To be honest, back in the day you weren’t really a King without a lovely piece on the side. And if there is one King who took full advantage of this it was King Charles II, who had a total of thirteen mistresses (well, those we know of anyway!). You may be familiar with one young lady in particular, Nell Gwynne, but who else did naughty Charlie entertain privately in his saucy chambers?
Barbara Palmer, 1st Duchess of Cleveland
Barbara Palmer (nee. Villiers) is one of the most famous royal mistresses in British history, closely followed by Jane Shore and Mary Boleyn. She was a beauty, with a lusty and shocking personality. She bore seven children by different men, which would have been hugely scandalous even for the restoration period!
Barbara Palmer, Duchess of Cleveland.
By the time she first met Charles II, she was already married to Roger Palmer. Barbara was entrusted to bring letters and money to the King, and of course, she ended up between his sheets. Despite being relatively discreet about their lusty affair at first, Charles and Barbara soon became more public after she bore him children.
Down to her strong and resolute determination, Barbara was the incumbent ‘Queen Bee’ of Charles’s mistresses for years. However, her promiscuity and temper let her down. Charles tired of her, only wishing for peace…and the odd bit of no-strings fun! She was finally ousted by Nell Gwynn and Louise de Kerouaille.
Winifred Wells was born to a staunch Royalist family, who supported the royal family during the English Civil War. She came to court early in Charles’ reign and served his wife, Catherine of Braganza, as a Maid of Honour.
There is no known portrait of Winifred Wells, but here is one of Charles’s wife, Catherine of Braganza!
Men raved about her beauty; branding her handsome and a goddess-like. However, and understandably so, she infuriated top dog Barbara Palmer, who compared her to a goose.
It was widely reported that Winifred gave birth to a child during a New Years Eve ball at court, rumoured to have been fathered by the King. Charles settled money upon Winifred, and gave her money for her dowry prior to her wedding to Thomas Wyndham. She remained in Queen Catherine’s service for several years following the death of Charles.
Moll Davis was said to be the bastard child of Thomas Howard the 3rd Earl of Berkshire, and was a popular stage entertainer of the day. She first met King Charles II in a theatre, or coffee shop, in 1667.
A beautiful portrait of Moll Davis.
She flaunted the wealth that Charles lavished upon her; however, she was later dismissed thanks to the interventions of Nell Gwynn. Gwynn was a rival for the Kings attentions, and obviously, Moll had to go! Moll didn’t do so badly though; she was awarded an annual pension for life, to the sum of £1000 per annum, and was also given a house in Suffolk Street. Fancy!
Louise De Kerouaille, Duchess of Portsmouth
Louise was practically thrown in the way of Louis XIV of France by her family, in the hopes of her becoming a royal mistress. However, it was Charles II eye she managed to catch. Some say she was pre-selected by the French court to fascinate Charles with her wit and youthful beauty.
A clever girl, Louise yielded only to the King when she had established a strong hold over his affections and character, earning her a place in his thoughts until his final breath. Safe to say she made her mark; she received the titles of Baroness Petersfield, Countess of Fareham and Duchess of Portsmouth. And in 1681 alone, she received £136,000!
The beautiful Duchess of Portsmouth.
She was strong enough to maintain her position in the Kings affection, with Charles affectionately dubbing her ‘Fubbs’, meaning chubby. Don’t worry though, this was a compliment! Louise had the very much en-vogue plump, womanly figure of the day! HMY Fubbs, built in 1682, was even named after her.
Hortense Mancini, Duchess Mazarin
Hortense Mancini was the favourite niece of Cardinal Mazarin, the chief minister of France. She was also the fourth of the five famous Mancini sisters, who along with two of their female Martinozzi cousins, were known at the court of King Louis XIV of France as the Mazarinettes.
Hortense was actually proposed to by King Charles II, although the marriage never materialised. I wonder if Charles knew he would entertain her in his chambers one day?! Instead she married Armand Charles de La Porte de la Meilleraye (try saying that when your drunk!), who turned out to be an absolute mentalist! When her marriage to her crazy nut-job husband failed, Hortense fled and was granted the protection of Charled Emmanualle II, Duke of Savoy.
When the Duke died, she was kicked out by his wife. Hortense had been copulating with the Duke, and his wife was obviously not that happy about it! Ralph Montagu, the English ambassador to France, enlisted Hortense to increase his own standing with Charles II. By mid 16-76, Hortense had taken place of Louise de Kerouaille in Charles’s affections. He bestowed upon her a pension of £4,000.
Like Barbara Palmer, Hortense was wildly promiscuous and even embarked upon a lesbian affair with the Kings illegitimate daughter by Bab’s; Anne, the Countess of Sussex. Eventually, Charles tired of her wily ways, and Louise de Kerouaille returned to her noted position as first top dog.