Rebellion in the Reign of Charles II

Written by John Whitehead
Review by Edward James

There was no rebellion in England in the reign of Charles II and only minor revolts in Scotland and Ireland. Plots and conspiracies abounded but never came to anything. This book explains why.

Charles II had very limited military resources (he wisely disbanded Cromwell’s army after the Restoration) and relied instead on cunning statecraft and a good intelligence service. Whitehead is an ex-intelligence officer and gives special attention to this aspect of Charles’ rule but the book also covers the whole complex and shifting pattern of Restoration politics, not neglecting the sexual politics of Charles’ several mistresses.

The intelligence service was not always reliable. The greatest plot of all, the Popish Plot of 1678, never existed, but the intelligencers were content to feed popular hysteria to boost their own importance. Quis custodiet?