Rebellion in the Reign of Charles II
Rebellion in the Reign of Charles IIPosted on Monday 18th December 2017
If the name of Charles II is mentioned to the average person a number of thoughts may enter their head. They probably think of him as the ‘merry monarch,’ a fun loving king with several mistresses including a pretty cockney girl called Nell Gwynn. They might remember that he was the adventurous young man who hid in an oak tree to escape from Cromwell’s Roundheads. If asked about the Restoration, most people might think of bawdy comedies with women on the stage for the first time and Samuel Pepys recording the naughty goings-on in his diary. They might also remember the Great Plague that was then followed by
the fire of London which in turn allowed Sir Christopher Wren to build a fine stone city. It is just possible that Restoration might also be remembered as the time when the Royal Society was founded with men such as Isaac Newton making huge strides in mathematics and science. In general the period would be considered a fun, romantic and positive time. This is a reasonable enough summary as far as it goes but there was a darker side to the period – which is the subject of Julian Whitehead’s Rebellion in the Reign of Charles II
The three kingdoms of England, Scotland and Ireland, which Charles II came to rule in 1660, totalled nearly nine million people. These people had been severely traumatised. They had suffered civil wars resulting in the loss of 200,000 lives, countless casualties and bitter divisions of communities and families. A Republic had been created, followed by a military coup and Cromwell’s Protectorate with what amounted to a police state followed by another Republic that had imploded on itself as generals fought for power. Most Royalist supporters had lost a great deal of their lands and wealth through confiscation or fines and these were now owned by parliamentary supporters or resold to others. Those who felt they had been wronged during the Interregnum now wanted both restoration of their wealth and vengeance against the people responsible for taking it from them.
Those who had supported the Republic or Protectorate were in fear that they might be deprived of their gains in that time and retribution would be awaiting them. Above all, this was a deeply religious age and each Protestant sect be it Anglican, Presbyterian, Quaker, Baptists or Congregationalist, had little or no tolerance of each other, and absolutely no tolerance for Roman Catholics. The welcome that was given to the returning king was based upon the hope that the general yearning for peace, stability and prosperity would be miraculously fulfilled. It was a tall order for any monarch.
The euphoria of the Restoration soon evaporated as the deep problems of the past re-emerged. Plots, uprisings and threats to the king’s power, throne and even life soon followed.
Religious persecution and anti-Catholic hysteria brought more dangers. In preserving the security of his throne Charles relied upon his secretaries of state with their intelligence organisation and means of controlling the press. Rebellion in the Reign of Charles II describes the plots, uprisings and subversion that took place, and how they were overcome. It is written by someone who has spent a working lifetime in government intelligence.
The backdrop for the book is the decadent Restoration Court with its intensive intrigue by beautiful mistresses and ambitious aristocrats. It brings to life the many colourful characters including the spymaster Sir Joseph Williamson and his agents such as the notorious Colonel Blood. By throwing light on the murky world of espionage, covert operations, and general dirty tricks, it shows how Charles II was able to remain in power for the twenty-five turbulent years of his reign.
Rebellion in the Reign of Charles II
(Hardback - 277 pages)
by Julian Whitehead
Charles II’s father was executed, his brother James managed to stay on the throne for only four years, yet Charles died in his bed having ruled for a quarter of a century. Although welcomed back as king in 1660, the honeymoon of the Restoration soon passed with plots and uprisings to follow. Rebellion in the Reign of Charles II describes the sinister and murky world of espionage, plots and treason in the Restoration period, with former intelligence officer and security adviser Julian Whitehead telling the darker side of the Merry…
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About Julian Whitehead: Julian Whitehead read History at Oxford after which he spent a full career in government intelligence and his appointments have included Chief of Staff of the Intelligence Centre and Deputy Director of Defence Security. Since retiring from military intelligence he has been the Security Adviser to Historic Royal Palaces. His previous book was Cavalier and Roundhead Spies – Intelligence in the Civil War and Commonwealth published by Pen and Sword in 2009.
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