cover image The King’s Bed: Sex and Power in the Court of Charles II

The King’s Bed: Sex and Power in the Court of Charles II

Don Jordan and Michael Walsh. Pegasus, $28.95 (374p) ISBN 978-1-60598-969-3

In this balanced narrative, Jordan and Walsh (White Cargo) contextualize the reign of Charles II (1630–1685) in light of his numerous mistresses, arguing that his aversion to conflict allowed them to influence policy, helped bankrupt the country, and nearly resulted in subjugation to France’s Louis XIV. The restoration of the “Merry Monarch” ushered in a frivolous, sex-saturated, court-led 17th-century sexual revolution that shocked many, but also reassured a country that was weary of religious stridency after the execution of the king’s Catholic father and Charles’s own exile during the Commonwealth. Solid research and wry observations neatly augment the chronological narrative, although the unflattering and simplistic description of actress Moll Davis suffers from too much reliance on one source (Samuel Pepys, an ardent admirer of her rival Barbara Palmer). Jordan and Walsh also struggle with miscarriage and stillbirth terminology in their discussion of the infertile queen, but excel in describing the king’s unusual willingness to claim and promote many of his illegitimate children. With the fully developed fleshing out of Charles and four of his primary mistresses, the authors provide authentic insight on how salacious sex and the pursuit of pleasure ruled a troubled king. Illus. Agent: George Lucas, Inkwell Management. (Mar.)