Greetings from iainthepict. This blog of mine is meant to be like a 'Book of Days' or a kind of 'Scottish Year Book' if you will. The idea was to present an event for each day of the year. Somewhere in here, you can find out what happened, affecting Scotland and the Scots, on any given day of the year. Your comments and observations are very welcome.
The photograph is by Sam Perkins (check him out on Facebook at Sam Perkins Photography) and was taken near Oban.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Charles II, King of Scots

Charles II, King of Scots, was crowned King of England and Ireland on the 23rd of April, 1661.

Lots of things happened in the life of Charles Stuart, King Charles II King of Scots, and King of England and Ireland. He had the misfortune to have been born at a time when men sported long, curly wigs, wore tights with garters and sported chisel-toed shoes. There are several portraits of him at various ages and he looks a real Stuart, with his long nose and drooping eyes. Charles’ dad was pronounced deid when they chopped off his heid and so Charlie’s reign began with a moment of pain. During his life, Charles was blessed with luck, good and bad, in equal measure. During Charlie’s reign, London suffered two great misfortunes. The first was the Great Plague, in 1665, and the second was the Great Fire of London, in 1666. The one put paid to the other and, despite the devastation caused by the fire, it was a blessing in disguise. Charles was also famous for climbing trees and wearing a disguise. Charles was guilty of dithering, which in the end, did for the marvelous Montrose, but he did strike a canny bargain when he married the Portuguese Infanta Princess Catherine of Braganza. Her dowry included the port cities of Tangier and Bombay; and so began the British involvement in India.

After the execution of Charles I, Oliver Cromwell assumed control of The Republic of England and thus began the Interregnum or Commonwealth. In Edinburgh, on the other hand, the Parliament of Scotland proclaimed Charles Stuart’s son and heir as King Charles II, on the 5th of February, 1649. Charles was later crowned King of Scots, in person, at Scone, on the 1st of January 1651. What followed Charles’ Scottish coronation led to the Battle of Worcester, in September, 1651, and Charles’ defeat saw him flee to Europe, where he spent the next nine years in exile in France and elsewhere. On Cromwell’s death, the English, in some kind of crisis, begged forgiveness and pleaded for Charles to return and assume the throne. The Restoration was complete when Charles was crowned King of England and Ireland, at Westminster Abbey in 1661.

Charles Stuart was born in St. James’s Palace, on the 29th of May, 1630 (by the Gregorian calendar [OS]). He was baptised and brought up in the care of the Protestant Countess of Dorset, though his godparents included his mother’s Catholic relations. No ‘Old Firm’ sectarianism in evidence in the family at that time. In 1648, during the Second English Civil War, Charles went to The Hague, to enlist aid for the Royalist cause. He obtained control of a fleet, but didn’t come to Scotland in time to join up with the Royalist army of the Duke of Hamilton before it was defeated at the Battle of Preston. He also failed to prevent the execution of his father.

After his father’s death, the Covenanter Parliament of Scotland proclaimed Charles II as King. However, it refused to allow him to enter Scotland unless he accepted Presbyterianism throughout the British Isles. As a negotiation tactic, Charles authorised General Montrose to threaten invasion, but the martial Montrose decided to invade anyway. Unfortunately for the principled Graham, the 1st Marquess of Montrose, he was ultimately defeated, captured and executed by the axe, in Edinburgh. As a consequence of those events and having little or no alternative, Charles reluctantly promised to abide by the terms of the Treaty of Breda. He agreed to support the Presbyterian Solemn League and Covenant, abandoning the Episcopal Church, and was allowed to come to Scotland. He arrived on the 23rd of June, 1650.

On the 3rd of September, 1650, a large, but disunited, force of Presbyterian Covenanters and Royalist Engagers was defeated at the Battle of Dunbar by Oliver Cromwell. By this time, disillusioned with the Covenanters’ hypocrisy, Charles attempted to escape their influence and went north to join up with more Royalist Engagers. This ‘New Start’ didn’t last long as the Presbyterians quickly recovered the Royal Personage. Both these factions were on the same side i.e., they wanted Charles on the throne, but that was about the only thing they agreed upon. However, those warring Scots parties remained Charles’ best hope of restoration, and with each ‘loyalist’ bloc recognising this, he was crowned King of Scots, at Scone, on the 1st of January, 1651. Charles’ other Scottish titles, at various times, included those of the Duke of Rothesay, Earl of Carrick, Baron Renfrew, Lord of the Isles, Prince and Great Steward of Scotland.

Cromwell remained a threat, of course, and had to be dealt with, which led to Charles deciding to attack England. The religious in-fighting meant that many of the Scots, including Argyll and other leading Covenanters, refused to participate. Nonetheless, the invasion force, depleted as it was, moved south into England. Charles’ army was soundly defeated at the Battle of Worcester, on the 3rd of September, 1651, exactly a year after Dunbar. The aftermath of the Battle of Worcester is famous for the incident in which Charles II hid in the Royal Oak at Boscobel House. Afterwards, Charles managed to escape and fled once again to the Continent.

So it was that in late 1651, all hope of a restoration in England appeared lost. However, King Charlie’s saving grace was the death of Cromwell, which led to unrest and the intervention of General George Monck, the Governor of Scotland. Subsequent events eventually saw the assembly of the Convention Parliament. That took place on the 25th of April, 1660, and issued an invitation to Charles to return as King. Breda became involved again, this time in the form of the Declaration of Breda, in which Charles agreed, amongst other things, to pardon many of the ‘traitors’ to the Royalist cause. Once again, Charles arrived back in Britain, where he landed at Dover on the 25th of May, 1660. He reached London on the 29th of May, which is favourably considered the date of the Restoration as it was Charles’ 30th birthday. The Convention Parliament was dissolved in December, 1660, and Charles’ coronation took place, at Westminster Abbey, on the 23rd of April, 1661.

King Charles II died of a kidney dysfunction, in Whitehall Palace, on the 6th of February, 1685, at the age of 54, after an apoplectic fit, which he had suffered four days previously. On the last evening of his life, whether or not he was conscious or cognisant of the event, he was received into the Roman Catholic Church, thus fulfilling his part of the Treaty of Dover, in which he had secretly agreed to convert to Catholicism. King Charles II was buried in Westminster Abbey on the 6th of February, 1685 [OS; 14th of February NS]. Charles Stuart left no legitimate heir and was succeeded by his Catholic brother, who became James II of England and Ireland, and James VII of Scotland. Therein lays several more stories.

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