Charles II, emperor of the West and king of the West Franks
or Charles the Bald,
823–77, emperor of the West (875–77) and king of the West Franks (843–77); son of Emperor Louis I
by a second marriage. The efforts of Louis to create a kingdom for Charles were responsible for the repeated revolts of Louis's elder sons that disturbed the latter part of Louis's reign. When Lothair I
, the eldest and heir to the imperial title, attempted to reunite the empire after Louis's death (840), Charles and Louis the German
marched against their brother and defeated him at Fontenoy (841). Reaffirming their alliance in 842 (see Strasbourg, Oath of
), they signed (843) with Lothair the Treaty of Verdun (see Verdun, Treaty of
), which divided the empire into three parts. The part roughly corresponding to modern France fell to Charles. He was almost continuously at war with his brothers and their sons, with the Norsemen (or Normans, as they came to be known in France), and with rebellious subjects. When Charles's nephew Lothair
, son of Lothair I and king of Lotharingia, died in 869, Charles seized his kingdom but was forced by the Treaty of Mersen
(870) to divide it with Louis the German. In 875, at the death of his nephew Louis II, who had succeeded Lothair I as emperor, Charles secured the imperial crown. His reign witnessed the growth of the power of the nobles at the expense of the royal power and thus marked the rise of local feudalism. Charles's chief adviser was Archbishop Hincmar
Charles II, king of England, Scotland, and Ireland
1630–85, king of England, Scotland, and Ireland (1660–85), eldest surviving son of Charles I
and Henrietta Maria.
Prince of Wales at the time of the English civil war, Charles was sent (1645) to the W of England with his council, which included Edward Hyde (later 1st earl of Clarendon
) and Thomas Wriothesley, 4th earl of Southampton
. In 1646, Charles was forced to escape to France, where he stayed with his mother and was tutored by the philosopher Thomas Hobbes
. In 1649, Charles vainly attempted to save his father's life by presenting to Parliament a signed blank sheet of paper, thereby granting whatever terms might be requested.
After his father's execution (1649), Charles was proclaimed king in Scotland and in parts of Ireland and England. He accepted the terms of the Scottish Covenanters
and went (1650) to Scotland, where he was crowned (1651), after agreeing to enforce Presbyterianism in England as well as Scotland. In 1651 he marched into England but was defeated by Oliver Cromwell at the battle of Worcester. Charles then escaped to France, where he lived in relative poverty. The Anglo-French negotiations of 1654 forced Charles into Germany, but he moved to the Spanish Netherlands after he had concluded (1656) a treaty with Spain.
Restoration and Reign
In 1660 Gen. George Monck engineered Charles's Restoration to the throne, and the king returned to England. Charles had promised a general amnesty in his conciliatory Declaration of Breda, and he and Clarendon, who became first minister, acted immediately to secure passage of the Act of Indemnity, pardoning all except the regicides. Charles also favored religious toleration (largely because of his own leanings toward Roman Catholicism), but the strongly Anglican Cavalier Parliament, which first convened in 1661, passed the series of statutes known as the Clarendon Code, which was designed to strike at religious nonconformity. The king attempted unsuccessfully to suspend these statutes by the declaration of indulgence of 1662, which he was forced (1663) to withdraw.
Charles's government endorsed the foreign policy of the Commonwealth with its Navigation Acts, which contributed to the outbreak (1664) of the second of the Dutch Wars. While the war was being waged, London suffered the great plague of 1665 and the fire of 1666. Clarendon fell from power in 1667, the year the war ended, to be replaced by the Cabal ministry.
Charles then took England into the Triple Alliance (1668) with Holland and Sweden, but he simultaneously sought the support of Louis XIV of France, with whom he negotiated the secret Treaty of Dover (1670). By this treaty, designed to free the king from dependence on Parliament, Charles was to adopt Roman Catholicism, convert his subjects, and wage war against the Dutch, for which Louis was to advance him a large subsidy and 6,000 men. In 1672 the third Dutch War began. Many suspected it to be a cloak for the introduction of arbitrary government and Roman Catholicism. Charles was forced to rescind (1672) his second declaration of indulgence toward dissenters, to approve (1673) the Test Act, and to sign (1674) a peace with the Dutch.
Thomas Osborne, earl of Danby, became chief minister on the disintegration of the Cabal and inaugurated a foreign policy friendly to Holland. Charles, unable to secure money from an increasingly hostile Parliament, signed a series of secret agreements with Louis XIV, by which he received large French subsidies in return for a pro-French policy, although he feigned sympathy with the anti-French movement at home. His alliance with Louis, however, was broken (1677) by the marriage of his niece Mary to his nephew (and Louis's archenemy) William of Orange (later William III).
Anti-Catholic feeling in England exploded (1678) in the affair of the Popish Plot (see Oates, Titus), in which Charles did not intervene until his wife, Catherine of Braganza, was accused. However, the affair was made use of by the 1st earl of Shaftesbury, who led a movement to exclude Charles's brother, the Catholic duke of York (later James II), from succession to the throne, promoting instead the claim of Charles's illegitimate son the duke of Monmouth.
In 1681 the king dissolved Parliament to block passage of Shaftesbury's Exclusion Act, and thenceforth Charles ruled as an absolute monarch, without a Parliament. His personal popularity increased after the exclusion crisis and particularly after the unsuccessful Rye House Plot. He took steps to root out the supporters of exclusion (now known as the Whigs) from positions of power, coercing municipal governments into obedience by the threat that he would rescind the city charters.
Charles died a Roman Catholic and was succeeded by his brother James. He had no legitimate offspring but many children by his various mistresses, who included Lucy Walter, Barbara Villiers (duchess of Cleveland), Louise Kéroualle (duchess of Portsmouth), and Nell Gwyn.
Character and Influence
Charles was a ruler of considerable political skill. His reign was marked by a gradual increase in the power of Parliament, which he learned to circumvent rather than manipulate. The period also saw the rise of the great political parties, Whig
; the advance of colonization and trade in India, America, and the East Indies; and the great progress of England as a sea power. The pleasure-loving character of the king set the tone of the brilliant Restoration period in art and literature.
See contemporaneous accounts by G. Burnet, J. Evelyn, and S. Pepys; letters ed. by A. Bryant (rev. ed. 1955) and H. Pearson (1960); biographies by A. Fraser (1978, repr. 2007), J. R. Jones (1987), J. Abbott (2009), and J. Uglow (2009); G. N. Clark, The Later Stuarts (2d ed. 1955); D. Ogg, England in the Reign of Charles II (2 vol., 2d ed. 1963).
Charles II, French king
French king: see Charles II
, emperor of the West.
Charles II, king of Hungary
king of Hungary: see Charles III
, king of Naples.
Charles II, king of Naples
(Charles the Lame), 1248–1309, king of Naples (1285–1309), count of Anjou and Provence, son and successor of Charles I
. In the war of the Sicilian Vespers
between Charles I and Peter III of Aragón for possession of Sicily, Charles was captured (1284) in a naval battle by the Aragonese. His father died while he was in captivity and Charles succeeded to the Neapolitan throne, although he was not crowned until 1289, following his release. The war in Sicily against James (James II
of Aragón), son and successor of Peter III, continued until James's renunciation of Sicily and recognition of Charles II as king in 1295. The Sicilians, however, refused to accept the reestablishment of French rule and set up James's brother, Frederick II
, as king; war was resumed. Finally, in 1302, after the failure of a French expedition to Sicily sponsored by Pope Boniface VIII
, the Peace of Caltabellotta was signed; Charles II and Pope Boniface VIII agreed that Frederick II would remain king, but Sicily was to go to Charles or his heir on Frederick's death.
Charles II, king of Navarre
(Charles the Bad), 1332–87, king of Navarre (1349–87), count of Évreux; grandson of King Louis X of France. He carried on a long feud with his father-in-law, John II, king of France, procuring the assassination (1354) of John's favorite, Charles de La Cerda, and forming an alliance with King Edward III of England. In 1356 Charles was treacherously seized by John and imprisoned, but he was rescued after the capture of John at Poitiers. He helped suppress (1358) the Jacquerie
revolt and was chosen by Étienne Marcel
to defend Paris against the dauphin (later King Charles V), but he betrayed this trust. Until his death he was involved in quarrels with Charles V and with Castile and in intrigues with England.
Charles II, king of Spain, Naples, and Sicily
1661–1700, king of Spain, Naples, and Sicily (1665–1700), son and successor of Philip IV. The last of the Spanish Hapsburgs, he was physically crippled and mentally retarded. His mother, Mariana of Austria, was regent for him and continued to rule after his majority. Her bias in favor of Austria aroused opposition, and she was forced into exile (1677) by Charles's illegitimate brother, John of Austria
. After John's death (1679) she again exercised power. Charles's reign saw the continued loss of Spanish foreign power, as was evident in the War of Devolution
and the War of the Grand Alliance
, and a severe decline in Spain's economy, society, and intellectual life. The indolent grandees and the clergy regained a political role. Tax exemptions for privileged groups brought high taxes on industry and agriculture, and emigration increased. Before his death the childless Charles named Philip of Anjou as his heir. Philip's succession (as Philip V) provoked the War of the Spanish Succession
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