A timeline of the Restoration period
Discover the most important moments in the story of the Restoration period with our handy timeline...
Chart the most pivotal moments in the Restoration period with our timeline, from Charles II's homecoming to the highs and lows that came to define his quarter-century reign:
30 January 1649
King Charles I is beheaded outside the Banqueting House in Whitehall.
1 January 1651
Charles II is crowned king of Scotland at Scone Abbey having already, in June 1650, reluctantly promised to establish Presbyterianism (a branch of Protestantism originating in Scotland) across all three kingdoms.
3 September 1651
Hoping to take back the English crown, Charles II and his mainly Scottish army take on Oliver Cromwell’s superior forces at Worcester and lose. The young king narrowly evades capture and is forced to flee to France, disguised as a servant.
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3 September 1658
Oliver Cromwell dies, aged 59. His eldest son, Richard, succeeds him as lord protector.
With little political or military experience, Richard Cromwell is unable to command the respect or confidence of the army and parliament. Nine months after his father’s death, he resigns, ending the Protectorate.
4 April 1660
The exiled king issues the Declaration of Breda, outlining his terms for a restoration of the monarchy, including freedom of religious conscience and a “general pardon” for those who swear loyalty to him. It is made public on 1 May.
29 May 1660
Charles II triumphantly enters London on his 30th birthday. His huge procession makes its way to Whitehall, where the king meets with peers and MPs, who queue to kiss his hand.
The Royal Society is founded at Gresham College, London.
30 January 1661
The bodies of Oliver Cromwell, Robert Blake, John Bradshaw and Henry Ireton – all instrumental in the trial and execution of Charles I – are exhumed and posthumously hanged, drawn and quartered, after which their heads are placed on spikes above Westminster Hall.
23 April 1661
Charles II is crowned king of England at Westminster Abbey. The loss or destruction of the Crown Jewels during the Commonwealth era has seen new pieces of royal regalia specially made for the occasion.
19 May 1662
The Act of Uniformity enforces the use of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer. More than 2,000 clergymen refuse to comply and are expelled from the Church of England.
21 May 1662
Charles II marries the Portuguese princess Catherine of Braganza.
In need of money, Charles agrees to sell Dunkirk, which has been in English hands since 1658, to Louis XIV of France for 5 million livres (around £320,000). The price is later brought down by a 12 per cent discount.
March 1665 – July 1667
The Second Anglo-Dutch War, stemming from commercial rivalry between England and the Dutch Republic, ends in victory for the Dutch.
Catherine of Braganza suffers a miscarriage. She will lose two more pregnancies before 1669 and will never bear a living heir for the king.
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2 September 1666
The Great Fire of London begins in a baker’s shop off Pudding Lane. Some 13,200 houses, as well as St Paul’s Cathedral, are destroyed. The financial costs are estimated at £10 million.
Charles forms the Cabal ministry, a private group of high councillors who help him extend his power. The first letters of the names or titles of the five most prominent men – Clifford, Arlington, Buckingham, Ashley and Lauderdale – give the Cabal its name.
Charles begins a relationship with orange seller-turned actor Nell Gwyn.
Charles signs a secret treaty with Louis XIV. In it he promises to convert to Catholicism at a future date and provide warships and soldiers to help the French war against the Dutch, in return for French subsidies.
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Charles bypasses parliament and issues the Declaration of Indulgence, which states that penal laws against Roman Catholics and Protestant dissenters will be removed. Parliamentary protests see the proclamation revoked.
According to the terms of his secret treaty with the French king, Charles sends the English navy to support France in its war with the Dutch Republic.
John Flamsteed is appointed the first astronomer royal. He is charged with drawing up an accurate map of the night sky, which can be used for navigation.
A renegade Anglican clergyman named Titus Oates informs parliament of a fictitious plot (known as the Popish Plot) alleging that members of the Jesuit religious order are planning to assassinate Charles II and bring his brother James, Duke of York to the throne.
A parliamentary bill is introduced in May 1679, intended to exclude Charles II’s Catholic brother and heir from the succession. The so-called Exclusion Crisis continues until 1681, when Charles dissolves parliament for the last time before his death.
The Habeas Corpus act is passed, ensuring that no one can be imprisoned unlawfully. The term – Latin for “you may have the body” – has ancient beginnings in the common law of England, dating back before the creation of Magna Carta in 1215.
A group of Protestants, including James, Duke of Monmouth (an illegitimate son of Charles II), plan to murder the king and his heir in the Rye House Plot.
6 February 1685
Charles II dies at the Palace of Whitehall, having apparently suffered a stroke a few days earlier. In his final moments he converts to Roman Catholicism, taking Communion, and is anointed with holy oil. His younger brother succeeds him as James VII and II.
This article was first published in the Christmas 2022 issue of BBC History Revealed
Charlotte Hodgman is the editor of BBC History Revealed and HistoryExtra's royal newsletter. She was previously deputy editor of BBC History Magazine and makes the occasional appearance on the HistoryExtra podcast
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