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.
'This is a splendid book. If only more historians wrote as vigorously, vividly and imaginatively as Ronald Hutton, specialised history might recover some of its appeal to a wider public. Hutton's skilful use of well-selected illustrative detail shows a complete mastery of the sources...He is disarmingly unengaged in current academic-ideological squabbles. His conclusions are tentative, undogmatic, open-minded, but clearly stated. A special virtue is the
attention which his book pays to Scotland and Ireland...Dr Hutton finds new angles, neglected pieces of evidence...It is nice to think that so enjoyable a book will become the standard authority on its subject.' Christopher Hill, Guardian
'This is a book packed with information and insight, biography of high order because grounded in the most thorough-going and wide-ranging analysis of the reign ... it is merriment, vitality and superb historical writing, which inform the whole of Dr Hutton's book.'
Jenny Wormald, Glasgow Herald
'a judicious, deeply researched book, to the balance of which his sub-title is an important clue'
Antonia Fraser, Sunday Times
'Dr Hutton's scholarship is of the highest order ... Dr Hutton is to be congratulated on producing a book of lasting interest and importance.'
R. C. Latham, The Tablet
'This is a book of outstanding quality ... both scholarly and readable'
Christian Hesketh, Scotsman
'Hutton has produced a carefully balanced and detailed examination of Charles II and his reign. It is a major addition to our understanding of the monarch and his turbulent times.'
Jeffrey L. Schweer, S. F. Chronicle
'a thorough, scholarly, composite portrait'
L. Elisabeth Beattie, The New York Times Book Review
'Charles Stuart's life makes for fascinating reading, and Hutton does the story to a luminescent turn.'
Brad Hooper, Booklist
'well-written study of an important and fascinating figure'
'the first scholarly biography of Charles II ... Any college or public library will want to buy this well-written study of an important and fascinating figure.'
'Hutton has produced an erudite and extensively researched book that covers not just the king's reign but also his boyhood and experiences in exile. He shows great sensitivity to the sources ... There is much of value to be gleaned from this book.'
Tim Harris, Brown University, Journal of Modern History, Volume 64, Number 4, December 1992