The last years of Charles's reign, 1681-1685

Persecution of the Whigs

Charles was able to tarnish the reputation of his Whig opponents by presenting them as Republicans committed to a violent overthrow of the monarchy similar to what was seen in 1649. He was able to bring down Whig opposition in a number of ways in the years 1681-85.

  • By using his prerogative powers to control the judiciary, Charles was able to remove a number of leading Whigs from office. 
  • Several Whigs were executed but Shaftesbury avoided this fate and fled abroad. 
  • Charles's financial position improved after the Exclusion Crisis, and the Crown was able to raise a total revenue of £1.4 million in 1684-85. Existing excise taxes were utilised but the real cause of financial success was the increased revenue collected via customs duties from improved international trade. 
  • The Tory faction ensured that the Clarendon Code was enforced with renewed enthusiasm against dissenters. 
  • Freedom of speech was suppressed and when Whig views were put forward in print the authors were often subject to libel proceedings.
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Absolutism and local government

Whigs were removed from local office and this enabled Charle to maintain his personal rule.

  • JPs who had previously persecuted Catholics were replaced with men prepared to persecute dissenters.
  • Judges who were disloyal lost their jobs. A list was found among Shaftesbury's papers of men in the localities who could sit as judges and be trusted to remain loyal to the Whig cause. Charles' advisers worked through the list and expelled them.
  • Two Tory Sheriffs were elected in London in 1682, in a contest marred by fraud and violence.
  • Charles challenged the borough charters given to a number of towns. These charters gave towns certain rights and privileges over justice and administration, but Charles revised them and put control of towns in the hands of his own nominees. 
  • The corporation of the city of London was now controlled by those loyal to the King, and when petitions demanding the exclusion of James were presented to the corporation they were thrown out. 
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The Rye House Plot

  • 1683, a group of Cromwellian soldiers concocted a plot to kill Charles and replace him with Monmouth.
  • The plot failed and the conspirators were arrested, but it gave Charles the excuse to destroy the remaining Whig leaders.
  • Lord William Russell, Algernon Sidney, and Sir Thomas Armstrong were beheaded.
  • Charles was now able to avoid calling Parliament for the rest of his reign.
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Final years, 1683-85

  • Charles left the administration to his brother and his ministers. 
  • The Court felt that if Parliament was restored, it would lead to a war with France and calls to hold new elections were ignored.
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Heirs to the throne

  • James, Duke of York. Son of Charles I and brother to Charles II. Openly Catholic. 
  • William, Duke of Orange, and Mary. Mary was James' daughter and married to a strong Dutch protestant. 
  • Monmouth. The popular but illegitimate son of Charles II. 
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