'So wonderful and glorious a collection, that the like will never again be met with.' This is how one awed and wistful observer described King Charles' artworks. As an acquirer of paintings by Europe's great masters and patron of Rubens and Van Dyck, Charles's extravagance in amassing his collection only exacerbated the parliamentary disapproval that led to civil war and the King's own execution. After his death, one of the Commonwealth's first decrees was to sell off his treasures to raise money for the new regime. After the Restoration, one of Charles II's first resolutions was to get the collection back. Jerry Brotton tells the remarkable story of the king and his pictures: their acquisition, dispersal and eventual recovery. He reveals a world in which diplomats doubled as art dealers, and in which the king's plumber could be temporary owner of Bassano's The Flood. This is a vivid portrait of a tragic king and his decadent court, set against the backdrop of political conflict and civil war, which also offers a new and compelling perspective on art and the evolution of collecting in England.