History Jar Challenge 13 answers – royal mistresses since 1066

Maria Fitzherbert

William the Conqueror isn’t listed as having any known mistresses. He had no illegitimate children and it certainly appears that until his wife, Matilda of Flanders, supported their eldest son Robert Curthose in his rebellion against his father, that the couple worked effectively as a partnership.

There are many discussions about the sexuality of William Rufus. In the eighteenth century there was a suggestion that he might have had an illegitimate son but there is no contemporary evidence. The existence of illegitimate children, so long as the monarch recognised them, were the most likely way of a record of the mother being kept.

And then we arrive at Henry I – who is popular history remembers for having a large number of illegitimate children. His mistresses included: 1) Sybilla Corbet of Alcester. The Corbet’s were a powerful family and one of her daughters also named Sybilla was married to King Alexander of Scotland. Her eldest son Robert became the Earl of Gloucester who supported his half sister Matilda in her claim to the throne.

2) Ansfrida was the widow of a knight who held land owned by Abingdon Abbey. Henry “supported her in her troubles.” (Henry I Penguin Monarch series.) Their son Richard was drowned on the White Ship in 1120. Henry I was nothing if not equal in his attentions. Ansfrida has a Saxon name whereas 3) Edith’s father was Forn Sigulfson, Lord of Greystoke. His mistresses also included 4) Nesta, Princess of Deheubarth and 5)Isabella of Meulan. These women didn’t bear all his illegitimate children so there are a whole bunch of unknown mothers as well. It’s thought that one this life that Henry must have had at least ten mistresses from all walks of life. Henry not only acknowledged, educated and provided for his illegitimate children but he also provided influential husbands for the women.

King Stephen had far fewer mistresses than his uncle. 6) Dameta is listed as a gentlewoman of Normandy.

Henry II’s mistresses include a prostitute called 7) Ikenai; 8) Rosamund Clifford, 9)Ida de Tosny the daughter of the Earl of Leicester who was Henry II’s ward, 10) Alice of France who was actually betrothed to Henry’s son Richard at the time, 11) Nesta Bloet.

Richard the Lionheart had no illegitimate offspring and no recorded mistresses. His brother John on the other hand was a little too free with the wives, daughters and sisters of his barons. 12) The sister of the Earl of Surrey was one of John’s mistresses, 13) Clementine Pinel, 14) Hawise de Tracy,

Henry III seems to have had no known mistresses and neither does Edward I. Edward II who history links with Piers Gaveston and Hugh Despenser is recorded as having an illegitimate child called Adam by an unknown woman.

Edward III married Philippa of Hainault on 24th January 1328. The royal couple had thirteen children. Edward does not appear to have taken a mistress until Philippa became unwell. His mistress is the first mistress, aside from Fair Rosamund, that popular history tends to remember – 15) Alice Perrers- who gained a reputation for greed having Edward III’s ear in terms of politics and being in receipt of jewels and lands from her lover.

Richard II, Edward’s grandson was devoted to his wife Anne of Bohemia. His second wife Isabella of France was a child when she arrived in England, in later years she would marry the Duke of Orleans. There are no recorded mistresses. Henry IV is recorded as having an illegitimate child by an unknown woman but Henry V and Henry VI had no illegitimate children.

Edward IV on the other hand boasted on bedding the holiest, merriest and wiliest mistresses in the land! The holy mistress was 16) Lady Eleanor Butler to whom he might have been pre-contracted in marriage making his marriage to Elizabeth Woodville bigamous. The merriest mistress was 17) Jane Shore and the wiliest was 18) Elizabeth Lucy who bore a son called Arthur who would be educated with his nephew Henry and die in the Tower from a heart attack brought on by the news that he was to be released.

Henry VII has no recorded mistresses, though there are the dancing girls in the accounts of course. His predecessor Richard III did have illegitimate children but history does not record the names of their mothers.

Henry VIII is unusual in that many of his mistresses became his wives and there was of course the need for him to show his virility and ability to have a son. The only illegitimate child that was definitely illegitimate and who Henry acknowledged was Henry Fitzroy – his mother was 19) Bessie Blount. He had an affair with 20) Anne Stafford, 21) Mary Boleyn, 22) Anne Boleyn, 23) Madge Shelton, 24) Jane Seymour, 25) Catherine Howard, 26) Jane Popincourt, 27) Anne Basset (the step-daughter of Arthur Plantagenet), 28) Elizabeth Carew, 29) Margaret Skipworth, 30) Joan Dingley. Unless Henry VIII’s love life impacted on international politics or he married his mistress the tracking down of Henry’s mistresses is based on circumstantial evidence.

Henry’s children- Edward, Mary and Elizabeth ruled in turn. Questions, rumour and scandal attached themselves to Elizabeth’s relationship with Lord Robert Dudley.

James I had no illegitimate children and no recorded mistresses. There was scandal associated with his male favourites including Robert Carr the Earl of Somerset who was found guilty of murder and George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham who was assassinated during the reign of Charles I.

Charles I became devoted to his wife Henrietta Maria.

Charles II, the Merry Monarch, is famous for his mistresses: 31) Lucy Walter the mother of the Duke of Monmouth; 32) Elizabeth Killigrew; 33) Katherine Pegge of Yeldersley in Derbyshire whose son became the Earl of Plymouth; 34) Barbara Villiers; 35) Nell Gwyn; 36) Louise Renee, Duchess of Portsmouth and 37) Mary Davies. Presumably having spent so much time in Europe during the Commonwealth Period Charles happily adopted the french custom of the royal mistress as being a semi-official position. Charles is reported to have had somewhere in the region of twelve illegitimate offspring but unlike Henry VIII never attempted to annul his marriage in a bid to provide a royal heir.

James II was as well known for his womanising as his brother. He was required by Charles I to marry Anne Hyde the daughter of Lord Clarendon when she became pregnant. He also took 37) the daughter of Sir Winston Churchill as a mistress – she was the sister of the 1st Duke of Marlborough; 38) Katherine, Countess of Dorchester.

William and Mary and Anne followed but scandalous mistresses, leaving aside Anne’s close relationships with two of her ladies in waiting, only resumed with the arrival of the Hanoverians. There was a rumour that William of Orange had an affair with the Countess of Orkney – if we want to be strictly fair.

George I locked his wife Sophia Dorothea of Celle away when she committed adultery. 39) Melusine von der Schulenburg became George’s long term companion. They had three daughters. When he arrived in England in September 1714 had two mistresses with him. There were also 18 cooks.

George II who famously told Queen Caroline on her deathbed that he wouldn’t marry again – just have mistresses. The most famous mistress was 40) Henrietta Howard; 41) Amalia, Countess of Yarmouth.

George III is said to have married 42) Hannah Lightfoot the daughter of a shoemaker prior to his wedding to Sophia Charlotte.

George IV is said to have married 43) Maria Fitzherbert who was a Catholic. He described her as his wife of “heart and soul.” Their marriage was declared invalid because of her religion and because George had not sought his father’s permission which he knew would not be granted. when George died he asked to be buried with a miniature of Maria around his neck. He had other mistresses 44) Grace Daymple; 45) Mary Robinson; 46) Frances Villiers, Countess of Jersey; 47) Isabella Ingram-Seymour, Marchioness of Hertford; 48) Elizabeth Conyngham, Marchioness of Conyngham. There was also Eliza Crole who was a theatre manager’s daughter.

William IV had been quite happily living with 49) Dorothy Jordan when he was Duke of Clarence until it became clear that he would need an heir. In 1811 William put Dorothy or Dorothea to one side and married an heiress.

Victoria – I’ll leave aside films that link Victoria semi romantically with John Brown.

Edward VII known as Edward the Caresser seems to have taken Henry I as a model on a far grander scale. It was once estimated that he had something like 50 affairs! According to popular history he was sent off to spend time with the grenadier guards who arranged for his education to be extended thanks to Nellie Clifden. In Paris he apparently enjoyed the company of several prostitutes. House parties involving the Prince of Wales and then the king involved discrete rooming arrangements. 50) Hortense Schneider; 51) Giulia Barucci; 52) Susan Pelham-Clinton; 53) Lillie Langtry; 54) Daisy Greville the Countess of Warwick – her maiden name was Brooke and it resulted in the sobriquet “babbling.”; 55) Agnes Keyser; 56) Jenny Churchill (Sir Winston’s mother) 57) Alice Keppel who was at his deathbed in 1910. Edward never acknowledged any illegitimate children – though that doesn’t mean there weren’t any if the rumours of the time are anything to go by. 58) Susan Vane Tempest is said to have had a child in 1873 but Susan died in 1875 and the trail goes cold.

George V was more interested in collecting stamps than women but Edward VIII who was never crowned took many mistresses when he was Prince of Wales. His affair and determination to marry twice divorced Wallis Simpson resulted in his abdication.

Freidman, Dennis. Ladies of the bedchamber: The Role of the Royal Mistress

Ridley, Jane. Bertie: A Life of Edward VII

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