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Saturday, 16 May 2015

Nell Gwyn

Nell Gwyn was said to have born at Hereford on February 2, 1650 at Gwynne Street. a tablet marks the spot. (London and Oxford, also claim her as their own).

Nell's mother reputedly drowned in a Chelsea pond while drunk.

Restoration comedy, a type of social comedy of manners flourished in London after the Restoration of the monarchy in 1660. In 1663 the King's Company opened a new playhouse, the Theatre in Bridges Street and Nell Gwyn was hired as a scantily clad "orange-girl", selling the small, sweet oranges to the audience inside the theatre for a sixpence each.

Nell Gwyn joined the rank of actresses at Bridges Street when she was fourteen, less than a year after becoming an orange-girl.

Described by Samuel Pepys as "pretty, witty Nell", in 1665 Nell Gwyn soon achieved prominent recognition as a comic actress, appearing as Flydana in Dryden's Indian Emperor. Her best role was "breeches part" of Florimel in Dryden's Secret Love.

Nell Gwyn Peter Lely c 1675

Whilst walking in St James’ Park, King Charles II spotted Nell and was immediately captivated. By now a single mother, her relationship with the English king provoked juicy gossip.

Nell called her royal lover "Charles the Third" as she already had already been the mistress of Charles Hart and aristo Charles Sackville.

Portrait of Nell Gwyn by Simon Verelst, circa 1680

Charles had two sons by Nell Gwyn- the Duke of St Albans and James Lord Beauclerk. Nell got the Duke of St Albans his title by threatening to throw him out of the window in front of the king.

One of Charles' last wishes before he died in 1685 was "let not poor Nellie starve."



Nell Gywn passed away after suffering a series of strokes  on November 14, 1687 aged just 37.

Nell Gwyn was buried in the Church of St Martin-in-the-Fields, London. In compliance with one of her final requests, Thomas Tenison, the Archbishop of Canterbury, preached a sermon on  December 17th from the text of Luke 15:7 "Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”

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