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Full text of "Nell Gwyn : the story of her life"

NELL GWYN 




Charles IF, Nell Gwyn, Duchess of Portsmouth and Duchess 
of Mazarin. 

Frontispiece 



NEL ' GWYN 



THE STORY OF HER LIFE 
BY 

LEWIS MELVILLE 

AUTHOR OF 

THE LIFE OF THACKERAY" 



WITH ILLUSTRATIONS 
IN COLOUR ff BLACK S-WHITE 
BY 

KITTY SHANNON 



HUTCH1NSON A 

RATBRNOSTER ROW 




SECOND EDITION 



BY THE SAME AUTHOR 
THE LIFE OF WILLIAM MAKEPEACE THACKERAY 

THE THACKERAY COUNTRY 
SOME ASPECTS OF THACKERAY 
VICTORIAN NOVELISTS: 

THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF LAURENCE STERNE 
THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WILLIAM BECKFORD 

OF FONTHILL 
THE LIFE OF JOHN GAY 

THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WILLIAM COBBETT 

THE BERRY PAPERS 

THE LIFE OF PHILIP, DUKE OF WHARTON 

THE] FIRST GEORGE 

"FARMER GEORGE" 

"THE FIRST GENTLEMAN OF EUROPE" 

AN INJURED QUEEN: CAROLINE OF BRUNSWICK 

THE BEAUX OF THE REGENCY 

SOME ECCENTRICS AND A WOMAN 

THE SOUTH SEA BUBBLE 

THE WINDHAM PAPERS': With an Introduction by The 

Earl of Rosebery. K.G. 
THE WELLESLEY PAPERS 

BATH UNDER BEAU NASH 

BRIGHTON : ITS FOLLIES.flTS FASHIONS] AND ITS 

HISTORY 
ROYAL TUNBRIDGE WELLS 



CONTENTS 



CHAPTER I 

INTRODUCTORY 

Nell Gwyn a romantic figure. Her popularity. Believed to have suggested 
Chelsea Hospital. Her generosity and her kindness of heart. Nell 
Gwyn taverns. Attacks on her in her own day. Subsequent excuses 
for her irregularity. Her appearance. Her engaging qualities. Nell 
Gwyn in fiction and on the stage. Her early circumstances. Her 
lovers. Her fidelity to Charles II ,1 

CHAPTER II 

THE ORIGINS OF NELL GWYN 

The obscurity of Nell Gwyn's origin. Her birth. The doubt as to her 
birthplace. The claims of Oxford, Hereford and London. Rumoured 
that her father died in prison at Oxford. The identity of her father. 
Her coat of arms. Her legitimacy. Her real name. Her mother a 
disreputable person. Mrs. Gwyn drowned, " being in drink." Lam- 
poons on Mrs. Gwyn. Nell Gwyn's affection for her mother. Nell Gwyn's 
sister Rose. Other relations. Francis Gwynne no connection 

CHAPTER III 

THE CHILDHOOD OF NELL GWYN 

Nell Gwyn uneducated. An imaginative account of her early years. Serves 
as a maid in an infamous establishment. Mother Ross. Nell Gwyn 
said to have sold herrings, and to have sung in taverns. Etherege's 
lampoon : " The Lady of Pleasure." Her first love. Lewknor Lane, 
Drury Lane. She becomes an orange-girl at Drury Lane Theatre. The 
" Mother of the Maids." " Orange Moll." Samuel Pepys and Mrs. 
Knipp. The morals of the orange-girls ..... 24 

CHAPTER IV 

THE STAGE AFTER THE RESTORATION 

Nell Gwyn's first lovers. Rochester's mention of them. " Rowley." 
" A Cully of the City." Durgan, Dongan or Duncan. Charles Hart, 
the actor. John Lacy, the dramatist and comedian. The morals 
of the Restoration stage. The first women players. Their shameless 
conduct. Pepys's impression of them. Pepys and Mrs. Knipp. 
Evelyn's condemnation of the rampant immorality. Nell Gwyn's 
indifference to her reputation . . ... . ..-* . 36 



Contents 

CHAPTER V 

SOME STAGE FOLK OF THE DAY 

Edward Kynaston. William Mountford. Mrs. Bracegirdle. Congreve's 
admiration for her. Elizabeth Davenport. Her mock marriage with 
the Earl of Oxford. Elizabeth Barry. Peg Hughes. Sarah Cooke. 
Moll Knight. Hildebrand Horden 50 

CHAPTER VI 

NELL GWYN ON THE STAGE 

The two patent theatres. The King's House. The Duke's House. Nell 
Gwyn's first appearance at the King's House. Plays leading parts. 
Cydaria in The Indian Emperor. Pepys's opinion of her performance. 
The theatres closed during the Great Plague of London. The Great 
Fire. Private theatricals. The English Monsieur. The Humorous 
Lieutenant. Secret Love, or, The Maiden Queen. Nell Gwyn as Flori- 
mel. Nell Gwyn in male attire. She dances a jig. Her best perfor- 
mances in comedy. Her dislike of serious parts. Moll Davis, an 
excellent dancer. She attracts the King's attention. " My lodging 
it is on the cold ground." Moll Davis becomes the King's mistress. 
She bears him a daughter. The Queen's disapproval. Nell Gwyn 
plays her rival a scurvy trick. Moll Davis pensioned off . .61 



CHAPTER VII 

SOME RESTORATION RAKES 

Nell Gwyn's success as a woman. She attracts the most distinguished men 
about town. John Wilmot, second Earl of Rochester. George Villiers, 
second Duke of Buckingham. Henry Jermyn, Lord Dover. Count de 
Grammont .......... 83 



CHAPTER VIII 

NELL GWYN AND LORD BUCKHURST 

Charles Sackville, Lord Buckhurst. Nell Gwyn retires from the stage. 
Buckhurst takes her to live at Epsom. The liaison soon over. She 
returns to Drury Lane . . . . . . . 101 

CHAPTER IX 

CHARLES II., LUCY WALTER AND THE DUKE OF MONMOUTH 

The birth of Charles. His early years. His troubles and tribulations. 
His profligacy. His wit. His ability. His laziness. A contemporary 
pen-portrait. His cynicism. Burnet's account of him. His way 
with him. Love-making, not love. Lucy Walter. Her children by 
Charles. The Duke of Monmouth. His early life. His marriage. 
His amours. His desire to succeed Charles. In exile. Charles denies 
Monmouth's legitimacy. Monmouth's intrigues for the succession. 
Eleanor Needham. Again in exile. Lady Wentworth follows him. 
Sedgemoor. The execution of Monmouth ..... 108 

vi 



Contents 

CHAPTER X 

LADY CASTLEMAINE 

The King's many loves. Barbara Villiers. Frances Teresa Stuart. Nell 
Gwyn. Louise de Keroualle. Hortense Mancini. The birth of Barbara 
Villiers. Her family. Her beauty. Becomes a " toast." Her early 
amours. Philip Stanhope, second Earl of Chesterfield. His corre- 
spondence with Barbara Villiers. Barbara marries Roger Palmer. She 
continues the liaison with Chesterfield. Goes with her husband to 
Holland. She attracts the King. At the Restoration becomes his 
mistress. Her bad qualities. The paternity of her daughter, Anne, in 
dispute. Ultimately acknowledged by Charles II. Palmer is created 
Earl of Castlemaine. Lady Castlemaine's second child. Her outrageous 
behaviour. The King with her on the night of his consort's arrival in 
. England 136 

CHAPTER XI 

CATHERINE OF BRAGANZA 

The choice of a Queen. Catherine of Braganza selected. Her dowry. Her 
arrival in England. The royal marriage. Her appearance. Charles 
at first attracted by her. His pleasure in her short-lived. He devotes 
himself again to Lady Castlemaine. A Court Ball. The King and 
Queen quarrel over Lady Castlemaine. Lady Castlemaine a Lady of 
the Queen's Bedchamber. Lady Castlemaine leaves her husband. 
Lord Clarendon. Court frolics. The desire for a direct heir to the 
throne. Edward Montague. The dullness of the Queen's life. Her 
tea-parties. Her lack of interest in politics. Her devotion to her 
religion . . . . . . . . . .149 

CHAPTER XII 

LADY CASTLEMAINE AND LA BELLE STUART 

Charles II. on his good behaviour. Soon weary of restraint. He neglects 
his Consort. Lady Castlemaine again in favour. But only for a short 
time. The King transfers his attention. Frances Teresa Stuart. 
Her beauty. Her admirers. She resists the King. Her fear of him. 
She seeks the protection of the Queen. She marries the Duke of Rich- 
mond. The King's anger. She presently returns to Court. A frolic 
with the Queen. Her later life. Lady Castlemaine and Frances Stuart. 
Lady Castlemaine avenges herself. Her lovers. John Churchill. 
William Wycherley. Her children. She joins the Church of Rome. 
She separates from her husband. Again in favour with the King. 
Two lampoons. Lady Castlemaine created Duchess of Cleveland . 172 

CHAPTER XIII 

NELL GWYN BECOMES THE MISTRESS OF CHARLES II 

The marriage of "La Belle Stuart." Lady Castlemaine again in favour. 
She is created Duchess of Cleveland. The King is attracted by Nell 
Gwyn. Etherege's lines on this. She delivers the Epilogue to Tyrannic 
Love. The broad-brimmed hat. Charles takes her into keeping. Mrs. 
Knight. The relations between the King and Nell Gwyn. Her " Charles 
the Third." Her negligent attire. Her power of swearing. Her sense 
of humour. Harry Killigrew. Sir John Coventry. " The Haymarket 
Hectors." Nell Gwyn's later performance. The birth of her first child. 
She leaves the stage, and never returns to it. Appointed a Lady of the 
Privy Chamber to the Queen . . .'.,'. . . 196 

vii 



Contents 

CHAPTER XIV 

THE HOMES OF NELL GWYN 

The birth of her first child. Lincoln's Inn Fields. Her house on the north 
side of Pall Mall. Her house on the south side of Pall Mall. " Conveyed 
free under the Crown." Her neighbours. Charles II. visits her there. 
No. 38, Prince's Street, now No. 53, Wardour Street. The deed of 
covenant. No apartments in Whitehall. Nell Gwynne Tavern and Nell 
Gwynne Cottages in Pimlico. Other Nell Gwynne taverns. Bagnigge 
Wells. Tradition assigns her a residence at Chelsea, and asserts that 
she lived at Mill Hill, Leyton and Sunninghill. Nell Gwyn at Tun- 
bridge Wells. The Peckham Frolic. Epsom Wells. Burford House at 
Windsor 211 

CHAPTER XV 

NELL GWYN I HER INCOME AND EXPENDITURE 

Nell Gwyn the least grasping of Charles II. 's mistresses. Some items of her 
expenditure. Her silver bed. Her sedan chair. A bill for hire of 
sedan chairs. Her silver plate. Her theatre tickets. Her financial 
straits. " An ill paymaster." Her letter to Madam Jennings. Her 
love of gambling. Sir John Germaine's proposal and Nell Gwyn's 
witty rebuke. The King's chronic impecuniosity. His settlements on 
the Duchess of Cleveland, the Duchess of Portsmouth and Nell Gwyn. 
Some special money grants to Nell Gwyn. She gives a power of 
attorney to Thomas Fraizer. The King gives her sister, Rose Foster, a 
pension on the Irish establishment. Correspondence with the Duke of 
Ormonde, etc., concerning the payment of Nell Gwyn's pension . 223 

CHAPTER XVI 

THE FIRST DUKE OF ST. ALBANS AND HIS DESCENDANTS 

Nell Gwyn's elder son. The struggle for titles. " You little bastard." 
Charles Beauclerk created Earl of Burford. Educated at Paris. Created 
Duke of St. Albans. The Duke a favourite of fortune. Sinecure offices 
bestowed on him. Master Falconer of England. Registrar of the Court 
of Chancery. His marriage. The Duchess of St. Albans. His later 
life ........... 240 

CHAPTER XVII 

LOUISE DE KEROUALLE, DUCHESS OF PORTSMOUTH 

The Treaty of Dover. Louise de Keroualle in the suite of the Duchess of 
Orleans. Charles attracted by her. Louise returns to France. 
Death of the Duchess of Orleans. Louise induced to come to London. 
She becomes the King's mistress. The Duchess of Cleveland goes abroad. 
Her children. Gives birth to a son. Created Duchess of Portsmouth. 
Sworn a Lady of the Queen's Bedchamber. She desires a tabouret. 
Granted the ducal fief of Aubigny. " Mrs. Carwell." Louise and Nell 
Gwyn. Nell Gwyn ridicules her. The unpopularity of the Duchess. 
The public's affection for Nell Gwyn. Nell and the Protestant 
Interest. Nell Gwyn not interested in affairs of state. Laurence Hyde. 
The Duke of Monmouth. The Duchess's rapacity. Some lampoons. 
The Grand Prior of Vendome . . . . . . .249 



Contents 

CHAPTER XVIII 

THE DUCHESS MAZARIN 

Hortense Mancini. A description of her great beauty. Desired in marriage 
by Charles II. and Pedro II. Married Marquis de la Meilleraye, who 
is created Due Mazarin. Her enormous dowry from her uncle, Cardinal 
Mazarin. The Duke's mad jealousy. The Duchess applies for a separa- 
tion. She is temporarily immured in a convent. Her practical jokes 
there. She escapes from France. The Chevalier de Rohan. Becomes 
the mistress of Courberville. Charles Emmanuel II. of Savoy interested 
in her. She takes as her lover the Abbe de Saint-Real. She comes to 
England. The alarm of the seraglio. The Duchess of Cleveland retires. 
The Duchess of Portsmouth and Nell Gwyn. The struggle for supre- 
macy. The Duchess Mazarin becomes a mistress of the King. The 
despair of the Duchess of Portsmouth. Jane Myddleton. Mme. de 
Courcelles. Her account of her own charms . . . .291 

CHAPTER XIX 

THE DEATH OF NELL GWYN 

The death of Charles II. Nell Gwyn's affection for him. Charles's last 
words : " Let not poor Nelly starve." James II. 's kindness to her. 
Nell Gwyn not allowed to put her house in mourning. Her temporary 
financial straits. She sells the " Ruperta " necklace. Appeals to 
James II. for aid. Charles II. to have created her Countess of Greenwich. 
James II. responds to her appeals for money. Nothing known of the 
last years. Her illness. Her death. Her burial in St. Martin's-in- 
the-Fields. Dr. Tenison preaches the funeral service. Nell Gwyn's 
repentance. James II. charges the expenses of her funeral to the 
Secret Service Fund. Nell Gwyn's generosity and charity. Samuel 
Butler. Dryden. Thomas Otway. Chelsea Hospital. Acts as the 
King's Almoner ......... 303 

APPENDIX I 
The Will of Nell Gwyn 316 

APPENDIX II 

Authorities ........... 322 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 

COLOURED PLATES 

Gharles II., Nell Gwyn, Duchess of Portsmouth and 

Duchess of Mazarin ...... Frontispiece 

" And to the women's shift, where Nell was dressing 
herself, and was all unready, and is very pretty, 
prettier than I thought " .... . Facing p. 44 

The Plague 68 

The Great Fire of London . . . . . . 70 

The Duke of Buckingham and the Countess of Shrewsbury 94 

James, Duke of Monmouth . . . . . 126 

The arrival of Catherine of Braganza at Portsmouth . 152 
" Only Mrs. Stuart danced mighty finely, and many 

French dances " . . . . . . . ,, 160 

Nell Gwyn in the Conquest of Granada by the Spaniards, 

in a broad-brimmed hat as big as a cartwheel . 200 

Newmarket ,,222 

" Lifted up all her petticoats, one after the other ; and 
never have I seen anything so neat or more magni- 
ficent" ........,, 270 

" To the general delight, Nell one day, characteristically, 
appeared at Court dressed in black explaining that 
she was in mourning for Louise and her dead hopes " 298 

ILLUSTRATIONS 

Even at the age of fourteen, she attracted the attentions 

of a city merchant . . . . . . Facing p. 4 

Mr. and Mrs. Pepys and Mrs. Knipp . . . 46 

Miss Hamilton . . . . 1 . . . 100 

" Thence to Westminster ; in the way meeting many milk- 
maids with their garlands upon their pails, dancing 
with a fiddler before them ; and saw pretty Nelly 
standing at her lodgings door in Drury Lane " . 104 

Lucy Walter ......... 124 

" Venus her myrtle, Phoebus has his bays " . . . ,, 168 
Moll Davis . . . . . . . 208 

" Pray, good people, be civil. I am the Protestant 

whore" .......... 274 



NELL GWYN 

CHAPTER I 

INTRODUCTORY 

Nell Gwyn a romantic figure. Her popularity. Believed to have suggested 
Chelsea Hospital. Her generosity and her kindness of heart. Nell 
Gwyn taverns. Attacks on her in her own day. Subsequent excuses 
for her irregularity. Her appearance. Her engaging qualities. 
Nell Gwyn in fiction and on the stage. Her early circumstances. Her 
lovers. Her fidelity to Charles II. 

ROMANCE has claimed Nell Gwyn for its own, 
even as it has, with less of reason, claimed 
her royal lover. 

Of all the mistresses of Charles II., Lady Castle- 
maine, Hortense Mancini, Louise de Keroualle, and 
the rest, only Nell Gwyn secured popularity. The 
others were well and soundly and quite rightly hated. 
With the London apprentices Nell Gwyn was always 
a favourite, as is proved by an oft told story : she 
was driving through the City in her coach, and, being 
mistaken for the Roman Catholic Duchess of Ports- 
mouth, another mistress of the King, was hooted ; 
whereupon she leant out of the window, and cried, 
" Pi;ay, good people, be civil. I am the Protestant 
whore." And so drove on, amidst cheers. 



Nell Gwyn 



Nell Gwyn has become an historic figure. She 
has taken her place as the most popular woman in 
the annals of Britain. We admire Boadicea, but we 
love Nell Gwyn. Nelson's Lady Hamilton was far 
more lovely, but not nearly, in fact, not at all, adorable 
and, after all, Emma never captured the heart 
of a British King, and a Stuart at that. 

All sorts of legends, resounding to her credit, have 
sprung up around Nell Gwyn. She is credited with 
having suggested to Charles II. the idea of Chelsea 
Hospital for old soldiers, and though the official 
historian of that institution could find no evidence 
to confirm this, the tradition is still widely accepted. 
Numerous stories are told of her generosity and her 
kindness of heart. Incorrigible sentimentalists throw 
bouquets at her continuously. To-day, nearly two 
hundred and fifty years after her death, she has 
thousands of loving admirers for every one she had 
in her lifetime. Her memory is kept fresh by taverns 
bearing her name, in Bull Inn Court, Strand, in the 
King's Road, and in the Pimlico Road. 

In her own day Burnet and the staid John Evelyn 
wrote harshly of Nell Gwyn, and Rochester and Sir 
George Etherege lampooned her vilely and obscenely ; 
but she captured the hearts of all writers of a later 
date, including her biographers. The anonymous 
author of an account of her career, which was published 
in 1752, declared : 

" She was a lady of distinguished talents ; she 
wanted neither wit, beauty, and benevolence ; and 
if she deserves blame for want of chastity, there 



Introductory 



are few who challenge such lavish encomiums for 
other moral qualities." 

And Colley Gibber is at pains to find excuses for her : 

" The reverend Historian of his Own Time, Bishop 
Burnet, styled her ' the indiscreetest and wildest 
creature that ever was in a Court/ but if we consider 
her in all the disadvantages of her rank and educa- 
tion, she does not appear to have had any criminal 
errors more remarkable than her sex's frailty to 
answer for : And if the same Author, in the latter 
end of that Prince's life, seems to reproach his memory 
with too kind a concern for her support we may 
allow that it becomes a Bishop to have had no eyes 
or taste for the frivolous charms or playful badinage 
of a King's Mistress : Yet doubted, she has less to 
be laid to her charge than any other of those Ladies 
who were in the same preferment : She never meddled 
in matters of serious moment, or was the tool of 
working politicians : Never broke into amorous in- 
fidelities which others in that grave Author are accused 
of ; but was as visibly distinguish' d by her particular 
personal inclination to the King, as her rivals were 
by their titles of grandeur." 

These extracts are given as examples of the way 
in which Nell Gwyn was regarded in the eighteenth 
century. 

A very pretty wench Nell Gwyn must have been 
beautiful she never was. She had an exquisite, 
rather full figure, and was short in stature ; she had 
reddish-brown hair and delightful twinkling eyes that 
almost closed when she smiled ; the tiniest feet 

3 i* 



Nell Gwyn 



possible and the smallest hands. She had an immense 
vitality and a robustious Cockney humour. These 
qualities, together with her invariable good temper 
and her merry fooling, and a freedom of speech that 
was more than Rabelaisian, made her a delight to the 
gallants of the day. 

As we shall see, even at the age of fourteen, she 
attracted the attentions of a city merchant whose 
name is still a matter of dispute, of Lacy the dramatist 
and comedian, and of Hart the actor, and accepted 
them either in turn, or, what is more probable, all 
together. And it is by no means certain that any 
one of this trio was her first lover. Life began very 
early for those brought up in the stews of Drury 
Lane in the seventeenth century. 

Nell Gwyn had charm which is a happy accident ; 
but she used it delightfully which is an art. And 
her charm has survived her. 

" And once Nell Gwyn, a frail young sprite, 

Look'd kindly when I met her ; 
I shook my head perhaps, but quite 
Forgot to quite forget her," 

so that most fastidious of writers of light verse, 
Frederick Locker-Lampson, conjured her up. He 
thought of her more than once, indeed, and introduced 
her in his " Lines to a Human Skull " : 

" It may have held (to aim some random shots) 
Thy brains, Eliza Fry's, or Baron Byron's, 
The wits of Nelly Gwyn, or Dr. Watts, 
Two quoted bards. Two philanthropic sirens." 

'To introduce Nell Gwyn into a play or a novel is 
4 




Even at the age of fourteen, she attracted the attentions of a city 
merchant 



Introductory 



to ensure its success. Douglas Jerrold did it effectively 
in a comedy. Mr. Frankfort Moore has written a 
series of stories of which she is the principal figure. 
" Anthony Hope " wove his spells around her in a 
novel, " Simon Dale," which he dramatized as 
English Nell for Miss Marie Tempest. The fascination 
of Nell Gwyn has been felt also in America, and Mr. 
Paul Kester wrote Sweet Nell of Old Drury, in 
which the title-role was played there by Miss Ada 
Rehan and here by Miss Julia Neilson. " Anthony 
Hope's " pen -picture of Nell is worth quoting : " Her 
sunny brown hair was about her shoulders, her 
knuckles rubbed her sleepy eyes to brightness, and a 
loose white bodice, none too high nor too carefully 
buttoned about the neck, showed that her dressing was 
not done. Indeed, she made a pretty picture, as she 
leant out, laughing softly, and now shading her face 
from the sun with one hand, while she raised the 
other in mocking reproof of the preacher." 

Nell Gwyn's circumstances having been what they 
were, there must indeed have been something very 
special about her that enabled her to escape falling 
into the ranks of the ordinary " unfortunates " of the 
day, to secure the attention of men of high position, 
and undoubted wit, and not merely to attract but to 
hold to some degree, at least the wandering affec- 
tion of Charles II. for the last fourteen years of his 
life. Even James II., not a warm-blooded man, 
liked her right well well enough, in fact, to provide 
for her material comfort after the death of his brother, 
even though it was at the expense of the State. 

5 



Nell Gwyn 



She certainly never had a chance to be other than 
she became. It is doubtful if even her mother 
knew who Nell's father was, for the less said about 
" old Madam Gwyn " the better, though it must be 
allowed that a good deal was said about her in her 
own day, and none of it was polite. She was a 
great deal worse than " not so good as she might 
be/' she was indeed an infamous woman, and when, 
in one of her many drunken bouts, she stepped into a 
ditch near Westminster and was drowned, probably 
only her daughter in all the world lamented her. 

As a child Nell Gwyn served " strong waters " 
to the visitors to the notorious Madame Ross's 
brothel ; was then promoted to be an orange-girl 
at Drury Lane Theatre and orange-girls were notori- 
ous for their contempt of morality ; and so to the 
stage, through the influence of one or another of her 
lovers at the age of fourteen. What the standard of 
conduct for an actress was in those days will 
presently be indicated. 

When this pretty, attractive little baggage caught 
the eye of Charles II. she was about nineteen, and 
what her life for the last five years had been may be 
guessed. Indeed, she made no secret of it. She 
called the King, to his face, her Charles the Third, 
because, she told him, she had lived with two others 
of the name who we know to have been Charles 
Hart and Charles Sackville, Lord Buckhurst. Again, 
when she heard that her footman had been fighting 
with another who had called her by an opprobrious 
epithet, she told him, in good round terms, not to be 

6 



Introductory 



such a fool, and in future to fight, if fight he must, 
in a better cause. 

Yet Nell Gwyn, in spite of her early irregularities, 
contrived to keep her heart pure. There was never 
at any time any vice in her. 

She can scarcely have found much difference between 
the morals of Whitehall and those of Lewknor Lane 
or Whetstone Park. Yet she alone of all Charles's 
mistresses really cared for him and was faithful to 
him to the great surprise, one can conjecture, of that 
dissolute, cynical monarch, who, however, came in 
time to believe it, but never ceased to his last hour 
to be amazed at the miracle. 

It is pleasant to be able to record that on his death- 
bed he said to his brother, " Let not poor Nelly 
starve." 



CHAPTER II 

THE ORIGINS OF NELL GWYN 

The obscurity of Nell Gwyn's origin. Her birth. The doubt as to her 
birthplace. The claims of Oxford. Hereford and London. Rumoured 
that her father died in prison at Oxford. The identity of her father. 
Her coat of arms. Her legitimacy. Her real name. Her mother a 
disreputable person. Mrs. Gwyn drowned. " being in drink." Lam- 
poons on Mrs. Gwyn. Nell Gwyn's arfection for her mother. Nell Gwyn's 
sister Rose. Other relations. Francis Gwynne no connection. 

THE origin of Eleanor Gwyn is obscure in every 
sense. The only fact that has been brought 
to light is a horoscope, preserved among the Ashmore 
papers in the Museum at Oxford, which states that she 
was born on February 2, 1650-1. It is perhaps worthy 
of mention, for those interested in such speculations, 
that the stars were supposed at the time of her birth to 
be in the ascendant. 

It has been variously declared that she was born 
at Oxford, at Hereford, and in London ; but the point 
never has been, and now probably never will be, 
settled. The Oxford theory has the least support : 
Charles Kirkpatrick Sharpe mentions that when he 
first went to Oxford, Dr. John Ireland, an antiquary, 
assured him that Nelly was born in that city, and he 
adds, what is certainly beyond question, that two of 
the titles of her elder son, Heading! on and Burford, 
were taken from Oxfordshire localities. The only 

a 



The Origins of Nell Gwyn 



thing to be urged in support of Oxford as the birth- 
place is a mention in Rochester's " Panegyrick to 
Nell " that her father died in prison at Oxford : 

" TTO this that rais'd her Charity so high, 
To visit those that did in Durance tie ; 
From Oxford ! many did dhc free, 
There dy'd her Father, and there gioy'd she, 
In giving others Life and Liberty 
So pious a Remembrance stffl she bore 
Ev"n to the Fetters that her Father WOK." 

Bat this does not take us far, unless we assume that 
the father died while she was a child which may 
well have been the case. 

Oxford was always lukewarm as regards the ques- 
tion, but Hereford has consistently pushed its doubtful 
claims until it has come to believe in them as being 
without a flaw. There is, however, nothing but tra- 
dition upon which to rely, and even this is eked out by 
conjecture that is not invariably plausible. 

Jones, in his " Handbook to Hereford " (1856), makes 
the following statement on the subject : 

" Branching eastward, at the lowest point of Bridge 
Street, is a narrow thoroughfare, formerly called 
Pipewell Street, and afterwards Pipe Lane, and now 
designated Gwynne Street, from the circumstance of 
its being the birthplace of the celebrated Nell Gwynne, 
There seems to be some doubt as to whether the exact 
house was not taken down some years ago ; but a 
building at the rear of the Royal Oak Inn is usually 
pointed out as the place." Another authority says 
that "the birthplace of Nell was within five hundred 

9 



Nell Gwyn 



yards of the theatre at Hereford . . . The cottage in 
which she was born was part of the Episcopal Palace 
garden." 

Clarence Hopper, who made careful investigation, 
could only report that he had " heard " that Nell's 
father was James Gwyn, and that he had a house in 
some lane in Hereford, the lease of which was then still 
extant in the office of a solicitor in the same town. 

John Doran, who loved to delve into problems of 
the sort, tells of a house in Hereford, at the rear of the 
Royal Oak Inn, which is popularly designated as the 
birthplace of Nell ; while W. P. Courtney (who wrote 
of Nell Gwyn in the " Dictionary of National Bio- 
graphy ") sums up the question by saying simply that 
historians of Hereford accept the tradition that she 
was born in a house in Pipe Well Lane, since called 
Gwyn Lane, in the parish of St. John, Hereford, and 
that this is confirmed by a slab in the Cathedral. 

Peter Cunningham, Nell's biographer, was unable to 
throw any light on the matter and had to content him- 
self with remarking, " The Hereford story is of some 
standing, but there is little else, I am afraid, to support 
it." 

The alleged birthplace has been described as a 
small house of brick and timber, and this had deterio- 
rated into something little better than a hovel when it 
was pulled down in 1859 to enable the enlargement of 
the gardens of the Palace of the Bishops of Hereford. 
In 1883 Dr. James Atlay, the then Bishop, gave his 
consent to the fixing of a memorial tablet on the outer 
face of the garden wall, to mark the site of the house 

10 



The Origins of Nell Gwyn 



where the Royal Favourite is supposed to have been 
born. It was, of course, a coincidence, and nothing 
more that Lord James Beauclerk, one of the children 
of Nell Gwyn's elder son, the first Duke of St. Albans, 
was a Bishop of Hereford (1746-1787). 

As regards London, a claim is put in for the Coal 
Yard, then a low alley, the last on the east side of 
Drury Lane which has been renamed Goldsmith 
Street. This theory was put forward in print in 1721, 
and was accepted twenty years later by William Oldys, 
who is generally credited with the authorship of " The 
History of the English Stage from the Restoration to 
the Present Times, including the Lives, Characters and 
Amours of the most eminent Actors and Actresses,'/ 
which was ascribed to Thomas Betterton (who died 
in 1710) and published by Edmund Curll, with a 
dedication to the Duke of Graf ton. 

To discuss the birthplace of Nell Gwyn before 
writing of her parents may appear like putting the 
cart before the horse, but the reason for having done 
so is that it is apparently impossible to trace her father. 

Mention has already been made of one James Gwyn 
of Hereford, who has been set up as a possible parent, 
but there are many others suggested for the distinction : 

William Oldys describes her as the daughter of a 
fruiterer in Covent Garden ; 

Peter Cunningham mentions that it is said that her 
father was Captain Thomas Gwyn, of an ancient 
family in Wales, and, conceding that the name is of 
Welsh extraction, is prepared to admit the descent 
without adopting the captaincy ; 

ii 



Nell Gwyn 



There was a discussion long ago in Notes and Queries 
as to whether the father, who is said to have been 
called James, was a dilapidated soldier, or a fruiterer 
of Drury Lane (the fruiterer legend is mentioned by 
Cunningham) ; and 

Anthony Wood, in his " Life and Times," gives the 
following pedigree : 

Dr. [Edward] Gwyn of Christ Church.* 



. . . Gwyn, m. . . Smith (of St. Thomas's Henry Gwyn, m. Susan . . . 

Parish [Oxford]) | 

Math[ew] | 

Henry, b. at 

Reuley 
Eleanor 

To make the solution more difficult, in the index to 
the " Life and Times," the reference is to " Ellen or 
Eleanor (nee Smith)." 

David Gwyn, whose name is affixed to a petition 
of parishioners of St. Martin's-in-the-Fields, London, 
which is undated but was read on January 24, 1653, 
is also put forward. 

In fact, nothing whatever is known as to who was 
the father. 

It may be mentioned, however, that Nell Gwyn 
used a coat of arms. 

Clarence Hopper was fortunate enough to discover 
that her arms were done at the " public workhouse," 
which may be presumed to be a place used by a com- 
pany of herald painters, in 1687, the year of her death, 

* Edward Gwyn, M.A., installed Canon of the fourth stall in Christ Church, 
May n, 1615 ; died August 24, 1624. 

12 



The Origins of Nell Gwyn 



and from the work-book under that date they appear 
to have been per pale, arg. and or, a lion rampant, 
azure. Also, later, he saw another herald's work- 
book of the same year, wherein is a trick of the arms 
as just described, with these additions as instructions 
for funereal insignia : " Madam Gwyn : on a lozenge- 
atcheivmt : Nl ajesty : salke : 8 dos [en] buck [ram] : 
12 shields." In the corner of the coat of arms is the 
word " Russell," which may be taken as the name of 
the herald painter. 

In the matter of the parentage of Nell Gwyn, there 
is a further point, which, so far as the present writer 
is aware, has not been raised, and that is was Nell 
legitimate ? No proof of the marriage of her mother 
has been brought to light though, of course, this 
in itself is a poor thing in the way of negative evidence, 
since records in those days were not always carefully 
kept or preserved. What makes the suggestion 
plausible that Nell may well have been a love-child is 
that her mother, from what we know about her, was 
not the sort of person to care about such a trifling 
formality as marriage lines. 

And, again, what actually was Nell Gwyn's real 
name ? That it was spelt in many different ways is 
nothing to the point, though in passing, the variations 
may be noted. The researches of Mr. F. G. Hilton 
Price have discovered that in the old ledgers of the 
firm of Child and Rogers, with whom she banked, her 
cheques and receipts are indifferently signed " Ellen 
Gwyn," "Ellin Gwyn," "Ellen Gwynne," "Ellen 
Gwin," " Eleanor Gwyn," and " Eleanor Gwynne." 

13 



Nell Gwyn 



Her secretary, James Booth, when writing notes for 
her, called her Madam Gwyn ; and her will begins, 
" I, Ellen Gwynne " which may he taken as the 
way the lawyer who drew it np thought it was. When 
the Duke of St. Albans consented that a paper of 
requests should be made a codicil to her win, he wrote 
" Mrs. Gwnm." Pepys referred to her as "Ndl" or 
" Ndiy." 

There are those, however, who give her an entirely 
different name. John Doran, in "Their Majesties' 
Servants," alludes to a tradition that her real name 
was Margaret Symcott. Certainly in the hst of 
charitable bequests, printed in Manning and Bray's 
" History of Surrey," which was published in 1814, 
there are the following entries : 

" Bequests to the Prisoners on the Common Side of 
King's Bench, as hanging up 6th March, 1802 : . . . 

" Mrs. Margaret Symcott (i^., Eleanor Gwyn), 65 
penny loaves every 8 weeks. 

"Charitable Donations to the Prisoners in the 
Marshalsea : . . . 

" Mrs. Margaret Symcott (*.., King Charles's Eleanor 
Gwyn}, 65 penny loaves every eight weeks ; paid by 
the Chamberlain, 2 os. od." 

Also, it may be noted for what it is worth that when 
the anonymous " Memoirs of the Life of Eleanor 
Gwinn, a celebrated courtezan in the reign of King 
Charles II., and Mistress to that Monarch," which ap- 
peared in 1752, was reissued about 1820, John Fair- 
burn, who " edited " it, gave the following new title : 
" Fairburn's edition of the Life, Amours and Exploits 

14 



The Origins of Nell Gwyn 



the above low sphere of life became the bosom 
and mistress of King Charles the Second (of merry 
memory }, and who, for the comfort of old soldiers, was 
the cause of erecting Chelsea Hospital, with an ac- 
count of many charities she left and good deeds she 
performed in her retirement Jkoui public fife and the 
stage (as LADY SQICOCK)." This at least shows 
that there most have been some tradition to the effect 
that her name was not Gwyn in any of its ionns. 

We are on firm ground when we come to Xefl Gwyn's 
mother. Of her we do indeed 
that something is far from being to her credit. 

& George Etherege in "The Lady of 
A Satyr " refers to Eleanor Gwyn the elder : 



and such other accounts that have come down to us 
support this account. It would seem that when her 
charms waned, and she could no longer *>uppatt her- 
self by them, she made both ends meet, tboogh mimbfy , 
by pandering by deputy to the male appetite. 

Certainly, as wifl be seen, Ma^am Gwyn took little 
cue of her daughters, anyhow of Xefl, who, however, 
to the end had some affection for her. From con- 
temporary accounts it appears that Xefl, in the days 
of prosperity, did not neglect her. She did, indeed, 
for a while take her mother to five with her, and 
Peter Cmmmgbam, among the 
by her (discovered imnnc ti* 



Nell Gwyn 



papers), found an apothecary's account containing 
charges for " plaisters," " glysters," and " cordials " 
for " Old Mrs. Gwyn." 

It may definitely be said that Mrs. Gwyn was a 
person with very unpleasing habits, and it may have 
been for this reason that Nell set her up in an estab- 
lishment of her own. Mrs. Gwyn died in 1679, being 
then in her fifty-seventh year. As the mother of a 
King's Mistress, her demise did not unfortunately 
for her fame pass without notice. 

In Domestic Intelligence for August 5th of that 
year is the announcement : " We hear that Madam 
Ellen Gwyn's mother, sitting lately by the water-side 
at her house by the Neat-Houses, near Chelsea, fell 
accidentally into the water and was drowned." 

Narcissus Luttrell, in his " Brief Historical Relation 
of State Affairs from September 1678 to April 1714," 
is a little more precise in his account, and gives full 
credence to the current gossip about the much-talked 
of weakness of the old woman : " Mrs. Gwyn, mother 
to Miss Ellen Gwyn, being in drink, was drowned in a 
ditch near Westminster." 

That this failing was common knowledge is proved 
by the contemporary writers on her death. There 
has been preserved more than one lampoon printed 
at the time. One of these, in which it is said of her in 
relation to the cause of her death that " so corpulent 
a mass of flesh would have outvied Neptune's strength 
to have delivered her straight on shore," has the 
following imposing title : 

" A True Account of the late most doleful and lamen- 
16 



The Origins of Nell Gwyn 



table tragedy of Old Maddam Gwinn, mother of 
Eleanor Gwinn, who was unfortunately drowned in 
a fish-pond at her own mansion-house, near the Neat- 
Houses, with an account how that much to be deplored 
accident came to pass and what is expected to be the 
sequel of the same. With an Epitaph, composed 
against the solemnity of her pompous funeral, and 
many other circumstances." From this may be quoted 
the following extracts : 

" But oh, the cruel Fate of some senister Star that 
ruled her Birth, she there expired, and left the First 
to be the Executor of her Will to this sad and dismal 
Tragedy, the which has caused a universal grief among 
the bucksom Bona-Robas. So that it is generally 
believed, that upon so Tragical occasion, the Pallace 
and the Fish-pond will be forfeited to her most vertuous 
Daughter Maddam Ellen Gwin, as Lady of the Soil, 
and chief of all the Bona-Robas that the Suburban 
Schools of Venus late have fitted for the Game. And now 
in Gratitude to this good Matron's Memory, to be im- 
posed upon her Tomb- Stone at the approaching Solem- 
nisation we have composed this Epitaph as followest : 

" Here lies the Victim of a cruel Fate, 
Whom too much Element did Ruinate ; 
Tis something strange, but yet most wondrous true, 
That what we live by, should our Lives undo. 
She that so oft had powerful Waters try'd, 
At last with silence, in a Fish-pond dy'd. 
Fate was unjust, for had he prov'd but kind, 
To make it Brandy, he had pleas'd her Mind." 

There is also a black-bordered broadside, " An 
Elegy upon that never to be forgotten Matron, Old 

17 2 



Nell Gwyn 



Madamm Gwinn, who was unfortunately drown' d 
in her own fishpond, on the igth of July, 1679," in 
which are the following passages : 

" But since she's gone, our tipsters need not fear ; 

For while she liv'd true Nants was monstrous deer. 

Yet Brandy-Merchants sure have cause to grieve, 

Because her fate admits of no reprieve. 

Die in their debts she could not, yet they'l find 

Their trade decay'd, for none is left behind ; 

That in one day could twenty quarts consume, 

And bravely vaunt, she durst it twice presume. 

" For this good matron, that so well was fed, 
By lean-jaw'd Death was into bondage led. 
I will not say with Typhon's her vast bulk 
Orespread nine acres, yet her mighty hulk 
Six foot in compass was suppos'd to be, 
Too ponderous for a common destinie. 
No Fate when she was sober durst assail 
Her well-built structure, nor could aught prevail, 
Too strong the basis were, whereon she stood ; 
That solid mass, compos' d with flesh and blood 
Had not perfidious legs and feet betray'd, 
The Element could not have conquest made." 

" EPITAPH. 

" There lies intomb'd with this marble pile, 
The wonder of her sex, who for a while 
Fate durst not venture on, but taking breath 
He has refin'd her to the arms of Death. 
Readers, lament ! for seldom shall you find 
The weaker sex to bear so strong a mind. 
Strengthened with all the virtues France or th' Rhine, 
England and Spain could infuse from wine. 
But Bacchus, unkind, did tempt her to ingage, 
Where she expired by subtle Neptune's rage. 
The fate was cruel, yet the fame remains ; 
For drinking, none like her the world contains. 
So after-ages then, a stattue raise, 
That we may eternalize her praise." 
18 



The Origins of Nell Gwyn 



Nell Gwyn did not, indeed, raise a statue to her 
mother on the lines suggested by the writer of the 
above verses, but she did charge herself with the 
burial, which was conducted with such splendour as 
to excite the ire of Rochester who, in " A Panegyrick 
on Nelly," wrote : 

" Nor was her Mother's Funeral less her care, 
No cost, no velvet did the Daughter spare : 
Five guided 'Scutcheons did the Herse inrich, 
To celebrate this Martyr of the Ditch. 

Burnt Brandy did in flaming Brummers flow, 
Drank at her Funeral, while her well-pleas'd Shade 

Rejoyc'd, ev'n in the sober Fields below, 

At all the drunkenness her Death had made." 

Mrs. Gwyn was buried in the church of St. Martin's- 
in-the-Fields, and her daughter erected a monument 
to her in the south aisle, bearing the inscription : 

" Here lies interred the body of Helena Gwynn, born in this parish, 
who departed this life ye 20th of July, MDCLXXIX, in the LXI 
yeare of her age." 

The monument was pulled down when the church 
was rebuilt in 1721. 

That Nell was sincerely grieved by the death of her 
mother is made clear by the author of " Satyr Un- 
muzzled," who certainly intended to jeer at her rather 
than to pay tribute to her good heart : 

" Her Mother griev'd in muddy Ale and Sack 
To think her Child should ever prove a Crack ; 
When she was drunk she always fell asleep, 
And when full maudlin, then the whore would weep ; 
Her tears were brandy, Mundungus her breath, 
Bawd was her Life, and Common-Shore her Death. 
To see her Daughter mourn for such a Beast 
Is like her Life, which makes up but one Jest." 

19 3* 



Nell Gwyn 



In her will Nell Gwyn expressed the wish that she 
should be buried in the same church, and subsequently 
her remains were interred in the same tomb as her 
mother. 

" Old Madam Gwyn " had another daughter, Rose, 
who married at some date unknown a Captain John 
Cassells, who has been described upon doubtful 
authority as "a man of some fortune, who spent it 
in the service of the Crown." If there is truth in that 
statement, it may be assumed that he lent money 
to Charles II. during the Commonwealth. Mr. Gordon 
Goodwin, in his admirably annotated edition of Cun- 
ningham's " Story of Nell Gwyn," expressed the 
belief that this man was no other than the highway- 
man and burglar of that name. He had friends at 
Court, powerful friends, for when he was arrested in 
1667 as a disorderly person, he contrived to secure 
his release. When four years later Cassells was again 
apprehended, in a petition to the King he successfully 
asked pardon for " being reduced to aid in the robbing 
of Sir Henry Littleton's house, his father having lost 
a plentiful estate in Ireland for his loyalty, and he 
having served under his Majesty as ensign till the 
Restoration." 

As regards Rose, Mr. Goodwin thinks she is probably 
identical with the Rose Gwynne who, in December, 
1663, was imprisoned in Newgate for robbery. " She 
possessed influence enough to gain a reprieve before 
judgment at the Old Bailey, and she was visited in 
prison by the King's favourite, the well-known Thomas 
Killigrew, and the Duke of York's cup-bearer 

20 



The Origins of Nell Gwyn 



(Browne)." Mr. Goodwin writes : "On December 
26, she wrote to Browne begging him to obtain 
her release on bail from this woeful place of torment 
until a pardon is pleaded. Her father, she adds, 
lost all he had in service of the late King, and it is 
hard she should perish in a gaol. A few days later 
she obtained her discharge." 

This is supported by a writer in Notes and Queries, 
who set forth the result of his investigations : "I 
would mention that recently I lighted on a foul draught 
warrant entry-book of Charles II., wherein one entry 
was made concerning Rose Gwyn, who seems to have 
been convicted of an offence (left blank in the original) 
at the Old Bailey ; and although convicted, was re- 
prieved by the Bench before judgment, doubtless 
owing to some powerful interference. She was after- 
wards discharged upon bail, with a view to her ultimate 
pardon. The name Rose Gwyn, the period 1663, the 
extraordinary clemency exercised, form a curious 
coincidence, and would almost permit of a presumption 
that this was none other than the sister Rose of the 
beauteous mistress of the ' merry monarch.' " 

The document runs as follows : 

" Whereas we are given to understand that Rose 

Gwynne having been convicted of at the late 

sessions held at the Old Bailey, was yet reprieved 
by y e bench before judgment and reserved as an 
object of our princely compassion and mercy, upon 
humble suite made to us in favour of y* said Rose, 
we have thought good hereby to signify our Royal 
pleasure unto you, that you forthw th grant her her 

ai 



Nell Gwyn 



liberty and discharge upon good bail first taken in 
order to y* sueing out her pardon, and rendering our 
gracious mercy and compassion to be effectual. For 
which, &c., dated Dec r , 1663. 

" By His Ma tys Command, 

"H. B." 

If the two Rose Gwyns are, in fact, identical, it is 
evident from the dates that Nell was the younger girl, 
for in 1673 she was only thirteen, and already Rose 
was on terms of intimacy with such men about town 
as Killigrew and Browne, whom it is not uncharitable 
to assume were at one time or another her lovers. 

Cassells died in 1675, leaving his widow without 
means, and Charles II. granted her a pension of 200 
a year, probably at the instance of Nell. This was 
continued to her by James II., but ceased when 
William and Mary came to the throne. It may 
be that she was no longer in straitened circumstances, 
for she married again, one Forster. He did not long 
survive, for in 1694 she was again a widow. This 
assumption is borne out by the terms of Nell Gwyn's 
will, for Nell, who was obviously devoted to her sister, 
would almost certainly have made better provision 
for her had it been necessary, instead of, for instance, 
leaving Lady Fairborne and John Warner, her chaplain, 
fifty pounds each to buy a ring. Nell, in a codicil to 
her will, dated October i8th, 1687, desired, "That 
Mrs. Rose Forster may have two hundred pounds 
given her any time within a year after my decease," 
and supplemented this in a second codicil made on 

22 



The Origins of Nell Gwyn 



July igth in the following year, a few months before 
her death, in which, "The said Mrs. Ellen Gwinne 
did give and bequeath to Mrs. Rose Forster her sister 
the summe of two hundred pounds over and above 
the summe of two hundred pounds which shee gave 
to the said Rose in her former Codicill." At the 
same time she left to Forster " a ring of the value 
of forty pounds or forty pounds to buy him a ring." 

What other relations Nell may have had is not 
known. In a codicil in her will she expressed the 
desire, " that my kinsman, Mr. Cholmly, may have 
one hundred pounds given to him, within a year 
of this date," but who this Cholmly was has not been 
discovered. It is mentioned in the satires of the day 
that Nell had a cousin who from " the menial office of 
one of the black guard employed in carrying coals at 
Court " was by the exercise of her influence given a 
commission in the army. 

It must be remembered that Gwyn was a common 
name, and that there were, of course, many bearing 
it who were entirely unconnected with Nell, as, for 
instance, Francis Gwynne, who, mentioned in the 
entry of the expenses of her funeral, was a politician 
of some distinction and was sometime Clerk of the 
Council. 



CHAPTER III 

THE CHILDHOOD OF NELL GWYN 

Nell Gwyn uneducated. An imaginative account of her early years. Serves 
as a maid in an infamous establishment. Mother Ross. Nell Gwyn 
said to have sold herrings, and to have sung in taverns. Etherege's 
lampoon : " The Lady of Pleasure." Her first love. Lewknor Lane, 
Drury Lane. She becomes an orange-girl at Drury Lane Theatre. The 
" Mother of the Maids." " Orange Moll." Samuel Pepys and Mrs. 
Knipp. The morals of the orange-girls. 

WHETHER it is accepted that Mrs. Gwyn 
was a drunken sot when Nell was a child, or 
whether she was then (which certainly seems unlikely) 
earning her living in a reputable way, there seems no 
doubt whatever that the family was in a very humble 
condition. Certainly it had no money to provide for 
the girls even the elementary education of those days. 
Nell Gwyn was entirely unschooled. It may be that 
she could read with difficulty, but to the end of her 
days she could do little more than scrawl her initials. 
In a letter from Sir Robert Howard to the Duke of 
Ormond, written in 1679, when Nell was twenty-eight, 
he says, " She presents you With her real acknowledg- 
ments for all your favours, and protests she would 
write in her own hand, but her wild characters would 
distract you." 

The only mention of Nell Gwyn's father is to be found 
in the anonymous " Memoirs " of 1752 a catchpenny 

24 



The Childhood of Nell Gwyn 



biography which probably does not contain a single 
statement worthy of credence. Still, this warning 
having been uttered, a quotation from the book may 
be given as a curiosity : 

" Eleanor Gwinn was the daughter of a tradesman 
in mean circumstances, who could afford to bestow 
but a slender education upon her, but who took care 
to introduce her into as good company as possible 
and early implant in her mind a great sense of virtue 
and delicacy, the former of which she was not long in 
parting with, without the misfortune of losing the 
latter. 

" She no sooner became conscious of her own charms 
than she solicited her father to permit her to go into 
the world under the protection of a lady, where she 
imagined that her beauty would soon raise admirers, 
and by having an opportunity of a more unrestrained 
and free behaviour, she was not without hopes of making 
her fortune at the expense of some amorous visitor 
of that lady in whose house she was to live as an upper 
servant." 

According to this same " authority," Nell Gwyn 
attracted the attention of a man in whom the mistress 
of the house was interested, and she was summarily 
dismissed at this time, it must be remarked, Nell 
may have been as much as twelve years of age. 

" The conduct of the lady shows what cruel injustice 
they, who are rivals, are capable of inflicting on one 
another ; for the obscurity of Nell's birth and the 

25 



Nell Gwyn 



indigence of circumstances could not protect her from 
this lady's persecution, who saw no flaw in it but her 
beauty. 

" Her father was obstinate, and threatened to aban- 
don Nell for ever if she did not consent to go into 
Yorkshire and live with her aunt, who was the wife of 
a parish clerk, and a woman who, as she had never 
seen London, was not likely to fill her head with vanity 
or teach her anything but country economy. 

" Nell heard this proposal with ineffable contempt ; 
she'd seen enough of life to make her fond of town, 
and though she was in full possession of her virtue, 
she began to entertain some thoughts of yielding it, 
rather than be sent to the country to live in ob- 
scurity and contract rustic habits, by which she could 
lose all power of pleasing for ever." 

It would be interesting to hear more about the 
" good company " to which her father introduced 
Nell, but as regards that we must be content to 
remain ignorant. We are more fortunate, from the 
biographical point of view, in being able to make a 
fairly shrewd guess as to the identity of the lady in 
whose house she was to live as an upper servant 
the " upper servant," however, we may dismiss as a 
figment of the imagination of an eighteenth-century 
author of this kind of book who, speaking of a King's 
mistress, could not bring himself to write of anything 
more menial. 

Nell, however, whatever her faults, had no false 
pride, and we have her own account of this in Pepys' 
" Diary." " Mrs. Pierce tells me that the two Mar- 

26 



The Childhood of Nell Gwyn 



shalls at the King's House are Stephen Marshall's, 
the great Presbyterian's daughters ; and that Nelly 
and Beck Marshall falling out the other day, the latter 
called the other my Lord Buckhurst's mistress. Nell 
answered her : ' I was but one man's mistress, though 
I was brought up in a brothel to fill strong water to 
the gentlemen ; and you are a mistress to three or 
four, though a Presbyter's praying daughter/ " It 
has been conclusively proved that Ann and Rebecca 
Marshall were not the children of the eminent preacher ; 
but the rest of the story is true, and this, as Cunning- 
ham naively puts it, " for a girl of any virtue or beauty 
was indeed a bad bringing up." 

The keeper of the brothel, Nell's first employer, 
was the infamous Mother Ross. These places had 
been placed under very definite restrictions so early 
as the reign of Henry II., when it was ordained that 
they must bear distinctive marks, that no inmate 
should be detained, that no nun or married woman 
should be harboured, or any one suffering from any 
contagious disease ; that no man might be entrapped 
or allured thereto, etc., and that all stews were subject 
to inspection once a week by responsible authorities. 

This Mother Ross, by the way, must not be confused 
with that Christian Cavanagh, alias Mother Ross, 
who was born in 1667 and died 1739, and concealing 
her sex served as a private in the Royal Inniskillen 
Regiment, and married three times, and whose " Life 
and Adventures " have been attributed to the pen of 
Defoe. 

As Nell Gwyn made her appearance on the stage 
27 



Nell Gwyn 



when she was fourteen, it is probable that her own 
account, as given by Pepys, is near enough, and that 
she was employed as a waitress or housemaid ; but it 
would be a bold person who would say that this pretty, 
saucy child did not, in the circumstances, serve Mother 
Ross's patrons in other ways, her extreme youth 
notwithstanding . 

Anyhow, what is certain, that before she became 
an actress she had certainly been seduced if, indeed, 
it can be called seduction, her mother leading a dis- 
solute life and, no doubt, having prepared her daughter 
to follow in her footsteps. 

Lord Rochester, than whom a more vindictive 
man never wrote excellent verse, in his lines addressed 
" To Mistress Nelly, grown from Cinder Nell," gave 
his version of her beginnings : 

" Of thy Anointed Princess, Madam Nelly, 
Whose first employment with open throat, 
To cry fresh herrings, even ten a Groat." 

In this capacity of herring-seller, it is suggested that 
Nell had to go from tavern to tavern, and that after 
dinner or supper she sang to the company in these 
places what sort .of songs may be imagined. This, 
of course, is pure conjecture, but the experience of 
facing an audience that she obtained in this way might 
explain her early success on the stage. 
Rochester continues : 

" Then was by Madam Ross expos'd to Town, 
I mean to those who would give her half-a-crown : 
Next in the Play-House she took her degree, 
As men commence at th' University." 
28 



The Childhood of Nell Gwyn 



Other glimpses of Nell Gwyn are given in Etherege's 
lampoons. In " The Lady of Pleasure : a Satyr," 
he states his Argument : 

" The Life of Nelly truly flown, 
From Cole-yard, and Celler, to the Throne, 
Till into the Grave she tumbled down," 

and then proceeds : 

" I sing the song of a Scoundrel Lass, 
Rais'd from Dunghill, to a King's Embrace : 
I trace her from her Birth and Infant Years ; 
To Venus none so like as she appears : 
To Madam Venus the Sea-froth gave Birth ; 
To Madam Nell, the Scum of all the Earth ; 
No Man alive could ever call her daughter, 
For a Battalion of Arm'd Men begot her. 



" Fam'd be the Celler then, wherein the Babe 
Was first brought forth to be a Monarch's Drab. 



" He that hath seen her mudling in the Street, 
Her face all Pot-lid black, unshod her Feet, 
And in a Cloud of Dust her Cinders shaking, 
Could he have thought her fit for Monarch's taking ? 
Even then she had her Charms of brisk and witty." 

In connection with the above allusion to Nell Gwyn's 
unshod feet, there is a really pretty, though possibly 
apocryphal incident, which is taken from a manuscript 
note in an interleaved copy of Downes' " Roscius 
Anglicanus," which gives an account of something 
Basil Montagu had read of her when a child : 

" ' My first love, you must know, was a link-boy/ 

" ' A what ? ' 

29 



Nell Gwyn 



" ' Tis true/ said she, ' for all the frightfulness of 
your what ; and a very good sort he was, poor Dick ; 
and had the heart of a gentleman. God knows what 
has become of him ; but when I last saw him, he said 
he would humbly love me to his dying day. He used 
to say I must have been a Lord's daughter for my 
beauty, and that I ought to ride in my coach, and 
behaved to me as if I did. He, poor boy, would light 
me and my mother home, when we had sold our oranges, 
to our lodgings in Lawkenor's Lane, as if we had been 
ladies of the land. He said he never felt easy for the 
evening 'till he had asked me how I did ; then he 
went gaily about his work, and if he saw us housed 
at night he slept like a prince. I shall never forget 
when he came flushing and stammering, and drew out 
of his pocket a pair of worsted stockings which he 
brought for my naked feet. It was bitter cold weather 
and I had chilblains which made me hobble about 
till I cried ; and what does poor Richard do but work 
hard like a horse and buy me these worsted stockings. 
My mother bade him put them on ; and so he did, 
and his warm tears fell on my chilblains, and he 
said he should be the happiest Lord on earth if the 
stockings did me any good.' " 

It is obvious that there was nothing for a girl in 
Nell Gwyn's position and with her looks and nature 
but, as one of the characters in a play by Mr. Shaw 
puts it, to be kind to some man or men who could 
afford to be good to her. The amiable author of 
the biography of 1752 is divided between his desire 
to show her as clinging to virtue and as prepared to 

30 



The Childhood of Nell Gwyn 



give herself for a sufficient reward. According to 
him she repulsed a would-be lover who gave her ten 
guineas for her favours that is to say, she kept the 
guineas and gave him nothing in return even when 
she was at Mother Ross's ; but, leaving her home, she 
took a " private lodging," and went often to the 
play, having now some hankering for the stage. 

" She had observed how gaily many ladies lived, 
who had no other means of supporting their grandeur 
but by making such concessions to men of fortune, 
and stipulating such terms as both of them could well 
afford to comply with. And as she was sensible 
that many succeeded upon the Town with half her 
accomplishments, she began to despise all thoughts 
of going into the country, and told her father that 
he might abandon her, if he pleased, but she was never 
to abandon the town. 

" In this dilemma she cast her eyes upon the stage, 
and as her person was admirably calculated to inspire 
passion, she imagined if she was arrayed in the pomp 
of tragedy heroines, her figure alone, without any 
theatrical requisites, would make her pass upon the 
Town ; or, at least, if she could not wear the buskin 
with success, she could see no objection to her ap- 
pearing as a Lady-in-waiting or one of the Maids-of- 
the-Bedchamber to the Queen of the Stage. 

" This thought filled her with rapture ; lovers, 
fame, pleasure and gallantry crowded on her fancy ; 
she soon became a queen in imagination, though she 
never once dreamed of becoming in reality, if not a 
queen, at least the mistress of a monarch, and being 



Nell Gwyn 



filled with that kind of royalty, which is more sub- 
stantial than a two hours' glitter on the stage. 

" After living a month or two in this manner, she 
wrote a letter to Mr. Betterton, inviting him to her 
lodgings, to whom she disclosed the scheme of coming 
on the stage, and desired he might give his opinion 
of her powers in recitation. He told her plainly, 
that she was not then fit for the stage, though she 
seemed to have a genius that was, and advised her 
to prosecute some other scheme of liveliness. Un- 
lucky for Miss Gwinn, Mr. Betterton was not amorous, 
or at least, conceived no passion for her, for she was 
in hopes of operating upon the manager by her face 
and person, as well as her voice and action." 

Things must indeed have been different then if a 
little girl sent for managers of theatres to call on 
her, and the managers came to see if she had the 
necessary qualities to become an actress. What is 
more likely it is, in fact, practically certain is that 
while still in the house of the infamous brothel-keeper, 
Nell Gwyn was promoted to being allowed to go into 
the notorious Lewknor's Lane (on the east side of Drury 
Lane, opposite Short's Gardens, and now renamed 
Macklin Street), where, we are informed, that in her 
day " young creatures were inveigled into infamy, 
and sent dressed as orange-girls to sell fruit and 
attract attention in the adjoining theatres." 

Lewknor's Lane, so called after Sir Lewis Lewknor, 
who was Master of the Ceremonies at the Court of 
James I., had a most unenviable reputation. In the 
days of the Stuarts it was not only a rendezvous 

32 



The Childhood of Nell Gwyn 



for loose women, but a nursery in which young girls 
were trained for the brothels. In Dry den's play, 
The Wild Gallant, which was produced in 1663, the 
old procuress, who masquerades as Lady Du Lake, 
tells the heroine that her " lodgings are in St. Luck- 
nor's Lane, at the Cat and Fiddle," and Butler makes 
allusion to it : 

" The nymphs of chaste Diana's train, 
The same with those of Lewknor's Lane." 

There is a better known reference to it in The 
Beggar's Opera, where the Drawer says : "I expect 
him back every minute. But you know, Sir, you sent 
him as far as Hockley-in-the-Hole for three of the 
ladies, for one in Vinegar Yard, and for the rest of 
them somewhere about Lewknor's Lane." 

The orange-girls were an institution at the theatre. 
One of them was made responsible to the management, 
not for the morality of the rest, but for discipline 
in that respect occupying, according to Peter Cunning- 
ham, the same sort of office at the theatre as the 
" Mother of the Maids " occupied at Court among the 
Maids of Honour. 

In Nell Gwyn's day this young woman was known 
as " Orange Moll." Her task must have indeed been 
onerous, but it appears she found time to talk to the 
gallants and also to act as a go-between for actresses 
and their admirers. In Dennis's play, Plot and No 
Plot, one of the characters is made to say : 

" If this is the play-house, give me but thy billet, 
And the orange-wench shall deliver it immediately to her." 

An instance of Orange Moll's activities in this 

33 3 



Nell Gwyn 



direction is given by Pepys in his Diary for August 
22, 1667, when he was attending at the King's 
House a performance of The Indian Emperor. 
" But what," he writes, " that troubled me most was, 
that Knipp sent by Moll to desire to speak to me 
after the play ; and she beckoned to me at the end 
of the play, and I promised to come ; but it was so 
late, and I forced to step to Mrs. William's lodgings 
with my Lord Bruncker and her, where I did not stay, 
however, for fear of her shewing her closet, and thereby 
forcing me to give her something ; and it was so late, 
that for fear of my wife's coming home before, I was 
forced to go straight home, which troubled me/' 

The orange-girls for the most part were, as a matter 
of fact, neither more or less than prostitutes, and were 
so regarded by men about town, who talked to them 
without reticence, while they on their side were not 
shy about plying their trade. " She outdoes a play- 
house orange-woman for the politick management of 
a bawdy intrigue," is a line in the anonymous comedy, 
Tunbridge Wells, printed in 1676. But as regards 
the sale of oranges, anyhow, there was no attempt at 
extortion. 

" Half-crown my play, sixpence my orange cost," 
is given as the price in the prologue to Mrs. Aphra 
Behn's Young King. It was apparently etiquette 
for the beaux to buy oranges at the price asked for 
them, and then "to present the fairest to the next 
vizard mask '' masks being then the distinguishing 
badge of the courtesan. Pepys has recorded how 
once he was " done." " So into the play again," he 

34 



The Childhood of Nell Gwyn 



wrote on May nth, 1668. " But there happened one 
thing which vexed me which is that the orange- 
woman did come in the pit and challenge me for 
twelve oranges which she delivered by my order at 
the late play, at night to give some ladies in a box 
which was wholly untrue, but she swore it to be true. 
But however, I did deny it and did not pay her ; but 
for quiet, did buy 45. worth of oranges of her at 6d. 
a piece." 

Nell Gwyn, though then about thirteen, was no 
doubt an attractive figure, and according to the 
t( Memoirs " she attracted the attention of Betterton, 
who, remembering having seen her, bethought him 
of her ambition to become a player : 

" He advised her to continue her manner of life for 
some time, and appointed one of his subalterns to pay 
her frequent visits and initiate her in the principle of 
playing. This subaltern was himself a promising 
genius, he had made a rapid progress on the stage, 
and was held in esteem, not only for his present ac- 
complishments, but for the attainments he was likely 
soon to be master of. He was of a constitution 
sanguine and amorous ; he felt the passion he repre- 
sented ; and as love is inseparable from a heart capable 
of tender sensations, so it is not to be doubted but he 
made some advances to Nell and some proposals 
with which, if she complied, she would have an oppor- 
tunity of relishing those overwhelming transports 
which poets have displayed with such lavish de- 
scriptions and players have uttered in all the ecstasy 
of fainting lovers." 

35 3* 



CHAPTER IV 

THE STAGE AFTER THE RESTORATION 

Nell Gwyn's first lovers. Rochester's mention of them. " Rowley." 
" A Cully of the City." Durgan, Dongan or Duncan. Charles Hart, 
the actor. John Lacy, the dramatist and comedian. The morals 
of the Restoration stage. The first women players. Their shameless 
conduct. Pepys's impression of them. Pepys and Mrs. Knipp. 
Evelyn's condemnation of the rampant immorality. Nell Gwyn's 
indifference to her reputation. 

NELL GWYN'S career may be said to have begun 
when she was promoted from Lewknor Lane 
to the proud position of orange-girl at Drury Lane 
Theatre. Here her good looks early attracted atten- 
tion, and, if she had not been seduced before, which 
is more than probable, her undoing was certainly not 
long after in coming. 

Rochester, in his " Panegyrick to Nelly," has written : 

" The Orange-Basket her fair Arm did suit, 
Laden with Pippins and Hesperian Fruit, 
This first Step rais'd, to the wond'ring Pit she sold 
The lovely Fruit smiling with Streaks of Gold. 
Fate now for her did its whole Force engage, 
And from the Pit she's mounted to the Stage : 
There in full lustre did her Glories shine, 
And, long eclips'd, spread forth their Light divine : 
There Hart's and Rowley's soul she did inflame, 
And made a King a rival to a Player." 

In this age of nicknames the King himself did not 
escape. He was called " Old Rowley." According 

36 



The Stage after the Restoration 

to one account this was in allusion to an ill-favoured 
but famous horse in the royal mews ; according to 
another account : " There was an old goat that used to 
roam about the privy-garden to which they had given 
this name ; a rank, lecherous devil that everyone knew 
and used to stroke, because he was good-humoured 
and familiar ; and so they applied this name to 
Charles." Charles knew of his nickname and did 
not mind it in the least. It is recorded by Granger 
that as he was passing the apartments of a Mrs. 
Howard, who was a maid of honour to the Duchess of 
York, he heard her singing a ballad of the day, " Old 
Rowley the King," and, thereupon, knocked at the 
door. The lady called out, " Who is that ? " to which 
he answered, laughing : " Old Rowley himself, 
Madam." 

Who was Nell Gwyn's first love has been a matter 
of amiable controversy a controversy that will now, 
of course, never be settled. Those put forth by 
various champions for the honour are " a Cully of the 
City ; " one Durgan, Dongan or Duncan, who may 
or may not have been the citizen ; Charles Hart the 
actor ; and John Lacy, dramatist and comedian. 

According to Etherege, " her charms of brisk and 
witty " first inflamed " a Cully of the City," which 
had her cleaned and furbished " that she might be 
his darling and delight : " 

" Then in her Wine began this Dialogue. 
' My little Dirty, my pretty Rogue, 
Thou hast redeem'd me from my flitten Milk, 
To Worsted Hose, and Petticoat of Silk. 
37 



Nell Gwyn 



Be Kind, my dear, and flowing Joy impart, 
Apply Love's Sovereign Balsam to my Heart.' 
Then for some time each other they enjoy'd 
Until the Merchant, not the Girl, was cloy'd ; 
For either with the Expense of Purse or Love 
At length the Fool did wondrous Nell-sick prove." 

However, apparently the " Cully of the City " was 
not a bad fellow, or heartless, and determined to 
provide for her future, though not at his own expense : 

" How're he would not leave her as he found her, 
That had been base, since he had got the Plunder, 
Besides, he knew that she had both Wit and Sence, 
Beauty, and such a stock of Impudence 
As to the Play-house well might recommend her, 
And therefore thither was resolv'd to send her." 

There is mention of this protector of Nell Gwyn in 
Oldys' account of her : 

" One Mr. Duncan, a merchant, taking a fancy 
to her smart wit, fine shape, and foot, the least of any 
woman's in England, kept her about two years, then 
recommended her into the King's Play-house." 

If the tale be true and some such thing must in all 
probability have happened and if the merchant 
kept her for two years before she went on the stage, 
she must have lived with him as his mistress from the 
age of twelve to fourteen a less uncommon thing 
then than now. 

Who this Duncan was has not definitely been agreed. 

What Oldys says is confirmed to some extent by 
Sir George Etherege in "Madam Nelly's Complaint," 

38 



' 



The Stage after the Restoration 

where he supplies the information that in after years 
she procured him a commission in the Guards. It is 
difficult not to believe that there must be some con- 
fusion here, it being extremely unlikely that the mer- 
chant, who, when Nell Gwyn became Charles's mistress 
and so could expect her influence, could no longer 
have been a lad, would have become a subaltern, 
or, indeed, have wanted to become a subaltern, in the 
Household Brigade. 

Peter Cunningham was at great pains to sift this 
matter. He came to the conclusion that Oldys was 
wrong in his statement that Duncan was a merchant ; 
and that the Duncan mentioned by Etherege in the satire 
on Nell was the Dongan described in De Grammont's 
memoirs as a gentleman of merit who succeeded 
Duras, afterwards Earl of Faversham, in the post 
of Lieutenant in the Duke's Life Guards. 

It is beyond question that there was a lieutenant 
of the name of Robert Dongan in the Duke's Life 
Guards, who was a cadet of the house of Limerick, 
but the researches of Mr. Gordon Goodwin have 
established the fact that this Dongan was not the 
first protector of Nell Gwyn. The Robert Dongan of 
Count Grammont died in 1662, when Nell was a girl 
of eleven, and he did not succeed, but was succeeded 
by Louis de Duras, Marquis of Blanquefort, and 
afterwards Earl of Faversham. The question, how- 
ever, is of purely academic interest, and need not be 
pursued. 

It is generally accepted by writers on Nell Gwyn 
that her first theatrical protector was Hart or Lacy, 

39 



Nell Gwyn 



and the preference is by more or less common consent 
given to the former, who was apparently " a broth of a 
boy/' though when he first met Nell he must have 
been about forty. 

Charles Hart went on the stage at an early age 
the exact date of his birth is not known making his 
first appearance in women's parts,, and playing the 
Duchess in Shirley's The Cardinal, which play was 
licensed in 1641, though not printed until twenty years 
later. At the outbreak of the Civil War he served 
in Prince Rupert's regiment of horse ; during the 
Commonwealth, when the theatres were closed, he 
took part in dramatic performances at Holland House 
and other private residences ; and at the Restoration 
he joined the company at the Vere Street Theatre. 
In 1663 he went with Killigrew to the King's House, 
where he remained until the junction of the two 
companies in 1682, a year before his death. He was 
not only a creditable actor he played with success 
such parts as Othello, Brutus in Julius Ccesar y and 
Alexander but he was evidently a very personable 
fellow and a great deal of a gallant. 

John Lacy, who must have been some ten or more 
years older than Hart, was also one of the principal 
actors in the King's company, and was, it has been 
put on record, " of a rare shape of body and good com- 
plexion." He made his mark as a comedian. He 
got into disgrace in 1667 when, playing in Change of 
Crowns, he, as Pepys puts it, " did act the Country 
Gentleman come up to Court, who do abuse the Court 
with all imaginable wit and plainness about selling of 

40 



The Stage after the Restoration 

places and doing everything for money," for Charles II., 
who was present at the performance, was so angry 
at being abused to his face that he ordered the theatre 
to be closed and Lacy to be committed to the Porter's 
Lodge. Forgiveness, owing to the intercession of 
Killigrew, followed soon upon the punishment. Lacy, 
who was of a literary turn of mind, wrote several 
comedies and farces, which had some success in their 
day, but have not survived. 

Etherege supports the view that both Hart and Lacy 
were Nell Gwyn's lovers, after (as he thinks) the 
merchant introduced her to the stage : 

" Where soon she grew being in her proper Sphere 
The Pride and Envy of the Theater : 
Then entered Nelly on the publick stage, 
Harlot of harlots, Lais of the age." 

Colley Gibber, however, says that " Hart introduced 
Mrs. Gwyn upon the dramatic boards, and has acquired 
the distinction of being ranked among that lady's 
first felicitous lovers, by having succeeded to Lacy 
in the possession of her charms. Nell had been tutored 
for the stage by these admirers in conjunction, testify- 
ing her gratitude to both. 

At the time Nell Gwyn went on the stage it was, 
from the moralist's point of view, in a deplorable 
state. This is not the place to write of the Restora- 
tion dramatists, and it suffices to say that they gave 
themselves every possible latitude in the way of 
impropriety of language and situation. 

When the theatres were reopened after the return 
of Charles to England, and women for the first time 



Nell Gwyn 



appeared on the stage, the theatre attracted all the 
gay young men about town and a good many old ones 
too. 

The actresses were chosen for their looks, their 
figures (the charms of which were not hidden), their 
impudence, and their lack of morals. " The additional 
objects then of really beautiful women could not but 
draw a proportion of new admirers to the theatre," 
Colley Gibber wrote in his " Apology." " We may 
imagine, too, that these actresses were not ill-chosen, 
when it is well known that more than one had charms 
sufficient at their leisure hours to calm and mollify 
the cares of Empire." 

There was, indeed, no doubt whatever about the 
morality of the women players on the London stage, 
nor, in fact, was there any desire on their part that 
there should be. Their lack of virtue was a great part 
of their stock in trade. They were all openly and 
avowedly either kept women, or women of the town 
available for every comer with enough in his purse 
to make it worth their while, and their fidelity to their 
lovers was about on a par with that of the loyalty of 
the barn-door fowl. 

They were out for what they considered a merry 
life, and, that being conceded, they did not mind 
if it was a short one. Anyhow, lived they beyond the 
allotted span of life, their period of a good time coin- 
cided precisely with the endurance of their good looks 
and attractive figures. 

It would be hard to blame them, partly because of 
the times in which they lived, when licentiousness was 

42 



The Stage after the Restoration 

rampant, and for the rest if they had looked on virtue 
they had known it not. They came for the most 
part from the stews, where they were exploited almost 
in childhood by the brothel-keepers, and, no doubt 
more than one, when no longer charming, in her 
later days returned to the stews as a procuress. 

They were shiftless and thriftless ; they passed 
from hand to hand, with never a thought for the 
future, and as a rule Fate avenged herself on them for 
their disrespect of her. Only here and there, one, 
like Nell Gwyn, exceptionally charming, escaped the 
common lot and even Nell, dying at thirty-seven, 
may have cheated the future of what it held for her 
though, in her case, she gave hostages to fortune 
in the person of her ennobled son. 

The following passages from Pepys's " Diary " 
give a better impression of what the theatre was then 
like than pages of description : 

" October 5, 1667. And so to the King's House : 
and there, going in, met with Knipp, and she took 
us up into the tireing rooms : and to the women's 
shift, where Nell was dressing herself, and was all 
unready, and is very pretty, prettier than I thought. 

" And so walked all up and down the house above, 
and then below into the scene-room, and there sat 
down, and she gave us fruit : and here read the ques- 
tions to Knipp, while she answered me, through all 
her part of Flora's Vagaries* which was acted to-day. 

* A comedy written by Richard Rhodes when a student at Oxford. It 
was first acted at Christ Church on January 8, 1663, and in London on 
the following November 3. 

43 



Nell Gwyn 



But Lord ! to see how they were both painted would 
make a man mad and did make me loathe them ; and 
what base company of men comes among them, 
and how lewdly they talk ! and how poor the men 
are in clothes, and yet what a shew they make on the 
stage by candle-light, is very observable. 

" But to see how Nelly cursed for having so few 
people in the pit, was very pretty ; the other house 
carrying away all the people at the new play, and is 
said now-a-days to have generally most company, 
as being better players. 

" By and by into the pit, and there saw the play, 
which is pretty good, but my belly was full of what 
I had seen in the house, and so, after the play done 
away home, and there to the writing my letters, and 
so home to supper and to bed. 

" April 7, 1668. After the play done, I down to 
Knipp and did stay her undressing herself ; and there 
saw the several players men and women go by ; and 
pretty to see how strange they are all, one to another 
after the play is done. 

" Here I saw a wonderful pretty maid of her own, 
that comes to undress her, and one so pretty that she 
says she intends not to keep her for fear of her being 
undone in her service, by coming to the playhouse. 

" The eldest Davenport* is, it seems, gone from 
this house to be kept by somebody ; which I am glad 
of, she being a very bad actor. 

* Frances, the eldest sister of Elizabeth Davenport, the famous 
Roxalana. 

44 




"And to the women's shift, where Nell was dressing herself, 

and was all unready, and is very pretty, prettier than 

I thought." 

Page 44 



The Stage after the Restoration 

" I took her [Mrs. Knipp] then up into a coach and 
away to the Park, which is now very fine after some 
rain, but the company was going away most, and so 
I took her to the Lodge, and there treated her and 
had a good deal of talk, and now and then did baiser 
la, and that was all, and that is much or more than I 
had much mind to because of her paint. 

" She tells me mighty news, that my lady Castle- 
maine is mightily in love with Hart of their house : 
and he is much with her in private and she goes to 
him ; and do give him many presents ; and that 
the thing is most certain, and Becke Marshall only 
privy to it, and the means of bringing them together, 
which is a very odd thing ; and by this means she is 
even with the King's love to Mrs. Davis." 

" May 7, 1668. Thence called Knipp from the King's 
House, where going in for her, the play being done, I 
did see Beck Marshall come dressed, off the stage, and 
looks mighty fine, and pretty and noble : and also 
Nell in her boy's clothes, mighty pretty. 

" But Lord ! their confidence ! and how many men 
do hover about them as soon as they come off the stage, 
and how confident they are in their talk ! 

" Here I did kiss the pretty woman newly come, 
called Peg, that was Sir Charles Sedley's mistress, a 
mighty pretty woman, and seems, but is not, modest." 

Pepys himself, however, was not exempt from the 
frailty of other well-placed frequenters of the play- 
house. Mrs. Knipp certainly attracted him, and he her, 

45 



Nell Gwyn 



more than was meet, even though the relations between 
them may not, perhaps, have been as intimate as is 
usually alleged. 

For instance, there is an entry in his " Diary " : 

" January 7, 1666. (Lord's Day). In the evening 
before I went, comes Mrs. Knipp, just to speak with 
me privately, to excuse her not coming to me yes- 
terday, complaining how like a devil her husband treats 
her, and so I kissed her and parted." 

Again, two days later he writes : 

" So home, and find all my good company I had 
bespoke, as Coleman and his wife, and Laneare, Knipp 
and her surly husband." 

There seems, from the following passage and others 
similar to it, to have been or would be in these days 
some excuse for the " surly husband." 

"January 6, 1666. Thence with Lord Brouncker 
to Greenwich by water to a great dinner and much 
company : Mr. Cottle and his lady and others and I 
went, hoping to get Mrs. Knipp to us, having wrote 
a letter to her in the morning, calling myself ' Dapper 
Dicky ' in answer to hers of ' Barbary Allen,'* but 
could not, and am told by the boy that carried my 
letter, that he found her crying ; but I fear she leads 
a sad life with that ill-natured fellow her husband ; 
so we had a great, but a melancholy dinner, having 
not her there, as I hoped. 

* " Barbary Allen " was a popular song of the day. 
46 




--J 



Mr. and Mrs. Pepys and Mrs, Knipp, 



Page 46 



The Stage after the Restoration 

" After dinner to cards, and then comes notice 
that my wife is come unexpectedly to me to town. 
So I to her. It is only to see what I do, and why I 
come not home ; and she is in the right that I would 
have a little more of Mrs. Knipp's company before I 
go away." 

The extracts concerning Pepys and Mrs. Knipp could 
be multiplied largely, but only one more shall be given : 

" July 6, 1666. Being at home, I there met with a 
letter from Bab. Allen, to invite me to be godfather 
to her boy." 

The gallants took their mistresses from the stage, 
and mostly the ladies, if not indeed all, distributed 
their favours generously, and, often, indiscriminately 
in return for a consideration. This, to the great 
distress of Evelyn, who, in his " Diary " on October 
18, 1666, wrote : 

" This night was acted My Lord Broghill's tragedy, 
called Mustapha, before their Majesties at Court, at 
which I was present, very seldom going to the public 
Theatres for many reasons, now as they were abused 
to an atheistical liberty, fowle and indecent women 
now, and never till now, permitted to appear and act, 
who inflaming several young noblemen and gallants, 
became their misses and to some their wives : witness 
the Earl of Oxford, Sir R. Howard, P[rince] Rupert, 
the Earl of Dorset, and another greater person than 

47 



Nell Gwyn 



any of them, who fell into their snares, to the reproach 
of their noble families and ruin of both body and soul. 
I was invited by my Lord Chamberlain to see this 
tragedy exceeding well written : though in my own 
mind I did not approve of any such pastime in a season 
of such judgments and calamities." 

The lesser folk, who could not hope to attract the 
attention or arouse the cupidity of the actresses, were 
in no doubt as to their character, and occasionally 
gave expression to their views in no uncertain way. 
Nell Gwyn herself was indifferent to such abuse, alike 
when she was simply a saucy baggage at the beginning 
of her theatrical career as when she was the King's 
mistress. 

There is a story told that she, seeing her coachman 
fighting another man, inquired the cause of the quarrel, 
and received the blunt reply, " Because he called 
you a whore." To this she replied, according to one 
version, " Go to, you blockhead. Never fight again 
in such a cause, nor risk your carcase but in the defence 
of truth." We may well doubt the language, but the 
sentiment expressed was certainly the sentiment of 
Nell Gwyn. Servants were really attached to their 
masters and mistresses in those days, and were pre- 
pared to fight even to the death, for their qualities, 
if not always their morality. In the Rutland manu- 
script at Belvoir there has been preserved a letter, 
dated June 20, 1670, from Lady Chaworth to her 
brother, Lord Ross, in which she relates the following 
incident : " One of the K[ing']s servants has killed 

48 



The Stage after the Restoration 

Mr. Hues, Peg Hues' brother, servant to P[rince] 
Rupert upon a dispute whether Miss Nelly or she was 
the handsomer now at Windsor." 

Nell Gwyn was clearly not alone in her indifference 
to her reputation. 



CHAPTER V 

SOME STAGE FOLK OF THE DAY 

Edward Kynaston. William Mountford. Mrs. Bracegirdle. Congreve's 
admiration for her. Elizabeth Davenport. Her mock marriage with 
the Earl of Oxford. Elizabeth Barry. Peg Hughes. Sarah Cooke. 
Moll Knight. Hildebrand Horden. 

NO woman appeared upon the English stage 
until after the Restoration. Theretofore, every 
female character had been undertaken by a male 
in fact, Colley Gibber cites an amusing instance, 
towards the close of 1660, of Charles II. attending 
the theatre while the old regime still obtained. 

" The King," he says, " coming a little before his 
usual time to a Tragedy, found the actors not ready 
to begin, when his Majesty not chusing to have as much 
patience as his good subjects, sent to know the meaning 
of it ; upon which the master of the company came 
to the Box, and rightly judging that the best excuse 
for their default would be the true one, fairly told 
His Majesty that the Queen was not shaved yet. The 
King, whose humour lov'd to laugh at a jest as well 
as to make one, accepted the excuse, which served 
to divert him until the male Queen could be effeminated. 
In a word, Kynaston at that time was so beautiful 
a youth that the ladies of quality prided themselves 



Some Stage Folk of the Day 



in taking him with them in their coaches to Hyde Park 
in his theatrical habit, after the Play ; which in those 
days they might have sufficient time to do, because 
plays then were used to begin at four o'clock." 

This same Kynaston appeared as Epiccene in The 
Silent Woman on January 7, 1661. But it is 
almost certain that the first woman appeared " on 
any stage " after the Restoration on December 8, 
1660, though her name has not been preserved. The 
piece was by Thomas Jordan, and was " A Prologue " 
to introduce the first woman that came upon the stage 
to act, in the tragedy, The Moor of Venice. 

When Pepys saw The Beggar's Bush at Killigrew's 
playhouse on November 20, 1660, all the parts 
were played by males ; but on the following January 3, 
when he again saw the same play at the same theatre, 
he noted this as " the first time that ever I saw women 
come upon the stage." 

Edward Kynaston made his first appearance at the 
Cockpit in Drury Lane in 1659, and he did not retire 
until 1699, eight years before his death. " He stayed 
too long upon the stage, till his memory and spirit 
began to fail him," Colley Gibber mentions ; but 
he was for a generation an idol of the rank and fashion 
that frequented the theatre. Pepys was an enthusiastic 
admirer of Kynaston's acting and personality, and 
characterized him as alike " the loveliest lady for a 
boy " and the " handsomest man " on the Restoration 
stage. 

At one time Kynaston appears to have had a mania 
for mimicking Sir Charles Sedley, one of the fashionable 

5i 4* 



Nell Gwyn 



" bloods " of the day. This was not, at first, in the 
theatre, but in the streets and public resorts, and Sir 
Charles hired a man to thrash the actor in the Park. 
Nothing daunted, Kynaston in 1669 then imitated 
the baronet on the stage, and for this temerity he was 
so soundly thrashed that he was unable to appear at 
the theatre for a week. 

Kynaston, owing to his long theatrical career, was 
thus a stage-contemporary of the ill-fated William 
Mountford, who to some extent replaced him in the 
affections of the playgoers. Mountford was by all 
accounts one of the most natural and versatile players 
of his period. Two of his most memorable imper- 
sonations were as Sir Courtly in Crowne's Sir Courtly 
Nice, and the title-role in Mrs. Behn's The Rover. 
His tragic death took place when he was in his thirty- 
third year and at the height of his powers. The 
notorious Charles, Lord Mohun, had agreed to " assist " 
Captain Richard Hill in abducting the beautiful Mrs. 
Bracegirdle. It happened that Mountford lived in 
the same street (Howard Street, Strand) as that 
celebrated actress, who, while struggling with her 
would-be abductor, heard Hill uttering violent threats 
against Mountford. She managed to send a warning 
to the latter, who, appearing on the scene, received 
a fatal wound from Hill before he had time to draw 
his own weapon. The murderer fled the country. 
Mohun, who was tried by his peers, was acquitted by 
a majority and survived till 1712, when he and the 
Duke of Hamilton slaughtered each other there is 
no other term for it in a duel in Hyde Park. 

52 



Some Stage Folk of the Day 



Mountford was buried in St. Clement Danes, 
Strand his pretty and gifted widow, a comedian 
of real talent, married the actor Verbruggen. It is 
told of the latter, after his marriage to Mrs. Mountford, 

that his favourite saying was : " D me ! though I 

don't value my wife much, yet nobody shall affront 
her." 

Mrs. Bracegirdle may be regarded as having taken 
up the theatrical mantle of popularity that Nell 
Gwyn had abandoned. In that age she was remarkable 
for her virtue, or, as the author of " Their Majesties' 
Servants " phrases it, " she was exposed to sarcasm 
only on account of her excellent private character. 
Platonic friendships she did cultivate and with those 
slander dealt severely enough." Dr. Doran con- 
tinues : " The most singular testimony ever rendered 
to this virtue occurred on the occasion when Dorset, 
Devonshire, Halifax, and other peers were making 
of that virtue a subject of eulogy after a bottle of 
wine. Halifax remarked that they might do some- 
thing better than praise her ; and thereupon he put 
down two hundred guineas, which the contributors of 
the company raised to eight hundred guineas and this 
sum was presented to the lady as a homage to the 
rectitude of her private character. Whether she ac- 
cepted this tribute I do not know ; but I know that 
she declined another from Lord Burlington, who had 
long loved her in vain. ' One day,' says Walpole, 
' he sent her a present of some fine old china. She 
told the servant he had made a mistake ; that it was 
true the letter was for her, but the china for his lady, 

53 



Nell Gwyn 



to whom he must carry it. Lord ! the Countess was 
so full of gratitude when her husband came home 
to dinner." 

Congreve wrote for Mrs. Bracegirdle, Millamart 
in The Way of the World, Cynthia, Araminta, Al- 
meria and Angelica. For him the actress un- 
doubtedly cherished one of her platonic affections, and 
at one time it was rumoured that they were going 
to marry. Of this rumour Congreve himself, " perhaps 
not in the best of taste," wrote as follows : 

" Pious Belinda goes to prayers 

Whenever I ask a favour. 
Yet the tender fool's in tears 

When she thinks I'd leave her. 
Would I were free from this restraint, 

Or else had power to win her ; 
Would she could make of me a saint, 

Or I of her a sinner." 

By way of contrast to the virtue of Mrs. Bracegirdle 
there is the story of Aubrey de Vere, 20th Earl of 
Oxford, who went through a mock marriage with a 
member of the company at the Duke's House. The 
identity of the girl has not been definitely fixed, but 
the best authorities presume her to have been Elizabeth 
Davenport, who played Roxolana in Lee's The Rival 
Queens. It is generally agreed that she was most 
abominably treated, even taking the licentiousness of 
the age into consideration. " The Earl of Oxford," 
so runs an account by Miss Hobart, " came to her 
lodgings attended by a clergyman and another man 
for a witness. The marriage was accordingly solem- 

54 



Some Stage Folk of the Day 



nized with all due ceremonies, in the presence of one of 
her fellow players who attended as a witness on her part . 
When examination was made concerning the marriage, 
it was found to be a mere deception. It appeared that 
the pretended priest was one of my lord's trumpeters, 
and the witness his kettle-drummer. ... In vain did 
she throw herself at the King's feet and demand 
justice : she had only to rise up again without redress ; 
and happy might she think herself to receive an annuity 
of 1,000 crowns, and to resume the name of Roxolana 
instead of Countess of Oxford." A son of this union 
was born on April 17, 1663. It may be mentioned 
that it was a daughter of this Earl of Oxford who 
married Nell Gwyn's elder son, Charles Beauclerk, 
Duke of St. Albans. 

Of Mrs. Knipp and Moll Davis mention is made else- 
where ; but there were also other actresses of note or 
notoriety. There was Elizabeth Barry, the daughter 
of a Colonel Barry who lost his fortune through 
fighting for Charles I. against the Parliament, who 
was born in 1653. As a child she seems to have been 
adopted by Lady D'Avenant, through whose influence, 
while still in her teens, she found the theatre as her 
metier. According to Betterton, " what first recom- 
mended Mrs. Barry to the stage was her voice ; " 
but she shaped so badly in speaking dialogue that 
" several persons of wit and quality positively gave 
their opinion she never would be capable of any part 
of acting." But at this moment my Lord Rochester 
came on the scene. He lays a wager that within 
six months he will make her a finished and polished 

19 



Nell Gwyn 



artist. There is no difficulty in believing that Roches- 
ter quickly " became intimately acquainted with her, 
but to the world he kept it private, especially from 
those he had argued about her. ... It was thought 
that he never loved any person so sincerely as he did 
Mrs. Barry." It was in 1677 that he coached her into 
appearing in her first two important roles, the gipsy 
in Mrs. Behn's The Rover and Queen Isabella in Lord 
Orrery's tragedy Mustapha. Not only this, but 
Rochester induced the King and the Duke and Duchess 
of York to attend the theatre at the debut of his 
protegee in Mustapha. The result was a veritable 
triumph for Mrs. Barry, who literally brought the 
house down by her delivery of the lines spoken by the 
widowed Queen to the hard-hearted Cardinal : 

" My Lord, my sorrow seeks not your relief ; 
You are not fit to judge a mother's grief. 
You have no child for an untimely grave, 
Nor can you love what I desire to save." 

Her acting especially delighted the Duchess of 
York, who not only showered favours upon " the 
Barry," but was gracious enough to say that her own 
elocution was improved by hearing the actress speak. 
This condescension was continued even after the 
Duchess became Queen, when she presented her own 
coronation robes to Mrs. Barry and Mrs. Boutel, an 
actress who usually impersonated " the young in- 
nocent lady whom all the heroes are mad in love with." 
Her part in Alexander the Great was that of Statira, 
who had to be stabbed by Roxana. On one occasion 

56 



Some Stage Folk of the Day 



it was said that the two ladies had had a slight dispute 
about a veil Roxana struck with such force that, 
" tho' the point of the dagger was blunted, it made 
way through Mrs. Boutel's stayes, and entered about 
a quarter of an inch in the flesh." Although, in 
the play, Statira had to be murdered by Roxana, 
she did not die as a sequel to this onslaught. 
Not unnaturally, in that state of society, there 
were those anxious to suggest as a possible cause 
of quarrel a flirtation between Rochester and Mrs. 
Boutel. 

The intrigue of " Rupert of the Rhine " (Charles II.'s 
cousin) with Peg Hughes of Drury Lane Theatre 
commenced in 1669. This lady's stage career started 
six years previously, and she was the first woman to 
play Desdemona. At the time of her meeting with 
Rupert she was appearing in Fletcher's The Island 
Princess. She was unquestionably an actress of dis- 
tinction and a girl of beauty. 

A daughter, " Rupert a," was born to Rupert and 
Peg in 1673. In 1676 his mistress returned to the 
stage, to the Duke of York's company. She survived 
until 1719. 

Prince Rupert died in 1682, and the Verney MS. 
informs us that " some say he sent his Garter to the 
King, desiring Lord Burford (Nell Gwyn's son) might 
have it with his daughter by Peg Hughes, to which 
last two he has left all his jewels and personal estate 
and arrears due from His Majesty." 

For Mrs. Hughes Prince Rupert purchased the 
Great or Crabtree House on the Thames near Fulham, 

57 



Nell Gwyn 



which had been the residence of that ardent royalist, 
Sir Nicholas Crispe. After her lover's death she sold 
it to one Timothy Lannoy, a wealthy London mer- 
chant. After having had several tenants, it became, 
in the last decade of the eighteenth century, the 
property of the Margrave of Anspack, whose wife 
made it famous with her private theatricals. In 
1819 Caroline of Brunswick, the ill-fated consort of 
George IV., took up her residence there. Here came 
many deputations of sympathizers, who were ridiculed 
by Theodore Hook : 

" Have you been to Brandenburgh, Heigh, Ma'am, Ho, Ma'am ? 

You've been to Brandenburgh, Ho ? 
Oh, yes, I have been, Ma'am, 
To visit the Queen, Ma'am, 

With the rest of the gallanty show-show. 

With the rest of the gallanty show." 

Caroline of Brunswick died in August, 1821, at 
Brandenburgh House, and shortly after the site and 
contents were sold. The curious may like to know 
that the position of the house is now marked, as nearly 
as possible, by the Hammersmith Distillery. 

It may here be noted that the famous " Ruperta " 
necklace, which Prince Rupert probably inherited 
from his mother, Elizabeth, Queen of Bohemia, and 
gave to Mrs. Hughes, was purchased from her by Nell 
Gwyn for the handsome sum of 4,520. 

The Court was at Tunbridge Wells during part of 
1665, and while there Lord Rochester made love to 
a cousin of one of the maids of honour. 

This young woman, is vaguely described as a Miss 
58 



Some Stage Folk of the Day 



Sarah, who had "some disposition for the stage." 
As a fact, she was Sarah Cooke, an actress of the 
King's House, who is mentioned by Dryden, and who 
spoke the prologue at the first performance of Roches- 
ter's Valentinian and a new prologue at its second 
performance. Indeed, " prologues and epilogues were 
her particular province." Miss Cooke possessed 
considerable charm, and one epigrammist of the time 
complimented Rochester on having introduced the 
prettiest and the worst actress in the kingdom. 

The Mrs. Knight who is credited with having been 
both a beautiful singer and one of Charles II. 's " favour- 
ites " is now actually less remembered for her 
vocal triumphs than as having played the part of go- 
between when Charles desired to remove Nell Gwyn 
from the protection of Lord Buckhurst. It is, however, 
to her credit that she sang quite sweetly in sundry 
musical productions of the period. "Moll" Knight 
was " no less celebrated for her profane swearing than 
for her angelic voice." 

The tragedy of a young and promising actor, Hilde- 
brand Horden, for once in a way had nothing to do 
with a woman. As a youngster Horden achieved 
considerable success in the latter part of Charles II. 's 
reign, and eventually his death came about as the 
sequel to a brawl at the Rose Tavern in Covent Garden. 
He and two or three friends were quietly discussing 
their wine, when some " fine gentlemen " in an ad- 
joining room pretended to be disturbed by them. High 
words followed, when poor Horden was killed by 
Captain Burgess. He was so handsome and popular 

59 



Nell Gwyn 



with the sex that lovely (and other) ladies went 
weeping to gaze upon his body after death. Curiously 
enough, two men were tried and acquitted for his 
murder or manslaughter. These were the said Captain 
Burgess and a John Pitts. Pepys does not hesitate 
to assert that the former " killed Mr. Horden." 



60 



CHAPTER VI 

NELL GWYN ON THE STAGE 

The two patent theatres. The King's House. The Duke's House. Nell 
Gwyn's first appearance at the King's House. Plays leading parts. 
Cydaria in The Indian Emperor. Pepys's opinion of her performance. 
The theatres closed during the Great Plague of London. The Great 
Fire. Private theatricals. The English Monsieur. The Humorous 
Lieutenant. Secret Love, or, The Maiden Queen. Nell Gwyn as Flori- 
mel. Nell Gwyn in male attire. She dances a jig. Her best perfor- 
mances in comedy. Her dislike of serious parts. Moll Davis, an 
excellent dancer. She attracts the King's attention. " My lodging 
it is on the cold ground." Moll Davis becomes the King's mistress. 
She bears him a daughter. The Queen's disapproval. Nell Gwyn 
plays her rival a scurvy trick. Moll Davis pensioned off. 

THE theatres had been closed under the Common- 
wealth, but at the Restoration it was decided 
as a matter of course to reopen them. However, 
Charles II. acting, it is believed, on the advice of 
Clarendon, decided to license only two theatres in 
the Metropolis. One of these was called " the King's 
House," and the patent for this was granted to Thomas 
Killigrew ; the other, as a compliment to the heir 
presumptive to the throne, was known as " the Duke's 
House," and was controlled by Sir William d'Avenant. 
Killigrew and d'Avenant were both well-known cour- 
tiers, and Killigrew especially had an intimate associa- 
tion with the King, for his sister Elizabeth, who 
married Francis Boyle, first Viscount Shannon, was 
for a while Charles's mistress and bore him a daughter, 

61 



Nell Gwyn 



Charlotte Jemima Henrietta Boyle (alias Fitzroy), 
who was created Countess of Yarmouth. 

Killigrew, who was born in 1612, was appointed 
a page to Charles I., and was loyal to that monarch 
throughout all his troubles, and later attached himself 
to Prince Charles, joining him in his exile in Paris 
in 1647. He had written plays which had been 
produced in London, had plenty of wit, and no morals 
whatsoever, and these qualities endeared him to the 
Court. After the Restoration he was appointed 
Groom of the Bedchamber, and, presently, Chamber- 
lain to the Queen. 

The greatest mark of the royal favour, however, 
was the granting of a patent in 1660 to erect a new 
playhouse in London and to raise a company of players 
which company became known as " the King's 
Players." This was not a mere empty compli- 
ment, for the actors were sworn in at the Lord 
Chamberlain's office to serve the King. Ten of 
them were made members of the Royal Household, 
were styled in the warrants of appointment " Gentle- 
men of the Great Chamber," and were allowed annually 
ten yards of scarlet cloth and an amount of silver lace 
with which to provide themselves with liveries. 

D'Avenant's company first played in Salisbury Court, 
and in June, 1661, removed to Portugal Row, Lin- 
coln's Inn Fields. 

While the theatre in Drury Lane was being built, 
Killigrew's company acted in a house in Vere street, 
Clare Market, not far from the site now occupied 
by the Royal Courts of Justice. A very unsavoury 

62 



Nell Gwyn on the Stage 



neighbourhood it was then and later, if the description 
of it by John Gay in " Trivia " may be accepted : 

" Where the fair columns of St. Clement stand, 
Whose straighten 'd bounds encroach upon the Strand ; 
Where the low penthouse bows the walker's head, 
And the rough pavement wounds the yielding tread ; 
Where not a post protects the narrow space, 
And strung in twines, combs dangle in thy face ; 
Summon at once thy courage, rouse thy care, 
Stand firm, look back, be resolute, beware. 
Forth issuing from steep lanes, the collier's steeds 
Drag the black load ; another cart succeeds, 
Team follows team, crouds heap'd on crouds appear 
And wait impatient till the road grow clear. 
Now all the pavement sounds with trampling feet, 
And the mixt hurry barricades the street. 
Entangled here, the waggon's lengthen'd team 
Cracks the tough harness : here a pond'rous beam 
Lies overt urn 'd athwart ; for slaughter fed 
Here lowing bullocks raise their horned head. 
Now oaths grow loud, with coaches coaches jar, 
And the smart blow provokes the sturdy war ; 
From the high box they whirl the thong around, 
And with the twining lash their shins resound : 
Their rage ferments, more dang'rous wounds they try, 
And the blood gushes down their painful eye. 
And now on foot the frowning warriors light, 
And with their pond'rous fists renew the fight ; 
Blow answers blow, their cheeks are smear'd with blood. 
Till down they fall, and grappling roll in mud." 

The building of Drury Lane Theatre, which was 
on the site of the present one, was begun in March, 
1661. It cost 1,500, and was thought to be very 
large. It was opened on May 7, 1663, and the next 
day Pepys visited it with his wife : " The house is 

63 



Nell Gwyn 



made with extraordinary good convenience, and yet 
hath some faults, as the narrowness of the passages 
in and out of the pit, and the distance from the stage 
to the boxes, which I am confident cannot hear ; but 
for all other things is well ; only above all, the music 
being below, and most of it sounding under the very 
stage, there is no hearing of the bases at all, nor very 
well of the trebles, which sure must be mended." 
It was this theatre that was burnt down in January, 
1672, when the new edifice was erected from the designs 
of Christopher Wren. The principal entrance was in 
Playhouse Passage. This new building, which was 
opened on March 26, 1674, seems to have been more 
comfortable. Colley Gibber gives a pleasant enough 
account of it in his " Apology." " As there are not 
many spectators who may remember what form the 
Drury Lane stood before the old Patentee, to make 
it hold more money, took it into his head to alter it, 
it were but justice to lay the original figure, which 
Sir Christopher Wren first gave it, and the alterations 
of it now standing, in a fair light. It must be observed 
then, that the area and platform of the old stage 
projected about four feet forwarder, in a semi-oval 
figure, parralel to the benches of the pit ; and that the 
former lower doors of entrance for the actors were 
brought down between the two foremost (and then 
only) Pilasters ; in the place of which doors, now the 
two stage-boxes are fixed. That where the doors of 
entrance now are, there formerly stood two additional 
side- wings, in front to a full set of scenes, which had 
then almost a double effect in their loftiness and 

64 



Nell Gwyn on the Stage 



magnificence. By this original form, the usual station 
of the actors, in almost every scene, was advanced at 
least ten feet nearer to the audience than they now 
can be." 

The first performance at the new house was 
Beaumont and Fletcher's The Humorous Lieutenant. 
Killigrew's company then included Bateman, Baxter, 
Theophilus Bird, Blagden, Nicholas Burt, William 
Cartwright, Walter Clun, Duke, Hancock, Charles 
Hart, Edward Kynaston, John Lacy, Michael Mohun, 
William Shatterel, Robert Shatterel and William Win- 
tershall. Later were added Beeston, Bell, Charleton, 
" Scum " Goodman, Griffin, Hains, Harris, Lyddal, 
Reeves and Shirley. Until the Restoration there 
were no actresses, and the women's parts were played 
by boys. In their youth Hart and Clun had been 
successful in the portrayal of female characters in the 
plays at the theatre in Blackfriars. Now women's 
parts were undertaken by women. Killigrew engaged 
Mrs. Hughes, the mistress of Prince Rupert and the 
first woman to act on the English stage. Mrs. Knipp 
(so often mentioned by Pepys), Anne Marshall, Rebecca 
Marshall, Mrs. Rutter and Mrs. Uphill (who married 
Sir Robert Howard). These were presently reinforced 
by Mrs. Boutel, Mrs. James, Mrs. Knight, Mrs. Verjuice, 
and, in 1665, Nell Gwyn. 

Cunningham tells us that the old stock plays were 
divided between the two companies. The King's 
House had Othello, Julius Ccesar, Henry the Fourth, 
The Merry Wives of Windsor and A Midsummer Night's 
Dream; Ben Jonson's The Alchemist, The Fox, The 

65 5 



Nell Gwyn 



Silent Woman and Catiline ; Beaumont and Fletcher's 
A King and No King, The Humorous Lieutenant, 
Rule a Wife and have a Wife, The Maid's Tragedy, 
Rollo, The Elder Brother, Philaster and The Scornful 
Lady ; Massinger's The Virgin Martyr, and James 
Shirley's The Traitor. As against these the Duke's 
House had Hamlet, Lear, Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, 
Henry the Eighth, Twelfth Night and The Tempest; 
Webster's The Duchess of Malfi, Middleton's The 
Young Changeling, Fletcher's A Loyal Subject, and 
Massinger's The Bondman. The playwrights of the 
day usually associated themselves exclusively with 
one or other theatre. At Portugal Row Davenant 
produced his own plays, and, among others, those 
of Lord Orrery and Sir George Etherege ; while Killi- 
grew put on at Drury Lane his own comedies, and 
gathered round him Dryden, Sir Robert Howard, Sir 
Charles Sedley and Nathaniel Lee. 

Lincoln's Inn Fields Theatre stood in Portugal Row, 
which was south of Lincoln's Inn Fields, and was at 
the back of what is now the Royal College of Surgeons. 
The first of the three theatres on this site, which was 
originally Lisle's Tennis Court, was opened by Sir 
William d'Avenant in 1660, " having new scenes and 
decorations, being the first that ere were introduced 
in England." " It is," wrote Pepys, " the finest 
playhouse, I believe, that ever was in England." 
It may be here remarked that d'Avenant died in 
April, 1668, and that three years later the Duke's 
company went to the new theatre in Dorset Gardens. 
When the theatre in Drury Lane was burnt down in 

66 



Nell Gwyn on the Stage 



February, 1762, the King's Company played for the 
time being at the theatre in Portugal Row. 

Lincoln's Inn Fields, in spite of its immediate 
proximity to the Inns of Court of that name, was a 
rough part of London in those days, and we read in 
Pepys in March, 1668 : " Great talk of the tumult 
. . . among the prentices, taking the liberty of these 
holidays to pull down brothels. ... So Creed and I 
to Lincoln's Inn Fields, thinking to have gone into 
the Fields to have seen the apprentices ; but here we 
found the fields full of soldiers all in a body, and my 
Lord Craven commanding of them, and riding up and 
down to give orders, like a madman." There is 
mention of the place also in Gay's " Trivia " : 

" Where Lincoln's Inn, wide space, is rail'd around, 
Cross not with adventurous step, there oft is found 
The lurking thief, who, while the daylight shone, 
Made the walls echo with his begging tone : 
That crutch, which late compassion moved, shall wound 
Thy bleeding head, and fell thee to the ground. 
Though thou art tempt'd by the linkman's call, 
Yet trust him not along the lonely wall ; 
In the mid-way he'll quench the flaming brand, 
And share the booty with the pilf'ring band. 
Still keep the public streets, where oily rays, 
Shot from the crystal lamp, o'erspread the ways." 

Across Lincoln's Inn Fields on the north, between 
Holborn and the Fields, is an alley, Whetstone Park 
it took its name from William Whetstone, an 
overseer of the Parish of St. Giles-in-the-Fields in the 
time of Charles I. which in the day of Nell Gwyn was 
especially notorious for immorality, and it was this 
spot that the apprentices were making for when the 

67 5* 



Nell Gwyn 



military stopped them. There are several allusions 
to Whetstone Park in the literature of the day. Butler 
mentions it : 

" And makes a brothel of a palace, 
Where harlots ply, as many tell us, 
Like brimstones in a Whetstone alehouse." 

Crowne, in " The County Wit," has it : " After I had 
gone a little way in a great broad street, I turned 
into a tavern hard by a place they call a Park ; and 
just as one park is all trees, that park is all houses 
I asked if they had any deer in it, and they told me not 
half so many as they used to have ; but that if I had 
a mind to a doe, they would put a doe to me." And 
Dryden makes one of his characters make some scruple 
of going to the aforesaid place, for fear of meeting 
his own father there. 

There is, apparently, no record of the early ap- 
pearances of Nell Gwyn, and it is from Pepys that we 
learn that she was already on the stage early in 1665. 
" Then with Creed, my wife, and Mercer, to a play at 
the Duke's, of my Lord Orrery, called Mustapha, 
which being not good, made Betterton's part and 
lanthe's but ordinary too, so that we were not contented 
by it at all," he wrote in his Diary on April 3, 1665. 
" All the pleasure of the play was, the King and 
my Lady Castlemaine were there, and pretty witty 
Nell, at the King's House, and the younger [Rebecca] 
Marshall sat next us ; which pleased me mightily." 
So it is fixed that at this time she was already acting. 

The first performance of Nell Gwyn which is 
recorded is Cydaria, the daughter of Montezuma, in 

68 




The Plague. 



Page 68 



Nell Gwyn on the Stage 



Dryden's play, The Indian Emperor. How she fared 
on this occasion is not known, but it is generally agreed 
that the part was unsuited to her. Still, she cannot 
have been so bad, for when the play was revived 
from time to time, she still retained her part. Pepys, 
however, was vigorous in his denunciation, even when 
Nell Gwyn had had more experience. Thus, on 
August 22, 1667, he wrote : " With my lord Brouncker 
and his mistress to the King's playhouse, and 
there saw The Indian Emperor, where I found Nell 
come again, which I am glad of ; but was most infinitely 
displeased with her being put to act the Emperor's 
daughter, which is a great and serious part, which 
she does most basely. The rest of the play, though 
pretty good, was not well acted by most of them, 
methought ; so that I took no great content in it." 
And yet again on the following November u : 
" To the King's playhouse, and there saw The Indian 
Emperor, a good play, but not so good as people cry 
it up. I think, though, above all things, Nell's ill- 
speaking of a great part made me mad." 

Before Nell Gwyn had obtained any great amount 
of experience, there came an interruption to her 
theatrical career. The Great Plague of London had 
begun in December, 1664, but it was in its early stages 
apparently treated with indifference. 

Anyhow, it was not taken very seriously, until it 
began to rage in the following May, when it set London 
in a panic. This is not the place to write the history 
of that terrible scourge which is said to have carried 
off over sixty thousand of the inhabitants. Medical 

69 



Nell Gwyn 



science, though in its infancy in this country as regards 
the prevention of infection, was still sufficiently far 
advanced to realize that it was dangerous for people 
to mingle in crowds, and all public resorts were closed. 

" All the Plays and Interludes, which after the 
manner of the French Court had been set up and 
began to increase among us, were forbid to act," Defoe 
wrote. " The Gaming Tables, public Dancing Rooms 
and Music-Houses, which multiplied and began to 
debauch the manners of the people, were shut up and 
suppressed ; and the Jack-Puddings, Merry Andrews, 
Puppet Shows, Rope Dancers and such-like doings, 
which had bewitched the poor common people, shut 
up their shops, finding indeed no trade, for the minds 
of the people were agitated with other things, and a 
kind of sadness and horror at these things sate upon 
the countenances even of the common people. Death 
was before their eyes, and everybody began to think 
of their graves, not of mirth and diversions." 

What Nell Gwyn did in these days can only be 
conjectured. It may be that she still lived with Charles 
Hart ; it may be that she took to herself other lovers. 
Certainly she had no visible means of subsistence, 
though she may have acted with the King's Company 
in some entertainments given privately at Court and 
at the houses of persons of rank and wealth. This, 
however, would in itself scarcely have provided her 
with sufficient means during the long period of the 
cessation of public performances. 

The Great Fire of London, which raged from Sep- 
tember 2, 1666, for four days and devastated some 

70 




The Great Fire of London. 



Page 70 



Nell Gwyn on* the^ Stage 



four hundred acres, purified the air and so drove 
away the Plague. It was not until November 20, 
however, that officially the Plague ceased to exist. 
On that day Pepys wrote in his Diary : "To Church, 
it being Thanksgiving Day, for the cessation of the 
Plague ; but the Town do say, that it is hastened 
before the Plague is quite over, there being some 
people still ill of it ; but only to get ground of Plays 
to be publicly acted, which the Bishops would not 
suffer till the Plague was over." 

But though the Plague was banished, so to speak, 
by the King in Council, the terror that it had inspired 
and the sadness of the bereaved survivors remained 
for a long time to come. The theatres reopened soon 
after Thanksgiving Day, but it was some time before 
they regained their popularity, and Thomas Killigrew 
complained that the audiences at the King's House 
were not half so large as they were in the days before 
the Plague, although he declared that by his efforts 
" the stage is now a thousand times better and more 
glorious than ever heretofore. Now, wax candles and 
many of them ; then, two or three fiddlers, now, nine 
or ten of the best ; then, nothing but rushes upon the 
ground, and everything else mean ; then, the Queen 
seldom, and the King never would come ; now, the 
King not only for state, but all civil people do think 
they may come as well as any." 

There is no full record of Nell Gwyn's theatrical 
career, and it is impossible to compile it from the scanty 
notes that have come down to us. But, indeed, a few 
records would serve little useful purpose, since most 



Nell Gwyn 



of the plays then staged are unknown to-day, or at 
most glanced at out of curiosity by some student of 
the period. 

In December, 1666, Nell Gwyn was playing Lady 
Wealthy in the Hon. James Howard's comedy, The 
English Monsieur, and in this she seems to have been 
well suited and to have scored heavily. Pepys, who 
saw it, was enthusiastic : "To the King's House, and 
there did see a good part of The English Monsieur, 
which is a mighty pretty play, very witty and pleasant. 
And the women do very well, but above all little 
Nelly ; that I am mightily pleased with the play, and 
much with the House, the women doing better than I 
expected ; and very fair women." 

When, some weeks later, Beaumont and Fletcher's 
The Humorous Lieutenant was put up, Nell Gwyn was 
cast for Celia, in which Pepys (who is the only con- 
temporary authority for her theatrical career) thought 
well of her. 

" Thence to the King's House," he wrote on January 
23, 1667, " and there saw The Humorous Lieutenant ; 
a silly play, I think ; only the spirit in it that 
grows very tall, and then sinks again to nothing, 
having two heads breeding upon one, and then Knipp's 
singing did please us. Here in a box above, we spied 
Mrs. Pierce ; and going out, they called us all in and 
brought us to Nelly, a most pretty woman, who acted 
the great part of Ceolia to-day very fine, and did it 
pretty well : I kissed her and so did my wife ; a mighty 
pretty soul she is. We also saw Mrs. Hall, which is 
my little Roman-nose black girl, that is mighty pretty : 

72 



Nell Gwyn on the Stage 



she is usually called Betty. Knipp made us stay in a 
box and see the dancing preparatory for to-morrow 
for The Goblins, a play of Suckling's not acted these 
twenty-five years ; and so away thence, pleased with 
this sight also, and specially kissing of Nell." 

Dryden, whose plays were produced at the King's 
House, contrived to provide Nell Gwyn with some of 
her best parts. In his Secret Love, or, The Maiden 
Queen, she appeared as Florimel, a character that 
gave her great opportunity, of which she made the 
best use. On the first night the King was present, 
he having, it was said, an especial interest, as it was 
supposed that he had suggested the plot to its author. 

" After dinner," says Pepys on March 2, 1667, 
" with my wife to the King's House to see The Maiden 
Queen, a new play of Dryden's, mightily commended 
for the regularity of it, and the strain and wit ; the 
truth is, there is a comical part done by Nell, which is 
Florimel, that I never can hope ever to see the like 
done by man or woman. The King and Duke of York 
were at the play. But so great a performance of a 
comical part was never, I believe, in the world before 
as Nell do this both as a mad girl, then most and best 
of all when she comes in like a young gallant ; and 
hath the motions and carriage of a spark the most that 
ever I saw any man have. It makes me, I confess, 
admire her." 

Three weeks later, accompanied by Sir William 
Penn, Pepys saw The Maiden Queen again " which 
indeed the more I see the more I like, and is an excellent 
play, and so done by Nell, her merry part, as cannot 

73 



Nell Gwyn 



be better done in nature, I think." And on his third 
visit he stressed his praise, declaring that " it is im- 
possible to have Florimel's part, which is the most 
comical that ever was made for woman, ever done 
better than it is by Nelly." 

Hart as Celadon and Nell Gwyn as Florimel bore 
the brunt of the performance, and good as Hart was, 
it was the actress who made the success of the play. 
As Cunningham has pointed out, there are incidents 
and allusions in the two leading parts which must 
have carried a personal application to those who were 
in the know as regards what was going on behind the 
scenes that the actor and actress were living together, 
anyhow, more or less regularly. Their marriage in 
the play is more of a mockery than a religious cere- 
mony as Florimel is made to say, they are married 
by the more agreeable names of mistress and gallant 
rather than those dull old-fashioned ones of husband 
and wife. It is recorded that the King of all people 
in the world ! objected to the last scene where Celadon 
and Florimel treat too lightly of their marriage in the 
presence of the Queen ! 

Nell Gwyn had the best of the dialogue, she appeared 
in boy's attire, she danced a jig then a most popular 
interlude and she spoke the Epilogue, specially written 
for her, in which the author defends him and in which 
is introduced a reference to herself : 

" Our poet, something doubtful of his fate, 

Made choice of me to be his advocate, 

Relying on my knowledge in the laws ; 

And I as boldly undertook the cause. 

74 



J Nell Gwyn on the Stage 



I left my client yonder in a rant, 
Against the envious, and the ignorant, 
Who are, he says, his only enemies ; 
But he condemns their malice, and defies 
The sharpest of his censurers to say, 
Where there is one gross fault in all his play. 
The language is so fitted for each part, 
The plot according to the rules of art, 
And twenty other things he bid me tell you ; 
But I cried, E'en go do't yourself for Nelly ! 
Reason with judges, urged in the defence 
Of those they would condemn, is insolence ; 
I therefore waive the merits of his play, 
And think it fit to plead this safer way, 
If when too many in the purchase share, 
Robbing's not worth the danger nor the care. 
The men of business must, in policy, 
Cherish a little harmless poetry, 
All wit would else grow up to knavery. 
Wit is a bird of music, or of prey ; 
Mounting she strikes at all things in her way. 
But if this birdlime once but touch her wings 
On the next bush she sits her down and sings 
I have but one word more ; tell me, I pray, 
What you will get by damning of our play ? 
A whipt fanatic, who does not recant, 
Is, by his brethren, called a suffering saint ; 
And by your hands should this poor poet die, 
Before he does renounce his poetry, 
His death must needs confirm the party more, 
Than all his scribbling life could do before : 
Where so much zeal does in a sect appear, 
'Tis to no purpose, faith, to be severe. 
But t'other day, I heard this rhyming fop 
Say, Critics were the whips, and he the top ; 
For as a top spins more, the more you baste her, 
So, every lash you give, he writes the faster." 

It was in parts such as Celia and Florimel that Nell 
Gwyn especially distinguished herself. The tragedy 

75 



Nell Gwyn 



of the actor and the actress is that only a contemporary 
can really form any judgment of their qualities. 
Tradition is the only authority, and not a reliable one. 
What is regarded as good in one generation is often 
condemned in the next. What, for instance, would a 
modern audience say of Mrs. Siddons and Kemble, 
if they acted now in the manner that they did in 
their day ? The style of the comedian, however, 
is less dated than that of tragedian, and Nell Gwyn 
would probably have been as popular to-day as in the 
seventeenth century a sort of Nelly Farren without 
song. 

Of her success in her own day there is no question. 
At the age of fourteen she was at once cast for leading 
parts. She was certainly at her best in robustious 
comedy her impudence and joy of living affected 
the audience to enthusiasm. Downes reports that 
" she acted the most spirited and fantastic parts, and 
spoke a prologue or epilogue with admirable address. 
Indeed, it was sometimes carried to extravagance : 
but even her highest flights were so natural, that they 
rather provoked laughter than excited disgust." 

That Nell Gwyn was happiest in comedy or farce 
she has herself put on record. She cordially disliked 
playing serious parts, and this was an open secret at 
the time, for she made no disguise of the fact In 
the Epilogue to the tragedy, The Duke of Lerma y she 
had to say : 

" I know you in your hearts 

Hate serious plays as I hate serious parts," 

and it may be taken for granted that she delivered 

76 



Nell Gwyn on the Stage 



these lines with gusto, as she did also those in the 
Epilogue to Dry den's Tyrannic Love, in which play in 
1669 she played Valeria : 

" I die 
Out of my calling in a tragedy." 

It was said at one time that she was cast for such 
parts at the instance of Hart, who arranged this in a 
spirit of revenge for her having deserted him for Lord 
Buckhurst. To this Cunningham subscribes, but it 
must be remembered that before Hart had any reason 
to be annoyed with her, she had played in tragedy. 

Nell Gwyn especially delighted her audience when 
she played masculine parts, and she was so charming 
in male attire that it actually became the fashion for 
the ladies of Whitehall to dress as men, which in the 
seventeenth century was not only very charming but 
also very bright in colour. 

Nell Gwyn not only acted herself into popular favour, 
but also danced herself into it. As in Secret Love, 
so in her part in All Mistaken, or, A Mad Couple, 
Nell had to say : "A fiddler, nay, then I am made 
again. I'd have a dance if I had nothing but my 
smock on." Nell became famous for her dancing 
of the jig, which is believed to be of French origin 
or a rustic dance with some foreign innovations. 

In the Epilogue to Fletcher's comedy, The Chances, 
as altered by the Duke of Buckingham, and performed 
at the theatre in Dorset Gardens in 1682, there is 
an allusion to Nell Gwyn's dancing of jigs in which 
fun is poked at those dramatists who thought the 

77 



Nell Gwyn 



success of the evening was theirs when it was really 
due to her : 

" Besides, the author dreads the strut and mien 
Of new prais'd poets, having often seen 
Some of his fellows, who have writ before, 
When Nell danc'd her Jig, steal to that door, 
Hear the pit clap, and with conceit of that, 
Swell, and believe themselves the Lord knows what." 

Not only Nell Gwyn danced herself into the King's 
bed. There was Mary Davis or Davies, commonly 
called Moll Davis, a leading actress at the theatre 
in Lincoln's Inn Fields. She made her great hit 
in 1667 in a revival of The Rivals, adapted by Sir 
William d'Avenant from The Noble Kinsmen of 
Beaumont and Fletcher. In this play, says Downes, 
" all the women's parts were admirably acted, but 
what pleased most was the part of Celania, a shep- 
herdess, mad for love, and her song of ' My Lodging 
is on the cold ground,' which she performed so 
charmingly that not long after it raised her from her 
bed on the cold ground to a bed royal." 

" My lodging it is on the cold ground, 

And very hard is my fare, 
But that which troubles me most is 

The unkindness of my dear. 
Yet still I cry, ' O turn, love, 

And I prythee, love, turn to me, 
For thou art the man that I long for, 

And alack what remedy ! ' 

" I'll crown thee with a garland of straw, then, 

And I'll marry thee with a rush ring, 
My frozen hopes shall thaw then, 
And merrily we will sing. 
78 



Nell Gwyn on the Stage 



' O turn to me, my dear love, 

And prythee, love, turn to me, 
For thou art the man that alone canst 

Procure my liberty.' 

" But if thou wilt harden thy heart still, 

And be deaf to my pitiful moan, 
Then I must endure the smart still, 

And tumble in straw alone. 
Yet still I cry, ' O turn, love, 

And I prythee, love, turn to me, 
For thou art the man that alone art 

The cause of my misery.' " 

Moll Davis was apparently more popular as a 
dancer than as an actress. Pepys records on March 
7, 1667, that " little Miss Davis did dance a jig after 
the end of the play, and there telling the next day's 
play, so that it come in by force only to please the 
company to see her dance in boy's clothes ; and the 
truth is there is no comparison between Nell's dancing 
the other day at the King's House in boy's clothes and 
this, this being infinitely beyond the other." He 
also, some months later, notes that in a performance 
of Shirley's Love Tricks, " Miss Davis dancing in a 
shepherd's clothes did please us mightily." Indeed, 
the diarist, who makes frequent mention of her, was 
clearly attracted by her, and seems not to have 
concealed his admiration. 

The following is a contemporary tribute to Moll 

Davis's skill : 

To Mis Davies, 
On her excellent dancing. 
" Dear Mis, 

WHO woud not think to see the dance so light, 
Thou wer't all air, or else all soul and spirits ? 

79 



Nell Gwyn 



Or who'd not say to see thee onely tred, 
Thy feet were Feathers, others feet but lead ? 
Athlanta well coud run, and Hermes flee, 
But none ere mov'd more gracefully than thee : 
And Circe charm'd with wand and Majick Lore, 
But none like thee ere charm'd with feet before. 
Thou Miracle ! whom all men must admire 
To see thee move like air and mount like fire I 
Those who would follow thee, or come but nigh 
To thy perfection, must not dance, but fly." 

About the end of 1667, the King began to look 
with favour upon Moll Davis. Pepys, who never 
missed a titbit of gossip, of course heard of this, and 
noted it in his Diary on New Year's Day : " Mrs. 
Pierce did sit near the players of the Duke's House ; 
among the rest, Miss Davis, who is the most impertinent 
slut, she says, in the world ; and the more, now the 
King do show her countenance ; and is reckoned his 
mistress, even to the scorn of the whole world ; the 
King gazing on her and my Lady Castlemaine being 
melancholy and out of humour all the play, not smiling 
once. The King, it seems, hath given her a ring of 
700, which she shows to everybody and owns that the 
King did give it ; and he hath furnished a house in 
Suffolk Street most richly for her, which is a most 
infinite shame. It seems that she is a bastard of 
my Lord Berkshire, and that he hath got her for the 
King ; but Pierce says that she is a most homely jade 
as ever she saw, though she dances beyond anything 
in the world." 

Ten days later, confirmation of the existence of the 
liaison came to the diarist's ears : " Knipp came 

80 



Nell Gwyn on the Stage 



and sat by us, and her talk pleased me a little, she telling 
me how Miss Davis is for certain going away from the 
Duke's House, the King being in love with her ; and 
a house is taken for her, and furnishing ; and she 
hath a ring given her already worth 600 : that 
the King did send several times for Nelly, and she was 
with him, but what he did she knows not ; this was a 
good while ago, and she says that the King first spoiled 
Mrs. Weaver, which is very mean, methinks, in a Prince, 
and I am sorry for it and can hope for no good to the 
State from having a Prince so devoted to his pleasure." 

It must have been about this time that Moll Davis, 
at one of the performances at Court, was towards the 
end of the evening to dance a jig. The Queen did 
not wait to see it, and the general opinion was that 
her departure was meant to indicate displeasure. But 
the royal lady must by this time have been inured to 
her husband's infidelities, and one more or less could 
have made little difference to her. 

About May, 1668, Moll Davis left the stage. At her 
house in Suffolk Street she gave birth to a daughter, 
the parentage of which was acknowledged by the King. 
The girl was called Lady Mary Tudor, and married 
Francis Ratcliffe, second Earl of Derwentwater. Moll 
Davis was much in evidence in those days. " It vexed 
me," Pepys wrote on December i, 1668, " to see 
Moll Davis, in the box over the King's and my lady 
Castlemaine's, look down upon the King and he up 
to her ; and so did my Lady Castlemaine once, to see 
who it was ; but when she saw Moll Davis, she looked 
like fire ; which troubled me." 

81 6 



Nell Gwyn 



Nell Gwyn, whose position with the King was not 
then firmly established, was also annoyed. She was 
in no mood to bear another rival near her throne, 
and she acted, according to an account that has been 
handed down, in a manner at once characteristic of her 
and of the times in which she lived. Hearing one 
evening that Moll Davis had been told to go late 
to the King's bedchamber, she asked her rival to come 
to her before doing so. Moll accepted the invitation, 
and Nell gave her sweetmeats that she had filled with 
jalap. A scurvy trick, to be sure, and scarcely ex- 
cusable even on the grounds that all is fair in love. 

Moll Davis did not long retain her hold over the 
King, and some time after the birth of her daughter 
she was pensioned off with 1,000 a year. Of her 
subsequent doings there is no record. 



CHAPTER VII 

SOME RESTORATION RAKES 

Nell Gwyn's success as a woman. She attracts the most distinguished men 
about town. John Wilmot, second Earl of Rochester. -George Villiers. 
second Duke of Buckingham. Henry Jermyn, Lord Dover. Count de 
Grammont. 

NELL GWYN'S success as a woman was at least 
as marked as her success as an actress. That 
all the men made love to her goes without saying 
that, as has been said, was the fashion of the day as 
regards actresses ; but she attracted some of the most 
distinguished men about town, by whom even to be 
noticed was taken as a compliment. William Oldys 
repeats the report that the second Duke of Bucking- 
ham, then as a Gentleman of the Bedchamber enjoying 
the royal favour, paid his addresses to her, and that 
Lord Rochester had intentions that were not, in modern 
phrase, strictly honourable. It may be suspected 
that Nell either rebuffed Rochester or in some way 
annoyed him, because without some such reason it 
is almost impossible to account for his many vitriolic 
references to her. It may have been some high- 
spirited prank of hers, for she had a gay, frolicsome 
and humorous disposition, and there are many tales 
told of her, most of them too loose to be repeated in 
this polite age. Sir George Etherege, too, may have 

83 6* 



Nell Gwyn 



pursued her, and Sir Charles Sedley, anyhow, was much 
in her company when she was the mistress of his very 
intimate friend, Lord Buckhurst. 

Probably of all the Restoration rakes about the Court 
the most brilliant and the most profligate was John 
Wilmot, who, in 1658, succeeded his father as (second) 
Earl of Rochester. The father, who entered the army 
in 1635, presently represented Tamworth in the 
Long Parliament, but in 1641 was expelled from the 
House for taking part in the plot to overawe Parlia- 
ment with the army. He fought on the royalist side 
during the two succeeding years, but was then deprived 
of his command on suspicion of treating with Parlia- 
ment. He went abroad, and in 1649 was appointed 
a Gentleman of the Bedchamber to Charles II., whom 
three years later he accompanied to Scotland and in 
his wanderings after the Battle of Worcester. For 
these services an earldom was bestowed upon him. 

John Wilmot, second Earl of Rochester, is a much 
better known figure, and an ornament at the Court of 
Charles II. Grammont wrote of him : " Never did 
any man write with more ease, humour, spirit and 
delicacy ; but he was, at the same time, the most 
severe satirist." A precocious child, it is regarded that 
at the time of the Restoration, when he was twelve 
years old, he recommended himself to Charles II. as : 

" One whose ambition 'tis for to be known 
By daring loyalty your Wilmot's son." 

At the age of thirteen this extraordinary boy took 
the M.A. degree at Oxford, when Lord Clarendon, 

84 



Some Restoration Rakes 



Chancellor of the University, signalized the event by 
kissing him. At eighteen, the youth found himself 
admitted to all the licence and luxury of the Court. 
He was then splendidly handsome, an admitted wit, 
and Charles took a strong liking to him. 

In 1665 Rochester joined the Navy as a volunteer 
and displayed, in the unsuccessful assault on the Dutch 
ships at Bergen, courage. 

It would have been well for him had he remained 
in the service, but the Dutch war over, he came again 
to Court and plunged into every kind of licentiousness 
in company with the Duke of Buckingham, Sir 
Charles Sedley and Henry Savile. He told Burnet 
that for five consecutive years he was never sober, 
and judging by the stories that have been handed 
down about him there is no reason to believe he was 
doing himself an injustice. Burnet, who knew Roches- 
ter at first-hand, wrote of him that he " seemed to 
have freed himself from all impressions of virtue or 
religion, of honour or of good-nature. He delivered 
himself without either restraint or decency to all the 
pleasures of wine and women. He had but one maxim, 
to which he adhered firmly, that he had to do every- 
thing, and deny himself in nothing, that might maintain 
his greatness. He was unhappily made for drunken- 
ness, for he drank all his friends dead." The judg- 
ment, even allowing for the times in which he lived, 
is not a whit too severe. 

Nevertheless, well as he carried his drink, Roches- 
ter's steady imbibing occasionally led him into 
ludicrous blunders, as when, intending to hand the 

85 



Nell Gwyn 



King a lampoon directed at certain ladies, he had the 
ill-luck to hand Charles one written about himself. 
He was frequently banished from Court, but was always 
readmitted after a brief exclusion. 

Of one of these dismissals Grammont records : 
" The King did not generally let Lord Rochester 
remain long in exile. He grew weary of it, and being 
displeased that he was forgotten, he posted up to 
London to wait till it might be His Majesty's pleasure 
to recall him. He first took up his habitation in the 
City among the capital tradesmen and rich merchants, 
where politeness, indeed, is not so much cultivated 
as at Court, but where pleasure, luxury and abundance 
reign with less confusion and more sincerity. His 
first design was only to be initiated into the mysteries 
of those fortunate and happy inhabitants : that is 
to say, by changing his name and dress to gain 
admittance to their feasts and entertainments ; and, 
as occasion offered, to those of their loving spouses. 
As he was able to adapt himself to all capacities and 
humours, he soon deeply insinuated himself into the 
esteem of the substantial wealthy and into the affections 
of their more delicate, magnificent and tender ladies. 
He made one in all their feasts and at all their assem- 
blies ; and, whilst in the company of the husbands, 
he declaimed against the faults and mistakes of govern- 
ment, he joined their wives in railing against the 
profligacy of the Court ladies, and in inveighing against 
the King's mistresses. He agreed with them that the 
industrious poor were to pay for these cursed extrava- 
gances ; that the city beauties were not inferior to 

86 



Some Restoration Rakes 



those of the other end of London, and yet a sober 
husband in this quarter of the town was satisfied 
with one wife ; after which, to out-do their mur- 
murings, he said that he wondered Whitehall was 
not yet consumed by fire from Heaven, since such rakes 
as Rochester, Killigrew and Sedley were suffered there, 
who had the impudence to assert that all married men 
in the City were cuckolds, and all their wives painted." 

Rochester's marriage to the daughter of John Malet 
of Enmere, Somerset, was a pitiful business, as was 
indeed only to be expected. The lady had a fortune 
of 2,500 per annum, and the match had the seal of 
the Royal approval. It was therefore with surprise 
and disgust that the King heard that Rochester 
had attempted to carry out an entirely unnecessary 
abduction of Miss Malet. The latter had been 
supping in Whitehall with the beautiful Frances 
Stuart, and was returning home with her grandfather 
when her coach was " held up " at Charing Cross. 
The insensate attempt failed and Rochester was sent 
to the Tower ; but the lady not only forgave him, but 
became his wife shortly afterwards. 

They had a family of four children ; but he neg- 
lected her consistently. She, however, was apparently 
entirely devoted to him. " If," she touchingly writes, 
" I could have been troubled at anything when I 
had the happiness of receiving a letter from you, I 
should be so because you did not name a time when 
I might hope to see you, the uncertainty of which 
very much afflicts me." 

87 



Nell Gwyn 



Rochester, for his part, explained his constant 
absence from home by for ever protesting to her by 
letter of his constant attendance on the King : "I 
went away like a rascal without taking leave, dear 
wife. It is an unpolished way of proceeding, which a 
modest man ought to be ashamed of. I have left you 
a prey to your own imaginations amongst my relations, 
the worst of damnations. But there will come an 
hour of deliverance, till then, may my mother be 
merciful to you. . . . Pray write as often as you have 
leisure to your Rochester." 

Rochester, worn out by his debaucheries, survived 
only to his thirty-third year, dying at his country 
home at Woodstock Park on July 26, 1680. He 
died a Catholic, professing all penitence for his past 
life, and Lady Rochester received the Sacrament with 
him. Their little son Charles, Lord Wilmot, survived 
his father by only a twelvemonth. To him Rochester 
had addressed the edifying injunction : " Avoid 
idleness, scorn lying, and God will bless you, which I 
pray." 

Rochester, it has already been said, was the lover 
of Mrs. Barry, for whom he adapted Beaumont and 
Fletcher's Valentinian. ''' The noble poet, little 
more than thirty years old," says Dr. Doran, " lay in 
a dishonoured grave when his piece was represented ; 
but the young actress gaily alluded, in a prologue, to 
the demure nymphs in the house who had succumbed, 
nothing loth, to the irresistible blandishments of this 
very prince of blackguards." 

This last phrase may well stand not only as an 
88 



Some Restoration Rakes 



epitaph for him, but also for George Villiers, second 
Duke of Buckingham. Elder son of the first Duke, the 
friend of Charles L, he was only a year old when his 
father was assassinated by John Felt on at Ports- 
mouth in 1628. 

Buckingham fought for Charles II. at Worcester 
and, after many narrow escapes, got away to France. 
Like Lord Rochester, however (but in more desperate 
circumstances), he would not conceal himself while 
in deadly peril in London, but assumed a variety of 
disguises. He had a stage erected at Charing Cross, 
where he was attended by violins and puppet-players, 
and every day he produced ballads of his own com- 
position upon what passed in the town, wherein 
he himself often had a share. 

Buckingham daringly returned to England when 
Cromwell was at the height of his power. He married, 
in 1657, the daughter of Sir Thomas (Lord) Fairfax, 
the Parliamentary leader. The young suitor was 
acclaimed as being " the most graceful and beautiful 
person that any Court in Europe ever saw." This 
did not prevent Cromwell who was said to have 
wanted Buckingham to marry one of his own daugh- 
ters from committing the bridegroom to the Tower. 
This led to a quarrel between Fairfax and the Lord 
Protector, but Buckingham, though removed to 
Windsor Castle, did not regain his liberty until the 
abdication of Richard Cromwell. 

Then began Buckingham's unbridled career at the 
Court of Charles II., where he shone by reason of his 
handsome appearance wit, and charm of manner. 

89 



Nell Gwyn 



He was always ready to indulge in any kind of 
buffoonery, and he and a Colonel Titus entertained 
the King with an imitation of Lord Chancellor Claren- 
don, in which a pair of bellows did duty for the Privy 
Purse and a fire-shovel for the Mace. 

On another occasion, the King being present at 
the Chapel Royal when a young and nervous clergy- 
man preached from the text, "I am fearfully and 
wonderfully made " (while constantly wiping his 
face with black gloves from which the dye came off), 
the Duke led the roar of laughter which " held up " 
the sermon. While Lady Sunderland writes of an 
appointment for a public duty which Buckingham 
had made : "At the time appointed he could not 
be found ; and afterwards they heard he was with a 
wench all that day." 

The Duke produced at intervals a good deal of 
poetry of varying merit, as well as the farce or satire 
entitled The Rehearsal. This was staged at Drury 
Lane in 1671, and in its printed form five editions were 
published during the author's lifetime alone. The 
Rehearsal was chiefly an onslaught upon the " heroic " 
style of stage-play favoured by Dryden, who, however, 
made no public rejoinder to an attack which vastly 
entertained the public. Dryden did, however, even- 
tually pen the oft-quoted epitaph upon the Duke, 
containing the bitterly satirical description : 

" Who, in the course of one revolving moon, 
Was chemist, fiddler, statesman, and buffoon." 

In the spring of 1667, Buckingham was foolish 
enough and base enough to engage in a conspiracy 

90 



Some Restoration Rakes 



against his easy-going master and benefactor the King. 
The affair proved serious enough for the Duke to be 
arrested and examined before the Council in His 
Majesty's presence. However, the good-natured 
Charles pardoned him after a few weeks' detention 
in the Tower. 

Incidentally there was a quarrel on the subject 
between the King and Lady Castlemaine, who de- 
manded " with tears " the immediate release of the 
Duke. Charles called her a jade for meddling with 
affairs of State ; nevertheless, the prisoner was duly 
released. 

A few days after his restoration to favour the irre- 
pressible Buckingham administered a sound thrashing 
to Henry Killigrew at the Duke's Theatre, apparently 
for having hinted at his fortunate escape from serious 
punishment. 

About this time, too, Buckingham was engaged 
in two or three quarrels he did not apparently 
get drunk like a gentleman. His dispute with Lord 
Ossory, the Duke of Ormonde's son, arose out of a 
Bill prohibiting the importation of Irish cattle into 
England. Ossory demanded satisfaction of Bucking- 
ham, but, according to Butler, " continual wine, 
women and musick had debauched the Duke's under- 
standing," and a meeting did not take place. Next 
day Buckingham made a speech of such remarkable 
effrontery in the House of Lords that the incident 
was allowed to close in his favour. 

Another difference of opinion was with the Marquis 
of Dorchester, and apparently Parliament was again 



Nell Gwyn 



the scene. It is piquantly described by Pepys : " My 
Lord Buckingham, leaning rudely over my Lord 
Marquis Dorchester, my Lord Dorchester removed 
his elbow. Duke of Buckingham asked whether he 
was uneasy. Dorchester replied, yes, and that he 
durst not do this were he anywhere else. Bucking- 
ham replied, yes, he would, and that he was a better 
man than himself. Dorchester said that he lied. 
With this Buckingham struck off his hat, and took 
him by the periwig and pulled it aside, and held him. 
My Lord Chamberlain and others interfered, and 
upon coming into the House of Lords did order 
them to the Tower, whither they are to go this after- 
noon." 

The most infamous of the Duke's rascalities was his 
affair with the Countess of Shrewsbury and duel to 
the death with her husband. The latter had for some 
time known of the intrigue, which continued until 
Lord Shrewsbury, who never before had shown the 
least uneasiness at his lady's misconduct, thought 
proper to resent it. 

" It was public enough, indeed, but less dishonour- 
able to her than any of her former intrigues/' says 
Grammont. " Poor Lord Shrewsbury, too polite a 
man to make any reproaches to his wife, was resolved 
to have redress for his injured honour. He accordingly 
challenged the Duke of Buckingham ; and the Duke, 
as a reparation for his honour, having killed him 
upon the spot, remained a peaceable possessor of this 
famous Helen. The public was at first shocked at 
the transaction ; but the public grows familiar with 

92 



Some Restoration Rakes 



everything by habit, and by degrees both decency, 
and even virtue itself, are rendered tame and over- 
come. The Queen was at the head of those who 
exclaimed against so public and scandalous a crime, 
and against the impurity of such a wicked act. As 
the Duchess of Buckingham was a short, fat body 
like Her Majesty, who never had had any children, 
and whom her husband had abandoned for another, 
this sort of parallel in their situations interested the 
Queen in her favour. But it was all in vain ; no 
person paid any attention to them ; the licentiousness 
of the age went on uncontrolled." 

This Buckingham-Shrewsbury duel took place at 
Barnes Elms on January 17, 1668. The seconds on 
each side also fought. Jenkins, one of the Duke's 
seconds, was mortally wounded, Sir John Talbot 
severely injured, and Lord Shrewsbury himself died 
of his terrible wounds three months later. 

The wanton Lady Shrewsbury is said to have dressed 
herself as a page and held Buckingham's horse while 
he slew her husband. 

The reprobate Duke actually took her to his own 
house shortly after Lord Shrewsbury's death. To 
his wife's indignant protest that she could not live 
in the same house, he ruffianly replied : " So I thought, 
Madam, and have therefore ordered your coach to 
convey you to your father." 

In the circumstances of the time, it is not a little 
surprising to hear that Buckingham was summoned 
to the bar of the House of Lords to answer for his 
conduct. Lady Shrewsbury had, in 1671, a child 

93 



Nell Gwyn 



by Buckingham, and such' were the times that the 
King stood sponsor to the infant. 

For several years the couple lived in seclusion at 
Cliveden, on the Thames. Meanwhile the Countess 
engaged in a little secret-service work, while Bucking- 
ham was sent on a mission to Louis XIV. 

In 1677 the Duke was again in disgrace, and on 
Charles' death he retired to what was left of his York- 
shire estates. By this time his debts were estimated 
at 140,000. If there is anything that does redound 
to his credit, it is that he refused to be helped out of 
the Privy Purse. After his death enough was saved 
from the wreck of his property to satisfy his 
creditors. 

The following lines were addressed to Lady Shrews- 
bury by the Duke of Buckingham : 

" What a dull fool was I 
To think so gross a lie 

As that I ever was in Love before ? 
I have perhaps known one or two 
With whom I was content to be, 
At that which they call keeping company ; 
But after all that they could do, 

I still could be with more : 
Their absence never made me shed a tear, 
And I can truly swear 
That till my eyes first gaz'd on you 

I ne'er beheld that thing I could adore. 
A world of things must curiously be fought, 
A world of things must be together brought 
To make up charms which have the power to move 
Through a discerning eye true Love ; 
That is a masterpiece above 
What only looks and shape can do, 
94 




The Duke of Buckingham and the Countess of Shrewsbury. 

Page 94 



Some Restoration Rakes 



There must be wit and judgment too ; 

Greatness of thought and worth, which draw 

From the whole world, respect and awe. 

She that must raise a noble Love must find 

Ways to beget a passion for her mind ; 

She must be that which she to be wou'd seem, 

For all true Love is grounded on esteem : 

Plainness and Truth gain a more generous heart 

Than all the crooked subtleties of art. 

She must be what said I ? She must be You. 

None but yourself that miracle can do ; 

At least I'm sure, thus much I plainly see, 

None but yourself e'er did it upon me : 

'Tis you alone that can my Heart subdue, 

To you alone it always shall be true ; 

Your God-like soul is that which rules my Fate, 

It does in me new passions still create, 

For Love of you all Women else I hate : 

But oh ! your body too is so Divine, 

I kill myself with wishing you all mine. 

In pain and anguish, night and day 

I faint, and melt away ; 

In vain against my grief I strive, 

My entertainment now is crying, 
And all the sense I have of being alive 

Is that I feel myself a-dying." 

The Countess of Shrewsbury subsequently left 
Buckingham, and married George Rodney Bridges in 
1680. This further set of verses by the Duke, entitled 
" The Lost Mistress : a Complaint against the Countess 

of ," may be interpreted as his lament : 

..." What language can my injur'd passion frame 
That knows not how to give its wrongs a name ? 
My suffering heart can all relief refuse 
Rather than Her it did adore, accuse. 
Teach me, ye groves, some art to ease my pain, 
Some soft resentments that may leave no stain 
On her lov'd Name, and then I will complain. 
95 



Nell Gwyn 



Till then to all my wrongs I will be blind, 

And whilst she's cruel call her but unkind. 

As all my thoughts to please her were employed, 

When of her smiles the Blessing I enjoy'd, 

So now by her forsaken and forlorn, 

I'll rack invention to excuse her scorn. 

While she to Truth and me unjust does prove. 

From her to Fate the blame I will remove ; 

Say 'twas a Destiny she could not shun, 

Fate made her change that I might be undone. 

Ere with perfidious guilt her Soul I'll tax, 

I'll charge it on the frailty of her sex ; 

Doom'd her first Mother's error to pursue : 

She ne'er was false, could Woman have been true 

Let all her sex henceforth be ever so. 

She had the power to make my bliss or woe, 

And she has given my heart its mortal blow. 

In Love the blessing of my Life I clos'd 

And in her custody that Love dispos'd. 

In one dear Freight all's lost ! Of her bereft 

I have no Hope, no second comfort left. 

If such another beauty I could find, 

A beauty too that bore a constant mind, 

Ev'n that could bring me med'cine for my pain, 

I lov'd not at a rate to love again. 

No change can ease for my sick heart prepare, 

Widow'd to Hope and wedded to Despair." 

James II. is said to have done his best to " convert " 
the Duke, but the latter lived for little now save 
fox-hunting, dicing and drinking in Yorkshire. There 
the end came in an inn at Kirby-Moorside, identified by 
Pope in the famous passage, beginning, " In the worst 
inn's worst room." He was in his sixty-first year. 

The vain and frivolous but not otherwise foolish 
Henry Jermyn, who was born in 1636, was the second 
son of Sir Thomas Jermyn of Rushbrooke, Suffolk, 

96 



Some Restoration Rakes 



and a nephew of Henry, first Earl of St. Albans. He 
seems to have devoted his life to amorous adventure, 
especially devoting himself to the ladies of the Court 
and not neglecting royalty itself. 

When he was fifteen or sixteen he went abroad, 
and presently joined the Household of the Duke of 
York, accompanying His Royal Highness to Bruges 
in 1856 and to Holland in the following year. At 
The Hague he found so much favour with Mary, 
the widowed Princess of Orange, that Charles II. 
had to intervene to prevent undue scandal about 
his sister. Rumour current at the time hinted at a 
secret marriage. 

After this affair was broken off abruptly, Jermyn 
completely fascinated the young and lovely Anne 
Hyde, wife of the Henry Hyde who became Earl of 
Clarendon. She was so infatuated that, according 
to one chronicler, she " was of opinion that so long 
as she was not talked of on account of Jermyn, all 
her other advantages would avail nothing for her 
glory : it was therefore to receive this finishing stroke 
that she resolved to throw herself into his arms." 

At the Restoration Jermyn was appointed Master 
of the Horse to the Duke of York, and became a 
prominent figure in the fastest set of that licentious 
Court. In his misdemeanours and in his gambling 
he was aided and abetted by his uncle, who was 
certainly old enough to know better. He was one of 
the several men who shared the favours of Lady Castle- 
maine with the King, and he was for a while banished 
from Court. He was not long left to languish in exile. 

97 7 



Nell Gwyn 



On his return his next conquest was the Countess of 
Shrewsbury this was before she fell in love with his 
friend Buckingham. This enraged Colonel Thomas 
Howard, brother of the Earl of Carlisle, who challenged 
Jermyn to a duel. A desperate combat took place 
in Pall Mall on August 18, 1662 ; Jermyn was so 
badly wounded that he was left for dead, and his 
second, Giles Rawlings, was slain on the spot. Accord- 
ing to a passage in the " Verney Papers," it was not 
a fair fight : " It is also said that Howard was in 
buff, and that he cut off the heels of his boots, and so 
came fully prepared and took the other unawares ; 
and yet Rawlings thrust so home that he bent his 
sword at the hilt, but buff or other armour would 
not suffer entrance." 

On his recovery, Jermyn, undaunted by this mis- 
adventure, pursued his amorous career. He made 
overtures to Anthony Hamilton's sister, which were, 
however, repulsed. In 1667 he was again in favour 
with Lady Castlemaine, and Pepys noted : " The King 
is mad at her entertaining Jermyn," and so again he 
left town. Although after a fortnight he was given 
permission to return, he stayed in the country for six 
months, and only came out of his seclusion on hearing 
of the charms of Miss Jennings, to whom he at once 
laid siege. 

When James II. ascended the throne, Jermyn, who 
was a Roman Catholic, began to play a part in public 
life. In 1685 he was raised to the peerage as Lord 
Dover, and in the following year was sworn of the 
Privy Council. At the Revolution he remained faith- 

98 



Some Restoration Rakes 



ful to James, and commanded a troop at the Battle 
of the Boyne. In 1692, however, he made his peace 
with William, and came to London and lived either 
there or on his estate at Cheveley until his death sixteen 
years later. 

Philibert, Count de Grammont, another of the 
" bloods " of the period, whose memoirs have been 
so many times reprinted, married the beautiful Eliza- 
beth Hamilton in 1668. A chartered libertine who 
would seem to have been utterly unworthy from the 
point of view of serious matrimony, he had been 
banished from the Court of Louis XIV. for having 
had the temerity to attempt to rival that potentate 
in the affections of La Motte Houdancourt. When 
permitted to return to France after a banishment of 
six years (spent in England), the Count had already 
been engaged to Miss Hamilton for that length of time . 
Even then he was about to quit England without 
carrying out his obligation to wed the lady, when he 
met her two brothers at Dover. " Have you forgotten 
nothing in London, Chevalier de Grammont ? " they 
asked. " I fear I forgot to marry your sister ! " was 
his rejoinder. 

This episode, on which Moliere is said to have 
founded his " La Mariage Forcee," led to their 
marriage shortly afterwards, and in 1669 the first 
of their two daughters (who became Lady Stafford) 
was born. Miss Hamilton had previously been ap- 
proached by the Duke of York, after seeing her portrait 
in Sir Peter Lely's studio. " His proposals, however, 
were dishonourable," says Jesse, " and were haughtily 

99 7* 



Nell Gwyn 



rejected. The Duke of Richmond, gamester and 
drunkard ; the simpleton Arundel, afterwards Duke 
of Norfolk ; the handsome and libertine Falmouth ; 
the Russells, uncle and nephew, celebrated by de 
Grammont ; and the lady-killer Jermyn, alike wore 
her chains and offered her their hands. De Grammont, 
graceful, impudent and clever, was more successful." 

As a matter of fact, the Count was a mere gamester 
and man about town, and it was by the chance of his 
elder brother's death that he presently acquired great 
wealth. It is told of him that on an occasion when 
he was supposed to be dying, King Louis sent a par- 
ticularly pious nobleman, the Marquis Dangeau, to 
attempt his repentance. After the good Marquis 
had been arguing with him for some time, de Grammont 
turned to his wife and remarked : " Countess, if 
you don't have a care, Dangeau will smuggle (es- 
camotera) my conversion." The Count survived until 
1707, when he had attained the great age of eighty-six. 



100 




Miss Hamilton. 



Page 100 



CHAPTER VIII 

NELL GWYN AND LORD BUCKHURST 

Charles Sackville, Lord Buckhurst. Nell Gwyn retires from the stage. 
Buckhurst takes her to live at Epsom. The liaison soon over. She 
returns to Drury Lane. 

THERE must have been something about Nell Gwyn 
besides her face and figure to have attracted 
such men as Buckingham, Rochester and Etherege, 
because, while they were unbridled libertines, they 
were also men of wit and taste. So, too, was that 
Charles Sackville, Lord Buckhurst, afterwards sixth 
Earl of Dorset, and first Earl of Middlesex, who, in 
1667, was for a while the acknowledged lover of Nell 
Gwyn. He was then a gay spark of some thirty 
summers, at once courtier, libertine and poet. His 
poems appeared with those of his friend Sir Charles 
Sedley in 1701, and his song, " To all you Ladies now 
on land," which was written in 1665, is an accepted 
masterpiece. He was the friend and patron of other 
and less fortunately placed men of letters. He was 
on intimate terms with Dryden, who dedicated several 
poems to him, with Etherege, who dedicated to him 
" The Comical Revenge, or, Love in a Tub," and with 
Congreve, who mentioned him in " An Allusion to 
the Tenth Satire of the First Book of Horace : " 

" For pointed Satyr I wou'd Buckhurst choose, 
The best good man, with the worst-natur'd Muse.". 
101 



Nell Gwyn 



Horace Walpole described him as "the finest 
gentleman in the voluptuous Court of Charles II.," 
and Peter Cunningham has written a happy little 
character-sketch of him : 

" Buckhurst had other qualities to recommend 
him than his youth (he was thirty at this time), his 
rank, his good heart, and his good breeding. He had 
already distinguished himself by his personal intrepidity 
in the war against the Dutch ; had written the best 
song of its kind in the English language, and some of 
the severest and most refined satires we possess ; was 
the friend of all the poets of eminence in his time, as 
he was afterwards the most munificent patron of men 
of genius that this country has yet seen. The most 
eminent masters in their several lines asked and abided 
by his judgment, and afterwards dedicated their works 
to him in grateful acknowledgment of his taste and 
favours. Butler owed to him that the Court ' tasted ' 
his ' Hudibras ' ; Wycherley that the town ' liked ' 
his ' Plain Dealer ' ; and the Duke of Buckingham 
deferred to publish his ' Rehearsal ' till he was sure, 
as he expressed it, that my Lord Buckhurst would 
not ' rehearse ' upon him again. Nor was this all. 
His table was one of the last that gave us an example 
of the old housekeeping of an English nobleman. 
A freedom reigned about it which made every one 
of the guests think himself at home, and an abundance 
which showed that the master's hospitality extended 
to many more than those who had the honour to sit 
at table with himself. Nor has he been less happy 

102 



Nell Gwyn and Lord Buckhurst 

after death. Pope wrote his epitaph and Prior his 
panegyric." 

At the time when Buckhurst made overtures to 
Nell Gwyn, she was living in lodgings at the " Cock and 
Pie," at the western side of the southern end of Drury 
Lane. It was subsequently numbered 88, and was 
in existence until 1880. Here Pepys saw her on 
May Day, 1667, as he recorded in a well-known passage : 

" Thence to Westminster ; in the way meeting 
many milk-maids with their garlands upon their pails, 
dancing with a fiddler before them ; and saw pretty 
Nelly standing at her lodgings door in Drury Lane in 
her smock sleeves and bodice, looking upon one : she 
seemed a mighty pretty creature." 

This must have been about the time when the liaison 
between her and Buckhurst began. Buckhurst, who 
had a mighty passion for her, was not inclined to 
share her with the theatre, and in July took her away 
from the King's House, making her, according to 
Pepys, send her parts to the House and say she would 
act no more. The same authority states that her 
lover undertook to give her 100 a year. 

Buckhurst took her to Epsom, then celebrated for 
its waters. Pepys, who always seems to have been 
on the spot at the right moment, was there when the 
others were. " To Epsom, by eight o'clock, to the 
Well," he noted in the Diary on July 14 ; " where 
much company. And to the town to the ' King's 
Head ' ; and hear that my Lord Buckhurst and Nelly 
are lodged at the next house, and Sir Charles Sedley 

103 



Nell Gwyn 



with them ; and keep a merry house." A merry 
and a noisy, rackety house it must have been while the 
roisterers were there. The place where they stayed, 
Mr. Gordon Home, the authority on Epsom, informs 
us, " is still standing, the ground floor being utilized 
as a grocer's shop. Unfortunately, the interior has 
been altered to leave anything suggestive of that 
time, and one is forced to be content with knowing 
that the Court Favourite occupied the two little 
bay-windowed rooms overlooking the street, one of 
them being used as a bedroom, and the other 
as a sitting-room." This information must content 
us. 

That Charles II. often visited Epsom is beyond 
question, and Mr. Home reports that tradition has it 
that he built for Nell Gwyn the stabling in Church 
Street, opposite St. Martin's, now known as " The 
Farm," now partly converted into a private house. 
" The age of the place certainly supports this belief," 
he says. " It consists of one long line of buildings 
under one unbroken gabled roof. The walls are a 
strange medley of red brick and great blocks of chalk 
covered with close-growing ivy, while the roof tiles 
are a beautiful subdued red." Well, every town is 
entitled to its traditions ! 

Pepys was much distressed by Nell Gwyn deserting 
the theatre. He thought that she who was so charm- 
ing and so amusing and gave so much pleasure to 
many should not be withdrawn from the town to the 
country. It was all very well for Frances Davenport 
to go from Drury Lane and live with her lover, for she 

104 



: . :-^ 




"Thence to Westminster; in the way meeting many milk-maids with 
their garlands upon their pails, dancing with a fiddler before them; and saw 
pretty Nelly standing at her lodgings door in Drury Lane." 

Page 104 



Nell Gwyn and Lord Buckhurst 

was a bad actress ; but with Nell Gwyn the case was 
different. Pepys alarmed himself unnecessarily. 

The stay at Epsom was not of long duration. Nell 
was soon back again at the King's House. On 
August 22, she again played Cydaria in The Indian 
Emperor, and four days later Pepys had the pleasure 
of seeing her in The Surprisal " a very mean play, 
I thought, or else it was because I was out of humour, 
and but very little company in the theatre." 

It was on the occasion of this visit that Pepys, who, 
happily for posterity, was as curious as any monkey 
held some discourse with Orange Moll, who told him 
" that Nell is already left by my Lord Buckhurst, 
and that he makes sport of her, and swears she hath 
had all she could get of him ; and Hart, her great 
admirer, now hates her, and that she is very poor, and 
hath lost my Lady Castlemaine, who was her great 
friend also, but she is come to the House, but is 
neglected by them all." 

The matter, from the biographical point of view, is 
not so simply disposed of. It may be assumed that 
the gossip of Orange Moll was not always to be relied 
on, and it may well have been in this instance inspired 
by jealousy or envy. No young person can, in the 
course of a few months, pass from orange-girl to leading 
lady, with peers in her train, without making enemies. 

Tradition has it that the affaire between Nell Gwyn 
and Buckhurst lasted for quite a while after their 
return to town the visit to Epsom may, after all, 
have been in the nature of a brief holiday and that, 
when presently His Gracious Majesty deigned to single 

105 



Nell Gwyn 



out for favour the little lady, he had first to get rid 
of the lover in possession. 

Granger, in his " Biographical History," quotes a 
manuscript lampoon of the date 1686, which says 
Buckhurst would not part with Nell until he was 
reimbursed for the expenses he had lavished on her, 
and that, finally, the King created him Earl of Middle- 
sex for his complaisance, or, as Sir George Etherege 
put it : 

" Gave him an earldom to resign his b h." 

But, as a matter of fact, the story, though not 
incredible in those days, is demonstrably untrue, any- 
how, as regards the peerage, for he was not given the 
earldom until 1675, some five years later. 

A possible explanation is that Buckhurst was fond 
of Nell and did not wish to give her up, even to his 
royal master. It is certainly a fact that about Michael- 
mas, 1668, he was sent to France on a complimentary 
mission, or, as Dry den put it, on " a sleeveless errand." 
But here again chronology steps in, and though so 
sound an authority as the late Richard Garnett, in his 
biography of Buckhurst, says that this appointment 
was made to get him out of the way, it must be said 
that the necessity for so doing is not apparent, since 
the connection between the King and Nell had started 
at the beginning of that year, if not earlier. 

Again, Count Hamilton, in his " Memoirs of Gram- 
mont," says that Buckhurst took Nell from the King, 
and there is a suggestion in the Appendix to Downes' 
" Roscius Anglicanus " to the effect that, while this 
was not the case, yet ''it is not improbable that Nell 

106 



Nell Gwyn and Lord Buckhurst 

was afterwards kind to her first lover " (meaning 
Buckhurst). This suggestion, however, can, like the 
others, be dismissed, for, as will be seen, after Nell 
was installed as the King's mistress, there was never a 
suspicion as to her fidelity to him. If proof were 
necessary that the King had no doubt about the matter, 
it is to be found in the fact that some years later he 
appointed Buckhurst, who had then succeeded to the 
earldom of Dorset, as one of the trustees of Burford 
House, Oxford, which he had settled on Nell. 



CHAPTER IX 

CHARLES II., LUCY WALTER AND THE DUKE 
OF MONMOUTH 

The birth of Charles. His early years. His troubles and tribulations. 
His profligacy. His wit. His ability. His laziness. A contemporary 
pen-portrait. His cynicism. Burnet's account of him. His way 
with him. Love-making, not love. Lucy Walter. Her children by 
Charles. The Duke of Monmouth. His early life. His marriage. 
His amours. His desire to succeed Charles. In exile. Charles denies 
Monmouth's legitimacy. Monmouth's intrigues for the succession. 
Eleanor Needham. Again in exile. Lady Wentworth follows him. 
Sedgemoor. The execution of Monmouth. 

YESTERDAY at noon/' wrote Lord Dorchester 
on May 30, 1630, " the Queen was made the 
happy mother of a Prince of Wales. Herself, God be 
thanked, is in good estate, and what a cfrild can 
promise that reckons yet but two days is already 
visible, as a gracious pledge from Heaven of those 
blessings which are conveyed and assured to King- 
doms in the issue of their Princes." So, duly ap- 
proved by at least one courtier, Charles came into the 
world. It is said that in childhood he cherished a 
particular fondness for a billet of wood which he 
carried about by day and kept by his side at night, 
whereupon some wiseacre observed that " when the 
Prince came to years of maturity either oppressors 
or blockheads would be his greatest favourites." At 
the age of eight the Earl of Northumberland was 

108 



Charles II., Lucy Walter and Monmouth 

appointed his governor and Dr. Brian Duppa his 
tutor. In the following year he took his seat in the 
House of Lords. At the age of eleven he was placed, 
first, in the care of the Marquis of Hertford, and then 
of the Earl of Berkshire, which latter was an unwise 
choice. 

At the age of twelve, he and his brother, James, Duke 
of York, were present at the battle of Edgehill. They 
were left in charge of William Harvey, the discoverer 
of the circulation of the blood, who became so absorbed 
in a book he was reading that he did not notice the 
bullets flying round him. The boys narrowly escaped 
being made prisoners. On March 4, 1645, he had his 
final parting with his father, and went to take command 
of the royalist forces in the west. A few months later 
Charles I. wrote to his son that whenever he found 
himself in personal danger he was to go to France 
and place himself in the care of his mother, " who is 
to have the absolute power of your education in all 
things except religion." After many adventures he 
arrived at Paris in July, 1646. 

Already Charles was predisposed to love-affairs, 
and while he was in Jersey, where he stayed before 
going to France, there was born the first of his natural 
children. The story is related by Mr. Davidson, the 
historian of Catherine of Braganza : 

" The mother of this first of his many illegitimate 
sons is said to have been of the most distinguished 
blood in the kingdom. The boy himself appeared 
later on in London, and came to the Court. He appealed 

109 



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to Charles, who immediately acknowledged him and 
gave him the name of James de la Cloche du Bourg 
de Jersey. He bound him over not to reveal his 
parentage while Charles himself was living, and this 
the young James agreed to. In 1667 Charles assigned 
him 500 a year at the pleasure of his successor and 
Parliament, as long as James remained in London 
and continued to be a member of the Church of 
England. Neither of these conditions did James de 
la Cloche fulfil. In April of the same year he entered 
the Church of Rome, and apparently took refuge with 
the Jesuits, as papers relating the whole affair have 
been seen and are still to be seen in the Jesuit College 
in Rome. He had made his first effort to bring himself 
to Charles's notice in 1665. The youth must then have 
been twenty or twenty-one. So well did he keep his 
own and his father's secret that its existence was never 
even suspected till the discovery of the papers in the 
Jesuit College. Charles's generosity and kindness 
to him were on a par with what he extended to all 
his left-handed children. He was through his life 
of an affectionate disposition, and would give away 
his last farthing to those he was fond of." 

Charles was not well received at the French Court, 
for Mazarin was anxious not to identify himself too 
closely with the English royalist party. He began 
to realize the pitiful lot of a King without a throne. 
He wanted to serve in the French army under the Duke 
of Orleans, but this was denied him. What he actually 
did was to plunge in a course of dissipation under the 
no 



Charles II., Lucy Walter and Monmouth 

able instruction of the Duke of Buckingham and 
Lord Percy. He went in 1648 to Holland, where he 
was better received, but his efforts in the following 
January to induce the States-General to intervene 
to save his father's life were unavailing. He made 
other attempts to avert the catastrophe. In the 
British Museum is preserved a blank paper with the 
signature " Charles P." and a seal. On the reverse 
side is written, in another hand : " Prince Charles, his 
carte blanche to the Parliament to save his father's 
head." In this document, which he dispatched to the 
Parliament, the Prince bade them make their own 
terms for his father's life, even unto taking his life 
instead. Charles I. was executed on January 30, 
1649. 

Of the adventures of Charles II. and of the various 
negotiations prior to the Restoration, this is not the 
place to speak in detail. While he was, no doubt, 
grateful for the loyalty of Scotland, where he was 
proclaimed King on February 5, 1649, he can scarcely 
have been grateful to his leading supporters there 
for the personal attitude they took up as regards him 
when he landed in that country. They disapproved, 
and with reason, of his intimate friends, and bade him 
dismiss them. They caused him to attend prayer 
meetings of inordinate length, and were not sparing 
of rebuke for his love of gaiety. 

The period of Charles's stay in the North must 
have been one of unmitigated misery and humiliation 
for him. He was treated more like a State prisoner 
than a monarch, and Lord Lome was actually placed 

in 



Nell Gwyn 



to spy upon his actions by day and night. His one 
friend and companion, whether for good or ill, was 
the Duke of Buckingham, who was at this time twenty- 
four and Charles twenty. One incident, typical alike 
of the King and of his Scottish environment, is referred 
to by Hume, the historian : 

" The King's passion for the fair could not altogether 
be restrained. He had been observed using some 
familiarities with a young woman, and a committee 
of ministers was appointed to reprove him for a 
behaviour so unbecoming a covenanted monarch. The 
spokesman of the committee, one Douglas, began with 
a severe aspect ; informed the King that great scandal 
had been given to the godly ; enlarged on the heinous 
nature of sin, and concluded with exhorting His 
Majesty, whenever he was disposed to amuse himself, 
to be more careful for the future in shutting the 
windows. This delicacy, so unusual to the place 
and to the character of the man, was remarked by the 
King and he never forgot the obligation." 

The English having defeated the Scots at Dunbar, 
Charles formed the resolution to carry the warfare 
into England. At Carlisle he was again crowned 
King, and on September 3, 1651, his army of 12,000 
men (of whom 10,000 were Scots) met Cromwell's 
30,000 in battle at Worcester and were utterly routed. 
When he saw how the day was going, the King did 
his utmost to lose his life. " I had rather you should 
shoot me/* he said, " than keep me alive to see the 
sad effects of this day." 

However, he was forced away from that stricken 

112 



Charles II., Lucy Walter and Monmouth 

field, and the thrice-told tale of his hair-breadth 
escapes of the next six weeks is stranger than fiction. 
For his preservation from capture and death he was 
the most indebted to Miss Jane Lane and to the 
Penderell and Wyndham families. A few weeks 
after the fugitive Charles had got safely into France 
again, Miss Lane arrived there accompanied by her 
brother, when the King greeted her with the joyful 
words, " Welcome, my life ! " This heroic young 
lady afterwards married one Sir Clement Fisher, and 
at the Restoration, Charles settled pensions of 1,000 
and 500 respectively on her and her brother, Colonel 
Lane. But when Lady Fisher became a widow in 
1683, her pension was no less than 5,500 in arrear ! 

The King subsequently related to Samuel Pepys 
what he regarded as one of the narrowest of his 
escapes in 1651. Guided by the devoted Richard 
Penderell, he was endeavouring to cross the Severn 
into Wales one night, when they came to a water-mill. 
" Just as we came to the mill," said Charles, " we 
could see the miller, as I believed, sitting at the mill- 
door, it being a very dark night. He called out, 
' Who goes there ? ' Upon which Richard Penderell 
answered, ' Neighbours going home/ or some such-like 
words. Whereupon the miller cried out, ' If you be 
neighbours, stand or I will knock you down ! ' Upon 
which (we believing there was company in the house) 
the fellow bade me follow him close, and he ran to a 
gate that went up a dirty lane up a -hill, and opening 
the gate the miller cried out, ' Rogues, rogues ! ' And 
thereupon, some men came out of the mill after US A 



Nell Gwyn 



which I believed were soldiers ; so Richard and I fell 
a-mnning up the lane as long as we could run, it being 
very deep and very dirty, till at last I bade him leap 
over a hedge and lie still to hear if anybody followed 
us ; which we did, and continued lying down upon the 
ground about half an hour, when, hearing nobody come, 
we continued our way." 

For the next three years or so, Charles spent a some- 
what miserable existence in France, on a small pension 
allowed him by Louis. During this period, the exiled 
monarch had to endure numerous slights. His mother 
would have married him to one of the Princesses of 
Orleans, the King's cousin, but that haughty lady 
would none of him ; and a proposal by Charles him- 
self for one of Cardinal Mazarin's nieces, Hortensia, 
also met with a rebuff. 

In June, 1654, Charles quitted Paris for Spa, where 
a letter- writer of the time remarked of him : " You 
may be assured that Charles Stuart stands absolutely 
for Scotland. Some about him tell him he had better 
hasten thither, than stay here and dance, which is 
his daily and nightly practice. His party come into 
him faster than is pleasing to him, everyone pleading 
poverty to get some money." And his whole income 
amounting to six hundred pistoles monthly, without 
even a carriage. 

In September, 1654, he arrived in Cologne, where he 
was accorded a highly nattering public reception. 
His morals were evidently not mending, however, 
since at this time Lady Byron is described as " his 
seventeenth mistress abroad." To Henry Bennet 

114 



Charles II., Lucy Walter and Monmouth 

he wrote from Cologne to " get me pricked down as 
many new corrants and farrabands, and other little 
dances, as you can, and bring them with you, for I have 
got a small fiddler that does not play ill on the fiddle." 

After a stay of some two years at Cologne, Charles 
and his more than ever impoverished " Court " moved 
on to Bruges. It was during his residence here that 
he was twice in imminent danger from Cromwell's 
machinations. The Lord Protector secretly arranged 
with the Dutch Government to seize the King's 
person on the occasion of a contemplated visit to his 
sister, the Princess of Orange ; but this was frustrated 
by a faithful servant of Charles, one Fleming. A 
more malignant Cromwellian plot was one to lure 
Charles and his brothers, the Dukes of York and 
Gloucester, into England, and have them immediately 
done to death ; but this was defeated by Sir Samuel 
Morland, an under-secretary, who by pretending to 
be asleep overheard Cromwell discussing the affair. 

A serious charge was brought against the King 
while at Bruges, in a letter by one J. Butler, dated 
December, 1656 ; it is to be hoped that his information 
was false : " This last week, one of the richest churches 
in Bruges was plundered in the night. The people 
of Bruges are fully persuaded that Charles Stuart's 
followers had done it : they spare no charges to find 
out the guilty, and if it happen to light upon any of 
Charles Stuart's train, it will certainly incense that 
people against them. There is now a company of 
French comedians at Bruges, who are very punctually 
attended by Charles Stuart and his Court, and all the 

115 8* 



Nell Gwyn 



ladies there : their most solemn day of acting is on 
the Lord's Day." 

At least two or three noble ladies other than those 
already mentioned were asked in marriage by Charles, 
during his exile from England, without success. One 
of these was a daughter of the Duke of Lorraine, 
while another was Princess Henrietta, daughter of the 
Dowager Princess of Holland. " I shall," wrote the 
King to the latter, " in asking you a question, make 
it clear enough to you that I cannot have so vile a 
thought as to make you an instrument in my deceit. 
I beseech you to let me know whether your daughter 
the Princess Henrietta be so far engaged that you cannot 
receive a proposition from me concerning her ; and 
if she be not, that you would think of a way, with all 
possible secrecy, I may convey my mind in that parti- 
cular to you." It is right to add that Charles always 
considered that he was not well treated by this special 
object of his " affections." 

After the death of Cromwell in 1658, the return of 
Charles to England became a more or less foregone 
conclusion. He left Bruges for Brussels on hearing 
the news, in order to have a better headquarters in 
the event of a sudden summons. " The necessity of 
affairs," writes the Count de Grammont, " had 
exposed Charles II. from his earliest youth to the toils 
and perils of a bloody war. The fate of the King his 
father had left him for inheritance nothing but his 
misfortunes and disgraces. They overtook him every- 
where ; but it was not until he had struggled with 
his ill-fortune to the last extremity that he submitted 

116 



Charles II., Lucy Walter and Monmouth 

to the decrees of Providence. All those who were 
either great on account of their birth or their loyalty 
had followed him into exile ; and all the young persons 
of the greatest distinction having afterwards joined 
him, composed a Court worthy of a better fate. Plenty 
and prosperity, which are thought to tend only to 
corrupt manners, found nothing to spoil in an indigent 
and wandering Court." 

Finally, Charles, with his few faithful followers, 
embarked for England, on May 24, 1660, in a warship 
which had borne till lately the ill-omened name of 
the Naseby, now changed to the Royal Charles. He 
was met at Dover by Monk, who had brought about 
this Stuart Restoration, and who was at once created 
Duke of Albemarle. His progress from Dover to Lon- 
don, strewn with flowers and hailed with " perpetually- 
iterated Hosannas," King Charles finally ended his 
exile and entered his capital in triumph on his birthday, 
May 29th. It was " roses, roses all the way." 

Nevertheless, the author of " England under the 
Stuarts " has to relate a characteristic episode. 
" Charles, alas ! displayed his gratitude to Heaven 
for his wonderful restoration, not by prayers and 
thanksgiving, but by passing the night of his return 
with Mrs. Palmer (afterwards the celebrated Duchess 
of Cleveland) at the house of Sir Samuel Morland, at 
Lambeth." This Morland was identical with the 
Cromwellian under-secretary of State who had been 
instrumental in warning Charles in time of the Lord 
Protector's plot for his betrayal and assassination. 

The Restoration was an accomplished fact, the King 
117 



Nell Gwyn 



had come into his own again, and all was sunshine 
after the drab reign of Puritanism. 

Pepys says that Charles possessed an intimate 
knowledge of maritime affairs, while Sir Richard 
Bulstrode averred that " had this King but loved 
business as well as he understood it, he would have 
been the greatest Prince in Europe." As for his 
interest in the arts, and notably in literature, Horace 
Walpole and others have been convinced, after inves- 
tigation, that Charles himself was the author of the 
lyric entitled " The Pleasures of Love : " 

" I pass all my hours in a shady old grove, 
But I live not the day when I see not my love ; 
I survey every walk now my Phyllis is gone, 
And sigh when I think we were there all alone. 
Oh, then 'tis I think there's no HeU 
Like loving too well. 

" But each shade and each conscious bower when I find, 
Where I once have been happy and she has been kind ; 
When I see the print left of her shape on the green, 
And imagine the pleasure may yet come again ; 

Oh, then 'tis I think that no joys are above 

The pleasures of love. 

" While alone to myself I repeat all her charms, 
She I loved may be lock'd in another man's arms. 
She may laugh at my cares, and so false she may be 
To say all the kind things she before said to me : 

Oh, then 'tis, Oh then, that I think there's no HeU 
Like loving too well. 

" But when I consider the truth of her heart, 
Such an innocent passion, so kind without art, 
I fear I have wrong'd her, and hope she may be 
So full of true love to be jealous of me. 

Oh, then 'tis I think that no joys are above 
The pleasures of love." 
118 



Charles II., Lucy Walter and Monmouth 

Charles was able, too ; but lazy, and neither by 
coaxing nor threatening could his ministers get him 
to devote himself seriously. Pepys mentions Killi- 
grew's reported remonstrance to the King : " There 
is a good, honest, able man that I could name, that 
if your Majesty would employ, and command to see 
all things well executed, all things would soon be 
mended. And this is one Charles Stuart, who now 
spends his time in employing his lips about the Court 
and hath no other employment ; but if you would 
give him this employment, he were the fittest man in 
the world to perform it." 

Charles was a merry fellow. All sorts of stories 
are told, which argue in him a pretty wit. He was 
too great a personage to trouble about his dignity. 
Dining at the Guildhall one night in 1674, when Sir 
Robert Viner was Lord Mayor, the host grew drunk 
and then more drunk, and the King, watching his 
opportunity, stole away to his coach. Viner, who 
felt that his hospitality had not yet been tested to 
the full, went after him and insisted upon his returning 
to the table and cracking yet another bottle. The 
King smiled and complied with his host's behest, 
humming to himself a line from a song of the day : 

" And the man that is drunk is as great as a King/' 
Everyone knew the epitaph written by Rochester: 

" Here lies our sovereign lord the King, 

Whose word no man relies on ; 
Who never said a foolish thing, 
And never did a wise one," 
119 



Nell Gwyn 



and Charles's retort : " My discourse is my own, 
my actions my ministers." At least as good was his 
reply to the Duke of York, who told him that he 
ought to take more care of his person, as there were 
many dissatisfied persons about : " They'll never kill 
me, James, to put you on the throne." 

Charles II. could never see a pretty face, a dainty 
figure, without he desired its possessor, and, being a 
King and a King was a King in those days he 
usually, if not, indeed, always, had his way. He had 
his passions, but it is doubtful if he was ever seriously 
in love. Certainly he never loved enough to confine 
his attentions to any one woman for any length of 
time, nor was he endowed with sufficient jealousy 
to make him angry when his mistresses bestowed 
their favours on others. The case was well put by 
his friend George Savile, Marquess of Halifax : 

" It may be said that his inclinations to love were 
the effects of health and a good constitution, with as 
little mixture of the seraphic past as ever man had. And 
though from that foundation men often raise their 
passions, I am apt to think that his stayed as much 
as any man's ever did in the lower region. This 
made him like easy mistresses. They were generally 
resigned to him while he was abroad, with an implied 
bargain. Heroic, refined lovers place a good deal 
of their pleasure in difficulty, both for the variety of 
conquest and as a better earnest of their kindness. 

" After the Restoration, mistresses were recom- 
mended to him, which is no small matter in a Court, 
and not unworthy of the thoughts even of a party. 

120 



Charles II., Lucy Walter and Monmouth 

A mistress, either dexterous herself or well instructed 
by those that are so, may be very useful to her friends, 
not only in the immediate hours of her ministry, but 
by her influence and insinuations at all times. It 
was resolved generally by others whom he should have 
in his arms, as well as whom he should have in his 
Councils. For a man who was capable of choosing, 
he chose as seldom as any man who ever lived. 

" He had more property, at least in the beginning 
of his time, a good stomach to his mistresses than any 
great passion for them. His taking them from others 
was never learnt in a romance, and indeed fitter for 
a philosopher than a knight-errant. His patience 
for their frailties showed him no exact lover. It is 
a heresy, according to a true lover's creed, even to 
forgive an infidelity, or the appearance of it. Love 
of ease will not do it where the heart is much engaged ; 
but where mere nature is the motive, it is possible 
for a man to think righter than the common opinion, 
and to argue that a rival taketh away nothing but 
the heart and leaveth all the rest. 

" He had wit enough to suspect and he had wit 
enough not to care. The ladies got a great deal more 
than would have been allowed an equal bargain in 
Chancery for what they did for it ; but neither the 
manner nor the pleasure is to be judged by others." 

Thus Charles II. appeared to a shrewd contemporary 
who knew him well, and certainly he was no hero 
in what in those days was called " love." 

As a matter of fact, probably Charles II. was less 
careful in his affaires, as in politics, than cynical. He 

121 



Nell Gwyn 



was, indeed, the most cynical of men, and most 
genuinely so. It is really not surprising. In the days 
when Kings ruled as by Divine Right, his father had 
had to contend against the Parliamentary forces for 
nearly seven years, and then was executed by those 
who had fought under the banner of loyalty to their 
country and his. Charles II. himself led perforce 
a wandering, useless life, with intervals of intriguing 
to regain the throne that was his by descent. There 
are few figures more pitiable than a King without 
a throne or a home though most give him contempt 
rather than pity. 

When, at the age of thirty, he was invited to 
come back to his country, he returned a disillusioned 
young man, dissolute and rather weary. He had seen 
too much of the seamy side of diplomacy, and had 
experienced more than enough of treachery. Yet 
no man has ever had friends more loyal and rewarded 
them less. Perhaps he took their devotion as his 
right, as royalty had a way of doing ; or, in his bitter- 
ness, suspected they cleaved to him because they 
were sure that in the end his was the winning side. 

" When the King came into his own again he was 
thirty years of age. He was clever enough, indeed, 
it would not be too much to say, wise ; and he was 
well acquainted with the trend of affairs abroad even 
though he was not so well versed, or it may be interested, 
in domestic politics. Knowledge came as a rule easily 
to him, but if it did not he remained ignorant, for he 
had no gift of application," Burnet wrote of him. 
" In his personal reasons alike with men and women 

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Charles II., Lucy Walter and Monmouth 

he had a charm that made him popular. He was 
graciousness itself, and would offer and promise 
anything always with the mental reservation that 
he was bound by neither. He was, above all things, 
cynical. He had a very ill opinion both of men and 
women, and 1 did not think there was either sincerity 
or chastity in the world out of principle ; but that 
some had either the one or the other out of humour 
or vanity. He thought that nobody served him out 
of love ; and so he was quits with all the world, and 
loved others as little as he thought they loved 
him." 

Charles had a way with women, not always depen- 
dent on the attraction of his royalty. As it was, and 
perhaps because of this, love-making, as apart from 
love, became his primary, indeed, almost his only 
amusement. Even when he was in exile his Court at 
Bruges became a centre of dissoluteness. Yet much 
allowance must be made for him, for royalty was 
indeed royalty in those days, and women prostrated 
themselves before him. The most humorous excuse 
ever made for him it would be a shame to pillory 
the writer runs : " His calumniators have no con- 
science in their aspersions of him. He bore the 
discredit of much that he never performed. Judicially 
weighed, the number of his irregular children were 
smaller than the lawful contingencies of most 
deaneries ; considering the variety of mothers, it 
is truly moderate/' 

Much might be forgiven him if he had ever loved. 
That he never did so, however mistakenly, is a blot 

123 



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on his character. Every generous-hearted man has 
at some time or other loved wisely and well, or if not 
wisely, anyhow well. Not so Charles. Women were 
to him playthings, and nothing more. He cared little 
or nothing for any one of his mistresses. His pride 
was hurt when one of them ran away from his Court 
and married ; but he was not unduly perturbed at 
the unfaithfulness of others ; the news, which in a 
Court where gossip and malice and all uncharitableness 
abounded, must have come to his ears. He regarded 
them, one and all, as mercenary baggages, who were 
his because it was made worth their while. He may 
have cared for others more, but it would seem as if 
Nell Gwyn got nearest what may be called his heart. 
Though she had her share of the spoils a minor share 
she was really devoted to him, which devotion he 
appreciated full well. What was probably more 
amazing to him, and possibly less appreciated, was the 
fact that she was faithful to him from the beginning 
of their connection until his death. 

To follow in detail the early amours of Charles would 
be unedifying. Mention has been made of the earliest 
of his affairs of which there is any knowledge, and the 
only other liaison that need be noticed is that between 
him and Lucy Walter. 

Lucy was the daughter of William Walter, of Roch 
Castle, near Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire ; she is 
believed to have been born in the same year as 
Charles II., in 1630. Clarendon speaks of her as 
" of no good fame, but handsome," and Evelyn, 
who saw her at Paris when she was in her twentieth 

124 




Lucy Walter. 



Page 124 



Charles II., Lucy Walter and Monmouth 

year, describes her as " a brown, beautiful, bold but 
insipid person." 

Coming to London in 1644, when the Parliamentary 
army had destroyed Roch Castle, she, after, we may 
suppose, other adventures, became the mistress of 
Robert Sidney, third son of the second Earl of Leicester. 
Sidney was then a captain or colonel of the English 
regiment in the Dutch service, and he took the girl 
with him to The Hague, where Charles II., coming 
on a visit, was attracted by her, and made her his 
mistress. She travelled about with him on the 
Continent, but when he left her for a while at The 
Hague in June, 1650, to descend upon Scotland, she 
at once began a liaison with Colonel Henry Bennet 
(afterwards Earl of Arlington). On his return, Charles, 
not quite so indifferent to the infidelity of his mistresses 
as he was when he grew older, dismissed her. He did, 
however, to some extent accept responsibility for her, 
and, in spite of the state of his exchequer, contrived 
to find sums of money for her support. 

The rest of her life was devoted to disreputable 
and scandalous adventures. So bad was her conduct 
that Charles granted her an annuity on condition 
that she went back to England and lived there. It was 
about this time she called herself Mrs. Barlow. The 
document granting the annuity was found on her 
when, in 1656, she was arrested in London as a spy : 

" CHARLES R. Wee do by these presents of our 
especial grace, give and grant unto Mrs. Lucy Barlow, 
an annuity or yearly pension of five thousand livres, 

125 



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to be paid to her or her assignes in the City of Antwerp 
or in such other convenient place as she shall desire, 
at four several payments by equal portions, the first 
payment to begin from the first of July 1654, an d so 
to continue from three months to three months during 
her life ; with assurance to better the same, when it 
shall please God to restore us to our kingdoms : Given 
under our sign manual at our Court at Collogne this 
21 day of January 1655, and in the sixth year of our 
Reign. 

" By His Majesties command, 

" EDWARD NICHOLAS." 

Lucy Walter was put in the Tower, but after ex- 
amination released on condition that she left the 
country. She went to the Netherlands, where she 
lived disgracefully, and died in 1658 from, as her 
biographer puts it on the authority of Clarendon and 
James II., "a disease incidental to her manner of 
living." 

She had two children. The elder, James, was born 
at Rotterdam on April 9, 1649. Lucy attributed the 
paternity of the boy to Charles II. , who acknowledged 
him, and in 1663 created him Duke of Monmouth 
and Buccleuch. It was, however, shrewdly suspected 
by many that the father was Robert Sidney, and 
it was said that when Monmouth grew up he much 
more resembled Sidney than the King. James II. 
stated that it was his belief that Sidney was 
Monmouth's father. The younger child was Mary, 
born at The Hague in 1651, and it is believed that the 

126 




James, Duke of M on mouth. 



Page 126 



Charles II., Lucy Walter and Monmouth 

father was Henry Bennet. The girl married William 
Sarsfield, elder brother of Patrick, Earl of Lucan, 
and the year after his death, in 1676, William Fanshawe, 
Master of Requests. 

The Duke of Monmouth was a tragic figure. He was 
the one illegitimate child of Charles II. who resented 
the fact that he was not born in wedlock. It certainly 
was not a question of morality for its own sake, it is 
doubtful if it had anything to do with his mother's 
dishonour ; it was simply that the bar sinister put 
him outside the succession to the throne. He was 
always supported in his ambition to be recognized 
as heir to the throne by many of the leaders 
of the Protestant party, who objected to James II. 
as a member of the Church of Rome. It was this that 
ultimately cost Monmouth his life. 

Monmouth was on his mother's death entrusted to 
the care of Lord Crofts, and, known as James Crofts, 
passed as a relative of his guardian. In 1663, when 
he was fourteen, he was brought to Charles at Hampton 
Court, who was delighted with his good looks, charm 
and impudence. He acknowledged him as his son 
and created him Baron Tyndale, Earl of Doncaster and 
Duke of Monmouth, and invested him with the 
Order of the Garter. He took his seat in the House 
of Lords in April, 1663. In that same month, both 
of the parties being mere children, he was married 
to the wealthiest heiress in the kingdom, Lady Anne 
Scott, daughter of the second Earl Buccleuch. She had 
succeeded her elder sister in the title in 1661, when 
she was ten years of age . Monmouth assumed the name 

127 



Nell Gwyn 



of Scott before his marriage, and on the day of the 
marriage he and his bride were jointly created Duke 
and Duchess of Buccleuch, Earl and Countess of 
Dalkeith, and Baron and Baroness Scott of Whit- 
chester and Eskdale in Scotland. The marriage cere- 
mony took place in the King's Chamber at Whitehall, 
and Charles wrote to his sister, the Duchess of Orleans : 
" This being James's marriage day, I am going to 
sup with them, where we intend to dance and see 
them abed together." 

" The universal terror of lovers and husbands," 
as De Grammont described Monmouth, plunged wildly 
into the gaieties of the Court and the town. Both 
Pepys and Evelyn in their respective Diaries for 
February, 1665, make reference to a gorgeous Masque 
at Court in which Monmouth participated with five 
other gallants and six " ladys." Says Evelyn : " There 
were six women (my Lady Castlemayne and Duchesse 
of Monmouth being two of them) and six men (the 
Duke of Monmouth and Lord Arran and Monsieur 
Blanfort being three of them) in vizards, but most 
rich and antique dresses, did dance admirably and 
gloriously. God give us cause to continue the 
mirthe ! " 

Pepys, writing while Monmouth was still in his 
teens, says that the young Duke and his boon com- 
panions seemed to find little occupation " but to 
debauch the country women." This was no exagger- 
ation ; it is certain that at one time a remarkable 
document was drawn up for the King's signature, 
granting " Our gracious pardon unto our dear sonne 

128 



Charles II., Lucy Walter and Monmouth 



James, Duke of Monmouth, of all Murders, Homiciders, 
and Felonyes, whatsoever at any time before ye 28th 
day of February last past, committed either by him- 
selfe alone or together with any other person or per- 
sons." Monmouth is known to have been engaged 
in the murder of a London beadle in 1671, while the 
attack upon and maiming of Sir John Coventry, for 
having alluded in the House of Commons to the King's 
mistresses, is also easily traceable to him. 

It has been said, too, that the prolonged animosity 
between him and his uncle, the Duke of York, originated 
in their mutual " affection " for Mary (Moll) Kirke, 
maid-of-honour to the Duchess of York. Monmouth 
found that Lord Mulgrave was also paying clandestine 
visits to Miss Kirke, and had him arrested by the guard. 
The Duke of York, thereupon, had Mulgrave dismissed 
from his command, when the latter informed the former 
that Monmouth was also his rival ! 

Monmouth in 1668 was appointed captain of the 
King's Guard, and two years later was promoted 
captain-general of the forces. He served against the 
Dutch in 1672 and 1673, and in 1678 against the French 
at Ostend and Mons. Monmouth in 1679 quelled the 
insurrection that followed on the murder of Archbishop 
Sharpe and defeated the rebels at the battle of Bothwell 
Bridge. For this victory and for his clemency after- 
wards he won much popular applause. 

On his return to London he associated himself very 
intimately with the Protestant succession, with the 
result that he came into open conflict with the Duke 
of York. As a result of this, the King told him to 

129 9 



Nell Gwyn 



absent himself from Court for a while. A letter from 
the Duchess of Portsmouth to Monmouth has been 
preserved : 

" Had you not all this time lived very coldly and 
unfriendly to me, I would have made you the greatest 
man in England next ye Duke of York, for I am sure 
I have some credit with the King, as you may see by 
what I have done for my Lord Sunderland, whom the 
King never had a good opinion of till I recommend' d 
him. . . . The King hath always promis'd me, and I 
hope he will keep his word and be as true to me as I 
have been to him ever since I gave myself to him, that 
nobody shall come into Court or preferment without 
they be those that are my friends and those that 
will not, I will not I am resolved to shut the door 
against them. I thank God I have a good conscience 
and fear nothing the King of England loves me 
the King of France has promised to support me." 

Monmouth went to Holland, but returned almost 
immediately, when he was deprived of all his offices. 
His personal popularity was so great that more than 
one suggestion was made to the King to declare his 
son's legitimacy. " Much as I love him," said Charles, 
" I would rather see him hanged at Tyburn than 
admit him to be my heir." 

There was circulated persistently a legend that 
Charles had actually married Lucy Walter, and that 
proofs of the marriage were in existence. So persistent 
were these rumours that the King in 1678 caused to 
be published a statement " that, to avoid any dispute 
which might happen in time to come concerning 

130 



Charles II., Lucy Walter and Monmouth 

the succession to the Crown, he did declare, in the 
presence of Almighty God, that he never gave, or made 
any contract of marriage, nor was married to Mrs. 
Barber, alias Walters, the Duke of Monmouth's mother, 
nor to any other woman whatsoever, but to his present 
wife, Queen Catherine, now living." 

On his return from Holland in 1680 Monmouth 
toured through the west country, which resembled 
nothing so much as a royal procession. He committed 
all sorts of follies. He even touched for the King's Evil. 
He then was associated with Lord William Russell 
and Algernon Sidney in the Rye House Plot, which 
was a plot to secure the succession of the Duke of 
Monmouth to the throne in preference to his uncle 
of York. It was believed that some of the more 
extreme conspirators projected the assassination of 
the King and his brother, and that the design was 
only frustrated by the royal residence at Newmarket 
taking fire, and so sending the party away some days 
before the date arranged for the consummation of the 
plot. Russell and Sidney were convicted. Mon- 
mouth, who went into hiding, certainly was privy to 
both schemes, but it may be that, so far as regards the 
proposed murders, he only remained in the conspiracy 
to frustrate it. Anyhow, it is said in Monmouth's 
favour that when Russell was convicted he offered to 
give himself up if he could thereby secure remission 
of the capital sentence. 

Monmouth was suspected of having sought refuge 
with his mistress, Eleanor Needham, the youngest 
daughter of Sir Robert Needham, Bart., and younger 

131 Q* 



Nell Gwyn 



sister of the beautiful and notorious Mrs. Middleton, 
whose gallantries have been recorded by De Grammont. 
He presently gave himself up and was pardoned by 
the King ; but he became so involved in other and 
equally unsuccessful plots that at last, in 1684, he 
thought it wise to fly the country. 

He went to Belgium, where he was joined by Lady 
Wentworth, who had for some time past been enamoured 
of him. They lived together at Brussels, where 
the Governor, the Marquis de Grana, asked Monmouth 
whether the lady was his wife. The answer being in 
the affirmative, the Marquis sent his daughter to call 
on her, but, on learning the truth, informed Monmouth, 
if he were no longer in office, he would " cut the Duke's 
throat or the Duke should cut his " for the implied 
insult. 

As will be seen by the following letter to England 
from Skelton, then British Envoy at Hamburg, this 
affair with Lady Henrietta rapidly assumed the 
dimensions of a scandal : 

" I am very much troubled to understand that the 
Lady Henrietta Wentworth is soe dangerously sick, 
but am much more concerned that the Duke of Mon- 
mouth takes such care of her, and thinke it were better 
she should dye than bring a scandall upon her selfe 
by his too frequent visits, for though she be never so 
innocent, she must necessarily suffer thereby in the 
opinion of the world. When she is able to undertake 
a journey, I wish you could prevayle with her to come 
hither, since it cannot but be farre more for her credit 
than to remain where she is. But I did not take any 

132 



Charles II., Lucy Walter and Monmouth 

notice of anything relating to the Duke of Monmouth, 
neither would I have you to doe it, for that is too tender 
a string to be touch't upon, if a lady be innocent, as I 
hope in God she is, though I must confesse that I 
approve not of her conduct and much lesse of her 
mothers who humours her in it. Pray be so kinde 
as to write freely to me of all that is say'd of her, and 
how she carrys herself, which I shall make noe ill use 
of, or expose to the view of any creature living." 

Later in the year Lady Wentworth returned to 
England, but only for a while. She and Monmouth 
were feted at The Hague by the Prince and Princess 
of Orange at the end of 1684 greatly to the disgust 
of the Duke of York, who was furious that his nephew, 
" who had shown such animosity towards him, should 
be admitted into the closest intimacy with his own 
son-in-law." 

After the death of Charles II., James II. compelled 
his nephew's expulsion from The Hague and from 
Brussels. " Twenty-four hours were allowed for his 
departure," says Mr. Fea, " and as a special favour 
Lady Wentworth was given two or three days' grace. 
The latter repaired to Antwerp, escorted by Don Valera, 
a Spanish officer of her acquaintance who had lived 
much in England. Upon their arrival, her chaperon 
gave a ball in her honour. The guests had duly 
assembled, and the music was striking up when a 
mysterious note was slipped into Lady Wentworth's 
hand. Begging to be excused for a moment, she 
quitted the room, but to everyone's astonishment did 
not return." 



Nell Gwyn 



The explanation was that Monmouth was in hiding 
in the vicinity, and the lovers fled that night to the 
little town of Gouda. Here they appear to have 
remained for a few weeks, incognito and in absolute 
seclusion. In the following lines, written at this time, 
the Duke is supposed to have expressed his satisfaction 
at being cut off from the outer world : 

" With joy we leave thee, 
False world, and do forgive 
All thy false treachery, 
For now we'll happy live. 
We'll to our bowers 
And there spend our hours. 
Happy there we'll be, 
We no strifes can see : 
No quarrelling for crowns 
Nor slavery of State, 
Nor changes in our fate. 
From plots this place is free, 
There we'll ever be. 
We'll sit and bless our stars 
That from the noise of wars 
Did this glorious place give, 
That thus we happy live." 

It would have been well for Monmouth if he had 
been content to refrain from " quarrelling for crowns ! " 
But he permitted himself to be persuaded into an 
attempt to wrest the throne of England from his uncle, 
James II. A sum of about 6,000 was realized by the 
pawning of Monmouth' s own valuables and of Lady 
Wentworth's and her mother's jewellery, exactly 2,733 
being raised on the latter. Two or three small vessels 
having been chartered, the little expedition stood out 

134 



Charles II., Lucy Walter and Monmouth 

from the Texel, and " King Monmouth " landed at 
Lyme Regis, Dorset, on June n, 1685. The rest 
of the story is well known. It ended at Sedgemoor 
on July 6. Nine days later Monmouth was executed 
in the Tower. Even at the last moment he refused to 
admit regret for his connection with Lady Wentworth, 
and in the circumstances the clergy refused to ad- 
minister the sacrament to him. He was greatly 
devoted to this lady, and on the scaffold said : "I 
have had a scandal raised upon me about a woman, 
a lady of virtue and honour. I will name her 
the Lady Henrietta Wentworth. I declare that she is 
a very virtuous and godly woman. I have committed 
no sin with her, and that which hath passed between 
us was very honest and innocent in the sight of God." 
Dryden wrote a kindly epitaph, in which he said : 

" Unblamed of life, ambition set aside, 
Not stained with cruelty, not puffed with pride ; 
How happy had he been, if destiny 
Had higher placed his birth, or not so high ! 
His kingly virtues might have claimed a throne, 
And blest all other countries but his own : 
But charming greatness since so few refuse, 
Tis juster to lament him than accuse." 



135 



CHAPTER X 

LADY CASTLEMAINE 

The King's many loves. Barbara Villiers. Frances Teresa Stuart. Nell 
Gwyn. Louise de Keroualle. Hortense Mancini. The birth of Barbara 
Villiers. Her family. Her beauty. Becomes a " toast." Her early 
amours. Philip Stanhope, second Earl of Chesterfield. His corre- 
spondence with Barbara Villiers. Barbara marries Roger Palmer. She 
continues her liaison with Chesterfield. Goes with her husband to 
Holland. She attracts the King. At the Restoration becomes his 
mistress. Her bad qualities. The paternity of her daughter, Anne, in 
dispute. Ultimately acknowledged by Charles II. Palmer is created 
Earl of Castlemaine. Lady Castlemaine's second child. Her outrageous 
behaviour. The King with her on the night of his consort's arrival in 
England. 

THE list of the many beautiful women who at- 
tracted the notice of Charles II. is extensive. 
There were innumerable fleeting liaisons, passions of 
a day and night, or maybe a week, which can be ignored. 
The outstanding figures in his Book of Love are 
Barbara Villiers, afterwards Countess of Castlemaine 
and subsequently Duchess of Cleveland ; Frances 
Teresa Stuart, generally known as " La Belle Stuart," 
who married the third Duke of Richmond ; Nell 
Gwyn ; Louise de Keroualle, created Duchess of 
Portsmouth ; and Hortense Mancini, who was the wife 
of the Duke Mazarin. 

Barbara Villiers, who was born in the autumn of 
1641, was the daughter of William Villiers, second 
Viscount Grandison, and Mary, third daughter of 

136 



Lady Gastlemaine 



Paul Bayning, first Viscount Bayning. The scan- 
dalous story, printed in the " Secret History of Charles 
II.," which was published in 1690, that Barbara was 
the child of Queen Henrietta Maria and the Earl of 
St. Albans had no foundation in fact. Her father, 
who fought for the royalists, was mortally wounded 
at the siege of Bristol in 1643. Five years later, her 
mother married again, the second husband being 
Charles Villiers, second Earl of Anglesey. 

Barbara Villiers came to live with her step-father 
and mother at their London house in 1656, when she 
was in her fifteenth year. She was very lovely, all 
the chroniclers agree. Her features were perfect, her 
figure exquisite ; she had beautiful blue eyes and 
charming brown hair. She was from her first ap- 
pearance in society surrounded by the gallants of the 
day, and it is generally accepted that at this early age 
she had several amorous adventures. 

" This afternoon," Pepys noted on October 21, 1666, 
" walking with Sir W. Cholmley he told me, among 
many other things, how Harry Killegrew is banished 
from the Court for saying that my Lady Castlemaine 
was a lecherous little girl when she was young. That 
she complained to the King, and he sent to the Duke 
of York, whose servant he is, to turn him away. The 
Duke of York has done it, but takes it ill of the Lady. 
She attended to excuse herself, but ill blood is made." 

Chief among the lovers of Barbara Villiers was 
Philip Stanhope, second Earl of Chesterfield, who had 
succeeded his grandfather in the title in 1656, when he 
was twenty-two years of age. At nineteen he had 



Nell Gwyn 



married Anne Percy, eldest daughter of the tenth 
Earl of Northumberland, and lived with her quietly at 
Petworth, but he was left a widower before he came of 
age. He could, therefore, have married Barbara had 
he desired to do so, but evidently he did not ; nor, 
perhaps, much as she was attracted by him, did she, 
who even then knew her world, desire to convert her 
lover into a husband. 

Grammont has described Chesterfield : "II avait 
le visage fort agreable, la tete assez belle, peu de taille, 
et moins de 1'air." He was one of the wildest of the 
roue's of the day, and was notorious for his excess in 
drink and gaming, as well as for the variety of his 
love affairs. Among his conquests, besides Barbara, 
was the Lady Elizabeth Howard who subsequently 
married Dry den. 

Chesterfield was an ardent royalist, and in 1659 he 
was committed by the Protector to the Tower on 
suspicion of being concerned in Sir George Booth's 
rising. He had a year earlier been sent to the Tower 
for wounding Captain John Whalley in a duel ; and in 
January, 1660, in another duel he killed a man called 
Woolley, whereupon, to escape the consequences, he 
fled to France. He was pardoned by Charles II., and 
at the Restoration returned in the King's suite. He 
was Chamberlain to Catherine of Braganza from 1662 
until 1665, when he resigned his post but remained a 
member of her Council. It is to his credit that he 
remained loyal to James II. and declined the offers 
of William III. to make him a Privy Councillor, a 
Gentleman of the Bedchamber, and, even, an Am- 

138 



Lady Gastlemaine 



bassador. Professor Firth tells us that, " To William 
himself, Chesterfield explained his aversion to all such 
oaths, saying that if the oath of allegiance [to James II.] 
which he had taken could not bend him, nothing 
could, and protesting his veneration for his Majesty's 
person and his resolution not to act against the 
Government." Even as Chesterfield refused to take 
the association in support of William's title imposed 
by Parliament in 1694, so, at the accession of Anne, 
he was one of those who refused to take the oath 
abjuring the Pretender. 

Chesterfield's loyalty to James II. was the more 
praiseworthy, because James, when Duke of York, 
had paid very marked attentions to the Earl's second 
wife, Lady Elizabeth Butler, eldest daughter of James 
Butler, twelfth Earl and first Duke of Ormonde, whom 
he married in 1660. There is mention of this incident 
in Pepys's Diary on January 19, 1663 : 

" This day by Dr. Clerke I was told the occasion of 
my Lord Chesterfield's going and taking his lady, my 
Lord Ormond's daughter, from Court. It seems, he 
not only hath long been jealous of the Duke of York, 
but did find them two talking together, though there 
were others in the room, and the lady, in all opinion, 
a most good, virtuous woman. He, the next day, of 
which the Duke was warned by somebody that saw 
the passion my Lord Chesterfield was in the night 
before, went and told the Duke how much he did 
apprehend himself wronged, in his picking out his lady 
of the whole Court to be the subject of his dishonour ; 
which the Duke did answer with great calmness, not 

i39 



Nell Gwyn 



seeming to understand the reason of complaint, and 
that was all that passed ; but my Lord did presently 
pack his lady into the country in Derbyshire, near 
the Peak [to his country seat, Bretby Hall] ; which 
is become a proverb at Court, to send a man's wife 
to the Peak when she vexes him." 

Some of the correspondence between Chesterfield 
and Barbara Villiers has been preserved. It was 
written in 1657, when Barbara was sixteen years old : 

FROM BARBARA VILLIERS TO THE EARL OF 

CHESTERFIELD. 
" MY LORD, 

" The joy I had of being with you the last 
night, has made me do nothing but dream of you, and my 
life is never pleasant to mee but when I am with you 
or talking of you ; yet the discourses of the world 
must make mee a little more circumspect ; therefore 
I deseir you not to come to-morrow, but to stay till 
the party be come to town. I will not faile to meet 
you on Sathurday morning, till when I remaine your 
humble servant." 

FROM BARBARA VILLIERS TO THE EARL OF 

CHESTERFIELD, AT TUNBRIDGE. 
" MY LORD, 

" I came just now from the Dutches of 
Hambleton, and there I found to my great affliction, 
that Lady Ann was sent to Windsor, and the world 
sayes that you are the occation of it. I am sorry to 
hear that the having a kindness for you is so great a 

140 



Lady Castlemaine 



crime that people are to suffer for it ; the only satis- 
faction that one doth receive is, that their cause is so 
glorious that it is suffitient to preserve a tranquillity 
of mind, that all their mallice can never discompose. 
I see that the fates were resolved to make mee 
happier than I could expect, for when I came home 
I found a letter that came from your lordship, which 
makes mee beleive that amongst the pleasures you 
receive in the place where you are, which I hear 
affords great plenty of fine ladyes, you sometimes 
think of her who is, 

" My Lord, 

" Yours, etc." 



FROM BARBARA VILLIERS TO THE EARL OF 
CHESTERFIELD. 

" MY LORD, 

" I would fain have had the happyness to 
have seen you at church this day, but I was not 
allowed to goe. I am never so well pleased as when 
I am with you ; though I feel you are better when 
you are with some other ladyes ; for you were yester- 
day all the afternoon with the person I am most 
jealous of, and I know I have so little merrit that I 
am suspicious you love all women better than my 
selfe. I sent you yesterday a letter that I think 
might convince you that I loved nothing besides 
your selfe, nor will I ever, though you should hate mee ; 
but if you should, I would never give you the trouble 
of telling you how much I loved you, but keep it to 

141 



Nell Gwyn 



me selfe till I had broke my harte. I will importune 
you no longer than to say, that I am, and ever will be 
your constant faithfull humble servant." 



FROM THE LADY ANNE HAMILTON AND BARBARA 
VlLLIERS TO THE EARL OF CHESTERFIELD. 

" MY LORD, 

" My freind and I are just now abed to- 
gether a contriving how to have your company this 
afternune. If you deserve this favour, you will come 
and seek us at Ludgate Hill, about three a clock 
at Butler's shop, where we will expect you : but 
least we should . . . 

" Yours, etc." 



FROM BARBARA VILLIERS TO THE EARL OF 

CHESTERFIELD. 
11 MY LORD, 

" I doe highly regret my own misfortune of 
being out of town since it made mee incapable of the 
honour you intended mee. I assure you nothing 
is likelier to make mee sett high rate of my selfe, than 
the esteem you are pleased to say you have for mee. 
You cannot bestow your favours and oblugations on 
any that has a more patient resentment of them ; 
nor can they ever of any receive a more sincere re- 
ception than from 

" My Lord, 

" Yours," 
143 



Lady Castlemaine 



THE EARL OF CHESTERFIELD TO BARBARA VILLIERS. 
" MADAM, 

" Though I have hardly ended one letter, 
I am forced to begin a nother, since mee thinks that 
the first was so full of business, that there wanted 
roome to express the kindness that should shine in 
all my actions ; but could I set down all I think upon 
that subject, all the paper of the town (though to 
much to send you) were to little to doe it ; for having an 
object so transcending all that ever was before, it 
coins new thoughts, which want fresh words, to speak 
the language of a soul that might justly teach all 

others how to love. I am 

" Madam, 

" Yours, etc." 

THE EARL OF CHESTERFIELD TO BARBARA VILLIERS. 
" MADAM, 

" I need not tell your ladyship how unfor- 
tunate I was in missing the opportunity of wating 
on you when you were last in town ; since you have 
reason to believe, that the paying you my respects 
and your acceptance of same are both the ambition 
and pleasure of my life. I hope this letter will be so 
fotunate as to kiss your hands, and yet I envy it a 
happyness I want my selfe ; but how ever my ill luck 
hath devided mee from that place which is made 
happy by your presence : I beseech you to beleive 
that though my joyes may languish yet my passion 
shall last in its primitive vigour, and preserves me ever 

" Madam, 

" Your, etc/' 
345 



Nell Gwyn 



It was expected that Barbara Villiers, with her 
striking beauty, her charm, and her audacity, would 
make a great match. To the general surprise, her 
choice fell upon a young man of no particular distinc- 
tion, Roger Palmer. Palmer, who was born in 1634, 
was the eldest son of Sir James Palmer, of Hayes, in 
Middlesex, who had been Chancellor of the Order of 
the Garter. He had entered himself as a student at 
the Inner Temple, but never had himself called to the 
bar. The marriage, which took place on April 14, 
1659, was not a success. If Barbara married Palmer 
out of pique, as seems not unlikely, to avenge herself 
for a slight put upon her by Chesterfield, she clearly 
did not contrive to forget her lover, and the liaison 
was shortly renewed, if, indeed, it ever lapsed. Any- 
how, the following letters were written to Chesterfield 
in the year she was married : 

"It is my ill fortune to be disappointed of what I 
most desire, for this afternoon I did promise myself 
the satisfaction of your company ; but I fear I am 
disappointed, which is no small affliction to me ; but I 
hope the Fates may yet be so kind as to let me see you 
about five o' clock . If you will be at your private lodgings 
in Lincoln's Inn Fields, I will endeavour to come." 

Even on a sick-bed, recovering from an attack of 
smallpox, Barbara gathered strength enough to write 
a passionate love-letter : 

" My dear Life, I have been this day extremely 
ill, and the not hearing from you has made me much 
worse than otherwise I should have been. The doctor 

144 



Lady Castlemaine 



does believe me in a desperate condition, and I must 
confess the unwillingness I have to leave you makes me 
not entertain the thoughts of death so willingly as other- 
wise I should. For there is nothing besides yourself 
that could make me so desire to live a day, and if I am 
never so happy as to see you more, yet the last words 
I will say shall be a prayer for your happiness, and so 
I will live and die loving you above all other things." 

The love-lorn lady recovered, the illness having 
happily spared her beauty. Her husband took her 
to Holland in the autumn of 1659, where they joined 
the Court of Charles II. There she attracted the 
attention of the King, and it is believed that she almost 
at once became his mistress. 

At the Restoration the Palmers returned to England, 
whether in the suite of the King or not is unknown. 
At once Barbara became one of the most important 
personages in the kingdom. She had at this time 
more than anyone else the ear of Charles, and did not 
scruple to use her influence. 

The King was undoubtedly enamoured of her, 
but it is almost certain that she did not care for him. 
As Burnet wrote : " His passion for her, and her 
strange behaviour towards him, did so disorder him, 
that often he was not master of himself, nor capable 
of minding business. . . . She was a woman of great 
beauty, but most enormously vicious and ravenous, 
foolish but imperious, and always carrying on intrigues 
with other men, while yet she pretended she was 
jealous of him." 

145 I0 



Nell Gwyn 



On February 25, 1661, she was delivered of a child, 
Anne. Her husband claimed the paternity of the girl ; 
but it was generally thought that the father was 
Chesterfield, and it has been stated that when Anne 
grew up she greatly resembled him. Anyhow, Barbara, 
who always had her eye on the main chance, contrived 
to persuade the King that Anne was his child, and 
Charles, whether he believed it or not, accepted the 
paternity and in 1673 by a royal warrant publicly 
announced that Anne was his natural child. 

The King had been urged to marry so as to secure 
the succession, and negotiations were eventually set 
in train for the hand of Catherine of Braganza. It may 
safely be assumed that this did not suit the book of 
Barbara Palmer, and many an uncomfortable quarter 
of an hour Charles must have had with his overbearing 
mistress. It was probably to placate her to some 
degree that he decided to raise her husband to the 
peerage. 

There was, however, a hitch. Clarendon hated the 
lady, deplored her influence, resented her making her 
house the rendezvous of his political opponents 
Ashley, Bennet, Buckingham and Lauderdale met 
regularly there and absolutely refused to pass the 
patents of nobility. From this decision nothing would 
move him, not even the orders of the King. In the 
end Charles had to own himself defeated, and Barbara 
Palmer, or rather her husband, had to content herself 
with an Irish title. 

" To the Privy Seal, and sealed there," Pepys wrote 
on December 7, 1661 ; " and, among other things that 

146 



Lady Gastlemaine 



passed, there was a patent for Roger Palmer, Madame 
Palmer's husband, to be Earl of Castlemaine and Baron 
of Limbricke in Ireland ; but the honour is tied up 
to the males got of the body of this wife, the Lady 
Barbara : the reason whereof everyone knows." 

It is something to Palmer's credit that he was averse 
to accepting this grant of honours. As a matter of 
fact, he never took his seat in the Irish Parliament. 

The relations between Lady Castlemaine and Charles 
continued, and she was again with child when Catherine 
of Braganza landed in England to marry the King. 
" My Lady told me," Pepys has recorded on May 10, 
1662, " how my Lady Castlemaine do speak of going 
to lie in at Hampton Court, which she and all our 
ladies are much troubled at, because of the King 
being forced to show her countenance in the sight of 
the Queen when she comes." This was too much 
even for the easy-going Charles to countenance, and 
the child, which arrived early in the following June, 
was born in the Countess's house in King Street, 
Westminster. 

However, if adamant in this matter, Charles was 
certainly not desirous to break with his mistress until 
the very moment of his marriage, and was with her 
on the night of the arrival of his bride in England : 

" In the Privy Garden saw the finest smocks and 
linen petticoats of my Lady Castlemaine's, laced with 
rich lace at the bottom, that ever I saw, and did me 
good to look at them," Pepys noted. " Sarah [Lord 
Sandwich's housekeeper] told me how the King dined 
at my Lady Castlemaine's, and supped, every day 

147 10* 



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and night the last week ; and that the night that the 
bonfires were made for joy of the Queen's arrival, 
the King was there ; but there was no fire at her door, 
though at all the rest of the doors almost in the street ; 
which was much observed ; and that the King and she 
did send for a pair of scales and weighed one another ; 
and she, being with child, was said to be the heaviest . 
But she is now a most disconsolate creature, and 
comes not out of doors, since the King's going. But 
we went to the theatre to see The French Dancing 
Master, and there with much pleasure we saw and 
gazed upon Lady Castlemaine ; but it troubles us 
to see her look dejectedly, and slighted by people 
already." 



148 



CHAPTER XI 

CATHERINE OF BRAGANZA 

The choice of a Queen. Catherine of Braganza selected. Her dowry. Her 
arrival in England. The royal marriage. Her appearance. Charles 
at first attracted by her. His pleasure in her short-lived. He devotes 
himself again to Lady Castlemaine. A Court Ball. The King and 
Queen quarrel over Lady Castlemaine. Lady Castlemaine a Lady of 
the Queen's Bedchamber. Lady Castlemaine leaves her husband. 
Lord Clarendon. Court frolics. The desire for a direct heir to the 
throne. Edward Montague. The dullness of the Queen's life. Her 
tea-parties. Her lack of interest in politics. Her devotion to her 
religion. 

CHARLES was now being persuaded to marry, 
but he seems to have had no desire to do so. 
However, ministers urged upon him the necessity of 
providing for the direct succession to the throne, and 
ultimately he gave way. Princess after princess was 
considered, but, said Charles in 1661 : " Odd's fish ! I 
could not marry one of them they are all foggy.'' 
The dowry was a matter of moment, and the eligible 
princesses were far from wealthy. There was one 
exception, however, and this was Catherine of 
Braganza. 

Catherine, who was born in November, 1638, was 
the third child of John, Duke of Braganza, and Louisa 
de Guzman, a daughter of the Duke of Medina Sidonia. 
The Duke became King of Portugal in 1640, and after 
his death sixteen years later, Catherine's younger 

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brother, Alfonso, succeeded to the throne, Queen 
Louisa being appointed Regent during his minority. 

It had always been the desire of King John to 
strengthen his monarchy by a direct alliance with 
England, such as would be secured by a marriage 
between the two royal houses. Even so early as 
1645, he had thought of a marriage between his daughter 
and Charles, Prince of Wales ; but though the matter 
was discussed, nothing came of the project at the 
time. 

Early in 1661 negotiations were opened as regards 
the marriage, and these were brought to a successful 
conclusion. Parliament was advised of this in May. 
In the next month the marriage treaty was signed. 
The dowry of the bride was magnificent : half a million 
sterling, the settlement of Bombay in India and 
Tangier in Northern Africa, and a share in the enor- 
mous overseas trade of Portugal. 

The Earl of Sandwich was appointed Ambassador 
Extraordinary to Portugal, and sailed for Lisbon to 
bring the bride to England. He did not, however, 
return with her for nearly a year, during which time 
he took possession of Tangier. Of other difficulties 
that arose, there is mention in Pepys : " My Lord was 
forced to have some clashing with the Council of 
Portugal about payment of the portion before he could 
get it ; which was, besides Tangier and a free trade in 
the Indies, two millions of crowns, half now and the 
other half in twelve months. But they have brought 
but little money ; but the rest in sugars and other 
commodities and bills of exchange." Catherine was 
150 



Catherine of Braganza 



regarded in Portugal as Queen of England, but, as a 
matter of fact, she was not married by proxy, as was 
then the usual custom, as the Pope, who disapproved 
of a Roman Catholic Princess marrying a Protestant 
King, would not grant the necessary dispensation. 

The Duke of York, on behalf of the King, met the 
bride-elect at Portsmouth on May 13, 1662. Charles 
did not go to Portsmouth until a week later, pleading 
the pressure of state business, but actually being in 
no hurry to get away from Lady Castlemaine. The 
voyage had greatly upset Catherine, who did not create 
a favourable impression on board. Pepys noted " that 
the Queen hath given no rewards to any of the captains 
or officers, but only to my Lord Sandwich, and that 
was a bag of gold, which was no honourable present, 
of about 1,400 sterling. How recluse the Queen 
hath ever been, and all the voyage never come upon the 
deck, nor put her head out of her cabin, but did love 
my Lord's music, and would send for it down to the 
state-room, and she sit in her cabin within hearing of 
it." 

It is stated in the Duke of York's journal that " the 
King went thither (Portsmouth) and was married 
privately by Lord Aubigny, a secular priest, according 
to the rites of Rome, in the Queen's chamber ; none 
present but the Portuguese Ambassador, three more 
Portuguese of quality, and two or three Portuguese 
women. What made this necessary was, that the 
Earl of Sandwich did not marry Catherine by proxy 
as usual, before she came away. How this happened 
the Duke knows not, nor did the Chancellor (Clarendon) 



Nell Gwyn 



know of this private marriage. The Queen would not 
be bedded till pronounced man and wife by Sheldon, 
Bishop of London." 

A more piquant account is given by Charles himself 
(who, however, is said to have remarked that at first 
sight he " thought they had brought him a bat instead 
of a woman ") in a letter from Portsmouth to Lord 
Clarendon dated May 21 : "I arrived here yesterday 
about two in the afternoon, and as soon as I had 
shifted myself, I went into my wife's chamber, whom 
I found in bed by reason of a little cough and some 
inclination to a fever. I can now give you an account 
of what I have seen, which in short is : her face is 
not so exact as to be called a beauty, though her 
eyes are excellent good, and not anything in her face 
that can in the least degree shame one ; on the con- 
trary, she hath as much agreeableness in her looks as 
ever I saw, and if I have any skill in physiognomy, 
which I think I have, she must be as good a woman 
as ever was born. Her conversation, as much as I 
can perceive, is very good, for she has wit enough and 
a most agreeable voice. You will wonder to see how 
well we are acquainted already ; in a word I think 
myself very happy, for I am confident our too humours 
will agree very well together." 

Another letter, written at this time by Charles to 
Clarendon, has been preserved : 

" My brother will tell you of all that passes here, 
which I hope will be to your satisfaction ; I am sure 'tis 
much to mine, that I cannot easily tell you how happy 
I think myself, and / must be the worst man living 

152 




The arrival of Catherine of Braganza at Portsmouth. 

Page 152 



Catherine of Braganza 



(which I hope I am not) if I be not a good husband. 
I am confident never two humours were better fitted 
together than ours are. We cannot start from hence 
till Tuesday, by reason that there are not carts to 
be had to-morrow to transport all our guar de-infantas , 
without which there is no stirring ; so you are not 
to expect me till Thursday night at Hampton 
Court." 

The royal honeymoon was passed at Hampton 
Court, when " she and Charles talked in Spanish 
entirely, as she did not know enough French to con- 
verse in that tongue." The praise lavished upon 
Catherine's eyes by Charles was echoed by Pepys 
and by the Court poet, Waller, the latter remarking, in 
lines " On a card that Her Majesty tore at ombre," 

" The cards you tear in value rise ; 
So do the wounded by your eyes ; 
Who to celestial things aspire 
Are by that passion raised the higher." 

It really seemed at first as if the marriage would 
turn out well. Charles seems to have been in a good 
humour about it, even though he was disappointed 
that more money was not forthcoming. Catherine 
was not, of course, to be compared in looks with Lady 
Castlemaine, nor some other beauties of the Court; 
but she had a low pleasing voice, fine hair, and was, 
as Pepys put it, " though not overcharming, she hath 
a good, modest and innocent look that was pleasing." 

The pleasure of the King in his consort was, however, 
short-lived. " The new and brilliant scenes in which 
the convent-bred queen was now required to play the 

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leading part were at first strange and fatiguing to her, 
and she took far more delight in the practice of her 
devotional exercises than in all the seductive gaieties 
which surrounded her," Miss Strickland has written. 
" She heard mass daily, and but for the earnest per- 
suasions of the ambassador, who, it will be remembered, 
was her god-father, she would have spent more time 
in her chapel than was at all compatible with her duties 
as a wife and a queen. It required all the influence 
of this prudent counsellor to induce her to go into 
public as often as she was required, or to tolerate the 
freedom of manners in that dissipated court, where 
infidelity and licentiousness walked openly unveiled. 
Catharine was wedded to the most witty and fasci- 
nating prince in the world, constitutionally good- 
humoured, but without religion or moral principles, 
brave, reckless and devoted to pleasure, and requiring 
constant excitement and frequent changes. The sim- 
plicity of this young queen's character, her freshness, 
innocence and confiding fondness for himself, pleased 
him, the naiveti of her manners amused him, and, as a 
new toy, she was prized and cherished for the first 
six weeks of their marriage. Nothing in fact could 
exceed the lover-like devotion of his behaviour to his 
royal bride for that period, which was spent in all 
sorts of pleasures and amusements that he could 
devise for her entertainment. Sylvan sports, ex- 
cursions in the fields, the parks, or on the Thames, 
occupied the court by day, while the evenings were 
devoted to comedies, music, and balls, in which the 
King, his brother, and the lords and ladies joined, the 
154 



Catherine of Braganza 



King excelling them all in the air and grace of his 
dancing, while the queen applauded, to his great 
delight, while he continued to treat her with every 
possible demonstration of tenderness and respect." 

This was all very well for a time, but Catherine had 
not the qualities to hold such a wayward spirit as the 
King. She had no conversation, certainly no wit or 
any sense of humour ; she was entirely ignorant of 
affairs of state, and was unused to society. The 
amusements of the Court, however, delighted her. 
She was fond of dancing, though a poor performer ; 
and was an inveterate gambler, playing for higher stakes 
than was customary in those days. 

Gaming was a very definite institution at Court. 
Charles himself was indifferent to cards, but nearly 
everyone else seems to have loved them. There are 
numerous references to gaming in Pepys, one or two 
of which may be quoted. 

" February 7, 1661. Among others, Mr. Creed 
and Captain Ferrers tell me the stories of my Lord 
Duke of Buckingham's and my Lord's falling out 
at Havre de Grace, at cards ; they two and my Lord 
St. Alban's playing. The Duke did, to my Lord's 
dishonour, often say that he did in his conscience 
know the contrary to what he then said, about the 
difference at cards ; and so did take up the money 
that he should have lost to my Lord. Which my 
Lord resenting, said nothing then, but that he doubted 
not but there were ways enough to get his money 
of him. So they parted that night : and my Lord 

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Nell Gwyn 



sent for Sir R. Stayner and sent him the next morn- 
ing to the Duke to know whether he did remember 
what he said last night, and whether he would own it 
with his sword and a second ; which he said he would, 
and so both sides agreed. But my Lord St. Alban's, 
and the Queen and Ambassador Montagu did way- 
lay them at their lodgings till the difference was 
made up, to my Lord's honour, who hath got great 
reputation thereby." 

" February 17, 1667. This evening going to the 
Queen's side to see the ladies, I did find the Queene, 
the Duchess of York, and another or two at cards, 
with the room full of great ladies and men ; which 
I was amazed to see on a Sunday, having not believed 
it ; but contrarily, flatly denied the same a little 
while since to my cozen Roger Pepys." 

" January i, 1668. By and by I met with Mr. 
Brisband ; and having it in my mind this Christmas 
to (do what I never can remember that I did) go 
and see the manner of the gaming at the Groome- 
Porter's, I having in my coming from the playhouse 
stepped into two Temple-halls, and there saw the 
dirty 'prentices and idle people playing ; wherein 
I was mistaken, in thinking to have seen gentlemen 
of quality playing there, as I think it was when I 
was a little child, that one of my father's servants, 
John Bassum, I think, carried me in his arms thither. 
I did tell Brisband of it, and he did lead me thither, 
where after staying an hour, they begun to play at 
about eight at night, where to see how differently 

156 



Catherine of Braganza 



one man took his losing from another, one cursing 
and swearing, and another only muttering and grum- 
bling to himself, a third without any apparent dis- 
content at all : to see how the dice will run good 
luck in one hand, for half an hour together, and 
another have no good luck at all : to see how easily 
here, where they play nothing but guinnys, a 100 
is won or lost : to see two or three gentlemen come 
in there drunk, and putting their stock of gold to- 
gether, one 22 pieces, the second 4, and the third 
5 pieces ; and these to play one with another, and 
forget how much each of them brought, but he that 
brought the 22 thinks that he brought no more than 
the rest : to see the different humours of the gamesters 
to change their luck, when it is bad, how ceremonious 
they are to call for new dice, to shift their places, 
to alter their manner of throwing, and that with 
great industry, as if there was anything in it : to 
see how some old gamesters, that have no money 
now to spend as formerly, do come and sit and look 
on, as among others Sir Lewis Dines, who was here, 
and hath been a great gamester in his time : to hear 
their cursing and damning to no purpose, as one 
man being to throw a seven if he could, and failing 
to do it after a great many throws, cried he would 
be damned if ever he flung seven more while he lived, 
his despair of throwing it being so great, while others 
did it as their luck served almost every throw : to 
see how persons of the best quality do here sit down 
and play with people of any, though meaner : and 
to see how people in ordinary clothes shall come 

157 



Nell Gwyn 



hither, and play away 100 or 2 or 300 guinnys, with- 
out any kind of difficulty : and lastly to see the 
formality of the groome-porter, who is their judge 
of all disputes in play and all quarrels that may 
arise therein, and how his under-officers are there 
to observe true play at each table, and to give new 
dice, is a consideration I never could have thought 
had been in the world, had I not now seen it. And 
mighty glad I am that I did see it, and it may be 
will find another evening before Christmas be over, 
to see it again, when I may stay later, for their heat 
of play begins not till about eleven or twelve o'clock ; 
which did give me another pretty observation of a 
man, that did win mighty fast when I was there. 
I think he won 100 at single pieces in a little time. 
While all the rest envied him his good fortune, he 
cursed it, saying, ' A pox on it, that it should come 
so early upon me, for this fortune two hours hence 
would be worth something to me, but then, God damn 
me, I shall have no such luck.' This kind of pro- 
phane, mad entertainment they give themselves. 
And so I, having enough for once, refusing to venture, 
though Brisband pressed me hard, and tempted me 
with saying that no man was ever known to lose 
the first time, the devil being too cunning to dis- 
courage a gamester ; and he offered me also to lend 
me ten pieces to venture ; but I did refuse, and so 
went away." 

So great was the craze for cards that it was made 
the subject of many verses. Sir George Etherege 
158 



Catherine of Braganza 



wrote the following " Song of Basset," which shows 
what a hold gaming had on society : 

" Let equipage and dress despair 

Since Basset is come in ; 
For nothing can oblige the fair 
Like money or moreen. 

" Is any countess in distress, 

She flies not to her beau ; 

Tis only coney can redress 

Her grief with a rouleau. 

" By this bewitching game betray 'd, 

Poor love is bought and sold ; 
And that which should be a free trade. 
Is now engross'd by gold. 

" Even sense is brought into disgrace 

Where company is met. 
Or silent stands, or leaves the place, 
While all the talk's Basset. 

" Why, ladies, will you stake your hearts, 

Where a plain cheat is found ? 
You first are rook'd out of those darts 
That gave yourselves the wound. 

" The time, which should be kindly lent 

To plays and witty men, 
In waiting for a knave is spent, 
Or wishing for a ten. 

" Stand in defence of your own charms. 

Throw down this favourite, 
That threatens, with his dazzling arms, 
Your beauty and your wit. 

" What pity 'tis, those conquering eyes 

Which all the world subdue, 
Should, while the lover gazing dies, 
Be only on Alpue." 
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Nell Gwyn 



There is, in Pepys, an interesting description of a 
Court Ball given in honour of Catherine's birthday 
(November 15, 1666) : 

" I also to the ball, and with much ado got up to 
the loft, where with much trouble I could see very well. 
Anon the house grew full, and the candles light, and 
the King and Queen and all the ladies set ; and it was, 
indeed, a glorious sight to see Mrs. Stuart in black and 
white lace, and her head and shoulders dressed with 
dyamonds, and the like a great many great ladies 
more, only the Queen none; and the King in a rich 
vest of some rich silke and silver trimmings, as the 
Duke of York and all the dancers wore some of cloth 
of silver, and others of other sorts, exceeding rich. 
Presently after the King was come in, he took the 
Queene, and about fourteen more couples there was, 
and begun the Bransles. As many of the men as I can 
remember present, were, the King, Duke of York, 
Prince Rupert, Duke of Monmouth, Duke of Bucking- 
ham, Lord Douglas, Mr. [Guye] Hamilton, Colonel 
Russell, Mr. Griffith, Lord Ossory, Lord Rochester ; 
and of the ladies, the Queen, Duchess of York, Mrs. 
Stuart, Duchess of Monmouth, Lady Essex Howard, 
Mrs. Temple, Swedes Embassadress, Lady Arlington, 
Lord George Berkeley's daughter, and many others I 
remember not ; but all most excellently dressed in 
rich petticoats and gowns, and diamonds and pearls. 

" After Bransles, then to a Corant, and now and 
then a French dance ; but that so rare that the Corants 
grew tiresome, that I wished it done. Only Mrs. 
Stuart danced mighty finely, and many French dances, 

160 




'Only Mrs. Stuart danced mighty finely, and many French 
dances." 

Page 160 



Catherine of Braganza 



specially one with the King called the New Dance, 
which was very pretty ; but upon the whole matter, 
the business of the dancing of itself was not extra- 
ordinary pleasing. But the clothes and sights of the 
persons was indeed very pleasing, and worth my 
coming, being never likely to see more gallantry while 
I live, if I should come twenty times. . . . My Lady 
Castlemayne, without whom all is nothing, being there, 
very rich though not dancing." 

Whether the Queen knew of the King's relations 
with Lady Castlemaine before she came to England is 
not known, but she must have been put wise in this 
matter about the time of her arrival, for when the list 
of the members of her Household was presented to 
her, she struck out the name of Lady Castlemaine, 
who had been put down as a Lady of the Bedchamber. 
Further than this, she refused definitely to receive 
Lady Castlemaine at Court, and said that if this 
were forced upon her, she would return forthwith 
to Portugal. 

Catherine thus won the first round, but the King, 
no doubt spurred on by Lady Castlemaine, was de- 
termined that the final victory should be his. It was 
left to Clarendon to persuade Her Majesty, but this 
was as difficult as it was distasteful to him, and 
days passed without any settlement being arrived at. 
At last the King became angry, and wrote to the, 
Chancellor : 

' ' Lest you should think that by making no farther 
stir in the business, you may divert me from my resolu- 
tion, which all the world shall never do, I wish I may 

161 ii 



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be unhappy in this world and in the world to come, if 
I fail in the least degree of what I am resolved, which 
is making my Lady Castlemaine of my wife's Bed- 
chamber, and whoever I find endeavouring to hinder 
this resolution of mine, except it be only to myself, I 
will be his enemy to the last moment of my life." 

In the meantime there had been a tremendous 
rumpus in the Castlemaine household. The Earl, who 
was a Roman Catholic, had, without warning his wife, 
had the second child, Charles, baptized by a priest of 
his own faith. Lady Castlemaine was furious, and 
appealed to the King. As a result the infant was again 
baptized, this time at St. Margaret's, Westminster. 

Lady Castlemaine then left her husband, and taking 
the children with her, went to stay with a relative at 
Richmond. Pepys, however, believed that there was 
more calculation than anger behind this move. " This 
day," he wrote on July 16, " I was told that my Lady 
Castlemaine, being quite fallen out with her husband, 
did yesterday go away from him, with all her plate, 
jewels, and other best things ; and is gone to Richmond 
to a brother of hers ; which, I am apt to think, was a 
design to get out of town, that the King might come 
at her the better." 

Ten days later the diarist has more to say on the 
subject : " Mrs. Sarah told me how the falling out 
between my Lady Castlemaine and her Lord was about 
christening of the child lately, which he would have, 
and had done by a priest : and some days after, she 
had it again christened by a minister ; the King, and 
Lord of Oxford, and Countess of Suffolk being wit- 

162 



Catherine of Braganza 



nesses : and christened with a proviso, that it had 
not already been christened. Since that, she left her 
Lord, carrying away every thing in the house ; so 
much as every dish, and cloth, and servant, but the 
porter. He is gone discontented into France, they 
say, to enter a monastery ; and now she is coming 
back again to her house in King Street. But I hear 
that the Queen did prick her out of the list presented 
her by the King ; desiring that she might have that 
favour done her, or that he would send her from whence 
she come : and that the King was angry, and the Queen 
discontented a whole day and night upon it ; but that 
the King hath promised to have nothing to do with her 
hereafter. But I cannot believe that the King can 
fling her off so, he loving her too well." 

Of course, in the long run, Charles, who held all the 
winning cards, had his way. He himself brought 
Lady Castlemaine to Court. Her Majesty was as 
greatly incensed as she was distressed, and Clarendon 
records, " The Queen was no longer sate in her chair, 
but her colour changed, and tears gushed out of her 
eyes, and her nose bled, and she fainted, so that 
she was forthwith removed to another room, and 
all the company retired out of that where she was 
before." 

Ultimately the Queen, perforce, accepted the situa- 
tion, though it will be seen from a letter written by 
Clarendon to the Duke of Ormonde, she did not yield 
unconditionally. " All things are bad with reference 
to Lady Castlemaine," Clarendon wrote on September 
9, 1662, " but I think not quite so bad as you hear. 

163 ii* 



Nell Gwyn 



Everybody takes her to be of the Bedchamber, for 
she is always there and goes abroad in the coach. 
But the Queen tells me that the King promised her, 
on condition she would use her as she hath others, 
' that she should never live in Court ; ' yet lodgings I 
think she hath ; I hear of no back stairs. The worst 
is, the King is as discomposed as ever, and looks as 
little after business, which breaks my heart. He 
seeks satisfaction in other company, who do not love 
him as well as you and I do." 

In September the King, the Queen and Lady Castle- 
maine were seen driving in the same coach, together 
with " Mr. Crofts, the King's bastard," who was 
making love to the royal mistress. It is believed 
that Charles hurried on the marriage of his son in 
order to withdraw him from Lady Castlemaine's 
attractions. 

This was not the only way in which Catherine was 
ill-treated. She was to have received 40,000 a year 
for her allowance, but she rarely had this amount, and 
once she had to complain to Parliament that she had 
only received 4,000. Her retinue, of both sexes, 
which had accompanied her from Lisbon, were un- 
popular in this country, and most of them returned 
home at an early date. 

As for the territorial acquisitions which his consort 
had brought to Charles as dowry, while it is true that 
Bombay was destined to lay the foundations of Eng- 
land's empire of India, far otherwise was it with 
Tangier. That settlement was quite speedily aban- 
doned, ostensibly on the ground of expense of upkeep, 

164 



Catherine of Braganza 



the fact being that Charles was little inclined to ex- 
penditure upon anything that appertained not to 
his personal desires and appetites. Tangier was left 
to become a mere congeries of pirates and freebooters 
instead of a valuable British naval base on the Mediter- 
ranean. 

It was little to the credit of Lord Clarendon as 
Chancellor that at Charles's bidding he undertook to 
see the Queen and make her realize the King's point of 
view. Catherine not unnaturally remarked that she 
" did not think she should find the King engaged in 
his affections to another lady." A little later, we find 
Clarendon writing to the Duke of Ormonde as above. 

In honour of Catherine's birthday (November 15), 
Waller composed a poem which was sung to the Queen 
at a Court ball by the vocalist, Mrs. Knight, who was 
afterwards numbered among Charles's mistresses. 
This fulsome effusion was as follows : 

' ' This happy day two lights are seen : 
A glorious Saint, a matchless Queen, 
Both named alike, both crowned appear, 
The Saint above, the Infanta here. 
May all those years which Catherine 
The martyr did for Heaven resign 
Be added to the line 
Of your blest life among us here ! 
For all the pains that she did feel, 
And all the torments of her wheel. 
May you as many pleasures share. 
May Heaven itself content 
With Catherine the Saint ! 
Without appearing old, 
An hundred times may you 
With eyes as bright as now, 
This happy day behold ! " 

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Nell Gwyn 



Catherine's " blest life " was rendered little happier 
by the coarseness of the entertainments given at 
Whitehall. They sang songs, as Macaulay has men- 
tioned, " the double meaning of which was too flimsily 
veiled to require any effort at interpretation ; they 
would put on a page's dress for a frolic, and engage 
in the most vulgar and outrageous adventures." 

In 1663 the Queen nearly died, as the result of a 
terrible illness which dissipated all hopes of an heir 
to the throne. 

Grammont has an account of this illness, which 
nearly proved fatal. " The Queen," he says, " was given 
over by her physicians : the few Portuguese women 
who had not been sent back to their own country filled 
the Court with doleful cries ; and the good nature of 
the King was much affected with the situation in 
which he saw a princess whom, though he did not 
love her, yet he greatly esteemed. She loved him 
tenderly, and thinking that it was the last time she 
should ever speak to him, she told him that ' the 
concern he showed for her death was enough to make 
her quit life with regret, but that, not possessing 
charms sufficient to merit his tenderness, she had at 
least the consolation in dying to give place to a consort 
who might be more worthy of it and to whom Heaven, 
perhaps, might grant a blessing that had been refused 
to her.' At these words she bathed his hands with 
some tears, which he thought would be her last ; 
he mingled his own with hers, and, without supposing 
she would take him at his word, he conjured her to 
live for his sake." 

166 



Catherine of Braganza 



In her delirium, the poor woman actually believed 
that not merely a child, but children, had been born 
to her, and was heard to cry out : " How are my 
children ? " 

More cynical than Grammont was the French Am- 
bassador, who wrote to his King at this time : 

" I am just come from Whitehall, where I left the 
Queen in a state in which, according to the doctors, 
there is little room for hope. She received extreme 
unction this morning. . . . The King seems to me 
deeply affected. He supped, nevertheless, yesterday 
evening at Madame de Castlemaine's, and had his 
usual conversations with Mademoiselle Stuart, of 
whom he is very fond. There is already talk of his 
marrying [again]. Everyone gives him a wife accord- 
ing to his inclination, and there are some who do not 
look for her out of England." 

In the following year Edward Montague was dis- 
missed from the post of Master of the Horse to the 
Queen in somewhat singular circumstances. While 
Pepys believes that his dismissal was thanks to his 
own pride in " affecting to seem great with the Queen," 
Miss Strickland states that " his offence was supposed 
to be his great attachment to the service of his royal 
mistress, whose cause he always upheld with more 
warmth than discretion." Another version was to 
the effect that Montague gave offence to Catherine by 
squeezing her hand, and that the King, meeting the 
Master of the Horse one day, asked him sarcasti- 
cally " How his mistress did ? " Anyway, after his 

167 



Nell Gwyn 



dismissal from Court Montague volunteered for the 
fleet, and lost his life in action under Lord Sandwich. 
Speaking of the life of the Court to Pepys, one of his 
friends remarked that " of all places, if there be Hell, 
it is here. No faith, no truth, no love nor any agree- 
ment between man and wife nor friends?' 

The royal lady must indeed have been grateful for 
any attention shown her. Her life certainly was very 
dull. She was fond of the theatre, which she visited 
from time to time ; but it may well be imagined that 
on one occasion at least her pleasure in the entertain- 
ment was dashed by the fact that after she had arrived 
Goodman, the manager, kept the curtain down until 
Lady Castlemaine, who was late, had taken her seat. 
She was perhaps most happy when she could get away 
from Court, and stay at Somerset House, which was 
settled on her as her dower-house. There she would 
give tea-parties, at a time when that beverage, which 
had lately been introduced by her countrymen, was 
little known in England. 

Waller wrote some lines on " Tea, commended by 
Her Majesty." 

" VENUS her myrtle, PHOEBUS has his bays ; 
Tea both excels, which she vouchsafes to praise 
The best of Queens, and best of herbs, we owe 
To that bold nation, which the way did show 
To the fair region, where the sun does rise ; 
Whose rich productions we so justly prize. 
The Muse's friend, Tea, does our fancy aid ; 
Repress those vapors which the Lead invade ; 
And keeps that palace of the soul serene 
Fit, on her birthday, to salute the Queen." 
168 




Venus her myrtle, Phoebus has his bays; 
Tea both excels, which she vouchsafes to praise. 
The best of Queens, and best of herbs, we owe 
To that bold nation, which the way did show 
To the fair region, where the sun does rise : 
Whose rich productions we so justly prize. 
The Muse's friend. Tea, does our fancy aid. 
Repress those vapors which the head invade : 
And keeps that palace of the soul serene. 
Fit. on her birthday, to salute the Queen." 



Page 1 63 



Catherine of Braganza 



Catherine took no interest in domestic politics, and 
never attempted to use such influence as she might 
have, with the mortifying consequence that all aspir- 
ants after place or grants devoted themselves to the 
King's mistresses, to Lady Castlemaine or Frances 
Stuart (of whom something will presently be said), 
to Nell Gwyn or Louise de Keroualle. 

Her one political interest was in connection with 
Portugal, which the Pope, who had the Spanish 
cause at heart, refused to recognize as a Kingdom. 
So strongly did she feel about this that, it is recorded, 
she once was very rude to the Spanish Ambassador 
when he was at Court. 

Her devotion to her religion was very sincere, and 
her chapel became a rendezvous for the leading English 
Roman Catholics, with the result that in 1667 an Order 
in Council was made to forbid their assembling there. 
Titus Gates, some eleven years later, at the time of 
the so-called " Popish Plot," made capital out of this, 
and actually set on foot the rumour that she had 
planned the death of the King. Several of her servants 
suffered the death-penalty before this plot was 
finally exploded. It is to Charles's credit that he 
behaved extremely well at this crisis, finally writing 
to his wife's brother, Don Pedro II., in Portugal : " We 
doubt not but that your Highness hath already heard 
of the unhappy reflexion that hath been lately rais'd 
against Our Dear Consort the Queen, and do believe 
your Highness hath taken a sensible part with Us, 
in that Indignation wherewith we have resented the 
same." An alleged Jesuit plot against the King's life 

169 



Nell Gwyn 



also broke down badly. It was engineered by those 
who desired the disappearance of Catherine at what- 
ever cost and by whatever means. 

The King was deeply grieved that Catherine did 
not give him an heir. He had many children by his 
mistresses, but not one to succeed him on the throne. 
More than once there was hope that she would bear 
children. On June 7, Pepys noted : " Mrs. Turner, 
who is often at Court, do tell me to-day that for certain 
the Queen hath changed her humour, and is become 
very pleasant and sociable as any ; and they say 
is with child, or believed to be so." Again in 1668 
and 1669 there were similar rumours, but these hopes 
were doomed to disappointment. As a result there 
was much scheming. There were all sorts of stories 
about. " This morning," Pepys wrote on September 
7, 1667, " I was told by Sir W. Batten that he do 
hear from Mr. Grey, who hath good intelligence, that 
our Queen is to go into a nunnery, there to spend her 
days ; and that my Lady Castlemaine is going into 
France, and is to have a pension of 4,000 a year. 
This latter I do believe more than the other, it being 
very wise in her to do it, and save all she hath, besides 
easing the King and kingdom of a burden and re- 
proach." As a matter of fact, neither of these things 
came to pass. 

In order to provide a direct heir to the throne, there 
were those who advocated a divorce, and even those, 
and among them clergymen, who seriously argued 
that in this case polygamy was permissible. 

Her life was lonely, and there is a touching story, 
170 



Catherine of Braganza 



that when someone watched her lingering over her 
toilet, and asked : "I wonder how your Majesty can 
have the patience to sit so long undressing ? " she 
replied : " I have so much reason to use patience that 
I can very well bear with it." 



CHAPTER XII 

LADY CASTLE MAINE AND LA BELLE STUART 

Charles II. on his good behaviour. Soon weary of restraint. He neglects 
his Consort. Lady Castlemaine again in favour. But only for a short 
time. The King transfers his attention. Frances Teresa Stuart. 
Her beauty. Her admirers. She resists the King. Her fear of him. 
She seeks the protection of the Queen. She marries the Duke of Rich- 
mond. The King's anger. She presently returns to Court. A frolic 
with the Queen. Her later life. Lady Castlemaine and Frances Stuart. 
Lady Castlemaine avenges herself. Her lovers. John Churchill. 
William Wycherley. Her children. She joins the Church of Rome. 
She separates from her husband. Again in favour with the King. 
Two lampoons. Lady Castlemaine created Duchess of Cleveland. 

FOR a short time a matter of a few weeks only 
after his marriage, Charles, as Burnet puts 
it, "carried things decently, and did not visit his 
mistress openly." But this good conduct did not 
endure. "He soon grew weary of that restraint, 
and shook it off so entirely, that he had ever after 
that mistresses to the end of his life ; to the great 
scandal of the world." He was entirely indifferent 
to appearance, and the chronicler relates that : " He 
usually came from his mistresses' lodgings to church, 
even on Sacrament days. He held, as it were, a 
Court in them, and all his ministers made application 
to them, only the Earls of Clarendon and Southampton 
would never so much as make a visit to them." 

So early as July 6, 1662, Lady Sandwich told 
172 



Lady Castlemaine and La Belle Stuart 

Pepys that she was distressed to find that Lady 
Castlemaine was still in high favour with the King, 
and that he visited her as often as he had before 
his marriage. By the end of the year there was 
no disguise about their meetings. Pepys records 
on December i : " The King's dalliance with my 
Lady Castlemaine being public, every day, to his 
great reproach ; " and on New Year's Day wrote : 
" The King sups at least four times every week 
with my Lady Castlemaine, and most often stays 
till the morning with her, and goes home through the 
garden all alone privately, and that so as the very 
sentries take notice and speak of it." 

Lady Castlemaine' s star was full in the ascendant. 
The King gave her all the Christmas presents made 
to him by the peers, which, as it was remarked, 
was " an abominable thing." He showered jewels 
so lavishly on her, so that at a royal ball in February, 
1663, she was more handsomely decked than the 
Queen and the Duchess of York put together ! " I 
did hear," Pepys wrote on April 23, 1663, " that 
the Queen is much grieved of late at the King's 
neglecting her, he not having supped once with her 
this quarter of a year, and almost every night with 
my Lady Castlemaine, who hath been with him this 
St. George's feast at Windsor, and come home with 
him last night ; and, what is more, they say is re- 
moved as to her bed from her own home to a chamber 
in Whitehall, next to the King's own ; which I am 
sorry to hear, though I love her much." 

Then came the sudden fall of Lady Castlemaine 



Nell Gwyn 



from favour, which was quickly noted at Court and 
duly recorded by Pepys : 

" J u ty 3> J 663 : Mr. Moore tells me great news that 
my Lady Castlemaine is fallen from Court and this 
morning retired. He gives me no account of 
the reason, but that it is so ; for which I am sorry ; 
and yet, if the King do it to leave off not only her, 
but all other mistresses, I should be heartily glad 
of it, that he may fall to look after business." 

" July 13, 1663 : There was also [in Pall Mall] my 
Lady Castlemaine, who rode among the rest of the 
ladies ; but the King took, methought, no notice 
of her ; nor when she alighted did anybody press, 
as she seemed to expect, and stayed for it, to take 
her down, but was taken down by her own gentle- 
man. She looked mighty out of humour, and had 
a yellow plume in her hat, which all took notice of, 
and yet is very handsome, but very melancholy ; 
nor did anybody speak to her, or she so much as 
smile or speak to anybody. I followed them up to 
Whitehall, and into the Queen's presence, where 
all the ladies walked, talking and fiddling with their 
hats and feathers, and changing and trying them 
on each other's heads and laughing ; but it was the 
finest sight to me considering their great beauties 
and dress. But above all, Mrs. Stuart in this dress, 
with her hat cocked and a red plume with her sweet 
eyes, little Roman nose, and excellent taille, is now 
the greatest beauty I ever saw, I think in all my 
life ; and if ever woman can, does exceed my Lady 
Castlemaine, at least in this dress, which I verily 



Lady Castlemaine and La Belle Stuart 

believe is the reason of his coldness to my Lady 
Castlemaine." 

" July 21, 1663 : In discourse of the ladies at Court, 
Captain Ferrers tells me that my Lady Castlemaine 
is now as great as ever she was ; and that her going 
away was only a fit of her own upon some slighting 
words of the King, so that she called for her coach at 
a quarter of an hour's warning, and went to Richmond ; 
and the King the next morning, under pretence of 
going a-hunting, went to see her and make friends, 
and never was a-hunting at all. After which, she 
came back to Court, and commands the King as much 
as ever, and hath and doth what she will. No longer 
ago than last night, there was a private entertainment 
made for the King and Queen at the Duke of Bucking- 
ham's, and she was not invited : but being at my 
Lady Suffolk's, her aunt's, where my Lady Jemimah 
and Lord Sandwich dined, yesterday, she was heard 
to say, ' Well, much good may it do them, and for all 
that, I will be as merry as they : ' and so she went 
home, and caused a great supper to be prepared. 
And after the King had been with the Queen at Wal- 
lingford House, he comes to my Lady Castlemaine's, 
and was there all night, and my Lord Sandwich 
with him. He tells me he believes that as soon as the 
King can get a husband for Mrs. Stuart, however, 
my Lady Castlemaine's nose will be out of joynt ; 
for that she comes to be in great esteem, and is far 
more handsome than she." 

The reason for the temporary eclipse of Lady Castle- 
maine was that Charles had fallen a victim to the 



Nell Gwyn 



youthful charms of "La Belle Stuart," who had 
newly arrived at Court. Frances Teresa Stuart, who 
was born on July 8, 1647, was the elder daughter of 
a doctor, who went to France when she was two years 
old, where he was probably attached to the household 
of Queen Henrietta Maria, the widow of Charles I. 
She was educated in France, and there in her girlhood 
attracted the attention of Louis XIV., who, says Pepys, 
" would fain have had her mother, who was one of 
the most cunning women in the world, to let her stay 
in France." The mother would perhaps have raised 
no objection, but Queen Henrietta Maria would have 
none of it, and sent her to England with a letter to her 
son in January, 1623. 

This was, indeed, a case of out of the frying-pan into 
the fire. Everyone at Court fell in love with her 
never did a girl of sixteen have such a success. The 
Duke of Buckingham laid siege to her, and Count 
Grammont, and George Digby and the rest of the 
gallants. John Roettlers took her as the model for 
Britannia, and Anthony Hamilton lost his heart to 
her and nearly won her by holding two lighted tapers 
in his mouth longer than any others of her admirers 
could. This gives the measure of her mentality. 
She loved blindman's buff, had a passionate 
devotion to hunt-the-slipper, and was an adept at 
building houses with cards. As for her conversation, 
it was childish ; so much so that Anthony Hamilton, 
taking for the nonce the lighted tapers out of his 
mouth, declared that " it was hardly possible for a 
woman to have less wit and more beauty." 
176 



Lady Castlemaine and La Belle Stuart 

The King himself succumbed to her as to no other 
of the ladies he dishonoured with his affection. 
When, in November, 1663, the Queen was thought to 
be dying it was generally supposed that he would 
marry her. She did not return his love, and certainly 
did not feel passionate about him and probably not 
about any other man. He offered her titles, but she 
refused ; she did, however, condescend to accept 
jewels. She tantalized Charles by refusing to yield 
to him until a caleche was sent to London from 
France. The story goes that the Queen herself and 
all the Court Favourites wanted to be seen in it the 
first time it was driven in public. " La Belle Stuart " 
was the first seen in the new vehicle and the King 
had his way with her. 

This story is in direct contradiction to a conversa- 
tion after her marriage which Frances Stuart had with 
a certain peer whose name has not transpired. This 
conversation was repeated to Evelyn, and is recorded 
by Pepys on April 3, 1667 : " She was come to that 
pass as to resolve to have married any gentleman of 
1,500 a year that would have her in honour ; for 
it was come to the pass that she could not longer 
continue at Court without prostituting herself to the 
King, whom she had so long kept off, though he had 
liberty more than any other had, or he ought to have, 
as to dalliance. She told this lord that she had 
reflected upon the occasion she had given the world 
to think her a bad woman, and that she had no 
way but to marry and leave the Court, rather in 
this way of discontent than otherwise, that the 

177 12 



Nell Gwyn 



world might see that she sought not anything but 
honour." 

The King's attentions, coupled with her own in- 
discreet behaviour, undoubtedly compromised the 
girl, and even so early as June, 1663, Pepys speaks of 
the mistresses, Lady Castlemaine and Miss Stuart. 
As the years passed Charles, unused to rebuffs, became 
increasingly persistent, and Miss Stuart became 
thoroughly alarmed. She now adopted a sensible 
course. " Frances Stuart," says Mr. Davidson, the 
biographer of Charles's consort, " now sought the 
support of Catherine. She went to her rooms, and 
flinging herself on her knees before her, bathed in 
tears, confessed her folly and unworthy conduct in 
allowing Charles's attentions to single her out from 
the Court, and earnestly begged Catherine's forgiveness. 
She told her she knew she had caused her own trouble 
by her vanity and love of admiration, and assured 
the Queen that that was all she could be charged with. 
Catherine implicitly believed her and was grieved at 
her trouble. She raised her and comforted her, and 
promised her her protection, which to the end of both 
their lives she continued, together with her friendship. 
She kept Frances Stuart constantly in her own pre- 
sence, and people believed that she helped on the 
marriage with the Duke of Richmond, though there is 
no proof whatever of it. Frances assured her that she 
had never accepted anything from the King but a 
few jewels of little value, given on New Years' days 
and the like, and that the Duke of York had presented 
her with a jewel worth 800 when he drew her for his 

178 



Lady Castlemaine and La Belle Stuart 

valentine an event in which presents were always 
given." 

" A gentleman of 1,500 a year " and more was 
soon to the fore. This was no less a personage than 
her cousin, Charles Stuart, third Duke of Richmond 
and sixth Duke of Lennox and tenth Seigneur 
d'Aubigny, who was then in his twenty-ninth year. 
The Duke's second wife died on January 6, 1667, 
and in a week or two he asked his " fair cousin " to 
marry him a proposal that, in the circumstances, 
she favoured. 

The King, who heard of this project, was at his 
wits' end. There was nothing he was not prepared 
to do to keep the girl at Court. He offered to create 
her a Duchess she would none of it. He offered 
" to re-arrange his seraglio " it did not interest her. 
In despair, he was prepared to make her his Consort, 
if only he could get a divorce from his Queen on any 
pretext whatsoever say, on the ground that Catherine 
was incapable of bearing an heir to the throne and he 
actually went so far as to consult the Archbishop of 
Canterbury on the matter. 

And then, towards the end of March, 1667, Frances 
Stuart, " on a dark and stormy night," fled from her 
apartment in the Palace of Whitehall, met the Duke 
of Richmond at the Bear Inn, by London Bridge, and 
was well and truly married. 

The rage of the King knew no bounds, and it was 
said that one of the results of it was the downfall of 
Clarendon, who was believed by him to have opposed 
the project of the King's divorce. It must be 

179 ia* 



Nell Gwyn 



admitted, however, that there were other contributory 
causes. 

After her elopement the Duchess returned all the 
presents of jewellery that had been given her by the 
King, who was so hurt by this that he wrote a letter 
full of self-pity to his sister, Henrietta, Duchess of 
Orleans : 

" You may think me ill-natured, but if you consider 
how hard a thing it is to swallow an injury done by 
a person I had so much tenderness for, you will in 
some degree excuse the resentment I use towards her : 
you know my good-nature enough to believe that I 
could not be so severe if I had not had great provoca- 
tion. I assure you her carriage towards me has 
been as bad as a breach of faith and friendship can 
make it, therefore I hope you will pardon me if I cannot 
so soon forget an injury which went so near my heart." 

Could anything be more pathetic ? Think of the 
breach of faith made by Frances Stuart towards 
a kindly and generous-hearted monarch ! From the 
age of fifteen to the age of nineteen she had this 
royal lament suggests resisted the dishonourable 
intentions of a King and, when they became too insis- 
tent, had run away from them. This was indeed base 
ingratitude. Anyhow, His Majesty for a while refused 
to receive the guilty couple at Court. 

The rest of the story may be told here. 

The marriage of the Duke and Duchess of Richmond 
was not a success, and it has been said that the lady 
was presently more inclined to smile upon the King. 
They soon returned to London. " I hear this day," 

180 



Lady Gastlemaine and La Belle Stuart 

Pepys noted on December 25, 1667, " that Mrs. Stuart 
do at this day, keep a great court at Somerset House, 
with her husband the Duke of Richmond, she being 
visited for the beauty's sake by people, as the Queen 
is, at nights ; and they say also that she is likely to 
go to Court again, and there put my Lady Castlemaine's 
nose out of joint." And early in the following month 
he wrote : " Mrs. Pierce tells me that the Duchess 
of Richmond do not yet come to the Court, nor hath 
seen the King, nor will not, nor do he own his desire 
of seeing her, but hath used means to get her to Court, 
but they do not take." But that, perhaps, was all 
part of the game. 

It was soon seen that the King still hankered 
strongly after her. " Word was brought," says Pepys 
on March 26, " that the Duchess of Richmond is pretty 
well, but mighty full of the smallpox, by which all do 
conclude she will be wholly spoiled, which is the greatest 
instance of the uncertainty of beauty that could be in 
this age ; but then she hath had the benefit of it to 
be first married, and to have kept it so long, under the 
greatest temptations in the world from a King, and yet 
without the least imputation." 

The Duchess was appointed on July 6, 1668, a 
Lady of the Bedchamber to the Queen, who seems 
to have liked her well, in spite of the King's devotion 
to her. In May, 1670, Catherine took her in her suite 
to Calais to meet the Duchess of Orleans ; and in the 
following October the Duchess accompanied her on 
a visit to Audley End, where, as is recorded in the 
Pastor Letters, they indulged in a " frolic." " There 

m 



Nell Gwyn 



being a fair at Audley End, the Queen, Duchess of 
Richmond, and Duchess of Buckingham had a frolic 
to disguise themselves like country lasses, in red 
petticoats, waistcoats, etc., and to go see the fair. 
Sir Bernard Gascoigne, on a cart- jade, rode before 
the Queen, another stranger before the Duchess of 
Buckingham and Mr. Roper before Richmond. They 
had all so overdone it in their disguise, and looked 
so much more like antiques than country folk, that 
as soon as they came to the fair the people began 
to go after them : but the Queen, going to a booth 
to buy a pair of yellow stockings for her sweetheart, 
and Sir Bernard asking for a pair of gloves stitched 
with blue for his sweetheart, they were soon by their 
gibberish found to be strangers, which drew a bigger 
stock about them, one amongst them had seen the 
Queen at dinner, knew her, and was proud of his 
knowledge. This soon brought all the fair into a 
crowd to stare at the Queen. Being thus discovered, 
they as soon as they could got to their horses ; but 
as many of the fair as had horses got up, with wives, 
sweethearts, and neighbours behind them, to get as 
much gape as they could, till they brought them to the 
Court gate. Thus was a merry frolic turned into a 
penance." 

What were the relations at this time between the 
King and the Duchess of Richmond cannot be said, 
but it is certain that she raised no objection when 
her husband was sent on one foreign mission after 
another. The Duke, who has been described as " a 
man too much addicted to drink, but otherwise harm- 

182 



Lady Gastlemaine and La Belle Stuart 

less," died in 1672. His titles reverted to the King, 
who, though not lineally descended from any of the 
Dukes of Lennox or Richmond, yet was the nearest 
collateral heir male. This title he later bestowed on 
his natural son, Charles Lennox, by Louise de Kerou- 
alle, Duchess of Portsmouth. The widowed Duchess 
of Richmond was much sought in marriage, but she 
refused all offers. She survived until 1702. 

Lady Castlemaine had put up a good fight when 
Frances Stuart first captured the affections of the 
King, but the fight for the moment was in vain. 
De Cominges wrote to Louis XIV. on July 5, 1663 : 
" There was a great quarrel the other day among 
the ladies, which was carried so far that the King 
threatened the lady at whose apartments he sups every 
evening that he would never set foot there again if he 
did not find the demoiselle with her " the demoiselle 
being, of course, Frances Stuart ; and Grammont 
also had something to say on the matter : " Lady 
Castlemaine was not satisfied with appearing without 
any degree of uneasiness at a preference which all 
the Court began to remark ; she even affected to make 
Miss Stuart her favourite, and invited her to all the 
entertainments she made for the King, being confident 
that, whenever she thought fit, she could triumph over 
all the advantages which these opportunities could 
afford Miss Stuart ; but she was quite mistaken." 

Lady Castlemaine was not a woman to sit quietly 
under neglect. She had a vast appetite for amours. 
When the King stayed away from her for some time, 
she satisfied herself with others. Even when Charles 

183 



Nell Gwyn 



was paying her attentions, her faithfulness was not 
to be relied on. Her lovers were as varied as they 
were numerous. Of Charles Hart and Henry Jermyn 
mention has already been made ; there was also Sir 
Charles Berkeley. Andrew Marvell, in some lines 
too coarse to reprint here, in " Last Instructions to a 
Painter about the Dutch War, 1667," gives a graphic 
account of a liaison of Lady Castlemaine with a hefty 
footman. Better authenticated is her affair with 
Jacob Hall, the rope-dancer, who appears to have 
given his earliest performances at Smithfield in con- 
nection with Bartholomew Fair. Pepys mentions 
that, " My Lady Castlemaine is mightily in love with 
Hall, and he is much with her in private, and she 
goes to him, and do give him many presents ; and 
that the thing is most certain, and Beck Marshall 
only privy to it, and the means of bringing them 
together, which is a very odd thing ; and by this 
means she is even with the King's love to Mrs. 
Davis." 

Then there was John Churchill (afterwards Duke of 
Marlborough), with whom her liaison was prosecuted 
with unfortunate results. This was known to all the 
town, and it is said that the Duke of Buckingham, 
always eager to do a bad turn to an enemy, and, it 
must be confessed, not anxious to do a good turn to 
anyone, contrived to introduce the King into the 
Duchess of Cleveland's room when Churchill was 
there. Churchill, so the story goes, jumped out of 
the window, Charles crying after him, " I forgive you, 
Sir, for I know you do it for your bread." There was 

184 



Lady Gastlemaine and La Belle Stuart 

this in the bitter taunt, that Churchill did accept very 
considerable sums of money from the lady, who was 
nine years his senior. There was one gift of 5,000 
with which the avaricious young soldier purchased 
an annuity of 500 a year from George, Marquis of 
Halifax. As he lived for another fifty years, it was 
not a bad investment. Of this intimacy there came 
in June, 1672, a daughter, Lady Barbara Fitzroy, the 
.paternity of which, Charles, with all his easy-going 
good-nature, would not acknowledge. The girl became 
a nun, but when she was about eighteen had an affair 
with the Earl of Arran (afterwards fourth Duke of 
Hamilton) and bore him a son, Charles Hamilton, 
the historian. She died, unmarried, in 1737. The 
story of the Duchess of Cleveland's intrigue with 
Wycherley has been told by George S. Steinman, the 
biographer of the lady. 

" In 1672 William Wycherley brought on the stage 
the first play. The Duchess of Cleveland was so wel- 
pleased with the compliment paid to natural children 
in a song introduced into Love in a Wood, as to honour 
the performance of it with her presence on two con- 
secutive nights. Meeting the author young (he was 
only thirty-two), handsome, manly and brawny 
when riding in her chariot in Pall Mall, she leaned 
half her body out of it, and laughing aloud, in this 
manner addressed him, but her salutation and the 
dialogue which followed shall be given in the words 
of Dennis : ' You, Wycherley/ said she, ' you are the 
son of a whore.' The saluted passed on in his chariot, 
and having recovered from his surprise, ordered the 

185 



Nell Gwyn 



coachman to turn back and overtake the Duchess. 
When this was accomplished, ' Madam/ said he, 
' you have been pleased to bestow a title on me which 
generally belongs to the Fortunate. Will your Lady- 
ship be at the Play to-night ? ' ' Well,' she replied, 
' what if I am there ? ' ' Why, then I shall be there 
to wait on your Ladyship, tho' I disappoint a very 
fine woman who has made me an assignation ! ' 'So/ 
said she, ' You are sure to disappoint a woman, who 
has favour' d you for me who has not ! ' ' Yes/ he 
reply'd, ' if she who has not favour'd me is the finer 
woman of the two. But he who will be constant to 
your Ladyship till he can find a finer woman is sure 
to die your captive.' The lady is said to have blushed 
at this speech. The captive and the captor met the 
same night at Drury Lane Theatre, she sitting in 
the front row of the King's box, he in the pit, whence 
he entertained her during the whole play. The in- 
timacy between the couple endangered Wycherley's 
hopes of preferment at Court. The Duke of Bucking- 
ham had for some time engaged spies to watch the 
Duchess, and had it not been for the intercession of 
the Earl of Rochester and Sir Charles Sedley, his 
tongue would have aroused Charles's anger against 
him. As it came to pass, the favours of the mistress 
were followed by the favours of the King." 

At the time that Charles was obsessed by Frances 
Stuart, he was, it was thought, " past jealousy " so 
far as Lady Castlemaine was concerned, and was 
apparently indifferent as to whether she was or was 
not faithful to him. When, however, she was brought 

186 



Lady Gastlemaine and La Belle Stuart 

to bed, on September 20, 1663, of a second son, Henry, 
he point-blank declined to accept him as his child. In 
the end, however, he did accept the paternity and 
created him Duke of Graf ton. On September 5, 1664, 
Lady Castlemaine gave birth to a daughter, Charlotte, 
and on December 28 of the following year to a son, 
George, afterwards created Earl of Northumberland. 

It was about now that Lady Castlemaine announced 
her conversion to Roman Catholicism, whereupon 
Shillingfleet remarked dryly, " If the Church of Rome 
has got no more by her than the Church of England 
has lost, the matter will not be much." 

" Clear the Augean stables, let no stain 
Darken the splendor of our Castlemain 
At his court gate : may th' ladies of that time 
Be emulators of our Katherine, 
Late come, long wish'd, 

The world new moulded : she who t'other day 
Could chant and chirp like any bird in May, 
Stor'd with caresses of the dearest sort, 
That art could purchase from a foreign court, 
Limn'd so by Nature's pencil, as no part 
But gave a wound, wher'er it found a heart, 
A fortress and main castle of defence, 
Secur'd from all assailants saving Sense. 
But she's a convert and a mirrour now, 
Both in her carriage and profession too ; 
Divorc'd from strange embraces : as my pen 
May justly style her England's Magdalen. 
Wherein she's to be held of more esteem 
In being fam'd a convert to the Queen. 
And from relapse that she secur'd might be, 
She wisely daigns to keep her companie."* 

* From " The Chimney's Scuffle." 



Nell Gwyn 



Lady Castlemaine in 1666 separated from her 
husband, it may be assumed, by mutual consent. 
There were no legal proceedings, and there was no 
public announcement. They just went their own 
ways. Lord Castlemaine accompanied Sir Daniel 
Harvey on his mission to the Porte in 1668, and then 
took up his residence in Holland for several years. 
It was not until 1677 that he returned to England, 
and in the following year he was denounced as a 
Jesuit by Titus Gates. He was arrested, but after 
a preliminary examination was released on bail, and 
while awaiting his trial wrote : " The Compendium, 
or, a Short View of the late Trials in relation to the 
present Plot against His Majesty and Government." 
At the trial, which took place before the Lord Chief 
Justice Scroggs, he defended himself with great 
ability, succeeded in discrediting the evidence that 
Titus Gates had fabricated, and was triumphantly 
acquitted. 

As a zealous Roman Catholic, Castlemaine was 
chosen by James II. as Ambassador to Rome, where 
he arrived on Easter Day, 1686, although he was not 
received in audience by Innocent XI. until the follow- 
ing January. He behaved with more enthusiasm than 
discretion, with the result that the mission was a 
failure, and he was recalled. On his return, however, 
as a reward for his services he was made a Privy 
Councillor. 

After the flight of James II. he was summoned to the 
bar of the House of Commons and was presently 
charged with the capital offence of " endeavouring 

188 



Lady Gastlemaine and La Belle Stuart 

to reconcile this kingdom to the see of Rome." In 
February, 1690, he was, however, released. He died 
at Oswestry in 1705, leaving the bulk of his property 
to his nephew, Charles Palmer. 

After the marriage of Frances Stuart, Lady Castle- 
maine came again into favour, but it is doubtful 
whether the King still lived with her. " Mr. Pierce, 
the surgeon, tells me," Pepys noted on August 7, 1667, 
" that though the King and Lady Castlemaine are 
friends again, she is not at Whitehall, but at Sir D. 
Harvey's, whither the King goes to her, and he says 
she made him promise to offend her no more : that, 
indeed, she did threaten to bring all his bastards to 
his closet-door, and hath nearly hectored him to 
death." Sir Daniel Harvey was then Ranger of 
Richmond Park, and she used to stay at his house 
when she was on ill terms with the King. His wife 
was Elizabeth, sister of Ralph, third Lord Montagu 
of Boughtqn (afterwards Earl and Duke of Montagu). 
Lady Castlemaine presently quarrelled with her hostess, 
and encouraged Mrs. Corey, the actress known as 
Doll Common, to mimic her on the stage in the charac- 
ter of Sempronio. In return, Lady Harvey hired 
people to hiss her and fling oranges at her, and, that 
not being effective, induced the Lord Chamberlain to 
imprison her. The King, of course, intervened to 
release her, but there was a royal row over the whole 
business. 

The temper of Lady Castlemaine became unbearable. 
When Charles once spoke to her about the infidelities, 
" the impetuosity of her temper broke forth like 

189 



Nell Gwyn 



lightning," Grammont relates. " She told him that 
it very ill became him to throw out such reproaches 
against one, who, of all the women in England, deserved 
them the least ; that he had never ceased quarrelling 
thus unjustly with her, ever since he had betrayed his 
own mean, low inclinations ; that to gratify such a 
depraved taste as his, he wanted only such silly things 
as Stuart, Wells and that pitiful strolling player." 

The following lampoons, written after the de- 
struction of the brothels by the London apprentices 
in March, 1665, indicate the unpopularity of Lady 
Castlemaine : 

" The Poor W es' Petition to the most Splendid, 

Illustrious, Serene and Eminent Lady of Pleasure, the 
Countess of Castlemaine, etc. 

" Humbly sheweth, 

" That your Petitioners having for a long time 
conniv'd at, and countenanced in the practice of 
our . . . pleasures (a trade wherein your Ladyship has 
great experience, and for your diligence therein, have 
arrived to a high and eminent advancement for these 
late years), but now, we, through the rage and malice 
of a company of London apprentices and other 
malicious and very bad persons, being mechanic, rude 
and ill-bred boys, have sustained the loss of our 
habitations, trades and employments. . . . Will your 
Eminence therefore be pleased to consider how highly 
it concerns you to restore us to our former practice 
with honour, freedom, and safety ; for which we shall 
oblige ourselves by as many oaths as you please, to 

190 



Lady Gastlemaine and La Belle Stuart 

contribute to your Ladyship (as our sisters do at Rome 
and Venice to his Holiness the Pope) that we may 
have your protection in the exercise of all our . . . 
pleasures. And we shall endeavour, as our bounden 
duty, the promoting of your great name and the 
preservation of your honour, safety and interest, with 
the hazard of our lives, fortunes and honesty. 

" Signed by us, Madam Cresswell and Damaris Page, 
in the behalf of our sisters and fellow-sufferers (in 
this day of our calamity) in Dog and Bitch Yard, 
Lukeners Lane, Saffron Hill, Moor-fields, Chiswell 
Street, Rosemary Lane, Nightingale Lane, Ratcliffe 
Highway, Well Close, Church Lane, East Smithfield, 
etc., this present 25th day of March, 1668." 

The Gracious ANSWER to the most Illustrious Lady of 
Pleasure, the Countess of Castlem . . . 

To the Poor-Whores Petition. 

Right Trusty and Well-beloved Madam Cresswell 
and Damaris Page, with the rest of the suffering Sister- 
hood in Dog and Bitch Yard, Lukeners Lane, Saffron- 
Hill, Moor- fields, Ratcliff-Highway, etc. We greet 
you well, in giving you to understand our Noble Mind, 
by returning our thanks which you are worthy of, 
in sending us our Titles of Honour, which are but 
our Due. For on Shrove-Tuesday last, splendidly did 
we appear upon the theatre at W. H., being to amaze- 
ment wonderfully deck'd with Jewels and Diamonds, 
which the (abhorred and to be undone) Subjects 
of this Kingdom have payed for. We have been also 

191 



Nell Gwyn 



Serene and Illustrious ever since the Day that Mars 
was so instrumental to restore our Goddess Venus 
to her Temple and Worship ; where by special grant, 
we quickly became a famous Lady : And as a Reward 
of our Devotion, soon created the Right Honourable, 
the Countess of Castlemain. And as further addition 
to our illustrious Serenity, according to the ancient 
Rules and laudable Customs of our Order, we have 
cum privilegio alwayes (without our Husband) 
satisfied our self with the Delights of Venus ; and 
in our Husbands absence have had a numerous off- 
spring, (who are Bountifully and Nobly provided for) 
which Practice hath Episcopal Allowance also, according 
to the Principles of Seer Shelden, etc. // Women 
hath not children by their own Husbands, they are bound 
(to prevent their Damnation) to try by using the means 
with other men : which wholesome and pleasing Doc- 
trine did for some time hold me fast to his Religion. 
But since this Seer hath shewn more Cowardize, than 
Principles of Policy, in fearing to declare the Church 
of Rome to be the True, Ancient, Uniform, Universall 
and most Holy Mother Church ; therefore we tell 
you (with all the Sisterhood) that we are now no longer 
of the Church of England, which is but like a Brazen 
Bison tied to a Barber's wooden Pole, (viz.) Protestant 
Doctrine and Order tied by Parliamentary Power 
to Roman Catholick Foundations, Constitutions, and 
Rights, etc. And are become a Convert to, and a 
professed Member of the Church of Rome ; where the 
worthy Fathers and Confessors, as Durandus, Gen- 
tianus y with multitudes of others, (who were not, 

192 



Lady Gastlemaine and La Belle Stuart 

neither are, of the Protestant, Puritanical, and Fanatical, 
Conventicling Opinion) do declare That Venereal 
Pleasures, accompanied with Loosness, Debauchery, 
and Prophaneness, are not such heynous crimes and 
crying Sins, but rather (as the old women of Loren said) 
they do mortifie the Flesh. And the general Opinion 
of Holy Mother Church is, That Venerial Pleasures, 
in the strictest sence, are but Venial Sins, which 
Confessor of the meanest Order can forgive. So 
that the adoring of Venus, is by the Allowance 
of Great Authority, Desirable, Honourable and Profit- 
able. 

But when we understood, in your Address, the 
Barbarity of those Rude Apprentices, and the cruel 
Sufferings that the Sisterhood was exposed unto, 
especially those which were in a hopeful way of 
Recovery and others that were disabled from giving 
Accommodation to their Right Honourable Devo- 
taries, with the danger which you convinced us our 
own Person was in, together with the remembrance of 
our two new Corivals with Little Miss : We were for 
many Hours swallowed up with Sorrow, and almost 
drowned in Tears and could not all be comforted until 
the sweet sound of the Report came to our Ears, 
That the L. C. J. K. and his Brethren, with our Counsel 
learned in the Law, had Commission and Instruction 
given to frame a Bill of Indictment against the tray- 
terous and Rebellious Boys, and to select a Jury of 
Gentlemen that should shew them no favour : At which 
our Noble Spirit revived, and presently we consulted 
how we might express our Grace and Compassion 



Nell Gwyn 



towards you, and also seasonably provide for the 
future safety of your practice and exercise our Revenge 
upon those that so grossly abused you, and therein 
offered such an insufferable Affront to our Eminency, 
that we cannot bear without great Indignation. 

Item. To any other then here directed, give no 
Entertainment without Ready Money, lest you suffer 
Loss. For had we not been careful in that particular, 
we had neither gained Honour nor Rewards, which 
are now (as you know) both conferred upon Us. 

Given at our Closset in King Street, Westminster, 
Die Veneris, April 24, 1662. 

CASTLEM . . . 

Lady Castlemaine, Burnet has related, spoke of the 
King to all people in such a manner as brought him 
under much contempt, but, the historian adds, " he 
seems insensible." Charles, however, sought com- 
parative peace in the company of other charmers, and 
among these was Nell Gwyn, who at least did not make 
scenes. But his quarrels with Lady Castlemaine 
alternated with periods of affection. He still showered 
gifts upon her. In 1667 he gave her as a peace- 
offering some six thousand ounces of silver from the 
royal jewel-house. In the following year he presented 
her with the valuable property of Berkshire House, 
St. James's. A considerable part of this estate she 
shortly after sold as building land, reserving, however, 
enough for the erection of a mansion, Cleveland House. 

194 



Lady Castlemaine and La Belle Stuart 

Her name is still preserved in this neighbourhood by 
Cleveland Court, Cleveland Square and Cleveland 
Row. In August, 1670, Lady Castlemaine was created 
Baroness Nonsuch of Nonsuch Park, Surrey, Countess 
of Southampton and Duchess of Cleveland, with 
remainder to her first and third natural sons, Charles 
and George " Palmer." At the same time the King 
gave her the park and palace of Nonsuch, near Sutton. 



195 13* 



CHAPTER XIII 

NELL GWYN BECOMES THE MISTRESS OF CHARLES II 

The marriage of " La Belle Stuart." Lady Castlemaine again in favour. 
She is created Duchess of Cleveland. The King is attracted by Nell 
Gwyn. Etherege's lines on this. She delivers the Epilogue to Tyrannic 
L ove . The broad-brimmed hat. Charles takes her into keeping. Mrs. 
Knight. The relations between the King and Nell Gwyn. Her " Charles 
the Third." Her negligent attire. Her power of swearing. Her sense 
of humour. Harry Killigrew. Sir John Coventry. " The Haymarket 
Hectors." Nell Gwyn's later performance. The birth of her first child. 
She leaves the stage, and never returns to it. Appointed a Lady of the 
Privy Chamber to the Queen. 

AFTER the marriage of "La Belle Stuart," Lady 
Castlemaine again became supreme with the 
King. Gifts of money were showered upon her. She 
was given Berkshire House, St. James's, which, with 
the land adjoining, she sold for a handsome price, 
retaining only the south-west corner of the estate 
upon which was erected Cleveland House. In August, 
1670, she was created Baroness Nonsuch of Nonsuch 
Park, Surrey, Countess of Southampton and Duchess 
of Cleveland, and at the same time Charles gave her 
the palace and park of Nonsuch, near Cheam. She 
was now, however, to suffer other eclipses. Nell 
Gwyn came upon the scene, and then Louise de 
Keroualle. 

Charles II. must often have seen Nell Gwyn before 
196 



Nell Gwyn becomes Mistress of Charles II 

he decided to make her his mistress, for he was fre- 
quently at the theatre, and also during the Plague, 
when the theatres were closed, she had acted before 
him at his Palace of Whitehall. It is said that she was 
urged upon him by the Duke of Buckingham, who 
wished to counteract the influence of Lady Castlemaine 
on his royal master. Etherege puts it thus : 

" Dread Sir, quoth B . . . ham, in Duty bound, 
I come to give your Kingship counsel sound : 
I wonder you should dote so like a Fop, 
On Cl[evelan]d whom her very Footmen g pe : 
Dose think you don't your Parliament offend 
That all they give you on a Beggar spend ; 
Permit me, Sir, to recommend a Whore, 
Kiss her but once, you'll ne'er kiss Cleveland] more ; 
She'll fit you to a hair, all Wit, all Fire, 1 

And Impudence, to your Heart's desire ; 
And more than this, Sir, you'll save Money by her ' 
She's B[uckhurst]'s Whore at present, bat you know 
When Sovereigns want a Whore, that Subjecks must forego." 

But, as a matter of fact, though the Duke of Bucking- 
ham may have suggested the matter to the King, the 
charms of the girl were in themselves quite sufficient 
to inflame him. 

Oldys has it that Charles II. was first seriously 
attracted by Nell Gwyn when she delivered the Epilogue 
to Dryden's Tyrannic Love, or, The Royal Martyr. 
The amusing Epilogue, following on the tragedy, 
must have been something in the nature of an anti- 
climax, and was probably written for the especial 
purpose of giving scope for an exhibition of Nell's 
humorous gifts. It is marked as " Spoken by Mrs. 

197 



Nell Gwyn 



Ellen Gwyn when she was to be carried off dead by 
the bearers," and runs as follows : 

" To THE BEARER. 

" ' Hold ; are you mad ? you damn'd confounded dog ! 
I am to rise, and speak the epilogue.' 

" To THE AUDIENCE. 

" ' I come, kind gentlemen, strange news to tell ye ; 
I am the ghost of poor departed Nelly. 
Sweet ladies, be not frighted ; I'll be civil, 
I'm what I was, a little harmless devil. 
For, after death, we spirits have just such natures 
We had, for all the world, when human creatures ; 
And, therefore I, that was an actress here, 
Play all my tricks in hell, a goblin there. 
Gallants, look to't, you say there are no sprites ; 
But I'll come dance about your beds at nights. 
And faith you'll be in a sweet kind of taking, 
When I surprise you between sleep and waking. 
To tell you true, I walk, because I die, 
Out of my calling, in a tragedy. 
O poet, damn'd dull poet, who could prove 
So senseless, to make Nelly die for love ! 
Nay, what's yet worse, to kill me in the prime 
Of Easter Term, in tart and cheesecake time ! 
I'll fit the fop ; for I'll not one word say, 
To excuse his godly out-of-fashion play ; 
A play, which if you dare but twice sit out, 
You'll all be slander'd, and be thought devout. 
But, farewell, gentlemen, make haste to me, 
I'm sure e'er long to have your company. 
As for my epitaph, when I am gone, 
I'll trust no poet, but will write my own. 
Here NeUy lies, who tho' she lived a slattern, 
Yet died a Princess acting in Saint Catharine.'" 
198 



Nell Gwyn becomes Mistress of Charles II 

According to Oldys, " Miss Gwyn, besides her own 
part of Valeria, was likewise appointed, in that charac- 
ter, to speak the Epilogue ; in performing which, she 
so captivated the King, who was present the first night 
of the play, by the humorous turns she gave it, that 
His Majesty, when she had done, went behind the scenes 
and carried her off to an entertainment." 

This may be true, but, as will be shown, it was not 
the first time that she entertained her royal lover, for 
Tyrannic Love was produced in the winter of 1669-1670. 

Nell Gwyn was at her best in this sort of fooling, 
and in the following year (1670) scored a great hit 
by delivering the Prologue to the first part of Almanzor 
and Almahide, or, The Conquest of Granada by the 
Spaniards, in a broad-brimmed hat as big as a cart- 
wheel. The origin of this eccentric head- wear was not 
merely a sense of fun ; it came about in the following 
way, related by Waldron in his edition of Downes* 
" Roscius Anglicanus " : 

" At the Duke's theatre, Nokes appeared in a hat 
larger than Pistol's, which took the town wonderful, 
and supported a bad play by its fine effect. Dry den, 
piqued at this, caused a hat to be made the circum- 
ference of a timber coach wheel ; and as Nelly was low 
of stature, and what the French call mignonne or 
piquante, he made her speak under the umbrella of 
that hat, the brims thereof being spread out horizon- 
tally to their full extension. The whole theatre was 
in a convulsion of applause, nay, the very actors 
giggled, a circumstance none had observed before. 
Judge, therefore, what a condition the merriest Prince 

199 



Nell Gwyn 



alive was in at such a conjuncture ! 'Twas beyond 
odso and ods fish, for he wanted little of being suffocated 
with laughter." 

The prologue runs : 

" This jest was first of the other house's making, 
And, five times tried, has never fail'd of taking ; 
For 'twere a shame a poet should be kill'd 
Under the shelter of so broad a shield. 
This is that hat, whose very sight did win ye 
To laugh and clap as though the devil were in ye. 
As then, for Nokes, so now I hope you'll be 
So dull, to laugh once more for love of me. 
I'll write a play, says one, for I have got 
A broad-brimm'd hat, and waist-belt, towards a plot. 
Says the other, I have one more large than that, 
Thus they out -write each other with a hat ! 
The brims still grew with every play they writ ; 
And grew so large, they cover'd all the wit. 
Hat was the play ; 'twas language, wit, and tale : 
Like them that find meat, drink, and cloth in ale. 
What dulness do these mongrel wits confess, 
When all their hope is acting of a dress ! 
Thus, two the best comedians of the age 
Must be worn out, with being blocks o' the stage ; 
Like a young girl, who better things has known, 
Beneath their poet's impotence they groan. 
See now what charity it was to save, 
They thought you liked, what only you forgave ; 
And brought you more dull sense, dull sense much worse 
Than brisk gay nonsense, and the heavier curse. 
They bring old iron and glass upon the stage, 
To barter with the Indians of our age. 
Still they write on, and like great authors show, 
But 'tis as rollers in wet gardens grow 
Heavy with dirt, and gathering as they go. 
May none, who have so little understood, 
To like such trash, presume to praise what's good ! 
And may those drudges of the stage, whose fate 

'200 




Nell Gwyn in the Conquest of Granada by the Spaniards, 
in a broad-brimmed hat as big as a cartwheel. 

Page 200 



Nell Gwyn becomes Mistress of Charles II 

Is damn'd dull farce more dully to translate, 

Fall under that excise the state thinks fit 

To set on all French wares, whose worst is wit. 

French farce, worn out at home, is sent abroad 

And pa^ch'd up here, is made our English mode. 

Henceforth, let poets, ere allow' d to write, 

Be search'd like duellists before they fight, 

For wheel-broad hats, dull honour, all that chaff, 

Which makes you mourn, and makes the vulgar laugh : 

For these, in plays, are as unlawful arms, 

As, in a combat, coats of mail, and charms." 

This exhibition also is said by some of the authorities 
to have inflamed the King, " her little figure looking 
so droll as to lead him to take her home in his coach, 
and so to make her his mistress ; " but, as a matter of 
fact, the date of the beginning of the relations between 
him and Nell Gwyn is fixed by an entry in Pepys's Diary 
on January n, 1668, in which he puts on record 
that Mrs. Knipp told him that " The King did send 
several times for Nelly, and she was with him." 

It has been related that Charles II. used Mrs. 
Knight, the actress, as a procuress, and that it was she 
who was employed to bring Nell Gwyn to him. 

" ' Goe, Mrs. Knight,' quoth he, ' and fetch her straight,' ' 

Etherege makes the King say in The Lady of Pleasure ; 
but the employment of a procuress at this period of 
Nell Gwyn's life was surely supererogatory, for she, who 
was more or less accessible to all comers who took 
her fancy or could pay her way for her, was scarcely 
likely to require much persuasion to accept the ad- 
dresses of a brilliant and charming monarch who 
looked upon her with favour. 

201 



Nell Gwyn 



It is unlikely that Charles II. intended at first to 
add Nell Gwyn to what may be called his permanent 
harem. He probably sent for her merely to amuse 
himself for the moment. Nell's charm, however, 
duly impressed itself on him, and she was soon installed 
by him in apartments in Lincoln's Inn Fields, where 
he visited her as the spirit moved him. 

Yet, in course of time, her charm subdued him. 
He came to love her high spirits. " She acted all 
persons in so lively a manner, and was such a constant 
diversion to the King, that even a new mistress could 
not drive her away," Burnet has written. " But, after 
all, he never treated her with the decencies of a mis- 
tress, but rather with the lewdness of a prostitute 
as she had indeed been to a great many ; and therefore 
she called the King her Charles the Third, since she 
had been formerly kept by two of that name." The 
other two, it may be surmised, were Charles Hart and 
Charles, Lord Buckhurst. 

Nell Gwyn was certainly no respecter of persons 
or even of personages. She was herself, and that 
was good enough for her and for a good many others. 
" She continued to hang on her clothes with her usual 
negligence when she was the King's mistress," Granger 
has remarked, " but whatever she did became her." 

Charles allowed her every licence, much more than 
he allowed to any other of his favourites, and this 
was as well, for she would have taken it all the same. 
As Etherege wrote of her : 

" When he was dumpish, she would still be jocund, 
And chuck the Royal Chin of C[harles] the Second." 

202 



Nell Gwyn becomes Mistress of Charles II 

Her language was still the language of Lewknor 
Lane, and like her costume, or her lack of it, it too 
became her. As Etherege puts it in " Madam Nelly's 
Complaint : " 

" Before great Charles let quacks and seamen lie, 
He ne'er heard swearers like Moll Knight and I : 
Never heard oaths less valued, or less true, 
And yet 'tis said he's paid for swearing too : 
Louder we swore than plundering dragoons, 
S'blood follow'd s'blood, and zounds succeeded zounds." 

There is a story, which must be Bowdlerized in the 
telling here, of how she one day inveigled him to a 
brothel, where he gave an entertainment. Afterwards 
she contrived to make him undress, and then, with 
the other members of the conspiracy, ran away with 
his clothes. In vain, in discharge of his debt and for 
some wearing-apparel, he offered as security a valuable 
ring all he had on him. The keeper of the house 
would have none of it. Glass could be made to look 
like a jewel, he knew, and he was for giving his em- 
barrassed visitor into custody, when fortunately some 
one recognized His Majesty and all was well. Such 
were the humours of the time. 

Another and more reputable anecdote is related by 
Colley Gibber : 

" Boman, then a youth, and famed for his voice, 
was appointed to sing some part in a concert of music 
at the private lodgings of Mrs. Gwin, at which were 
only present the King, the Duke of York, and one or 
two who were usually admitted upon those detached 
parties of pleasure. When the performance was ended, 

203 



Nell Gwyn 



the King expressed himself highly pleased, and gave 
it extraordinary commendations. 

" ' Then, sir/ said the lady, ' to show you don't 
speak like a Courtier, I hope you will make the per- 
formers a handsome present.' 

" The King said he had no money about him, and 
asked the Duke if he had any. 

" To which the Duke replied, ' I believe, sir, not 
above a guinea or two.' 

*' Upon which the laughing lady, turning to the 
people about her, and making bold with the King's 
common expression, cried : 

" ' Od's fish, what company am I got into?' ' 

The King would put up with any amount of impu- 
dence from her, but defended her from others though, 
as a matter of fact, she was extraordinarily able to 
take care of herself. One such instance has been 
recorded, the culprit being that Harry Killigrew, who 
was always in trouble owing to his unruly tongue. 

" The younger Killeegree," Viscountess Campden 
wrote to Lord Ross, September 21, 1677, "is banished 
the Court againe for goeing att 4 of the clocke the 
other morning to Nell Gwin and knocking her up, being 
drunke, and saying he came from the King to acquaint 
her with the good niewse of the Dfuchess] of Ports- 
mouth's recovery, and after that raileed her with his 
abusive tonge extreamly ; and the Dfuchess] is 
perfectly well again, and they say will lead a new 
lyfe, att least has promised it to her ghostly father." 

Shortly after Charles II. took Nell Gwyn into 
keeping, Sir John Coventry, member for Weymouth, 

204 



Nell Gwyn becomes Mistress of Charles II 

who was in opposition to the Government, moved 
(in 1670) to levy a tax on the playhouses. To this, 
Sir John Birkenhead, speaking against the motion, 
said that they had been of great pleasure to the King. 
Coventry then asked, Whether the King's pleasure 
did lie among the men or the women that acted ? 
This remark greatly angered the King's friends, and 
a few days later Coventry was dragged out of his 
coach by a band of bullies, directed by Sir Thomas 
Sandys and Captain O'Brien (a son of Lord Inchiquin), 
and his nose slit to the bone. Parliament, zealous 
of its privilege of frank speaking, was greatly resentful, 
and in the following January passed what is known as 
the Coventry Act or the Coventry Maiming Act, the 
gist of which is given in Andrew Marvell's Letter 
from Westminster : 

" Whoever after the i6th of February next [1671] 
shall put out the eye, cut the lip, nose, or tongue of 
any of His Majesty's liege people, upon malice 'fore- 
thought, or in short provocation, shall be guilty of 
felony without benefit of clergy. And whoever shall 
in any other manner wound or maime any Parliament 
man, or any of the House of Lords, during their 
attendance, or their coming or returning from Parlia- 
ment, shall be imprisoned for a yeare, pay treble 
damages, to be assessed by the jury, and be deprived 
and made incapable of all offices whatsoever." 

There were those who said that Nell Gwyn was 
responsible for the outrage, but such an accusation 
cannot be accepted for a moment. She had no further 
connection with it than being (jointly with Moll 

205 



Nell Gwyn 



Davis, it may be presumed) indirectly alluded to by 
Coventry. 

The incident was made the subject of a set of verses, 
the authorship of which is attributed to Andrew 
Marvell : 

A BALLAD, CALL'D THE HAYMARKET HECTORS. 
Upon the cutting of Sir John Coventry's Nose. 

I sing a woful ditty, of a wound that long will smart -on ; 
And giv'n (the more's the pity) in the realm of Magna Charta. 

Youth, Youth, thou'dst better bin slain by thy Foes, 

Than live to be hang'd for cutting a Nose ! 

Our good King C[harles] the Second, too flippant of treasure and 

moisture, 
Stoop'd from the Queen infecund, to a Wench of Orange and 

Oyster ; 

Consulting his Catzo,* he found it expedient 
To waste time in revels with Nell the Comedian. 

The leacherous vain-glory, of being lim'd with Majesty, 
Mounts up to such a story this Bitchington Travesty, 

That, to equal her Lover, the Baggage must dare 

To be Helen the Second, the cause of a War. 

And he, our am'rous Jove, while she lay dry-bobb'd under, 

To repair the defect of his love, must lend her his Lightning and 

Thunder 

And for one night prostitutes to her commands 
His Monmouth Life-Guards, O'Brien, and Sands. 

And now all fear of the French, and the pressing need of the Navy, 
Are dwindled into a salt Wench, and A mo, Amas, Amavi. 

Now he'll venture his Subsidy, so he may cloven try 

In female revenge, the Nose of Coventry. 

* Catzo, from the Italian, an opprobrious term for a knavish companion. 
206 



Nell Gwyn becomes Mistress of Charles II 

Oye Hay-Market Hector, how came you thus charm'd, 
To be the dissectors of one poor Nose unarm'd ? 

Unfit to wear Sword, or follow a Trumpet, 

That would brandish your knives at the word of a Strumpet ? 

But was't not ungrateful, in Monmouth, ap Sidney, ap Carlo, 

To contrive an act so hateful, O Prince of Wales by Barlow ? 

For since the kind world had dispens'd with his Mother, 

Might he not well have spared the Nose of John Brother ? 

Beware all ye Parliamenteers, how each of his Voice disposes : 
Bay May* in the Commons, Charles Rex in the Peers, sit telling 

your Fates on your Noses ; 
And decree, at the meeting of every Slut 
Whose Nose shall continue, and whose shall be cut. 

If the sister of Rose be a w e so anointed 

That the Parliament's Nose must for her be disjointed, 

Then should you but name the Prerogative w e, 

How the Bullets would whistle, the Cannons would roar. 

Nell Gwyn did not at once leave the stage when 
she became the King's mistress. 

In the autumn of 1677 Genest states that she 
acted Alizia in Lord Orrery's The Black Prince, but 
this is unlikely. Pepys saw the play three times, 
and makes no mention of her ; and from a note in 
Downes's " Roscius Anglicanus " it seems probable 
that the part was undertaken by a Mrs. Quin, with 
whom, in print, Nell Gwyn has occasionally been 
confused. In September of that year, however, she 
created Merida in All Mistaken, or, The Mad Couple, 
by the Hon. James Howard. Pepys saw the play on 
December 28, and recorded : 

* Baptist May (1629-1698) held the office of Keeper of the Privy Purse 
from 1665. He was in 1683 given the sinecure office of Registrar in Chancery, 
the reversion of which was given to Nell Gwyn's son, the Duke of St. Albans 

207 



Nell Gwyn 



" To the King's House, and there saw The Mad 
Couple, which is but an ordinary play ; but only Nell's 
and Hart's mad parts are most excellently done, but 
especially hers, which makes it a miracle to me to 
think how ill she do any serious part, as, the other day, 
just like a fool or changeling ; and in a mad part do 
beyond imitation almost." 

Nell Gwyn was now in high favour at the King's 
House any annoyance that there may have been 
about the Buckhurst escapade had been forgiven, as 
much is forgiven to an actress who draws the public 
to the theatre. In 1668 she played Bellario in Beau- 
mont and Fletcher's Philaster and Jacinta in Dry den's 
An Evenings Love, or, The Mock Astrologer. In 
the following year she created Valeria in Dry den's 
Tyrannic Love. In 1670 she played Almahide in 
Dryden's Conquest of Granada, the production of which 
had to be postponed owing to "an interesting event," 
and for a similar reason Moll Davis about the same 
time was unable to appear at the Duke's Theatre. 
The "interesting event" in the case of Nell Gwyn 
was the birth on May 8, of Charles Beauclerk, her 
elder son by the King, and in the case of Moll Davis, 
the birth of another royal bastard, who was afterwards 
styled Lady Mary Tudor. 

To the double postponement, Dryden slyly made 
allusion in the Epilogue to his play when it was per- 
formed in the autumn of 1670 : 

" Think him not duller for the year's delay. 
He was prepared, the women were away ; 
And men without their parts can hardly play. 
208 




Moll Davis. 



Page 208 



Nell Gwyn becomes Mistress of Charles II 



If they through sickness seldom did appear, 

Pity the virgins of each theatre ; 

For at both houses 'twas a sickly year ! 

And pity us, your servants to whose cost 

In one such sickness nine whole months were lost." 

In this part Nell Gwyn scored another success, 
which was recorded by Lord Lansdowne in his " Pro- 
gress of Beauty " : 

" Past is the gallantry, the fame remains 
Transmuted safe by Dryden's lofty strain : 
Granada lost, beheld her pomps restored, 
And Almahide once more by Kings adored." 

It is on record that shortly after Nell Gwyn played 
Panthea in the revival of Beaumont and Fletcher's 
A King and No King, and after that nothing more is 
known about her stage career. 

Historians of the drama say that Nell Gwyn, after 
an absence of several years, returned to the stage 
in 1677. It is mentioned that in that year she joined 
the company at the theatre in Dorset Gardens. The 
parts attributed to her in 1677 are Angelica Bianca 
in Mrs. Afra Behn's The Rover, Astria in the anony- 
mous pastoral, The Constant Nymph, and Thalestris 
in The Siege of Babylon, by Samuel Pordage, and in 
1678 Lady Squeamish in Otway's Friendship in 
Fashion and Lady Knowell in Mrs. Afra Behn's Sir 
Patient Fancy. Further, it is stated that early in 
1682 she was playing at Drury Lane Sunamire in 
Southern's The Loyal Brother and Queen Elizabeth in 
Banks 's The Unhappy Favourite, or, The Earl of Essex, 
retiring later in that year when the two companies 

209 14 



Nell Gwyn 



joined forces. It is, however, practically certain that 
this is all wrong. It is impossible to believe that 
Nell Gwyn, who was at that time a power in the land, 
would have let herself be cast for Queen Elizabeth, 
a part for which she must have been entirely unsuited. 
It is probable that the historians have, in this matter, 
as they have done once or twice in connection with 
other and earlier cases, confused Nell Gwyn and Mrs. 
Quin. 

Another reason for refusing credence to the story 
of Nell Gwyn's return to the stage is that in 1675 
she was appointed a Lady of the Privy Chamber to 
the Queen and a mighty scandalous appointment too. 



310 



CHAPTER XIV 

THE HOMES OF NELL GWYN 

The birth of her first child. Lincoln's Inn Fields. Her house on the north 
side of Pall Mall. Her house on the south side of Pall Mall. " Conveyed 
free under the Crown." Her neighbours. Charles II. visits her there. 
No. 38, Prince's Street, now No. 53, Wardour Street. The deed of 
covenant. No apartments in Whitehall. Nell Gwynne Tavern and Nell 
Gwynne Cottages in Pimlico. Other Nell Gwynne taverns. Bagnigge 
Wells. Tradition assigns her a residence at Chelsea, and asserts that she 
lived at Mill Hill, Leyton and Sunninghill. Nell Gwyn at Tunbridge 
Wells. The Peckham Frolic. Epsom Wells. Burford House at 
Windsor. 

IT was in the apartments in Lincoln's Inn Fields, 
which the King had provided for her, that Nell 
Gwyn was, on May 8, 1670, delivered of a son, 
Charles, the paternity of which was at once acknow- 
ledged by the King. He seems, indeed, to have been 
pleased with this latest addition to the ranks of his 
natural children, and the mother rose higher and 
higher in the royal favour. 

About the end of the year he moved her to a house 
in Pall Mall, " east-end, on the north side," on the 
site of which is now part of the Army and Navy Club. 
This Club has still in its possession a Nell Gwyn mirror, 
which is over the fireplace in the visitors' dining-room. 
This was in Lord de Mauley's house, and is probably 
genuine. It also boasts a silver fruit knife, with the 
date 1680, which is said to have belonged to the same 

211 14* 



Nell Gwyn 



frail lady and is placed in the smoking-room. " As 
late as the eighteenth century," we read in Thomas 
Pennant's book on London, "the back room on 
the ground floor of the old house on this site was 
covered with looking-glass, as was said to have 
been the ceiling also. Over the chimney-piece 
was a picture of Nell Gwyn, while a portrait of 
her sister hung in another room. The house then 
belonged to Thomas Brand, of the Hoo, in Hereford- 
shire." 

Nell Gwyn did not long occupy the house on the 
north side of Pall Mall. In the following year she 
took up her residence on the other side. This house 
Pennant is again the authority " was given by a long 
lease by Charles the Second to Nell Gwyn, and upon 
her discovering it to be only a lease under the Crown, 
she returned him the lease and conveyances, saying 
that she had always conveyed free under the Crown 
and always would ; and would not accept it till it was 
conveyed free to her by an act of Parliament made 
on and for that purpose. Upon Nelly's death it was 
sold and has been conveyed free ever since." That 
it was possible to get through an Act of Parliament 
for this purpose is a sufficient commentary on the 
times in which Nell Gwyn lived. The house, after- 
wards No. 79, was in the middle of the eighteenth 
century rebuilt and occupied by Dr. Heberden, the 
famous physician. Subsequently it was at one time 
occupied by the Society for the Propagation of the 
Gospel in Foreign Parts, even as Mrs. Fitzherbert's 
house at Brighton was taken over by the Young Men's 

212 



The Homes of Nell Gwyn 



Christian Association. It is now occupied by an 
insurance company. 

The rate-books of the parish of St. Martin's-in-the- 
Fields record her residence in Pall Mall from 1670 
to her death. 

Nell Gwyn had as neighbours Mary (" Moll ") 
Knight, the beautiful singer, who for a little while 
was a mistress of Charles II. ; Edward Griffin, Treasurer 
of the Chamber ; and the widow of the third Earl 
of Portland. The King, of course, was a frequent 
visitor, and, on one occasion in March, 1671, was 
accompanied by John Evelyn, who recorded the 
incident : 

" I had a fair opportunity of talking to His Majesty 
in the lobby next the Queen's side, where I presented 
him with some sheets of my History. I thence walked 
with him through St. James's Park to the garden, 
where I both saw and heard a very familiar discourse 
between him and Mrs. Nellie, as they call an impudent 
comedian, she looked out of her garden on a terrace at 
the top of the walk and he standing on the green 
walk under it. I was heartily sorry at this scene. 
Thence the King walked to the Duchess of Cleveland, 
another lady of pleasure, and curse of our nation." 

This garden was not the Mall as is generally assumed, 
but the King's own garden, as is proved by the Act 
of Parliament creating St. James's Park in 1685, 
in which it is recited : " and from St. James's Gate 
to the said Pall Mall Street, comprehending all the 
houses, buildings, and yards backwards to the wall, 
which encloses that part of St. James's Park which 

213 



Nell Gwyn 



has been lately made into a garden, extending to a 
house inhabited by Antonio Verrio, painter, lately 
in the occupation of Leonard Gile, gardener." 

There was another house in London which belonged 
to Nell Gwyn. This was No. 38, Prince's Street. The 
name of Prince's Street was later abolished, and the 
entire thoroughfare from Oxford Street to Coventry 
Street was called Wardour Street, and the property 
in question became No. 53, Wardour Street. By the 
deed of Covenant the Covenanter was bound to pro- 
duce, among other documents, one described as 
follows : 

" Letters Patent of King Charles 2nd, dated ist 
Deer., 28th Chas. 2nd, under the Great Seal to Chaf- 
finch [sic] & Folkes, 5th and 6th April 1677. Inden- 
tures of lease and release between William Chaffinch 
and Martin Folkes of the first part, Henry, Earl of 
St. Albans of the second part, and Mrs. Ellen Gwynne, 
John Mollins & Thomas Grounds, gentlemen, of 
the third part." 

There is no evidence whatever that Nell Gwyn 
ever lived there. It was probably a present from 
the King, and she simply enjoyed the rent. 

Nell Gwyn's name has been associated with many 
houses in London and the country, but as regards 
most of them there is nothing in the way of evidence 
to connect her with them. It has frequently been 
stated that after she was appointed to the House- 
hold of the Queen, that she was given apartments at 
Whitehall, but there is no known warrant for this, 
and it is, indeed, extremely unlikely though, of 
214 



The Homes of Nell Gwyn 



course, in her official capacity, she had the entree 
to the palace. 

Tradition, and nothing more, assigns to Nell Gwyn 
a residence in the Pimlico Road, and her name is kept 
fresh in the memory of the neighbourhood by a public- 
house called the Nell Gwynne Tavern and a passage 
called Nell Gwynne Cottages. 

There is also a Nell Gwynne Inn in Bull Lane, near 
the western end of the Strand, with its advertisement 
in the Strand itself, over the entrance to the court. 

Bagnigge Wells also made a bid for fame in this 
connection. Bagnigge House, which adjoined the 
Wells on the south, certainly had over the chimney- 
piece of one of the principal rooms the royal arms, 
the garter, and other heraldic bearings, and between 
them the bust of a woman in Roman dress let deep 
into a circular cavity of the wall, which is said to 
represent Nell Gwyn, who, it is alleged, sometimes 
stayed there in the summer. According to Cunning- 
ham there is a tradition that she came here in order 
to take the bath in the adjacent Cold Bath Fields, 
where half a century later a nude statue was shown 
by the proprietor of the bath as her portrait. The 
bust was transferred to the Long Room of Bagnigge 
Wells. A square stone placed over an old Gothic 
portal, which was taken down in 1757, bore the in- 
scription : " This is Bagnigge House neare the Finder 
a Wakefielde, 1680," and when what remained of 
Bagnigge House and Wells was demolished about 
1862, this stone was inserted in the front of a small 
house, one of a row erected on the site. 

215 



Nell Gwyn 



Bagnigge Wells, according to Thornbury in his 
" Old and New London," was a summer residence 
of Nell Gwyn, where, he says, " near the Fleet, and 
amid fields, she entertained Charles and his saturnine 
brother with concerts and merry breakfasts in the 
careless Bohemian way in which the noble specimen 
of divine right delighted. The ground where the house 
stood was then called Bagnigge Vale." It was nearly 
a century later that the springs in the garden of 
Bagnigge House were discovered. 

Another tradition has it that Nell Gwyn had as 
a residence a mansion at Chelsea, built by the archi- 
tect of Chelsea Hospital and afterwards called Sand- 
ford House, or Sandford Manor House, and that 
the road now known as King's Road derived its name 
from the fact that it was frequently used by Charles 
II. on his visits to Nell at Sandy End, Chelsea. 

Mill Hill claims that Nell Gwyn had a residence there, 
Littleberries ; and Leyton, in Essex, not to be outdone, 
has it that she sometimes stayed in a two-storied, bow- 
windowed house nearly opposite the Vicarage. Sun- 
ninghill, in Berkshire, has given the name of Nell 
Gwyn's Avenue to an avenue of limes, which formerly 
led to a mansion called King's Wick, but it does 
not definitely assert that the lady lived there. Lauder- 
dale House, Highgate, now included in Waterlow Park, 
is by one writer at least made the scene of the " bas- 
tard " incident, which will presently be related. 

Tunbridge Wells also asserts its claim to Nell Gwyn 
as a visitor, and Edward Jermingham published in 
1799 a three-act comedy, The Peckham Frolic, or, 
216 



The Homes of Nell Gwyn 



Nell Gwyn, the scene of which is laid at Peckham, 
near Tunbridge Wells, where the author tells us, 
" Charles the Second frequently resided with some 
select companions." Among the characters are the 
King, Rochester, Sir Charles Sedley, Tom Killigrew 
and Nell Gwyn. 

There has, however, not been any tradition handed 
down to associate Nell with this watering-place, except 
that Charles II. is believed to have gone there. Tun- 
bridge Wells, certainly in the seventies of the seven- 
teenth century, thoroughly established itself as a 
favourite watering-place. Bath, of course, was easily 
the first, but it was a long way from the metropolis 
for short visits, and, besides, its season was the winter, 
whereas people went to Tunbridge Wells in the 
summer. 

" The Wells " had, indeed, a rival, but it was not 
Bath, but Epsom, which had the advantage of being 
very near to London. Reference has already been 
made to a house at Epsom which Nell Gwyn is said 
to have occupied. So early as 1673 Epsom secured 
its niche in literature, when Shadwell produced his 
comedy, Epsom Wells, at Dorset Gardens. It was 
not until six years later that the Kentish town re- 
ceived similar recognition at the hands of Thomas 
Rawlins in his Tunbridge Wells, or, A Day's Courtship. 

There is no doubt that Nell Gwyn stayed at Oxford 
when Charles II. went there, and Anthony Wood, in 
his " Life and Times," says clearly that she " lived 
sometimes in Oxford." 

We are on firm ground as regards her residence at 
217 



Nell Gwyn 



Windsor.* The King settled on her Burford House, the 
site of which is now occupied by the Queen's Mews. 
The original grant was to her for life, and afterwards 
to her only surviving son, then the Earl of Burford 
(afterwards Duke of St. Albans) and the heirs male 
of his body ; but this was presently amended to 
include his heirs female, with ultimate remainder to 
Nell Gwyn in fee, as is shown by the following legal 
instrument : 

" Chas. the 2 nd etc. To our r* trusty and r 1 wel- 
beloved Cousin Charles Earle of Dorset and Middlesex 
and to our trusty and welbeloved S r Geo. Hewit 
Bar 4 S r Edw d Villiers Kn and Will Chiffinch Esq. 
greeting. Whereas by certain indentures of lease 
and release bearing date the 13 th and 14 th of Sept. 
in the 32nd yeare of our reigne and by our indenture 
of assignment dated the s d 14 th of September William 
Chiffinch Esqr. did by and with our privity and direc- 
tion grant release convey and assigne to you the s d 
Charles E. of Dorset and Middx, S r George Hewet 
Bar' and S r Edw d Villiers Kn* and your heirs executors 
and assigns all that new erected capitall messuage or 
mansion house now called or knowne by the name of 
Burford House with the gardens orchards out houses 
stables and appurtenances thereunto belonging situate 
and being in New Windsor in the co. of Barks, and 
by the s d deeds the same are declared to be in trust 
for Ellen Gwyn for and during her life and after her 

* There is a claim put in for the house at Windsor, now known as Old 
Bank House, situated at the foot of the Hundred Steps, as one of Nell Gwyn's 
residences. It was built by Sir Christopher Wren, and it is said that she 
lived there for eight months. 

218 



The Homes of Nell Gwyn 



decease in trust for Charles Earl of Burford and the 
heirs males of his body. And for default of such issue 
in trust for us our heirs and successors for ever. And 
whereas our intention was the sayd house should have 
been declared not only with provision for the heirs 
males but also for the heirs females of the I st E. of 
Burford and for default of such issue of the sd E. 
of Burford to and for the use and benefit of the sayd 
Ellen Gwynn and her heirs for ever and not in trust for 
us our heirs and successors. Our will and pleasure 
therefore is and we do hereby direct and appoint 
that you make and declare further trusts and estates 
of and in the sayd premisses according to our sayd 
intention herein expressed by such deed and convey- 
ance or conveyances as the said Ellen Gwyn or her 
Councell learned in the law shall approve of. Given 
at Whitehall the / h day of February i68f." 

As Nell Gwyn frequently stayed at Burford House, 
Charles II. took a considerable interest in its adorn- 
ment, and by his orders Antonio Verrio, who had done 
part of the decorations of Windsor Castle, painted the 
staircase of this mansion. It has also been recorded 
that one M. Bodivine was between 1675 and 1678 
paid 50 " for repairing of Madam Gwin's house." 
This house is the subject of a large engraving by Leo- 
nard Knyff, entitled " A prospect of the House at 
Windsor belonging to his Grace Charles Beauclerk, 
Duke of St. Albans, Earl of Burford, and Baron of 
Heddington, Captain of the Honourable Band of 
Gentlemen Pensioners, Marshall and Surveyor of the 
Hawks to his Majesty, and one of the Gentlemen of his 

219 



Nell Gwyn 



Majesty's Bed-chamber." Some little time after the 
death of Nell Gwyn, Princess Anne and her husband, 
Prince George of Denmark, lived at Burford House 
this was in 1689 and 1690 ; but it was presently 
occupied by its owner, the Duke of St. Albans. It is 
not without interest to note the following entry in 
the accounts of the Chamberlain of Windsor for 1689 : 
" More for Madam Gwynn's house in the possession of 
the Prince of Denmark, 15 years in arrear at 2s. 
per ann." It is pleasant to be able to state that 
a subsequent entry shows that his Grace paid up 
the arrears. 

In the Muniments of the Dean and Canons of St. 
George's Chapel, Windsor, there are Leases of a tene- 
ment in Priest Street, Windsor, which was let by 
the Dean and Canons to " Eleanor Gwinn of the 
Parish of St. Martin's-in-the-Fields, one of the Ladys 
of Her Majestic the Queen's Privy Chamber, n 
December, 1684, and after her decease to Charles, Duke 
of St. Albans, 18 January, 1692-3." No further 
information concerning the " tenement " has come 
to light. 

While most people were exceedingly anxious to 
ingratiate themselves with the King's mistresses, 
one man stood out as refusing point-blank to have 
anything whatsoever to do with any one of them. 
This was Thomas Ken, Prebendary of Winchester, 
and afterwards Bishop of Bath and Wells. 

On March 22, 1683, when Charles was at New- 
market for the races, his house was destroyed by 
fire. The date is important, because this accident, 



The Homes of Nell Gwyn 



with the consequent departure of the royal party, is 
said to have frustrated the Rye House Plot, fixed for 
eight days later. This plot was to secure the succes- 
sion to the throne of the Duke of Monmouth in 
preference to the Duke of York, and it was believed 
that some of the conspirators projected the assassina- 
tion of the King and his brother. Monmouth betrayed 
the others, and was pardoned, though banished from 
Court, but Lord William Russell and Algernon Sidney 
were executed. 

This incident not unnaturally gave Charles a distaste 
for Newmarket, and he instructed Christopher Wren 
to design him a palace at Winchester. During the 
building he often went there to watch what progress 
was being made, amusing himself by hunting in the 
New Forest or fishing in the Itchin. 

On one occasion, when Nell Gwyn accompanied 
him, the official whose duty it was to provide suitable 
accommodation, fixed on Ken's prebendal house as 
a lodging for her. Ken refused his consent point- 
blank. 

" A woman of ill-repute," he declared, " ought 
not to be endured in the house of a clergyman, least 
of all in that of the King's Chaplain." From this 
attitude he could not be moved. There was much 
argument, and, to settle the matter, Ken, so the 
story goes, put the house in the builders' hands for 
repairs and had it unroofed. 

It was generally thought that Ken had for ever 
destroyed his chance of preferment, but this proved 
not to be the case at all. With all his faults, Charles 

221 



Nell Gwyn 



knew an honest man when he met him, and could 
appreciate him. When, in 1684, Peter Mew was 
translated from the see of Bath and Wells to Win- 
chester, and many candidates were recommended 
for the vacancy to the King, he declared : " Od's fish ! 
who shall have Bath and Wells but the little black 
fellow who would not give poor Nelly a lodging ? " 

At Winchester, Dr. Meggot, the Dean, was more 
complaisant than Ken, and Nell Gwyn was lodged 
first in a room attached to the Deanery, which was 
called by her name until in 1835 it was pulled down 
by Dean Rennell, perhaps, it has been suggested, 
as unnecessarily perpetuating an unsavoury associa- 
tion. Later she was lodged at Avington, some three 
miles from the city, the seat of that Countess of 
Shrewsbury whose husband had died in 1668 as 
the result of a wound received in a duel at Barnes Elms 
with George, second Duke of Buckingham, when, 
it is said, she was present disguised as a page and 
holding the horse of her lover. 



22 



CHAPTER XV 

NELL GWYN : HER INCOME AND EXPENDITURE 

Nell Gwyn the least grasping of Charles II. 's mistresses. Some items of her 
expenditure. Her silver bed. Her sedan chair. A bill for hire of 
sedan chairs. Her silver plate. Her theatre tickets. Her financial 
straits. " An ill paymaster." Her letter to Madam Jennings. Her 
love of gambling. Sir John Germaine's proposal and Nell Gwyn's 
witty rebuke. The King's chronic impecuniosity. His settlements on 
the Duchess of Cleveland, the Duchess of Portsmouth and Nell Gwyn. 
Some special money grants to Nell Gwyn. She gives a power of 
attorney to Thomas Fraizer. The King gives her sister, Rose Foster, 
a pension on the Irish establishment. Correspondence with the Duke 
of Ormonde, etc., concerning the payment of Nell Gwyn's pension. 

OF all the mistresses of Charles II., Nell Gwyn 
was the least grasping in the matter of money, 
though, as a matter of fact, considerable sums were 
passed to her. Burnet has told us that " Gwyn, the 
indiscreetest and wildest creature that ever was in 
a Court, yet continued to the end of the King's life 
in great favour, and was maintained at a vast expense." 
He has further put it on record that the Duke of 
Buckingham told him that when she was first brought 
to the King she asked only five hundred pounds a 
year, and the King refused it, but that when she 
had been a royal favourite for about four years, she 
had received from the King about sixty thousand 
pounds. 

It is possible to derive some knowledge of Nell 
223 



Nell Gwyn 



Gwyn's household from studying a bundle of mis- 
cellaneous bills of hers for 1674 and the two following 
years that came into the hands of Peter Cunningham. 
They include an account from a silversmith for silver 
ornaments for a bed, the decorations being such 
things as King's head, slaves, eagles, crowns and 
Cupids. But the bill itself is interesting enough to 
be given in full : 

Work done for ye righte Honbie. Madame Guinne. 

John Cooqus, siluersmyth his bill. s. d. 

1674. Deliuered the head of ye bedstead weighing 885 
onces 12 Ib. and I haue received 636 onces 15 dweight 
so that their is over and aboue of me owne siluer two 
hundred [and] forty eight onces 17 dweight at 75. lid. 
par once (ye siluer being a d't worse par once ac- 
cording ye reste) wich comes to . . . . 98 10 2 
For ye making of ye 636 onces 15 d't at 2s. nd. par once, 

comes to 92 17 3 

onces. dweight. 

Deliuered y kings head weighing . . 197 5 
one figure weighing .... 445 15 

ye other figure with y* caracter weighing . 428 5 
y slaues and ye reste belonging unto it . 255 
y* two Eagles weighing .... 169 10 
one of the crowne[s] weighing . . . 94 5 
ye second crown weighing . . 97 10 

ye third crowne weighing . . . . 90 2 
y fowerd crowne weighing ... 82 
one of ye Cupids weighing . . . 121 8 

ye second boye weighing .... 101 10 
ye third boye weighing . . . 93 15 

ye fowered boye weighing . i . 88 17 

Altogether two thousand two hundred sexty fiue onces 

2d wight of sterling siluer at 8s. par once, comes to . 906 o 10 
Paid for ye Essayes of ye figures and other things into ye 
tower . '.- . . .050 

224 



Her Income and Expenditure 



Paid for iacob haalle [Jacob Hall] dansing upon ye 

robbe [rope] of Weyer Worck [wicker-work] . . i 10 o 
For ye cleinsing and brunisching a sugar box, a pepper 

box, a mustard pott and two kruyzes . . o 12 o 

For mending ye greatte siluer andyrons , . o 10 o 
Paid to ye cabbenet maker for ye greatte bord for y 
head of the bedstead and for ye other bord that comes 

under it and boorring the wholles into ye head . 300 

Paid to Mr. Consar for karuing ye said bord j . I o o 
For ye bettering ye sodure wich was in the old bedstead 537 
Paid to ye smid for ye 2 yorne hoops and for ye 6 yorn 

baars krampes and nealles . . , . . 150 
Paid for y e wood denpied de staall for one of ye figures 046 
Paid ye smith for a hoock to hang up a branche candle- 
stick * ...020 

Paid to ye smith for y e baars kramps and nealles to hold 

up y e slaues . . . V . . . 050 

Given to me Journey man by order of Madame Guinne . i o o 
Paid to ye smyth for ye yorn worck to hold up ye Eagles 
and for y e two hoocks to hold the bedstead again the 
wall . . . . . . . ..',030 

Paid for ye pied de stalle of Ebony to hold up the 2 

georses i 10 o 

For ye mending of ye goold hower glasse . . " ' , 026 
Deliuered two siluer bottels weighing 37 onces 17 d't at 
8s. par once, comes to . . . ... * * . 15 2 9 

Paid for ye other foot to hold up ye other figure . .046 
For sodering y e wholles and for repairing mending and 

cleinsing the two figures of Mr. Traherne his making . 300 
For ye making of a crowne upon one of ye figures . .100 
Giuen to me iourney man by order of Madame Guinne . i o o 
Deliuered a handel of a kneif weighing n dweight more 

then ye old one wich comes with ye making of it to . 05 10 
For y cleinsing of eight pictures . . . .0100 



225 15 



Nell Gwyn 



There have been preserved bills for a French coach 
and for a great cipher from the chariot painter; for 
large looking-glasses ; for cleansing and burnishing 
the warming-pan ; for furniture and table expenses ; 
for white satin petticoats and white and red satin 
nightgowns ; for scarlet satin shoes covered with 
silver lace, and a pair of satin shoes laced over with 
gold for " Master Charles," her son, and a fine " land- 
skip fan " ; for kilderkins of strong ale, ordinary 
ale, and " a barrel of eights" ; and for oats and beans, 
and " charey " oranges at threepence each which 
was cheaper than could in earlier days have been 
purchased from Nell Gwyn herself at the playhouse. 

We have also some bills for Nell Gwyn's sedan-chair : 

June 17, 1675. s . d. 

The body of the chaire . . . . . . 3 10 o 

the best neats leather to cover the outside . . 3 10 o 

600 inside nailes, coulered and burnishd . . . o n o 

600 guilt with water gold at 55. per cent . . i 10 o 

1200 outside nailes, the same gold, at 8s. per cent . 4 16 o 

300 studds, the same gold i 16 o 

2000 halfe roofe nailes, the same gold . . . . i 14 o 

200 toppit nailes, same gold 3 14 o 

5 sprigs for the top, rich guilt .... 400 

a haspe for the doore, rich guilt i 10 o 

ffor change of 4 glasses 200 

2 pound 55. for one new glasse, to be abated out of that 

ffor a broken glasse 155. . . . . . . i 10 o 

ffor guilding windows and irons 150 

Serge ffor the bottom 020 

canuisse to put vnder the leather . . . .080 

all sorts of iron nailes 050 

workmanshipe, the chaire inside and outside . 2 10 o 



Reict. dated 13 July, 1675, for " 3 o in full discharge." 34 
226 



Her Income and Expenditure 



That Nell Gwyn did not always employ her own 
sedan is evident from the following bill : 



For careing you to Mrs. Knights and to Madam Younges, 

and to Madam Churchfillds, and wating four oures . 050 

For careing you the next day, and wating seven oures . 076 

For careing you to Mrs. Knights, and to Mrs. Cassells, 

and to Mrs. Churchills, and to Mrs. Knights . * 040 

For careing one Lady Sanes to ye play at White Halle, 
and way ting . . . v . , . 036 

For careing you yesterday, and wayting eleven oures . o n 6 



Ye some is . . . i n 6 
13 October, 1675. 

Reed, them of Tho. Groundes in full of these \ 
Bills and all other demands from Madam J>2. . 
Gwin, j 

by me William Calow. 

Nell Gwyn had a passion for silver plate, which 
on one occasion at least excited the admiration of a 
burglar, as there appeared in the London Gazette for 
January 3, 1678, the following advertisement : 

" All goldsmiths and others to whom our silver 
plate may be sold, marked with the cypher E.G., 
flourished, weighing about eighteen ounces, are desired 
to apprehend the bearer thereof, till they give notice 
to Mr. Robert Johnson, in Heathcock Alley, Strand, 
over against Durham Yard, or to Mrs. Gwin's porter 
in the Pell Mell, by whom they shall be rewarded." 

It may be accepted that there was no " free list " 
at the theatre in those days, for there are accounts 
for side-boxes for Nell Gwyn at the King's House 
and the Duke's Theatre, though as these were settled 

227 15* 



Nell Gwyn 



by the Treasury it was no great matter to the lady. 
Usually she took a party with her at her own or 
the Treasury's expense. It may be noted that be- 
tween September and December, 1674, she went four 
times to see The Tempest, and in June, 1675, was 
present at a performance of King Lear. 

Nell Gwyn, like the King and his other favourites, 
never apparently had any ready money, and she was, 
therefore, probably right when, in the following letter, 
she says that " the King's Mistresses are accounted ill 
paymasters." 

" These for Madam Jennings over against the 
Tub Tavern in Jermyn Street, London. 

" WINDSOR, BURFORD HOUSE, 

" April 14, 1684. 
" MADAM, 

" I have received y r Letter, and I desire y u 
would speake to my Ladie Williams* to send me 
the Gold Stuffe, & a Note with it, because I must 
sign it, then she shall have her money y e next Day 
of Mr. Trant ; pray tell her Ladieship, that I will 
send her a Note of what Quantity of Things I 'le 
have bought, if her Ladieship will put herself e to 
y* Trouble to buy them ; when they are bought I 
will sign a Note for her to be payd. 

" Pray Madam, let y* Man goe on with my Sedan, and 
send Potvinf and Mr. Coker down to me, for I want 

" My Ladie Williams " (died 1689) was Susanna, daughter of Sir Thomas 
bkipwith. Bart., of Metteringham, co. Lincoln, who married in 1673 Sir John 
Williams, Bart., of Marnhull, co. Dorset (1642-1680). 

| Potvin was an upholsterer. 

228 



Her Income and Expenditure 



them both. The Bill is very dear to boyle the Plate, 
but necessity hath noe Law. I am afraid M m . you 
have forgott my Mantle, which you were to line 
with Musk Colour Sattin, and all my other Things, 
for you send me noe Patterns nor Answer. 

" Monsieur Lainey is going away. 

" Pray send me word about your son Griffin, for his 
Majestic is mighty well pleased that he will goe along 
with my Lord Duke. I am afraid you are so much 
taken up with your owne House that you forget my 
Business. My service to dear Lord Kildare, and tell 
him I love him with all my heart. 

" Pray M m . see that Potvin brings now all my Things 
with him : My Lord Duke's bed, &c. if he hath not 
made them all up, he may doe that here, for if I doe 
not get my Things out of his Hands now, I shall 
not have them until this time twelvemonth. The 
Duke brought me down with him my Crochet of 
Diamonds ; and I love it the better because he brought 
it. Mr. Lumley and everie body else will tell you 
that it is the finest Thing that ever was seen. Good 
M m . speake to Mr. Beaver to come down too, that 
I may bespeake a Ring for the Duke of Grafton before 
he goes into France. 

" I have continued extreme ill ever since you left 
me, and I am soe still. I have sent to London for 
a Dr. I believe I shall die. My service to the Duchess 
of Norfolk, and tell her, I am as sick as her Grace, but 
do not know what I ayle, although shee does. . . . 

" Pray tell my Ladie Williams that the King's Mis- 
tresses are accounted ill paymasters, but shee shall 

229 



Nell Gwyn 



have her Money the next Day after I have the stuffe. 

" Here is a sad slaughter at Windsor, the young 
mens taking y r Leaves and going to France, and, 
although they are none of my Lovers, yet I am loath 
to part with the men. 

" Mrs. Jennings, I love you with all my Heart and soe 
good bye. 

"E. G. 

" Let me have an Answer to this Letter." 

A copy of this interesting letter was sent by the 
antiquary, the Rev. William Cole, to Horace Walpole, 
who acknowledged the receipt of it on January 9, 
1775, when he wrote : "I every day intended to thank 
you for the copy of Nell Gwyn's letter, till it was 
too late ; the gout came and made me moult my goose 
quill. The letter is very curious, and I am as well 
content as with the original." 

Cunningham was unaware who was the Madam 
Jennings to whom it was written. Mr. H. Lavers 
Smith (whose opinion is given in Mr. Goodwin's 
edition of "The Story of Nell Gwyn") thinks that 
she may be Mrs. Frances Jennings, mother of Frances, 
who married the Earl and titular Duke of Tyrconnel, 
and Sarah, who married the Duke of Marlborough. 
This would explain the reference to " your son Griffin," 
who would be Edward Griffith, who married the third 
daughter, Barbara. 

Nell Gwyn, though she left, so it is believed, a hand- 
some fortune, was always in financial trouble. Un- 
used to money in her youth, she had no sense of its 

230 



Her Income and Expenditure 



value. Much she gave away, more she squandered, 
and the basset-table cost her dear. It is said that at 
one sitting she lost at cards five thousand guineas to 
Madame de Mazarin. 

Gambling was, indeed, one of the vices of the Court 
of Charles II., though it is said on good authority 
that the King himself was no gambler, and never 
won or lost more than a few pounds at a sitting. 
Nor did his brother, the Duke of York, indulge in 
heavy play. The Queen, however, was rather ad- 
dicted to high stakes, and was especially fond of 
ombre and quadrille, but she played more for the 
amusement, for the relief it gave her from ennui., 
than for the stake. The excessive gamblers in the 
immediate royal circle were the Duchess of Portsmouth 
and the Duchess of Mazarin, who had everything to 
win and nothing to lose their losses fell in the first 
place on the King and in the second on the country 
they had adopted. 

There is, in connection with Nell Gwyn's gaming, 
a story at once illustrative of her ready wit and of 
her devotion to the King. A long run of bad luck 
deprived her of all her ready money and left her 
heavily in debt to Sir John Germaine. " He," it is 
recorded, " took the advantage of making such a 
proposal for the easy payment thereof as may well be 
guessed at by her answer, when she replied, she was 
no such sportswoman as to lay the dog where the 
deer should lie." 

It was not always easy for the King to find money 
for Nell Gwyn and his other mistresses. In 1673 

231 



Nell Gwyn 



Charles II. was himself heavily in debt by reason of 
the Exchequer being closed in the previous year, and 
on September 28 Dr. Henry Stubbs wrote to the 
Earl of Kent that neither Madame de Keroualle's, nor 
the Duchess of Cleveland's, nor Nell Gwyn's warrant? 
would be accepted. 

" I am told that his Majesty complaining that he 
wanted money," Ursula Wolrich wrote to her daughter 
on March 4, 1675, " Nell Gwyn should make 
answer, if he would take her advice she doubted not 
his Majesty should be supplied ; he asking which way, 
she told him his Parliament being to sitt, he should 
treat them as a French ragoe [the Duchess of Ports- 
mouth], Scotts collopes [Lord Lauderdale], and a 
calves head [Lord Sunderland], at which his Majesty 
laughed and was well pleased." 

Times improved, and the King, who was as generous 
as he was improvident, was soon able to come to the 
rescue of the ladies in distress. We hear something 
of this in a letter from Andrew Marvell to Sir Henry 
Thompson, dated December 19, 1674 : 

" You have heard doubtlesse that the Duchess of 
Portsmouth had 10,000 a yeare settled out of the 
Wine Licences, she of Cleveland having chosen hers 
out of the Excise as the more secure and legall fonds. 
The Dutchesse of Portsmouth is in deep mourning 
for the Chevalier de Rohan as being forsooth of kin 
to that family. Her sister was on Thursday married 
to the Earl of Pembroke, he being pretty well recovered 
from his ... The King pays the portions. There is 
also 4,000 a year settled on Nell's children." 

232 



Her Income and Expenditure 



The grant to Nell Gwyn and her children was, not 
four thousand, but five thousand pounds a year. The 
warrant, charging this on the Exchequer, is still in 
existence : 

" Charles the Second, by the grace of God, King 
of England, Scotland, France and Ireland, Defender 
of the Faith &c. To the Commissioners of Our 
Treasury now being, to the Treasurer Under-Treasurer 
and Commissioners of Our Treasury for the time 
being, Greeting. Our will and pleasure is, And Wee 
doe hereby authorise and require you, out of Our Trea- 
sure now or hereafter being or remaineing in the 
Receipt of Our Exchequer, to pay or cause to be paid 
unto Eleanor Gwyn or her Assignes the Annuity or 
yearly Summe of Five Thousand pounds, dureing Our 
pleasure, for and towards the Support and maintenance 
of herselfe and Charles Earl of Burford, To be received 
by her, the said Eleanor Gwyn quarterly, Att the foure 
most usuall feasts in the yeare by equall porcions. 
The first payment to begin from the Feast of the 
Birth of Our Lord God last One Thousand Six hundred 
Seaventy Eight, and these Our Letters shall be your 
sufficient Warrant and Discharge in that behalf e. 
Given under Our Privy Scale at Our Pallace of West- 
minster the Eleaventh of June in the One and Thirtieth 
Year of Our Reign. 

" Irrotulatur in Officio " Irrotulatur in Officio 

Auditoris Receptae Scac- Clerici Pellium 

carii domini Regis XVj to XVIIj vo die Junij, 1679." 

Junij, 1679. 

There are, in the ninth Report of the Historical 

233 



Nell Gwyn 



Manuscripts Commission, entries concerning Secret 
Service money to April 30, 1675. 

" February 4. Paid to Mrs. Helen Gwyn, 1,000. 

" March 25. Paid to the Duchess of Portsmouth, 
2,000, and to Mrs. Hellen Gwyn, 1,000. 

" More ordered to be paid to Mrs. Gwin, 500." 

There is, in the same Report, a reference to a grant 
of 16,000 to Nell Gwyn. 

Evidently realizing that she could not manage 
her own affairs, she placed them in the hands 
of her lawyer, Thomas Fraizer, and gave him the 
following Power of Attorney : 

" Be it knowne unto all men by these presents, that 
I Ellinor Gwyn of the parish of St. Martins in the Fields 
in the County of Middlesex Spinster (for good causes 
and consideracions mee hereunto moving) have made, 
named, constituted, ordayned and appointed and by 
these presents, doe make, name, constitute, ordaine 
and appoint and in my place and stead put James 
Fraizer of Westminster in the said County, Gent., 
my true and lawfull Attorney for me and in my name 
and to my use to aske, demand, receive and take, of 
and from any person or persons whome the payment 
thereof shall concerne, as well as all such Arreares 
and summe and summes of money as is due, owing 
and in arreare unto me upon my Annuities, pentions, 
or yearly profitts granted unto me by his Majestie's 
Exchequer or elsewhere, As alsoe all such summe 
or summes of money as shall from time to time here- 
after become due and payable unto me for and in 
respect of the same. 



Her Income and Expenditure 



" And I do hereby give and grant unto my said 
Attorney all my full power, whole right, and lawfull 
Authority upon the Receipt of any summe or summes 
of money to give Acquittances or other discharge 
needfull and requisite, either in my name or in his 
owne, to any person or persons whome the payment 
thereof shall concern as aforesaid, And generally to 
Act and agitate all things in and about the receipt 
of the premises as fully and effectually to all intents 
and purposes as I myselfe might or could doe the 
same were I in person present, Rattifying, conferming 
and Allowing all and whatsoever my said Attorney 
shall lawfully doe or cause to be done in the premisses 
firmly by these presents. 

" In wittnesse whereof I have hereunto sett my hand 
and seale this first day of June, In the yeare of our 
Lord God one thousand six hundred and eighty, 
Annoque Regni Regis Caroli Secundi nunc Angliae, 
vc. Tricesimo Secundo."* 

The following letters give some idea of the troubles 
against which Nell Gwyn had to contend. From the 
recently published correspondence it is clear that she 
had prevailed upon the King to give her sister, Rose 
Foster, a pension on the Irish Establishment. It 
may be mentioned that Sir Robert Howard was 
Auditor of the Exchequer, the Duke of Ormonde 
Lord Lieutenant of Ireland and the Earl of Arran 
Lord Deputy of Ireland. The Earl of Ossory was the 
eldest son of the Duke of Ormonde. 

* " A Memorial of Nell Gwynne and Thomas Otway the Dramatist," by 
William Henry Hart, F.S.A. 

235 



Nell Gwyn 



SIR ROBERT HOWARD TO THE DUKE OF ORMONDE. 

Exchequer, July 15, 1679. 

Mrs. Nelly has commanded me to let you know that 
her agent, Mr. Melish, has not yet completed her 
pension for the Michaelmas half-year, and also sends 
her word that he has no hopes when to receive the 
Lady [Day] half-year last part, for that there is a 
stop upon it. She begs your Grace's favour in this, 
and that you would please to command any of your 
servants to let me know what the condition of it is, 
and what she may expect, presuming she shall find 
your kindness enough to assist her in this particular, 
and has commanded me to assure your Grace that 
nothing would please her better than to have a share 
in serving your Grace.* 

SIR ROBERT HOWARD TO THE DUKE OF ORMONDE. 

London, November 12, 1679. 

By reason of Mr. Mylius his unjuste ill conduct 
of Mrs. Gwinn's affairs, I have been necessitated to 
send one Mr. Alexander Adair, and to contribute a 
new pension, one Mr. St. Vast, to look after the busi- 
ness, and to call Mr. Mylius to an account, and return 
such moneys as are due to the Exchequer. Mrs. Gwin 
has humbly to desire your Grace that if there be any 
application made to you in her behalf, that you would 
be pleased to help her by your commands. She 
presents you with her real acknowledgments for all 
your favours, and protests she would write in her 
own hand, but her wild characters would distract you. 

* Ormonde MSS., N.S., VI., 155. (Historical MSS. Commission.) 
2 3 6 



Her Income and Expenditure 



This, my Lord, was her own natural notion when I 
showed her your Grace's kind return upon the King's 
letter, since which I have not heard anything from Mr. 
Mylius, which gives me some apprehension of him, 
and caused my sending a messenger on purpose.* 

EARL OF OSSORY TO THE DUKE OF ORMONDE. 
London, December 2, 1679. 

This day I had some discourse with Sir Robert 
Howard concerning Mrs. Nelly's pretension to some 
lands and houses pretended to belong to my Lord 
of Dungannon. I entreated him to write unto you 
what he thought might be said, as if you were not 
ready to give a just despatch unto that affair, and 
more, I undertook that you would give him all the 
satisfaction you could ; which I entreat you to do, 
because I know the King is set on the thing, intending 
it as a settlement for my Lord of Burford.^ 
THE DUKE OF ORMONDE TO THE EARL OF OSSORY. 
Dublin, December 24, 1679. 

You may assure Sir Robert Howard that Mrs. G win's 
business concerning Dundalk and Carlingford is done 
so far as it depends on me, and beg his pardon for me 
that I do not at this time give him an account of it 
myself. J 

ELLEN GWYN TO THE DUKE OF ORMONDE. 

September 4, 1682. 

This is to beg a favour of your Grace, which I hope 
you will stand my friend in. I lately got a friend of 

* Ormonde MSS., N.S.. VI., 237. (Historical MSS. Commission.) 
t Ormonde MSS., N.S., VI., 246. (Historical MSS. Commission.) 
J Ormonde MSS., N.S., VI., 246. (Historical MSS. Commission.) 

237 



Nell Gwyn 



mine to advance me on my Irish pension half a year's 
payment for last Lady Day, which all people have 
received but me, and I drew bills upon Mr. Laurence 
Steele, my agent, for the payment of the money, not 
thinking but that long before this the bills had been 
paid ; but contrary to my expectation I last night 
received advice from him that the bills are protested, 
and he cannot receive any money without your Grace's 
positive order to the Farmers for it. 

Your Grace formerly upon the King's letter, which 
this enclosed is the copy of, was so much mine and 
Mrs. Forster's friend as to give necessary orders for 
our payments notwithstanding the stop. I hope you 
will oblige me now upon this request, to give your 
directions to the Farmers, that we may be paid our 
arrears and what is growing due and you will oblige, 
etc.* 

ELLEN GWYN TO THE EARL OF ARRAN. 

November 26, 1682. 

I hope your Lordship will now oblige me so much as 
to stand my friend. I have, with much importunity, 
got the Lords of the Treasury to give an order to my 
Lord Ormond to cause the arrears of my pension 
stopped in Ireland to be paid what is due to me to 
last Michaelmas with my sister's Mrs. Forster's, 
and others whom their letter mentions. My agent 
is Mr. Laurence Steele, to whom I have sent this letter 
to deliver to your Lordship. Hoping for my sake you 
will be pleased to give him a speedy despatch in this 
business, and oblige yours, etc.f 

* Ormonde MSS., N.S.. VI., 436. (Historical MSS. Commission.) 
t Ormonde MSS., N.S.. VI., 483. (Historical MSS. Commission.) 

2 3 8 



Her Income and Expenditure 



EARL OF ARRAN TO THE DUKE OF ORMONDE. 

Dublin, December 5, 1682. 

I have had a letter last post from the Lords of the 
Treasury by his Majesty's directions ordering me to 
take off the suspensions of Mrs. Gwyn and some others' 
pensions, which I shall do.* 

* Ormonde MSS., N.S., VI., 489. (Historical MSS. Commission.) 



239 



CHAPTER XVI 

THE FIRST DUKE OF ST. ALBANS AND HIS DESCENDANTS 

Nell Gwyn's elder son. The struggle for titles. " You little bastard." 
Charles Beauclerk created Earl of Burford. Educated at Paris. Created 
Duke of St. Albans. The Duke a favourite of fortune. Sinecure offices 
bestowed on him. Master Falconer of England. Registrar of the Court 
of Chancery. His marriage. The Duchess of St. Albans. His later 
life. 

THERE was, as a matter of course, much 
jealousy between the mothers of the King's 
natural children, but Nell, though as eager for her 
sons' position in life, seems to have taken matters 
easily. Anyhow, she did not unduly pester her lover, 
and trusted to time to put things right for them. 
There is an interesting letter on this point of the date 
of August 5, 1675, written by William Fall to Sir Ralph 
Verney, which runs : 

" I do not hear that Nell's son is to have any honour 
at all ; but there are to be three dukes, viz., Lord 
Southampton, Lord Euston, and the Duchess of 
Portsmouth's first son by the King to be Duke of 
Richmond, Lenox, and Earl of March, by the name of 
Charles Stuart, etc., these last two had had their 
patents before this time, had not Lady Cleaveland 
opposed it, for she is resolved that her younger son 
shall not take the place of the elder, nor Duke of 
Richmond either." 

240 



Duke of St. Albans and His Descendants 

The idea of the exclusion of her elder boy in this 
honours list may well have angered Nell, who was 
never afraid of speaking her mind. The story is told 
by Grange in his " Biographical History " that one 
day when the King was with her, and the little boy 
came up to her, she addressed him as, " You little 
bastard." " Why do you call him that, Nelly ? " 
Charles asked. " Indeed," she retorted, " I have 
no better name to give him." Another version says 
that she threatened to throw the boy out of the window 
in case he did not at once confer a title on him. 

Anyhow, whether there is or is not any foundation 
for the anecdote, Charles, on December 27, 1676, gave 
him the name of Charles Beauclerk, and created him 
Baron Heddington and Earl of Burford, both in the 
county of Oxford with a special remainder failing 
heirs of his body to his younger natural brother James. 
James was born in Pall Mall on Christmas Day, 1671, 
and after his brother was raised to the peerage, he 
was known as Lord James Beauclerk. He died at 
Paris in September, 1680. 

The little Earl attracted the King, who took a great 
interest in him, and when he was twelve years old, 
thought to send him to be educated for a while at 
Paris, and to place him in the custody of Lord Preston, 
who had recently succeeded Henry Savile as Envoy 
Extraordinary in that city. There has been pre- 
served among the Ormonde papers the following 
letter, dated November 20, 1682, from Gaye Legge to 
Lord Preston : 

" His Majesty is extremely fond of my Lord 
241 16 



Nell Gwyn 



Burforde, and seems much concerned in his educa- 
tion, and he being now of an age fit to be bred in the 
world hath resolved to trust him wholly in your hands ; 
no impertinent body shall be troublesome to you, nor 
anybody but whom you approve of to wait on him. 
I am to be your solicitor for providing money and all 
things necessary for him, and I hope by it to establish 
your other payments better than otherways we could 
have compassed. I told his Majesty you would be 
forced to take a larger house, and your expense must 
needs be much increased by this ; he acknowledged 
it, and bid me take care that my Lord Burforde should 
have an appointment ready provided by you in your 
own house, so that I hope you may compass your own 
rent free, if your house already will accommodate it, 
or else that you take a better upon this occasion ; 
masters must be provided for him, the best can be got 
of all sorts, but more particularly the King would have 
him study mathematics, and in that fortification, and 
that when the King of France moves in any progresses 
he constantly go with you to view all places in France 
etc. My lord, you see by this I am going to bread a bird 
to pick out my ownes [sic] eyes, but I owe his Majesty 
all I have in gratitude, and will by the help of God 
study all the ways I am able to make him all the 
return imaginable. Pray fail not to write to the King 
by the next post." 

The Earl of Burford was, on January 10, 1684, 
created Duke of St. Albans. It is interesting to note 
that this was eight days after the death, unmarried, 
of Henry Jermyn, Earl of St. Albans. St. Albans 

242 



Duke of St. Albans and His Descendants 

as a title has always been popular, and this was the 
fourth creation with that style. On the following 
Easter Day the young Duke, with the Duke of North- 
umberland and the Duke of Richmond, two other 
natural sons of the King, accompanied Charles II. 
when he made his offering at the Altar at Whitehall, 
the three boys entering before him within the rails. 

At this time he was, acording to Evelyn, " a very 
pretty boy ; " but Macky describes him twenty years 
later as "of a black complexion " and " very like 
King Charles." Macky adds and this may as well be 
said here as anywhere that "he is a gentleman 
every way de bon naturel, well bred, doth not love 
business, is well affected to the constitution of his 
country." 

In 1687, when James II. was on the throne, it was 
rumoured that the Duke was going to Hungary, there 
to enter the Roman Catholic Church, so that " the 
fraternity," as the natural sons of Charles II. were 
called, " would be on the same foot or give way as 
to their advantageous stations." His mother's death 
occurred before this project was carried out ; and 
nothing more was heard of it. This, perhaps, was 
fortunate, because in the following year James fled 
the country and William and Mary, staunch Pro- 
testants, reigned in his stead. 

The Duke of St. Albans was a favourite of fortune. 
His father made ample provision for him. As has been 
said, he settled a handsome income on Nell Gwyn 
and her children ; Burford House, of course, came to 
him at his mother's death, and he gave the elder 

243 i 6* 



Nell Gwyn 



boy the reversion of the sinecure offices of Master 
Falconer of England and Registrar of the Court 
of Chancery, both to be hereditary, worth some 1,500 
a year, and these came to him, on the death of the 
holders, in 1688 and 1698 respectively. 

According to tradition, Charles II., anxious to make 
the lad's future secure at the least possible expense 
to himself, arranged, while the lady was still a child, 
the betrothal of the Duke to Lady Diana de Vere, 
eldest daughter and eventually sole heiress of Aubrey, 
twentieth Earl of Oxford of the De Vere line. The 
marriage took place on April I3th, 1694, and the 
Duchess, a celebrated beauty, bore him eight sons ; 
she survived until 1742. 

Kneller painted the Duchess, and she is further 
commemorated in the annals of the Kit-Cat Club, for 
Lord Halifax wrote a verse about her for one of the 
toasting-glasses : 

" The line of Vere so long renown'd in arms 
Concludes with lustre in St. Albans' charms, 
Her conquering eyes have made their race compleat ; 
They rose in valour and in beauty set." 

The Duke had a not undistinguished career as a 
soldier, serving in 1688 in the Imperial army against 
the Turks, and being present at the taking of Belgrade ; 
in 1693 he took part, under William III., in the 
campaign of Landen, and in the following year and 
again in 1697 he went as a volunteer to Flanders. 
He was, in 1694, given by the Crown a pension of 
2,000 a year, half of which was paid out of the 
ecclesiastical first fruits. William appointed him 

244 



Duke of St. Albans and His Descendants 

Captain of the Gentlemen Pensioners in 1693. In 
1712 the new Tory Ministry secured his dismissal. 
He was, however, reinstated by George I. two 
years later, and held the post until his death in 
1726. He was made a Knight of the Garter in 1718. 
A creditable, if not a glorious, career. 

A brief record may, perhaps, be given of the children 
of the Duke of St. Albans and the grandchildren of 
Nell Gwyn. 

The eldest was Charles. He was born on April 6, 
1696, and thirty years later succeeded to the dukedom. 
He was, in 1730, constituted Governor of Windsor 
Castle and Warden of the Forest of Windsor, being 
appointed at the same time a Lord of His Majesty's 
Bedchamber. He married in 1722 Lucy, eldest 
daughter and co-heir of Sir John Werden, Bart., of 
Leyland and Cholmeaton, by whom he had issue, one 
daughter, Diana, who married the Hon. and Rev. 
Shute Barrington, and one son, George, who succeeded 
to the dukedom on his father's death in 1751. He 
survived until 1786. The third Duke was his son, 
who died without issue. 

The second son, William, was born in 1698, and 
married on the same day as his elder brother a sister 
of his brother's bride, Charlotte, daughter and co-heir 
of Sir John Werden, Bart. He died in 1732, leaving 
issue, two daughters and one son, Charles, who served 
in the army. Charles married, and left an only sur- 
viving son, who succeeded in 1786 as fourth Duke. 

The third son, Vere, was born in 1699, and, serving 
with distinction in the Navy, was created in 1750 

245 



Nell Gwyn 



Baron Vere of Hanworth. He married in 1736 Mary, 
daughter and co-heir of Thomas Chambers of Han- 
worth, by whom he had issue, two daughters and one 
son, Aubrey, who in 1687 succeeded as fifth Duke. 
Aubrey's son, also named Aubrey, succeeded in 1802 
as sixth Duke. 

The fourth son, Henry, was born in 1701. He went 
into the army and became colonel of the 3ist Foot. 
He married in 1739 Martha, daughter and heir of 
Neville, Lord Lovelace, and by her had issue, six 
daughters and a son. He died in his sixtieth year. 

The fifth son, Sidney, was born in 1703. He entered 
Parliament and was appointed Vice-Chancellor to the 
King. In 1736 he married Mary, daughter of Thomas 
Norris, of Speke, in Lancashire, and died eight years 
later. Of this marriage there was issue, one son and 
three daughters. The son was Topham Beauclerk, 
beloved of Johnson, who appears frequently in the 
pages of Boswell. He had a magnificent library of 
some 30,000 volumes, which was especially rich in 
English plays, English history, books of travel and 
scientific works. He seems to have been the only 
Beauclerk who had literary tastes. He married in 
1768 Lady Diana Spencer, eldest daughter of the 
second Duke of Marlborough, immediately after she 
was divorced by her first husband, Frederick St. 
John, second Viscount Bolingbroke, nephew and heir 
of the famous Lord Bolingbroke. Topham Beauclerk 
died in 1780 ; his widow survived him twenty-eight 
years. 

The sixth son, George, born in 1704, entered the 
246 



Duke of St. Albans and His Descendants 

army and rose to the rank of lieutenant-general. He 
married Margaret Bainbridge, and died in 1768 without 
issue. 

The seventh son, James, born in 1702, entered the 
Church and became Bishop of Hereford. He lived 
to the age of eighty-five. He was the only one of the 
eight sons of the first Duke who did not marry. 

The youngest son, Aubrey, was born in 1711 ; 
married Catherine, daughter of Sir Henry Newton. 
He was a distinguished naval officer. He was killed 
in 1741 in the attack on the Boca Chica. A monument 
to his memory was erected in Westminster Abbey, 
and a pension was conferred upon his widow, who 
survived him fourteen years. There were no children 
of the marriage. 

Aubrey, sixth Duke of St. Albans, who died in 1815, 
was succeeded by his only son, another Aubrey, who 
was only a few months old. The seventh Duke died 
early in the following year, when his uncle, William, 
second son of the fifth Duke, inherited the title, which 
he enjoyed for ten years. He was succeeded by his 
eldest son, William Aubrey de Vere, whose first wife 
was the well-known actress, Harriet Mellon, the 
widow of Thomas Coutts, the banker. The Duchess 
died without issue in 1837, and two years later the 
Duke married again, and the son of the second marriage, 
William Amelius Aubrey de Vere, succeeded in 1849 
as tenth Duke. The present holder of the title, 
Charles Victor Albert Aubrey de Vere, is his son, 
and inherited in 1898. 

The arms of the family, as described by Burke, 
247 



Nell Gwyn 



are : Quarterly : ist and 4th, France and England, 
quarterly ; 2nd, Scotland ; 3rd, Ireland ; over all, a 
baton sinister, gu., charged with three roses, arg., 
seeded and barbed, ppr. 2nd and 3rd, DE VERE, 
quarterly gu. and or, in the ist quarter a mullet arg. 
Crest. On a chapeau gu. turned up, erm., a lion, 
statant, guardant, or, crowned with a ducal coronet, 
per pale, arg. and of the first, gorged with a collar, 
of the last, thereon three roses, also arg., barbed and 
seeded, also ppr. Supporters. Dexter, an antelope, 
arg., armed and unguled, or ; sinister, a greyhound, 
arg., each gorged with a collar, as the crest. 



248 



CHAPTER XVII 

LOUISE DE KEROUALLE, DUCHESS OF PORTSMOUTH 

The Treaty of Dover. Louise de Keroualle in the suite of the Duchess of 
Orleans. Charles attracted by her. Louise returns to France. 
Death of the Duchess of Orleans. Louise induced to come to London. 
She becomes the King's mistress. The Duchess of Cleveland goes abroad. 
Her children. Gives birth to a son. Created Duchess of Portsmouth. 
Sworn a Lady of the Queen's Bedchamber. She desires a tabouret. 
Granted the ducal fief of Aubigny. " Mrs. Carwell." Louise and 
Nell Gwyn. Nell Gwyn ridicules her. The unpopularity of the Duchess. 
The public's affection for Nell Gwyn. Nell and the Protestant Interest . 
Nell Gwyn not interested in affairs of state. Laurence Hyde. The 
Duke of Monmouth. The Duchess's rapacity. Some lampoons. The 
Grand Prior of Vendome. 

AT the time when Nell Gwyn was having her 
first child, Charles II. fell in love with yet 
another charmer. In the month of May, 1670, the 
King, with a numerous following, went to Dover to 
meet his sister, the Duchess of Orleans, who brought 
in her train Colbert de Croissy, with whom was drawn 
up the famous or rather infamous Treaty of Dover, 
which was signed secretly on June I. 

In the suite of the Duchess was Louise Renee de 
Keroualle, a girl then twenty or twenty-one years of 
age and of unusually prepossessing appearance. She 
was the elder of the two daughters of Guillaume de 
Penancoet, Sieur de Keroualle, of a Breton family of 
great antiquity, while on her mother's side she was 
connected with the famous house of De Rieux. 

249 



Nell Gwyn 



Charles was now thoroughly tired of Lady Castle- 
maine, and he only looked upon Nell Gwyn as an 
occasional recreation and, anyhow, he was always 
on the look-out for new and pretty faces. He wished 
Louise to remain in England, but the Duchess of 
Orleans refused to part with her Maid of Honour, 
knowing what the result would be, and feeling some 
responsibility for her. The King pleaded in vain 
with his sister, and Louise went back to France with 
the rest of the party. 

The Duke of Buckingham, who had now no liking 
for Lady Castlemaine, kept alight the flame which 
Louise had lighted in Charles's facile heart. No 
doubt he also felt that it would strengthen his own 
situation if there was a royal favourite indebted to 
him for her position. 

The Duchess of Orleans died shortly after her 
return to France, and Charles, who had loved her, 
was at once grieved at her loss and furious because 
he believed that she had been poisoned, though he 
did not state this publicly. 

" The King of England -is inconsolable," Colbert 
de Croissy wrote to Lionne on July 2, 1670, " and what 
still further increases his infliction and his sorrow, is 
that there are many people who do not refrain from 
asserting that Madame was poisoned, and this malicious 
rumour is spreading so rapidly in the town that some 
of the rabble have declared that violent hands ought 
to be laid upon the French. Nevertheless, neither his 
Britannic Majesty nor any member of the royal family 
have said anything to show that they attach any 
250 



Louise de Keroualle, Duchess of Portsmouth 

credence to reports so extravagant and so far removed 
from the truth. I await impatiently your news 
respecting the details of this death and the measures 
which will have to be taken in order to be able to 
restrain the principal people of this Court from the 
inclination they have evinced to believe evil and to 
receive the sinister impressions that have been given 
them. God give me grace to overcome this outburst 
of anger, which, to tell you the truth, Monsieur, is 
not a little to be feared ! . . . The Duke of Bucking- 
ham is in the transports of a madman, and if the 
King were not more wise and prudent, and my Lord 
Arlington very reasonable and well-intentioned, affairs 
here would be carried to the last extremities." 

The first transports of grief over, Charles's thoughts 
returned to Louise de Keroualle, and he sent Buck- 
ingham to Paris to enter into such negotiations with 
Louis XIV. as would result in the girl being sent to 
England. The Duke carried out the first part of his 
mission with success. 

" The Duke of Buckingham told him that it was a 
decent piece of tenderness for his sister to take care 
of some of her servants. So she was the person the 
King easily consented to invite over," Burnet wrote. 
" That Duke assured the King of France that he could 
not reckon himself sure of the King but by giving him 
a mistress that should be true to his interests. It 
was soon agreed to. So the Duke of Buckingham 
sent her with a part of his equipage to Dieppe, and 
said he would presently follow." 

No doubt Louise was duly grateful. But what 
251 



Nell Gwyn 



followed it is almost incredible, but it is true : 
" The Duke, who was the most inconstant and for- 
getful of all men, never thought of her more, but went 
to England by the way of Calais." So Montague, 
who was ambassador at Paris, hearing of her plight, 
made arrangements for her to be conveyed to London. 
And Buckingham instead of being high in favour 
with the lady was, not unnaturally, cordially hated 
by her. 

No one was, of course, in any doubt as to the reason 
for Louise coming to England, and it was a tit-bit 
of gossip at the French Court. " The Duke of Buck- 
ingham has taken with him Mdlle. de Keroualle, 
who was attached to her late Highness," the Marquis 
de Saint-Maurice, Savoy's Ambassador in Paris, wrote 
to Duke Charles Emmanuel II. on September 19. 
"She is a beautiful girl, and it is thought that the 
plan is to make her mistress to the King of England. 
The Duke of Buckingham would like to dethrone 
Lady Castlemaine, who is his enemy, and His Most 
Christian Majesty will not be sorry to see the position 
filled by one of his subjects, for it is said the ladies 
have great influence over the mind of the King of 
England." 

It is said that at first Louise was coy, or it may be 
that she did not want to live in a foreign country, 
and that it was only at the direct request of Louis XIV. 
that she went to England. On her arrival in London 
she was, of course, given a magnificent suite of apart- 
ments in Whitehall. 

Whether the early love adventures attributed to 
252 



Louise de Keroualle, Duchess of Portsmouth 

her are true cannot be said, but she was generally 
credited with being the mistress of that notorious 
gallant, Count de Sault, who was son of the Duke de 
Lesdigueres. Her contemporaries spoke of her in 
no flattering terms, and Saint-Simon wrote : 

" Her parents intended her to be Louis XIV. 's 
mistress, and she obtained the place of Maid of Honour 
to Henrietta of England (the Duchess of Orleans). 
Unfortunately for her, Mile, de la Valliere was also 
Maid of Honour to the Princess, and the King pre- 
ferred that lady. If the latter had little intelligence, 
she was gentle, good-natured and obliging, and made 
herself popular at the Court. It may be said, there- 
fore, without attaching any importance to the libellous 
pamphlets, that, whether owing to indiscretions or 
ambitious words, Mademoiselle de Keroualle had 
succeeded in giving the impression that she would 
not have objected to the position of King's Favourite." 

Lady Castlemaine, who was proud of her influence 
over the King, was at any time quite prepared to 
exert it in any direction at a price and this she 
intimated to Colbert de Croissy, who passed on the 
information to Paris. 

" The King " [Louis XIV.], replied Secretary 
Lionne in 1667, " thinks well of your efforts to obtain 
the help of the Countess of Castlemaine, and read with 
interest of her point-blank way of telling you how King 
Charles had confided to her that Lord Arlington would 
not hear of an alliance with France. His Majesty 
hopes that you will profit by this good beginning, and 
he authorizes you, if you judge well, to let her know 

253 



Nell Gwyn 



that you have reported what she said to His Majesty, 
who charges you to offer her his warmest thanks. 

" In this order of ideas," Lionne continued, " the 
King has directed your brother, the Treasurer, to 
send her a handsome present, which you can give as 
if from yourself. Ladies are fond of such keepsakes, 
whatever may be their breeding or disposition ; and 
a nice little present can, in any case, do no harm." 

It will be seen that the French Court and the French 
Ministers were well versed in diplomatic intrigue, 
and had all the knowledge of the devious paths of 
secret service at their disposal. They saw all the 
advantages of first-hand knowledge, and the utility 
of having someone who could put ideas into the King's 
head, such as that the Presbyterians and Noncon- 
formists were ill-affected towards Monarchy. At the 
same time they were very careful in their choice of 
agents, and soon came to the conclusion that Lady 
Castlemaine would not be satisfactory. She was, they 
soon found out, too indiscreet and too quarrelsome. 

Louise de Ke"roualle, however, in spite of her 
" childish, simple, and baby face," was a very shrewd 
young person. She was quite prepared, and possibly 
even eager, to serve her King and her country ; but 
as she saw it, her first duty was to herself and she 
had no intention of neglecting that. Indeed, she 
devoted all her powers to consolidate her position, and 
being herself calm in her feelings towards Charles, 
she held him sufficiently at bay, but only just suffi- 
ciently, to fan the flame of his passion. The King, 
who was no fool in these matters, may well have seen 
354 



Louise de Keroualle, Duchess of Portsmouth 

through her game, but he desired her so much that 
he pursued her diligently. 

The correspondence at this time about Louise de 
Keroualle between the French Ambassador in London 
and the French Ministers abroad makes amusing 
reading. They were all worried about the resistance 
of the lady to her lover, and fearful lest she should 
overdo it, and, striving for absolute dominion, secure 
nothing at all. They really, as the event proved, should 
have had more faith in her. Every move in the game 
was carefully watched, and every incident was reported 
with the frankness that was a feature of the seven- 
teenth century. " It appears," Colbert de Croissy, 
then in London, wrote, " that the affection of the King 
of England for Mademoiselle increases every day, and 
the little attack of nausea which she had yesterday 
when dining with me makes me hope that her good 
fortune will continue, at least all the remainder of 
my embassy." The surmise based upon this was, 
however, without foundation. 

The King was persistent, and the surrender of the 
lady was treated with all the importance of an affair 
of state. Thus, Colbert de Croissy wrote from London 
to Louvois : 

"It is certain that the King of England shows a 
warm affection for Mademoiselle de Keroualle, and 
perhaps you may have heard from other sources that 
a richly-furnished lodging has been given her at White- 
hall. 

" His Majesty repairs to her apartment at nine every 
morning, and never stays there less than an hour, 



Nell Gwyn 



and sometimes two. He remains much longer after 
dinner, shares at her card-table in all her stakes 
and never allows her to want for anything. 

" All the Ministers court eagerly the friendship 
of this lady, and My Lord Arlington said to me quite 
recently that he was very pleased to see that the 
King was becoming attached to her ; and that, though 
His Majesty was not the man to communicate affairs 
of state to ladies, nevertheless, as it was in their power 
on occasion to render ill services to those whom they 
disliked and defeat their plans, it was much better 
for the King's good servants that His Majesty should 
have an inclination for this lady, who is not of a 
mischievous disposition, and is a gentlewoman, rather 
than for actresses and such-like unworthy creatures, 
of whom no man of quality could take the measure ; 
that when he went to visit the young lady every 
one was able to see him enter and leave and to pay 
court to him ; and that it was necessary to counsel 
this young lady to cultivate the King's good graces, 
so that he might find with her nothing but pleasure, 
peace and quiet. 

" He added that, if Lady Arlington took his advice, 
she would urge this young lady to yield unreservedly 
to the King's wishes, and tell her that there was no 
alternative for her but a convent in France, and that 
I ought to be the first to impress this on her. 

" I told him jocularly that I was not so wanting in 

gratitude to the King or so foolish as to tell her to 

prefer religion to his good graces ; that I was also 

persuaded that she was not waiting for my advice, 

256 



Louise de Keroualle, Duchess of Portsmouth 

but that I would, none the less, give it her, to show how 
much both he and I appreciated her influence, and to 
inform her of the obligation she was under to My 
Lord. 

" I believe that I can assure you that if she had 
made sufficient progress in the King's affection to 
be of use in some way to His Majesty, she will do her 
duty." 

The cynicism of the statesmen was amazing : in 
these days, when there is less of frankness, it is almost 
incredible that such men as Arlington and Colbert 
de Croissy should talk in this fashion. The intrigues 
over Louise de Keroualle were incredibly mean, 
and would have been even more disgusting if it were 
not certain that the lady intended, in her own good 
time, to yield herself to the King's pleasure. 

All those who concerned themselves in this matter 
decided that the affair had lingered long enough 
and must now be brought to a head. The Arlingtons 
and the French Ambassador forgathered and made 
plans for the overcoming of the girl's honour. After 
some discussion, it was decided that Louise should 
be invited to the Arlingtons' seat, Euston Hall, near 
Thetford, in October, where a large house-party would 
be assembled, and that the King should come over 
from Newmarket, where he and the Duke of York were 
staying. Everything went according to plan, and 
the King at last had his way with her. 

" It was universally reported," writes Evelyn, who 
was one of the guests at Euston Hall, " that the fair 
lady was bedded one of these nights, and the stocking 

257 17 



Nell Gwyn 



flung after the manner of a married bride. I acknow- 
ledge that she was for the most part in her undress 
all day, and that there was fondness and toying with 
the young wanton. Nay, it ,was said that I was at 
the former ceremony, but it is utterly false. I neither 
saw nor heard of any such thing whilst I was there, 
though I had been in her chamber and all over that 
apartment late enough, and was observing all passages 
with much curiosity. However, it was with confidence 
believed that she was first made a Miss, as they call 
these unhappy creatures, with solemnity at the time." 

That everything went off according to plan may be 
gathered from a letter of Colbert de Croissy to Louvois, 
dated October 22, 1671. " The King comes frequently 
[to Euston] to take his repasts with us, and afterwards 
spends some hours with Mile, de Keroualle. He has 
already paid her three visits. He invited us yesterday 
to the races at Newmarket, where we were enter- 
tained very splendidly, and he showed towards her 
all the kindness, all the little attentions and all the 
assiduities that a great passion can inspire. And 
since she has not been wanting, on her side, in all the 
gratitude that the love of a great King can deserve 
from a beautiful girl, it is believed that the attachment 
will be of long duration and that it will exclude all 
the others." 

No wonder that Madame de SeVigne* wrote to her 
daughter (March 30, 1672) : 

" Don't you like to hear that little Keroualle, whose 
star was divined before she left, had followed it faith- 
fully. The King of England, on seeing her, straight- 

258 



Louise de Keroualle, Duchess of Portsmouth 

way fell in love, and she did not frown at him when he 
declared his passion. The upshot is, that she is in 
an interesting state. Is it not all astonishing ? Castle- 
maine is in disgrace. England truly is a droll country." 

From this time the King went less and less to the 
Duchess of Cleveland. Probably the relations of 
lover and mistress had ceased before this. He was, 
however, fond of his children by her, and visited them, 
or had them come to see him frequently. As regards 
their mother, however, he was no doubt tired of her 
tantrums and weary of her rapacity. It is said he 
gave her a hint of his waning affection by getting 
Will Legge to sing to her the following ballad : 

" When Aurelia first I courted, 

She had youth and beauty too ; 
Killing pleasures when she sported, 

And her charms were ever new. 
Conqu'ring Time does now deceive her ; 

Which her glories did uphold : 
All her arts can ne'er retrieve her, 

Poor Aurelia's growing old. 

" The airy spirits which invited, 

Are retir'd, and move no more ; 
And her eyes are now benighted, 

Which were comets heretofore ; 
Want of these abates her merits, 

Yet I've passion for her name : 
Only kind and active spirits 

Kindle, and maintain the flame." 

After 1673, owing to the operation of the Test Act, 
the Duchess of Cleveland's name does not again 
appear in the list of the Ladies of the Bedchamber to 

259 17* 



Nell Gwyn 



the Queen, but for the loss of this dignity the King 
consoled her with presents. She remained in England 
until 1677, when she paid a long visit to Paris, but her 
influence for some years before that had become 
almost a negligible quantity. 

The King, of course, provided handsomely in, every 
way for his children (or those he accepted as his 
children) by the Duchess of Cleveland. 

The elder daughter, Anne, and the second girl, 
Charlotte, were given before they married the pre- 
cedence of dukes' daughters. 

Lady Anne Fitzroy, who was born in 1661, was 
married at Hampton Court on August n, 1674, to 
Thomas Lennard, fifteenth Lord Dacre, who in that 
year was created Earl of Sussex by the King. He 
received with his bride a dowry of 20,000. From 
1680 to 1685 he was a Gentleman of the Bedchamber. 
It is recorded that he lost a large fortune at cards 
and squandered much money in extravagant living, 
and had to sell his estate of Hurstmonceux, and died 
in 1715 a poor man. He had no heirs male, and the 
earldom expired with him. The younger of his 
daughters (the elder having predeceased her father) 
succeeded to the barony. 

Lady Charlotte Fitzroy, who was born in 1664, was, 
at the age of ten, betrothed to Sir Edward Henry Lee, 
first baronet, of Ditchley Park, near Spelsbury, 
Oxfordshire, who was then created Earl of Litchfield. 
The marriage took place three years later. Charlotte 
received a dowry of 18,000. 

In addition to providing his daughters with dowries, 
260 



Louise de Keroualle, Duchess of Portsmouth 

he settled 2,000 a year on their husbands. It also 
fell to him, as recorded in the " Secret Service Accounts 
of Charles II. and James II.," to pay the cost of the 
trousseaux and other expenses of the weddings. 

The eldest son, who was born in 1662, was known 
as Charles Palmer, Lord Limerick, that being the 
second title of his alleged father, the Earl of Castle- 
maine. In 1670, when his mother was created 
Duchess of Cleveland and Countess of Southampton, 
the patent conferred upon him the right to use the 
title of Earl of Southampton, by which style he was 
referred to until his mother's death, when he succeeded 
to the dukedom. He survived until 1730. His son 
William came into the title, but, dying without issue, 
the dukedom became extinct. 

The second son, Henry, who was born in 1663 
the King did not at first accept the paternity was 
married in 1672 to Isabella, daughter and heir of 
Henry Bennet, Earl of Arlington, then five years 
old, in the presence of the King and the Court. In 
that year he was created Earl of Euston, and in 1675 
Duke of Grafton. He served at sea and in the army, 
and was mortally wounded in 1690, when serving as 
a volunteer under Marlborough, in the south of Ireland. 

The youngest son, George, who was born in 1665, 
was created Earl of Northumberland in 1674, and was 
advanced Duke of Northumberland nine years later. 
He married, in 1686, Catherine, daughter of Robert 
Wheatley, a poulterer, of Bracknell, Berkshire, and 
widow of Robert Lucy, of Charlcote. He served in 
the army, and rose to the rank of lieutenant-general. 

261 



Nell Gwyn 



He became Lord Lieutenant of Berkshire in 1709 and 
Lord Lieutenant of Surrey in 1714. He was also 
Chief Butler of England. On the accession of George I. 
he was deprived of his offices. He died, without issue, 
in 1716. 

Louise de Keroualle gave birth to a son on July 
29, 1672, and thereby strengthened her hold on the 
affection of the King, who loved such proofs of his 
virility. In August, 1675, the boy, who was called 
Charles Lennox, was created Baron of Settrington, 
Yorkshire, Earl of March and Duke of Richmond, 
Yorkshire, in the peerage of England, and, as if 
this were not enough, in the next month, Baron 
Methuen of Tarbolton, Earl of Darnley and Duke 
of Lennox, in the peerage of Scotland. Louis XIV. 
also gave him the dignity of Duke of Aubigny, in 
remainder to his mother, but as he predeceased her, 
the title went direct to his only son. Honours were 
showered upon him. At the age of nine he was made 
a Knight of the Garter and also Governor of Dum- 
barton Castle, and a year later he was appointed 
Master of the Horse, vacant by reason of the removal 
of the Duke of Marlborough, the office during his 
minority being put in commission. 

In 1673 Louise requested (through the medium of 
the French Ambassador in London) the permission 
of Louis XIV. to be naturalized in England, " as a 
necessary means to profit by the gifts which the King 
of England might have the kindness to bestow upon 
her." Louis consented, and on August 19, 1673, she 
was created Baroness Petersfield, Countess of Fareham 
262 



Louise de Keroualle, Duchess of Portsmouth 

and Duchess of Portsmouth. It is said that the title 
first chosen for the dukedom was that of Pendennis ; 
it is not known why it was changed. Shortly after 
she was raised to the peerage she was sworn a Lady 
of the Queen's Bedchamber. The long-suffering 
Catherine bore this infliction with such dignity as she 
might. There is this to the credit of Louise that, in 
contradistinction to the Duchess of Cleveland, she 
always behaved with respect to Her Majesty. 

Louise was ambitious. She did her best for her 
country, but herself was always in the foreground 
of her thoughts. In December, 1673, when Queen 
Catherine was ill, she became excited at what the 
future might possibly have in store for her. 

" The King," wrote Colbert de Croissy at this time, 
" is going to sup and dance at Lord Arlington's, and I 
am to be of the party. So also is the Duchess 
of Richmond. Her great talent is dancing. Made- 
moiselle de Keroualle may be taken in by all these 
parties, and all the more so because she does not keep her 
head sober, since she has got into it that it is possible 
she may be Queen of England. She talks from morning 
till night of the Queen's ailments as if they were 
mortal." 

Catherine of Braganza, however, survived until 
1705, and so another injustice to Britain at the hands 
of a Stuart King was averted if, indeed, Charles 
ever intended to marry Louise, which may be doubted. 

An English duchy was good in the eyes of Louise 
de Keroualle, but what she desired still more was a 
stool, or tabouret, of duchess in the Presence Chamber 

263 



Nell Gwyn 



at the Court of Versailles. This was a privilege 
most jealously guarded, but Louise had set her heart 
on securing it, and persuaded Charles to use all his 
influence on her behalf. In July, 1673, the King took 
the first step by expressing to Colbert de Croissy his 
desire that Louise should be granted the ducal fief 
of Aubigny, not only for her life, but with remainder 
to her son. The estate in question, which had been 
granted in the early fifteenth century to John Stuart, 
had just reverted to the French Crown on the death 
of the Duke of Richmond, the last heir male of his line. 
A battle-royal ensued. Louise was becoming insistent 
and Charles ill-tempered. 

" I own I find her on all occasions so ill-disposed for 
the service of the [French] King and showing such 
ill-humour against France (whether because she feels 
herself despised there, or whether from an effect of 
caprice), that I really think she deserves no favour 
of His Majesty," Colbert wrote on July 17 to the new 
French Foreign Minister, Arnauld de Pomponne. 
" But as the King of England shows her much love 
and so visibly likes to please her, His Majesty can judge 
whether it is best not to treat her according to her 
merits. An attention paid to her will be taken by the 
King of England as one paid to himself. I have, 
however, told him upon what conditions alone the 
fief could be granted, and what he asks is just the 
contrary." 

In the following year Louise was granted the estate, 
with remainder to such of her natural children by 
Charles as he should designate, but the title of 
264 



Louise de Keroualle, Duchess of Portsmouth 

Duchess of Aubigny, carrying with it the right of a 
tabouret, was for the present withheld. 

The Duchess of Portsmouth, who in this country 
was commonly alluded to as Mrs. Carwell (a corrup- 
tion of her family name), was very unpopular, and 
was the butt of all the lampoonists. Andrew Marvell, 
in his " Dialogue between Two Horses," attacked her 
and the King : 

Woodchurch 

That the King should send for another French whore ; 
When one already has made him so poor. 

Chorus 

The misses take place, each advanced to be duchess 
With pomp great as queens in their coach and six horses ; 
Their bastards made dukes, earls, viscounts and lords, 
And all the title that honour affords. 

Woodchurch 

While those brats and their mothers do live in such plenty, 
The nation's impoverished and the 'Chequers quite empty, 
And though war was pretended when the money was lent, 
More on whores, than in ships or in war hath been spent. 

Chorus 

Enough, my dear brother, although we speak reason 
Yet truth many times being punished for treason. 

The Duchess of Portsmouth, in spite of her position, 
did not have it all her own way, either with the King 
or in Court circles. She could treat with disdain 
the fury of the discarded Duchess of Cleveland ; but 
Nell Gwyn, who took the field against her with the 
utmost energy, although she could not undermine 
the Duchess's influence, did at least contrive to give 
her many a bad quarter of an hour. Madame de 

265 



Nell Gwyn 



Sevigne, writing in September, 1675, summed up the 
situation, which was then causing much amusement 
in society : 

" With regards to England, Mademoiselle de Kerou- 
alle has been disappointed in nothing ; she wished to 
be the mistress of the King, and she is so. He takes 
up his abode with her almost every night in the face 
of the whole Court : she has had a son, who has been 
acknowledged, and presented with two duchies. She 
amasses treasure, and makes herself feared and 
respected as much as she can. 

" But she did not foresee that she should find 
a young actress in her way, whom the King doats on ; 
and she has it not in her power to withdraw him from 
her. He divides his care, his time, and his health 
between these two. 

" The actress is as haughty as the Duchess of Ports- 
mouth ; she insults her, makes faces at her, attacks 
her, frequently steals the King from her, and boasts 
of his preference to her. She is young, indiscreet, 
confident, meretricious, and pleasant ; she sings, 
dances, and acts her part well. She has a son by the 
King, and wishes to have him acknowledged : she 
reasons thus : ' This Duchess,' says she, ' pretends 
to be a person of quality ; she says she is related to 
the best families in France ; whenever any person of 
distinction dies, she puts herself in mourning. If 
she be a lady of such quality, why does she demean 
herself to be a courtesan ? She ought to be ashamed 
of herself. 

266 



Louise de Keroualle, Duchess of Portsmouth 

" ' As for me, it is my profession ; I do not pretend 
to be anything better. The King maintains me, and 
I am constant to him at present. He has a son by 
me : I say he ought to acknowledge him, and I am 
sure he will, for he loves me as well as he does Ports- 
mouth.' 

" This creature gets the upper hand, and discoun- 
tenances and embarrasses the Duchess extremely. 
I like these original characters I could find nothing 
better to send you from Orleans ; but this is at least 
truth." 

Nell Gwyn's humour, though unrefined, was tren- 
chant, and in these days the shafts of her wit were 
invariably directed against the latest favourite. The 
Duchess of Portsmouth, as Madame de SeVigne 
indicated, was very proud of her descent, and 
this gave Nell Gwyn more than one opportunity to 
ridicule her. 

When the King of Sweden died, Louise went into 
mourning. Shortly after the King of Portugal died, 
and Nell drove about in a mourning coach. Then, 
attired in solemn black, she said to her rival before a 
large company : " Let us agree to divide the world : 
you shall have the Kings of the north, and I the Kings 
of the south." 

This sort of joke was an unfailing joy to Nell Gwyn, 
and a delight to the Court. She was never tired of 
playing it though it was not quite fair, because the 
de Keroualles were really a family of great lineage m 
However, a trifle like that did not deter Nell, and it 

267 



Nell Gwyn 



served her well at intervals throughout the life of 
King Charles. Even so late as 1682, she played the 
same prank, as is recorded in a letter from George 
Legge to Lord Preston : 

" Nell was often successful in throwing ridicule 
on her rival, the Duchess of Portsmouth, who pre- 
tended to be related to the best families of France, 
and when one of their number died [the Prince de 
Rohan], she put herself in mourning. 

" It happened that news of the Cham of Tartary's 
death had lately reached England. A Prince of 
France was also recently dead, and the Duchess of 
Portsmouth was, of course, in sables. Nell came to 
Court in the same attire, and, standing close by 
her Grace, was asked by one of her friends why she 
was in mourning. 

" ' Oh/ said Nell, ' have you not heard of my loss 
in the death of the Cham of Tartary ? ' 

' ' And what the deuce was the Cham of Tartary 
to you ? ' 

' Oh, exactly the same relation that the French 
Prince was to Mademoiselle de Keroualle.' " 

Cunningham recalls the fact that there is a rare 
print of the Duchess of Portsmouth reclining on a 
mossy bank, with very little covering other than a 
lace chemise, and that there is also a print of Nell 
Gwyn in nearly the same posture and equally unclad. 
The story runs, he says, that Nell had contrived to 

268 



Louise de Keroualle, Duchess of Portsmouth 

fetch the chemise from the Duchess, and by wearing 
it herself at a time when the Duchess should have 
worn it, to have attracted the King, and tricked her 
rival. Certainly such a trick was well within the 
limits of Nell's repertoire. 

There is recorded in a little book called " Jokes 
upon Jokes " a retort of Nell Gwyn upon the 
Duchess : 

" The Duchess of Portsmouth one time supped with the King's 

Majesty ; 
Two chickens were at table, when the Duchess would make 

'em three. 

Nell Gwyn, being by, denied the same ; the Duchess speedily 
Reply'd here's one, another two, and two and one makes three. 

""Tis well said, lady, answered Nell : O King, here's one for thee, 
Another for myself, sweet Charles, 'cause you and I agree ; 
The third she may take to herself, because she found the same : 
The King himself laughed heartily, whilst Portsmouth blush'd 
for shame." 

There is another amusing incident recalled by Mr. 
Noel Williams in his biography of the Duchess of Ports- 
mouth. Nell Gwyn paid a visit to the Duchess 
Mazarin to thank her for her congratulations on the 
elevation of her son to the peerage (December, 1676). 
The Duchess of Portsmouth was also there, who hated 
her hostess, and Lady Harvey, who was on bad terms 
with the Duchess of Portsmouth and most intimate 
with the Duchess Mazarin. " Everything passed off 
quite gaily, and with many civilities one to the other ; 
but I do not suppose that in all England it would be 

269 



Nell Gwyn 



possible to get together three women more obnoxious 
to one another," Honore Courtin wrote to Arnauld 
de Pomponne. When the Duchess of Portsmouth 
had taken her departure, the irrepressible Nell, " who 
was in a very sprightly humour," began to banter the 
French Ambassador, and asked him before every one 
to persuade Louis XIV. to make her a handsome 
present, " telling me," wrote Courtin, " that she well 
deserved it and that she was of much more service 
to the King of England than was Madame de Ports- 
mouth, and making me understand and all the com- 
pany that he passed the night more often with her." 
After which, at the request of the other ladies, who had 
heard much of the fineness of the actress's under- 
clothing and wanted to see for themselves if report 
had spoken truly, the young lady " lifted up all her 
petticoats, one after the other ; and never have I seen 
anything so neat or more magnificent." 

The Duchess of Portsmouth, who was always very 
much on her dignity except with the King and her 
other lovers, and had no liking for Nell, did once score 
off the latter. " I remember," Defoe has related, 
" that the late Duchess of Portsmouth in the time 
of Charles II. gave a severe retort to one who was 
praising Nell Gwyn, whom she hated. They were 
talking of her wit and beauty, and how she always 
diverted the King with her extraordinary repartees, 
how she had a fine mien, and appeared as much the 
lady of quality as anybody. ' Yes, madam/ said the 
Duchess, ' but anybody may know she has been an 
orange-wench by her swearing/ " 
270 




"Lifted up all her petticoats, one after the other; and never 
have I seen anything so neat or more magnificent." 

Page 270 



Louise de K&roualle, Duchess of Portsmouth 

Of course, the Duchess of Portsmouth and Nell 
Gwyn were not always bickering. Circumstances 
brought them much together, and Nell's sense of humour 
at the situation must often have overcome her irri- 
tation, They often met at Court after 1675, when 
the actress was appointed a Lady of the Queen's Bed- 
chamber, and more often in the private apartments. 
It is recorded by Anthony Wood, of the King's private 
parties, that " they met either in the lodgings of 
Louise, Duchess of Portsmouth, or in those of Chaffinch 
near the back stairs, or in the apartments of Nell 
Gwyn, or those of Baptist May. They, on occasion, both 
accompanied the King to Oxford and went with him 
to Newmarket. Nell Gwyn was, too, from time to 
time the guest of the Duchess, and Evelyn records 
one such instance : 

" This evening I was at the entertainment of the 
Morocco Ambassador at the Duchess of Portsmouth's 
glorious apartments at Whitehall, where there was 
a great banquet of sweetmeats and music, but at 
which both the Ambassador and his retinue behaved 
themselves with extraordinary moderation and 
modesty, though placed about a long table, a lady 
between two Moors, and among these were the King's 
natural children, Lady Lichfield and Sussex, the 
Duchess of Portsmouth, Nelly, etc., concubines, and 
cattle of that sort, as splendid as Jewells and excess of 
bravery could make them." 

All England took a hand in the game between these 
two mistresses of the King's; so far as popularity 

271 



Nell Gwyn 



went, Nell Gwyn won easily. An anonymous writer 
of the eighteenth century related, as an instance of 
it, the following story : 

" She was the most popular of the King's mistresses : 
an eminent goldsmith, who died about fifteen years 
ago, in the seventy-ninth year of his age, assured 
me that when he was a prentice, his master made a 
most expensive service of plate (the King's present) 
for the Duchess of Portsmouth. He remembered well 
that an infinite number of people crowded to the 
shop out of mere curiosity ; that they threw a thousand 
ill-wishes against the Duchess, and wished the silver 
was melted, and poured down her throat ; but 'twas 
ten thousand pities his Majesty had not bestowed 
this bounty on Madam Ellen." 

That Nell Gwyn did not hesitate to tell the King 
of the unpopularity of the Duchess of Portsmouth 
one can feel sure. The author of her biography, 
published in 1752, gives a story bearing on this point, 
and though the story itself may be, and probably 
is, an invention as it stands, it certainly had a basis 
in fact : 

" Of all King Charles's mistresses, Nell was un- 
doubtedly the least offensive to the contending parties, 
she never engaged in any disputes ; she raised no 
enemies by her ambition, and lost no friends by her 
insolence ; so far was she from drawing aside the King 
from an attention to his affairs that she often excited 

272 



Louise de Keroualle, Duchess of Portsmouth 

him to diligence ; and in the hours of dalliance would 
drop a hint, that if ever he fell into distress, he might 
thank his ladies for it. 

" One day when he had been struggling in the 
Council, and torn to pieces by the multiplicity of 
petitions presented to him for redress, the outrageous 
behaviour of the ministers, and the fierce contentions 
of the Parliament, he retired into Nell's apartment 
very pensive, and seemed entirely under the influence 
of grief. She took the liberty to ask his Majesty 
the cause of his disorder : 

" ' O Nell ! ' says he. ' What shall I do to please the 
People of England ? I am torn to pieces by their 
clamours.' 

" ' If it please your Majesty,' says she, ' there is 
but one way left, which expedient I am afraid it will 
be difficult to persuade you to embrace.' 

" ' What is that ? ' says his Majesty in a tone that 
denoted curiosity. 

" ' Dismiss your ladies, may it please your Majesty, 
and mind your business ; the People of England will 
soon be pleased.' " 

One reason for the hatred and it was nothing less 
than hatred with which the Duchess of Portsmouth 
inspired the people was that she was a Roman Catholic 
at a time when members of that Church were tremen- 
dously unpopular. 

Nell Gwyn's devotion to the Church of England 
tickled the fancy of Rochester, who alluded to it in 
his " Panegyrick on Nelly : " 

273 18 



Nell Gwyn 



" Trae to th' Protestant Interest and Cause, 
True to th' Establish' d Government and Laws ; 
The choice delight of the whole Mobile, 
Scarce Monmouth's self is more belov'd than she. 

" Was this the cause that did their quarrel move, 
That both are rivals in the People's Love ? 
No, 'twas her matchless Loyalty alone 
That bade Prince Perkin pack up and begone. 

'"Ill bred thou art,' says Prince. Nell does reply, 
' Was Mrs. Barlow better bred than I ? ' 
Thus sneak'd away the Nephew, overcome 
By his Aunt-in-law's severer wit struck dumb." 

4 

Another reason for the general dislike of the King's 
French mistress was that it was generally believed, 
and rightly believed, that she was always working in 
the interests of her own country, and this in spite of 
the fact that she had been naturalized here. 

Nell Gwyn, on the other hand, it was recognized 
had no desire to take a hand, and, indeed, had little 
or no interest, in foreign or even domestic affairs. 
Indeed, it would mightily have amused the King had 
she at any time aired her views on the polit : cal situation . 
To get a " job " done for a friend now and then was 
the limit of her ambition. She was apparently quite 
content with her royal lover, her son, and the jolly 
harum-scarum life she led. 

Yet, of course, she being high in favour with the 
King, many efforts were made to secure her influence, 
and, if necessary, her interference in affairs of state. 

There were, however, some few who actually believed 
that she was an active politician. 

274 




Pray, good people, be civil. I am the Protestant whore." 



Pag e 274 



Louise de Keroualle, Duchess of Portsmouth 

Among these was the Earl of Danby, who, on 
September 22, 1677, wrote to his wife : 

" Remember to send to see my Lord Burford without 
any message to Nelly, and when Mrs. Turner is with 
you, bid her tell Nelly you wonder she should be 
your Lord's enemy that has always been kind to her, 
but you wonder more to find her supporting only 
those who are known to be the King's enemies, for in 
that you are sure she does very ill." 

Again, there is in the Ninth Report of the Historical 
Manuscripts Commission a note of a letter of Ralph 
Montagu, afterwards Duke of Montagu, which contains 
this passage : "I know for certain there is a 
great caball to bring in Mr. Hyde, and that Nellie 
and the Duke of Buckingham are in it." 

That there certainly was an effort made to bring Nell 
Gwyn into the plot is shown in the following letter, 
dated June 4, 1678, from Henry Savile to Lord 
Rochester : 

" My Lady Hervey who allways loves one civill 
plott more, is working body and soule to bring Mrs. 
Jenny Middleton into play. How dangerous a new 
one is to all old ones I need not tell you, but her Lady- 
ship, having little opportunity of seeing Charlemagne 
upon her owne account, wheadles poor Mrs. Nelly into 
supper twice or thrice a week at W. C.[haffinch]'s and 
carryeing her with her ; soe that in good earnest this 
poor creature is betrayed by her Ladyship to pimp 
against herselfe ; for there her Ladyship whispers 

275 18* 



Nell Gwyn 



and contrives all matters to her owne ends, as the 
other might easily perceive if she were not too giddy 
to mistrust a false friend." 

Laurence Hyde, who was the second son of the Earl 
of Clarendon, was in August, 1678, sent on a mission 
to the Netherlands, and it was while he was there that 
Nell Gwyn sent him one of her rare letters : 

" Pray, Deare Mr. Hide, forgive me for not writeing 
to you before now, for the reasone is I have bin sick 
thre months and sinse I recoverd I have had nothing 
to intertaine you withall, nor have nothing now worth 
writing, but that I can holde no longer to let you 
know I never have ben in any companie wethout 
drinking your health, for I love you with all my 
soule. 

" The pel mel is now to me a dismale place since I 
have utterly lost Sr. Car Scrope,* never to be recoverd 
agane, for he tould me he could not live alwayes at 
this rate, and so begune to be a littel uncivil, which I 
could not suffer from an uglye baux gar scon. 

" Mrs. Knight'sf lady mother dead, and she has put 
up a scutchin no beiger then my Lady Grin's J scunchis. 

* Sir Can Scrope (1649-1680), a man about town and a minor poet. He 
was a boon companion of Charles II., who in 1667 created him baronet. 

t Mrs. Knight, the singer, who was for a while mistress of Charles II. 

J Lady Green was Katherine, daughter of Thomas Pegge, of Yeldersley, 
co. Durham, and wife of Sir Edward Green, Bart., of Sampford in Essex, 
who died in 1676. She was one of the King's mistresses, and bore him two 
children, a daughter Katherine, and a son Charles Fitz-Charles, who was 
created Earl of Plymouth in 1675 and died in 1680. Lady Green was 
evidently dead shortly before this letter was written. 

276 



Louise de Keroualle, Duchess of Portsmouth 

" My Lord Rochester* is gone in the cuntrei. 

"Mr. Savilf has got a misfortune, but is upon 
recovery and is to marry an hairess, who I think wont 
wont [sic] have an ill time out if he hold up his thumb. 

" My Lord of Dorscit J apiers worze in thre months, 
for he drinkes aile with Shadwell and Mr. Haris at the 
Duke's home all day long. 

" My Lord Bauclaire is is [sic] goeing into France. 

" We are agoeing to supe with the king at Whithall 
and my lady Harvie.|| 

" The King remembers his sarvis to you. 

" Now let's talke of state affairs, for we never caried 
things so cunningly as now, for we don't know whether 
we shall have peace or war, but I am for war, and for 
no other reason but that you may come home. 

" I have a thoussand merry conseets, but I can't 
make her write me, and therefore you must take the 
will for the deed. God bye. 

" Your most loveing obedient, faithfull and humbel 
servant, 

" E. G." 

It is really impossible for anyone to read into the 
letter to Hyde anything of political import. It would 

* John Wilmot, second Earl of Rochester, already mentioned in this 
book. He died in 1680. Two years later this title was bestowed on Laurence 
Hyde. 

t Henry Savile (1642-1687), courtier and diplomatist, Groom of the Chamber 
to Charles II., M.P. for Newark. He died unmarried. 

$ The Earl of Dorset is the Lord Buckhurst of Nell's Epsom escapade. 

" My Lord Bauclaire " is Lord James Beauclaire, the younger son 
of Nell Gwyn. He died at Paris in September, 1680, in his ninth year. 

|| Elizabeth, wife of Sir Daniel Harvey. 
277 



Nell Gwyn 



require a very tortuous brain to believe that Nell 
Gwyn said that she was " for war " for any other 
reason than that she wished to pay a compliment to 
her correspondent. That she had her favourites, 
like everyone else in the world, goes without saying ; 
but that she had any leaning to this political party 
or that, or to this statesman or that qua statesman, is 
not borne out by any evidence whatsoever that has 
come to light. 

Among her friends were Henry Sidney (afterwards 
Earl of Romney) and Lord Cavendish (afterwards 
Duke of Devonshire), and these paid court to Nell 
Gwyn for their own ends. Charles, who saw through 
their designs, forbade her to receive them. Their 
object was to advance the interests of the Protestant 
Duke of Monmouth as against those of the Roman 
Catholic Duke of York. Charles, who could be firm 
enough when his peace of mind was at stake, would 
have none of this intriguing round the succession, 
though he was well enough aware of the unpopularity 
of his brother. It is evident from the favour with 
which Nell Gwyn was treated by James II. after he 
came to the throne that he was satisfied that if 
she had been of no service to him, at least she had 
never secretly conspired against him. 

Nell Gwyn would seem to have had a soft spot in 
her heart for Monmouth, even though she thought his 
efforts futile, and her good-nature induced her to 
make an effort to keep him on good terms with his 
father. 

In 1679, it is recorded in the " Memoirs of the Verney 
278 



Louise de Keroualle, Duchess of Portsmouth 

Family," she did the Duke of Monmouth all the kind- 
ness she could, but that her influence was nothing ; 
and, again, " Nell Gwyn begged hard of His Majesty to 
see the Duke, telling him he was grown pale, wan, 
lean and long-visaged merely because he was in dis- 
favour, but the King bid her be quiet because he 
would not see him." Barillon wrote to Louis XIV. 
in December, 1679, announcing the return of Mon- 
mouth, " who every night sups with Nelly, the 
courtesan who has borne the King two children, and 
whom he daily visits." There is yet one more reference 
to Nell Gwyn's interest in Monmouth in a letter 
written in the following July by Lady Sunderland to 
Lord Halifax : " There is one place of council I should 
never have suspected (my Lady Orrery's) till I did 
know that my Lord Shaftesbury, the Duke of Mon- 
mouth and my Lord Cavendish do meet and sup there, 
and Mrs. Nelly, who the King hath forbid letting the 
Duke of Monmouth come to her house." 

Not even the Duchess of Cleveland was so grasping 
as the Duchess of Portsmouth. M. Ferneron, the 
biographer of the latter lady, and Mr. Oscar Airy, 
the historian of the reign of Charles II., have been at 
pains to collect some figures that give some idea of 
what she cost this country. Her regular pension at 
the beginning of the connection with the King was 
12,000 a year, but gradually she contrived to accu- 
mulate other allowances that brought up her income 
to 40,000 a year. Danby was continually being 
pestered by her for money. In March, 1674, she gave 
her support to him on condition that he found funds 

279 



Nell Gwyn 



for a " Necklesse of Pearle, 8,000 price, of a merchant, 
and a pay re of diamond pendants, 3,000 guynyes, of 
elder Lady Northumberland, neither of whom will 
part with them without ready money." In September, 
1676, an advance on the Customs was secured by 
Charles, " for Lady Portsmouth hath a new 30,000 debt 
must be paid at once." Apart from this, in the last 
six months of 1676 she received 8,773 as against 
Nell Gwyn's 2,862 ; in 1677, 27,300 as against Nell's 
5,250. In 1681 a record year for her she drew, 
on one account and another, the enormous sum of 
136,668 from the Treasury. 

" I have a thing to tell you, Monsieur, for the 
[French] King's information, which should remain 
secret as long as it pleases his Majesty to keep it so, 
because if it gets out it might be a source of unseemly 
raillery," Count de Ruvigny wrote to de Pomponne 
on May 14, 1674. " Whilst the King was winning 
provinces, the King of England was catching a malady 
which he has been at the trouble of communicating 
to the Duchess of Portsmouth. That Prince is nearly 
cured ; but to all appearance the lady will not so 
soon be rid of the virus. She had been, however, 
in a degree consoled for such a troublesome present 
by one more suitable to her charms a pearl necklace 
worth four thousand jacobus, and a diamond worth 
six thousand, which have so rejoiced her that I should 
not wonder if, for the price, she were not willing to 
risk another attack." 

The Duchess was sent by the doctors to Tunbridge, 
where the waters were coming into fashion. The 
280 



Louise de Keroualle, Duchess of Portsmouth 



Marchioness of Worcester had, however, established 
herself in the house which the Duchess had proposed 
to occupy, and would not give way. The Duchess 
said the law was on her side ; the Marchioness advised 
her to invoke it. The Duchess said that, because 
she was a Duchess, a mere Marchioness should yield ; 
the Marchioness retorted that titles earned by prostitu- 
tion were not seriously regarded, and taunted her with 
her affaires with de Sault and Hamilton. Louise, 
utterly routed, appealed to Charles, who, to appease 
her, actually sent a detachment of the Household 
Cavalry to escort her to Windsor ! 

There his own physician attended her. 

It may well be believed that the King had to pay 
heavily for his outrage. Part of the price was a 
pension of 600 a year for Louise's sister, Henriette, 
who came to London about this time and presently 
married Philip Herbert, seventh Earl of Pembroke 
and Montgomery a dowry being provided for her 
out of the Privy Purse. 

A number of lampoonists took, from time to time, 
the rivalry of Nell Gwyn and the Duchess as their 
subject. 

There has been preserved an amusing pasquinade, 
entitled "A Pleasant Battle between Two Lap- 
dogs of the Utopian Court." Part of the argument 
is : 

" The English lap-dog here does first begin 
The vindication of his lady, Gwynn : 
The other much more Frenchified, alas, 
Shows what his lady is, not what she was." 

381 



Nell Gwyn 



The two curs, Tutty and Snap-short the former 
the property of Nell Gwyn, the other of the Duchess 
of Portsmouth enter into a ludicrous and snarling 
discussion respecting the merits of their respective 
mistresses. This dispute is about to end in a fray, 
when the rival ladies sweep into the room, and 
conclude a diverting scene with the following 
dialogue : 

" Duchess of Portsmouth. ' Pray, Madam, give my 
dog fair play ; I protest you hinder him with your 
petticoats ; he cannot fasten. Madam, fair play is 
fair play.' 

" Madam Gwynn. ' Truly, Madam, I thought I 
knew as well what belonged to dog-fighting as your 
Ladyship : but since you pretend to instruct me in 
your French dog-play, pray, Madam, stand a little 
farther, as you respect your own flesh, for my little 
dog is mettle to the back and smells a Popish Miss at 
a far greater distance. Pray, Madam, take warning, 
for you stand on dangerous ground. '' Haloo, haloo, 
haloo ! Be brave, Tutty. Ha, brave Snap-short. 
A guinea on Tutty two to one on Tutty." ' 

" ' Done/ quoth Monsieur, ' begar, begar, me have 
lost near tousand pound.' " 

" Tutty it seems beat Snap-short, and the bell 
Tutty bears home in Victory : farewell ! " 

There has also been preserved some amusing dog- 
gerel, entitled "Dialogue between the Dutchess of 
Portsmouth and Madam Gwin at Parting," only 
some portion of which can be quoted : 
282 



Louise de Keroualle, Duchess of Portsmouth 

Madam Gwin. 

" You never suffer'd Nell to come in Play 
Whilst you had left but one Meridian-Ray, 
And yet by turns I did myself that right, 
If you enjoy 'd the day, I rul'd the night. 

" Let Fame that never yet Spoke well of Woman, 
Give out I was a Stroling Whore, and Common, 
Yet have I been to him since the first hour, 
As Constant as the Needle to the Flower ; 
Whilst you to your Eternal Praise and Fame 
To Forreign Scents betray'd the Royal Game. 

" My name, thou Jezebel of Pride and Malice, 
Whose father had a hog-stey for his Pallace, 
In my clear Viens but British Bloud does flow, 
Whilst thou like a French Tode-stool first did grow, 
And from a Birth as poer as they delight, 
Sprang up a Mushroom-Dutchess in a Night. 

The Duchess of Portsmouth. 

" Think not i'th. Respeit of this short Remove 
To sit sole Empress on the Throne of Love. 
I was thy Rival once, and will Return 
To be thy Rival still, and thou my Scorne. 



Madam Gwin. 

The peoples Hate much less their Curse I fear. 
I do them Justice with less Sums a Year. 
I neither run in Court nor City's Score. 
I pay my Debts, Distribute to the Poor. 
Whilst thou with ill-kept Treasure does Resort 
T* uphold thy splendor in the Gallick Court. 
But France is for thy Lust too Kind a Clime, 
In Africk with some Wolf or Tyger Lime ; 
Or in the Indies make a new Plantation 
And ease us of the Grievance of the Nation." 
283 



Nell Gwyn 



A PLEASANT DIALOGUE BETWIXT TWO WANTON 
LADIES OF PLEASURE. 

The Dutchess of Por[t]smouths woful Far[e]wel 
to her former Felicity. 

One Lady she Couragiously stands in her own defence ; 
The other now doth seem to bow, her Colours are display'd, 
Assuredly none can deny the Words she speaks are sence : 
She is content her mind is bent, still maintain her Trade. 
Tune of, Tan tarra rara, tan five. 

" Brave Gallants, now listen and I will tell you, 

With a fa, la, la, la, fa, la, la. 
A pleasant discourse that I heard at Pell Mell, 

With a fa, la, la, la, fa, la, la. 
Between two fair Ladys of the wanton strain, 
The one to the other did sigh and complain, 
I wish I was over in France now again, 

With a fa, la, la, la, fa, la, la. 

"Quoth Nelly, I prithee, who sent for thee here, 

With a fa, la, la, la, fa, la, la. 
Tis you with a shame that put in for a share, 

With a fa, la, la, la, fa, la, la. 
O do you remember when I was dismay'd 
When you in attire was richly array'd, 
Alas I poor Nelly was wrong'd in my trade, 

With a fa, la, la, la, fa, la, la. 

" I pray now could you not your honour advance, 

With a fa, la, la, la, fa, la, la. 
With some noble Peer in the Nation of France, 

With a fa, la, la, la, fa, la la. 

Forsooth you must needs leave your Country, dear, 
To utter your fine French Commodity here, 
But sorrow and trouble will bring up the rear, 

With a fa, la, la, la, fa, la, la. 

" Dear Nelly, be loving, and do not reflect 

With a fa, la, la, la, fa, la, la. 
But prithee now show me some civil respect, 
With a fa, la, la, la, fa, la, la. 
284 



Louise de Keroualle, "Duchess of Portsmouth 

For now I am in a most pitiful case, 
For shame will not let me uncover my face, 
My honour is turn'd to a wail of disgrace, 
With a fa, la, la, la, fa, la, la. 

" Quoth Nelly, pray send for the treasure again, 

With a fa, la, la, la, fa, la, la. 
That you did send over while you were in fame : 

With a fa, la, la, la, fa, la, la. 

Come, come I must tell ye that you was too bold 
To send from this nation such parcels of gold, 
In such kind dealings you must be controul'd, 

With a fa, la, la, la, fa, la, la. 

" No, sweet Madam Nelly, you cannot deny, 

With a fa, la, la, la, fa, la, la. 
But you have had the treasure as often as I, 

With a fa, la, la, la, fa, la, la. 
And yet must I onely indeed be run down 
By you that I value the least in the Town, 
If I come in favour upon thee i'le frown, 

With a fa, la, la, la, fa, la, la. 

" You drab of a Miss, I do hold you in scorn, 

With a fa, la, la, la, fa, la, la. 
I'de have you know I am this Nation born, 

With a fa, la, la, la, fa, la, la. 
Your coming to England I heartily rue, 
Of many [a] good bout I've been cheated by you, 
For which may a Thousand vexations issue, 

With a fa, la, la, la, fa, la, la. 

" No matter for that, it was all my delight, 

With a fa, la, la, la, fa, la, la. 
But now I am in a most pittiful plight, 

With a fa, la, la, la, fa, la, la. 
Unfortunate Lady that now am deny'd, 
In this vail of sorrow my patience is try'd, 
Sure this may be termed the downfall of pride, 
With a fa, la, la, la, fa, la, la. 
285 



Nell Gwyn 



" I'le warrant you thought it would ever be day, 

With a fa, la, la, la, fa, la, la. 
But now you are utterly fell to decay, 

With a fa, la, la, la, fa, la, la. 
You are in a sad and deplorable state, 
You wander alone for want of a Mate, 
You're like an old Almanack quite out of date, 

With a fa, la, la, la, fa, la, la. 

" No, Nelly, I will not be clearly dismay 'd 

With a fa, la, la, la, fa, la, la. 
I'le set a good face and will follow my trade, 

With a fa, la, la, la, fa, la, la. 
I shall have some trading I do make no doubt, 
I'le have youthful damosels to ply on the scout, 
I'le play a small game now before i'le stick out, 

With a fa, la, la, la, fa, la la." 

THE DUCHESS OF PORTSMOUTH'S FAREWELL. 

The Duchess holds a Dialogue, Yea, doth relate the wretched 
and talks with Madam Gwin ; state, that now she liveth in. 

[Nell Gwyn begins :] 
" I Prithee, dear Portsmouth, now tell me thy mind, 

With a fa, la, la, la, fa, la, la. 
Dost thou not think that the Fates are unkind ? 

With a fa, la, la, la, fa, la, la. 
It is not long since thy fame it was great 
But now 'tis eclips'd by unkindness of fate, 
Thy case now doth seem a sad tale to relate, 
With a fa, la, la, la, fa, la la." 

[The Duchess of Portsmouth complains :] 
" Ah Nell, could I but my sorrow explain, 

With a fa, la, la, la, fa, la, la. 
Which filleth my heart with sorrow and pain, 

With a fa, la, la, la, fa, la, la. 
A shower from mine eyes I should certainly weep, 
Would add to the waves of the Ocean so deep, 
For now my dear friend lyes fast in his sleep, 
With a fa, la, la, la, fa, la, la." 
286 



Louise de Keroualle, Duchess of Portsmouth 

[Nell Gwynn replies : ] 
" Magnificent splendor did on thee attend, 

With a fa, la, la, la, fa, la, la. 
And now I would have thee thy life to amend, 

With a fa, la, la, la, fa, la, la. 
'On rich and on poor Dame Fortune doth frown, 
Thou from thy great honour art tumbled down ; 
It is not thy money thy actions can crown, 
With a fa, la, la, la, fa, la, la" 

[Duchess of Portsmouth retorts :] 
" Add not to my sorrow and now I am perplext, 

With a fa, la, la, la, fa, la, la. 
For ought I do know, Nell, thou may'st be the next, 

With a fa, la, la, la, fa, la, la. 
Then seem not at my distress for to scorn, 
To happiness lasting few people is born, 
And I like my self am now left forlorn, 
With a fa, la, la, la, fa, la, la." 

[Nell Gwynn rallies her :] 
" What, must thou return to thy country of France ? 

With a fa, la, la, la, fa, la, la. 
Or will not thy chastity here thee advance ? 

With a fa, la, la, la, fa, la, la. 
What, hast thou forsook thy most amorous trade ? 
Or hast thou left off the game thou hast plaid ? 
Tho' not one in ten took thee for a Maid, 
With a fa, la, la, la, fa, la, la." 

[Duchess of Portsmouth rejoins :] 
" These quirks are too quick, you do put on me Nell, 

With a fa, la, la, la, fa, la, la. 
And thou thine one self, lov'st the sport well, 

With a fa, la, la, la, fa, la, la. 
Then let us not [thus] one another deride, 
For there's many Gallants that love it beside ; 
But Fortune, I fear, now will down my pride, 
With a fa, la, la, la, fa, la, la." 
287 



Nell Gwyn 



[Nell Gwynn's remonstrance :] 
Your beauty and vertu[e]s now seem to decline, 

With a fa, la, la, la, fa, la, la. 
I know not how soon your fate may be mine ; 

With a fa, la, la, la, fa, la, la. 

Now unstring your purse, and be kind to the poor, 
I know that confinement you cannot indure : 
There is nothing on earth that is stable and sure, 

With a fa, la, la, la, fa, la, la." 

[Duchess of Portsmouth laments :] 
You seem, Nell, with speed for to post me away, 

With a fa, la, la, la, fa, la, la. 
But ere I go hence my debts I must pay ; 

With a fa, la, la, la, fa, la, la. 
And is not this now a most sorrowful thing, 
That I who had the great world in sling, 
Must now in this plight most mournfully sing ? 

With a fa la, la, la, fa, la, la." 

[Nell Gwyn remembers :] 
But Madam, from hence you sent treasure away, 

With a fa, la, la, la, fa, la, la. 
And here I suppose that a while you must stay ; 

With a fa, la, la, la, fa, la, la. 
But what I myself have got by my game, 
I freely in England expended the same, 
But you have transported yours to your shame, 

With a fa, la, fa, la, la." 

[Duchess of Portsmouth also remembers :] 
But one of my Sisters hath suffer'd before, 

With a fa, la, la, la, fa, la, la. 
She I do remember was called Jane Shore, 

With a fa, la, la, la, fa, la, la. 
For now I am possessed with sorrow and fear, 
And in my sad dreams strange visions appear, 
I have lost my dear friend that I loved so dear, 

With a fa, la, fa, la, la." 
288 



Louise de Keroualle, Duchess of Portsmouth 

In March, 1682, the Duchess of Portsmouth paid a 
visit to France, and it was rumoured, wrongly, that 
she was not returning to England. She was received 
with much honour at the French Court as befitted one 
of whom Barillon had written to Louis XIV. : " The 
truth about her is, that she has shown great, constant 
and intelligent zeal for your Majesty's interests, and 
given me numberless useful hints and pieces of in- 
formation." The way in which she was received was 
so gratifying to Charles that he sent to the French 
King " his best thanks for the kindness he had 
shown to the Duchess of Portsmouth." 

It is generally believed that the Duchess went 
abroad to take the waters of Bourbon, she being 
then in bad health, having perhaps, as one writer, as 
a rule none too mealy-mouthed, puts it cautiously, 
" suffered through the miscellaneous nature of the 
King's amours." 

Others, however, said that, driven by strong passion, 
she went to France in pursuit of her lover. This is 
indicated in " The Duchess of Portsmouth's Garland : " 

" When Portsmouth did from England fly, to follow her Vandome, 
Thus all along the Galley the monarch made his moan, 
O Chantillion, for charity, send me my Cleaveland home ! 
Go, Nymph, so foolish and unkind, your wandering Knight 

pursue, 

And leave a love-sick King behind, so faithful and so true, 
You Gods, when you made Love so blind, you should have 

lam'd him too." 

The " Vandome," who was the lover of the Duchess 
of Portsmouth, was not Louis Joseph, the Duke of 
Penthievre, Marshal Vendome, but his brother, Philippe, 

289 19 



Nell Gwyn 



the Grand Prior of Vendome, who came, or was sent, 
to England in 1680, for the purpose of directing the 
influence of the Duchess in the right direction, that is 
to say, the direction desired by the French Court. 
The Grand Prior was a grandson of Henry IV. and a 
cousin of Louis XIV., and so was well received by 
Charles II. Well supplied with money, a dashing 
gambler, handsome, and versed in love-making, so- 
ciety took him to its arms. That he was a gallant was 
all in his favour, but when he turned his attentions to 
the Duchess, and she accepted them gladly, the King 
thought that this was going too far and dismissed 
him from the Court. 



290 



CHAPTER XVIII 

THE DUCHESS MAZARIN 

Hortense Mancini. A description of her great beauty. Desired in marriage 
by Charles II. and Pedro II. Married Marquis de la Meilleraye, who 
is created Due Mazarin. Her enormous dowry from her uncle, Cardinal 
Mazarin. The Duke's mad jealousy. The Duchess applies for a separa- 
tion. She is temporarily immured in a convent. Her practical jokes 
there. She escapes from France. The Chevalier de Rohan. Becomes 
the mistress of Courberville. Charles Emmanuel II. of Savoy interested 
in her. She takes as her lover the Abbe de Saint-Real. She comes to 
England. The alarm of the seraglio. The Duchess of Cleveland retires. 
The Duchess of Portsmouth and Nell Gwyn. The struggle for supre- 
macy. The Duchess Mazarin becomes a mistress of the King. The 
despair of the Duchess of Portsmouth. Jane Myddleton. Mme. de 
Courcelles. Her account of her own charms. 

A RIVAL to Nell Gwyn, the Duchess of Ports- 
mouth, and the minor fry of the King's harem, 
appeared on the scene at the beginning of 1676 in 
the person of the Duchess Mazarin, who arrived 
in London " dressed as a cavalier, accompanied by 
two women and five men, without counting a little 
Moor, who takes his meals with her," as the French 
Ambassador, Ruvigny, who had succeeded Colbert de 
Croissy, reported to Paris. This was Hortense, the 
fourth of the five lovely Mancini sisters, nieces of 
Cardinal Mazarin. 

The description of her by Saint-Evremond, quoted 
by Mr. Noel Williams, is indeed ravishing : 

" She is one of those Roman beauties who in no way 
291 19* 



Nell Gwyn 



resemble your dolls of France. The colour of her 
eyes has no name ; it is neither blue, nor grey, nor 
altogether black, but a combination of all the three ; 
they have the sweetness of blue, the gaiety of grey, 
and, above all, the fire of black. There are none 
in the world so sweet. There are none in the world 
so serious and so grave when her thoughts are occupied 
with any serious object. They are large, well-set, 
full of fire and intelligence. 

" All the movements of her mouth are full of charm, 
and the strangest grimaces become her wonderfully, 
when she imitates those who make them. Her smiles 
would soften the hardest heart and ease the most 
profound depression of mind ; they almost entirely 
change her expression, which is naturally haughty, 
and spread over it a certain tincture of sweetness 
and kindness, which reassures those hearts which her 
charms have alarmed. 

" Her nose, too, which without doubt is incom- 
parably well turned and perfectly proportioned, im- 
parts a noble and lofty air to her whole physiognomy. 
The tone of her voice is so harmonious and agreeable 
that none can hear her speak without being sensibly 
moved. Her complexion is so delicately clear that I 
cannot believe that anyone who examined it closely 
can deny it to be whiter than the driven snow. Her 
hair is of a glossy black, with nothing harsh about it. 
To see how naturally it curls as soon as it is let loose, 
one would say it rejoiced to shade so lovely a head. 
She has the finest turned countenance that a painter 
ever imagined." 

292 



The Duchess Mazarin 



Charles II. was an old admirer of Hortense. When 
he was in exile before the Restoration, he fell a victim 
to her beauty and her charm when she was in her 
early teens and wanted to marry her. Mazarin, who 
may have thought Charles's chance of regaining the 
English throne a very slender one, would not, however, 
entertain the matter. Nor would he entertain the 
overtures of Pedro, the Regent of Portugal, who 
later ascended the throne of that country as Pedro II. 

Actually, when she was in her sixteenth year, the 
Cardinal gave her in marriage the actual date is 
February 28, 1661 to a French nobleman, the 
Marquis de la Meilleraye, who, at his request, was 
created by Louis XIV. Due Mazarin not Due de 
Mazarin, as it is usually written. It is said that her 
uncle, who died ten days after the marriage, bestowed 
upon her a dowry of no less than twenty-eight million 
francs. 

The Duchess had a love of adventure and a desire 
for romance, to which she gave full vent. The Duke 
was rather mad in an extremely irritating way, and 
suffered so distressingly from religious mania that, 
as Saint-Simon wrote of him, " Piety poisoned all the 
talents that Nature had bestowed on him." Ap- 
parently sex was his abhorrence. He smashed with 
a hammer the nude statues in his galleries and painted 
out the nude figures in his pictures ; and he would not 
let the women servants perform an operation so 
indelicate as milking the cows. 

He was presumably in love with his wife, but his 
jealousy made her life unbearable. " I could not 

293 



Nell Gwyn 



speak to a servant but he was dismissed the same day," 
she wrote in her memoirs. " I could not receive two 
visits but he was forbidden the house. If I showed 
any preference for one of my maids, she was at once 
taken away from me. He would have liked me to 
see no one in the world except himself. Above all, 
he could not endure that I should see either his rela- 
tions or my own the latter because they had begun 
to take my part ; his own, because they no more 
approved of his conduct than did mine." 

As may be imagined, this sort of conduct made 
life impossible for a high-spirited young woman, who 
had her own views of life. After five years of married 
life, Hortense appealed for a separation to the courts. 
Before the action came on, she retired to the Abbey of 
Celles, but the Duke removed her to the Convent des 
Filles de Sainte-Marie, where the rules were very 
strict. Here she met the Marquise de Courcelles, and 
it is to be feared that these two young people gave the 
nuns a lively time. 

The accounts of these proceedings that were cir- 
culated were declared by the Duchess to be much 
exaggerated. " As Madame de Courcelles was very 
amiable and very entertaining, I had the complacency 
to join with her in some pleasantries which she played 
upon the nuns," she related afterwards. " A hundred 
^ridiculous stories were carried to the King, who was 
told that we put ink in the holy- water basin to be- 
spatter the good ladies, that we ran through the 
dormitories, accompanied by a pack of hounds, crying, 
' Tayaut ! Tayaut ! ' and such-like things, all of 
294 



The Duchess Mazarin 



which were absurdly false or grossly exaggerated. 
For example, having asked for some water to wash 
our feet, the nuns disapproved and refused our request, 
just as if we were there to observe the regulations." 
Mark the sequel : " It is true that we filled with water 
a large coffer which stood in our dormitory, and, 
the boards of the floor being very loosley joined 
together, the water which overflowed leaked through 
the wretched floor and wetted the beds of the good 
sisters. This accident was talked about as if it had 
been something which we had done of design." 

Anyhow, whether these things were the result of 
accident or design, they proved too much for the 
equanimity of the holy sisters, who apparently peti- 
tioned for the removal of these turbulent spirits. 
The Duchess was sent again to Celles, where she re- 
mained until a separation was granted. Against 
this decision her husband appealed, and she, fearing 
the decree might be rescinded, fled from Paris, dis- 
guised as a man, and made her way to Geneva, accom- 
panied by a waiting-maid similarly attired, and one 
M. Courberville. 

Her proceedings in the south of Europe were nothing 
short of scandalous. While she was in Paris it was 
thought that the Chevalier de Rohan (who is men- 
tioned elsewhere in this book) was her lover, and 
soon after she arrived in Italy she made no secret of 
the fact that she was the mistress of Courberville. 
Her behaviour was so outrageous as, even in those 
days of latitude, to estrange society. 

Later she went to Savoy, where she received a 
295 



Nell Gwyn 



hearty welcome from Charles Emmanuel II., who had 
earlier wanted to marry her. He treated her royally, 
and visited her at the palace at Chambery which he 
had lent her, and it was assumed that she rewarded 
him for his lavish generosity in the usual way. The 
attentions of the ruler of Savoy did not content her, 
and she took into her suite the historian Cesar Vichaud, 
who for some reason or other he was not a priest 
called himself the Abbe de Saint-Real. When 
in 1675 Charles Emmanuel died, it was intimated to 
her that her presence was no longer desired in Savoy. 

Thereupon she, accompanied by Saint-Real, came 
to England. 

" The Duke of York received at his house yesterday 
the Duchess of Mazarin, who received at the same time 
the compliments of the King of England through the 
Earl of Sunderland," Ruvigny wrote to Pomponne. 
" Everyone here is in expectation of some important 
changes, and it is believed that a lady so extolled 
cannot fail to be the cause of adventures. M. de 
Grammont, who has undertaken the care of this 
lady's conduct, considers her as beautiful as ever. 
For myself, who have not seen her since the first days 
of her marriage, and who have retained the recollection 
of what she was then like, I have observed some 
alteration, which, however, does not prevent her being 
more beautiful than ever. . . . She is to all appear- 
ances a finely developed young girl. I never saw 
anyone who so well defies the power of time and vice 
to disfigure. At the age of fifty she will have the 
satisfaction of thinking, when she looks at her mirror, 

296 



The Duchess Mazarin 



that she is as lovely as she ever was in her life." She 
was then, however, but thirty years of age. 

Great was the excitement caused in Court circles 
by the arrival of the Duchess Mazarin. Everyone 
knew, of course, that the King had once wanted to 
marry her, and everyone wondered what would happen 
now. Her reputation for gallantry had naturally 
preceded her. Her appearance created an immense 
sensation. Every roue in the neighbourhood of White- 
hall pursued her with attentions, to which at the 
moment she gave little heed, for she at once re- 
captured the King's admiration. 

That agreeable historian, Miss Strickland, has 
written : " The arrival of the Duchess Mazarin in 
England, who, when Hortense Mancini, had inspired 
the King with a passion so intense that he had offered 
to make her his wife, must have been an alarming 
event to the Queen, who naturally apprehended a 
formidable rival in one whom he had thus regarded. 
The lapse of fifteen years had, however, banished 
every particle of romance from the heart of Charles : 
love was with him no longer a sentiment. He gave 
Hortense a residence at Chelsea and a pension of 
4,000 a year, and visited her occasionally, but her 
influence never equalled that of the Duchess of Ports- 
mouth." 

It is doubtful, however, if the Queen had not got 
beyond the stage of worrying about the King's amours. 
It is certain that, for a while at least, Hortense was 
Charles's mistress. The seraglio was in despair. The 
Duchess of Cleveland, whose day was over anyhow, 

297 



Nell Gwyn 



retired into the country, shaking the dust of the Court, 
so to speak, off her. The Duchess of Portsmouth 
sulked in her tent. 

Only Nell Gwyn laughed and stood her ground, 
confident in herself and her attractions in the long run. 
She did not resent Charles's infidelities, knowing that 
they were inevitable, and she saw the chance of having 
another little joke at the expense of the Duchess of 
Portsmouth. To the general delight, Nell one day, 
characteristically, appeared at Court dressed in black 
explaining that she was in mourning for Louise and 
her dead hopes. 

Poets raved about the Duchess Mazarin, and 
lampooners wrote about her with the freedom cus- 
tomary in the days of the Stuarts : 

" When through the world fair Mazarin had run 
Bright as her fellow-traveller, the sun, 
Hither at length the Roman eagle flies, 
As the last triumph of her conquering eyes 
As heir to Julius, she may pretend 
A second time to make this nation bend ; 
But Portsmouth, springing from the ancient race 
Of Britons, which the Saxon here did chase, 
As they great Caesar did oppose, makes head, 
And does against this new invader lead." 

Charles asked Louis XIV. to insist on the Duke 
making Hortense a more suitable allowance, and him- 
self drew heavily on his Privy Purse for her. The 
interest the King took in her met with the usual 
reward. " I have just learned," de Ruvigny wrote to 
Louis on March 12, 1676, " that there's certain 
and secret intelligence between the King of England 
298 




\\\\\\ 



"To the general delight, Nell one day, characteristically, 

appeared at Court dressed in black explaining that she was in 

mourning for Louise and her dead hopes." 

Page 298 



The Duchess Mazarin 



and the Duchess Mazarin. She carries on her intrigue 
very quietly with him. Those who had hoped to 
share in the triumph have not yet had the opportunity 
they expected." 

The Duchess of Portsmouth fought tooth and nail 
to retain her supremacy. It is said that her anger, 
which was unbridled, and her jealousy, which knew 
no bounds, actually affected her looks. She spent 
a month at Bath to take the waters, and going to dine 
at Windsor on her return to town, dined with the 
King, but was not invited to stay the night and had 
to drive on to London. At this time, she was the 
laughing stock of society, and when, by an unfortunate 
accident, she bruised her eye, a jest was made of it, and 
it was said that she had deliberately blackened her 
eye to transform herself from a blonde into a brunette 
like the Duchess Mazarin. At the end of 1676, the 
influence of Louise de Keroualle was almost negli- 
gible. Her biographer, Forneron, summarizes a letter 
from Honore Courtin to Louvois, written in December : 

" Courtin pitied Charles, who wanted to be well 
with everyone a hard problem to solve, surrounded, 
as he was, by jealous women. He had to face the 
anger of the Duchess of Portsmouth for drinking 
twice in twenty-four hours to the health of Nell Gwyn, 
with whom he still often supped, and who still made 
the Duchess of Portsmouth the butt for her tickling 
sarcasms. The rakes of the town met the King at 
her supper table, and said freely before him whatever 
came uppermost in their heads. As for the Duchess 
Mazarin, the Court of Versailles was informed by the 

299 



Nell Gwyn 



watchful Ambassador that Charles went regularly 
through the going-to-bed ceremony at Whitehall ; 
and when his gentlemen and servants had left his 
chamber, he got up, dressed, stole off to St. James's 
Palace, where he arrived after the Duchess's card- 
parties were over, and did not return to his palace 
until after five in the morning. It was evident, then, 
that he did not spend his nights with the Duchess of 
Portsmouth. He went to see her often in the day- 
time when he knew she had company with her ; 
but that was all." 

It really looked as if the Duchess of Portsmouth 
was down and out, and it did not make her the happier 
that no one cared for her or showed her any sympathy 
except those who based their hopes upon her return 
to power. Could anything be more pathetic than 
the picture unfolded by the French Ambassador in 
London to Louvois in August, 1676, after she had 
returned to Whitehall : "I witnessed yesterday 
evening an incident which aroused in me the greatest 
pity imaginable, and which would perhaps have 
touched you, all wise and virtuous though you be. 
I went to Madame de Portsmouth's apartments. 
She opened her heart to me, in the presence of two 
of her waiting-maids. The two maids remained 
glued against the wall, with downcast eyes. The 
mistress shed a torrent of tears, and her sighs and 
sobs interrupted her words. In short, never has a 
spectacle appeared to me more sad or touching. I 
remained with her until midnight, and I neglected 
nothing to restore her courage and to make her 
300 



The Duchess Mazarin 



understand how much it was to her interest to 
dissemble her grief." 

In the early months of 1677 there was a reconcilia- 
tion between the Duchesses, but this meant no more 
than that she of Portsmouth accepted, anyhow for 
the time being, the ascendancy of the Duchess 
Mazarin. The state which the latter kept up must 
have provoked the envy of even the wealthiest families 
at the Court. Money was spent by her with a 
prodigality that was remarkable, even in a day when 
extravagance was a fashion. " She has had a livery 
made more magnificent that any with which you are 
acquainted," Courtin wrote. "The lace costs three 
livres fifteen sols the French ell, and the coats are 
quite hidden by it. There are nine of them with 
which to array two porters, six lackeys, and a page ; 
and they cost, with the cravats, two thousand six 
hundred livres. She keeps an excellent table. In 
a word, her expenditure far exceeds the two thousand 
crowns which she receives from her husband. . . . 
With the appetite which God has given her, she would 
certainly devour double the income that she has." 
Courtin, referring to her expenditure, adds : " I do 
not know how she does it, but these extraordinary 
expenses appear to me a little suspicious." It is a 
reasonable assumption that the means for this 
extravagance were, in part, supplied by Charles. 

As regards Nell Gwyn, the Duchesses knew that 
neither severally nor by uniting their efforts could 
they remove her from the royal favour she had 
an^attraction for the King that never waned. They 

301 



Nell Gwyn 



were successful, however, in repelling others who 
aspired to the honour of becoming the mistress of 
Charles. One of these was Jane Myddleton, who 
at this time was in her sixteenth year, and was 
brought to Court by her mother in order to capture 
the attentions of the monarch. Another was the 
friend of the Duchess Mazarin, who has already been 
mentioned, Madame de Courcelles, who without any 
false modesty has put on record an account of her 
undoubtedly attractive appearance : " I am tall. I have 
an admirable figure. I have rather fine eyes, which 
I never quite open, and this is a charm that renders 
my glance the sweetest and most tender in the world. 
I have a well-formed bosom. I have divine hands, 
passable arms, that is to say, a little thin, but I find 
consolation for this misfortune in the pleasure of 
having the most beautiful legs in the world." 



302 



CHAPTER XIX 

THE DEATH OF NELL GWYN 

The death of Charles II. Nell Gwyn's affection for him. Charles s last 
words : " Let not poor Nelly starve." James II. 's kindness to her. 
Nell Gwyn not allowed to put her house in mourning. Her temporary 
financial straits. She sells the " Ruperta " necklace. Appeals to 
James II. for aid. Charles II. to have created her Countess of Greenwich. 
James II. responds to her appeals for money. Nothing known of the 
last years. Her illness. Her death. Her burial in St. Martin's-in- 
the-Fields. Dr. Tenison preaches the funeral service. Nell Gwyn's 
repentance. James II. charges the expenses of her funeral to the 
Secret Service Fund. Nell Gwyn's generosity and charity. Samuel 
Butler. Dryden. Thomas Otway. Chelsea Hospital. Acts as the 
King's Almoner. 

CHARLES II. died on February 6, 1685, and 

was mourned by Nell Gwyn, who, as has 

been said, had a very sincere affection for him. As 
Sir George Etherege wrote : 

" Nor would his Nelly long be his survivor. 
Alas ! who now was good enough to drive her ? 
So she gave way to her consuming grief, 
Which brought her past all galley-pot relief. 
Howe'er it were, as the old women say, 
' Her time was come, and then there's no delay ' : 
So down the Stygian Lake she dropt." 

Tradition, supported by the assertions of Evelyn 
and Burnet, declares that Charles II., on his death- 
bed, asked his brother to be kind to the Duchess 
of Cleveland, and especially to the Duchess of 

303 



Nell Gwyn 



Portsmouth, but above all laid upon him the injunc- 
tion : " Let not poor Nelly starve." 

James II., who had always liked Nell Gwyn, did 
his best by her, and saw that she did not starve ; 
like Charles, he helped her not unlavishly to public 
moneys, as will presently be related. 

There were, however, certain things he would not 
permit to her, as the following letter shows : 

SIR CYRIL WYCHE TO DUKE OF ORMONDE. 

February 17, 1685. 

The Duchess of Portsmouth, desiring protection, 
as it is said, was answered she should be defended 
against insolence, but could not be protected against 
paying her debts, and as well as her Grace Nell Gwyn 
has been forbid to put her house in mourning, or to 
use that sort of nails about her coach and chair which 
it seems is kept as a distinction for the Royal Family 
on such occasions, and had else been put on by her 
command.* 

There is no doubt that Nell Gwyn, who was always 
careless of money, found herself in serious financial 
straits a very short time after the death of Charles II. 
It may be assumed that in spite of a very considerable 
income and many special gifts, she lived, so far as 
ready money was concerned, from hand to mouth. 
It is certain that she had about this time to dispose 
of the famous " Rupert a " necklace which she had 
purchased from Margaret Hughes and Margaret's 

* Ormonde MSS., N.S., VII., 323. (Historica MSS. Commission-. 
304 



The Death of Nell Gwyn 



daughter Ruperta for 4,520, in order to meet in part 
the most pressing claims of her tradesmen. Even 
the proceeds of this sale did not suffice, and if she was 
not actually arrested for debt in 1685, she was cer- 
tainly outlawed. Tradesmen who were willing to 
trust her to any amount while Charles was alive were 
in a great hurry to collect their debts after his death. 
It was when she was in this very awkward situation 
that she applied to James II. in the following terms : 

" Had I suffered for my God as I have done for 
y r Brother and y u I shuld not have neede ether of y r 
kindness or justis to me. I beseecch you not to doe 
Any thing to the setling of my buisness till I speake 
w th you, to apoynt me by Mr. Grahams wher I may 
speake with you privetly. God make you as happy 
as my soule prayes you may be."* 

The following letter, which must have been written 
shortly after the other, shows that James II., though 
he may not have given her audience, did certainly 
give her pecuniary comfort, and it is known from the 
" Secret Service Accounts of Charles II. and James II.," 
published by the Camden Society in 1851, that the 
arrangements were made by Richard Graham (the 
"Mr. Grahams " of the first letter), who was apparently 
the Colonel Graham attached to the King's Household. 

In the letter printed below, the passage to " Had he 
[Charles II.] lived he tould me before he dyed that the 
world shuld see by what he did for me that he had 
both love and value for me, and that he did not do 
for me," has, it may be assumed, reference to the 

* B. M. Add. MSS., 21,483, f. 27. 

305 20 



Nell Gwyn 



peerage which it is believed it was the intention of 
the deceased monarch to bestow on her. It is said 
that the title chosen was the Countess of Greenwich. 

Authority for this statement is to be found in a 
passage in a manuscript book, " The Royall Cedar," 
by Frederick van Bossen, which is dated 1688 : 

" Charles the 2d. naturall sone of King Charles the 
2d. borne of Hellenor or Nelguine, dawghter to Thomas 
Guine, a capitane of ane antient family in Wales, who 
showld bein advanced to be Countes of Greeniez, but 
hindered by the king's death, and she lived not long 
after his Matie. Item, he was advanced to the title 
of Duke Stablane and Earle of Berward. He is not 
married." 

The second letter to James II. is as follows : 

u This world is not capable of giving me greater joy 
and happynes than y r Ma ties favour, not as you are 
King and soe have it in y r power to doe me good, 
having never lowed y r brother and y r self upon that 
account, but as to y r persons. Had he lived he 
tould me before he dyed that the world shuld see by 
what he did for me that he had both love and value 
for me and that he did not doe for me, as my mad 
lady Woster. He was my frind and alowed me to 
tell him all my grifes and did like a frind advise and 
tould me who was my frind and who was not. S r , 
the honour y r Ma tie has don me by Mr. Grahams has 
given me great comfort not by the present you sent 
me to releeve me out of the last extremety but by 
the kind expresions hee made me from you of y r 
kindness to me, w ch to me is above al things in this 

306 



The Death of Nell Gwyn 



world, having, God knows, never loved y r brother 
or y r selfe interestedly. All you doe for me shall be 
yours, it being my resolution never to have any 
interest but y rs , and as long as I live to serve you and 
when I dye to dye praying for y u ."* 

Here may be given some extracts from the Secret 
Service accounts of the reign of James II. : 

1685, September. To Richard Graham, Esq., to 
be by him paid over to several tradesmen, creditors 
of Mrs. Ellen Gwynne, in satisfac'on of their debts 
for which the said Ellen stood outlawed, 729 2s. 3d. 

1685, December. To Ellinor Gwyn bounty 500. 

To the said Ellinor Gwynne more 500. 

1687, October. To Sir Stephen Fox, for so much 
by him paid to Sir Robert Clayton in full of 3,774 li, 
2S. 6d., for redeeming the mortgage of Bestwoode Park 
made to Sir John Musters, to settle the same upon 
Mrs. Ellen Gwynn for life, and after her death upon 
the Duke of St. Albans and his issue male with the 
reversion in the crowne . . . 1,256 os. 2d. 

Of Nell Gwyn's life after the death of Charles II. 
little is known about it save what has already been 
said concerning her want of pence which, however, 
must have been only temporary, because, according 
to Narcissus Luttrell, she left a considerable estate to 
her son, the Duke of St. Albans, while another con- 
temporary, Sir Charles Lyttelton, wrote of her in 1687 
as " thought to be worth 100,000 ; 2,000 in revenue 
and the rest in jewels and plate." 

In Luttrell's " Historical Narrative " there is an 

* Add. MSS., 21,483. f. 28. 

307 20* 



Nell Gwyn 



entry on March 20, 1687 : Mrs. Ellen Gwyn hath been 
dangerously ill and her recovery is much doubt," 
and Alice Hatton, writing two days later, remarks 
that " Mrs. Nelly is dying of an apoplexy." On 
March 24 John Verney said, in a letter to Sir Richard 
Verney, " Mrs. Eleanor Gwin lyes a-dying." However, 
her medical attendant, Christianus Harrell, who had 
been one of the late King's physicians and had at- 
tended him in his last illness, contrived to save her, 
anyhow for a while ; and on March 29, Sir Charles 
Lyttelton wrote : " Mrs. Nelly has been dying of an 
apoplexy. She has now come to her sense on one side, 
for the other is dead of a palsy." She only survived 
until the following November 13, when she passed 
away in the house in Pall Mall at the age of thirty-six. 

Four days later Nell Gwyn was, in accordance with 
a wish expressed in her will, buried in the parish church 
of St. Martin's-in-the-Fields, where her mother had 
been interred nine years before. 

The Vicar of St. Martin's-in-the-Fields was Dr. 
Thomas Tenison, and he preached the sermon at her 
funeral, in which sermon, tradition has it, he spoke 
warmly of her charities, her real goodness of heart, 
her sincere repentance, and her pious end it may be, 
also of her temptations. 

Someone, who later was envious of the growing 
influence at Court of Dr. Tenison (who afterwards 
was become Archbishop of Canterbury), dwelt ma- 
liciously to Queen Mary on the encomiums he had be- 
stowed on an actress who had led an immoral life. 
He received a truly royal rebuke. " I have heard as 
308 



The Death of Nell Gwyn 



much," said Her Majesty. " It is to me a sign that 
the unfortunate woman died penitent ; for if I can 
read a man's heart through his looks, had Nell Gwyn 
not made a pious and Christian end, Dr. Tenison 
could not have been induced to speak well of her." 

This is borne out by what Colley Gibber says in his 
" Apology " : " Nell Gwyn's repentance in her last 
hours, I have been unquestionably informed, appeared 
in all the contrite symptoms of a Christian sincerity." 

James II., kind to Nell Gwyn to the last, took upon 
himself the expenses of the funeral at the cost of 
the State. The following entry is to be found in the 
" Secret Service Expenses of Charles II. and James II. " : 

" 1688, January. To Roger Hewitt, upon the like 
sume that would have become due at Xtmas last to 
Mrs. Ellinor Gwynn, dec'd, on a pencion of 1500/1* 
per ann. in the name of Francis Gwynne, Esq., to 
reimburse so much money paid by Sr. Stephen Fox 
for the funeral of the said Mrs. Gwynn, 375/1, o. o." 

So, as she lived, so she died, at the country's expense. 

" She is said to have died piously and penitently," 
Wigmore wrote to Sir George Etherege, then Envoy at 
Ratisbon, " and, as she dispensed several charities in 
her life, so she left several legacies at her death." 

Jesse says of Nell Gwyn that " she was ever the 
benefactor of genius in distress," but it may be 
suggested, without disrespect to the lady, that this 
was going too far. Yet there are pleasant stories about 
her generosity and her impulsive kindness. 

Thus, in the biography of her published in 1792 the 
following incident is narrated concerning Samuel 

309 



Nell Gwyn 



Butler, the author of " Hudibras," who was neglected 
by the Court : 

" In behalf of this gentleman, Nell frequently 
remonstrated, and represented his story and circum- 
stances with the utmost warmth to his Majesty. In 
the immediate hours of her ministry, she often men- 
tioned him, but was still so unlucky as to be unsuccess- 
ful. Firmly resolved to serve Mr. Butler, for whose 
inimitable wit she had the greatest veneration, she 
applied to Duke Villiers, who was then at the head of 
taste, and was capable, independent of his Majesty's 
interest, to provide for him. After long solicitation, 
she prevailed on his Grace to grant an interview to 
Mr. Butler, and a Mr. Wycherley, who was a favourite 
with the Duke, to introduce him. Mr. Wycherley, 
who was well acquainted with the great merit, as 
well as the distress, of Butler, readily embraced the 
first opportunity of promoting his friend." 

The story may well be true, though it is difficult to 
believe that " she had the greatest veneration for 
Butler's inimitable wit "that clearly is the touch of 
the eighteenth-century biographer. Certainly, she did 
her best to befriend Dryden, whose plays had helped 
her to her high position, and those other dramatists, 
Nathaniel Lee and Thomas Otway. It is believed 
that she appointed Otway tutor to her elder son, and 
there is a reference to this in the contemporary " Essay 
of Scandal " : 

" Then for that cub, her son and heir, 
Let him remain in Otway's care." 

Nell Gwyn suffered the fate that befell all of her 
310 



The Death of Nell Gwyn 



day who were in positions of influence at Court, and 
minor writers sought her favour by dedicating books 
to her. 

That popular playwright and novelist, Mrs. Aphra 
Behn, in 1679 dedicated to her her play, The Feigned 
Courtesans. Nell Gwyn may have known her, for she 
was, in the early part of the reign of Charles II., a 
not infrequent visitor at Whitehall, and she was, 
indeed, sent over by the King to the Netherlands as a 
spy before the outbreak of the Dutch War. It is of 
interest to note that she heard of the intention of 
de Witt to send a Dutch fleet up the Thames, that 
she contrived to get this valuable information through 
to London, and that it was ignored with what result 
is known. Aphra Behn knew well how to be adula- 
tory, as the following passages from the dedication 
show : 

' Your permission has enlightened me, and I with 
shame look back on my past ignorance which suffered 
me not to pay an adoration long since where there 
was so very much due ; yet even now, though secure 
in my opinion, I make this sacrifice with infinite fear 
and trembling, well knowing that so excellent and 
perfect a creature as yourself differs only from the 
divine powers in this the offerings made to you ought 
to be worthy of you, whilst they accept the will alone. 

" Besides all the charms, the attractions and powers 
of your sex, you have beauties peculiar to yourself 
an eternal sweetness, youth and air which never 
dwell in any face but yours. You never appear 
but you gladden the hearts of all that have the happy 

3" 



Nell Gwyn 



purpose to see you, as if you were made on purpose 
to put the whole world into good humour. Heaven 
has bestowed on you two noble branches, whom 
you have permitted to wear those glorious titles which 
you yourself generously neglected." 

The above, however, is not a whit more flattering 
than the dedication anthem five years earlier by 
Thomas Duffet, preceding his play, The Spanish Rogue, 
in which he refers to her as " of the most perfect beauty 
and the greatest goodness in the world," and observes 
that " doing good is not your nature but your business." 
As if this were not enough, he adds : 

" Nature, almost overcome by art, has in yourself 
rallied all her scattered forces, and on your charming 
brow sits smiling at their slavish toils which yours 
and her envious foes endure ; striving in vain with 
the fading weak supplies of art to rival your beauties, 
which are ever the same and almost incomparable." 

The " almost " in the last sentence seems to indicate 
that Duffet thought he had perhaps gone a little too 
far and had better hedge. 

No such scruple attacked Robert Whitcombe, who 
in 1678 dedicated "To the illustrious Madam Ellen 
Gwin," his book, " Ja.nua Divorum, or, The Lives and 
Histories of the Heathen Gods, Goddesses and Demi- 
Gods."* The author is simply magnificent in hi s 
fervour and his outrageous compliments follow hard 
on each other's heels : 

* There is no copy of this volume in the British Museum, and the extracts 
from the dedication have been taken from Mr. Gordon Goodwin's edition of 
Cunningham's, " The Story of Nell Gwyn." 

312 



The Death of Nell Gwyn 



' Your favour is more creditable than ingenuity 
itself, and an author need not fear the harsh attacks 
of time and oblivion, whose works have the honour 
to wear you in their frontispiece. . . . The minutest 
of your incomparable perfections could not make so 
swift an incursion into my thoughts, as not to find 
them sufficiently prepared with a reverence and 
adoration agreeable to so glorious a reception. 

" I knew that curious Nature had extended her 
endeavours in the formation of your delicate body, 
enjoined both it and every limb about you to an exact 
symmetry and pleasing proportion. . . . You are 
nobly attended with an illustrious troop of sublime 
thoughts and fair ideas, which tacitly invading your 
great mind, fill it with that satisfaction and delight 
which none but a soul as large as your own is capable 
to conceive. . . . Apollo told me that in you only 
he should meet with his primitive wisdom. Mercury, 
with his pristine wit. Juno, with her old sovereignty 
or greatness of mind. Venus, with her delicate 
beauty. And Alcides, with his godlike courage and 
brave spirit. And, in short, they affirmed, that all 
those noble qualifications for which they were formerly 
deified, were only concentred in yourself." 

So fine a piece of imaginative writing as Rober 
Whitcombe's dedication is too good to be lost. 

That Nell Gwyn was kind-hearted is generally 
accepted. Very popular is the incident that has been 
r eported by Granger in the " Biographical History," 
which he states is a " known fact " : " As she was one 
day going through the City if we are to be precise, 

313 



Nell Gwyn 



the spot is alleged to be Ludgate Hill seeing a clergy- 
man being hurried by some bailiffs to prison, she got 
out of her coach, made some inquiries, and paid on the 
spot the debts of the worthy man. This is just the 
sort of thing she would have done." 

" Nell Gwyn," says Leigh Hunt in " The Town," 
'* is said to have suggested to her royal lover the build- 
ing of Chelsea Hospital, and to have made him a 
present of the ground for it." Thornbury, in the 
" History of London," retails the story that one day 
a wounded and destitute soldier hobbled up to her 
coach-window to ask alms, and that so pained her 
to see a man who had fought for his country begging 
his bread in the street that she prevailed upon 
Charles II. to establish at Chelsea a permanent home 
for military invalids. This is very pretty, but un- 
fortunately it is not confirmed by fact. General Hutt, 
who was responsible for the official " Early History 
of the Royal Hospital at Chelsea " says definitely : 

" A sentimental tradition has often ascribed the 
foundation of the establishment of Chelsea Hospital 
to the charitable intercession of Nell Gwyn, but, though 
the story has been often repeated the most careful 
inspection into the records of the period fails any 
way to authenticate its truth. 

" Newcourt, author of a History -of the Diocese 
of London (of which he was Vicar-General), a most 
accurate writer, who lived at the time and who men- 
tions the hospital at some length, never in any way 
alludes to this story. Evelyn, from whose journal 
much valuable information is derived and by whose 

314 



The Death of Nell Gwyn 



aid many details connected with the sale and purchase 
of the early hospital lands have been accurately 
traced, is equally silent on this point. Stow and 
Pennant make no mention of it, while Lysons treats 
the anecdote as one of very doubtful authenticity. 
It is far more probable that the story had its origin 
in the practice of the time of lavishing on every Court 
favourite the grossest flattery, for which the founding 
of Chelsea Hospital afforded a good opportunity. 
Part of the tradition can be proved to be fallacious, 
and historical truth seems to require that the whole 
shall be relegated to the list of so many exploded 
legends/' 

Charles II. certainly believed in her generous nature, 
and occasionally used her as his almoner. It is 
recorded, to give one instance, that on December n, 
1682, " His Majesty has been pleased to give Madam 
Gwin 100 towards the relief of the late dreadful fire 
which happened at Wapping." And there is a pleasant 
proof of her thoughtful kindness in the bequests which 
she made for the poor debtors. 

With these kind words, we may leave " pretty, 
witty Nell." 



315 



APPENDIXES 
I 

THE WILL OF NELL GWYN 

IN the name of God, Amen. I, Ellen Gwynne, of 
the parish of St. Martin-in-the-fields, and county of 
Middlesex, spinster, this gih day of July, anno Domini 
1687, do make this my last will and testament, and do 
revoke all former wills. First, in hope of a joyful 
resurrection, I do recommend myself whence I came, 
my soul into the hands of Almighty God, and my body 
unto the earth, to be decently buried, at the discretion 
of my executors, hereinafter named ; and as for all 
such houses, lands, tenements, offices, places, pensions, 
annuities, and hereditaments whatsoever, in England, 
Ireland, or elsewhere, wherein I, or my heirs, or any 
to the use of, or in trust for me or my heirs, hath, 
have, or may or ought to have, any estate, right, 
claim, or demand whatsoever, of fee-simple or free- 
hold, I give and devise the same all and wholly to 
my dear natural son, his Grace the Duke of St. Alban's, 
and to the heirs of his body ; and as for all and all 
manner of my jewels, plate, household stuff, goods, 
chattels, credits, and other estate whatsoever, I give 
and bequeath the same, and every part and parcel 
thereof, to my executors hereafter named, in, upon, 

316 



Appendix I 



and by way of trust for my said dear son, his executors, 
administrators, and assigns, and to and for his and 
their own sole use and peculiar benefit and advantage, 
in such manner as is hereafter expressed ; and I do 
hereby constitute the Right Hon. Lawrence, Earl of 
Rochester, the Right Hon. Thomas, Earl of Pembroke, 
the Hon. Sir Robert Sawyer, Knight, his Majesty's 
Attorney-General, and the Hon. Henry Sidney, Esq., 
to be my executors of this my last will and testament, 
desiring them to please to accept and undertake the 
execution thereof in trust as afore-mentioned ; and I 
do give and bequeath to the several persons in the 
schedule hereunto annexed the several legacies and 
sums of money therein expressed or mentioned ; and 
my further will and mind, and anything above not- 
withstanding, is, that if my said dear son happen to 
depart this natural life without issue then living, or 
such issue die without issue, then and in such case, 
all and all manner of my estate above devised to him, 
and in case my said natural son die before the age of 
one-and-twenty years, then also all my personal estate 
devised to my said executors not before then by my 
said dear son and his issue, and my said executors, and 
the executors or administrators of the survivor of 
them, or by some of them otherwise lawfully and 
firmly devised or disposed of, shall remain, go, or 
be to my said executors, their heirs, executors, and 
administrators respectively, in trust of and for an- 
swering, paying, and satisfying all and every and all 
manners of my gifts, legacies, and directions that at 
any time hereafter, during my life, shall be by me 

317 



Appendix I 



anywise mentioned or given in or by any codicils or 
schedule to be hereto annexed. And lastly, that my 
said executors shall have, all and every of them, ioo/. 
a-piece, of lawful money, in consideration of their care 
and trouble herein, and furthermore, all their several 
and respective expenses and charges in and about 
the execution of this my will. In witness of all 
which, I hereunto set my hand and seal, the day and 
year first above written. E. G. 

Signed, sealed, published, and declared, in the presence 
of us, who at the same time subscribe our names, also in 
her presence. 

LUCY HAMILTON SANDYS, 
EDWARD WYBORNE, 
JOHN WARNER, 
WILLIAM SCARBOROUGH, 
JAMES BOOTH. 

FIRST CODICIL. 

The last request of Mrs. Ellenr. Gwynn to his Grace the 
Duke of St. Alban's, made October the iSth, 1687. 

1. I desire I may be buried in the church of St. 
Martin' s-in-the-fields. 

2. That Dr. Tenison may preach my funeral sermon. 

3. That there may be a decent pulpit-cloth and 
cushion given to St. Martin's-in-the-fields. 

4. That he [the Duke] would give one hundred 
pounds for the use of the poor of the said St. Martin's 
and St. James's, Westminster, to be given into the 
hands of the said Dr. Tenison, to be disposed of at 



Appendix I 



his discretion, for taking any poor debtors of the said 
parish out of prison, and for cloaths this winter, and 
other necessaries, as he shall find most fit. 

5. That for showing my charity to those who differ 
from me in religion, I desire that fifty pounds may 
be put into the hands of Dr. Tenison and Mr. Warner, 
who, taking to them any two persons of the Roman 
Religion, may dispose of it for the use of the poor 
of that religion inhabiting the parish of St. James's 
aforesaid. 

6. That Mrs. Rose Forster* may have two hundred 
pounds given to her, any time within a year after my 
decease. 

7. That Jo., my porter, may have ten pounds given 
him. 

My request to his Grace is, further 

8. That my present nurses may have ten pounds 
each, and mourning, besides their wages due to them. 

9. That my present servants may have mourning 
each, and a year's wages, besides their wages due. 

10. That the Lady Fairbornef may have fifty 
pounds given to her to buy a ring. 

11. That my kinsman, Mr. Cholmley, may have one 
hundred pounds given to him, within a year after 
this date. 

12. That His Grace would please to lay out twenty 

* The sister of Nell Gwyn. (See pp. 22-23.) 

t The widow of Sir Palmes Fairborne (1644-1680), one time Governor of 
Tangier, and the mother of Admiral Sir Stafford Fairborne. She married 
again in 1683 Jasper Parton, third son of Robert first Earl of Yarmouth, 
and survived until 1694. 

319 



Appendix I 



pounds yearly for the releasing of poor debtors out of 
prison every Christmas-day. 

13. That Mr. John Warner may have fifty pounds 
given him to buy a ring. 

14. That the Lady Hollyman may have the pension 
of ten shillings per week continued to her during the 
said lady's life. 

The following (second) codicil, which escaped the 
observation of Peter Cunningham, has been discovered 
by Mr. Gordon Goodwin. It was proved separately, 
on December 7, 1688, and is registered in the 
Prerogative Court of Canterbury, 162, Exton : 

The second codicil of Mrs. Ellen Gwinn deceased 
publicly declared by her before divers creditable 
witnesses after the making of her last Will and Testa- 
ment and former Codicil according as it was pronounced 
in and by the sentence given by the Right Worshipful 
Sir Richard Raines, Knight, Doctor of Laws, and 
Master Keeper or Commissary of the Prerogative 
Court of Canterbury the nineteenth day of July One 
Thousand and Six Hundred Eighty Eight in a Cause 
lately depending before him concerning the proof 
thereof followeth, viz. : 

The said Mrs. Ellen Gwinne did give and bequeath 
to Mrs. Rose Forster,her sister, the sum of two hundred 
pounds over and above the sum of two hundred pounds 
which she gave to her the said Rose in her former Codicil. 

To Mr. Forster, husband of the said Rose Forster, a 
ring of the value of forty pounds or forty pounds to 
buy him a ring. 

320 



Appendix I 



To Dr. Harrell [meaning Christianus Harrell, Doctor 
of Physic, and one of her physicians] twenty pounds 

To Mr. Derrick, nephew of the said Dr. Harrell, 
ten pounds. 

To Dr. Le Febure [meaning Joshua Le Febure, 
Doctor of Physic, and the other of her physicians] 
twenty pounds respectively to buy them rings. 

To Bridget Long, who had been her servant for 
divers years, the sum of twenty pounds of lawful 
money of England yearly during her natural life. 

To Mrs. Edling [meaning Anne Edling] a new gown. 

And Mr. John Warner, her Chaplain, was present 
with others at the declaring thereof, and that a little 
before the declaring of the same she being of perfect 
mind and memory did order or desire the said Mr. 
Warner to put into writing what she should then 
declare. And that the said legacies were wrote and 
read to the deceased and by her approved as part of 
her last Will and Testament as by the proofs made 
and sentence given in the said Cause do appear.* 

* Quoted from Mr. Gordon Goodwin's edition of Peter Cunningham's 
" The Story of Nell Gwyn." 



321 21 



II 

AUTHORITIES 

THE material for a biography of Nell Gwyn is far 
from abundant. The contemporary records are few 
and not vastly valuable, and are especially lacking 
in any definite and precise knowledge concerning her 
parentage and her earlier years. As she could scarcely 
do more with any comfort than scrawl her initials, her 
correspondence (through the medium of an amanuensis) 
was limited. Such letters as have been traced are, 
however, inserted in this volume. 

The contemporary references to Nell Gwyn are to 
be found in the Diaries of Pepys and Evelyn, Burnet's 
" History of My Own Time," Hamilton's " Memoirs 
of Grammont," Luttrell's " Brief Historical Relation 
of State Affairs from September 1678 to April 1714," 
Gerald Langbaine the younger's " Account of the 
English Dramatic Poets," and in the " Letters of 
Madame de Sevigne." Lord Rochester and Sir George 
Etherege wrote lampoons about her, and there are 
various contemporary ballads and broadsheets, some 
of which are reprinted in this volume. 

Further information can be gleaned from the letters 
printed in the Reports of the Historical Manuscripts 
Commission, from " Notes and Queries ; " from 

322 



Appendix II 



the " Secret Service Expenses of Charles II. and 
James II." and the " Hatton Correspondence " printed 
by the Camden Society. Nell Gwyn's name occurs 
in the dedication of plays by Mrs. Aphra Behn and 
Tom Duffet, and the " History of the Heathen Gods," 
by Robert Whitcombe. Mr. Henry William Hart 
printed two documents under the title of " Memorials 
of Nell Gwyn the Actress and Thomas Otway the 
Dramatist," which are reproduced in this work. 

Something of Nell Gwyn's theatrical career, which, 
as a matter of fact, lasted only a few years, may be 
learnt from John Downes's " Roscius Anglicanus, or, 
An Historical Review of the Stage " (1708) with this 
the Supplement by Francis Godolphin Waldron must 
be read ; Colley Cibber's " Apology " (1740) ; and 
Betterton's " History of the English Stage from the 
Restoration to the Present Times, including the Lives, 
Characters, and Amours of the most eminent Actors 
and Actresses," which was published by Curll in 1741 
the chapter on Nell Gwyn is usually attributed to 
William Oldys. Allusions will be found in John 
Genest's " Account of the English Stage, 1660-1830," 
which appeared in 1832, and in John Doran's " Their 
Majesties' Servants," 1860. 

Other works that have been consulted are Manning 
and Bray's " History of Surrey," Duncumb's " History 
of Herefordshire," Gordon Home's " Epsom," Tighe 
and Davis's " Annals of Windsor," Cunningham's 
" Handbook of London " (ed. Wheatley), Warburton's 
" Prince Rupert and the Cavaliers," Agnes Strickland's 
" Lives [of the Queens of England," Clarendon's 

323 



Appendix II 



History, Richard Flecknoe's " Epigrams of All Sorts" 
(1670), Granger's " Biographical History of England," 
" Memoirs of the Verney Family," Plumptre's " Life 
of Bishop Ken," Airy's " Charles II.," Anthony 
Wood's " Life and Times," and, of course, the " Dic- 
tionary of National Biography." I have also referred 
to G. S. Steinman's privately printed work on the 
Duchess of Cleveland and L. C. Davidson's biography 
of Queen Catherine. 

There are several accounts of the life of Nell Gwyn, 
but unfortunately not one was written by anyone who 
knew her or who even saw her. She died in 1687, 
and the first of the biographies was not published until 
1752, when it was printed for F. Stamper in Pope's 
Head Alley, Cornhill, London : " Memoirs of the 
Life of Eleanor Gwinn, a celebrated Courtezan in the 
Reign of Charles II., and Mistress to that Monarch." 
This catchpenny work, which embroidered some of 
the traditions that have been handed down, but 
embroidered in a ridiculous fashion, is for the most 
part an effort of the author's imagination, and is not 
in the slightest degree or in any particular reliable. 
It was reprinted in 1820, with an abominable coloured 
frontispiece, under which is the legend, " Eleanor 
Gwinn, otherwise Lady Simcock," and a different 
title-page, which runs : " Fairburn's edition of the 
Life, Amours and Exploits of Nell Gwinn, the for- 
tunate Orange-girl, who from the above Low Sphere 
of Life became the Bosom Friend and Mistress of King 
Charles the Second (of merry memory), and who, for 
the comfort of old Soldiers, was s the cause of erecting 

324 



Appendix II 



Chelsea Hospital, with an account of many Charities 
she left and good Deeds she performed in her retire- 
ment from Public Life and the Stage (as Lady 
Simcock)." 

It was not until 1851 that a serious attempt was 
made to collect what was actually known about Nell 
Gwyn. In that year Peter Cunningham, a son of 
Allan Cunningham the writer, and the author of the 
" Handbook of London," serialized in the Gentleman's 
Magazine his " Story of Nell Gwyn." In the following 
year he published it in book-form, when it was, he said, 
" corrected throughout, and enlarged with such new 
matter as my own diligence and the kindness of friends, 
have enabled me to bring together." This book oi 
his, Cunningham said, " must be read as a serious 
truth, not as a fiction as a biography, not as a romance. 
It has no other foundation than truth, and will be 
heard of hereafter only as it adheres to history." It 
must be pointed out, however, that it is not entirely 
reliable. That distinguished student, the late H. B. 
Wheatley, edited a new edition in 1892, in which he 
included the author's last corrections and additional 
notes, and himself supplied new information. In 
1903 appeared another issue, admirably edited by 
Mr. Gordon Goodwin, who carefully revised the work, 
and to whose research the present writer owes a deep 
debt of gratitude. The late Cecil Chesterton in 1911 
published a new " Story of Nell Gwyn." 

There are brief accounts of Nell Gwyn in J. H. Jesse's 
" Memoirs of the Court of England during the 
Reign of the Stuarts," Allan Fea's " Beauties of the 



Appendix II 



Seventeenth Century/' in the " Encyclopaedia Britan- 
nica/' and by Joseph Knight in the " Dictionary of 
National Biography." 

I have especially consulted the following valuable 
works that contain much information about Nell 
Gwyn and her contemporaries : Mr. P. W. Sergeant's 
"My Lady Castlemaine," Mr. H. Noel Williams' 
" Rival Sultanas : Nell Gwyn and Louise de Keroualle," 
and M. H. Forneron's " Louise de Keroualle : Duchess 
of Portsmouth." 

I wish to acknowledge the kind assistance in the 
preparation of some parts of this work of Mr. Percy 
Cross Standing. 

LEWIS MELVILLE. 

London, September, 1923. 



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