Charles the Second, King of England, Scotland, and Ireland
Ronald Hutton is Britain's foremost historian of the English Restoration. His book The Restoration was hailed as "a real tour de force" by History, a work "to which all historians will have to refer," and immediately established itself as the definitive history of the period. Now, in Charles II, Hutton offers a comprehensive biography of the king who returned to England in triumph after the death of Cromwell, re-establishing the monarchy that continues to reign to this day.
Hutton reveals the excitement and tragedy of Charles's youth, as the realm erupted into savage civil war, leading to the execution of his father King Charles I at the hands of the rebellious Parliament. His life turned into a long, desperate struggle to claim his crown, including a catastrophic invasion of Cromwell's England that ended in a lonely flight, as he hid in orchards, ditches, and the famous Boscobel Oak. Yet Charles persevered, and was finally recalled from exile by an exhausted nation in 1660.
Charles emerges in this narrative as a "monarch in a masquerade," a charming, duplicitous, and astonishingly lucky king who spent less time governing than he did at play (when he wasn't hunting, racing, or sailing he was with one of a series of mistresses, producing seventeen acknowledged bastards). Hutton vividly depicts him as a colorful and often underhanded ruler, physically brave in battle, but a moral coward in religion--first he promised to become a Presbyterian for Scottish aid, then later offered to convert to Catholicism for French help, eventually alienating everyone. His reign endured catastrophe and unrest, from the plague and the Great Fire of London, to defeat at the hands of the Dutch, to Protestant hysteria about a Catholic plot to seize the throne, to the disastrous results of his own secret diplomacy. But Charles in his good fortune survived all of it, beautifully rebuilding London after the fire and firmly anchoring a monarchy whose future had once been bleak.
Chosen as a main selection of the History Book Club, Charles II presents an unmatched account of the private life and dramatic public career of this fascinating king. This lively and comprehensive biography, written by a major historian of the Restoration period, captures the politics and personalities of a mometentous era.
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