Nell Gwyn: Mistress to a King by Charles Beauclerk, Hardcover | Barnes & Noble
Nell Gwyn: Mistress to a King

Nell Gwyn: Mistress to a King

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by Charles Beauclerk
     
 

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Beautiful, quick-witted and sexually magnetic, Nell Gwyn remains one of England's great heroines. The story of her incredible rise from an impoverished, abusive childhood to the wealth and connections that came with being King Charles II's most cherished mistress is one of the greatest love stories of Royal history.

Nell Gwyn was famously spotted selling

Overview

Beautiful, quick-witted and sexually magnetic, Nell Gwyn remains one of England's great heroines. The story of her incredible rise from an impoverished, abusive childhood to the wealth and connections that came with being King Charles II's most cherished mistress is one of the greatest love stories of Royal history.

Nell Gwyn was famously spotted selling oranges in the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. The job was already an improvement for a girl who grew up in a brothel and sold oysters on the street. Her wit and charm brought her to the attention of numerous suitors, including one of the theater's leading actors, Charles Hart. Under his patronage she took to the stage, where she caught the eye of King Charles II, the newly restored, pleasure seeking "merry monarch" of a nation in full hedonistic reaction to Puritan rule. Their seventeen-year love affair played out against the backdrop of the Great Fire of London, the Great Plague, court scandals, and the constant threat of political revolution. Despite his other lovers' Machiavellian efforts to win the King's favor and humiliate Nell, the self-proclaimed "Protestant whore" earned the devotion of her king and the love of her nation, becoming England's first "people's princess."

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
British historian Beauclerk, a descendant of King Charles II and his longtime mistress Nell Gwyn (1650-1687), draws on earlier biographies, contemporary satires and plays, noted diarist Samuel Pepys and family archives to present a lively portrait of his famous forebears, along with an account of the theater of the time and the surprisingly parallel worlds of prostitutes and royal mistresses. Along the way, he renders an awfully generous reading of the royal cause and argues that Charles led the Restoration out of joie de vivre as much as for the sake of the monarchy. Beauclerk posits that the king's amorous adventures-particularly with women of lower classes-endeared him to his people after dismal years of Puritan restrictions. Nell's rise was meteoric: selling refreshments in London theaters, she honed a quick wit that led to an acting career and brought her to the attention of the king. Nell was never Charles's only mistress, but she was faithful to him and amused him by playing the fool. Beauclerk's historical insights have a personal flair that indicates his family's take on their ancestors. He ends with an odd history of his troubled family, suggesting its problematic twin inheritances from king and actress. 16 pages of color illus. not seen by PW. Agent, Natasha Fairweather, U.K. (Oct.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
This is a thoroughly engaging biography of the notorious mistress of Charles II, told by direct ancestor Beauclerk. Nell Gwyn famously began her career as an orange girl in London's theater district in the mid-1600s, when Britain was rebelling against the Puritan ethos of Cromwell's reign. After she caught Charles's always wandering eye, she became his most devoted mistress. The aristocracy despised her for her low social status, but she was wildly popular with others. Beauclerk's access to previously unpublished primary sources, including family documents, makes his the definitive biography of Nell Gwyn among the many available. Although he occasionally supposes what people were thinking or feeling, he displays wit and faithful adherence to historical detail.His analysis of Restoration England is superb, as is his ability to convey Nell's charm and sharp wit. Interestingly, the last chapter chronicles the effect of Nell's "low-class whore" status on her descendants. With an extensive bibliography and entertaining end notes; recommended for most libraries. (Illustrations not seen.)-B. Allison Gray, John Jermain Memorial Lib., Sag Harbor, NY Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Nell Gwyn, daughter of a boozy, brawling bawd and a missing father, rises to fame on the English stage and to fortune in the court of her lover, King Charles II. In this uneven debut, Beauclerk, a direct descendent of Gwyn and Charles II (a dull 27-page epilogue charts the three-and-a-half-century Beauclerk history), examines the sometimes sordid lives of his randy Restoration ancestors. Beauclerk does not favor understatement. On the first, page he declares that the relationship between Nell and Charles was "one of the great love stories of our history," and that it had a "mythic" dimension. He succeeds only moderately in marshaling supporting evidence. There is very little known, for example, about Gwyn's childhood, and so the author invites us to imagine it along with him. To add flesh to the very few bones he has unearthed, he writes much about the English Civil War, the death of Oliver Cromwell, the Great Fire. Beauclerk describes Restoration playhouses, menus, clothing, houses, medical practices, religious and political conflicts and intrigues. He quotes from Pepys' diary and scandal sheets and some letters. He offers long summaries of the plays Gwyn appeared in. He tells the stories of Gwyn's rivals, both on and off the stage. By all accounts, she was a dazzling young actress, a crowd favorite, and her rise from an urchin selling oranges to headliner to bedmate of a sovereign has appeal. The volume of detail increases when Gwyn is picked as one of the King's official lovers, as court record-keepers charted her possessions, her expenses (she was not a lucky gambler) and her comings and goings. These chapters are the richest. Beauclerk's style is conversational (most chapters havefewer than ten endnotes), trite at times and even adolescent-there is a naughty pun about "members" standing up in church. Such a compelling subject demands a better telling.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780871139269
Publisher:
Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
Publication date:
10/10/2005
Pages:
432
Product dimensions:
6.44(w) x 9.38(h) x 1.39(d)

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