Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Beauties of the Stuart Era

Like I promised on Monday, I am back with a post regarding Sir Peter Lely's series of painting entitled the "Windsor Beauties" as well as Godfrey Kneller's "Hampton Court Beauties."

Some of these paintings are on display at Hampton Court Palace in England as I write--they are a part of an exhibition called "The Wild, the Beautiful, and the Damned". I really hope that my hubby and I will be able to make it over to see it before it comes off exhibition in September.

Sir Peter Lely's series was commissioned by Anne Hyde, the wife of the future James II, also known as the younger brother of Charles II. I find it interesting that Anne was the money and brains behind this project since she herself was not the most attractive woman at court.

Anne Hyde: it's the eyebrows and the weird curly hairs on her forehead

Ten of the sitters are attributed to Anne's original commission. The Countess of Orsory and Madame Henrietta (Charles II's little sister) were later additions to the pool, apparently.

Barbara Villier Palmer, Countess Castlemaine and Duchess of Cleveland

The notorious Barbara Palmer was Charles II's mistress for many, many years, though that is not to say that they remained faithful to each other. Five of her six children were claimed by Charles. He eventually palmed her off by making her a duchess and granting a couple of estates to her. Oh and titles for the kids.
Frances Teresa Stuart, Duchess of Richmond

Frances Stuart also known as "La Belle Stuart." As mentioned in previous posts, Frances refused to
become Charles II's mistress. Instead she eloped with her cousin Charles Stuart, the Duke of Richmond. Confusing right? The King was very displeased and the couple was not allowed back at court for some time. She had a happy marriage by all accounts but unfortunately became a widow several years later when her husband drowned while on a diplomatic mission to Holland.

Jane Needham Middleton
Not a lot is known about Jane. She married Charles Middleton in 1660 and was connected to both the 1st Earl of Rocester and the 1st Duke of Montagu. So I guess you could say that she "got around" although that was more of the rule than the exception for this time period. Interestingly enough, she was known for emanating a peculiar, sour smell. Oh 17th century hygiene!
Elizabeth Wriothesley Percy
Elizabeth was the 11th Countess of Northcumberland and chantelaine of Syon House. Her husband was so jealous that he reportedly took her abroad and dumped her in France to keep her from the wiles of Charles II. Interestingly enough, after her first husband's death, she married Ralph Montagu, the 1st Duke of Montagu. I wonder what Jane Middleton thought about that?

Some of the other beauties were:

Mary Bagot, Countess of Falmouth and then
Countess of Dorset (lucky her!)
Anne Digby Spencer, Countess of Sunderland

The Countess was no friend to the future Queen Anne. The then Princess dubbed the lady the "greatest jade that ever was". Ouch.
Margaret Brooke, Lady Denham
Lady Denham was the mistress of James, Duke of York at one point. Supposedly her husband had her poisoned but a later autopsy revealed this was not the case.

Frances Brooke, Lady Whitmore

Lady Whitmore was the sister of Margaret Brooke, Lady Denham. She learned a lesson from her unfortunate sister, choosing to rusticate in the country instead of involving herself in court intrigues.

Elizabeth Hamilton, Comtesse de Grammont

The Comtesse was known as "La Belle Hamilton" before Frances Stuart became "La Belle Stuart".

Henrietta Boyle Hyde, 1st Countess of Rochester

That's everyone for now. I think I will delay the post on Kneller's "Hampton Court Beauties" until later this week, so keep an eye out for that.

1 comment:

  1. OMG I love the idea of a time period swith for Julienne and Alex! This is such an interesting time, too--Good luck!