***Plaidy left a handful of Author's Notes among her many books, and as they are well-worded and enlightening I thought I would post them here occasionally. This has been typed from the 1973 Putnam hardcover edition.***
It is so generally believed that Charles died a Catholic that I feel I must explain why I do not hold that belief. The deathbed scene has always worried me a great deal because I have felt it to be out of line with Charles' character. Therefore I was anxious to find a convincing explanation.
It is true that Father Huddleston came to him on the night before he died, and that Charles made no protest when it was suggested that he be received into the Catholic Church; but when all the facts are considered I think there is a viewpoint, other than the accepted one, which serves to explain his acquiescence.
On that Sunday, the 1st February, 1685, he ate little all day; he passed a restless night and next morning, while he was being shaved, fell down 'all of a sudden in a fit like apoplexy'. He never fully recovered, although he had periods of consciousness during the next five days which were spent in great pain aggravated by the attention of his physicians who, not knowing what remedies to use, applied most of those which they had ever heard. During those five days, hot irons were applied to the King's head, pans of hot coals to all parts of his body, and warm cupping glasses to his shoulders while he was bled. Emetics, clysters, purgatives, blistering agents, foul-tasting drugs, and even distillations from human skulls, were given to him - not once but continually. Spirit of sal ammoniac was put under his nose that he might have vigorous sneezing fits, and when he slipped into unconsciousness cauteries were applied to revive him. So that in addition to the pain of his illness he had these tortures to endure.
He knew that he was dying on the Monday, yet he made no effort to see a priest. When Bishop Ken begged him to receive the rites of the Church of England he turned away; but this was a natural gesture, for he was suffering great pain and discomfort, and he had never been a religious man. All through Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday he had been , as he said, 'an unconscionable time a-dying', and on Thursday night the Duke of York and the Duchess of Portsmouth (who both had their reasons) brought Huddleston to his bedside; and at this late hour, according to those few people who were present, Charles joyfully received Huddleston's ministrations.
I believe that Charles was too ill to resist the importunings of his brother and his mistress. I believe that in that easygoing manner which had characterized his entire life he gave way as he had so often before. That is if, after four days of acute agony, discomfort, and intermittent unconsciousness, he was even aware of what he was doing.
According to Burnet. Ken pronounced the absolution of his sins over the King's bed, and in his last hours Charles said that he hoped he should climb to Heaven's gate; 'which', goes on Burnet, 'is the only word savouring of religion that he was ever heard to speak'.
Charles' attitude to religion had always been constant. He had modelled himself on his maternal grandfather, Henri Quatre, who had ended religious strife in France when he changed from Huguenot to Catholic, declaring that Paris was worth a Mass. Charles believed that religious toleration was the way to peace. He was tolerant to Catholics, not because he was a Catholic, but because they were being persecuted. He had said of Presbyterianism: ''Tis no religion for gentlemen.' This was during his stay in Scotland when he had been forced to hear long prayers and sermons every day, and repent of so many sins that he said: 'I think I must repent that I was ever born.' He had declared: 'I want every man to live under his own vine and figtree.' But this did not mean he was Catholic.
His attitude to the Church was often frivolous. He had in his youth been hit on the head by his father for smiling at the ladies in church; and as Cunningham says, 'he had learned to look upon the clergy as a body of men who had compounded a religion for their own advantage'.
To his sister Henriette he wrote: 'We have the same disease of sermons that you complain of. But I hope you have the same convenience that the rest of the family has, of sleeping lost of the time, which is a great ease to those who are bound to hear them.' He greatly regretted that he had not been awake to hear delivered to Lauderdale a reproof from the pulpit: 'My lord, my lord, you snore so loud you will wake the King.' Burnet, who was a large and vehement man, had once when preaching thumped his pulpit cushion crying: 'Who dares deny it?' to which Charles answered audibly: 'Nobody within reach of that devilish great fist.'
It was Charles' belief that God would never damn a man for a little irregular pleasure; and he had declared his conviction that the greatest sins were malice and unkindness. Such a man would, in my opinion, never 'play safe' at the eleventh hour. He had borne great pain with immense courage and patience which astonished all who beheld it. He was not afraid of death. If he believed that malice and unkindness were the greatest sins he must also have believed that he had sinned less than most men of his age.