Charles II and the Politics of Access
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Book DescriptionIn an era dominated by monarchs like Louis XIV and Philip IV who used distance to generate awe, Charles II's reputation for accessibility stands out. Most scholars enamored with anecdotes about the restored monarch's many mistresses, his rakish companions, and his spaniels have assumed that Charles's personality inevitably led him to open access and that such accessibility remained a constant throughout his reign. Charles II and the Politics of Access argues to the contrary that politicalconcerns, not personality, brought this king to at first favor open access, for he believed that accessibility would aid him in uniting his strife-torn nation and thereby help to secure his throne. But when Charles II's political agenda changed so too did his policies of access: when he abandoned his goal of uniting his nation he also abandoned his commitment to accessibility. Even so he continued to use access to his person as a potent political tool, strictly regulating it in order to galvanize his supporters and dishearten his opponents. This book further contends that policies of access had ramifications far beyond the realm of high politics. By examining how changes in the manner of interaction between subject and sovereign affected such diverse areas as architecture, religious identity, business practices, economic theory, and even the self-conception of the English nation, this book offers new insights not only about the reign of Charles II, but also about the institution of monarchy. BRIAN WEISER is visiting assistant professor at the University of New Hampshire.