The Windsor Beauties are a famous collection of paintings by Sir Peter Lely, painted in the early to mid-1660s.
They were originally housed in the Queen's bedchamber in Windsor Castle (hence the name Windsor Beauties). They can now be seen at Hampton Court Palace.
The Royal Collection includes ten portraits as part of the set. They show the ladies at three-quarter length in various poses. Some ladies wear current fashions; others are draped in loose robes intended to evoke classical antiquity.
List of "Beauties"
Frances Stewart, Duchess of Richmond
Frances Teresa Stewart, Duchess of Richmond and Lennox (8 July 1647–15 October 1702) was a prominent member of the Court of the Restoration and famous for refusing to become a mistress of Charles II of England. For her great beauty she was known as La Belle Stuart and served as the model for an idealised, female Britannia.
Frances Teresa Stuart by Sir Peter Lely, 1662-65.
Frances was the daughter of Walter Stewart, or Stuart, a physician in Queen Henrietta Maria's court, and a distant relative of the royal family. She was born on 8 July 1647 in exile in Paris, but was sent to England in 1663 after the restoration by Charles I's widow Henrietta Maria to act as maid of honour at Charles II's wedding and subsequently as lady-in-waiting to his new bride, Catherine of Braganza.
The great diarist Samuel Pepys recorded that she was the greatest beauty he ever saw. She had numerous suitors, including the Duke of Buckingham and Francis Digby, son of the Earl of Bristol, whose unrequited love for her was celebrated by Dryden. Her beauty appeared to her contemporaries to be equalled only by her childish silliness; but her letters to her husband, preserved in the British Museum, are not devoid of good sense and feeling.
While a member of the royal court, she caught the eye of Charles II, who fell in love with her. The king's infatuation was so great that when the queen's life was despaired of in 1663, it was reported that he intended to marry Stewart, and four years later he was considering the possibility of obtaining a divorce to enable him to make her his wife because she had refused to become his mistress.
She eventually married the Duke of Richmond and Lennox, also a Stuart, in March 1667. It is possible she had to elope to do so, after being discovered with him by a rival for the king's affections, Lady Castlemaine.
The now Duchess of Richmond, however, soon returned to court, where she remained for many years; and although she was disfigured by smallpox in 1669, she retained her hold on the king's affections. It is certain, at least, that Charles went on to post the Duke to Scotland and then to Denmark as ambassador, where he died in 1672.
The duchess was present at the birth of James Francis Edward Stuart, son of James II, in 1688, being one of those who signed the certificate before the council. She died in 1702, leaving a valuable property to her nephew Lord Blantyre, whose seat of Lethington was renamed Lennoxlove after her.
Elizabeth, comtesse de Gramont
Elizabeth, comtesse de Gramont (née Hamilton; 1640 – 3 June 1708), was a British-born courtier and a lady-in-waiting (Dame du Palais) to Louis XIV's queen consort, Maria Theresa of Spain. She was one of the Windsor Beauties painted by Sir Peter Lely.
Elizabeth Hamilton was born in Strabane, County Tyrone, Ireland. She became a member of the English court in 1661. She was described as a great beauty and became known for her judgement, charm and sensibility, and she was seen as witty and careful with her words as she, reportedly, said no more than she thought. She also loved practical jokes and mischief. On one occasion, she played a practical joke on two British maids of honour, Lady Muskerry and Miss Blague. She was much courted, by — among others — the Duke of York, the Duke of Richmond and the Heir of Norfolk, but she reportedly rejected them all.
She was married in London to Philibert, comte de Gramont, a French exile at the English court. "La belle Hamilton" was one of the great beauties of the English court, and was, according to her brother's optimistic account, able to fix the count's affections. Gramont (a younger half-brother of Antoine III, duc de Gramont) had courted her for some time and it was understood that they would be married. When Gramont was given permission to return to France, however, he left in a haste, giving the impression that he would not honour his intention to marry Hamilton. Her brothers therefore stopped him on his way and pressured him to return and marry her.
She followed her spouse to France in 1669, where she was made Dame du Palais to the French queen. She was a woman of considerable wit, and held her own at the court of Louis XIV, but her husband pursued his gallant exploits to the close of a long life, being, said Ninon de l'Enclos, the only old man who could affect the follies of youth without being ridiculous. She was pointed out as a client to La Voisin, and was thereby incriminated in the affaire des poisons in 1679. In 1696, her spouse was afflicted with a grave illness, and after he recovered, he turned to a religious life, in which she followed him. She died one year after being widowed.
Her father was Sir George Hamilton, and her mother, Mary Butler, sister of James Butler, 1st Duke of Ormonde. She married Philibert de Gramont, a French nobleman, in 1664;they had children:
- Claude Charlotte de Gramont, who married Henry Stafford-Howard, 1st Earl of Stafford,
- Marie Elizabeth de Gramont (born 27 December 1667)
Jane Needham, Mrs Myddleton, ca. 1663-65
Margaret Brooke, Lady Denham, ca. 1663-65
Hon. Frances Brooke
Hon. Frances Brooke (1640 – c. 1690) was a British courtier. She was styled Hon. Frances Brooke, and then Lady Whitmore. She was granted the style of a daughter of a baron.
Frances was one of the Windsor Beauties, painted by Sir Peter Lely for Anne Hyde, Duchess of York.Her Daughter Frances was one of the Hampton Court Beauties.
Her father was Sir William Brooke (1601–1643), and her mother was Penelope Hill ( -c.1694).
She first married Sir Thomas Whitmore ( -1682) (married some time before 1665). She then married Matthew Harvey ( -c.1693/94) (married some time after 1682).
Frances had three children with her first husband, Sir Thomas Whitmore:
- Henrietta Whitmore.
- Frances Whitmore (7 November 1666–1695).
- Dorothy Whitmore (1668–1688).
Mary, Countess of Falmouth and Dorset
Mary, Countess of Falmouth and Dorset (1645 – 1679) was a British courtier. She was one of the Windsor Beauties painted by Sir Peter Lely. Her portrait by Lely was erroneously named "Elizabeth, Countess of Falmouth" and also as "Countess of Ossory" in some portrait prints and books in the 18th and 19th centuries, many of which were later reprinted, compounding the error.
Her father was Col. Henry Bagot, and mother was Dorothea Arden. She married Charles Berkeley, 1st Earl of Falmouth in 1663. He died at the Battle of Lowestoft. She then married Charles Sackville, 6th Earl of Dorset in June 1674.
Mary Bagot, Countess of Falmouth and Dorset, ca. 1664-65, by Sir Peter Lely
Henrietta Hyde, Countess of Rochester
Henrietta Hyde, Countess of Rochester (née Boyle; 1646 – 12 April 1687) was an English noblewoman. She was one of the Windsor Beauties painted by Sir Peter Lely.
She was born in Wiltshire, England to Sir Richard Boyle, 2nd Earl of Cork and Elizabeth Boyle, Countess of Cork. In 1665 she married Laurence Hyde, 1st Earl of Rochester, son of Edward Hyde, 1st Earl of Clarendon and Frances Aylesbury. Henrietta had three children.
Henrietta Boyle, Countess of Rochester, ca. 1665, by Sir Peter Lely
Barbara Palmer, 1st Duchess of Cleveland
Barbara Palmer, 1st Duchess of Cleveland, Countess of Castlemaine, also known as Lady Castlemaine (27 November [O.S. 17 November] 1640 – 9 October 1709) was an English courtesan from the Villiers family and perhaps the most notorious of the many mistresses of King Charles II of England, by whom she had five children, all of whom were acknowledged and subsequently ennobled. Her influence was so great that she has been referred to as "The Uncrowned Queen." Her immediate contemporary was Madame de Montespan, mistress of King Louis XIV of France.
Barbara was the subject of many portraits, in particular by court painter Sir Peter Lely. Her extravagance, foul temper and promiscuity provoked diarist John Evelyn into describing her as the "curse of the nation", whereas Samuel Pepys often noted seeing her, admiringly.
Barbara's 1st cousin Elizabeth Villiers (later 1st Countess of Orkney 1657–1733) was the only acknowledged mistress of King William III.
Born into the Villiers family as Barbara Villiers at the parish of St. Margaret's, Westminster, London, she was the only child of the 2nd Viscount Grandison, William Villiers (a half-nephew of the 1st Duke of Buckingham), and his wife, Mary Bayning, heiress of Paul Bayning, 1st Viscount Bayning. On 20 September 1643, her father died in the English Civil War from a wound sustained at the Battle of Newbury while fighting for the Royalists. He had spent his considerable fortune on horses and ammunition for his Cavalierregiment; his widow and daughter were left in straitened circumstances. Shortly after Lord Grandison's death, Barbara's mother the Lady Mary remarried to Charles Villiers, 2nd Earl of Anglesey, a cousin of her late husband.
Upon the 1649 execution of King Charles I, the impoverished Villiers clan secretly transferred their loyalty to his son, Charles. Every year on 29 May, the new King's birthday, young Barbara, along with her family, descended to the cellar of their home in total darkness and clandestinely drank to his health. At that time, Charles was wandering about the Continent, exiled and penniless.
Tall, voluptuous, with masses of auburn hair, slanting, heavy-lidded violet eyes, alabaster skin, and a sensuous, sulky mouth,Barbara Villiers was considered to be one of the most beautiful of the Royalist women, but her lack of fortune left her with reduced marriage prospects. Her first serious romance was with Philip Stanhope, 2nd Earl of Chesterfield, but he was searching for a rich wife; he would wed Elizabeth Butler in 1660. On 14 April 1659 she married Roger Palmer (later 1st Earl of Castlemaine) against his family's wishes; his father predicted that she would make him one of the most miserable men in the world. Palmer was a Roman Catholic. The two separated in 1662, following the birth of her first son. They remained married for his lifetime, but it is believed that Palmer did not father any of his wife's children.
Barbara Palmer's lack of fortune limited her marriage prospects, despite her beauty.
Barbara became King Charles' mistress in 1660, while still married to Palmer, and whilst Charles was still in exile at The Hague. The Palmers had joined the ambitious group of supplicants who sailed for Brussels at the end of 1659. As a reward for her services, the King created her husband Baron Limerick and Earl of Castlemaine in 1661. In many contemporary accounts, including Pepys's Diary, she is referred to as "Lady Castlemaine".
Of her six children, five were acknowledged by Charles as his:
- Lady Anne Palmer, later FitzRoy (1661–1722), probably daughter of Charles II, although some people believed she bore a resemblance to the Earl of Chesterfield. She later became the Countess of Sussex.
- Charles Palmer, later FitzRoy (1662–1730), styled Lord Limerick and later Earl of Southampton, created Duke of Southampton (1675), later 2nd Duke of Cleveland (1709)
- Henry FitzRoy (1663–1690), created Earl of Euston (1672) and Duke of Grafton (1675)
- Charlotte FitzRoy (1664–1718), later Countess of Lichfield. She gave birth to twenty children.
- George FitzRoy (1665–1716), created Earl of Northumberland (1674) and Duke of Northumberland (1683)
- Barbara (Benedicta) FitzRoy (1672–1737) – Barbara Villiers claimed that she was Charles's daughter, but she was probably the child of her mother's second cousin and lover, John Churchill, later Duke of Marlborough.
Lady of the Bedchamber
By 1662, Barbara, the King's mistress, had more influence at the court than his queen consort, Catherine of Braganza. In point of fact, Barbara chose to give birth to their second child at Hampton Court Palace while he and the queen were honeymooning. In the summer of 1662 she was appointed Lady of the Bedchamber despite opposition from Queen Catherine and Edward Hyde, 1st Earl of Clarendon, chief advisor to the King and a bitter enemy of Barbara's. Behind closed doors, Barbara and the Queen feuded constantly. She combined with the future Cabal Ministry to bring about Clarendon's downfall. On his dismissal in August 1667, Barbara publicly mocked him; Clarendon gently reminded her that one day she too would be old. His dislike of her sprang from the fact that she was a cousin by marriage, and he felt personally embarrassed by her role as mistress.
Barbara's influence over the King waxed and waned. Her victory in being appointed as Lady of the Bedchamber was followed by rumours of an estrangement between her and the King, the result of his infatuation with Frances Stuart. In December 1663, Barbara announced her conversion to Roman Catholicism. Historians disagree as to why she did so. Some believe it was an attempt to consolidate her position with the King, and some believe it was a way of strengthening her ties with her Catholic husband. The King treated the matter lightly, saying that he was interested in ladies' bodies, but not their souls. The Court was equally flippant, the general view being that the Church of Rome gained nothing and the Church of England lost nothing.
In June 1670 Charles created her Baroness Nonsuch (as she was the owner of Nonsuch Palace). She was also, briefly, granted the ownership of Phoenix Park in Dublin as a present from the King. She was made Countess of Castlemaine and Duchess of Cleveland in her own right. However, no one at court was sure if this was an indication that she was being jettisoned by Charles, or whether this was a sign that she was even higher in his favours. The dukedom was made with a special remainder which allowed it to be passed to her eldest son, Charles FitzRoy, despite his illegitimacy.
Portrait by Sir Peter Lely (c. 1666).
Barbara Villiers, Duchess of Cleveland, ca. 1665, as Minerva.
Anne Spencer, Countess of Sunderland (died 1715)
Anne Spencer, Countess of Sunderland (née Digby; c. 1646 – 26 April 1715) was the wife of Robert Spencer, 2nd Earl of Sunderland and the daughter of George Digby, 2nd Earl of Bristol and Lady Anne Russell.
Anne married Sunderland on 10 June 1665: the groom had previously broken off their long-standing engagement; according to Samuel Pepys he told his friends that he had reason enough and was resolved never to have her. He soon had second thoughts and their mothers worked together to produce a reconciliation which resulted in an entirely successful marriage. She was a lady-in-waiting to Mary of Modena during the reign of James II, and was present at the birth of the Prince of Wales, signalling to the king that his new child was a boy.
She became a close friend of Sarah Churchill, later Duchess of Marlborough, and was disliked by Queen Anne, who was jealous of their friendship. She is alleged to have had an affair with Henry Sidney, Earl of Romney, her husband's uncle. However, John Evelyn spoke well of her, and most of her friends shared her own strong religious faith. Her devotion to her husband was never seriously questioned; his biographer considered that it was principally his happy marriage which sustained Sunderland through a long and unhappy life.
She had at least five children by Sunderland, only one of whom outlived her:
- Lord Robert Spencer (1666–1688)
- Lady Anne Spencer (1667–1690), married James Hamilton, 4th Duke of Hamilton in 1687
- Lady Isabella (1668–1684)
- Lady Elizabeth Spencer (1671–1704), married Donough MacCarty, 4th Earl of Clancarty in 1684
- Charles Spencer, 3rd Earl of Sunderland (1674–1722), who married Arabella, daughter of Henry Cavendish, 2nd Duke of Newcastle in 1695, then Anne Churchill, second daughter of John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough and Sarah Churchill in 1700.
Anne, countess of Sunderland
Elizabeth Percy, Countess of Northumberland
Elizabeth Percy, Countess of Northumberland (née Wriothesley; 1646 – 19 September 1690), was a British courtier. She was one of the Windsor Beauties, painted by Sir Peter Lely.
Her father was Thomas Wriothesley, 4th Earl of Southampton, and her mother was Lady Elizabeth Leigh, daughter of the 1st Earl of Chichester.
She married Joceline Percy, 11th Earl of Northumberland, on 23 December 1662. They had two children:
- Lady Elizabeth Percy (1667–1722)
- Henry Percy, Lord Percy (1668–1669)
She traveled with her husband to Italy, where he was taken ill and died in Turin, the next year.
Upon his death, being a wealthy heiress, she married Ralph Montagu, 1st Duke of Montagu, at Titchfield, Hampshire, on 24 August 1673; they had two children:
- John Montagu, 2nd Duke of Montagu (c. 1690 – 5 July 1749).
- Anne Montagu, married Alexander Popham.
Elizabeth Wriothesley by Sir Peter Lely, for the Windsor Beauties
Elizabeth was an important patron of the artist Peter Lely, who painted her several times. Her portraits were among the Windsor Beauties at Hampton Court and among the series of beautiful women portraits, ordered by Cosimo III de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany.
Another portrait of the Countess of Northumberland by Sir Peter Lely
Henrietta of England
Henrietta of England (16 June 1644 (26 June n.s.) – 30 June 1670) was the youngest daughter of King Charles I of England, Scotland and Irelandand his wife, Henrietta Maria of France. Fleeing England with her governess at the age of three, she moved to the court of her first cousin Louis XIV of France, where she was known as Minette. After she married Philippe of France, brother of King Louis XIV, known as Monsieur at court, she became known as Madame. Very popular with the court, her marriage was marked by frequent tensions. Henrietta was instrumental in negotiating the Secret Treaty of Dover prior to her unexpected death in June 1670. Jacobite claims to the throne of Great Britain following the death of Henry Benedict Stuart descend from her through her daughter Anne Marie, Queen of Sardinia.
Henrietta of England
Anne Hyde, Duchess of York, 1662