Charles II was the British monarch whose reign marked the period known as the Restoration -- the restoration of the monarchy after years of being a republic under Oliver Cromwell
as Lord Protector of the Commonwealth. Charles II was the son and heir of Charles I
of the House of Stuart, who lost the throne (and his head) in 1649, after years of civil war. Cromwell took his place, but died in 1658; his son Richard (1626-1712) succeeded him, but was a lousy leader. Charles II negotiated his way back to the throne and arrived in England on his birthday in 1660. He ruled as king of England, Ireland and Scotland until his death in 1685. He had a reputation as a hedonistic rogue, and he had several mistresses and at least 12 illegitimate children (he had no children with his wife, Catherine of Braganza). His reign was marked by war with the Dutch, fights with Parliament over finances, a bad wave of the Bubonic plague (1665), the Great Fire of London (1666) and the fear that he secretly favored Catholics (he did, and named his Catholic brother, James II, as his successor).