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Makers of History: Charles II

Updated: Apr 23, 2023

Jacob Abbott

Original publication 1849

Harper & Brothers Publishers , 1904

A great book to carry around in case you become stranded on a deserted island for several weeks.


An in-depth biography of England's Charles II (1630 - 1685).


The books begins with Charles's parents, King Charles I and his queen, Henrietta Maria, and delves heavily into their history and their affairs around the time of their son's birth. The drama continues with the captivity and eventual execution of Charles II's father, the dramatic escape of his mother, and the eventual escape of himself and his siblings to Paris. The story continues with Charles's restoration to the throne, his marriage, his "character and reign", then concludes with his rather sudden death.


The preface boldly states that "The narratives are...but history itself, without any embellishment or any deviation from the strict truth..." and thus "The readers, therefore, may rely upon the record as the truth, and nothing but the truth..." So forget BBC, all pertinent information regarding Charles II is in this book.

As a member of the royal family, Charles II's life necessarily took on the themes of politics and religion, the two being essentially one and the same in the 17th century English court. His story, then, is a series of political-religious motivations or consequences. In spite of that, or perhaps because of that, it is an interesting and entertaining story - at least if you are a glutton for European history.

Even though the author professes to stick to the facts only, he does so in the style of an entertaining novel. How did he know, 187 years after the fact, that it was a bright and beautiful morning, and the air seemed perfectly motionless? I suppose it had been written down in someone's diary.

Though lengthy and dense, the book is easily read. There is a lot of detail, all factual, remember, that renders the story engaging. For example, the escape of his baby sister Henrietta Anne, by her caretaker, to France constitutes four pages plus a drawing.

I recommend this book to those readers who seriously enjoy 17th century English history.

Notable Observations:

  • Hostility between Catholics and Protestants was all the rage.

  • Royal Marriages had everything to do with money, political alliances, and producing male heirs. Daughters were little more than currency for barter.

  • Politics was dirty and corrupt, full of liars and backstabbers. Ha-Ha, imagine.

Best Last Line Ever for a Biography:

This continued till about noon, when he ceased to breathe.

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3 commentaires

29 avr. 2023

"The narratives are but history itself.. and nothing but the truth." After reading it, what is your opinion on how accurately the narratives were described in the book?"


12 avr. 2023

Do you keep your books after reviewing them?

12 avr. 2023
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