Review : Charles II’s Favourite Mistress

Charles II’s Favourite Mistress
Pretty, Witty Nell Gwyn
Auteur: Sarah-Beth Watkins
Uitgever : Pen & Sword Books Ltd

Nell Gwyn, the most infamous mistress of Charles II, was a commoner raised from the dingy back alleys of London to the stage and into a king’s arms. Hers was a true rags to riches story that saw a young girl rise from selling oranges to capturing the heart of a king. The Restoration period was one of change. After the troubled years of the English Civil War, it was time for pleasure, debauchery and entertainment with the ‘Merry Monarch’ restored to the throne. Nell was one of the first actresses on stage; a loveable comedienne who wowed audiences with her wit and charm. She fell in love with Charles Hart (one of the leading actors of the time), had a torrid affair with Lord Buckhurst and ultimately ended up in the king’s bed. She stayed on the stage for six years, but she stayed in the king’s heart for seventeen – his only mistress who was faithful to him. Set against the backdrop of Restoration London, this book charts Nell’s life and that of her family and friends – from her drunken mother and troublesome sister to the most notorious wits of the age John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester and George Villiers, 2nd Duke of Buckingham. Nell had a generous heart and a mischievous spirit, and was friends with people from all walks of life. The only woman she really detested was another of the king’s mistresses, Louise de Kerouaille, known as the French Spy. This highly entertaining book will tell the story of Nell’s life – the good and the bad – and show why Nell truly embodies the spirit of the Restoration.

In this book, we are introduced to Nell Gwyn, the mistress of King Charles II. Nell Gwyn was one of the first English actresses to become famous. She became best known for being a long-time mistress of King Charles II of England and Scotland. Nell became a mistress of Charles II in 1669. From Charles II she had two sons: Charles Beauclerk, Duke of St Albans and James Beauclerk. Nell spent the rest of her life entertaining the king and his friends.

Charles II’s Favourite Mistress is a very well researched book of Nell Gwynn. We are walking along with Nell, as it were. From her early childhood, working on the land, her career as an actress, coming into the picture with the king, not much later as the king’s mistress. Charles had more women around him, but Nell was always loyal to him. Apparently it was true love on her part.

The book is easy to read. The author has a smooth writing style. In addition, the book is an excellent study book. It contains a lot of information about Nell, but also about the time period. Until recently I didn’t really have a clue who Nell Gwyn was, only seeing her name in other books. By reading this book, the knowledge has expanded again. The book is captivating from start to finish. It also looks complete as a biography, with the images of Nell, Charles II etc., the extras’ appendix’s and a bibliography contribute to that.

In summary : Charles II’s Favorite Mistress is a compact but complete biography. A book that makes the unknown known. Biographies can often be dull and dusty, but that is not the case with this book. It is an engaging and educational book. Definitely recommended for those interested in the English monarchy and its history.

I would like to thank Pen & Sword Publishers for making a digital review copy available.

Book is available at: Pen & Sword,, Amazon , Libris, Bookspot,

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