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King Charles II
Antonia Fraser
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King Charles II

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  588 ratings  ·  34 reviews
The acclaimed biographer details the life, reign, and impact of King Charles II of England, revealing him to have been far more serious, sensible, and competent than has been thought.
Published by Futura Publishing Co Inc (first published 1979)
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Czarny Pies
Aug 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: european-history
"Royal Charles" is a fabulous book by one of the great historians of our time. As always Fraser judges the players severely but never applies the standards of a different era.

Charles II emerges as a very admirable King in Fraser's book. He understand what his role was and what limitations were imposed to him. He acted courageously during the Great Fire of London. He loved his wife, his many mistresses and his numerous bastards. He promoted architecture, science, horse-racing and the building of
King Charles II may be the most “high and low” monarch in England’s history. Meaning, he suffered terribly with the beheading of his father, Civil War, exile, and the Great Fire. On the upside, he was restored and enjoyed courtly pleasures and mistresses. Antonia Fraser illuminates this ‘Merry Monarch’ in, “Royal Charles: Charles II and the Restoration”.

In traditional Fraser style, “Royal Charles” begins on a slow note in respect to the text featuring the surrounding atmosphere of Charles’s
Jamie Collins
A very readable biography of a fascinating king, and a decent introduction to the politics and religious issues of the Restoration period.

The mini-series Charles II: The Power and the Passion (heavily edited and renamed The Last King in the US) appears to have been influenced by this book - Rufus Sewell mentions that he used the book as his guide for his portrayal of Charles. I enjoyed the series, although it's VERY annoying that an hour of footage appears to have been cut from the US version.
Karen Brooks
Feb 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It is a literary accomplishment to write a detailed and well-researched biography so that it reads like a rollicking piece of great fiction. Antonia Fraser’s, King Charles II is, like her other fabulous historical non-fiction works, such a book. In this wonderful and erudite tome, she tells the tale of a monarch who, against a backdrop of religious, political and cultural upheaval, dissent and change, rises above the conditions of his early childhood and the untimely and savage death of his ...more
Nov 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is the most sympathetic of the 3 bios I read on Charles II, but I don't think it sacrifices objectivity or the backing of researh or a paper trail. (At the bottom of my review I have a link so you see the 3 different biographies -- all scholarly and worth reading.)

What a complicated royal court the new Queen, Catherine of Braganza, found herself joining, for it was already established before her marriage to the King. It would not be wrong to say, Charles II was a rake, a predator with
H.J. Moat
Apr 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have to admit that when I started this book I had no particular attraction to Charles II - I've always been way more interested in England's Queens, because I think they had a lot more to prove and so were generally bigger characters. But I had been reading Antonia Fraser's diaries about her life with Harold Pinter and had come to pretty much worship the ground she walks on. So when I saw this, her first big historical biography, in a second-hand bookshop in Northumberland I was visiting with ...more
Charles II fascinates me. I've read quite a bit about his various mistresses, but nothing about the king himself, so I thought this would be a good place to start. It was a very good book and well researched, but it went on for about 100 pages longer than it needed to. The author imparts every fact about Charles II and the people around him, which gives a lot of great history, but also bogs the book down. The political machinations that dethroned his father and then restored Charles II to the ...more
Frederick Gault
A jolly good read! At a time when England was discovering tea, science, government and banking, Charles II lead a life out of a fairy tale. His father beheaded, his kingdom siezed, Charles was a warrior prince, a pauper in exile after a daring escape from England and finally, unexpectedly returned to his throne to open the golden age of The Restoration. A more extraordinary life cannot be imagined; a wise ruler, a loving father, a decent husband (despite his notorious mistresses and swarm of ...more
Jun 22, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a very readable account of King Charles II. The ins and outs of British Royalty and politics can be hard to follow but the book lays it out pretty well. King Charles is a very interesting historical personage. If you want to understand English history, this is a great book. Antonia Fraser is a very good author.
May 10, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wow Wow Wow What a good book. The life of Charles II, mostly his political life. She definitely downplays the more sensational aspects. But that's okay, because presumably everyone already knows from all the other books. Very well done, I'm in tears here mourning Charlie's passing.
Fairly thorough overview of the monarch's life. Certainly a very favourably biography; Fraser rebuffs almost all criticisms of Charles. She also has a funny way of writing about the major events, kind of talking around them more than about them. Perhaps its out of the assumption that we already know what these major events are? Which of course is not going to be the case for all readers and certainly not for me. Still, a pretty informative overview of Charles' life nonetheless.
Apr 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved King Charles II / a colorful, vibrant King. I did not know much about him until this book ; it really upped my knowledge of the Restoration period.
Dec 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
what an amazing life he led. Wow this is a great read.
Feb 12, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
At the start of this book Antonia Fraser quotes Queen Victoria, who once said of Charles II that for all of his moral failings, she considered him the most attractive of her predecessors. From the evidence in these pages Fraser clearly agrees with that view, and frankly so do I. History has remembered Charles as the 'Merry Monarch' and his Restoration court as a riotous affair, populated with mistresses, actresses, prostitutes and rakes, charlatans, con-artists, ne-er-do-wells and illegitimate ...more
Jul 13, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in Restoration England
Sometimes fact can be more interesting than fiction.

Charles Stuart, born a Prince, he had the whole word at his feet. Unfortunately his father Charles I was not the fantastic politician you would expect from the King of England, and lost his head to Oliver Cromwell. Charles II was forced into exile, and had to wait till England wanted it Monarchy back.

Charles II was known as the Merry Monarchy. Constantly celebrating, patronising the theatre (and many of its actresses), horse racing, poetry,
Aug 05, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked this up while rooting about in a second-hand bookshop for 3.50, at that price it was definitely worth a punt. Having recently watched and been fascinated by Lucy Worsley's series "Harlots, Housewives and Heroines" I wanted to learn more about the period both pre and post restoration, so what better place to start than with a biography of the key monarch. To begin with I'll echo what the majority of other reviews I've come across have said, which is that Fraser has a very accessible ...more
Oct 14, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Everything you ever wanted or needed to know about Charles II of England, complete with pictures. Very interesting tome along with much detail about the King who ruled England from 1660-1685. Mary Queen of Scots great grandson was an avid sportsmen, gardener and scientist..this King is a fascinating figure. Supporting the building of the Royal Observatory at Greenwich, a steady topic of diarist Samuel Pepys and a patron of Christopher Wren who rebuilt London after the Great Fire of 1666; this ...more
Kirsten Hivon
Unfortunately I was dissapointed with this book, especially considering that Charles 2nd is one of my favourite monarchs. I thought this book would be like Marie Antoinette, about his personal life and what life was like around the palace and how he reacted to things on a personal level, like Marie Antoinette was. Some of it was like that but mostly it was politics and conspiracies which I'm not all that fond of. It took me almost a month to get halfway, I put it down for awhile but the thought ...more
Apr 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I thoroughly enjoyed this book...but it took me a long time to finish. It is dense in every sense of the word but is because of the sheer amount of information presented that makes for a slow, if engrossing, read. Ms. Fraser's research was exhaustive to say the least. Charles II was a fascinating individual who overcame very much in his formative year. I would have liked the opportunity to meet him...350 years ago.
Charles II was born while his father was still king of England, but before he was fully grown England had revolted. First Charles I was dethroned, and then he was beheaded. Charles II spent his youth in exile, often narrowly escaping capture, always indebted to others. The constant danger and espionage turned him from a hot-headed prince into a tightly controlled man.

review tbc
LOVE antonia fraser! this was a great read. i knew very little about the restoration and charles II. finished reading cromwell by antonia fraser and mary, queen of scots (by same author) before that, so this was a nice ending to a 'home-made trilogy'.
Not as good as some of Fraser's other biographies. Lots of detail, but Charless II himself remains elusive. Also, Fraser assumes the reader has knowledge of 17th century politics and political figures, so this is not a good read for someone who is not too familiar with Restoration England.
Jun 30, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Charles II was an interesting character, and this was an interesting read. The political machinations in Restoration England can be a little difficult to follow though, particularly as people's names keep changing as they are granted new titles.
George Foord
Dec 27, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
i really enjoyed this book, it was easy to read with so much detail throughout, the only thing I didnt like is the way fraser explains things like sport all at once in a few pages however it was a pleasure to read
Not a bad book, but one showing it's age.

Well worth a read if you don't know much about Charles II.
Jul 03, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
I just couldn't seem to get into this book! It bored me.
Jul 10, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
very detailed and readable. Enjoyed it amazed by Antonia's detail
I tried this but didn't finish it because I didn't understand enough of the time period to follow. I think I will try again once I get to the Stuarts.
K.M. Ellis
Dec 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great biography! Was one of my number one sources for my thesis on Charles' illegitimate son James duke of Monmouth!!
Craig Bolton
Royal Charles by Antonia Fraser (1979)
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Antonia Fraser is the author of many widely acclaimed historical works, including the biographies Mary, Queen of Scots (a 40th anniversary edition was published in May 2009), Cromwell: Our Chief of Men, King Charles II and The Gunpowder Plot (CWA Non-Fiction Gold Dagger; St Louis Literary Award). She has written five highly praised books which focus on women in history, The Weaker Vessel: Women's ...more
“Though Charles II both craved and enjoyed female companionship till the end of his life, there is no question that by the cold, rainy autumn of 1682 his physical appetites had diminshed considerably. The Duchess of Portsmouth was, after all, more than twenty years his junior; and there comes a time in nearly every such relationship when the male partner is simply unable to fully accommodate the female partner. Or as Samuel Pepys tartly noted in his diary, "the king yawns much in council, it is thought he spends himself overmuch in the arms of Madame Louise, who far from being wearied, seems fresher than ever after sporting with the king.” 4 likes
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