BOOK REVIEW – RICHARD OLLARD – THE IMAGE OF THE KING 1979 Hodder & Stoughton.
A compare and contrast biography of father and son monarchs, Charles 1st and Charles 2cd, the two kings central to the English Civil War. The premise of the book promises to show the kings as their contemporaries perceived them, and through the eyes of the men responsible for their portraits, but Ollard forgets this quickly to give his own point of view and the work has little to offer that isn’t clearly available from other studies of these remarkable men.
Ollard captures well the sense of Charles 1st as a stern, stubborn man of principle who was more of a Puritan than any of his opponents and less of a Cavalier than the army who followed him to destruction. Charles 2cd goes from being the merry monarch to a man willing to do anything to maintain his creature comforts and maintain power. He gets a more comprehensive treatment in the book given his longer, more successful reign.
The book really comes into its own in the closing chapters describing the perception of the Stuarts by their Georgian successors, and how the Whigs &Tories behaved towards the monarchy, as it was at this time that the main foundational histories of the Civil War period were being written, mainly for propaganda purposes, with only S. R. Gardiner emerging to present an objective analysis of events.
Queen Victoria had a fascination for Restoration fashion, and in her early years, threw a lavish restoration themed masque.
There are several portraits from Van Dyck, Peter Lely, etc, but they receive little attention in the text despite its title and hints of this being covered in the book. Charles 1st was a true patron of the arts, while Charles 2cd restored the theatres after the puritanical ban on such frivolities.
Ollard’s work is a passable twin biography but it lacks real direction or discipline.
Copyright. Arthur Chappell
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