Charles II – the star king

"Charles II had to appeal to public opinion more than his predecessors did": Clare Jackson talks to Matt Elton about her new biography of Charles II, which explores how his early experiences shaped his reign – and why he was uniquely aware of his own image...

Charles II entering London in May 1660 following the restoration of the monarchy. (Photo by Photo12/UIG via Getty Images)

This article was first published in the April 2016 issue of BBC History Magazine 

In context

Born in 1630, Charles II’s early life was disrupted by the outbreak of civil war in the early 1640s. He fled into exile, while his father, Charles I, was executed in 1649. After a brief return to Scotland in 1650–51, Charles remained in exile until the collapse of Richard Cromwell’s ‘protectorate’ led to him being invited back as king. His reign was marked by political instability but also by the production of distinctive cultural works. Notable events included the plague of 1665, fire of 1666, and the Dutch wars. Charles, who had many mistresses and illegitimate offspring, died in 1685 and was succeeded by his brother, James II and VII.

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