A Gambling Man: Charles II and the Restoration by Jenny Uglow - review by Adrian Tinniswood

Adrian Tinniswood

A Heroic Part

A Gambling Man: Charles II and the Restoration


Faber & Faber 592pp £25

‘This day his Majesty Charles II came to London after a sad and long exile,’ John Evelyn wrote in his diary on Tuesday 29 May 1660. ‘I stood in the Strand and beheld it, and blessed God.’

Not everyone was as delighted as Evelyn to see the monarchy restored. The surviving signatories to Charles I’s death warrant fled abroad, or begged for mercy, or gave themselves up to the King’s vengeance with glad hearts and interminable final speeches from the scaffold. Veterans of the Good Old Cause wondered loudly what it was they’d been fighting for: one ex-soldier swore that if he got hold of Charles he would chop him into tiny pieces ‘as small as herbs in a pot’. Puritans predicted a deluge of divine wrath. An old woman who watched the King’s arrival in London shouted, ‘A pox on all kings!’

But most people were pleased, or at least relieved that after the uncertainty following Cromwell’s death in 1658 – the abortive risings, the threats of war, the sight of soldiers laying siege to Parliament – order had been restored without blood being spilt. Young girls threw flowers in

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