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nell gwynn meets the king
by rc dewinter
- Artist Notes
- © 2010 RC deWinter ~ All Rights Reserved ~ ~
The leading comic actress during the Restoration, Nell Gwynn took to the stage in 1665 at the age of fifteen. So delighted with her talents was Samuel Pepys that he described her as ‘pretty, witty Nell’ and lavishly praised her performance in a comedy called Secret Love, or the Maiden Queen. The playwright Dryden advanced her stage career by writing the type of roles she excelled in especially for her. ~ ~
It is as one of the many mistresses of Charles II that Nell is best remembered, however. Her saucy personality and wit caught the eye of ‘the Merry Monarch’; in addition, Londoners loved Nell for never pretending to be other than who and what she was. Legend has it that her coach was riding through the crowded lanes of London and the people, thinking it was the carriage of the King’s unpopular French Catholic mistress, Louise de Kérouaille, hurled mud and abuse at the equipage. Nell opened the curtain, stuck out her head and cried, ‘Pray good people, be civil. I am the Protestant whore.’ ~ ~
Nell bore Charles two sons; the second, James, died at a very young age while at school in France but the eldest, Charles, was created Earl of Burford by the King. ~ ~
Nell Gwynn spent seven years in the theater, retiring in 1671, and enjoyed a comfortable but short life. She died from the after-effects of two strokes when she was only thirty-seven years old. ~ ~
Here we see Nell Gwynn curtsying to an unseen King Charles at the theater in Lincoln’s Inns Fields in 1668, where he first noticed her.
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