He took risks; he staked all - even his kingdom. How did Charles II, in the face of extraordinary expectations, reign for twenty-five years?
Charles II was thirty when he crossed the Channel in fine May weather in 1660. His Restoration was greeted with maypoles and bonfires, like spring after long years of Cromwell's rule. But there was no going back, no way he could 'restore' the old. Certainty had vanished. The divinity of kingship fled with his father's beheading. 'Honour' 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. Exactly ten years later Charles would stand again on the shore at Dover, laying the greatest bet of his life in a secret deal with his cousin, Louis XIV.
The Restoration decade was one of experiment: from the science of the Royal Society to the startling role of credit and risk, from the shocking licence of the court to the failed attempts at toleration of different beliefs. Negotiating all these, Charles, the 'slippery sovereign', layed odds and took but the king were on display, his true intentions lay hidden.
A Gambling Man is a portrait of Charles II, exploring his elusive nature through the lens of these ten vital years - and a portrait of a vibrant, pulsing world, in which the risks the king took forged the fate of the nation, on the brink of the modern world.
Jenny Uglow grew up in Cumbria and now works in publishing. Her books include prize-winning biographies of Elizabeth Gaskell and William Hogarth. The Lunar Men, published in 2002, was described by Richard Holmes as 'an extraordinarily gripping account', while her most recent biography, Nature's Engraver: A Life of Thomas Bewick, won the National Arts Writers Award for 2007. She lives in Canterbury.
Faber Non Fiction
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Biography: historical, political & military