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Charles II


Conduct of Charles on his Restoration - Assembling of the Two Houses of Parliament, called the Convention Parliament - The Royal Council- Grants of the Excise, Customs, &c., to the Crown - Abolition of the great Feudal Services - Entire Revolution of the System of Taxation by these Measures - Trials and Executions of the Regicides - The Remains of Cromwell and others of the Commonwealth Leaders exhumed, cast out of Westminster Abbey, and mutilated - Revolution in Landed Property - Restoration of Bishops and Church Property - Transactions in Scotland - Trial and Execution of Argyll and others - Bishops restored in Scotland and in Ireland - Disputes regarding their landed Property - Their Settlement- National Immorality - Marriage of James, Duke of York, to the daughter of Chancellor Hyde - Marriage of the Princess Henrietta to the Duke of Orleans - Sale of Dunkirk - Declaration of Indulgence - Its Unpopularity- Conventicle Act - Hostilities against Holland - New Method of Taxation- Privileges of the Clergy curtailed - Naval Victory - Plague in London- Captures and Failures at Sea - Parliament at Oxford - Five Mile Act - French -and Dutch unite - Four days' Sea-fight - Great Fire of London.
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The new king did not want sense. He was naturally clever, witty, and capable of a shrewd insight into the natures and purposes of men. He gave a proof of all these qualities in the observation which we have recorded, at the close of the day when he was again replaced in his paternal mansion, that everybody assured him that they had always ardently desired 'his return, and that if they were to be believed, there was nobody in fault for his not having come back sooner but himself. But with many qualities, which, if united to a fine moral nature, would have made him a most popular monarch, he was utterly destitute of this fine moral, nature. He had had much, long, and, varied experience of mankind, and had alternately seen their base adulation to royalty in power, and their baser treatment of princes in misfortune. The contempt and neglect which he had experienced when a wandering and penniless refugee, contrasted with the luxury and flattery of a palace in which he had been brought up, must have excited contempt in return; and the sudden reflux to the most fulsome and creeping homage when the crown was again within his reach could only have deepened this feeling. But to a wise and good man this knowledge, whilst it made him prudently distrustful of the professions and fidelity of courtiers, would have inspired him with a deep feeling of the sole value of truth and virtue, and that the stability of a throne depended alone on the cultivation of the real interests of a nation. He had not been without abundant examples of the most generous devotion amongst the people. In his flight after the battle of Worcester, he had been concealed, supported, protected, and conveyed out of the kingdom through a thousand dangers, and at the mortal risk of those who performed these services. He had learned, therefore, that beyond the hollow ground of a court, beyond the mob of greedy adventurers and wrestlers for promotion, there existed in the hearts of the people substantial goodness and heroic devotion. So long as he displayed a gallant and a chivalrous spirit in asserting his own rights, the same gallant and chivalrous feeling was kindled in the spirit of the nation, and not only did his own party, but even his enemies, do justice to his merits. His dangers, adventures, and hairbreadth escapes were the theme of song and applause, which long circulated in enthusiastic tones round the firesides of the same England which had punished his father for his treason to the state.

But Charles had not the nobility to benefit by this knowledge. He had familiarised himself with every species of vice and dissipation. He was become thoroughly heartless and degraded. His highest ambition was to live, not for the good and glory of his kingdom, but for mere sensual indulgence. He was habituated to a life of the basest debauchery, and surrounded by those who were essentially of the same debased and worthless character. To such a man had the nation - after all its glorious struggles and triumphs for the reduction of the lawless pride of royalty, and after the decorous and rigorous administration of the commonwealth - again surrendered its fate and fortunes, and surrendered them without almost any guarantee. The declaration of Breda was the only security which they had, and that was rendered perfectly nugatory by the reservation of all decisions on those questions to a parliament which the court could control and corrupt. Monk, who was a more cautious adventurer, had taken care to stipulate for himself, and received his reward; but he had not bestowed a thought on the nation, and was therefore a traitor of the deepest dye.

Perhaps no country ever presented a more despicable attitude than England at this moment. The country which had pulled down despotic royalty from its pride of 'place, and given a terrible example to the occupiers of thrones throughout the world; which had shown that the sons of the nation at large could supersede kings, nobles, and all artificial orders, and conduct the affairs of the community with a vigour, justice, and ability which had had no parallel since the days of Alfred; which had made all other nations{ bow in profound respect before its power and Christian principle, was now, or at least representatives, crawling at the foot of the throne, at the feet of this crowned debauche, with a servility and almost blasphemy of language, which no slave of an eastern despot ever surpassed.

The nobles, who had shown such utter and contemptible imbecility, who had shrunk before the strong men of the people into a most pitiable and abject spectacle, and had been voted as useless, and extinguished as a body, once more reappeared in their pride, as if they had saved the throne instead of falling headlong with it; bishops, swearing and drinking cavaliers, hosts of greedy adventurers eager to fix themselves like leeches on the fat sides of the nation, pimps, panders, and courtesans in shoals rushed on and filled the palace and all the houses around it. The foreign ambassadors, representatives of kings and countries which had treated Charles in his outcast condition with very little ceremony, and who had paid all homage to Oliver and Richard Cromwell, were now loud in their expressions of congratulation. The lords and commons emulated each other in their professions of veneration and loyalty. The earl of Manchester, formerly lord Kimbolton, whose attempted arrest along with the five commoners had led to the outbreak of what was now styled the rebellion, addressed Charles on behalf of the peers, as a "great and, devout king," as the "son of the wise," "a native king," "a son of the ancient kings," and assuring him of his and the nation's conviction that he would prove one of the greatest, wisest, and best kings that ever reigned. Manchester knew very well what was the confirmed character of the king, now thirty years of age, and therefore the sickening sycophancy of this language may be judged of. In the commons Sir Harbottle Grimstone, as speaker, but who had formerly held very different language in parliament, declared him "the king of hearts," and painted the future glories-and felicities of his reign in the most extravagant terms. In such musical croakings did the frogs receive their new king stork.

Monk presented to the king a paper containing a list of names of such persons as he professed to consider the most eligible for the royal service either in the council or the ministry. But Clarendon, who was the king's great adviser, having adhered to him and his interests ever since his escape to the continent, perused the catalogue with no little surprise. It consisted, he tells us, "of the principal persons of the presbyterian party, to which Monk was thought to be most inclined, at least to satisfy the foolish and unruly inclinations of his wife. There were likewise the names of some who were most notorious in all the factions; and of some who, in respect of their mean qualities and meaner qualifications, nobody could imagine how they came to be named." They were, in fact, such as had been thrust on Monk by the parliamentary leaders, who were all striving to secure their own interests, and not even the presbyterians, foreseeing how severely they were punishing themselves by the restoration of the monarchy. Monk, on the chancellor's remonstrance as to many of these names - amongst which only those of the marquis of Hereford and the earl of Southampton belonged to men who had at all adhered to the royal cause - soon «let him into the secret, that they were such as had importuned him to do them good offices with the king, and that he never intended to do more than forward the paper, and leäve the king to do as he pleased. Clarendon soon, therefore, made out a very different list of names for the privy council, though he found it politic to insert almost as many names of the presbyterians as of royalists, but with the purpose of gradually changing them.

The first privy council of Charles, therefore, consisted of the king's brothers, the dukes of York and Gloucester, the marquis of Ormond, the earls of Lindsay, Southampton, Manchester, St. Albans, Berkshire, Norwich,, Leicester, and Northumberland, the marquises of Hertford and Dorchester, lords Saye and Sele, Seymour, Culpepper, Wentworth, Roberts, and Berkeley, Sir Frederick Cornwallis, Sir George Carteret, Sir Anthony Ashley Cooper, Sir Edward Nicholas, general Monk, and Morrice, his creature, who had assisted in the negotiations with the king, colonel Charles Howard, Arthur Annesley, Denzell Hollis, and Montague, general, or rather admiral, for as yet no distinctly naval officer was known - military commanders fought either on sea or land.

Amongst these Clarendon was lord chancellor and prime minister, the duke of York was already appointed lord high admiral, to which was now added the wardenship of the Cinque Ports and other offices. Sir Edward Nicholas and Morrice were joint secretaries of state; the earl of Southampton was made lord treasurer; the marquis of Ormond lord steward; and the earl of Manchester lord chamberlain. Monk was appointed commander-in-chief of all the forces in the three kingdoms, according to stipulation, and to this office was now added that of master of the horse, and he was created duke of Albemarle in addition to several inferior titles. His wife, who was originally a milliner, and after that had been his mistress, now figured boldly and ambitiously amongst the ladies of the court.

The reign of iniquity, which was inaugurated with blood, carried through with the most unheard of and unabashed lust and profanity, and terminated again in judicial carnage, had a few days of festivity and pretended decorum. The king had promised liberty to. tender consciences in his declaration of Breda, but the presbyterians, some thousands of whose ministers occupied the state pulpits, were quickly startled by the order for the strict compliance with the thirty-nine articles; but to make this bitter pill go down more easily, Charles put an outward restraint on his usually profligate manners, and even appointed Baxter and Calamy, the great nonconformist divines, amongst the number of his chaplains. To gratify the city he went in state to dine with the lord mayor, and made a liberal distribution of the honours of knighthood amongst the civic officers. He then revived that singular function of royalty - touching for the " king's evil," performing this ceremony publicly at Whitehall, to the great horror of the puritans.

The parliament, both lords and commons, lost no time in seizing all such of the late king's judges as survived or were within the kingdom. The parliament, which had no proper election, having been summoned by no lawful authority, but at Monk's command, and had obtained the name of Convention Parliament, passed an act, which Charles authenticated, to legalise themselves, notwithstanding which it was still called by the old name of the convention. Before the king could arrive, however, they had seized Clement, one of the king's judges, and ordered the seizure of the goods and estates of all the other regicides. On the king's arrival Denzell Hollis and the presbyterians - whose resentment against the independents, who had so often put them out of parliament, blinded by their desire of vengeance to the fact that the royalists would not be long in turning on them who had done their best to dethrone Charles I., though they had not joined in putting him to death - now went in a body to Whitehall, and, throwing themselves at Charles's feet, confessed that they were guilty of the horrid crime of rebellion, and implored the king's grace and pardon. Charles affected the most magnanimous clemency, and recommended them to pass a bill of indemnity, which he had promised from Breda. But this apparent liberality was only the necessary step to the completion of his vengeance, for the declaration left to parliament such exceptions as it thought proper; and in the present complying, dust-licking mood of parliament, these exceptions would be just as numerous as the court required. Monk had, in negotiating with Charles and Clarendon, recommended that only four should be excepted, but Clarendon and the king had long made up their minds that few of the king's judges should escape; and in this they were boldly urged on by the royalists, who, says Clarendon, could not bear to meet the men on the king's highways, now they were the king's again, who rode on the very horses they had plundered them of, and had their houses and estates in possession.

The commons were as ready as the court for vengeance against their late successful rivals and masters; and though Monk again urged that not more than seven should be excepted on a capital change, they decided for ten, all to be tried for their lives, namely, Scott, Holland, Lisle, Bark- stead, Harrison, Saye, Jones, Coke, the solicitor, Broughton, clerk to the high court of justice, and Dendy, who had acted as serjeant-at-arms during the trial. They then requested the king to order by proclamation all those concerned in his late father's trial to surrender themselves within fourteen days. About a score felt it much the safest to escape across the sea, but nineteen surrendered - all but the ten doomed to death imagining they should escape with some minor punishment. But the thirst for vengeance became every day more violent. The commons named twenty more for exception, whose lives were to be spared, but who were to suffer forfeiture of estate and perpetual imprisonment. These were Vane, St. John, Haselrig, Ireton, brother of the deceased major-general, Desborough, Lambert, Fleetwood, Axtell, Sydenham, Lenthall, Burton, Keeble, Pack, Blackwell, Pyne, Deane, Creed, Nye, Goodwin, and Cobbett. Moreover, all such as had not surrendered to the late proclamation were excluded from the benefit of the bill of indemnity.

This sanguinary list, however, did not satisfy the lords when the bill was sent up to them. They had suffered such indignities from the independent leaders, that they could not bring themselves to forgive, and they altered the bill, voting that every man who had sate on the king's trial, or signed the death warrant, should be tried as traitors for their lives. They went even further, and excepted six others, who had neither sate nor voted - namely, Vane? Hacker, Lambert, Haselrig, Axtell, and Peters; and as if luxuriating in revenge, they allowed the relatives of several of their own body who had been put to death under the commonwealth, amongst whom were the earl of Derby and the duke of Hamilton, to sit as judges. The commons accepted the bill as thus altered, and would have made it still more atrocious, but the king, who was extremely pressed for money, sent desiring them to come to an end with this bill, and hasten the money bill.

The commons voted the king seventy thousand pounds a month for present necessities, and then proceeded to pass not only the indemnity bill, but to vote the king a liberal and permanent revenue. In striking contrast to the early parliaments of his father, they at once gave him the tonnage and poundage for life. This was one of the chief causes of the quarrel betwixt Charles I. and his parliament, one of the main causes of the war and of his decapitation, which this complying parliament now yielded at once. They, moreover, ordered the disbanding of the army, of which Charles was afraid, and that the 29th of May should be kept as a day of perpetual thanksgiving to Providence, for having restored his sacred majesty to a grateful nation. All these favours to Charles they offered with the humility of men who were seeking favours for themselves, and being urged by Charles to settle the amount of his revenue altogether, they appointed a committee of inquiry on the subject, which decided that, as the income of his father had been about one million one hundred thousand pounds, his income should, considering the different value of money, be fixed at the unexampled sum of one million two hundred thousand pounds per annum. This income was to be settled by a bill in the next session.

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Pictures for Charles II

Great Seal of Charles II
Great Seal of Charles II >>>>
Rejoicings on the Restoration of Charles II
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King Charles II
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Savoy Palace
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Charles II and Lady Castlemaine
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Ejection of Nonconformists
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Clock Tower at Dunkirk
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The Great Plague, 1965
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The Pest House
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Highgate field
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The Burning of old St. Pauls
The Burning of old St. Pauls >>>>

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