The great fire of London was the critical catalyst that changed and recreated the city of London; it laid the foundations of the diverse utopia we see today. I want to delve in to the circumstances facing the sovereign and the dramatic atmosphere he rose to power in.
Charles II was born in the confines of St James’s Palace, London on 29th May 1630(Charles II, no date). His father was the over zealous King Charles I who was known for his dismissal of Parliament and his obsession with the Divine Right of Kings (Charles I, no date). Charles II mother was a French born catholic named Henrietta Maria who occupied a high station at the French court, who descended from the wealthy auspicious Medici line. He had a dubious education, until the age of twelve he was educated by the revered Bishop of Chichester and the Earl of Newcastle. At the age of twelve he was forced to flee as the English Civil War had begun between the “Roundheads”(Parliament supporters) and “Cavaliers”(Royalist).. He spent the next five years on the continent travelling between the nations of France, Netherlands and the island of Jersey. Following his father’s untimely death he returned to Scotland to lead the Presbyterian uprising in order for him to overthrow Cromwell’s Privy Council and restore the monarchy. He failed and returned to live with his mother in her lush abode in France. After Cromwell’s much celebrated death Parliament concluded that the return of the old order of monarchy was needed to end the civil strife caused by Cromwell’s “Us or them policy” (Charles II, no date).
After five years on the throne Charles II had to face his biggest problem to date. The Plague of 1665 was partly caused by an extremely hot summer that the capital endured that year. The hot summer gave ample source for rats and other disease ridden rodents to thrive. Also the city was full of slums and was inhabited by people who did not have hygienic living standards and would dispose of their waste and excrement out onto the streets and the roads. As the people lived in slums disease travelled very quickly and there was little to no access to doctors. (Johnson, no date)
Then finally one of the most defining events of Charles rain came to pass. The fire lasted for 96 hours from the 2nd September until 5th September. It threatened the district were the sovereign and his household was based in the heart of Westminster (the modern West End). However thankfully the fire did not reach these quarters. It burned down “13,200 houses”, “87 churches”, including St Paul's Cathedral and most of the other government buildings. The conflagration is said to have destroyed the humble abodes of more than 80,000 people that lived within the confines of the city. The venture to stop the fire was successful because of two main things. The first was that the wind that was carrying the fire and making it spread slowed down .The second main reason was due to the profound ability the regiment positioned at the tower of London had, to mobilize and create firebreaks to stop the fire from spreading to the eastern parts of the city. (Great Fire of London, 2015)
His death was unexpected and he did not get to heroically die in battle like his Plantagenet predecessors. He died aged 54 on February 1685 and was succeed by James II of England who was supported by the army. (King Charles II, no date)
Charles II (no date) Available at: http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/Charles_II.htm (Accessed: 19 May 2015)
Charles I (no date) Available at: http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/charles_i.htm (Accessed: 19 May 2015)
Great Fire of London (2015) in Wikipedia. Available at: http://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Fire_of_London (Accessed: 19 May 2015)
Johnson, B. (no date) The Great Plague 1665 - the Black Death. Available at: http://www.historic-uk.com/HistoryUK/HistoryofEngland/The-Great-Plague/ (Accessed: 22 May 2015)
King Charles II (no date) Available at: http://www.britroyals.com/kings.asp?id=charles2 (Accessed: 22 May 2015)