Mistresses : Sex and Scandal at the Court of Charles II

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According to the great diarist, John Evelyn, Charles II was 'addicted to women', and throughout his long reign a great many succumbed to his charms. Clever, urbane and handsome, Charles presided over a hedonistic court, in which licence and licentiousness prevailed.

Mistresses is the story of the women who shared Charles's bed, each of whom wielded influence on both the politics and cultural life of the country. From the young king-in-exile's first mistress and mother to his first child, Lucy Walter, to the promiscuous and ill-tempered courtier, Barbara Villiers. From Frances Teresa Stuart, 'the prettiest girl in the world' to history's most famous orange-seller, 'pretty, witty' Nell Gwynn and to her fellow-actress, Moll Davis, who bore the last of the king's fifteen illegitimate children. From Louise de Keroualle, the French aristocrat - and spy for Louis XIV - to the sexually ambiguous Hortense Mancini. Here, too, is the forlorn and humiliated Queen Catherine, the Portuguese princess who was Charles's childless queen.

Drawing on a wide variety of original sources, including material in private archives, Linda Porter paints a vivid picture of these women and of Restoration England, an era that was both glamorous and sordid.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 304 pages
  • 162 x 241 x 35mm | 544g
  • Picador
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 16pp colour plates
  • 1509877053
  • 9781509877058
  • 344,959

Table of contents

Section - i: Author's Note Section - ii: The Illegitimate Children of Charles II Section - iii: Prologue Unit - 1: Companions in Exile - Lucy Walter, 1630-58 Chapter - 1: 'Mrs Barlow' Chapter - 2: The Trouble with Lucy Chapter - 3: Marking Time Unit - 2: The Lady - Barbara Villiers, 1640-1709 Chapter - 4: 'That blooming beauty' Chapter - 5: The Royal Whore Chapter - 6: The Duchess Unit - 3: The Queen - Catherine of Braganza, 1638-1705 Chapter - 7: A Wealthy Wife Chapter - 8: 'Full of sweetness and goodness' Unit - 4: 'His Coy Mistress' - Frances Teresa Stuart, 1647-1702 Chapter - 9: La Belle Stuart Chapter - 10: The One Who Got Away Unit - 5: The Stage and the Throne - Nell Gwyn, 1651(?)-87 Chapter - 11: From Bawdy House to the King's Bed Chapter - 12: The Protestant Whore Unit - 6: Baby Face - Louise de Keroualle, 1649-1734 Chapter - 13: La Bretonne Chapter - 14: Mrs Carwell Chapter - 15: The Exclusion Crisis Unit - The Cardinal's Niece - Hortense Mancini, 1646-99: 7 Chapter - 16: An Italian Girl in Paris Chapter - 17: The Last Mistress Section - iv: Epilogue Unit - v: Notes Section - vi: Select Bibliography Section - vii: Picture Acknowledgements Index - viii: Index
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Review quote

In telling the story of Charles's mistresses, Porter skillfully interweaves the politics with the passion . . . an enlightening read. -- Tracy Borman * The Sunday Times * The lives of these seven women make a terrific story and Porter tells it well. -- Andrew Taylor * The Times * A fresh look at Charles' reign through the many women who shared his bed. * The Herald * Historians have long been obsessed with the sexual shenanigans of Charles II . . . This salacious story is delivered with a suitable mix of seriousness and mirth, but there's also appropriate pathos: poor Catherine, wife of the randy king, is the tragic heroine of this delightful romp. * The Times, Best History Books of the Year 2020 * A stunning romp through the sexual court politics of the Restoration! Linda Porter's pacy book offers a balanced and revealing account of the mistresses of Charles II, and of his long-suffering wife. It's a vivid historical page-turner with the enigmatic figure of the King at its core, in turns funny, tragic and eye-popping, and a seamless blend of state affairs and scandal. Linda Porter's grasp of the period is masterful. -- Alison Weir In her [Linda Porter's] hands the lives and characters of the women who shaped the reputation of the Restoration court emerge as far more discrete and individual than the identikit line-up of Lely beauties whose portraits are one of the most recognizable identifiers of the period . . . It is testament to Porter's skill as a historian that by the end of Mistresses the darkness at the heart of the brilliant Restoration court is so bleakly exposed. -- Lisa Hilton * Spectator * Engaging and well-researched . . . One of the book's strengths is Porter's uncompromisingly impartial treatment of the king while discussing the lives of the key women in his life. * Literary Review *
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About Linda Porter

Linda Porter has a doctorate in History from the University of York, where she studied early modern English and French history under the late Professor Gwyn Williams. She was the winner of the 2004 Biographers Club/Daily Mail Prize, which helped launch her on a new career as an author. She is the author of several works of historical biography including, Mary Tudor: The First Queen, Katherine the Queen, Crown of Thistles and Royal Renegades. She is a regular contributor to BBC History Magazine and History Today. She lives in Kent.
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Rating details

148 ratings
3.89 out of 5 stars
5 20% (30)
4 53% (79)
3 23% (34)
2 2% (3)
1 1% (2)
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