Sjoerd • Link
"Royal Survivor" , Stephen Coote
Encouraged by the pepys bio i bought this, and a very good read it is. The guy (Charles) doesn't come over as very endearing, but he didn't lead a boring life.
Coote's style in this one is very fast. Best liked quote:
(About the lovely Hortense Mazarin):
"She fled to Italy, and having conceived an illegitimate child, returned to Paris only to find that her husband now thought he was a tulip and insisted on being watered by his servants every day."
The Friendship of John Evelyn & Margaret Godolphin "Transformations of Love" by Frances Harris (available at Amazon).
This book,which is beautifully written, explores the controversy of the very passionate and "seraphic" friendship that a 49 year old John Evelyn develops for 19 year old Margaret Blagge, a maid of honor at Charles II court(note:she later marries Sidney Godolphin). It follows the emotional sways of their relationship as Margaret struggles with her desire to serve God in a truly dedicated and spiritual manner and her growing love for Sidney Goldophin. Evelyn moves back and forth from fatherly figure, to friend, to jealous influencer, and from the reader's perspective, to someone who has truly fallen in love, although he is the last to know.
Also, of interest is Evelyn's work "The Life of Mrs.Godolphin" which he penned for Margaret's friend and husband as a private tribute to her after her death. Another view on this subject is found in the W.G. Hiscock book " John Evelyn and Margaret Godolphin" which takes a more Freudian perspective on the relationship and the friendship. Of note: Hiscock did not have the letters between Margaret and Sidney to round out the situation as does Harris. Finally as a follow up related to the subject is Sir Tresham Lever's book "Godolphin -His Life and Times" which tracks the third part of this triangle, Sidney Godolphin, the man that Margaret loved. In any perspective what is truly clear is this young woman had an impact on both of these men which lasted througout their lives. In the US books were available on either Amazon, your local library (reference dept loaners) or sometimes through the used book market http://www.usedbooksearch.co.uk/
"The Life and Loyalties of Thomas Bruce" by the Earl of Cardigan explores the "most famous footnote" the "Ailesbury" that was a much quoted source of the later life and death of Charles II. Cardigan chooses to explore what he calls an "individual of the second rank" who never entered the limelight as other well known ministers and servants to Charles, but entered into his service when he was a young and impressionable man and Charles was about 50 or so. Of note, Bruce was also a friend of Monmouth as a child, a relationship that would prove troubling to him as he saw the friction between Monmouth, Charles, James, etc. The impressions left on Bruce by Charles II as a young man stuck with him throughout his life and he remained steadfast in his loyalties to the Stuarts, as he states "with my steady principles...I could not change Kings as one doth a suit of clothes". He truly paid a price for that loyalty as he rose up with the Stuarts as a courtier, member of Parliament, a peer and a revolutionary, but also ended up a prisoner and a foreign exile for many of his remaining years. Bruce also paid dearly in personal terms as his political alliances cost him the ability to remain with his family. The role that Bruces' extended family took in raising his children and making amends for Bruce's horrible financial decisions is interesting to note as Bruce, the eldest son, had the "rank" but clearly did not have the abilites of his younger siblings to provide. This book explores the life of a more mid-range but priveledged person whose life touched and was thereafter influenced by the Stuart kings. Usually available at http://www.usedbooksearch.co.uk/
"My Dearest Minette", edited by Ruth Norrington is a collection of the correspondence between Charles II and his younger sister Henrietta ("Minette") the Duchesse d'Orleans, who was married to Philippe d'Orleans, the younger brother of Louis XIV. Philippe and Minette originally married for love but the marriage quickly deteriorated and turned into a spiteful and hateful relationship with Philippe (a practicing bisexual) becoming cruel and violent with his constant sway of jealousies towards Minette. As the marriage fell apart Minette became more embroiled in the intrigues of the French court. The letters follow the time period of 1659 through her mysterious death in 1670. Charles and Minette are close confidants and exchange everthing from family news, court gossip, fashion,politics and foreign policy. Their correspondence leads up to the Treaty of Dover, where Charles acting through Minette as the intermediary basically "sold himself" to Louis. Usually available at Amazon or also at http://www.usedbooksearch.co.uk/
Richard Ollard's "Cromwell's Earl" brings Pepys "My Lord" , Edward Mountagu the Earl of Sandwich into the spotlight through a much different view than Sam has given us. Ollard, who should be noted is also a biographer of Pepys, has dedicated himself to the research of the journals of Sandwich. Ollard commends Sandwich for his brillance as an admiral and career as an ambasador. Sandwich was genuinely liked and respected by both Cromwell and Charles II and wholeheartedly admired by Clarendon, a rarity in itself. Sandwich's journals, much different than Sam's in their factual but non-judgemental recording of his travels also have some interesting drawings of the various things he saw along the way ranging from jewels, to irrigation systems, to tools and maps. Sandwich has the same level of interest in life as a Pepys noting scientific discoveries, notations on political protocal and the arts. Of interest to Sam's followers--when Ollard pits Sam and Sandwich at odds with each other it is usually Sandwich who comes out on top. Ollard only lightly touches on Sandwich's family and relations but cleary presents him as a loving, devoted family man, a humanist and a loyal friend, which is not always the view presented by Sam in his diary entries. Also, don't expect the writing style of a Claire Tomalin or the excitement of Sam's diary-- Sandwich is a different breed and Ollard is a different writer. Available at http://www.usedbooksearch.co.uk/
"La Belle Stuart" by Cyril Hughes Hartmann is the biogrpahy of Frances Teresa Stuart, a young lady who was a distant relative of Charles II and a beauty of his court. While her family sought refuge in France during the Cromwell period, she was a favorite of the French court and well regarded by both Charles' mother Henrietta and his sister Minette. Her family returned to England upon the Restoration when Frances was still a young girl of about 13 or so. She was incredibly beautiful, silly and childish in her manner, but her looks and frivolous nature caught the eye of Charles II. During the next few years of immature flirtation she led him to believe that someday she would be his mistress and thus managed to unseat Lady Castlemaine's "power" over Charles. (Pepys makes note of this in several places, starting around 1663 and revels in the related gossip).
Around the time that Queen Catherine became ill (Sept, 1663) it was believed by almost everyone that if Catherine died from her illness that Charles would wed Frances and Castlemaine would be gone for good.
What is most interesting is Hartmann's view of the "curious complexity" of Charles' character through his interactions with Frances. He states that "Charles was dividing between three women at the same time the love that an ordinary man would devote to one at different stages of his passion." For Frances he had a young romatic passion for her gaity and beauty. For Catherine " it was love growing old, a tenderness free from all passion, a placid affection which was a haven for all his better instincts" and with Lady Castlemaine both romance and tenderness were missing and all that remained were the basest physical element.
As Frances grew into womanhood she had to face the reality of her behavior which left 3 choices--mistress, convent or marriage to anyone who would take her. She threw herself at the Queen's mercy and Catherine guided her towards marriage to the Duke of Richmond. This mariage was an extreme insult and embarassment to Charles, who banished Frances and her husband from court. The fall out of this situation turned political as the parties in the court opposing Clarendon (Buckingham and Arlington)blamed the marriage on him. Charles, who clearly was struggling to soothe his ego and couldn't think that any woman would leave him for the Duke of Richmond without someone manipulating her to do so, fell for the bait and Clarendon was forced to exile himself to France.
Over time the wounds began to heal and Frances and her husband were welcomed back to the court. After her husband's death Catherine appointed her as a lady of her chamber and they had a sincere friendship. Frances never remarried, but she remained friendly with Charles who granted her financial support for her life. This is usually available used through a search at http://www.usedbooksearch.co.uk/cgi/search.cgi
Richard Ollard's "The Image of the King" (or as it appears on Amazon in the US entitled "Phoenix: The Image of the King") is a phenomenal character study of Charles I and Charles II. Ollard relies on varied sources to present not the history of each king, but rather the details of the lives of each of these men and how those incidents, etc. shaped each one's character. For a father and son, these two had very little in common, except for an ability to be deceitful, as seen in the treatment and secondhand dealings behind the backs of faithful friends and ministers (ie. Ormonde, Hyde and many others). While Charles I is presented as a much more beloved, straight laced and moral individual, all stops are pulled out as Charles II is raked over the coals in the writings of the men of his time who captured their thoughts and documented his person. By following the contemporary writings of Clarendon, Burnet, Pepys, Evelyn,Ormonde,Halifax and others, Ollard manages to gather insight not only from diarists but from men that served the father as well as the son. In addition to the wit of these contemporary writers, some of the quotes and the conclusions that they draw are like a lethal blade--right to the heart of the matter. For instance, after the death of his son the Lord Ossary, Ormonde (who served under, greatly sacrificed for and was betrayed by both father and son)responds to some insincere condolences of a courtier as he wrote: "My loss, indeed, sits heavy on me and nothing else in the world could affect me so much: but since I could bear the death of my great and good master King Charles the First, I can bear anything else: and though I am very sensible of the loss of such a son as Ossary was, yet I thank God my case is not quite so deplorable as that nobleman's; for I had much rather have my dead son that his living one [Charles II]." (page 28). Available on Amazon in the US at http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/1... or in the UK at http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/184212...
"The Beauties of the Court of Charles the Second: A Series of Memoirs Biographical and Critical" by Mrs. Jameson is a study of a series of plates and portraits by the famous artists of the day (predominately Lely). The memoirs include Queen Catherine of Braganza, the Duchess of Cleveland, the Countess of Grammont, the Countess of Ossory, Lady Denham, Nell Gwynn, the Duchess of Somerset, the Duchess of Richmond, Mrs. Lawson, the Countess of Chesterfield, the Countess of Chesterfield, the Countess of Rochester, Miss Bagot, Mrs. Nott, the Countess of Southesk, Lady Bellasys, the Countess of Sunderland, Mrs. Middleton, the Countess of Portsmouth, the Duchess of Devonshire and Miss Jennings. Mrs. Jameson, in her rather modest style is quick to note that both the moral and fine ladies of the day are presented alongside those who clearly lacked such a classification, but nonetheless were captured by the artist. Her biographical sketches need to be taken with a grain of salt, as she seems to have possibly relied on one major source for her information as opposed to checking multiple resources (ie. this is clear in Catherine of Braganza, where she uses the much disputed "death bed of Charles" rendition of Burnet which isn't always in synch with the facts reported by the people who were actually there when he died, as Burnet was not). That being said, she does manage to present an easy reading and enjoyable set of mini-biographies of her subjects and some very interesting anecdotes of the lives of the ladies captured in the art. One stricking note of character is in the memoir of the Countess of Ossary, which expands with a look at the character of the Ormonde family and that of Elizabeth Ormonde, her mother in law, whose maturity, forgiveness and grace upon some painfully surprising and shattering news is a noteworthy character study in itself (years before while courting her, her husband had fathered a child with her best friend, whom she had entrusted to deliver her letters back and forth~she truly is a lady of the highest class!)
Of note, if you are looking for this book, the original version does NOT have the actual plates (portraits), but some later versions do. It is worth tracking down a version with the plates as it's hard to read about art without actually seeing what is being refered to. This book has also recently been re-released on Amazon in the US and UK, but I have not been able to get confirmation that the plates are included in the newly released paperback. The Amazon UK link is http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/141796... while the Amazon US link is http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/141796... and for the collector the older versions are sometime available at http://www.usedbooksearch.co.uk/
"Memoirs of the Count de Grammont" are the memoirs of the Count as collected by his brother in law Alexander Hamilton. While Grammont had stories worth collecting, Hamilton had the talent to create a rare work and capture not only the court of Louis XIV at it's finest but to also capture the court of Charles II. To quote the "Biographical Sketch of Alexander Hamilton", which appears in this online edition "The History of Grammont may be considered as an unique; there is nothing like it in any language. For drollery, knowledge of the world, various satire, general utility, united with great vivacity of composition, Gil Blas is unrivalled: but, as a merely agreeable book, the Memoirs of Grammont perhaps deserve that character more than any which was ever written: it is pleasantry throughout, and pleasantry of the best sort, unforced, graceful, and engaging. Some French critic has justly observed, that, if any book were to be selected, as affording the truest specimen of perfect French gaiety, the Memoirs of Grammont would be selected in preference to all others. This has a Frenchman said of the work of a foreigner; but that foreigner possessed much genius, had lived from his youth, not only in the best society of France, but with the most singular and agreeable man that France could produce. Still, however, though Grammont and Hamilton were of dispositions very different, the latter must have possessed talents peculiarly brilliant, and admirably adapted to coincide with, and display those of his brother-in-law to the utmost advantage. Gibbon extols the "ease and purity of Hamilton's inimitable style;" and in this he is supported by Voltaire, although he adds the censure, that the Grammont Memoirs are, in point of materials, the most trifling; he might also in truth have said, the most improper. The manners of the court of Charles II. were, to the utmost, profligate and abandoned; yet in what colours have they been drawn by Hamilton? The elegance of his pencil has rendered them more seductive and dangerous, than if it had more faithfully copied the originals. From such a mingled mass of grossness of language, and of conduct, one would have turned away with disgust and abhorrence; but Hamilton was, to use the words of his admirer, Lord Orford, "superior to the indelicacy of the court," whose vices he has so agreeably depicted; and that superiority has sheltered such vices from more than half the oblivion which would now have for ever concealed them."
This memior is well worth the reading to anyone interested in the Court of Charles II and appears quoted in the work of many of the historians of the Stuart monarchy. It can be found at
King Charles I by Pauline Gregg - ebook readable & searchable online
A very nice history that places Charles' kingship in European and domestic contexts, with the table of contents alway visible on the left as you read.
University of California Press, Berkeley -- Los Angeles -- Oxford, 1984 http://content.cdlib.org:8088/xtf/view?docId=ft...
Pub. Phoenix Press; New Ed edition (April 1, 2001)
Pub, Weidenfeld & Nicholson history, 2000
The Life of James Duke of Ormond
This was an amazing set of 6 volumes (more or less, depending on the version) which explored in painstaking detail the life, letters and correspondence of James Butler, the Dukeof Ormond (strong supporter of Charles I & II and friend of Clarendon). Depending upon your interest in the details of history and politics, the detail can be somewhat overwhelming. Ormond was an old Royalist who sacrificed much to the Stuart monarchy and was not always treated well by either Charles I or II. He is noted during this time period for his exceptional moral character and ease of manner, two things that seemed quite missing from most men in the court of Charles II. Several of the volumes dedicate a great deal of time to his governmental dealings in Ireland and also his interactions and support of the Stuarts. He was a fast thinking and unflappable man who carried himself with dignity and with in his interactions. One of my favorite anecdotes takes place between Lady Castlemaine (Charles' infamous mistress) , who became incensed with him over a dispute for a petition she had for some land (which he would not pass)..... As Carte, so magnificently writes of the confrontation, "This incensed the lady Castlemaine so highly, that upon his grace's [Ormond's] return to England, meeting him in one of the apartments about court, she without any manner in regard to the place or company, fell upon him with a torrent of abusive language, loaded him with all the reproaches that the rancour of her heart could suggest, or the folly of her tongue could utter, and told him in fine, that she hoped to live to see him hanged. The duke heard all unmoved, and only made her this memorable reply: That he was not in no haste put an end to her days, for all he wished with regard to her was, that he might live to see her old."
A note on the author, as taken from a website from the Pickering and Chatto booksellers: "Thomas Carte (1686-1754) is one of the forgotten great historians of the eighteenth century: no doubt the enthusiasm for later work by Hume and Smollett served to conceal the merits of his work from contemporary readers; and his outspoken Jacobite opinions strongly coloured early opinion and unfairly relegated to the ranks of partisan writers. Nonetheless, Carte was a true historian in a way that his rivals could not match: he was familiar with the manuscript sources, and had scoured the libraries of France and Britain for original material. As Lowndes says, quoting Warton: ‘You may read Hume for his eloquence, but Carte is the historian for facts’."
Additional note: Most credible historians and writers of the Restoration period and the monarchy during this time site Carte in their bibliographies.
For more information about Ormond, this site is useful.
The book(s) can most affordably be found in libraries and sometimes on the used book search at
Books on Queen Catherine
Catherine of Braganza, wife of Charles II
Link to her site on the pepys site http://www.pepysdiary.com/encyclopedia/2381/
Catherine of Braganca, Infanta of Portugal and Queen Consort of England
By Lillias Campbell Davidson
This is probably the definitive biography of Catherine. It is referenced in almost all other books and biographies about her since it came out in 1908. It is very thorough (500+ pages), kind hearted yet factual in it's approach to both Catherine and Charles and includes about 80 or so of her letters back and forth to her brother Pedro, and her last will and testament, which give a feel for her "voice" --something which all of the other books about her seem to lack. The dedication itself is lovely and reads "To the people of Portugal who gave their princess throughout her life love, loyalty, devotion and by who in her death she is not forgotten". An interesting quote from one of her letters to her brother then King Pedro (page 467)starts out "Supposing God is everywhere, yet He is as much forgoten here as if that were not so"--which sums up most of her life experience in England.
Unfortunately this is NOT an easy find, so trying your local library is probably the best bet. In the US, my local library scanned universities and several in the area had a copy of this. In the US on the WW Library cooperative you can hit the 'Try It for Yourself' tab, type in "Catherine of Braganza" and if available, it will pull up locations near you. This occasionaly comes up for sale in the used book market at http://www.usedbooksearch.co.uk/books.htm
Catherine of Braganza
Janet Mackay's 'Catherine of Braganza' was published in 1937. It is not as long or detailed as the Davidson biography but factual and not open to too much "poetic license" or biased interpretation. It covers a lot of key points that other authors (historical fiction) have obviously drawn on in their writings about Catherine. This occasionaly comes up for sale in the used book market at http://www.usedbooksearch.co.uk/books.htm
Lives of the Queens of England from the Norman Conquest (volume number varies)
You have to love Agnes and Elizabeth Strickland'a true joy to read! The sisters began writing short biographies of royal ladies for the 'Lady's Magazine' during the 1830's. Due to the popularity of the articles they then created a book series entitled 'Lives of the Queens of England, From the Norman Conquest'. It was published in 12 volumes from 1840 to 1848 citing Agnes as the sole author. Even though she wrote more biographies than did Agnes, Elizabeth preferred to remain anonymous. There charming Victorian writing style based on well-researched facts and footnotes is thoroughly enjoyable, and historians everywhere quote them. The Victorian influence is delightful and brings forth a uniquely English flair for history. These ladies loved Queen Catherine and felt an emotional connection and sympathy as they emphasized with her ~~ feeling all of the humiliation and traumas she faced not only through her husband's lifetime of blatant infidelity but also through the politics, maneuverings and intrigues of Charles' court and the Exclusion environment. A little biography of Agnes can be found at http://www.nndb.com/people/184/000097890/
This book is usually found in the used book market at http://www.usedbooksearch.co.uk/books.htm
Catherine of Braganza : Princess of Portugal Wife to Charles II
This is the most current biograpahy of Catherine and an ABSOLUTELY lovely and dignified book. The text is factual, non-biased in its presentation and stays with the facts. Sousa has included extensive research from the Portuguese point of view, which the previous English versions have only touched upon. He adds the flavor of her heritage and an understanding of the political climate and the influence of her homeland. The illustrations, photographs and artwork are magnificent. The only issue is with the availability of the book, which, although listed on Amazon in the US as 'Special Order' is truly NOT available. It rarely comes up in the used book market, but seems to be readily available in library (and university) networks. I have contacted both the author and the publisher but unfortunately it does not seem like this will be reprinted soon. You may have the best luck with you local librarian.
Catherine of Braganza
Although classified as a biography, this book seemed more like a historical fiction as there was more interpretation of character, etc. This is what sometimes happens when romance writers move into another genre. Although you may see this for sale in the used book market, on this I'd pass. If you tend to like historical novels, this may suit your tastes and provides a better story than the other fictional writers who have turned Catherine's story into novels.
D. Catarina de Braganca: Rainha de Inglaterra
This is written in Portuguese by the well known and respected Portuguese historian Virginia Rau. It's a good solid book which takes the view of Catherine not only as a queen of England but also as a woman from the Portuguese culture. Rau's understanding of Catherine' Portuguese heritage reflects in her writing and interpretations and add a different and more human perspective. Rau does not take "risks" as a historian, but sticks solidly to the facts. In the US I was able to borrow this from the US Librbary of Congress through my local library. It is rare, so if you are able to get it and can read Portuguese you can consider yourself lucky.
Dona Catarina de Braganca
The author Augusto Casimiro expands upon the work of her previous biographers, providing insights not only into the life of Catherine, but also Portuguese-English political climate, the Portuguese culture and history and her family relations. Casimiro's biography includes family letters, currently housed in the Ajuda Palace in Lisbon. His style is totally different from the other writers as he questions the assumptions made about Catherine and adds interestng commentary to consider. This is also in Portuguese, but may appear on the used book site for sale from time to time. I acutally found a wonderful copy (via the link below) in great shape for $20 in some small bookshop in Virginia, so you never know when and where it will pop up. This book is usually found in the used book market at http://www.usedbooksearch.co.uk/books.htm
The King's Wife; Five Queen Consorts
I'm borrowing the description from Amazon for this: "In this book the author presents portraits of five very different women who married English kings, and in the process it reassesses famous episodes of our history in unfamiliar, often unflattering perspective. He focuses on the women themselves and on the forces, which shaped their characters, on the delicate balance of public and personal lives and the remarkable resilience, which unites them all. The subjects of the book are Eleanor of Aquitaine, Henrietta Maria, Catherine of Braganza, Caroline of Brunswick and Mary of Teck."
My comments: The benefit of this book is that 2 Staurt women are represented, although not in necessarily the most favorable light. The biggest tragedy that that Grey sees in the marriage of Catherine of Braganza and Charles II is the total lack of influence that she had on him during the course of their marriage. He basically ignored her and gave her little, if any consideration. The tragedy part lies in the fact that after Charles' death and on her return to Portugal, Catherine was given a hero's welcome, brought warmly into the life of her brother King Pedro, becoming a true and loving friend to his wife Maria Sophia, and became Regent of Portugal when Pedro fell ill. She successfully led the Portuguese people in actions against the French as they tried to dominate Spain, showing her stregnth and practicality as a leader. Her capabilities were clearly exhibited for the people and country that she loved, something that England never allowed her a chance to display.
Books on Charles II
Pepys site link to Charles: http://www.pepysdiary.com/encyclopedia/344/
All The King's Women: Love, Sex and Politics in the Life of Charles II
"All the King’s Women” is really a biography of Charles and along the way charts the relationship of Charles Stuart with the many women in his life. It details the mistresses, the mistresses he wished to have but did not, his mother, his beloved younger sister, Henrietta and his long-suffering wife Catherine and ties them all into the politics, the corruption and the intrigues of his life. Charles used and was used by many of these women, but as his expectations were so low, he didn't care. Wilson captures the times through a good inclusion of letters, poems, lampoon and satire of the times (some of it vulgar, albeit quite funny). His style is quite readable and for example, as Wilson explains Charles' new conquest from France, Louise and her expectations vs. his he says'.
"It was not the relationship between Louise and the queen which excited interest among court commentators. What aroused critics of the regime to anxiety, anger and contempt were the antics of the triumvirate of the king's mistresses. For Louise soon discovered, as Catherine and Barbara had discovered before her, that Charles had no concept of fidelity. His latest conquest might think of herself as maitresse en titre and have a clear idea of what she understood that title to imply but Charles played to a different set of rules -- ones of his own devising. He continued to have one-night stands with creatures smuggled up the privy stairs by Chiffinch but, publicly and more importantly, he maintained his liaisons with Barbara and Nell. This domestic relationship of the King of England with three bickering, bitchy rival whores was a constant source of comment, ranging from wicked satire to angry denunciation." (p. 280)
For those interested in a somewhat lighter read from a historical level and more focus on the court life and the court, this is an interesting interpretation.
Available in the UK (only-not showing up in the US) on Amazon at
Royal Survivor: The Life of Charles II
This is a fast moving account of the life of Charles and moves from his lush birth to the Cromwell takeover, exile, bitterness, triumph and deceit and looks at Charles as a shrewd manipulating survivor. He touches briefly on the history (plague, great fire, etc. and the politics and intrigues. He also touches on the mistresses: Lady Castlemaine, Lady Portsmouth, streetwise Nell Gwyn, exotic Hortense Mancini and many others. There really is nothing new here but rather a retelling of the work of other historians in a style that is lighter and pulls in Charles' skill as a survivor. Also, of note, the sources sited are predominately second hand.
Amazon UK link http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/034069...
Amazon US link
The Life and Times of Charles II
This is another of the many biographies of Charles II. Although it's much shorter than many of the others it covers Charles' life quite well in a more condensed format. Falkus doesn't indulge in the soap opera aspects of Charles' life in detail but offers something that is missing elsewhere~~substantial artwork, illustrations, art work, etc. which offer a glimpse into the life and times that other historians lack in their work.
Available in the UK at Amazon
King Charles II
This is actually a wonderfully researched biography with extensive use of historical manuscripts, contemporary letters, diaries, parliamentary debates journals, etc. which adds to the credibility of the information provided. Bryant even goes so far as to divide his references into sections based on historical factual relevance and relies predominately on the hierarchy of contemporary letters, diaries and accounts which he states are:
"of far greater value as historical evidence than the second [memoirs, newspapers, etc], for the writers of tracts and newspapers are inclined to distort facts to help their party, and memoir writers to justify their past conduct, while the latter (being generally retired statesmen occupying their leisure) suffer the additional disadvantage of failing memory [and perhaps old grudges-my addition here]. Burnet, Clarendon, Temple and North--the great memoir writers on whom English historians have relied for their knowledge of the reign of Charles II--are only to be trusted implicitly when their statements are borne out by the evidence of letters and diaries, written not a generation later, but at the very time of the events which they describe.
Even the latter need to be used with caution, and with some knowledge of the opinions and characters of the writers. A letter-writer such as Sir Robert Southwell--shrewd, honest and disinterested -- is of greater value to posterity, so far as the accuracy of his evidence is concerned, than a changeable careerist such as Ralph Montagu. Again, what the soldier said is not always evidence. When Pepys records gossip about his sovereign's nocturnal movements, obtained at third hand from the wife of a Court surgeon, he is not necessarily transmitting the truth to us; when, on the other hand, he describes a personal interview with the King, he is (as a man of proved honesty) entitled to every respect."The result has been to bring out the view of Charles generally held in his own day rather than that adopted for political reasons by the party writers of the next generation, and expanded by those constitutional historians of the nineteenth century who viewed the past mainly as a study in the advance of parliamentary sovereignty. Since the second Charles was one of the most successful statesman who ever opposed this theory of government, his posthumous reputation has been somewhat roughly handled."" (p. 299)
This biography sets Bryant apart from the later writes (Wilson, Coote, etc.) as he seems to explore the facts and then draw the conclusion, as opposed to other writers who may tend to fit pieces of the facts into their overall theme.
King Charles II (paperback)
Royal Charles (hardcover)
I referenced both books above as they could easily be the same book under a different name. The following is based on the paperback.
This is a wonderful biography by Fraser, highly detailed, well researched and an enjoyable read. She follows the events of Charles life - early years as the heir to be in the court of Charles I, daring adventures through the civil war, fugitive years from Cromwell after his father’s execution, his exile in France, his magnificent Restoration and years as King (including the Plague, Great Fire, Dutch War, Exclusion, etc.). Charles' history is intertwined with a look at the Restoration society under Charles where mistresses, licentiousness, crude and vulgar writings, women in theater were to become the norm. She also shows Charles in his other leisure activities, which include his love of science, his 'sauntering', hunting, etc. Although the book is advertised as a reassessment on his reign with a more detailed view into his relationships, his attitude towards kingship, his political acumen, and his religious beliefs, it's not always clear if these are true factual representations (ie. like Bryant sticks to) as opposed to interpretations of the writer. One thing is obvious in the reading of the biography--in spite of any flaws and criticisms of Charles; Fraser seems very taken with him.
Character of K. Charles II
George Savile, Marquis of Halifax (1750)
This version of the Character of King Charles (published as a "Little Book and edited by Dennis Whibly in 1927) was written by George Savile Marquis of Halifax, and was taken from his original manuscripts, in 1750. For background on Savile go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Savile%2C_1...
Savile is a gifted writer and brings forth descriptions of the character of Charles under 6 topics: his religion, his dissimulation, his amours and mistresses, his conduct to his ministers, his wit and conversation and his talents, tempers and habits. He ends with a kind conclusion, written almost to seek forgiveness for Charles' flaw. As a person who came in close contact with Charles and who had a very insightful eye he draws out not only the black and white aspects of Charles but also the gray areas. My version is only 82 pages long and a very quick read, although the old English sentence semantics required a few reviews for me to capture the meaning. Some of the text of Savile's writing is quoted at the bottom of this page:
This is not an easy find, so if not available in you local library, go to the following site and put in 'Savile' for the author and 'Charles' for the search you may have some luck--but well worth the effort. I wouldn't be surprised if the text isn't online somewhere but I haven't been able to locate it.
The Life of Edward Earl of Clarendon, Lord High Chancellor of England, and Chancellor of the University of Oxford. Containing and account of the chancellor's life from birth to the Restoration in 1660 and a continuation of the same to his banishment in 1667. Written by himself. By Edward Hyde, Earl of Claredon.
Hyde's 3 volume autobiography is fascinating and MUCH quoted by historians. To experience life though his eyes offers a view of the time, the politics, the people, etc. right from the source of a man in the middle of much of that history. His perspective, albeit from an "older Royalist" sheds insight behind the scenes of the monarchy in a different fashion than Pepys--while Pepys ... lived... with the Navy, Clarendon "lived" with the monarchy, witnessing incidents firsthand which other writers of the time would often hear about and therefore report on second hand. Clarendon has a strong sense of people and his characterizations are remarkable and most likely quite "fair handed". He is able to look at a person he personally abhorred (ie. Cromwell) and paint a characterization of the man with all of his virtues and his flaws. The only drawback to this work, which is highly forgivable, is that historically some facts may be off slightly (dates, etc.) as it was written in his exile where he may not have had all of his notes.
For avid readers of the Restoration period you will no doubt recognize quotes taken from this volume as Clarendon's writing style, accurate characterizations and eye for detail are more than worth the read.
The best place to find a copy would be the library...in my case I was able to do this but with library restricted access only due to the fragility and age of the book. For the die hard historian with a bigger budget, it's also available "new" on a print to order basis. Information on older copies and the print to order version can be found at
The Life of Edward Earl of Clarendon by Sir Henry Craik
Craig's two volume work covers the life and loyalties of Edward Hyde who sacrificed a great deal though his dedication to Charles I & II ("CI" and "CII" herein). He is one of the "older Royalists" who supported both father and son and played a key role in the Restoration of CII. Volume I covers the period prior to the Restoration, highlighting Hyde's family background, marriages, schooling, etc. and his unfailing loyalty and respect for CI, despite his faults. The pages devoted to the death of CI and the comments drawn from Clarendon's own hand (see his autobiography review) are worth the read in itself. Hyde's strong morality, blunt honesty, dedication to hard work and uncorruptable values made him a strong fit for CI, not only as a King but also as a human being. After his death Craig speaks that "Amidst his grief for the loss of a master to whose faults he was not blind, but whose person he was passionately attached, Hyde found himself immersed in increasingly irksome duties at the exiled Court of his successor." (V.1:p315). Hyde remains faithful through CII's exile leaving behind his family, losing his fortunes and trying to manage and maintain CII through the many years away from England. Vol. I ends with the death of Cromwell.
Volume II covers the Restoration, onwards. Clarendon, as he is now known, tries desperately to "restore" England to a sense of dignity and worth that he experienced under CI, but clearly the differences between father and son make his success nearly impossible. Also, the fit between old world morality and the loose, licentious, corrupt environment of CII's court are clearly not a moral fit for Clarendon, whose blunt honesty doesn't bode well on the ears of one who likes to live a life of debauchery. The heartbreaking secret marriage of his most beloved daughter Anne to James, the Duke of York is one of his life's biggest disappointments and clearly sets the stage for further backbiting and political turmoil.
Clarendon never develops the "tact" or manipulative persuasiveness that his enemies possess in dealing with CII and the rising tension between the two escalates at every step. Clearly one of Clarendon's biggest "failures" to "happiness" in this time was his sense of loyalty to CI, which wouldn't let him leave the service of his son. Clarendon just kept trying to bring sense and maturity to a court which reflected neither. Over time his enemies prevail and he becomes the scapegoat for many of CII's failures. False charges are bought against him and he is exiled. CII's treatment to Clarendon, which was never "great" while in his service becomes truly despicable and remains so. In his final years and near death, Clarendon writes to CII begging to be allowed to come home to die in his own country with his children. The request isn't even given the dignity of a response by the monarch that Clarendon had sacrificed so dearly for.
Both volumes of this book can best be found in the library or the used book search site at
Volume II, which deals with the Restoration onward is available online at gutenberg (thanks to Dirk, guru of abundant information!! for finding this url)
Australian Susan • Link
The Tyrannicide Brief by Geoffery Robertson
Written by a barrister about a barrister - the man who prosecuted Charles I - many of the people in this book are around in the 1660s. Robertson is an excellent author: this book is already published in Australia (cos GR is Australian, living in UK), but not yet in the US. The link above is Amazon.com. The UK link is: http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/070117...
Not published until next month there either.
“The Royal Whore” by Allen Andrews
Barbara Villiers, (Lady Castlemaine, infamous mistress of Charles II) is well known to diary readers for her beauty and adoration by Sam. Barbara was a beauty on the outside but underneath a greedy, vulgar, unfaithful, backstabbing, vindictive Libertine whose main purpose in life was to dig her claws into Charles II and bleed him dry for whatever land, titles, money, jewels, and prestige that she could get. Her tactics ranged from erotic sexual seduction, to blackmail, to emotional battery and politicking, etc. to get what she desired. In order to understand Barbara, Allen takes the reader into the Court of Charles II and the exposes the crass, debauched, libertine lifestyle of the idle, morally corrupt rakes that were the courtiers of the King. In addition, the secret cabals and back room intrigues, along with some not so morally stellar side anecdotes of the entourage are set forth in an entertaining fashion. Barbara had a notorious appetite, not only for sex, where she had an ongoing and never ending overlapping string of partners, but mostly for material gain. She even sunk to prostitution in later days when she found a wealthy man willing to pay for what the King had already tasted. In her glory days she carried a power over Charles which caused fear in those around him. Over time the bond was drawn out to cover the bastards that Charles had so kindly accepted as his own (although it’s doubtful that many of them actually were his as she was always active with an overlapping string of men). As her glory days faded out she sunk into more debauchery and vulgar antics including the all time low of turning the mummified body of Bishop Braybooke (died 1404) into a eunuch by dismembering his private parts right of his coffin with her mouth.
Allen explains “Female rakes are rare, because profligacy with its exaggeration of the natural masculine taste for risk, adventure and sporting insecurity is a gross aberration from the feminine inclination. When women develop as libertines, and retain their maternal instinct to the extent that they give priority to the protection of their children and their lovers, they enlarge the family which must be maintained before they attend to other pleasures; whereas the male voluptuary diminishes or obliterates his family. The consequence is of greater psychological interest to an observer, but entirely devastating to the rake’s intended prey. For since the woman needs more, she is that much more rapacious. When Barbara Cleveland [she was made the Duchess of Cleveland over time]wanted something, or someone, men trembled and obeyed” (p 225). Barbara’s grasp of greed extended to cover her children and ensure titles, land, wealth, noble marriages, etc. and to support the lovers that she “paid” during their periods of “servicing” her. Of note, none of her children who were claimed by Charles amounted to anything of intellect, achievement or “value” and were pretty much classified as “blockheads”, albeit, overindulged and spoiled ones. An interesting read of a complex, highly unlikable woman and her times.
John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester
Note -slight spoilers
Lord Rochester, Everyman’s Poetry, edited by Paddy Lyons
Lord Rochester’s poetry is NOT for the bashful reader and explicitly reflects his lewd debauched lifestyle and biting satiric wit. The poems presented in this collection reflect a sense of unsettling restlessness ranging from jaw dropping comical exaggerations right up to vindictively cruel and downright nasty statements about the people, politics, mistresses/whores and monarchy of the time, all of which he embraced and despised at the same time. Interspersed between the obscenities and somewhat hidden from the initial shocking impact of reading the poems is the underlying talent and genius of the man who chose to live a rather sad and wasted life while at court, all of which he presented without any pretense and without any of the flowery hypocrisy of the time. In spite of the crudeness, it’s impossible to dismiss Rochester. He is often ranked second in his time only to Dryden, but remains unexplored in colleges and universities due to the crass obscenity and vulgarity of his expression. Also of interesting note, although he wrote with a bite and attacked without mercy, he still maintained an appreciation of the good in other people and remained an idealist buried beneath the seedy court of a cynical monarch.
Lord Rochester’s Monkey by Graham Greene
Greene’s book, which was banned from being published in the 1930’s for fear of prosecution for obscenity follows the life and wildly erotic escapades of John Wilmot, Second Earl of Rochester. Rochester by far was among the most notorious of all of Charles Merry Gang of rakes. Along with the wild sexual exploits that he set up for himself and other (including pimping for Charles II), Rochester was a practical joker, a scandalous courtier and a dissolute drunk. His poetry is intertwined into Greene’s presentation of Wilmot and helps to reveal the conflicts that this wildly intelligent and talented wit of a man struggled with throughout his short and debauched life. This book will truly show a side of the Court of Charles II that no other writer besides Rochester would dare to expose with such bite and honesty.
John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester, was born April 1, 1647 and died at age 33. As a young man, he basically “had it all” (sans money) including a titled life, a fine position in the Restoration Court, marriage to a witty heiress and great potential in terms of looks, wit, bravery and ability. His short life was the culmination of a downward spiral of alcohol, sex, disease (syphilis) and depravity which began around the time he entered into the court of Charles II and became one of Charles’ “Merry Gang”. Within the gang, he established himself as a controversial and highly obscene satirist, playwright and poet and managed to one by one attack and alienate just about everyone that had ever supported him. His ongoing stream of mistresses/whores, extravagantly outlandish escapades and adventures, banishments from court were consistently over the top. He dug into places and subjects usually hidden behind closed doors and meant to be private and blew the top off of the secrets of Charles II’s Court, comrades, mistresses, etc. He employed has footman as a well positioned spy to provide him with outlandish insider material and gossip upon which he drew to create his works.
Rochester lived two distinctly separate lives. His private life was spent in the country was spent with his wife and 4 beautiful children. The darker Court side, which led to his downfall, consisted of drunkenness, extravagant frolics, raunchy and lewd sex, a highly visible affair with actress Elizabeth Barry, who he developed into a famous stage actress. Rochester’s behavior and satiric nature caused him to see the cynical world of Charles’s court and to basically take any relationship within that court and attack it with a sharp satiric bite. Nobody was safe from his profanity and banishment was a common event in his life. In one wildly famous episode Rochester disguises himself as Dr. Bendo who famously offered out physic and provided “infertility assistance” to poor unsuspecting females. Greene provides and ample and sensationalized view of Rochester’s antics.
Finally at the end of his life, while dying (most likely from syphilis and/or other related disease), he surprises all once again with an even more “outlandish” scandal, when through his relationship with Gilbert Burnet (not a totally accurate or unbiased source of information here) he repents his sins and re-establishes himself with the church. Although not an “easy” read due to the obscenity and profane subject matter, it is interesting in the larger perspective of Charles II’s court, the arts, the artist and the man. It was, however a “lighter” version of the life of Wilmot, a little softer on his flaws and not necessarily as highly documented as the book review that follows (“Profane Wit”).
A Profane With by James William Johnson
This is a magnificent piece of work by Johnson and peels apart the life of John Wilmot in a surprisingly dignified manner. Johnson extensively presents not only the life of Wilmot but the factors and experiences that seem to have influenced his choices and his dismal life. Johnson’s extensive notations and biography are brilliant in detail and breadth. He adds a level of detail into Wilmot’s life and provides a clear understanding of his struggles and his genius. Johnson does not sensationalize Wilmot and his antics (as does Greene in many ways) but holds him “accountable” for his actions and his omissions in his life. Johnson’s explores the influences of Wilmot’s writing and his behaviors with a finely detailed manner, bringing into consideration his lesser known role as a husband and father as well as his role in the politics and Parliament. He also explores Wilmot’s bi-sexual tendencies and ponders the psychological issues that affected his life choices. Reading this in conjunction with the poetry offers a totally different perspective then reading the poetry alone without having some understanding of the man.
“Some Account of the Life and Death of John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester who dies July 26, 1680” By Gilbert Burnet
Burnet was a contemporary of Rochester and the Lord Bishop of Sarum. He spent time with one of Rochester’s amours as she lay dying of venereal disease (probably something she gave with Rochester) and he helped her come to peace with her spiritual side. Rochester, hearing of his work for his former amour, and dying himself, desired to meet Burnet and perhaps “debate” his issues with Christianity and God. Burnet, seeing the potential for reclaiming this highly lost and wayward soul took up the challenge and visited Rochester during the last few months of his life to discuss religion, Rochester’s past sins, etc. Out of those meeting came a transformation where Rochester recognized his sinful ways and as Burnet claims wished to have his story shared in order to benefit others who have taken the sinful path. Burnet records the history of Rochester very discreetly and doesn’t go into any lurid details as he doesn’t wish to harm any of those family members living or to disgrace others mentioned to him by Rochester. He then presents the arguments and conversations that the two men shared as Rochester’s disease progressed and he finally died. The interesting thing is I was never sure if this book was more about Burnet’s view of his persuasive talents than about Rochester’s truly opening himself to God. Expensive to buy so searching a library may be the best bet.
Used Book Market
James Duke of York/ James II
The Life of James The Second King Of England Collected Out Of His Memoirs And Writ Of his Own Hand Together With The Kings’ Advice To His Son and His Majesty’s Will. J.S. Clarke, historiographer to the King, London 1816.
This 2 volume set is a rare find, but available in the US through the interlibrary loan system (U of Idaho has a copy). It is also available as a CD ROM at
This 2 volume book set tracts James life, based upon and including large sections of his writing from about age 16 through his death. The years of that overlap Sam’s Diary are rather scarce in comparison to the whole and did not focus attention to the building of the Navy. The introduction probably has the most interesting “find” in terms of overlap between James and the Naval activities that Sam is involved with during the years of the Diary. It states that few Princes
“ have struggled with greater Difficulties than King James the Second, and few ever sustained a greater load of trouble afterwards. Yet the Difficulties he had to struggle with have not always been sufficiently considered by Historians, nor does it appear that the essential and lasting service which James rendered to this Country in compacting and as it were building up its Naval Power has been sufficiently weighed: It is not generally known the Naval regulations now in force are taken almost verbatim from those which he established, or that when lately the Board of Naval Revision wished to add to and improve the Naval Regulations, they sent out for Papers of Pepys, the Marine Secretary of James, as being the best materials whence they could obtain the object they had in view…. James thoroughly understood the whole business of the Admiralty, and knew also the disorders which had crept into the whole economy of the Fleet, in the six years immediately preceding his Accession. This fact is amply corroborated by the honorable testimony of Mr. Secretary Pepys in his Memoirs: the excellent methods there recorded, by which James regenerated the Naval Power, clearly shew how well he understood it on all its bearings. The following were the Qualifications [ as set forth in Pepys Memoirs, date /page not specified] which during that Monarch’s reign were required from every one, who occupied a place in any branch in the Naval Department.
1. A Practiced Knowledge in every part of the Works and Methods of your Navy, both at the Board and in your Yards. The not discerning of which and the others that follow, (adds Mr. Pepsys in addressing James the Second,) appears to have cost your Royal Brother and You within the fore-mentioned five years, above half a million.
2. A General Mastery in the business of Accounts, through more particularly those incident to the Affairs of Your Navy.
3. Vigour of Mind, joyn’d with approve’d Industry, Zeal, and Personal aptness for Labour.
4. An entire Resignation of themselves and their whole time to this Your Service, without lyableness to Avocation from other Business of Pleasure.
5. Lastly, Such Credit with your Majesty for Integrity and Loyalty, as may (with the former conditions) lead both your Self and My Lord Treasurer, to an entire confidence of having all done that can be morally expected from them, in the Advancement of your Service, and the circumspect and orderly dispensing and Improving of your Treasure.
And to the above judicious Qualifications, which cannot be too much attended to in the present day, may be subjoined what Pepys termed, ‘His Three Truths Essential to the Sea Economy of Great Britain’ as corollaries from the premises:
1. That Integrity, and general (but unpracticed) Knowledge, are not alone sufficient to conduct and support a Navy, so as to prevent its Declension into a state little less unhappy than the worst that can befall it under want of both.
2. That not much more (Neither) is to be depended on, even from Experience alone and Integrity, unaccompanied with Viguor of Application, Assiduity, Affection, Strictness of Discipline, and Method.
3. That it was a strenuous Conjunction of all of these (and that Conjunction only) that within half the time, and less than half the charge it cost the Crown in the exposing it, had (at the very instant of its unfortunate Lords’ withdrawing from it) raised the Navy of England from the lowest state of Impotence, to the most advanced step towards a lasting and solid Prosperity, that (all circumstances considered) this Nation had ever seen it at. And yet not such, but that (even at its Zenith) it both did and suffered sufficient to teach us, THAT THERE IS SOMETHING ABOVE BOTH THAT AND US THAT GOVERNS THE WORLD, TO WHICH (INCOMPREHENSIBLE) ALONE BE GLORY.
Such were the Principles and Maxims which James the Second established, whose interesting Commentaries on what had passed before him both as a Prince and A Sovereign, are now given in these Volumes to the Public through the liberal condescension of His Royal Highness The Prince Regent” ( pages xxvi –xxix).
Two other areas of interest, which are included along with James’ life in these volumes are available online. Both of these are the letters of “advice” from Father to Son, first that from Charles I to Charles II and then from James II to his son James, exiled along with him in France.
“Advice that Charles I Bequeathed to his Son Charles II” (which accurately reflects the original text) can be found at
“The Advice which James the Second Bequeathed to his Son James, Generally known by the Name of The Chevalier de St. George” can be found at the link below. This version has been “modernized” in terms of spelling and has quite a few typos, but it was the only online copy I could locate. The overall document is accurate against the version in this book.
mrs n • Link
Heal Thyself: Nicholas Culpeper and the Seventeenth-Century Struggle to Bring Medicine to the People
This is more than a straight-on bio of the herbalist Nicholas Culpeper; it also includes a sideline involving William Harvey, discoverer of the true function of the heart, and a lot of fascinating background on the state of medicine and politics around the time of the Civil War. It's a terrific read that really evokes the flavor of the times. And you can get it cheap on Amazon!
dirk • Link
King Charles I
by Pauline Gregg
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA PRESS
Berkeley · Los Angeles · Oxford
© 1984 The Regents of the University of California
Can be read online.
George Lee • Link
"The Curious Life of Robert Hook.
The Man Who Measured London"
By Lisa Jardine
Interesting biography of Robert Hook, contemporary of Boyle and Newton. A man of tremendous energy especially within the Royal Society though he was seldom rewarded with recognition of the contributions he made.
His journal of his life, 1624-1691, in XX Chapters.
Of especial relation to Pepys's Diary are Chapter XIII. In the First Year of King Charles, 1660.
Chapter XIV. Labors, Dangers and Sufferings, 1661-1662.
Chapter XV. In Prison for not Swearing, 1662-1665.
Chapter XVI. A Year in Scarborough Castle, 1665-1666.
Chapter XVII. At the Work of Organizing, 1667-1670.
With THE TESTIMONY OF WILLIAM PENN [the younger] CONCERNING THAT FAITHFUL SERVANT GEORGE FOX.
Edited with an Introduction and Notes by Rufus M. Jones, M.A., Litt. D., Professor of Philosophy in Haverford College