I DECIDED to write this book because, in the course of working upon its predecessor, I became intrigued by the personality of Charles II. I found him a more complex and less appealing character than I had expected from his reputation. In the euphoria of completing The Restoration, I believed that I had the energy to take such an important figure, with a relatively long and crowded public life, as the subject of my first foray into the art of biography. Friends cast doubt upon the wisdom of devoting a significant chunk of my own life to a person with whom I was not in love. Now that five years have elapsed, it seems that we were all correct. The book is finished, but it has been a harder and more complicated project than I had expected.
One of the factors which caused me to embark upon it was the often- repeated remark, in universities, that there was no 'proper biography' of the King. What this meant was that there was none which attempted the sort of questions of interest to professional historians. It ignored the fact that Charles had already been the subject of two of the most magnificent 'popular' biographies ever written, by a master and mistress of the arts of narrative and portrayal, Sir Arthur Bryant and Lady Antonia Fraser. Nobody who has known them can forget the unrolling cadences of Sir Arthur's sentences, in which the word ' England' recurs like the name of God in a mantra. Until the moment of his death, a few years ago, he possessed the trick of leading eye and mind easily from one page to another so that thousands of words can pass and leave the reader ready for more. In turn, he lent encouragement to Lady Antonia in her own work, which has the distinction of being hitherto the only book about Charles which deals in some detail with his entire life, from cradle till grave. To this she brought a number of sources hitherto neglected or unknown by historians, and a formidable common sense. Time and again, approaching issues upon which a great deal of romantic silliness had been expended in the past, I found that Lady Antonia had cut a plain and convincing way through them. Furthermore, she also dealt with most of the questions about the King which the general public would want to have answered,