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Ravenous: A Life of Barbara Villiers, Charles II's Most Infamous Mistress

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  • 2024

  • Engelsk

Barbara Villiers was a woman so beautiful, so magnetic and so sexually attractive that she captured the hearts of many in Stuart-era Britain. Her beauty is legendary: she became the muse of artists such as Peter Lely, the inspiration of writers such as John Dryden and the lover of John Churchill, the future great military leader whom we also know as the 1st Duke of Marlborough. Her greatest amorous conquest was King Charles II, King of England, Scotland, and Ireland, with whom she had a tempestuous and passionate relationship for the better part of a decade. But this loveliest of Stuart-era ladies had a dark side. She hurt and humiliated her husband, Roger Palmer, for decades with her unashamedly adulterous lifestyle, she plotted the ruin of her enemies, constantly gambled away vast sums of money, is remembered for the destruction of the Tudor-era Nonsuch Palace, and was known to unleash terrible rages when crossed. Crassly lampooned by John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester, and subjected to verbal and written assaults, she was physically abused by a later, violent spouse. Barbara lived through some of the most turbulent times in British history: civil war, the Great Plague of London, which saw the deaths of around 100,000 people, the Great Fire of London, which destroyed much of the medieval city, and foreign conflicts such as the Anglo-Dutch Wars, the Williamite wars, and the War of the Spanish Succession. An impoverished aristocrat who rose to become a wealthy countess and then a duchess, taking her lovers from all walks of life, Barbara laughed at the morals of her time and used her natural talents and her ruthless determination to the material benefit of herself and her numerous offspring. In great stately homes and castles such as Hampton Court Palace, her portraits are widely seen and appreciated even today. She had an insatiable appetite for life, love, riches, amusement, and power. She was simply ‘ravenous’…

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