Charles II

Behind the Throne is a cracking read about a neglected subject – the royal household

6 October 2018 9:00 am

Never judge a book by its cover. To look at, this is a coffee-table book with shiny pages which make…

They shared a love of books, beekeeping, print-collecting, alchemy, geometry, music, astronomy and the English language: John Evelyn (left) and Samuel Pepys

Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn: a meeting of like minds

19 August 2017 9:00 am

For Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn, two great recorders of Restoration England, life was a cabinet of curiosities, says Frances Wilson

‘The Continuation of the Road from London to Aberystwyth’, from John Ogilby’s Britannia

The first British road atlas — a luxury fit for a king

14 January 2017 9:00 am

Given that he wrote and published some of the most stunningly handsome books of the 17th century, John Ogilby has…

Little to relish in this bracing portrait of a vain, brilliant fool: The Libertine reviewed

8 October 2016 9:00 am

Here are three roles all actors love to play. The drunk (no need to learn your lines), the dementia victim…

View looking towards the west façade of old St Paul’s Cathedral. On the right are the ruins of St Anne’s, Blackfriars. On the left, flames engulf Ludgate, one of the gates of the City of London

The Great Fire of London’s silver lining

3 September 2016 9:00 am

It was the brightest of futures; it was the End of Days. Three hundred and fifty years before Brexit, England…

Monmouth’s charm and dark, mesmerising beauty made him an object of international fascination

James Duke of Monmouth: perhaps the best king we never had

4 June 2016 9:00 am

In Pepys’s famous words, James, Duke of Monmouth was ‘the most skittish, leaping gallant that ever I saw, always in…

Ford Madox Brown celebrates 17th-century advances in science in his painting ‘William Crabtree watches the Transit of Venus in 1639’

A.C. Grayling reduces history to a game of quidditch

12 March 2016 9:00 am

The 17th century scores highly  — especially England’s part in it — in A.C. Grayling’s ‘points system’ of history. If only the study of the past were that simple, says Ruth Scurr

Uncle Vanya, The Almeida

Kit-car Chekhov: Uncle Vanya at the Almeida reviewed

27 February 2016 9:00 am

Director Robert Icke has this to say of Chekhov’s greatest masterpiece: ‘Let the electricity of now flow into the old…

Hawksmoor’s plan for a baptistery at St Paul’s Cathedral

Nicholas Hawksmoor: a genius in his own right

13 February 2016 9:00 am

In the conclusion to his very substantial study of England’s least known and most misunderstood Baroque architect, Owen Hopkins discusses…

Portrait of Pepys, after John Hayls. The Diary for 17 March 1666 reads: ‘This day I begin to sit [for Hayls], and he will make me, I think, a very fine picture.... I sit to have it full of shadows, and do almost break my neck looking over my shoulder to make the posture for him to work by.’

The joy of an unexpurgated Pepys — without the bother of reading it oneself

22 August 2015 9:00 am

We all know about Samuel Pepys witnessing the Great Fire in his Diaries, but how many have read the definitive…

Colonel Blood: thief turned spy and Royal pensioner

23 May 2015 9:00 am

In the words of one of his contemporaries ‘a man of down look, lean-faced and full of pock holes’, the…

Virtually identical in their languorous loucheness. Clockwise from top left: Louise de Kérouaille Barbara Palmer, Moll Davis and Nell Gwyn

The merry monarch and his mistresses; was sex for Charles II a dangerous distraction?

31 January 2015 9:00 am

In a tone of breezy bravado in keeping with their concept of their subject’s character, Don Jordan and Michael Walsh…

All you’ll ever need to know about the history of England in one volume

13 December 2014 9:00 am

Here is a stupendous achievement: a narrative history of England which is both thorough and arresting. Very few writers could…

Portrait of John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, with his pet monkey, attributed to Jacob Huysmans

Thug, rapist, poetic visionary: the contradictory Earl of Rochester

28 June 2014 9:00 am

Philip Hensher on the scandalous 17th-century courtier whose hellfire reputation has overshadowed his fine satirical poetry