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Charles II and Toleration

Charles II was intelligent and concerned with his duties, but he also believed in fun. He became known as the merry monarch. He was relaxed and good natured, well mannered and courteous, and he felt no need to posture.

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, "England was overjoyed at having a monarch again." Charles promised to abide by the laws of Parliament. The king was to have his powers and Parliament – both houses – had their powers. It would be the Parliament that would govern economic policy and try to resolve differences between rival economic groups. Parliament was to exercise power by granting money to the king only for those specific purposes that it approved. The king would be chief executive of his government but restrained from making laws by proclamation. He would be the head of state without the power to absorb local governments. And Parliament declared its recognition that the king of England ruled by Divine Right.

Charles selected a council of five men known as the CABAL (the first letter in each man's surname). They were members of Parliament and to be his liaison with Parliament.

Charles II

Charles II

King Charles II presented with a pinapple

Charles presented with a pineapple.

Charles was head of an army too small to defend against an armed uprising or to fight a war. It was parliament that was in charge of the military.

Charles was free to marry whomever he wished, and he married a Portuguese princess, Catherine of Braganza. This transferred Tangier and Bombay to British rule as a part of Catherine's dowry. She was Roman Catholic. So too was the Frenchman his sister Henrietta Anne married: France's Duke of Orleans. And her dowry transferred Dunkirk to the French.

Although sympathetic toward Catholicism, Charles, like his royal Stuart predecessors, was head of the Church of England, which was falling away from the religious zeal of the Puritans. This lack of zeal suited him temperamentally. In line with Europe's maturing Renaissance, Charles was interested in science. He had his own laboratory. He encouraged applied science and supported the founding of the Royal Society for Improving Natural Knowledge, and he patronized the theater.

Charles has been described as more liberal on the issue of religion. He wished for liberty of worship, and he was genuinely tolerant. Many of Charles' subjects were "Dissenters." These were Protestants who favored an individual's right to interpret God's word without the guidance of a priest. They were the Baptists, Ranters, Quakers and others, all insisting that they be allowed their own course toward salvation. The name Baptist was a shortened version of Anabaptist, Anabaptist ideas having spread from the Dutch, the first Baptist church appearing in England in the year 1612. Another sect, which made its appearance during the republic, was called the Fifth Monarchy Men. They believed that a new rule was coming that would be the successor to the Roman Empire, a rule in which Jesus Christ would reign on earth, with his saints, for one thousand years.

Religious sects aroused suspicion and hostility. Puritans had detested the Quakers for their pacifism and their belief in equality, the Puritans seeing equality as a threat to civil disorder. The Quakers drew hostility also by interrupting other people's church services. Quakers, in turn, had dirt clods, cow dung and sticks thrown at them during their services. In 1659 a rumor had spread that Quakers were running naked through the streets, and concern erupted over morality and the safety of property.

In 1662 Charles issued a declaration granting toleration to both Catholics and Dissenters. But Parliament refused to ratify Charles' declaration, leaving Catholics and Dissenters less than equal politically, including not being allowed to occupy any political office.

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