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Detail from a print, showing the execution of Charles I at Whitehall in 1649©
In January 1649, Charles I, King of England, Scotland and Ireland, was convicted of treason and publicly beheaded outside the Banqueting House in Whitehall. After years of Civil War, the nation was proclaimed a Commonwealth (a republic), led by the Parliamentarian General, Oliver Cromwell. Charles's family were forced into exile, the royal regalia were destroyed and the valuable contents of the palaces were sold.
In Scotland, Charles II had been crowned King of Scots at Scone on 1 January 1651 but, after defeat by Cromwell, he fled to the continent. The Commonwealth was short-lived and on 8 May 1660 the English Parliament proclaimed Charles II king and the monarchy was restored. The Stuarts who, under Charles I's father James VI and I, united the thrones of Scotland and England, had regained power.
This exhibition explores the art, architecture and furnishings of Charles II's magnificent court. It demonstrates how art played a crucial role in expressing and legitimising the authority of the restored monarchy following a period of extreme social and political upheaval. It also looks at the patronage of Charles's Catholic brother James, Duke of Albany and York, who succeeded him in 1685 as James VII and II.
Charles I is here depicted in the last month of his life, facing the charges brought against him by the Parliamentarians. Following his defeat in the Civil War he was brought to trial before the High Court of Justice in the Great Hall at the Palace of Wes
The Restoration

Charles II returned from exile in 1660 to be crowned king

Painting of the Windsor Beauties
Court society and portraiture

Charles' court was full of scientists, actors, poets and artists

A number of miniatures of Charles II said to be by Samuel Cooper were acquired from Rundell, Bridge and Rundell in the early-nineteenth century.  By the mid-nineteenth century this miniature had come to be regarded as one of Cooper's finest portraits of C

Charles II kept a significant collection of miniatures in his closet at Whitehall

Painted to look as though the painting itself is a window, this is an early example of a conceit, which became highly popular in Dutch seventeenth-century art. The artist clearly hopes to entice the viewer to engage with the boy. He is painted staring dir
Collecting Old Master Paintings

During his reign, Charles amassed a collection of over 1,000 pictures

John Flamsteed (1646-1719) was the first Astronomer Royal, and is noted for attempting to disassociate astronomy from the methods of natural science. This book is a copy of the controversial 1712 edition of his star catalogue, Historiae Coelestis. Flamste
The Royal Society

Charles II was a patron of science as well as of art

Binding information 

Contemporary binding of red goatskin by the Royal Heads Binder for Charles II with his arms on front and back covers, the covers elaborately tooled in gilt, borders with double roll-tool border with acorn tools and with volute corner
St James's and Whitehall Palace libraries

The sumptuous decoration of books dedicated to Charles II reflects the prevailing fashions of the day

A portrait drawing of Frances, Countess of Surrey (1517-1577) on pink prepared paper. She is shown half-length facing to the front. She wears an English hood with one lappet raised, and she has a yellow girdle around her waist. The drawing is almost
Collecting Old Master drawings

Charles amassed a collection of Renaissance drawings, including albums by Hans Holbein and Leonardo da Vinci

An etching of Charles II and his court viewing a horse race at Datchet Ferry from the royal box, protected by Yeomen of the Guard. In front of the box is a set of weighing scales to measure the weight of the jockeys. There is a view of the river and Winds
Contemporary life

The reign of Charles II coincided with the blossoming of printmaking in Britain

Vorsterman was a Dutch landscape painter, pupil in Utrecht of Herman Saftleven (1609-85), who came to England during the reign of Charles II. 

This is one of a pair of views of Windsor Castle (OM 418-9, RCIN 405265 and 406508), which are described as V
Charles II's Palaces

Charles' desire to rebuild his palaces was only truly realised at Windsor

Susannah-Penelope Rosse was the daughter of the miniature painter, Richard Gibson, and his wife Anne. She too became a miniature painter, and George Vertue records that 'her first manner she learnt of her father, but being inamour'd with Cooper's limnings
The Reign of James VII and II and the ‘Glorious Revolution’

Commentators saw omens in James's coronation once he was forced into exile

The income from your ticket contributes directly to The Royal Collection Trust, a registered charity. The aims of The Royal Collection Trust are the care and conservation of the Royal Collection, and the promotion of access and enjoyment through exhibitions, publications, loans and educational activities.