New Series – Royal Mistresses: Because Badly Behaved Women Make History

At the start of 2019 I sat down and wrote my blogging goals for the year. One of these goals was to create a regular series of content for the blog featuring some of the juiciest tidbits from history. I didn’t have to brainstorm for long before I came up with my idea – royal mistresses. Yes – I wanted to write about the badly behaved women that made history.

This idea was inspired by two of the great history podcasts I regularly listen to – Rex Factor and Gallus Girls and Wayward Women.

It was Gallus Girls and Wayward Women that first inspired me to write about the more scandalous women in history. The bottom line is these women are more entertaining and fun to write about. And women’s history has seen such a surge in popularity I thought it would be a great time to write a series all about fun and feisty females.

However many, many people have already written about the numerous royal mistresses throughout history. What makes my series any different?

Taking inspiration from Rex Factor (where they review all the kings and queens of England and rate them against certain factors), I have decided to rate all the royal mistresses under my microscope too.

They will be rated (out of 5 stars) against the following factors;

  • Power – How much influence did the royal mistress have over decisions made by their smitten monarch? To what extent did they influence major events at the time?
  • Beauty – Yes, I know this category may seem a bit superficial but for many royal mistresses their looks were how they first caught the attention of their royal lovers. Were they considered a looker by their contemporaries?
  • Longevity – How long did the royal mistress capture the heart of their monarch for? Where there any serious rivals for their affections?
  • Scandal – The juicy one. How notorious was the royal mistress in question? How scandalous was the gossip about her?

All royal mistresses will then receive an overall ranking. At the end of the year we will review them all and only one royal mistress will come out on top (pardon the pun).

This series will run bi-monthly, so by the end of 2019 we will have met at least 24 royal mistresses from throughout history.

Any initial guesses as to which royal mistress is going to (not literally) win the crown? Let me know in the comments below.


  1. My vote would be for my ancestor, the fun and feisty Nell Gwyn. She would certainly come out on top in the category of sheer ‘chutzpah.’ A rags-to-riches Cinderella, at thirteen she was an orange seller at the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane before becoming an actress, and then King Charles II’s mistress in 1668. Samuel Pepys called her “pretty, witty Nell”. She was passing through the streets of Oxford, in her coach, when the mob mistaking her for her rival, the Catholic Duchess of Portsmouth, commenced hooting and loading her with every opprobrious epithet. Putting her head out of the coach window, “Good people”, she said, smiling, “you are mistaken; I am the Protestant whore.”
    Nell bore Charles two sons and when the eldest was six years old, in the presence of the King, she said, “Come here, you little bastard, and say hello to your father.” When the King protested, she replied, “Your Majesty has given me no other name by which to call him.” Another story is that Nell grabbed the boy and hung him out of a window and threatened to drop him unless he was granted a peerage. The King quickly cried out “God save the Earl of Burford!” Charles Beauclerk was later created Duke of St Albans.
    Obeying his brother’s deathbed wish, “Let not poor Nelly starve,” James II eventually paid most of her gambling debts and gave Nell a pension of 1500 pounds a year.
    I look forward to reading your series.

    • Hi Cathy. Many thanks for your comments – Nell Gwyn is an absolutely amazing person to be related to! I’m working though royal mistresses chronologically so am hoping to get to her and Charles II’s other mistresses in the summer.

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