A Gambling Man, By Jenny Uglow

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The Independent Culture

As a clapped out-regime falls apart, "a young, charismatic man is called to power". But what happens when "the fireworks fade and the euphoria cools"? Jenny Uglow, the learned, stylish doyenne of biographers, turns her hand to Charles II and the decade after his 1660 Restoration.

Though known for lives of rebel artists and inventors more than monarchs, she shines by viewing England's renewed kingship as a craft that canny but risk-taking Charles learned to master in an "age of performance".

From Pepys to Nell Gwyn, Rochester to Evelyn, the stellar supporting cast leaps off the page – the royal mistresses drawn with a rare sympathy. Yet, melancholy as much as merry, the shrewd and charming king always returns to centre-stage.