350th anniversary of Rhode Island's "lively experiment" in religious freedom
King Charles II was born on May 29, 1630. He came of age during the English Civil War and lived in exile after the victory of Oliver Cromwell’s Parliamentary forces. He officially became king in 1651, restoring the monarchy in England. He is known as the ‘merry monarch’ for his positive attitude despite the disasters which occurred during his reign (the plague, great fire of London, burning of the English fleet).
During his time on the throne, Charles II granted royal charters to a variety of organizations – from other colonial ventures in North America to scientific societies. These documents generally feature Charles II in the upper left hand corner, framed by the letter “C.”
Note that in each of these documents, the king is depicted in a slightly different way. In some images Charles is wearing more formal attire, including the spotted ermine fur (a symbol of his royalty).
In Rhode Island’s Charter King Charles II is represented in some surprisingly unique – and significant – ways.
Look closely. Although Charles is wearing an elaborate lace collar, he is dressed in a relatively casual manner. He doesn’t have on any ermine fur. And he isn’t wearing a crown. He often appeared in this more casual manner on Charters.
Now look behind Charles. You’ll notice that he’s portrayed in front the sea – with the horizon extending into the unknown. This imagery hinted at his colonial aspirations, and desire expand royal authority.
What else is happening in this depiction of King Charles II? Does anything stand out to you? Stay tuned for more close looking at the Charter in the coming weeks…