Charles II

Character Of Charles II
From 'A History Of His Own Time' by Gilbert Burnet

The king was then thirty years of age, and, as might have been supposed, past the levities of youth and the extravagance of pleasure. He had a very good understanding: he knew well the state of affairs both at home and abroad. He had a softness of temper, that charmed all who came near him, till they found how little they could depend on good looks, kind words, and fair promises, in which he was liberal to excess, because lie intended nothing by them but to get rid of importunity, and to silence all further pressing upon him.

He seemed to have no sense of religion: both at prayers and sacrament he, as it were, took care to satisfy people that he was in no sort concerned in that about which he was employed: so that he was very far from being an hypocrite, unless his assisting at those performances was a sort of hypocrisy, as no doubt it was; but he was sure not to increase that by any the least appearance of devotion.

He said once to myself, he was no atheist, but he could not think God would make a man miserable only for taking a little pleasure out of the way. He disguised his popery to the last: but when be talked freely, he could not help letting himself out against the liberty that under the Reformation all men took of inquiring into matters: for from their inquiring into matters of religion, they carried the humour further, to inquire into matters of state.

He said often, he thought government was a much safer and easier thing where the authority was believed infallible, and the faith and submission of the people was implicit: about which I had once much discourse with him.

He was affable and easy, and loved to be made so by all about him. The great art of keeping him long was, the being easy, and the making everything easy to him.

He had made such observations on the French government, that he thought a king who might be checked, or have his ministers called to an account by a parliament, was but a king in name.

He had a great compass of knowledge, though he was never capable of great application or study. He understood the mechanics and physic: and was a good chemist, and much set on several preparations of mercury, chiefly the fixing it.

He understood navigation well: but above all he knew the architecture of ships so perfectly, that in that respect he was exact rather more than became a prince. His apprehension was quick, and his memory good; and he was an everlasting talker. He told his stories with a good grace: but they came in his way too often.

He had a very ill opinion both of men and women, and did not think there was either sincerity or chastity in the world out of principle, but that some had either the one or the other out of humour or vanity. He thought that nobody served him out of love: and so he was quits with all the world, and loved others as little as he thought they loved him.

He hated business, and could not be easily brought to wind any: but when it was necessary, and he was set to it, he would stay as long as his ministers had work for him.

The ruin of his reign, and of all his affairs, was occasioned chiefly by his delivering himself up at his first coming over to a mad range of pleasure. One of the race of the Villiers, then married to Palmer, a papist, soon after made earl of Castlemaine, who afterwards, being separated from him, was advanced to be duchess of Cleveland, was his first and longest mistress; by whom he had five children. She was a woman of great beauty, but most enormously vicious and ravenous, foolish but imperious, ever uneasy to the king, and always carrying on intrigues with other men, while yet she pretended she was jealous of him.

His passion for her, and her strange behaviour towards him, did so disorder him, that often he was not master of himself, nor capable of minding business, which, in so critical a time, required great application: but he did then so entirely trust the earl of Clarendon that he left all to his care, and submitted to his advices as to so many oracles.