Many novels have been written about the notorious Barbara Villiers, who became first Palmer, then Countess of Castlemaine, completing her rise to nobility as the 1st Duchess of Cleveland, but the lives of the three sons and three daughters she presented to her royal lover took quite a different turn to their famous mother.
Lady Anne Fitzroy
|Lady Anne Fitroy Countess of Sussex|
Anne was born in 1661, and Barbara claimed she was conceived on the night of Charles’ coronation in May 1660, her enemies were quick to suggest the baby was either her husband, Roger Palmer's, or her other lover’s, Philip Stanhope, 2nd Earl Chesterfield.
Roger Palmer acknowledged Anne as his daughter, giving her his name, although this was changed to Fitzroy when the king decided to acknowledge her as his.
Her illegitimacy notwithstanding, Lady Anne was very eligible, and at thirteen, she was married to the twenty-year-old Thomas Lennard, 15th Baron Dacre and Gentleman of the Bedchamber, who was created Earl of Sussex on the marriage.
Lennard was an extravagant spender and gambler, and their marriage was an unhappy one. After two years, when Anne was fifteen, she began a lesbian liaison with Hortense Mancini, duchesse Mazarin, who had fled her own abusive husband, Armand Charles de la Porte. This liaison was not only shocking to the royal court, but very inconvenient in that King Charles was also conducting an affair with ‘the Mancini’ at the time.
A letter written to Loord Roos by his sister related:
"Lady Sussex and Madame Mazarin have privately learnt to fence, and went downe into St. James Parke the other day with drawne swords under theire night gownes, which they drew out and made severall fine passes with, to the admiration of severall men that was lookers on in the Parke."
Anne’s husband dragged her off to country like a naughty child, but instead of coming to her senses, Anne took to her bed and wept bitterly for weeks, kissing a miniature portrait of Hortense. Hortense’s feelings, on the other hand seemed unaffected and she merely moved on to another lover the Prince de Monaco while her affair with the king continued.
Anne did not back down, however, so Lord Sussex decided on desperate measures to get his recalcitrant wife back in line. In collusion with his mother-in-law, who, having been ousted as king’s mistress by Louise de Keroualle, by 1678 lived in Paris, she sent Anne to a nunnery near her own house so she could keep an eye on her. However, Barbara’s current lover, and English ambassador to France, Ralph Montagu, abducted Anne from the convent and they ran off together.
Barbara’s behaviour was considered outrageous even for her time, so her sense of affront at her daughter's actions seems misplaced. In a letter to King Charles, dated "Paris, Tuesday the 28th, 1678," Barbara, Duchess of Cleveland wrote:
I was never so surprised in my whole life-time as I was at my coming hither, to find my Lady Sussex gone from my house and monastery where I left her, and this letter from her, which I here send you the copy of. I never in my whole life-time heard of such government of herself as she has had since I went into England. She has never been in the monastery two days together, but every day gone out with the Ambassador (Ralph Montagu), and has often lain four days together at my house, and sent for her meat to the Ambassador; he being always with her till five o'clock in the morning, they two shut up together alone, and would not let my maitre d'hôtel wait, nor any of my servants, only the Ambassador's. This has made so great a noise at Paris, that she is now the whole discourse. I am so much afflicted that I can hardly write this for crying, to see a child, that I doted on as I did on her, should make me so ill a return, and join with the worst of men to ruin me.
The Sussex’s marriage did, it seems, get back on track for a while, and during the 1680’s, they produced four children, two sons who died in infancy; and two daughters, Barbara and Anne, who lived to adulthood and were co-heirs of the Barony Dacre. However the couple separated in 1688 and Anne was widowed in 1715 and lived another seven years.
Lady Charlotte Fitzroy
|Lady Charlotte Fitzroy Countess of Lichfield|
Barbara’s second daughter was more widely accepted as Charles’ offspring, and named Charlotte after him. Born on September 5, 1664 at her mother’s Whitehall Palace apartments, Charlotte, was Barbara’s fourth child and second daughter.
Little is known about Charlotte, other than she rivalled her mother in beauty, had the King’s entrancing Stuart eyes, as well as his mouth. In contrast to her mother, Charlotte was sweet-tempered and pleasing, a contemporary describing her in adulthood as, “a very good and virtuous lady.” In a court full of overweening ambition, sycophancy and back-stabbing, Charlotte was her father’s delight and the favourite niece of her uncle James Duke of York.
When Charlotte was ten, and on the same day as her sister Anne, a marriage was arranged for her by Anne, Countess of Rochester, to her grandson, Edward Henry Lee. a cousin. They were married on 6 February 1677 when the pair were 12 and 13, when Edward was created Earl of Lichfield.
The young married couple spent their summers at the Lee family’s country estate, Ditchley Park in Oxfordshire, bought by Sir Henry Lee in 1580. The couple were also given a property by the king, located near St James Park on what is now Horse Guards Parade.
By the age of nineteen, Charlotte already had four children and went on to have a further 16, but the couple’s 42 year long marriage was apparently a happy one though six of their children died young.
Sir Edward Henry Lee, [his father's half-brother was the libertine-poet the Earl of Rochester] was a dedicated Tory and advocate of King James II. He followed him to Rochester in Kent after the king's escape from Whitehall in December 1688.
Edward died in 1716 and Charlotte two years later. The inscription on their monument in Spelsbury Church reads – “at their marriage they were the most grateful bridegroom and the most beautiful bride and that till death they remained the most constant husband and wife.”
Lady Barbara Fitzroy
|Lady Barbara Fitzroy Aged 16|
Barbara was born at Cleveland House in St Martin in the Fields, London, England on 16 July 1672, at around the time Barbara Castlemaine was losing her position as the king’s chief mistress to Louise de Kérouaille.
Although her mother insisted she was a daughter of the king, Barbara was widely thought to have been fathered by either John Churchill, later Duke of Marlborough, or Lord Chesterfield, whom she is said to have resembled.
Roger Palmer, Lord Castlemaine, who had remained married to Barbara throughout her reign as king’s mistress, bequeathed the younger Barbara his estate. Charles, however, always publicly acknowledged her as his, while disavowing her in private.
In March 1691, eighteen-year-old Barbara gave birth to an illegitimate son of the Earl of Arran, and named the baby Charles.
James had been confined to the Tower of London for insulting William of Orange to his face. His father, the 3rd Duke of Hamilton, and Princess Mary prevailed on William to release him. Both were bitterly opposed his relationship with Barbara, so his release was with the condition that James should renounce all further relations with Lady Barbara Fitzroy. Their son, Charles, was raised by the Duchess of Cleveland, who supposedly disowned her.
Barbara became a nun in the English Priory of St. Nicholas, at Pontoise in Normandy, taking the name Sister Benedicta, where she eventually became prioress. James was killed in a duel in Hyde Park by Charles, 4th Lord Mohun in 1712.
Barbara signed herself as follows:
Mon nom du monde est Barbe Fitz Roy est en Religion Benedite fille Du Roy De La grande Bretagne Charles 2dc j'ay fait profession dans Le Couuent des Benedictines Angloiscs De Pontoise L'annee 1691 Le 2* D'auril c'est maison est mittige.
Translated as:My name in the world is Barbe Fitz Roy, in Religion it is Benedicta, daughter of the King of Great Britain, Charles II. I made profession at the Convent of the English Benedictines in Pontoise, the year 1691, the 2nd of April. It is my place of penance.
Barbara became Prioress of the Convent of the Hotel Dieu at Pontoise, as Sister Benedicte, dying there on May 6, 1737.
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|From History and Women|