but that of Sir Henry Vane, who was not a regicide and whose life Charles had promised the parliament to spare in case of his condemnation, was brought about by Charles’s personal insistence in revenge for the victim’s high bearing during his trial, and was an act of gross cruelty and perfidy. Charles was in favour of religious toleration, and a declaration issued by him in October 1660 aroused great hopes; but he made little effort to conciliate the Presbyterians or to effect a settlement through the Savoy conference, and his real object was to gain power over all the factions and to free his co-religionists, the Roman Catholics, in favour of whom he issued his first declaration of indulgence (26th of December 1662), the bill to give effect to it being opposed by Clarendon and defeated in the Lords, and being replied to by the passing of further acts against religious liberty. Meanwhile the plot of Venner and of the Fifth Monarchy men had been suppressed in January 1661, and the king was crowned on the 23rd of April. The convention parliament had been dissolved on the 29th of December 1660, and Charles’s first parliament, the Long Parliament of the Restoration, which met on the 8th of May 1661 and continued till January 1679, declared the command of the forces inherent in the crown, repudiated the taking up of arms against the king, and repealed in 1664 the Triennial Act, adding only a provision that there should not be intermission of parliaments for more than three years. In Ireland the church was re-established, and a new settlement of land introduced by the Act of Settlement 1661 and the Act of Explanation 1665. The island was excluded from the benefit of the Navigation Laws, and in 1666 the importation of cattle and horses into England was forbidden. In Scotland episcopacy was set up, the covenant to which Charles had taken so many solemn oaths burnt by the common hangman, and Argyll brought to the scaffold, while the kingdom was given over to the savage and corrupt administration of Lauderdale. On the 21st of May 1662, in pursuance of the pro-French and anti-Spanish policy, Charles married Catherine of Braganza, daughter of John IV. of Portugal, by which alliance England obtained Tangier and Bombay. She brought him no children, and her attractions for Charles were inferior to those of his mistress, Lady Castlemaine, whom she was compelled to receive as a lady of her bedchamber. In February 1665 the ill-omened war with Holland was declared, during the progress of which it became apparent how greatly the condition of the national services and the state of administration had deteriorated since the Commonwealth, and to what extent England was isolated and abandoned abroad, Michael de Ruyter, on the 13th of June 1667, carrying out his celebrated attack on Chatham and burning several warships. The disgrace was unprecedented. Charles did not show himself and it was reported that he had abdicated, but to allay the popular panic it was given out “that he was very cheerful that night at supper with his mistresses.” The treaty of Breda with Holland (21st of July 1667) removed the danger, but not the ignominy, and Charles showed the real baseness of his character when he joined in the popular outcry against Clarendon, the upright and devoted adherent of his father and himself during twenty-five years of misfortune, and drove him into poverty and exile in his old age, recalling ominously Charles I.’s betrayal of Strafford.
To Clarendon now succeeded the ministry of Buckingham and Arlington, who with Lauderdale, Ashley (afterwards Lord Shaftesbury) and Clifford, constituted the so-called Cabal ministry in 1672. With these advisers Charles entered into those schemes so antagonistic to the national interests which have disgraced his reign. His plan was to render himself independent of parliament and of the nation by binding himself to France and the French policy of aggrandizement, and receiving a French pension with the secret intention as well of introducing the Roman Catholic religion again into England. In 1661 under Clarendon’s rule, the evil precedent had been admitted of receiving money from France, in 1662 Dunkirk had been sold to Louis, and in February 1667 during the Dutch war a secret alliance had been made with Louis, Charles promising him a free hand in the Netherlands and Louis undertaking to support Charles’s designs “in or out of the kingdom.” In January 1668 Sir W. Temple had made with Sweden and Holland the Triple Alliance against the encroachments and aggrandizement of France, but this national policy was soon upset by the king’s own secret plans. In 1668 the conversion of his brother James to Romanism became known to Charles. Already in 1662 the king had sent Sir Richard Bellings to Rome to arrange the terms of England’s conversion, and now in 1668 he was in correspondence with Oliva, the general of the Jesuits in Rome, through James de la Cloche, the eldest of his natural sons, of whom he had become the father when scarcely sixteen during his residence at Jersey. On the 25th of January 1669, at a secret meeting between the two royal brothers, with Arlington, Clifford and Arundell of Wardour, it was determined to announce to Louis XIV. the projected conversion of Charles and the realm, and subsequent negotiations terminated in the two secret treaties of Dover. The first, signed only, among the ministers, by Arlington and Clifford, the rest not being initiated, on the 20th of May 1670, provided for the return of England to Rome and the joint attack of France and England upon Holland, England’s ally, together with Charles’s support of the Bourbon claims to the throne of Spain, while Charles received a pension of £200,000 a year. In the second, signed by Arlington, Buckingham, Lauderdale and Ashley on the 31st of December 1670, nothing was said about the conversion, and the pension provided for that purpose was added to the military subsidy, neither of these treaties being communicated to parliament or to the nation. An immediate gain to Charles was the acquisition of another mistress in the person of Louise de Kéroualle, the so-called “Madam Carwell,” who had accompanied the duchess of Orleans, the king’s sister, to Dover, at the time of the negotiations, and who joined Charles’s seraglio, being created duchess of Portsmouth, and acting as the agent of the French alliance throughout the reign.
On the 24th of October 1670, at the very time that these treaties were in progress, Charles opened parliament and obtained a vote of £800,000 on the plea of supporting the Triple Alliance. Parliament was prorogued in April 1671, not assembling again till February 1673, and on the 2nd of January 1672 was announced the “stop of the exchequer,” or national bankruptcy, one of the most blameworthy and unscrupulous acts of the reign, by which the payments from the exchequer ceased, and large numbers of persons who had lent to the government were thus ruined. On the reassembling of parliament on the 4th of February 1673 a strong opposition was shown to the Cabal ministry which had been constituted at the end of 1672. The Dutch War, declared on the 17th of March 1672, though the commercial and naval jealousies of Holland had certainly not disappeared in England, was unpopular because of the alliance with France and the attack upon Protestantism, while the king’s second declaration of indulgence (15th of March 1672) aroused still further antagonism, was declared illegal by the parliament, and was followed up by the Test Act, which obliged James and Clifford to resign their offices. In February 1674 the war with Holland was closed by the treaty of London or of Westminster, though Charles still gave Louis a free hand in his aggressive policy towards the Netherlands, and the Cabal was driven from office. Danby (afterwards duke of Leeds) now became chief minister; but, though in reality a strong supporter of the national policy, he could not hope to keep his place without acquiescence in the king’s schemes. In November 1675 Charles again prorogued parliament, and did not summon it again till February 1677, when it was almost immediately prorogued. On the 17th of February 1676, with Danby’s knowledge, Charles concluded a further treaty with Louis by which he undertook to subordinate entirely his foreign policy to that of France, and received an annual pension of £100,000. On the other hand, Danby succeeded in effecting the marriage (4th of November 1677) between William of Orange and the princess Mary, which proved the most important political event in the whole reign. Louis revenged himself by intriguing with the Opposition and by turning his streams of gold in that direction, and a further treaty with France for the annual payment to Charles of £300,000 and the dismissal of his parliament, concluded on the 17th of May 1678, was not executed. Louis made peace with Holland