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The Restoration of the monarchy of 1660 marked the end of the Puritan Age, an age of fanaticism. CHARLES II (1660-1685), the merry monarch, was easy going, witty, pleasure-loving, and perhaps his court was the most immoral in English history. His exile in France had given him French tastes, he admired the magnificent, all-powerful, absolute ruler of France, Louis XIV and he shared his father's belief in DIVINE RIGHT.

On April 22, 1661, the day before his formal coronation, King Charles II rode through the streets of London in a magnificent procession to celebrate his restoration to the English throne. Four triumphal arches had been erected, buildings had been adorned with rich decorations and streets were lined with festive celebrants who cheered and hailed the procession with songs, music and poems. The result was an expensive and pompous spectacle which reflected the nation's joy not only for Charles's return, but for the return of the monarchy itself. THE RESTORATION MARKS A COMPLETE BREAK WITH THE PAST, ENGLISH SOCIETY WAS PERVADED BY A SENSE OF RELIEF FROM THE RESTRICTIONS OF THE PURITAN REGIME. Theatres reopened, women writers became more visible on the literary scene, THE NOVEL EMERGED AS A DOMINANT FORM.

Political struggles were put aside in 1665, when England was brought to its knees by the plague. The epidemic caused the death of about 100,000 people. Besides in 1666 a large part of London was destroyed by fire. In fact almost all houses were built of wood and straw, the fire spread quickly : 13,000 homes were burnt (also St Paul's Cathedral).

Whigs and ToriesThe interests of the landed aristocracy and those of the trading bourgeoisie did not coincide. As a consequence, the two classes began to divide politically into opposing parties: the TORIES (favoured the Restoration and were supported by the Anglican Church) and the WHIGS (supported by a part of aristocracy and by the Puritans). THE WHIGS SAW THE KING AS A LIMIT TO ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AND WISHED TO RESTRICT HIS POWERS. In 1679 the Whigs won the majority in the election. CHARLES II DISSOLVED THE PARLIAMENT AND RULED AS AN ABSOLUTE MONARCH taking advantage of the divisions between the two parties.

Charles II died in 1685 and before his death he was admitted into the Catholic Church.

James II (1685-1688)The new king James II was as immoral as his brother Charles II but not so intelligent. He was a Catholic and tried, with obstinate zeal, to reintroduce Catholicism into England and Scotland. Rebellions broke out in Scotland and in the southwest of England: hundreds of rebels were executed. The Protestant feared that James II, an ally of the Catholic Louis XIV, might want to abolish religious freedoms in England so both the Anglican clergy and the Whigs opposed him and found support also among the majority of Puritans and the Tories. THUS THE PARLIAMENT INVITED THE PROTESTANT WILLIAM OF ORANGE, STATHOLDER OF THE NETHERLANDS who had married James'daughter Mary, TO TAKE OVER THE ENGLISH THRONE.

The Glorious Revolution - 1688Whigs and Tories invited William of Orange to London and he moved in 1688. James was forced to flee to France with his wife and baby son. William of Orange entered London WITHOUT FIRING A SINGLE SHOT OR SHEDDING A DROP OF BLOOD and the country was spared another civil war and the danger of a Catholic monarchy: it was the so-called Glorious Revolution.

WILLIAM III (1689-1702) - MARY II (1689-1694)In 1689 Parliament offered the crown jointly to William and his wife Mary strengthening the power between Crown and Parliament. The fact that Parliament made William king not by inheritance but by choice was revolutionary. Parliament was beyond question more powerful than the King. The declaration of the BILL OF RIGHTS = (1689) established the power of Parliament over the monarch: THE KING WAS UNABLE TO RAISE TAXES OR KEEP AN ARMY WITHOUT THE AGREEMENT OF PARLIAMENT. Divine-right rule came to an end in England, the king was not allowed to break laws, nor could him suspend them without parliamentary approval. Free elections were guaranteed. This weakening of the monarchy made the institution acceptable to the Whigs and the nascent middle classes, whose focus was on accumulating wealth

Queen Anne (1702-14)She was the last monarch of the house of Stuart. She was also the first sovereign to rule over the kingdom of GREAT BRITAIN, which was formed in 1707 by the UNION BETWEEN THE KINGDOMS OF ENGLAND AND SCOTLAND. Anne's reign began after the ACT OF SETTLEMENT (1701) had been passed: with this law Parliament had wanted to ensure that Catholic sovereigns would be prevented from succeeding to the throne. Curiosities: Ann was a dull, obstinate woman dominated by her female favourites.

Charles II continued his absolutist plans and managed to limit the weight of the Whigs. However their political influence was growing rapidly as the mercantile classes became the richest and economically most powerful group in the country.