Portrait of King Charles II


This state portrait of King Charles II (1630–1685) was painted by John Michael Wright (1617–1694) to celebrate the Restoration of the Stuart monarchy and Charles’s coronation on 23 April 1661.

Symbolism within the painting

Charles II is resplendent in full coronation regalia, including ermine-trimmed robes, crown, sceptre and orb. These powerful symbols of monarchy had been destroyed shortly after the execution of Charles’s father, King Charles I (1600–1649), and therefore had to be remade for the coronation ceremony in 1661.

The composition of the painting has many similarities to the official state portraits commissioned by Henry VIII and Elizabeth I as visual representations of their power, legitimacy and divine right to rule. Here, Charles is sat on a low throne under a canopy of state, with his legs spread wide in white stockings. These details are especially evocative of Henry VIII in the iconic painting The Family of Henry VIII (c. 1545). This powerful portrait is designed to reinforce Charles’s legitimacy by reminding all who gazed upon it that at his coronation centuries of royal ancestry were being restored to the throne.

Full title:
Charles II (1630–1685) by John Michael Wright c. 1676
1661 or 1670s
Painting / Image
John Michael Wright
Usage terms
Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017
Held by
Royal Collection Trust
RCIN 404951

Related articles

An introduction to Restoration comedy

Article by:
Diane Maybank
Theatre and entertainment, Politics and religion, Satire and humour

Diane Maybank introduces the characters, conventions and historical context of Restoration comedy, and explores what the genre has to say about gender, courtship and class.

The Rover: An introduction

Article by:
Elaine Hobby
Gender and sexuality, Theatre and entertainment, Satire and humour, Politics and religion

Aphra Behn's The Rover engages with the social, political and sexual conditions of the 17th century, as well as with theatrical traditions of carnival and misrule. Elaine Hobby introduces Behn's play and explores how it was first performed and received.

‘Reason is but choosing’: freedom of thought and John Milton

Article by:
Roberta Klimt
Politics and religion

From his politics and religious writings to Paradise Lost, Roberta Klimt traces how the life and work of John Milton was guided by the principle of freedom of thought and how in doing so he challenged fundamental aspects of 17th-century society.

Related collection items

Related people

Related works

The Rover

Created by: Aphra Behn

The Rover overview One of Aphra Behn’s most successful and celebrated plays, The Rover is a classic ...

Paradise Lost

Created by: John Milton

Paradise Lost overview Paradise Lost is an epic poem (12 books, totalling more than 10,500 lines) written in blank ...