Stuarts: How Successful Was Charles II


Success: Constitutional Stability

  • Cavalier Parliament retained 1641 legisltion, limiting King's power with abolition of Star Chamber and High Commission and Ship Money and maintenance of Triennial Act
  • New Triennial Act of 1664 was less binding - Charles ruled without Parliament 1681-1685
  • The monarch restored with significant powers over foreign policy, appointment of advisers and ability to prerogue/move parliament & revoke Corporation/Borouggh charters to defeat Exclusion Crisis (Quo Warranto)
  • 1681-1685 Charles worked closely with Parliament, met every year
  • Parliament continued to have say in Charles' ministers and attacked/removed Clarendon (1667) and Danby (1678/79)
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Failure: Constitutional Settlement

  • Reliance on power of purse and restoration of powers created same potential areas for conflict between Crown and Political Nation
  • Charles was only just able to defeat the Exclusion Crisis by continuing to prerogue and dissolve Parliament
  • Improved financial situation of country and monarchy in 1680s raised prospect of a monarch to rule without Parliament
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Success: Raising Finances

  • Convention Parliament of 1660 abolished feudal dyes and granted Tonnage&Poundage for life as well as a £1.2 million grant for government expenses per year
  • Hearth Tax introduced by 1662
  • Danby's influence: direct administration of customs and excise resulted in Crown revenue growing
    • £840K in 1670 to £1M in 1678
  • Parliamentary grant of £1.8M given in 1667 on condition that public accounts were examined
  • Treaty of Dover provided £225,000 per year from French
  • Growth in trade and lack of war - increased revenue
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Failure: Raising Finances

  • Only £400,000 of the £1.2M granted in 1660 was collected - new system continued old failed practice of monarch 'living off his own'
  • Parliaement continued to use 'Power of the Purse' - 1670 withheld a £300,000 grant until harsher Conventicle Act was passed
  • Crown debt increased
    • £750,000 between 1674 and 1679
    • Charles II was extremely extravagant
  • Turning to the French for financial assisstance - politically dangerous
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Success: Religious Settlement

  • Growth in Latitudinarianism represented a strain of Anglican thinking more tolerant of dissenters and debate
  • Punishment of dissenters and Catholics was popular with conservative political nation - Dissenters became less political
  • Charles never made TReaty of Dover public
  • Produced a strong Anglican Church
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Failure: Religous Settlement

  • The 'liberty to tender consciences' promised in 1660 Dec of Breda not materialised
  • Clarendon Code, Conventincle Act 1664, Five Mile Act 1665, the Trest Acts 1673 and 1678 produced narrow, repressive Church
  • Charles attempt to promote toleration and dissented in 1672 Dec of Indulgence hated by Anglicans
  • Treaty of Dover 1670 agreement to support Catholics extremely unpopular
  • Several thousand Quakers died in prison
  • Mistresses undermined puritan support and Louise de Kouraille was unpopular
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Success: Foreign Policy

  • Scotland and Ireland remained fairly placid - didn't interfere with Exclusion Crisis
  • Danby's decision to support the Dutch from 1675 was politically popular and parliament agreed to raide 30,000 troops / £1M to support it
  • After 1678 relative peace on continent
  • Charles raised money from France - enabled rule without Parliament
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Failure: Foreign Policy

  • Dutch fought a successful propaganda war to divide Crown and Parliament
    • 1673 pamphlet 'England's Appeal from the Privae Cabal at Whitehall to the Great Council of the Nation' published - Catholicism, France and Charles absolutist plot
  • Close relationship with France raised Catholic, absolutist threat
  • Involvement in 2nd (65-67) and 3rd (72-74) Dutch war was unpopular and not militarily successful
  • 1667 Disaster on the Medway
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Success: Support Among Political Nation

  • Cavalier Parliament 1661 was strongly Royalist
  • Fear of Civil War - defeat the Whigs by raising fear of chaos
  • Repression of non-conformists popular
  • 'Merry Monarch' raised stature, returning to extravagance and ceremony
  • Continued practice of 'touching for the King's evil' - and Restoration celebration banished memories of puritan rule
  • Willing to work with Parliament and dismiss his adivsers with unpopular
  • Both Clarendon and Danby were moderate advisers who urged cooperation
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Failure: Support Among Political Nation

  • Relationship with France and ruling without Parliament after 1681 raised fear of Catholic absolutism
  • Whigs had clear support throughout Exclusion Crisis
  • Brutally repressed non-conformists
  • Lifestyle of Merry Monarch blamed for Plague and Great Fire (1665-1666)
  • CABAL and Danby viewed by some as cynical, Danby built support by bribing parliamentary allies
  • Court and Country divisions / Tory and Whig divisions
  • Fear of popery amd Exclusion Crisis saw re-emergence of Mob and pamphleteering raising prospect of Civil War
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