Saturday, February 6, 2010

Don't let poor Nellie starve

These words from Charles II of England to his brother James concerning Nell Gwynn were possibly his last.  He died on February 6, 1685.  The date February 6, was doubly significant in Charles' life, as it was on February 6, 1649 that the Covenanter Parliament of Scotland proclaimed Charles king of Great Britain.

The Merrie Monarch married the Portuguese Catherine of Braganza.  Catherine bore no children.  Charles had 7 through 5 different mistresses, including 2 by Nell Gwynn, who he was concerned about in his dying words.

On his death bed, Charles confessed to a Catholic priest.  Charles was secretly Catholic, publicly accepting Protestantism.  Charles introduced a Royal Declaration of Indulgence in 1672 to try and foster religious tolerance, but the English Parliament forced him to withdraw it.  In 1679, a supposed Popish Plot was reported by Titus Oates, a man who flitted between many faiths.  The purported plan involved murdering Charles, so that his brother, the avowed Catholic James would accede to the throne.

The plot proved fictitious, but had to be dealt with seriously.  It is against this backdrop that Scott's "Peveril of the Peak" is set.  Another of Charles' mistresses, Louise Duchess of Portsmouth figures here:

"As blithe a peer," said Smith, "as ever turned night to day. Nay, it
shall be an overflowing bumper, an you will; and I will drink it _super
naculum_.--And how stands the great Madam?"[*]

[*] The Duchess of Portsmouth, Charles II.'s favourite mistress; very
unpopular at the time of the Popish Plot, as well from her
religion as her country, being a Frenchwoman and a Catholic.

No comments:

Post a Comment