Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Court of King Charles II

Sibelle Stone

When King Charles I was disposed, and then executed in 1649, his son, Charles Stuart II, was forced into exile. He traveled to France and the court of his cousin, Louis XIV to Germany and the Spanish Netherlands. He lived an impoverished life of wandering as the King without a country.

After Oliver Cromwell’s death, the Protectorate, the government controlling England, was weak and dissolving. The restoration of the monarchy was achieved without war in May 1660, as Charles II returned to London to march triumphantly back into the streets as crowds cheered him.

Charles II was a popular king, as he reopened the theatres, hosted an opulent (and many said lurid and hedonistic court), enjoyed good food, fine wine, gambling and beautiful women. He was tall, dark-haired and was said to possess charisma Also, he was the King of England.

Although he married Catherine of Braganza of Portugal in 1662, despite several miscarriages, they never had any children together. Charles II did sire fourteen illegitimate children, but at his death, his brother James was his designated heir.

Among the many loves of Charles II,one of  his longest relationships was with Barbara Villiers, Countess of Castlemaine and later Duchess of Cleveland. The ferocious and demanding Duchess  had a fiery temper, and she was never faithful to her lover. She conceived three children while at court at Whitehall, but there is some question as to the paternity. She was exiled to Paris in 1677.

Perhaps one of the most beloved of King Charles II’s many loves was the actress Nell Gwynne. She grew up in an impoverished state, was an orange girl, (selling oranges at the Duke’s House theatre when they met in 1668). Nell was loyal to her lover, gave birth to two illegitimate sons and created a salon for him in the homes he gave her. She often used her influence in the cause of others, and petitioned him to fund the Royal Hospital for injured soldiers.

On his deathbed in 1685,King Charles II begged his brother and successor, James  “Do not let poor Nelly starve.” James generously paid Nell's debts and gave her an allowance, but it was not for long. Nell at the age of 37 in 1687, just two years after her beloved King.

Like a fairy tale maiden rising from the ashes to the castle, Nell Gwynne became something of a legend, as a good-natured charmer, and an ordinary girl from the slums who ended up not with the Prince, but with the King.

In my recent release, "Whistle Down the Wind" the setting is 1664 England, but not the court of King Charles II, although references are made to it. The heroine’s older sister, Aelwyd, has visited court, and the hero, Sir Griffin Reynolds is a member of the King’s Coldstream Guards. While he’s been at court, he’s on a secret mission to scout out a Puritan plot in the colony of Jamestown to once again dispose the King of England.

Like the court of King Charles, the story is filled with action, adventure and sensuality


  1. What a nice history lesson. Great post. Whistle Down Below sounds awesome!

  2. What a fascinating history--such an interesting backdrop for your story. Whistle Down the Wind sounds like a fabulously compelling read. In fact, I must buy a copy tonight!