The king and his ladies

Samuel Pepys diaries gave us a view of the English Restoration unlike any other. It was the work of a slightly demented genius who described sex, Sundays, scandals, fires, plagues, office politics and marital discords in a manner that spared no one, least of all himself…

—The new queen was lost in a jungle of gossip and immorality. She was surrounded by languid, dissipated women: a demimonde circled around her, wearing gowns that receded from fragrant bosoms like silken tides, with hooded eyes that glittered with a constellation of sensuality.
The names of Catherine’s competitors survive, evocative memories of a time when women decorated the court like cats – glinting, sleek, purring with danger:
Nell Gwyn – an actress at fifteen, and a beloved commedienne. She specialized in ‘breeches roles’: wearing male costume to show off her pleasing, hidden figure. She became the royal mistress at eighteen. On his deathbed, Charles pleaded, “Let not poor Nelly starve”.—Read More:

“The King do mind nothing but pleasures, and hates the very sight or thoughts of business,” wrote Pepys, the diligent civil servant, of the monarch, Charles II. An incurable reader and cynic, the King set the tone for his court by filling it with his mistresses. Pepys was only an onlooker, but he was near enough to hear the choice gossip, including what happened when Lady Castlemaine and Mrs. Stuart engaged in a “frolic that they two must be married- and married they were, with ring and all other ceremonies of church service, and ribbons and a sack posset in bed… but in the close, it is said that my lady Castlemaine, who was the bridegroom,rose, and the King came and took her place.”

—Moll Davis (according to Pepy’s wife, “the most impertinent slut in the world”) – was another royal choice taken from the theater. Moll was a clever singer and dancer; from the stage lit with candles, above the tiny cries of the orange girls, she was a tempting bundle of wit, garters and petticoats.—Read More:

An amorist in his own right, Pepys himself was infatuated with Lady Castlemaine and “filled my eyes with her” when he sat near her at the theatre. What did irk him was the King’s habit of taking mere actresses, like Nell Gwynn and Moll Davis, for mistreses, which is “very mean,methinks, in a prince.” For Charles’s Portuguese wife, Catherine, Pepys had great admiration. Still, he admitted, “she is not very charming.”

—Charlotte Lee Countess of Lichfield daughter of Charles II and Barbara Villiers,with her mother,Henry Gascard—Barbara Villiers, Lady Castlemaine, was the King’s favorite for fourteen years….Read More:

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