Sunday, February 5, 2012

King Charles II, a Randy Rowley Monarch

by Katherine Pym

King Charles II loved women. He loved sex. Most historical fiction and nonfiction books state this. 

He had a wife who could not go full term in her pregnancies, which Charles mourned, but he received solace throughout the years with his many mistresses.  
He had, according to my count, fourteen mistresses and fourteen illegitimate children. A few mistresses gave King Charles II a ‘quiver full’ of children, whilst others gave him little or none.  

With so many mistresses (sometimes more than one at a time), the king enlisted Sir Henry Bennet, 1st Earl of Arlington, to help. Charles used Bennet as the procurer and management of the royal mistresses to keep things steady in the royal bedchamber.

Not always satisfied with his mistresses or wife, women from local surrounds were hustled up the privy stairs to Randy Rowley’s bedchamber. There they stayed a few hours for romps and frolics, then sent packing.

The king had problems with his mistresses. He had been heard to complain how frustrating it was for them to find other lovers or go back to their husbands. Apparently, what was good for the goose was not so good for the gander.

We know of his mistresses Barbara Villiers, Nell Gwynn, and Louise de Kéroualle (whom the king called ‘Fubbs’ which meant chubby). But I like the following, either more interesting or lesser known:

According to Alison Weir, the mother of Charles’s firstborn was Marguerite de Carteret, the daughter of George de Carteret of Jersey in the Channel Islands. Born 1646, the child was christened James, his official father being Jean de la Cloche. He is often referred to as James de Carteret. As a Protestant, James was educated in France and the Netherlands. Records state he died 1667.

Lucy Walter, who Charles met whilst in The Hague. John Evelyn described her as ‘brown, beautiful, bold, but insipid’. Born in a Welsh Royalist family, she was with Charles in 1648, and gave birth to a son also named James in 1649, only months after Charles I had been beheaded. Lucy died in Paris 1658, they believe from syphilis.

Lucy’s child was known as James Scott, originally called James Crofts or James Fitzroy. His royal father ‘recognized him’ in 1663, and the Crown bestowed upon him the title: Duke of Monmouth. This son turned leader when he tried to unseat his uncle, King James II, who openly practiced Roman Catholicism, whilst, he, the Duke of Monmouth was Protestant, and son of Charles II. He felt he was the rightful heir to the throne. The Duke of Monmouth was executed as a traitor 1685 after the battle of Sedgemoor.

Elizabeth Killigrew the sister of Thomas Killigrew of theatre renown. Thomas and his sister spent time in exile with the king. Thomas became Master of Revels while Elizabeth was maid-of-honor to Charles’s mother. Married to Francis Boyle, 1st Viscount Shannon, Elizabeth cuckolded him. She gave birth to a Charles’s daughter in 1650, named Charlotte Jemima Henrietta Maria FitzRoy.

Catherine Pegge, Lady Greene, came from the Pegge family of Yeldersley in Derbyshire. She bore Charles II a son named Charles FitzCharles in 1657.

Hortense Mancini, Duchess of Mazarin. This woman’s life is one made for a rollicking historical fiction novel. She was born 1646 as Ortensia in Rome to Baron Lorenzo Mancini, an Italian aristocrat. After the baron died, Hortense’s mother took her children to Paris where her brother, Cardinal Mazarin, lived in wealth and power.
Hortense was thirteen when she met Charles in exile. He proposed to her, but Hortense’s uncle, Cardinal Mazarin, refused the suit believing Charles had no prospects. At fifteen, Hortense was married to one of the wealthiest men in Europe, but she was young and wild. She found the marriage too constricting. At sixteen, Hortense launched into a lesbian affair with Sidonie de Courcelles.

The marriage failed, and Hortense over the years became a courtesan to wealthy nobility. By the late 1670’s she found herself in England and replaced Louise as Charles’s mistress. Due to her promiscuity and open bisexuality (she had affairs other than with the king, which irritated him), it didn’t take long to lose favor with Charles II. Once she was cast adrift, Charles went back to Barbara Palmer. Although never again intimate, the king and Hortense remained friends.

Other mistresses less known and some alleged:

Winifred Wells - one of the Queen's Maids of Honour
Jane Roberts – daughter of a clergyman
Mary Sackville – the possible illegitimate daughter of Charles Sackville, 6th Earl of Dorset and 1st Earl of Middlesex
Elizabeth Fitzgerald - the second wife of the 18th earl of Kildare
Elizabeth Berkeley - née Bagot, Dowager Countess of Falmouth, and widow of Charles Berkeley, 1st Earl of Falmouth
Mrs Knight - a famous singer
Christabella Wyndham - the royal nurse who had once been Charles’s wet nurse.  

Katherine Pym is the author of several historical novels set in London 1660's. For more information, see


  1. Interesting post! Thank you. I'm quite interested to learn more about Hortense Mancini - I love her name!

    1. Hortense's husband was completely insane, and finally left him & became a courtesan. Bryan Bevan has written a book abt her ("The Duchess Hortense: Cardinal Mazarin's wanton niece") & Elizabeth Goldsmith has written a new book abt Hortense & her sisters ( via @amazon).

  2. Interesting post, and yes, with a name like Hortense Mancine - she should either be a premiership football player or a premiership manager!

  3. I'm especially stunned Charles would have a sexual affair with his once upon a time wet nurse.

  4. He certainly was merry, wasn't he? The wet nurse thing is very odd! I read a very romanticized novel about Lucy Walters many years ago-I always felt rather sorry for her, as she seemed to have been left between a rock and a hard place, unlike a lot of the other mistresses.

  5. My, my! The man truly did love women and fortunately for him, he had a staff to deal with the traffic congestion on the backstairs.

    Thanks for sharing!

  6. A wealth of interesting stories here, Katherine. Jane Roberts for one!


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