Mistresses of King Charles II: Barbara Villiers

BarbaraVilliers
Barbara Villiers

Charles Stuart loved women…even before he became King of England. We’re going to take a look at the women who Charles bedded, had children with but didn’t wed during his lifetime (that I’m aware of). This week we’re learning about Barbara Villiers.

Barbara Villiers: 27 November – 9 October 1709

Diarist, Sam Pepys recorded often about Barbara’s beauty and her influence on the King and then writes, “I know well enough she is a whore”.

Barbara Villiers, later Countess of Castlemaine and Duchess of Cleveland was another beauty with a less than beautiful disposition. Barbara, a Viscount’s daughter, was already married when she met Charles soon after his return to England in 1660. When Charles’ future queen, Catherine of Braganza arrived from Portugal in 1662, Barbara appears to have been heavily pregnant by him. She gave birth to a son on 18 June, five weeks after Catherine’s arrival. That same day, the Queen visited Barbara in her apartment at Hampton Court, and was so shocked to see the newborn child that she threw a fit and had to be carried out. – The Mistresses of Charles II (Britannia)

Barbara was also described as “Tall, voluptuous, with masses of brunette hair, slanting, heavy-lidded violet eyes, alabaster skin, and a sensuous, sulky mouth” as she was described by in Antonia Fraser’s book, Charles II.

Barbara had six children – of which five were acknowledged by Charles. She had three boys and two girls.The identity of the father of her youngest child, Barbara Fitzroy is uncertain, but may have been John Churchill.

Children:

Anne Lennard, Countess of Sussex:  25 February 1661 – 16 May 1721 or 1722
Charles Fitzroy, 2nd Duke of Cleveland:  18 June 1662 – 9 September 1730
Henry Fitzroy, 1st Duke of Grafton:  28 September 1663 – 9 October 1690
Charlotte Lee, Countess of Litchfield:  5 September 1664 – 17 February 1718
George Fitzroy, 1st Duke of Northumberland:  28 December 1665 – 28 June 1716
Barbara Fitzroy (disputed):  16 July 1672 – 6 May 1737

Barbara was also extravagant. After a childhood of deprivation, she was making up for it big time. It wasn’t uncommon for her to wear 30,000 pounds worth of jewelry to the theater and then to lose the same amount at the gaming tables later that night. The King deeded over the Tudor palace of Nonesuch to Barbara which she proceeded to have dismantled, the contents sold. Eventually she was unable to keep up her London residence, and was forced to sell the contents of her home at Cheam. – The King’s Whore: Barbara Villier, 1st Duchess of Cleveland

Charles had an interesting relationship with Barbara. She was not the only of his mistresses to not be faithful to Charles, he used to visit her at least four nights a week. When her son Henry Fitzroy was born in 1663, Charles denied he was the father. This did not seem to change their relationship and it appears that Charles accepted Henry as his own.

When Charles and Barbara argued she was not afraid of threatening him – she must have felt safe in her position to do so to a man in such a powerful position. During another pregnancy Charles denied paternity and Barbara threatened to “dash the infant’s brains out” if he did not accept it. Charles is said to have went down on his knees to be ‘pardoned’ for his suspicions.

In the end Barbara demanded too much, had a temper so fierce and her infidelities so bold that Charles eventually tired of her. In the Spring of 1677, she left for Paris.

References:

http://www.pepysdiary.com/encyclopedia/1062/
http://ncartmuseum.org/blog/view/the_uncrowned_queen_returns
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barbara_Palmer,_1st_Duchess_of_Cleveland#cite_ref-5
http://scandalouswoman.blogspot.com/2007/10/kings-whore-barbara-palmer-1st-duchess.html
http://www.britannia.com/history/charmist.html

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