In a Word ... Charles

Precarious can be the head that wears the crown

Just what are the neighbours to expect from the latest Charles to ascend the only throne in these islands. It’s probably best not to be guided in expectations by the fate of the two other King Charles to sit on that throne. Both could be said to have lost their heads, one literally.

Charles I was beheaded 374 years ago next Monday, on January 30th, 1649. Soon afterwards Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector of the united “Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland”, was in charge. Of a republic. Yes folks, Ireland was a republic in the 17th century following some “gentle” persuasion by Cromwell.

Such reluctance was not evident in 1949 when then Taoiseach John A Costello declared Ireland a republic in Canada. It is said he was miffed at not being accorded protocols appropriate to the leader of an independent country by Canada, a fellow member of the Commonwealth. So, Costello declared Ireland a republic and out of the Commonwealth.

Charles I was beheaded for treason despite telling his accusers that obedience to kings was “strictly commanded in both the Old and New Testaments”. They were not persuaded, nor were they in Paris 144 years later when Louis XVI also lost his head in 1793. The old divine right of kings’ writ wasn’t cutting it any more.


Charles II assumed his father’s throne with the restoration of the monarchy (of England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland) in 1660 and there followed much celebration and general relaxation in society, including in its mores.

A somewhat rakish character, the new king was soon known as the Merry Monarch, a reference not necessarily to his level of non-sobriety so much as to his love of the craic – as we would say – and of the ladies.

He had at least 12 children by seven mistresses but would be eventually succeeded by his brother James as, though married, he had no legitimate heir to the throne.

Princess Diana was descended from one of Charles II’s son’s, which means that when her son William succeeds Charles III to the throne he will be the first British monarch descended from Charles II.

Sadly, for most Irish people, the Merry Charles II was succeeded by James II, he who ran away from the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.

Charles, from French Charles, Latin Carolus, German Karl, meaning ‘man, husband’.