Thursday, 17 October 2013

Nell Gwynn & Bestwood Park

Life lesson: if a King falls for your Great Great (etc) Grandma you'll be a comfortably off family for a while

Nell Gwynn: actress, mistress, mum. Her affair with Charles II didn't start with a glance across a crowded room. Rather, she was one of a number of women pimped out by the Duke of Buckingham until Charles agreed a price. The affair lasted from 1668 - when Nell was 18 and the King was 38 - until his death in 1685. 

King Charles II - a hedonistic royal after a time of Puritan chill - had a dozen or more mistresses, a wife, and an awful lot of children. None of the 'legitimate' children lived though, and his brother James succeeded as King. 

Nell had two sons: 
  • Charles, who became Duke of Beauclerk and Duke of St Albans and 
  • James, who died aged 9.
Many gifts came Nell's way, including several estates. I liked this story, quoted from the Notts county council website. Sometimes, it's worth getting up early:
The popular story is that Charles II and his guests, when staying in the lodge, would tease poor Nell for sleeping in and missing a good morning's sport. Charles II offered to gift to Nell, "All the land she could ride around before breakfast," and was surprised the next day to find Nell sitting for breakfast before the King and all the guests. It was claimed she had ridden out early, dropping handkerchiefs along her route, and the encircled area became Bestwood Park. But that is just a popular story...
 After Charles died King James paid off Nell's mortgage on Bestwood lodge and gave her an annual pension. Although Bestwood had farmland and coal and could provide a healthy income, we all know it's Grim Up North. The Beauclerks lived in their other estates and Bestwood wasn't the family home until the 10th Duke of St Albans - Nell's great great great great great great great great grandson - decided to move in.

It was the 12th Duke who sold up in 1934. Much of the land was bought by the local council, who used for new housing. The 14th Duke sits in the House of Lords and is president of the Royal Stuart Society. For just £22 a year you could join him
  • to uphold rightful Monarchy and oppose republicanism.
But remember: his family's money starts with a woman sold to a king and the miners and farmers of Bestwood.

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