From the Notebooks of Susan Holloway Scott

Happy Birthday, Your Majesty!

Saturday, May 29, 2010
May 29th is not only the 350th anniversary of the return of King Charles II (1630-1685) to London after his lengthy exile, but also his 380th birthday. I've written five historical novels in which Charles has featured prominently, and after those 600,000 or so words between us, I do feel I owe him the very best wishes for the day.

But I'll leave it to writer and diarist John Evelyn(1620-1707), who witnessed Charles's return to London, to describe the day and the jubilant welcome the king received:

"This day, His Majesty, Charles II, came to London, after a sad and long exile and calamitous suffering both of the King and the Church, being seventeen years. This was also his birthday, and with a triumph of above 20,000 horse and foot, brandishing their swords, and shouting with inexpressible joy; the ways strewn with flowers, the bells ringing, the streets hung with tapestry, fountains running with wine; the Mayor, Aldermen, and all the companies, in their liveries, chains of gold, and banners; Lords and Nobles, clad in cloth of silver, gold, and velvet; the windows and balconies, all set with ladies; trumpets, music, and myriads of people flocking, even so far as from Rochester, so as they were seven hours in passing the city, even from two in the afternoon till nine at night.

"I stood in the Strand and beheld it, and blessed God. And all this was done without one drop of blood shed, and by that very army which rebelled against him: but it was the Lord's doing, for such a restoration was never mentioned in any history, ancient or modern, since the return of the Jews from their Babylonish captivity; nor so joyful a day and so bright ever seen in this nation, this happening when to expect or effect it was past all human policy....The eagerness of men, women, and children, to see His Majesty, and kiss his hand, was so great, that he had scarce leisure to eat for some days, coming as they did from all parts of the nation; and the King being as willing to give them satisfaction, would have none kept out, but gave free access to all sorts of people."

From the Diary of John Evelyn, which has recently (finally!) become available for on-line reading here.

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