Following in the footsteps of Charles I and II

King (then Prince) Charles with Chief Rabbis Lord Jonathan Sacks and Efraim Mirvis, wearing his special Kippa with the Prince of Wales emblem
King (then Prince) Charles with Chief Rabbis Lord Jonathan Sacks and Efraim Mirvis, wearing his special Kippa with the Prince of Wales emblem

Well, presumably in due course we will get William V and George VII. At the moment though it’s Charles III, who like his ancestor, has always been a good friend to the Jewish community. Charles II doesn’t get the credit for letting us back into the country. That goes to Oliver Cromwell who said we weren’t to be harassed if we did come, but he didn’t pass a law. Which was fortunate for us as Charles II cancelled almost all of Cromwell’s laws. 

What happened was that in 1661 a delegation from the City of London asked Charles to throw us out again as we were becoming too much competition. Charles, however, had been supported financially in exile in Amsterdam by Jews and couldn’t be sure he wouldn’t need them again. So he let us stay.

It was lovely seeing the banks of flowers all over Green Park, marking the Queen’s passing. It was possibly. the first time there had been flowers in Green Park since Charles’ Queen, Catherine of Braganza, had caught him collecting flowers in the park for his mistress, Nell Gwynn. The Queen gave instructions that flowers were to be totally banned from the park, which is why it is called Green Park.

Charles III has always been keen on new technology and here he follows his ancestor, who gave a royal charter in 1662 to The Royal Society, who now have 1600 scientist members from all over the world.  Their motto translates as “Take nobody’’s word for it” which is appropriate for today’s King who, for example, insisted on the importance of climate change long before it became accepted generally.

Charles II brought tolerance into the country after so many years of religious conflict. He simply didn’t believe that fighting over faith was good for the country. His example took years to become accepted and George I in 1715 was the 45th in line of succession but the first Protestant.

There is a historical concept called the Pendulum. It holds that the views of society change periodically. So the excesses of Georgian England were followed by the puritanism of Victorian times. In those days piano legs were often covered. Cromwell was very puritan as well but the court of Charles II was topless. There are commemorative plates produced at the time which show the Queen décolleté. That’s not likely to happen again.

The reign of Charles II was not our finest hour in war. The Dutch were strong competitors in trade and it was desirable to stop them. We needed battleships, however, and we had run out of wood. The Swedes had wood but wanted paying in gold. So we borrowed the gold from the Dutch to buy the wood from the Swedes, to build the ships, to fight the Dutch, who sailed up the Thames and sank them! Which is why the Dutch have part of the country’s National Debt, because we are still paying them interest on the loan. Charles II was not best pleased.

The politicians around Charles were called the Cabal – Clifford, Arlington, Buckingham, Ashley and Lauderdale. The equivalent today would be Tickcub – Liz Truss, Therese Coffey, Kwasi Kwarteng, James Claverman and Selena Braverman. I’m not sure that will take on.

There was another area in Charles II’s time where Jews were involved; Queen Catherine got erysipelas – not at all nice – on her way to Britain and was treated by the Jewish Dr. Ferdinando Mendes. When she recovered Catherine got Mendes to join her household in London and Mendes became both the King and Queen’s doctor. He arrived in 1669 ands died here as a fellow of the Royal college of Physicians in 1725.

Charles I is remembered for the Civil War and being beheaded. A larger proportion of the population died in the Civil War than in either of the two world wars. Still it was Cromwell’s victory in the Civil War that gave us parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy, so good did come out of evil.

Both Charles I and Charles II reigned for 25 years and we all hope that Charles III will do as well. We’ll have to get him a new yarmulke, however, because his present one has the three feathers of the Prince of Wales on it.

God save the King.

About the Author
Derek is an author & former editor of the Jewish Year Book