King Charles II, the son of Charles I, reigned from 1660 to 1685. He is remembered as a handsome, good-natured man who was devoted to pleasure-seeking and had many mistresses. He and his wife, Catherine of Braganza, had no children. Charles II was succeeded by his brother, James II.
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Royal Survivor: The Life of Charles II by Stephen Coote. Introduces readers to the drama of an England torn by civil war, ruled by a villainous Cromwell, and populated with the streetwise women Charles bedded on the road to his restored throne.
A Gambling Man: Charles II and the Restoration by Jenny Uglow. Biography. King Charles II took chances and manipulated his followers. His grand court and colorful sex life were on display, but his true intentions lay hidden.
Charles II: The Last Rally by Hilaire Belloc. Classic biography of Charles II that investigates the role of monarchy in pre-Revolution Europe.
Charles II: The Star King by Clare Jackson. Biography of the guarded, self-conscious ruler whose personal life was a complicated mix of lasciviousness, cynicism and luxury.
King Charles II: His Life and Times by Antonia Fraser. Following a youth of poverty and bitter exile after his father's execution, the ousted king first challenged, then made his magnificent escape from, Cromwell's troops before he was eventually restored to his throne in triumph in 1660. This biography spans the king's life both before and after the Restoration.
To Catch a King: Charles II's Great Escape by Charles Spencer. Tells the story of the manhunt for Charles II after his army was crushed at the battle of Worcester. Pursued for six weeks by Cromwell's soldiers, he escaped using disguise, deception, fortitude, and good luck.
The Magnificent Monarch: Charles II and the Ceremonies of Power by Anna Keay. Biography that shows how Charles II's natural charisma and belief in the theater of majesty helped recreate the fabric of monarchy and ensure its survival.
Catherine of Braganza: Charles II's Restoration Queen by Sarah-Beth Watkins. Catherine of Braganza, a Portuguese princess, married Charles II in 1662. She lived through times of war, plague and fire, and spent her final days as queen-regent of Portugal.
Restoration Carnival by Maurice Bethell Jones. About Catherine of Braganza, the Portugese princess who married Charles II.
The King's Bed: Sex and Power in the Court of Charles II by Don Jordan & Michael Walsh. Takes readers inside Charles's palace to meet his favorites, confidants, advisors, mistresses, and other key figures such as the king's 'pimpmasters' and his personal pox doctor.
The Last Royal Rebel: The Life and Death of James, Duke of Monmouth by Anna Keay. An excellent biography of King Charles II's illegitimate son. Here's my review of the book.
My Dearest Minette by King Charles II, edited by Ruth Norrington. The king's letters to his sister Henriette-Anne, who married the brother of French King Louis XIV. Includes a family tree.
Scandalous Liaisons: Charles II and His Court by R. E. Pritchard. Tells the story of the most hedonistic, loose-living court in English history.
King's Henchman by Anthony Adolph. After Charles II's ascent to the throne, Henry Jermyn, 1st Earl of St. Albans, helped keep the royal family together despite his rumored affair with the Queen.
The King's Irishmen: The Irish in the Exiled Court of Charles II, 1649-1660 by Mark R.F. Williams. Looks at key Irish figures in Charles II's court-in-exile, and how allegiances and identities were re-fashioned as the exiles moved across Europe in pursuit of aid.
Earl of Rochester
A Profane Wit: The Life of John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester by James William Johnson. Biography of a notorious rake from the court of King Charles II.
So Idle A Rogue: The Life and Death of Lord Rochester by Jeremy Lamb. Another biography of the outrageous poet John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester (portrayed by Johnny Depp in the movie The Libertine).
Nell Gwynn: Mistress to a King by Charles Beauclerk. Biography of an orange-seller who became an actress and mistress of King Charles II. The author is a direct descendant of their union.
The Great Lady by Margaret Gilmour. A biography of Barbara Villiers, mistress of Charles II.
Restoration: Charles II and His Kingdoms, 1660-1685 by Tim Harris. Traces the fate of the monarchy from Charles II's triumphant accession in 1660 to the growing discontent of the 1680s.
Rebellion in the Reign of Charles II by Julian Whitehead. King Charles survived plots and rebellions with a mixture of guile, espionage, propaganda, covert operations and military oppression.
The King's Revenge: Charles II and the Greatest Manhunt in British History by Don Jordan and Michael Walsh. After Charles I was executed, his son Charles II sought retribution. Once-powerful men ended up on the scaffold, on the run, or in fear of the assassin's bullet.
The Day the King Defaulted: Financial Lessons From the Stop of the Exchequer in 1672 by Moshe Arye Milevsky. This book studies King Charles II's decision to stop all payments from his royal exchequer. The decision left bankers unable to cover their own liabilities, and many spent the end of their lives in debtors' prison.
The Great Plague: The Story of London's Most Deadly Year by A Lloyd Moote and Dorothy Moote. During Charles II's reign, the bubonic plague, or "Black Death," killed nearly 100,000 people living in and around London -- almost a third of those who did not flee.
The Great Fire of London by Steven Porter. This comprehensive and fully illustrated account examines the events leading up to the fire, the fire itself, and the rebuilding of London.
The King's City: A History of London During The Restoration by Don Jordan. Throughout the quarter-century Charles was on the throne, London suffered the plague in 1665 and the Great Fire, but rose from the ashes to become the economic capital of Europe.
The City and the King: Architecture and Politics in Restoration London by Christine Stevenson. How architecture was used to renew the relationship between the monarchy and London during the reign of Charles II.
Colonel Blood: The Man Who Stole the Crown Jewels by David Hanrahan. Thomas Blood (1618-80) was the only person to steal the crown jewels. This book explores Blood's villainy, and depicts the means by which the crown maintained power in the early years of Charles II's reign.
The Audacious Crimes of Colonel Blood by Robert Hutchinson. The spy who stole the crown jewels and became King Charles II's secret agent.
Politics & Government
Charles II and the Politics of Access by Brian Weiser. Argues that King Charles II used access to his person as a potent political tool.
The Restoration by Ronald Hutton. A political and religious history of England and Wales 1658-1667.
Godly Kingship in Restoration England: The Politics of The Royal Supremacy, 1660-1688 by Jacqueline Rose. How tensions in church-state relations created by Henry VIII's Reformation influenced relationships between the crown, parliament and common law during the Restoration.
Restoration and Revolution in Britain: Political Culture in the Era of Charles II and the Glorious Revolution by Gary De Krey. Examines royalist political culture and the issues that interrupted settlement in the Stuart kingdoms until after the Glorious Revolution.
Rebranding Rule: The Restoration and Revolution Monarchy, 1660-1714 by Kevin Sharpe. A look at the importance of public image in the Stuart monarchy. The author's previous books include Selling the Tudor Monarchy: Authority and Image in Sixteenth-Century England and Image Wars: Kings and Commonwealths in England.
The Crown's Servants by G.E. Aylmer is about government and the civil service under Charles II, 1660-1685.
The Long Parliament of Charles II by Annabel Patterson. Using parliamentary diaries, newsletters, memoirs, letters from members of parliament, scofflaw pamphlets, and the king's own speeches, the author stresses that how its records were kept and circulated is an important part of the story.
Discourses on Government by Algernon Sidney. The author, a British politician, was executed in 1683 on possibly false charges of plotting to overthrow King Charles II. The manuscript for this book was used as evidence against him. In it, Sidney discusses the history of liberty and republican government. (This reprint edition from The Lawbook Exchange is very expensive.)
Sidney: Court Maxims by Algernon Sidney. Written during Sidney's continental exile, this recently-rediscovered work presents a lively discussion about the principles of government and the practice of politics.
Algernon Sidney and the Restoration Crisis, 1677-1683 by Jonathan Scott. Reinterperts the major political crisis of Charles II's reign, and discusses the last six years of Sidney's life.
Royal Yacht Mary: The Discovery of the First Royal Yacht by Matthew Tanner. In 1675, King Charles II's yacht foundered under mysterious circumstances. This book tells the story of the disaster, the discovery of the wreck in 1971, and the excavation.
Royal Escape by Georgette Heyer. The young Charles II must flee across Cromwell's England bound for a ship to France. But the irrepressible king is not an easy man to hide.
The Loves of Charles II: The Stuart Saga by Jean Plaidy. Written by the popular writer who was also known as Victoria Holt and Philippa Carr (real name: Eleanor Hibbert).
The Vagrant King by E. V. Thompson. A Cornish tale of intrigue and romance set against the backdrop of the English Civil War. Ralf, a young page to the future king Charles II, falls in love with a woman who is complicit in an attempt to kidnap Charles.
Novels About the King's Wife
The Merry Monarch's Wife: The Story of Catherine of Braganza by Jean Plaidy. Novel about the wife of Britain's King Charles II. Previously published under the title "The Pleasures of Love."
Wife to Charles II by Hilda Lewis. Tells the story of Catherine of Braganza, Charles II's Portuguese queen, against the background of injustice and tragedy.
Other Ladies of the Court
The September Queen by Gillian Bagwell. An adventurous young woman helps England's King Charles II escape from danger, falling in love with him in the process.
The French Mistress: A Novel of the Duchess of Portsmouth and King Charles II by Susan Holloway Scott. The daughter of a poor nobleman, Louise must please jaded King Louis XIV and spy for France.
The Empress of Ice Cream by Anthony Capella. Carlo Dimerco, confectioner to Louis XIV, falls in love with Louise de Keroualle, who becomes mistress of Charles II.
Royal Harlot: A Novel of the Countess Castlemaine and King Charles II by Susan Holloway Scott. Tells the story of Barbara Villiers Palmer, mistress of England's King Charles II.
Girl on the Golden Coin: A Novel of Frances Stuart by Marci Jefferson. In 1660, the Restoration of monarchy in England returns Frances Stuart to favor, but she has family secrets to protect. She inspires King Charles II to greatness and survives the debauchery of the court, yet loses her heart.
Forever Amber by Kathleen Winsor. Entertaining novel in the tradition of "Gone With the Wind." Intersperses the adventures of the fictional adventuress Amber with chapters about Charles II and his court. This book was a big best-seller and considered very racy when it was first published in the 1940s. Fun to read.
Ladies in Waiting by Laura L. Sullivan. Three young women from different walks of life find themselves at the heart of the scandalous court of Britain's King Charles II. Note: The publisher indicates this is a book for teens, but reviews suggest it is more suitable for adults.
The Darling Strumpet by Gillian Bagwell. A novel about actress Nell Gwynn, who became the mistress of Britain's King Charles II.
The Perfect Royal Mistress: A Novel by Diane Haeger. Fictional account of the life of Nell Gwynne, the actress who became mistress of Britain's King Charles II.
The King's Favorite: A Novel of Nell Gwyn and King Charles II by Susan Holloway Scott. Nell Gwyn rises from poverty to become a sensation in the theater, then catches the eye of Britain's king.
Exit the Actress: A Novel by Priya Parmar. Novel about Nell Gwynn, the actress who became the mistress of England's King Charles II.
These DVDs are formatted for North American audiences.
The Last King. A lavish movie about the life of Charles II, starring Rufus Sewell as the king. The shaky camera distracted me and the plot put me to sleep.
The Libertine starring Johnny Depp. A 2006 movie about John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester (portrayed by Depp), a 17th century poet who drank and debauched his way to an early grave. John Malkovich plays King Charles II.
Restoration. Sam Neill plays King Charles II in this 1994 film about a physician (Robert Downey Jr.) in the king's court.
Forever Amber. Linda Darnell stars in this 1947 adaptation of Kathleen Winsor's novel about an adventuress who becomes the mistress of Charles II.
King James II