Charles II was the son of King Charles I of England. To the Royalists, Charles II became king of England on his father's death in 1649; however, as Charles I had been executed and government taken over by Oliver Cromwell, Charles and his family fled to France, his mother's home. In 1650, he landed in Scotland, raised an army, and tried to take the throne back but was defeated. The next decade was spent in Europe, planning future expeditions. They turned out to be unnecessary, though; when Cromwell died in 1658, his son Richard Cromwell briefly took over as Lord Protector, but was not much of a ruler. The army compelled Richard's resignation in 1659, and soon the return of the royal family was negotiated. Charles entered London on his 30th birthday, 29 May 1660.

This Restoration turned out well; Charles was a good ruler in domestic matters. However, he was rather a puppet of France when it came to foreign matters, even selling Dunkirk to France to raise money. He married Princess Catherine of Braganza (part of Portugal), but was a womanizer; two of his most famous mistresses are actress Nell Gwynn and Frenchwoman (as well as French spy) Louise de Keroualle. (I've heard a story where a mob was about to attack a closed carriage which they assumed contained Louise; the mob shouted "Down with the Catholic whore!" whereupon Nell Gwynn stuck her head out of the carriage and called, "No, no! I am the Protestant whore!" The crowd cheered her and let the carriage go on.)

Charles displayed bravery during the Great London Fire of 1666, helping to fight the flames himself. He also sponsored the Royal Society which would encourage scientific research in later years, and the Royal Hospital.

Charles died of a stroke in 1685 (and was received into the Roman Catholic Church on his deathbed). He had no legitimate children, and was succeeded by his brother James II.