A popular and plausible tradition that appears in most histories and reference works is that King Charles II referred to Virginia as his loyal old dominion at the time that he was restored to the throne in 1660. After the Parliamentarians executed King Charles I in 1649 following their victory in the English Civil Wars, they forced the king’s namesake son and heir into exile and governed without a monarch. Nevertheless, the governor and General Assembly of Virginia proclaimed Prince Charles the king; in 1652 Parliament sent a fleet and armed force to Virginia to require the colony to surrender and give up its allegiance to the exiled claimant to the throne.
There is no known documentary proof for the story that at the time of his restoration as king in 1660 Charles II gratefully called Virginia his faithful old dominion, but it is possible that he did. Virginia historian Robert Beverley (d. 1722) wrote in his History and Present State of Virginia (1705) that by then there was a “Tradition, that the King, in Compliment to that Colony, wore at his Coronation a Robe made of the Silk, that was sent from thence.” When Charles II acknowledged a gift of Virginia silk that Governor Sir William Berkeley presented to him in 1663, the king referred to the colony as “our auntient Collonie of Virginia,” and one of “our own Dominions.” In 1699 the General Assembly referred to Virginia as “his majesties ancient colony and dominion,” and in 1700 in an address to the king the assembly used the phrase, “your MajestOld. In 1962 when the General Assembly converted the Norfolk division of the College of William and Mary into an independent four-year institution of higher education, it gave the new school the name Old Dominion College, changed in 1969 to Old Dominion University. It has ever since been the largest and one of the best-known institutions of higher learning in southeastern Virginia. Its name clearly indicates to Virginians and to other Americans in which state it is located.