Sex Secrets Of The Royals, Part 3

- April 30th, 2012

queen-elizabeth

 

When Queen Elizabeth II eventually dies, she will almost certainly be succeeded on the throne of the United Kingdom (and Canada, etc.) by her eldest son, the current Prince of Wales.

 

And, just as (almost) certainly, Prince Charles will follow his mother’s example and retain his own name when he is crowned king.

 

He will be Charles III — the first King Charles of England (etc.) in more than 300 years.

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But stretching across those 300 years, there’s a very interesting connection between the sooner-or-later-to-be Charles III and his predecessor Charles II.

 

Diana, Princess of Wales, was descended from two — count ‘em, two — mistresses of Charles II. Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, and Sarah, Duchess of York (Fergie), also trace their lineage back to one of those same royal mistresses.

Small world.

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Prince Charles/Charles III has a dirty-laundry hamper full of his own sex secrets (which we probably will explore later), but for now we are going to examine the erotic piccadillioes, pleasures, perversities  and pomposities of his predecessors as King Charles.

 

That would be Charles I and Charles II.

 

For our purposes, Charles I is quite boring. Except.

 

Except Charles I was the last English/British monarch to openly espouse his divine right to be king. He created the conditions for not one but two civil wars in the mid-1600s and, as a right royal loser, was convicted of treason by Parliament and beheaded.

 

Britain was ruled by the Puritan dictator Oliver Cromwell for the decade after Charles I’s execution in 1649. And a sad decade it was, too: Cromwell even banned the celebration of Christmas because he deemed it to be too Catholic-y.

 

Cromwell finally died in 1658, but England seemed to have acquired the taste for a dominant top. So, after much huffing and puffing and sweating and gnashing of whatever, Parliament invited Charles I’s son — comfortably ensconced in exile in France and Holland for the past decade when not attempting doomed invasions of Britain — to come back to London and resume the position of king, a role that was so rudely interrupted by his father’s beheading in 1649.

Charles-II

The son was restored to the throne — thus the period being called the Restoration — in 1660 and everything seemed quite rosy. Because, along with Charles, activities like Christmas, pub-crawling, theatre-going and general hokey-pokey  were also “restored.”

 

But before we get too far away from dear, old, dumb, dead Charles I, let’s look at one of Charlie One’s sex secrets. Maybe his only one, but I don’t think so.

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Charles I was always considered an upright, uptight monarch, loyal and loving to his queen and dependably boring — if demanding. A lousy king but a good husband supposedly.

 

But back in 2006, historian Sarah Poynting decoded a secret message in a smuggled letter from Charles to Jane Whorwood, step-daughter of one of his courtiers, while he was imprisoned and awaiting a parliamentary decision on his fate.

 

Let’s let The Guardian newspaper pick up the story:

 

“Charles wrote that Jane could easily visit him, but warned that they would not be able to speak privately without special permission. His letter then switched into cipher.”

(which Poynting deciphered as …)

“I imagine that there is one way possible that you may get a swiving from me”.

He then gave instructions on how she could gain secret access to the part of Carisbrooke Castle, where he was held.

And back to The Guardian:

“In the 17th Century, ‘swiving’ was a wholly obscene word for sex, found most commonly in the pornographic verses of the Earl of Rochester, who used it to describe the notorious sexual activity of Charles’s son after the Restoration.”

So all this while the executioner’s axe is more or less hanging over Charlie One’s head. Now that’s sex drive.

Plus … I don’t understand how if she could get in, he couldn’t get out through this secret access.

But enough about sensible behaviour — we’re talking royals here.

charles_execution

So Charles I went off to his beheading, accompanied by his little lap dog and (hopefully) pleasant memories of Jane Whorwood. And 11 years later, his son — Charlie Deuce — rolled back into England. And the real fun and games began.

Charles and his younger brother James had spent much of their exile from Cromwell’s England in the pursuit of “swiving” and both continued their pursuit — perhaps accelerated it — after their formal weddings.

King Charles II had a dozen or so “official” mistresses and dozens more casual flings which didn’t rate his public recognition. He bestowed aristocratic titles on most of those mistresses — and on many of the illegitimate children produced by them.

In fact, he treated his mistresses with more courtesy and affection than he did his formal queen consort, the poor, put-upon Portuguese princess Catherine of Braganza.

Catherine_of_Braganza

At formal dinners, Charles would sit surrounded by several mistresses while Catherine was exiled to the far end of the table. He forced Catherine to accept several of his mistresses as ladies-in-waiting and those mistresses were given greater standing — and respect — in court than his wife.

In fact, while King Charles and Queen Catherine were honeymooning in 1662 at Hampton Court Palace, Charles brought along mistress Barbara Villiers to give birth to their second illegitimate child in the same palace.

portrait-of-louise-de-kerouaille-_-duchess-of-portsmouth-1675-henri-gascar-jpg

Villiers, one of the most powerful of Charles’ mistresses, was married to Roger Palmer, appointed Earl of Castlemaine and Baron Limerick by Charles in 1661 for his early, loyal support of the king’s restoration.

Unfortunately for Castlemaine, the king was more husband to Barbara Villiers than the earl. Charles publicly acknowledged five of Villiers’ six children as his and Castlemaine was not believed to be the father of the other child either. After the birth of the first child, Castlemaine separated from his wife but remained a doggedly loyal, publicly cuckolded servant of the king throughout his reign.

As I said, Barbara Villiers was perhaps the most powerful of Charles’ mistresses. She held great sway in court and was considered a vile-tempered, vindictive intriguer. But she had the company of other intriguing mistresses, some of whom were closer to the king and most of whom were illustrious in their own right.

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Lely-DianaKirke

Hortense-Mancini1675

There was a weird practice at that time of having portraits of royal — and some aristocratic — mistresses painted with one or both breasts displayed. The pictures were usually kept in the private chambers of the mistresses’ patrons but they were all done by the same artists who painted all of the formal (non-breast-exposed) portraits of royalty and aristocracy. Most of the breast-exposed portraits done during the Restoration period were painted by Peter Lely, a Dutch artist who became official court painter for Charles II. Lely ran what was essentially a high-end production line: He would paint the faces of his subjects, then hand the work over to assistants to fill in the clothing and background. So what do you do when the exposed breast(s) is/are an essential (expressive?) feature of the portrait? I assume Lely also painted the breasts but maybe not — in some topless portraits of Nell Gwyn, Barbara Villiers and others the breast depiction varies substantially. Go figure. The above portraits, by the way, are of (in order) Nell Gwyn, Diana Kirke and Hortense Mancini.

 

Here is a list of Charles II’s principal mistresses, in the rough order in which they entered his life:

1. Lucy Walter, a Welsh noblewoman, was described as a “brown, beautiful, bold but insipid creature” and a “beautiful strumpet.” She became Charles’ mistress while he was in exile in Europe and gave birth in 1649 to one son who Charles acknowledged as his own. After the Restoration, Charles created that son the Duke of Monmouth and there were later, unsuccessful attempts to claim the throne for Monmouth when Charles II died. Sarah, Duchess of York — Fergie — is a descendant of Lucy Walter through the Duke of Monmouth.

2. Elizabeth Killigrew was maid of honour to Charles’ mother and the sister of Charles’ master of revels during his exile. She gave birth in 1650 to one daughter, Charlotte Jemima FitzRoy, acknowledged by Charles. Elizabeth Killigrew was married at the time to Francis Boyle, fourth son of the Earl of Cork. After the Restoration, Charles made Boyle 1st Viscount Shannon in recompense and thus Elizabeth Killigrew became Viscountess Shannon.

3. Catherine Pegge was considered a great beauty of her day although no known portraits of her survive. She also met Charles during his exile and became one of his long-term mistresses. They had two children, a boy named Charles FitzCharles (later 1st Earl of Plymouth) and daughter Catherine FitzCharles.

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4. Barbara Villiers, as we have already noted, was one of the most notable of Charles mistresses. Like the previous others, she first met Charles (and slept with him) while he was in exile in Europe, but he was much closer to the throne by the time he bedded her. Villiers accompanied her new husband, Roger Palmer, to The Hague in 1659 as part of the English delegation working out the details of Charles imminent Restoration. She would remain one of the king’s mistresses for the next 15 years and bear him five children before being pushed aside in the religious feuding of the period (she had become a Roman Catholic). As Charles had other mistresses at the same time as Barbara Villiers, so she had other affairs while with Charles. Among the other men in her life were her cousin John Churchill (an ancestor of Winston Churchill), acrobat Jacob Hall and Cardonell Goodman, described as “an actor of terrible reputation,” with whom she had her sixth child after Charles cast her out of his inner circle.

As I told you earlier, Barbara Villiers and Charles II started one of the family lines that eventually gave birth to Diana, Princess of Wales. Diana’s great-great grandmother, Adelaide Seymour, married the 4th Earl of Spencer in 1854. And Adelaide’s great-great-great-grandfather was Henry FitzRoy, 1st Duke of Grafton and third-born son of King Charles II and Barbara Villiers.

nel-gwyn

5. Nell Gwynn, the actress who rose from the gutter to the king’s bedchamber, is probably now the most famous of Charles II’s many mistresses. She was certainly the most beloved by the British public back in the day, mainly because of her common touch and generosity. Nell became one of Charles’ two principal mistresses after Barbara Villiers’ influence waned in the late 1660s. Like most of Charles’ other mistresses she bore him children. The elder was Charles Beauclerk, born in 1670, who the king made Earl of Burford and later Duke of St Albans. A second son, James, was born in 1671 and he became Lord Beauclerk.

Nell Gwyn first came to the attention of Charles in 1668 when, as an 18-year-old, the bouncing beauty with oodles of personality and a bawdy sense of humour was the star of  a series of Restoration comedies and dramas. The king took a fancy to the actress and, as randy, tell-all courtier Samuel Pepys wrote in his diary, “did send several times for Nelly.”

Nell was soon living in a royal palace, swiving the king (or being swiven — I’m not sure of the correct usage here) in a silver bed for which she billed the royal purse £1,135 (more than $200,000 in today’s money) and ordering three barrels of fresh oysters a week — again at the public expense.

But she was good-hearted and good-spirited, we’re told, and the British people seemed to enjoy her robust sexuality as much as the king did. Her great rival in the 1670s (who we will get to next) was a French Catholic courtesan who was hated by the largely anti-Catholic English public.

Once, a mob began roughing up the footmen carrying her sedan chair in the erroneous belief that Nell Gwyn’s French Catholic rival was aboard. Nell supposedly pulled aside the curtain and calmed the crowd with these words: “Pray, good people, be civil. You are mistaken — I am the Protestant whore.”

Charles kept Nell Gwyn living in luxury until his death in 1685. His last words to his brother and successor, James II, were said to be “Let not poor Nelly starve.”

Nell Gwyn lived only two years longer than Charles II, dying at age 37 of a series of strokes.

Louise-de-Keroualle

6. Louise de Kerouaille was the French courtesan who was Nell Gwyn’s great rival for Charles II’s affections in the 1670s and ’80s. She came from a family of French aristocrats that would later include the Marquis de Sade and she was probably a spy — certainly an agent of influence — for the French in the English court. But she was beautiful and charmed the pants off Charles (literally) and would maintain a hold on Charles’ affections until his death. Charles lavished money and titles on Louise de Kerouaille. She was most prominently known as the Duchess of Portsmouth, although Nell Gwyn dubbed her Squintabella.

De Kerouaille and Charles had one son, Charles Lennox, given the titles Duke of Richmond and Duke of Lennox at the ripe old age of three.

And it is through this young duke that Diana, Camilla and Sarah, Duchess of York all share the same bloodlines connected back to Charles II and his mistress Louise de Kerouaille.

There were many other woman, of course, who held the king’s attention for shorter spans of time. Among them:

Moll Davis, another actress, who bore Charles one daughter. Nell Gwyn felt one actress was enough in the king’s life and was able to manoeuvre Davis out of official favour in the early 1670s.

HortenseMancini

Then there was Hortense Mancini, daughter of a minor Italian aristocrat, who later became another agent of influence for the French in the English court of Charles II. Hortense was married off to one of the richest men in Europe, the Duc de la Meilleraye, at the age of 15 and bore the eccentric, unpleasant duc four children before the age of 20.

Abandoning those children, Hortense ran away from her husband at age 22 and eventually became the mistress of the Duke of Savoy. When that duke died, she ended up in Paris and was recruited to go to London with the express purpose of seducing Charles.

Since that was never a very difficult task, Hortense succeeded and, for a while in the mid- 1670s, replaced both Nell Gwyn and Louise de Kerouaille as the king’s favourite.

Hortense eventually fell from favour, partly because of the manoeuvring of de Kerouaille, but also because of her penchant for carrying on affairs behind Charles’ back with lovers of both sexes — including Charles’ own illegitimate daughter by Barbara Villiers, the Countess of Sussex. Less politically damaging but possibly more interesting was her lesbian relationship with Aphra Behn, one of the few professional women poets and playwrights of that age. Aphra Behn also had an earlier relationship with Charles, but it was as a spy against his enemies in Holland rather than as a lover.

But Charles had no shortage of other lovers, usually ladies of the court like Winifred Wells, one of the queen’s maids of honour. Winifred was once described as having  “the physiognomy of a dreamy sheep” and seemed to be accepted as a harmless lump by the other mistresses and even by the queen, who kept her on as a lady-in-waiting for years after Charles’ death. She had at least one child by Charles.

And Christabella Wyndham. And Elizabeth Berkeley, Dowager Countess of Falmouth. And Elizabeth Fitgerald, Countess of Kildare. And Diana Kirke, Countess of Oxford. The list goes on and on. It’s seemingly endless.

It’s hard to figure out how Charles had time to run a government and a kingdom. Oh, that’s right, he didn’t — the diarist Samuel Pepys reported frequently about how the king kept his ministers of state and foreign diplomats hanging around for hours while he played with his concubines and little dogs.

And Charles was always looking out for fresh blood. Pepys recounts the story of Lady Frances Stuart, who was forced to flee the court because “she could no longer continue without prostituting herself to the King” and noted Charles had taken liberties with her “more than he ought.”

So there you have it — the playboy king taking what he wanted and tossing it away when he was done. Not much of a royal role model. It’s no wonder that no other British monarch took the moniker “Charles” for the next three centuries and more.

And even though Charles II was known as “the Merry Monarch,” I really think he was a nasty bugger for the way he treated his queen, Catherine.

She endured insult and abuse and infinite mental cruelty, but yet she endured. In the end she outlived Charles. And after suffering three miscarriages, she was left barren and — despite his squadrons of bastards — Charles was left with no legitimate heirs.

His younger brother James assumed the throne. And was so unloved and suspect among the British people — the English, anyway — that James’ daughter Mary and her Protestant Dutch husband, William of Orange, were invited to invade the country. Which they did. But that’s another story.

Of course James kept a coterie of mistresses too. And even Protestant King Billy did later. Which led to this exclamation during the crowning of a German prince as king of England on Oct. 20, 1714 after William’s death.

 

‘Good God, who would have thought that we three whores should have met here!’

— The Countess of Dorchester , mistress of James II, on encountering the Duchess of Portsmouth, mistress of Charles II, and the Countess of Orkney, mistress of William III, at the coronation of George I. 

 

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1 comment

  1. Elaine says:

    I just finished reading this blog. Thank you sir..well done!
    I did enjoy English history as a student, but, would have learnt so much more to have had a teacher with your
    wonderful sense of humour and use of adjectives!
    This is a delightful pieces…again “THANK YOU!!” :~)

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