“The great gallery of Whitehall”

“His palace (King Charles the Second) had seldom presented a gayer or a more scandalous appearance than on the evening of Sunday the first of February 1685.”

“One Roman Catholic, whose skill was then widely renowned, Doctor Thomas Short, was in attendance.”

“William Sancroft, Archbishop of Canterbury, an honest and pious, though narrowminded, man, used great freedom. “It is time,” he said, “to speak out; for, Sir, you are about to appear before a Judge who is no respecter of persons.” The King answered not a word.”

“In reply to the pressing questions of the divines, he said that he was sorry for what he had done amiss; and he suffered the absolution to be pronounced over him according to the forms of the Church of England: but, when he was urged to declare that he died in the communion of that Church, he seemed not to hear what was said; and nothing could induce him to take the Eucharist from the hands of the Bishops.”

“I have,” she said, “a thing of great moment to tell you. If it were known, my head would be in danger. The King is really and truly a Catholic; but he will die without being reconciled to the Church. His bedchamber is full of Protestant clergymen. I cannot enter it without giving scandal. The Duke is thinking only of himself. Speak to him. Remind him that there is a soul at stake. He is master now. He can clear the room. Go this instant, or it will be too late.”

“ Charles answered in an audible voice, “Yes, yes, with all my heart.” None of the bystanders, except the French Ambassador, guessed that the King was declaring his wish to be admitted into the bosom of the Church of Rome.”

“and, thus instructed, was brought up the back stairs by Chiffinch, a confidential servant, who, if the satires of that age are to be credited, had often introduced visitors of a very different description by the same entrance. ”

“Sir,” said the Duke, “this good man once saved your life. He now comes to save your soul.”

“The priest made him lie still, and assured him that God would accept the humiliation of the soul, and would not require the humiliation of the body. The King found so much difficulty in swallowing the bread that it was necessary to open the door and procure a glass of water. This rite ended, the monk held up a crucifix before the penitent, charged him to fix his last thoughts on the sufferings of the Redeemer, and withdrew.”

“The morning light began to peep through the windows of Whitehall; and Charles desired the attendants to pull aside the curtains, that he might have one more look at the day. He remarked that it was time to wind up a clock which stood near his bed. These little circumstances were long remembered because they proved beyond dispute that, when he declared himself a Roman Catholic, he was in full possession of his faculties.”

“At noon on Friday, the sixth of February, he passed away without a struggle.”

“The Duchess of Portsmouth had poisoned him in a cup of chocolate. The Queen had poisoned him in a jar of dried pears. Such tales ought to be preserved; for they furnish us with a measure of the intelligence and virtue of the generation which eagerly devoured them.”

“ He (James) was resolved to maintain the established government both in Church and State. The Church of England he knew to be eminently loyal. It should therefore always be his care to support and defend her. The laws of England, he also knew, were sufficient to make him as great a King as he could wish to be. He would not relinquish his own rights; but he would respect the rights of others.”

“This, then, was the prince whom a faction had driven into exile and had tried to rob of his birthright, on the ground that he was a deadly enemy to the religion and laws of England. He had triumphed: he was on the throne; and his first act was to declare that he would defend the Church, and would strictly respect the rights of his people.”

Excerpt From
The History of England, from the Accession of James II — Volume 1
Thomas Babington Macaulay

Of Charles II, Rochester supposedly said:

We have a pretty, witty king,
Whose word no man relies on,
He never said a foolish thing,
And never did a wise one.

To which Charles is reputed to have replied “that the matter was easily accounted for: For that his discourse was his own, his actions were the ministry’s”.

On his deathbed Charles asked his brother, James, to look after his mistresses: “be well to Portsmouth, and let not poor Nelly starve”. He told his courtiers, “I am sorry, gentlemen, for being such a time a-dying”, and expressed regret at his treatment of his wife. On the last evening of his life he was received into the Catholic Church in the presence of Father John Huddleston, though the extent to which he was fully conscious or committed, and with whom the idea originated, is unclear. He was buried in Westminster Abbey “without any manner of pomp” on 14 February.

Charles was succeeded by his brother James II and VII.

James VII and II (14 October 1633 O.S. – 16 September 1701) was King of England and Ireland as James II and King of Scotland as James VII from the death of his elder brother, Charles II, on 6 February 1685. He was deposed in the Glorious Revolution of 1688. He was the last Catholic monarch of England, Scotland and Ireland. His reign is now remembered primarily for conflicts over religious tolerance, but it also involved struggles over the principles of absolutism  and the divine right of kings. His deposition ended a century of political and civil strife in England by confirming the primacy of the English Parliament over the Crown.