In late May 1660, cheering crowds welcomed Charles II back to London. An observer described the celebration as a triumph.
This day came in his Majesties Charles the Second to London after a sad, and long Exile … with a Triumph of above 20,000 horse and [soldiers], brandishing their swords, and shouting with inexpressible joy; the [ways strewn] with flowers, the bells ringing, the streets hung with [tapestry].
—John Evelyn, Diary
With his charm and flashing wit, young Charles II was a popular ruler. He reopened theaters and taverns and presided over a lively court in the manner of Louis XIV.
Charles restored the official Church of England but encouraged toleration of other Protestants such as Presbyterians, Quakers, and Baptists. Although Charles accepted the Petition of Right, he shared his father's belief in absolute monarchy and secretly had Catholic sympathies. Still, he shrewdly avoided his father's mistakes in dealing with Parliament.
Charles was a strong supporter of science and the arts. He helped found the Royal Society, a group formed to advance scientific knowledge. Its early members, such as Isaac Newton, Robert Hooke, and Robert Boyle, advanced the study of mathematics, biology, physics, and chemistry. Charles was equally supportive of the arts, especially architecture. After the Great Fire of 1666 destroyed much of London, Charles appointed the great architect, Sir Christopher Wren, to rebuild the city.
Charles's brother, James II, inherited the throne in 1685. Unlike Charles, James practiced his Catholic faith openly. He angered his subjects by suspending laws on a whim and appointing Catholics to high office. Many English Protestants feared that James would restore the Roman Catholic Church.
In 1688, alarmed parliamentary leaders invited James's Protestant daughter, Mary, and her Dutch Protestant husband, William III of Orange, to become rulers of England. When William and Mary landed with their army, James II fled to France. This bloodless overthrow of the king became known as the Glorious Revolution.
Crowds welcomed Charles II back after the monarchy was restored.
Before they could be crowned, William and Mary had to accept several acts passed by Parliament in 1689 that became known as the English Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights ensured the superiority of Parliament over the monarchy. It required the monarch to summon Parliament regularly and ensured that the House of Commons kept control over spending. A king or queen could no longer interfere in parliamentary debates or suspend laws. The Bill of Rights also barred any Roman Catholic from sitting on the throne.
The Bill of Rights also restated the traditional legal rights of English citizens, such as trial by jury. It abolished excessive fines and cruel or unjust punishment. It affirmed the principle of habeas corpus. That is, no person could be held in prison without first being charged with a specific crime. The legal ideas contained in the English Bill of Rights would later have a strong influence on the United States.
Soon after, the separate Toleration Act of 1689 granted limited religious freedom to Puritans, Quakers, and other Protestant dissenters. Still, only members of the Church of England could hold public office. And Catholics were allowed no religious freedom.