A Gambling Man: Charles II's Restoration Game

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The Restoration was a decade of experimentation: from the founding of the Royal Society for investigating the sciences to the startling role of credit and risk; from the shocking licentiousness of the court to failed attempts at religious tolerance. Negotiating all these, Charles II, the "slippery sovereign," laid odds and took chances, dissembling and manipulating his followers. The theaters may have been restored, but the king himself was the supreme actor. Yet while his grandeur, his court, and his colorful sex life were on display, his true intentions lay hidden.

Charles II was thirty when he crossed the English Channel in fine May weather in 1660. His Restoration was greeted with maypoles and bonfires, as spring after the long years of Cromwell's rule. But there was no way to turn back, no way he could "restore" the old dispensation. Certainty had vanished. The divinity of kingship had ended with his father's beheading. "Honor" was now a word tossed around in duels. "Providence" could no longer be trusted. As the country was rocked by plague, fire, and war, people searched for new ideas by which to live. And exactly ten years after he arrived, Charles would again stand on the shore at Dover, this time placing the greatest bet of his life in a secret deal with his cousin, Louis XIV of France.

Jenny Uglow's previous biographies have won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize and International PEN's Hessell-Tiltman Prize for History. A Gambling Man is Uglow at her best: both a vivid portrait of Charles II that explores his elusive nature and a spirited evocation of a vibrant, violent, pulsing world on the brink of modernity.

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About the author

Jenny Uglow is an editor at Chatto & Windus and lives in Canterbury, England. Her previous books include Nature's Engraver, A Little History of British Gardening, The Lunar Men, and Hogarth, all published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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Published on
Nov 23, 2010
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Pages
592
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ISBN
9781429964227
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Features
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Language
English
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Genres
Biography & Autobiography / Royalty
History / Europe / Great Britain / Stuart Era (1603-1714)
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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Peter Ackroyd has been praised as one of the greatest living chroniclers of Britain and its people. In Rebellion, he continues his dazzling account of the history of England, beginning with the progress south of the Scottish king, James VI, who on the death of Elizabeth I became the first Stuart king of England, and ending with the deposition and flight into exile of his grandson, James II.

The Stuart monarchy brought together the two nations of England and Scotland into one realm, albeit a realm still marked by political divisions that echo to this day. More importantly, perhaps, the Stuart era was marked by the cruel depredations of civil war, and the killing of a king. Shrewd and opinionated, James I was eloquent on matters as diverse as theology, witchcraft, and the abuses of tobacco, but his attitude to the English parliament sowed the seeds of the division that would split the country during the reign of his hapless heir, Charles I. Ackroyd offers a brilliant, warts-and-all portrayal of Charles's nemesis, Oliver Cromwell, Parliament's great military leader and England's only dictator, who began his career as a political liberator but ended it as much of a despot as "that man of blood," the king he executed.

England's turbulent seventeenth century is vividly laid out before us, but so too is the cultural and social life of the period, notable for its extraordinarily rich literature, including Shakespeare's late masterpieces, Jacobean tragedy, the poetry of John Donne and Milton and Thomas Hobbes's great philosophical treatise, Leviathan. In addition to its account of England's royalty, Rebellion also gives us a very real sense of the lives of ordinary English men and women, lived out against a backdrop of constant disruption and uncertainty.

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