What Did King Charles II Have Against Coffee?

In 1675, England’s King Charles II tried to ban coffeehouses, as he considered them hotbeds of political dissent.
In 1675, England’s King Charles II tried to ban coffeehouses, as he considered them hotbeds of political dissent.

Having coffee with others has always been a nice way to sit and chat, but about 350 years ago, England's King Charles II didn't much like what people were talking about. Fearing that the folks gathering in such places fomented "evil and dangerous effects," such as discussing not just politics but plans to attack the throne, the king ordered all coffeehouses closed in 1675.

There were nearly 100 coffeehouses in London at the time, and they were proliferating rapidly as more sensible places for businessmen to gather, instead of taverns.

Judith Hawley, a literature professor at Royal Holloway, University of London, said the gents commonly discussed current events, politics, and – perhaps most worrisome to the Charles II – new ideas. "I think [this emerged from] a desire for men to talk business – whether their business was law or trade or the new science," Hawley said. "Coffeehouses provided a number of things that taverns didn't." Charles ultimately changed his mind about the ban two days before it would have taken effect. The java kept flowing, and Charles II retained his throne until his death in 1685.

All about King Charles II:

  • Charles II's father, Charles I, was the only English monarch to be beheaded by his countrymen.

  • Charles II was nicknamed the "Merry Monarch" for creating a lively, if hedonistic, court.

  • Charles II and his wife, Catherine of Braganza, had no children, but he fathered at least 12 children with other women.

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    • In 1675, England’s King Charles II tried to ban coffeehouses, as he considered them hotbeds of political dissent.
      In 1675, England’s King Charles II tried to ban coffeehouses, as he considered them hotbeds of political dissent.