Charles the Second, King of England, Scotland, and Ireland

By Ronald Hutton | Go to book overview

14 The Quest for Men and Measures, 1679-1681

THE King's illness did not turn out to be as serious as had at first been feared. Although he took months to regain his full strength, the crisis passed within three days and within a week more he was tucking into mutton and partridges and walking in Windsor Park. The political consequences, however, turned out to be both dramatic and protracted. The first of them became apparent on 2, September, when his brother James suddenly appeared at Charles's bedside, having crossed the Channel disguised in a black wig. He fell upon his knees and both burst into tears of joy. We have it upon the authority of two such different memoir-writers as Temple and James himself that this touching scene was the result of more than a fraternal impulse upon the part of the royal Duke. The 'Triumvirate', Sunderland, Essex, and Halifax, had panicked at the prospect that the King might die and Monmouth, who controlled the armed forces, seize the throne. Hence they had extended a strictly secret and verbal invitation to James and so brought him back into English affairs. 1 One of the finest historians of the period has repeatedly suggested that he now, indeed, dominated those affairs and was responsible for the series of measures which his brother now adopted. 2 Against this three points may be argued. First, as noted earlier, Charles was preparing to adopt a tougher policy just before he fell ill. Second, James's subsequent letters radiate a sense of impotence, anger, and confusion about the situation in England, not one of power or control. And third, as will be illustrated, the government's approach to problems in the years 1679 to 1681 developed week by week, reacting to events. It might be suggested that from August 1679 Charles had an attitude towards the questions of rulership, religion, and the succession, but had great difficulty in finding the servants or formulating the precise measures by which to implement it.

Certainly James was heavily involved in one initiative which followed swiftly in September, the ordering of Monmouth into exile abroad. The King told his son that his brother had refused to leave the country again himself unless Monmouth went too. 3 But James recorded later that he only insisted upon this because 'The Triumvirate' put him up to it, being

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Charles the Second, King of England, Scotland, and Ireland
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Acknowledgements xi
  • Contents xiii
  • Illustrations xiv
  • I - Boyhood 1
  • 2 - The Exiled Prince of Wales 15
  • 3 - A King in Search of a Realm, 1649-1650 34
  • 5 - A King in Search of Quarters, 1651-1656 71
  • 6 - The Pensioner of Spain, 1656-1660 100
  • 7 - The Year of Restoration, 1660-1661 133
  • 8 - The Fight for the Settlements, 1661-1664 166
  • 10 - The Ministry of Arlington, 1688-1672 254
  • 11 - Charles's Second Dutch War, 1672-1674 287
  • 12 - The End of King Louis's War, 1674-1678 320
  • 13 - Collapse of a System, 1678-1679 357
  • 14 - The Quest for Men and Measures, 1679-1681 381
  • 15 - Towards a New Way of Ruling, 1681-1685 404
  • 16 - Conclusion: Monarch in a Masquerade 446
  • References 459
  • Notes 461
  • Index 543
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