Charles II (29 May 1630 – 6 February 1685) was monarch of the three kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland.Charles II's father, King Charles I, was executed at Whitehall on 30 January 1649, at the climax of the English Civil War. Although the Parliament of Scotland proclaimed Charles II King of Great Britain and Ireland in Edinburgh on 6 February 1649, the English Parliament instead passed a statute that made any such proclamation unlawful. England entered the period known as the English Interregnum or the English Commonwealth, and the country was a de facto republic, led by Oliver Cromwell. Cromwell defeated Charles II at the Battle of Worcester on 3 September 1651, and Charles fled to mainland Europe. Cromwell became virtual dictator of England, Scotland and Ireland, and Charles spent the next nine years in exile in France, the United Provinces and the Spanish Netherlands.A political crisis that followed the death of Cromwell in 1658 resulted in the restoration of the monarchy, and Charles was invited to return to Britain. On 29 May 1660, his 30th birthday, he was received in London to public acclaim. After 1660, all legal documents were dated as if he had succeeded his father as king in 1649.Charles's English parliament enacted laws known as the Clarendon Code, designed to shore up the position of the re-established Church of England. He acquiesced to the Clarendon Code even though he favoured a policy of religious tolerance. The major foreign policy issue of his early reign was the Second Anglo-Dutch War. In 1670, he entered into the secret treaty of Dover, an alliance with his first cousin King Louis XIV of France. Louis agreed to aid Charles in the Third Anglo-Dutch War and pay Charles a pension, and Charles secretly promised to convert to Catholicism at an unspecified future date. Charles attempted to introduce religious freedom for Catholics and Protestant dissenters with his 1672 Royal Declaration of Indulgence, but the English Parliament forced him to withdraw it. In 1679, Titus Oates's revelations of a supposed "Popish Plot" sparked the Exclusion Crisis when it was revealed that Charles's brother and heir (James, Duke of York) was a Catholic. The crisis saw the birth of the pro-exclusion Whig and anti-exclusion Tory parties. Charles sided with the Tories, and, following the discovery of the Rye House Plot to murder Charles and James in 1683, some Whig leaders were killed or forced into exile. Charles dissolved the English Parliament in 1681, and ruled alone until his death on 6 February 1685. He was received into the Catholic Church on his deathbed.Charles II was popularly known as the Merry Monarch, in reference to both the liveliness and hedonism of his court and the general relief at the return to normality after over a decade of rule by Oliver Cromwell and the Puritans. Charles's wife, Catherine of Braganza, bore no live children, but Charles acknowledged at least twelve illegitimate children by various mistresses. As his illegitimate children were excluded from the succession, he was succeeded by his brother James.
Oliver Cromwell (25 April 1599 – 3 September 1658) was an English military and political leader and later Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland.Born into the middle gentry, Cromwell was relatively obscure for the first 40 years of his life. After undergoing a religious conversion in the 1630s, he became an independent puritan, taking a generally (but not completely) tolerant view towards the many Protestant sects of his period. An intensely religious man—a self-styled Puritan Moses—he fervently believed that God was guiding his victories.He was elected Member of Parliament for Huntingdon in 1628 and for Cambridge in the Short (1640) and Long (1640–49) Parliaments. He entered the English Civil War on the side of the "Roundheads" or Parliamentarians. Nicknamed "Old Ironsides", he was quickly promoted from leading a single cavalry troop to become one of the principal commanders of the New Model Army, playing an important role in the defeat of the royalist forces.Cromwell was one of the signatories of King Charles I's death warrant in 1649, and, as a member of the Rump Parliament (1649–53), he dominated the short-lived Commonwealth of England. He was selected to take command of the English campaign in Ireland in 1649–50. Cromwell's forces defeated the Confederate and Royalist coalition in Ireland and occupied the country – bringing to an end the Irish Confederate Wars. During this period a series of Penal Laws were passed against Roman Catholics (a significant minority in England and Scotland but the vast majority in Ireland), and a substantial amount of their land was confiscated. Cromwell also led a campaign against the Scottish army between 1650 and 1651.On 20 April 1653 he dismissed the Rump Parliament by force, setting up a short-lived nominated assembly known as the Barebones Parliament, before being invited by his fellow leaders to rule as Lord Protector of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland from 16 December 1653.As a ruler he executed an aggressive and effective foreign policy. After his death from natural causes in 1658 he was buried in Westminster Abbey, but after the Royalists returned to power in 1660 they had his corpse dug up, hung in chains, and beheaded.Cromwell is one of the most controversial figures in the history of the British Isles, considered a regicidal dictator by historians such as David Hume, a military dictator by Winston Churchill, but a hero of liberty by Thomas Carlyle and Samuel Rawson Gardiner. In a 2002 BBC poll in Britain, Cromwell was selected as one of the ten greatest Britons of all time. However, his measures against Catholics in Scotland and Ireland have been characterised as genocidal or near-genocidal, and in Ireland his record is harshly criticised.