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Royal Survivor: The Life of Charles II Hardcover – January 19, 2000

4.2 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The biographer of several prominent English literary figures (including Byron and Keats) turns his attention to a wily politician in this lively portrait of Charles II (1630-85). When he assumed the throne in 1660, Charles had already survived his father's 1649 execution during the English civil war and years of uneasy exile. His restoration had more to do with England's yearning for peace than any desire to reestablish the monarchy's ancient rights, in which Charles fervently believed, and Coote shows the king wielding personal authority and considerable guile to assert prerogatives that his parliament was determined to restrict. Baptized a Catholic on his deathbed, Charles never publicly declared his faith, knowing it would be unacceptable in Protestant England, nor did he let it interfere with his lighthearted affairs. Nonetheless, he was fond of his queen and refused to discard her when she failed to produce an heir. His political maneuvers ensured the peaceful succession of his brother James, who managed in a scant four years to provoke England's bloodless "Glorious Revolution" and the lasting abrogation of royal powers Charles had astutely maintained in trying times. Writing with vigor and color that suit his pleasure-loving subject, Coote limns a man of contradictions in an engaging work of popular biography. --Wendy Smith

From Publishers Weekly

Biographer Coote (John Keats, etc.) offers a fast-moving, engaging but unoriginal biography of the king whose Restoration brought a lull in the factional fighting that had wracked 17th-century England. Coote clearly has the gift of gab and brings out the inherent drama of his subject; his tale is an easy read, told more with colorful language than profound insight, the kind of book that begs to be described as "vivid." Archaic turns of phrase convey a suitable sense of history, and interpretive quagmires are skipped in favor of lusty storytelling. Besides the familiar yarn of Charles hiding from his Roundhead pursuers up an oak tree, we are served up titillating delicacies such as the lesbian tableau arranged by Lady Castlemaine and the pretty 15-year-old Frances Stuart for the king's delectation. The endnotes indicate that Coote repeatedly relies on a narrow range of secondary scholarship, and his treatment of the international context is woefully superficial. He suggests that far from being a reckless playboy, Charles was a wily and resourceful survivor, but this claim sits uneasily with Coote's own admission that the Restoration's consolidation was largely the achievement of Lord Chancellor Edward Hyde, as well as evidence of the king's clumsy demonstrations of sympathy for the Catholic cause. One is left rather with the impression of an intellectually mediocre, self-indulgent man whose survival owed less to political guile than to the nation's desperate desire for stability. (Feb.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 409 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press (January 19, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 031222687X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312226879
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.4 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,208,920 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is very cleverly put together by Mr. Coote. I've noticed that some of the professional reviews tend to dwell on the more salacious parts but the vast majority of the book is about the power politics involved in the struggle between Charles and Parliament. It is a tribute to Mr. Coote that he makes the principles involved interesting and understandable to the modern reader. He throws in just enough information about Charles's personal life to provide a nice breather from all the politics. You learn about all of the mistresses and illegitimate children and how Charles liked to spend his personal time. He was a very physical and fit man who was quite tall for the times (6 foot 2) and liked to hunt and fish and play tennis and was an excellent horseman. The first third or so of the book, when Charles was on the run from Cromwell and the Roundheads and then in exile was also very interesting and even exciting. Charles proved himself to be very brave and resourceful and also intelligent and devious. The book maintains a nice balance between the political and the personal and is a good introduction to the times.
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Format: Hardcover
The Author, Mr. Stephen Coote, handles this biography in a manner that I wish were more prevalent. Rather than writing a three-inch thick, thousand-page work, he states his premise about his subject, and then confines himself to what is appropriate within the context he has outlined. This is not a work that lists every piece of paper the subject ever held, and who was there handing him a pen. Mr. Coote delivers a disciplined, concise narrative, not a leaden overwrought tome that takes two people to carry. He makes his work accessible, readable, and still produces the work of a scholar. Happily more biographers seem to be adopting a more appealing way to enjoy History, the reading is interesting, and the only way it could be otherwise is to write three words where one will suffice.
Charles II is a fascinating character that lived through a time of other major historical events that make this book all the more interesting. I have read many references to the infamous Great London Fire of 1666, but this is the first time the extent of the devastation made the impact on this reader that an event of its magnitude should. The better known events are all here, the plague of 1665, members of the Royalty changing, or appearing to change Religions as often as they changed their clothes, the children whose Patrimony was questionable many times, the intrigues at the Court, and the endless maze of deals and deceptions between England, Scotland, France, Spain, and the Low Countries. Family ties were as strong as they were useful, and loyalty to the king, or of his subjects changed with the wind, the latest eclipse, or comet.
What is concentrated upon here is the King that Charles II became, and the events in his life that brought him there.
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Format: Hardcover
Stephen Coote's biography on Charles II is an enjoyable story of a man who the author has titled `Royal Survivor'. This book, which is just under 400 pages (hardback format), takes the reader on a trip with Charles II, through his trials and tribulations, his victories and his defeats. We follow Charles II from boyhood, the death of his father and his attempt to re-claim the throne which met its end at the Battle of Worcester. Then the author takes us along with Charles II as he makes an exciting escape from England back into exile and then his triumphant return to the Throne of England.
We then settle into an account of Charles II as the King of England, his conflicts with Parliament and the tales of his many mistresses. We follow the story through the period of the Restoration and other great events that occurred during his reign. After finishing this book I really believed that I had gained a better understanding of the subject and the times. In fact I came away from feeling that the King wasn't all that bad and maybe he did try to do his best for England (within a certain framework).
Not only did the book offer an account of Charles II and his private life but we are also provided with accounts of his struggle with the Dutch provinces, France and its King, along with the plague and the Great Fire of London. I would not consider the book to be an in-depth biography but more of a narrative history offering the reader a general overview of the subject. That said, I still found the story interesting and learnt quite a few things along the way.
I believe that anyone who enjoys good history without too many dates and names will be quite taken with this account of Charles II. The book provides the reader with a free flowing narrative, holding your interest throughout the whole story. The book is well presented and has a number of black and white photographs of the period. Overall this is an excellent story and well worth the time to read.
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Format: Paperback
I found Stephen Coote's biography on King Charles II to be quite good. The book proves to be well written and well researched. The author managed to bring out the character and personality of this king in his biography that proves to be both informative and entertaining. I believed that the key element of this biography is the high readability of the book to almost anyone interested in the subject matter. Its a book written for the general masses, not for scholars or footnotes fanatics.

If there's a general weakness in the author's approach, it seem like the author appears to excused Charles' many extra-sexual activities. Coote regards Charles' high sexual activities as result of his dire poverty-stricken existence during his long exile. He seem to have more mistresses then most other Kings of England put together. King Charles II that come from this book appears to be a man, highly intelligent, got the "common touch" and acute in politics but he's also lazy, rash and live for the moment type of individual. He have endured what most Kings of England never had to endured and that created some interesting contradictions in his character which the book goes into very nicely.

This biography come highly recommended to anyone interested in this time period.
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