By Jenny Uglow! As heard on Radio 4!
Well, as far as biographies of Charles II go, this is the longest and best one I’ve ever read. The gambling theme does seem to be somewhat awkwardly shoehorned in in some places – surely all leaders have to take calculated risks from time to time. Fair enough, he liked to play games, and maybe he took more risks than necessary, but I thought it was overdone.
I read this because I was curious about the truth about the restoration after reading The Baroque Cycle and Fingerpost. I’m not sure I learnt huge amounts about it. This book concentrates on the first decade of Charles’ reign after the interregnum, 1660-1670. Uglow argues that after this he became somewhat less interesting or something. It goes on about intrigues between Buckingham and Clarendon and suchlike; his mistresses take up space too, and there is quite a bit about trying to get money out of parliament for wars. In pretty much all things, it turns out he was good at brokering compromises, charming and full of energy. Well done Chuck. There doesn’t seem to be a very strong story there though. Which is perhaps why the gambling thing got thrown in.