Since his arduous escape from England in 1650, Charles had led almost a vagabond’s life on the Continent. His mother, Henrietta Maria, received him in Paris; but the French had impoverished her, and for a while Charles and his entourage lived like paupers; his faithful future Chancellor, Edward Hyde, was reduced to one meal a day; and Charles himself, having no food at home, ate in taverns, mostly on the credit of his expectations. When Louis XIV returned to affluence he gave Charles a pension of six thousand francs, and Charles began to enjoy life too freely to please his mother.
In those Paris days he learned to love with his purest affection his sister, Henrietta Anne. Mother and sister exerted themselves to win him to Catholicism; Catholic emigrés from England did not let him forget how they had fought for his father. Presbyterian emissaries promised to aid his restoration if he would accept and protect their faith. He listened to both sides courteously, but expressed his determination to adhere to that Anglican Church for which his father had suffered. 79 The arguments that besieged him may have inclined him to a skepticism of all religion. But the Catholic worship, which he saw all around him in France, seems to have made a strong impression on him; it became an open secret in his little court that if his hands were free he would join the Roman Church. 80 In 1651 he wrote to Pope Innocent X, promising, if restored to the throne of England, to repeal all laws against Catholics. The Pope made no answer, but the general of the Jesuits informed Charles that the Vatican could not support an heretical prince. 81
When Mazarin began to negotiate an alliance with Cromwell, Charles’s advisers persuaded him to leave France, and the Cardinal agreed to continue his pension. He moved to Cologne, then to Brussels. There, toward March 26, 1660, Greenville brought him Monck’s message: If he would promise a general amnesty, excepting not more than four persons, grant liberty of conscience, and confirm the present possessors of confiscated property, Monck would help him; meanwhile, since England was still at war with Spain, it would be advisable for Charles to leave the Spanish Netherlands. He moved to Breda in Dutch Brabant, and there (April 14) signed an agreement accepting Monck’s terms in principle, but leaving precise conditions to the new Parliament.
The elections returned an overwhelmingly royalist House of Commons, and forty-two peers took their seats in the new House of Lords. On May 1 the letters that Greenville had brought from Charles were read to both houses. In this “Declaration of Breda” the young King offered amnesty to all, “excepting only such persons as shall hereafter be excepted by Parliament”; he left to Parliament the adjustment of confiscated properties; he promised that “no man shall be disquieted or called in question for differences of opinion in matters of religion which do not disturb the peace of the Kingdom”; and he added a judicious statement prepared for him by Chancellor Hyde:
We do assure you upon our royal word that none of our predecessors have had a greater esteem of Parliament than we have . . . We do believe them to be so vital a part of the constitution of the Kingdom, and so necessary to the government of it, that we well know neither prince nor people can be in any tolerable degree happy without them . . . We shall always look upon their counsels as the best we can receive, and shall be as tender of their privileges, and as careful to preserve and protect them, as of that which is most near to ourself, and most necessary for our own preservation.
Parliament was pleased. On May 8 it proclaimed Charles II King of England, dated his title from the moment of his father’s death, and derived it not from any act of Parliament but from inherent birthright. The sum of fifty thousand pounds was voted to be sent to Charles, with an invitation to come at once and take his throne.
Nearly all England rejoiced that two decades of violence had ended in the restoration of order without the shedding of one drop of blood. Bells rang throughout the land; in London men knelt in the streets and drank to the health of the King. 82 All the crowned heads of Europe acclaimed the triumph of legitimacy; even the United Provinces, firmly republican, feted Charles as he traveled from Breda to The Hague, and the States-General, which had heretofore ignored him, offered him thirty thousand pounds for his expenses, as a persuasive to future good will. An English fleet, already decked with pennants and the initials “C. R.,” came to The Hague and took Carolus Rex on board (May 23).
On May 25 the fleet reached Dover. Twenty thousand people had gathered on the beach to receive the King. When his boat neared the shore they fell on their knees; and he, touching land, knelt and thanked God. “Old men who were there,” wrote Voltaire, “told me that nearly everyone was in tears. Perhaps there has never been a more moving sight.” 83 Along roads lined in every mile with happy crowds Charles and his escort, followed by hundreds, rode to Canterbury, to Rochester, to London. There 120,000 citizens came out to welcome him; and even the army that had fought against him joined Monck’s army in the parade. The houses of Parliament awaited him in the Palace of Whitehall. “Dread Sovereign,” said the Speaker of the Lords, “you are the desire of three kingdoms, the strength and stay of the tribes of the people, for the moderating of extremities, the reconciling of differences . . . and for restoring the collapsed honor of these nations.” 84 Charles accepted all compliments with grace and private humor. As he retired to his rest, exhausted with triumph, he remarked to a friend, “It must surely have been my fault that I did not come before, for I have met with no one today who did not protest that he always wished for my restoration.” 85
FIG. 25—TENIERS THE YOUNGER: Temptation of St. Anthony. Louvre, Paris
FIG. 26—JACOB VAN RUISDAEL: The Storm. Louvre, Paris
FIG. 27—MEINDERT HOBBEMA: Water Mill with the Great Red Roof. The Art Institute of Chicago, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Frank G. Logan
FIG. 28—VERMEER: Head of a Girl Mauritshuis, The Hague (Photo by A. Dingjan)
FIG. 29—EDWARD PIERCE: John Milton. Christ College, Cambridge (Photo by Stearn & Sons, Cambridge, England)
FIG. 30—SIR PETER LELY: Oliver Cromwell. Pitti Gallery, Florence (Bettmann Archive)
FIG. 31—SIR PETER LELY: Charles II of England. By Permission of His Grace the Duke of Grafton and the Royal Academy of Arts, London
FIG. 32—SIR GODFREY KNELLER: Henry Purcell. National Portrait Gallery, London (Bettmann Archive)
FIG. 33—PETER PAUL RUBENS: George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham. Albertina Museum, Vienna
FIG. 34—CHRISTOPHER WREN: Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford (Bettmann Archive)
Architect’s original model (Bettmann Archive)
Photograph of cathedral today (Bettmann Archive)
FIG. 35—CHRISTOPHER WREN: St. Paul’s Cathedral (1675–1710), London
FIG. 36—SIR GODFREY KNELLER: Sir Christopher Wren. National Portrait Gallery, London (Bettmann Archive)
FIG. 37—SIR PETER LELY: Nell Gwyn. National Portrait Gallery, London (Bettmann Archive)
FIG. 38—ANTHONY VANDYCK: James II as a Boy. Turin Gallery, Italy (Bettmann Archive)
FIG. 39—CHARLES JERVAS: Jonathan Swift. National Portrait Gallery, London (Bettmann Archive)
FIG. 40—JOHANN GOTTFRIED SCHIDOW: Frederick the Great. Sans Souci, Potsdam (Bettmann Archive)
FIG. 41—KUPETZKI THE ELDER: Peter the Great. Herzog Anton Ulrich Museum, Braunschweig, Germany
FIG. 42—BALDASSARE LONGHENA: Palazzo Rezzonico, Venice. (Building at right) Courtesy of the Italian State Tourist Office
FIG. 43—SALVATOR ROSA: Tobias and the Angel Raphael. Louvre, Paris
FIG. 44—ANDREA POZZO: Altar of St. Ignatius in Church of II Gesù, Rome (Bettmann Archive)
FIG. 45—SEBASTIEN BOURDON: Queen Christina of Sweden. Nationalmuseum, Stockholm
FIG. 46—CLAUDIO COELLO: Charles II of Spain. Museo del Prado, Madrid.