The Merry Monarch Returns

Today is a little known but important date in English history, resulting in the return of the monarchy. On 4 April 1660 Charles II of Great Britain issued the Declaration of Breda, promising a general pardon for crimes committed against royalist forces and the crown during the English Civil War and the Interregnum. Since one of the crimes was the beheading of the then-king and Charles father, Charles I, this was a big pardon.

Charles_II_(de_Champaigne) 

There was a bit of a catch, tho. First, pardon would apply only to those who were willing to accept Charles II as king, but after years of being ruled by the genocidal maniac Oliver Cromwell and his Puritan fanatics pretty much everybody wanted a king again. If the alternative was Puritanism, then Long Live the King! The second catch was that a few dozen king-slayers were specifically excluded from the pardon. Nine of these guys would later be sentenced to a traitor’s death. Moreover, the bodies of Oliver Cromwell, Henry Ireton, and John Bradshaw were dug up and desecrated for their acts of regicide … and for making people’s lives miserable with their Puritan rubbish.

The Declaration of Breda paved the way for the return of Charles II, who came triumphantly into London a few weeks later at the end of May. He would be crowned the following April.

Charles_II_of_England_in_Coronation_robes

Flowers were in bloom, and fun was legal again. Charles, who modeled his court after the good-time gallivanters of European nobility, quickly gained the moniker The Merry Monarch. He was particularly merry with the ladies.

Charles had no legitimate children, but acknowledged a dozen by seven mistresses, including five by the notorious Barbara Villiers, Lady Castlemaine, for whom the Dukedom of Cleveland was created. His other mistresses included Moll Davis, Nell Gwyn, Elizabeth Killigrew, Catherine Pegge, Lucy Walter, and Louise de Kérouaille, Duchess of Portsmouth. As a result, in his lifetime he was often nicknamed “Old Rowley”, the name of one of his horses which was notable at the time as a stallion. His subjects resented paying taxes that were spent on his mistresses and their children, many of whom received dukedoms or earldoms. The present Dukes of Buccleuch, Richmond, Grafton and St Albans descend from Charles in unbroken male line. Diana, Princess of Wales, was descended from two of Charles’s illegitimate sons: the Dukes of Grafton and Richmond. Diana’s son, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, second in line to the British throne, is likely to be the first British monarch descended from Charles II.

Honestly, William (below, right) seems very straitlaced and prone to monogamy, like his father. (Yes, the Prince of Wales had a long-term affair with Camilla Parker-Bowles, but it is clear he wanted to be monogamous to HER. Once he was allowed to marry his true love he ceased to stray from the marital bed.) In contrast, Prince Harry (below, left) has a certain Merry Monarch approach to life that makes for scandals and interesting history books.

William and Harry in their 20s

It took a long time, but when the descendant of Charles I takes the throne the everything Oliver Cromwell worked for will have been thoroughly undone. Considering my enduring love of Celtic culture and my bone-deep revulsion for religious figureheads who suborn murder in God’s name, I am really looking forward to seeing William crowned one day.

  

  

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