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Go to the next monarch without a book in the series

As noted in the page for Charles I no mention has been made in any of the Methuen or Yale books regarding a biography of Charles I or II. However, some alternatives are offered for  readers of the English Monarchs series.

Titles which will be of interest on Charles II are all titled Charles II. The earliest was published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson in 1979 by by Antonia Fraser, the second in published by The Clarendon Press in 1989 by Ronald Hutton (of the University of Bristol) and the latest by John Miller (of Queen Mary University of London) followed in 1991, also published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson. It is somewhat puzzling that Yale should have the confidence in Professor Miller’s study of James II to include (belatedly) that work in the series, yet elect not to include his book on Charles II, which at more than 400 pages is an exhaustive academic study, and a hard act to follow.

Professor Hutton’s history (subtitled ‘King of England, Scotland, and Ireland’) is also highly regarded and would please those seeking an academic-level study. Antonia Fraser’s study of Charles is also well regarded, but does not have the analysis of John Miller’s writing, though it is a better option for someone coming to the restoration period for the first time or a reader who seeks a great story and the flavour of the times.

Ronald Hutton reviewed John Miller’s book in Parliamentary History; Gloucester Vol. 11, (2),  (Jan 1, 1992), in which he described the differences between Miller’s 1991 biography of Charles II and his own Charles II biography of 1989. Miller looks chiefly at the reign from 1660, specifically England “permitting a more detailed treatment of the themes involved and a particularly close study of foreign policy”. Hutton’s book tackled the whole of Charles’ life “and to consider him a monarch of the whole of the British Isles.” He concludes that Miller’s book is in length and importance a colossal work of a master academic writer, with whom Hutton shared many, though not all, of the views of Charles and his reign. 

Howard Nenner (Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts) reviewed Hutton’s biography in Albion: A Quarterly Journal Concerned with British Studies Vol. 23, No. 3 (Autumn, 1991), commenting that he concentrates more on Scotland and Ireland, but that Hutton avoids deciding on Charles’ character as this would necessitate departing from the sources. Charles remains ‘slippery’ in this biography. Hutton is less certain than previous scholars that Charles was an absolutist. "Because the hard evidence...is generally inconclusive, Hutton favors a more cautious analysis.” Miller outlines the difference of approach in the foreword to his own book, that Hutton concentrates on Charles’ early years and on Scotland and Ireland, while his own book examines the reign from 1660. Indeed, Miller devotes only two chapters (40 pages) to the years before the reign before diving into the restoration period. Those reading, or already familiar with, biographies of Charles I will not miss the brevity of these early years.

Readers are referred therefore to these two works depending on which aspect of the period one prefers, although as Miller is already an English Monarchs author he has the edge on having Charles II as the first choice for collectors of the books in the series and, of course, this account does not cover the same ground for readers migrating from a biography of Charles I. At the academic level these two biographies will have to suffice readers until a Yale biography arrives to weld together these two approaches with updated research. Antonia Fraser’s book will be more accessible and discusses the whole of Charles’s life, and probably the first port of call for those not familiar with this period of British history.

Charles II by Peter Lely, held by Mount Edgcumbe House, Cremyll, Torpoint, Cornwall

Charles II

No Yale or Methuen book published