew how to have fun, he loved to party, loved the theatre and more so loved his woman. I can’t help but adore this man and all he did for England.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY CHARLIE! 382 YEARS YOUNG! MAY YOUR FABULOUS MEMORY LAST FOREVER. Here have a Horrible Histories gif…