Manual A Gambling Man: Charles II and the Restoration

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A Gambling Man - Charles II and the Restoration by Jenny Uglow: review

The people were more merciful in the peccadillos of their leaders and Londoners followed the comings and goings of Barbara Castlemaine, Francis Stuart, Moll Davis, Louise de Keroualle and the irrepressible Nell Gwynn with a great deal of interest. Less obvious to the masses, as always, were the comings and goings on the political arena. Dealing with the implications of jockying for office by members of the restored Cavaliers took up much of Charles's time and probably explains all the mistresses. It was also the time in which the two great parties British history, the Whigs and the Tories became established.

At the heart of the origins of these two groups were questions involving religion. The Anglican Church was an important component, but there were also dissenters of both the Protestant and Catholic variety and religion was very much a political act, rather than one of conscience. Catholics since the gunpowder plot were as highly regarded as Communists in the US during the Cold War and viewed as foreign agents.

Dissenting Protestants were, if anything, worse in several respects. Charles was able to preserve the state of the monarchy by playing off these various factions to his own advantage despite rarely receiving sufficient funds to conduct the affairs of state and to pay for his own pleasures. He was, by bringing into office men such as Clarendon, Buckingham, Danby, and Shaftsbury, probably a kind of political genius. He would throughout his reign make use of these individuals and their followers and then drop them whenever it was convenient.

Charles was very much a man of a single big idea and only one and that was the preservation of the monarchy as an institution, regardless of his personal feelings. Though successful after a fashion, this adherence to a single idea led him to become less realistic when considering the succession, a point well made by Uglow.

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His queen was incapable of heirs, a shortcoming not shared by Charles, and his brother was a crypto Catholic who would become completely intolerable to both the Whigs and the Tories. Charles would neither divorce his wife nor disinherit his brother. Whereas he was completely lacking in sentiment where political collaborators were concerned, he was too sentimental when it came to members of his own family.

Uglow's treatment of these events is good. I did feel however that the last 13 years of Charles's reign was somewhat rushed. While Charles was certainly able to consolidate power during the first 10 years of his reign, the battles with the factions in parliament, the Titus Oates plot and other features of his reign are given short shift.

Perhaps this is due to a conscious decision to limit the scope of the book and not produce a history of the entire reign The book does have several strengths however. I thought Uglow was very good on her examination of the political aspects of the theatre and how courtiers would commission plays to smash or embarrass rivals. The theatre was the equivalent of the mindless attack ads that are an embarrassing feature of the electoral process.

The plays that make up the cannon of Restoration comedy are far superior and were certainly directed to an audience that had a greater appreciation for wit and invective. While this book has one defect in that it rushes through the last 13 years of King Charles II's reign, it has a number of other strengths to recommend it.

Any book that demonstrates how cut throat politics for the sake of power contributes to the development of a national theatre is certainly well worth a read. One person found this helpful 2 people found this helpful. I'm currently making my way through the Stuart monarchy and was looking forward to this bio on Charles II. I've specifically been looking for books that are informative yet approachable for the non-trained historian. The book did contain rare and wonderful flashes of personal insight which helped to bring the historical events to life.

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Additionally, it helped to have read the previous books which provided further context and insight into the period of the time as articulated by Uglow. I've just started on Miller's James II and found that this book does a fantastic job of providing a recap of the reign of Charles II highlighting both the major events of the time as well as the personal insights and considerations of the court and parliament's major players.

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There are a few other bios on Charles II that are available. I might suggest that if you are looking for a biography that combines personal insight with historical details you look elsewhere. However, I gained quite a bit of detailed knowledge on the policies and major events of the time and greatly enjoyed when Uglow was able to bring the time and historical events to life. One person found this helpful. Charles II reigned from was the son of Charles I who had been executed by the Cromwellians on January 30, After the regicide of his father the young Charles fled to the Continent after many exciting escapes from Roundhead forces.

After the death of Oliver Cromwell his son Richard proved to be an incompetent ruler. The Parliament and people clamoured for Charles to return from exile. He became the King and the Restoration era was begun.

Charles II and the English Restoration (The Stuarts: Part Three)

There were many momentous events during the reign of the merry monarch including: The Plague which devastated London in Three naval wars against the Dutch. The issue was trade and control of the seas. A Gambling Man: Charles II's Restoration Game (): Jenny Uglow: Books

Higher taxation of the populace needed to fight Charles' wars. Continued religious controversy and persecution. Dissenters and Quakers were imprisoned. The Church of England was the official religion. Charles converted to Roman Catholicism on his deathbed following the faith of his brother James II who short inglorious reign was from The founding of the Royal Society and the growing interest in science.

Paul's flourished during this reign. The personality of Charles II? He was a rake. Charles sired countless illegitimate children and had a whole cadre of willing mistresses. Charles was wed to the plain Catherine of Braganza from Portugal. Charles loved sex, racing at Newmarket Track, gambling, hunting and playing tennis. He was a non-intellectual whose reign never fulfilled its promise for the British people of greater religious stability and peace.

Charles was a charming cavalier who was personally kind and endearing to his family and friends. Jenny Uglow is a veteran British biographer. This long book covers the first ten years of Charles II reign taking the story from its beginning in to The book is lavishly illustrated with colored plates and period drawings making it an attractive volume. Along with the much earlier book on Charles II by Lady Antonia Fraser this is the one to read on the cavalier king and his exciting times.

See all 18 reviews. Most recent customer reviews. Published on July 17, Cheerfulness, lovemaking — and the loyalty of his own penniless, outlawed court — were all that Charles had left with which to comfort himself for the remainder of a bleak decade. Characteristically, he made the best of it. Invasion had proved futile. A second attempt, in , by the gallant cavaliers who called themselves The Sealed Knot, was instantly crushed.

The only winning card that Charles still held was the most difficult for a young man to employ: He had five long years left in which to practise it to perfection. Those were years that encompassed fierce trade battles against foreign powers; the ravages of the Plague; the devastations of the Great Fire.

A Gambling Man: Charles II and the Restoration by Jenny Uglow

On stage, the lines of Dryden and the courtly wits were used to damn, by lethal ridicule, the reputations of all meddlers and overreachers. Evidence was given, even before the new monarch stepped ashore at Dover on the afternoon of May 25, that Charles intended to ally kingliness with accessibility. The sailors aboard the Royal Charles were feasting on peas and pork; the king summoned his brothers to join them at their trestles. Instead, with deadpan grace, Charles chose to remark that, had he only known what delight would greet his return, he would never have tarried so long abroad.

Art, posterity and death. Accessibility, wedded to a courteous wit, guided King Charles through treacherous waters. Visited at court by a fierce young convert Quaker, Charles noticed that William Penn had kept his headgear on; removing his own hat, the king explained that, by rules of court, at least one of them must do so.

Penn was grudgingly impressed; observers nodded approval. Similarly, it did the king no harm that he was seen, during the Great Fire, to be out doing his bit to encourage the despairing while helping to quench the flames.

Or that, at the outset of a reign that he sought to make seem informal, Charles strolled around the public streets near Whitehall, affable and unattended: Uglow writes with imaginative authority and mesmerising power about this labyrinth, winding its way above the curving sweep of the Thames. Graphically, she conjures life back into those few secret spaces in which Charles compensated himself for years of deprivation: Uglow has earned her reputation by writing about people Hogarth, Bewick, James Watt, Josiah Wedgwood who belonged to a working world of art and industry.

Why then, some readers may wonder, would she want to devote her talents to characterising a monarch such as this: