When Charles II returned to London to reclaim his thrown in 1660, the diarist John Evelyn was on hand to record events.
Following the execution of his father, Charles I on 30 January 1649, the young Charles II (1630-1685) spent 11 years in exile, mostly in France.
Charles had been crowned king of Scotland as early as 1651, but formal coronation as king of England had to wait until two years after the death of Oliver Cromwell and the election of a pro-royalist parliament.
Charles arrived in Dover on 23 May and reached London on 30 May.
The following account was given by John Evelyn, the diarist, royalist and founder member of the Royal Society.
The return of Charles II to London, May 1660
May 3 Came the most happy tidings of his Majesties gracious Declaration, & applications to the Parliament, Generall, & People &c and their dutifull acceptance & acknowledgement, after a most bloudy & unreasonable Rebellion of neere 20 yeares. Praised be forever the Lord of heaven, who onely dost wondrous things, because thy mercys indure forever.
May 9 I was desired & designed to accompany my Lord Berkeley with the publique Addresse of the Parliament Gen: &c: & invite him to come over, & assume his Kingly government, he being now at Breda; but being yet so weake & convalescent, I could not make that journey by sea, which was not a little to my detriment &c: so I went to Lond to excuse my selfe, returning the 10th, having yet received a gracious message from his Majestie, by Major Scot & Colonel Tuke.
May 29 This day came in his Majestie Charles the 2d to London after a sad, & long Exile, and Calamitous Suffering both of the King and Church: being 17 yeares: This was also his Birthday, and with a Triumph of above 20000 horse and foote, brandishing their swords and shouting with unexpressable joy: The wayes straw’d with flowers, the bells ringing, the streetes hung with Tapissry, fountaines running with wine: The Major, Aldermen, all the Companies in their liver[ie]s, Chaines of Gold, banners; Lords & nobles, Cloth of Silver, gold and vellvet every body clad in, the windos and balconies all set with Ladys, Trumpets, Musick, & [myriads] of people flocking the streetes & was as far as Rochester, so as they were 7 houres in passing the Citty, even from 2 in the afternoone ’til nine at night: I stood in the strand, & beheld it, & blessed God: And all this without one drop of bloud, & by that very army, which rebell’d against him: But it was the Lords doing, et mirabile in oculis nostris: for such a Restauration was never seene in the mention of any history, antient or modern, since the returne of the Babylonian Captivity, nor so joyfull a day, & so bright, ever seene in this nation: this hapning when to expect or effect it, was past all humane policy.
Source: The Diaries of John Evelyn