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Barbara Palmer, Duchess of Cleveland
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Mistress
    (November 27, 1640-October 9, 1709)
    Born in Westminster, London, United Kingdom
    Birth name was Barbara Villiers
    1st Duchess of Cleveland, Countess of Castlemaine
    English courtesan, later referred to as the Lady Castlemaine
    Married English courtier and politician Roger Palmer on April 14, 1659; separated in 1662 following the birth of her first son
    Mistress of King Charles II Stuart, the most notorious of his many lovers (appointed Lady of the Bedchamber in 1662)
    Bore the King five children, all of whom were acknowledged and subsequently ennobled
    Portrayed by Natalie Draper in Otto Preminger's adaptation of Kathleen Winsor's 'Forever Amber' (1947)
    She allegedly stole money from the King's privy purse.
    She allegedly took bribes from Spanish and French diplomats.
    She was described as moody, extravagant, and promiscuous.
    John Evelyn famously denounced her as 'the curse of the nation.'
    She waged a mutual feud with the King's advisor, the Earl of Clarendon, whose downfall she orchestrated.
    She was married throughout her affair with the King, and then cheated on him, too (often paying her suitors).
    It is strongly doubted that her legal husband fathered any of her children.
    She prosecuted her second husband on charges of bigamy.
    Because her children with the King were illegitimate they were not in line for the throne.
    She had the hubris to give birth to her second child by the King at the Hampton Court Palace while he and Queen were vacationing (not surprisingly she and the wife feuded relentlessly).
    Her name sounds like that of a sex symbol who put on a lot of weight and ended up on Green Acres.
    She wore on the King as she aged, gradually being phased out in favor of a younger line of mistresses, most notably Nell Gwynn.
    Her descendants include Sarah Ferguson and Princess Diana Spencer.
    She was described as stunningly beautiful, even by modern standards.
    She came from no great fortune, and her familial circumstances worsened when her father died in the English Civil War, leaving them impoverished.
    Her influence with the King and the Court outweighed the Queen's (so much so that she was nicknamed 'the uncrowned Queen').
    She was characterized as flighty and temperamental, but stories of her kindness to children and the sick were widespread.
    The King and his court didn't make a big deal when she converted from Anglicism to Roman Catholicism in 1663, proposing to only care about ladies' bodies, not their souls (gotta love those moments of clarity).
    Nonetheless, when the 1673 Test Act was passed forbidding Catholics from holding public office, the King dropped her and replaced her as Lady of the Bedchamber.
    She spent four years in Paris with her four youngest children, before returning to England to endure several unhappy love affairs and a failed marriage.
    She eventually reconciled with the King, who was seen enjoying her company only a week before his death.
    George Sanders' wittiest lines as King Charles in 'Forever Amber' are directed at her movie depiction. ('Your mind is rather like your wardrobe, Madame - many changes and no surprises.')

Credit: BoyWiththeGreenHair


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