Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Barbara Palmer, Duchess of Cleveland

Barbara, Lady Castlemaine, Duchess of Cleveland

Samuel Pepys once found himself in the Privy-garden where he
 “saw the finest smocks and linnen petticoats of my Lady Castlemaine’s, laced with rich lace at the bottom, that ever I saw; and did me good to look upon them”. He may have been enthralled by her looks, but when she left her husband, Roger Palmer, Pepys says “I know well enough she is a whore”.

A Viscount's daughter, Barbara 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 the king. 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, she threw a fit and had to be carried out. 
Louise de la Keroualle, Duchess of Portsmouth

Charles had a dichotomous attitude towards Barbara. Although she was never faithful to her royal lover, the King used to visit her four nights a week at her apartments in Whitehall. When her second son was born in 1663, Charles denied paternity but nevertheless, gave Barbara lavish Christmas presents the same year. The couple had ferocious arguments and Barbara was not above threatening Charles. When she was expecting another child in 1667, Barbara swore that if he denied paternity again, she would dash the infant's brains out. Her power over Charles was such that he went down on his knees to be 'pardoned' for his very well-founded suspicions.
Her first daughter, Anne, was initially accepted by her cuckold husband Roger Palmer. It' a credit to Barbara's persuasive powers that the King acknowledged the child as his, but it was more likely that Philip Stanhope, 2nd Earl of Chesterfield was also a prospective father. However, Charlotte, her third child, was undoubtedly the King's.
Lady Anne Fitzroy [Palmer] and Lady Charlotte Fitzroy

Ultimately, Barbara's demands were so great, her temper so fierce, and her infidelities so brazen that Charles tired of her. Her rival, Louise de Keroualle conspired to get her removed from court. When Barbara announced she had converted to Catholicism, this was the ideal excuse to have her removed.
Barbara Countess Castlemaine and her daughter Charlotte Fitzroy

She left for Paris in the spring of 1677, to embark on more liaisons which produced yet more children until she had seven, fathered by at least six different men. Her husband was, apparently, not one of them.
From History and Women


Tammy Hall said...

Wow The Duchess of Cleveland certainly got around. Seven children by six different men! Very interesting though I would definitely like to know more as her story intrigues me. I love historical reads I think they are probably my favorite of all the books I read. I enjoy reading your reviews also. Thanks for sharing I may need to go find me some historical reads today.

Anita Davison said...

Hi Tammy,

Susan Holloway Scott has written a novel about Barbara Palmer,and her relationship with Charles II called 'Royal Harlot'