There is no doubt, the court of King Charles II of England was decadent. This book tells the entire story of this hedonistic king, beginning from his youth in England, through his exile in Europe, his restoration to the throne of England and up until his death. Every mistress is covered here and not just for the king. Pritchard details the lives of some of the noteworthy men of the era such as Charles’ brother, James, Duke of York, George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, and John Wilmot, second Earl of Rochester among others.
All of these men had many mistresses. Some of them are famous such as Barbara Palmer, Lady Castlemaine and Duchess of Cleveland, Louise-Renee Keroualle, Duchess of Portsmouth, Hortense Mancini, the actresses Moll Davis and Nell Gwyn and Charles’ early liaison with Lucy Walter. The Duke of York took as his mistress Anne Hyde, daughter of the Chancellor Edward Hyde and made her his wife, marrying her in secret. Duels were fought over some of these women. The Queen’s Ladies-in-Waiting were fair game as well as the maids and servants.
What’s different about this book is that the author is a specialist in seventeenth century and modern literature. He points out how many writers, poets, and playwrights chronicled all of these liaisons in their poetry, lyrics and drama. Many of these are quoted in the book. It gives us insight into how other ordinary folk viewed the libertines at court as well as the women. I have to admit, after a while, reading about all these affairs became a little tedious. But the quoting of contemporary literature makes this book unique and it is worthwhile if the reader is interested in the subject.
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