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Nell Gwyn: Mistress to a King

3.81 of 5 stars 3.81  ·  rating details  ·  319 ratings  ·  16 reviews
Written by a direct descendant of the union between Nell Gwyn and King Charles II, Nell Gwyn tells the story of one of England's great folk heroines. Born during a tumultuous period in England's past, Nell Gwyn was spotted selling oranges in the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. Nell's wit and charm brought her to the attention of numerous suitors, including one of the theater's ...more
Hardcover, 448 pages
Published September 8th 2005 by Atlantic Monthly Press (first published January 1st 2005)
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Madeline
My favorite historical stories always seem to focus on the royal mistresses, and Nell Gwynn holds a particularly special place in my heart. She has the distinction of being born into absolute poverty (her mom owned a brothel, which Nell may or may not have worked in when she got older), and unlike many other women who slept their way to power (*coughAnneBoleyncough*), she was smart, funny, good-natured, and generally a pretty cool person.

She was the mistress of King Charles II, who met her at t
...more
Orsolya
Nell Gwyn (Gwynne) is truly a hero of mine. A true rags to riches, Cinderella-esque hero; she went from the pits to the highest of royal echelons: a King's main mistress. Yet, she wasn't ambitious and merely wanted the security for herself and her sister Rose which they never felt from their drunken mother and fatherless home. Agressively in love with the King and protective of her children thus conceived; Nell is a strong female which more than telling resolve.

Charles Beauclerk is a descendent
...more
Louise
I've been prone to reading about the Tudors so the Stuarts and the merry merry life of Charles II was new to me when I read this over 5 years ago. I'm revisiting it now that I'm reading Exit the Actress, a fictional take on her life.

Author, Charles Beauclerk is a descendant of Gwyn. This biography of piqued my interest in the Stuarts and since that time I've read more about this period.

Beauclerk notes that 15 biographies have been written about Nell. Not having read any of them, I don't know how
...more
Rebecca
If I'd realized this was written by a descendant, I don't think I would have bothered to pick it up.

Oh, the story is pretty fascinating--Nell was clearly an amazing woman. She started as the guttersnipe daughter of a drunkard, turned herself into one of the most acclaimed comedians in theater in an area where women had only just been allowed on the stage in the first place, and wound up mistress to the king of England. Plenty of people could have landed in his bed--plenty did--but despite her la
...more
Rai
While I learned a great deal about Nell Gwyn, Charles II and life in Stuart England whilst reading this book, I also learnt another, more important lesson: don't read biographies of historical figures written by their descendants. According to Charles Beauclerk, Nell Gwyn never put a foot wrong in her entire life, everything she ever did or said was perfect, including apparently her bullying of the Duchess of Porthsmouth, Louise de Kérouaille. I know that through her life Nell was a 'joker' and ...more
Maggie
Apr 19, 2009 Maggie rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: history buffs

I read this for the TNBBC Spring Challenge, the task was to read a non-fiction book of at least 400 pages relating in some way to the British Monarchy, past or present. I decided to stay away from the Tudors, since I’ve read so much about them and ended up finding this book.

I thought I would really enjoy this book about Nell Gwyn, her relationship with Charles II and her life. There were definitely parts that I really enjoyed, but overall I found it overly wordy and long-winded.

Beauclerk, who i
...more
Godlarvae
ANOTHER OF THE "NEW" (TO ME) HISTORICAL ACCOUNTS THAT PUT FLESH ON THE BONES OF FIGURES PASSED ON. READING ABOUT A PERSON, SQUARELY INSERTED INTO THEIR PARTICULAR TIME PERIOD, WITH ALL THE ATTENDING SURROUNDING POLITICAL, CULTURAL, AND ETHICAL STIMULI/CONTRIBUTIONS GIVES LIFE TO THESE FOLKS.
WRITTEN BY A "WAAAY DOWN THE LINE" DESCENDANT, I WAS PLEASED WITH THE DETAIL GIVEN--WARTS AND ALL. THERE ARE THOSE WHO WOULDN'T READ IT BECAUSE OF THE RELATIONSHIP BUT IT SEEMS TO ME THAT 400 YEARS PROVIDES A
...more
Karen
I have to rate this non-fiction book a 5 star even though some parts of it were soooo drrrrrry. Written by a direct descendant of Nell Gwyn and King Charles II, the parts of the book that were strictly about Nell were awesome. When the author got into to much detail about Nell's days as an actress and onto some of the other people in her life, it was boring. An amazing women who managed to capture the heart of an amazing King. Having 12 illegitimate children by various mistress', that wasn't eas ...more
Lisa
Bit of a slog at first, but once you realized where the author was going with the whole 'life as theater', it became easier. Interesting story
Jennifer
I was really interested in this book after I heard the author talk on NPR about his ancestor and finally managed to get it when I was reading biographies of queens (and mistresses). Nell makes for an interesting read. Beauclerk's writing is not as strong as many biographies, but it is clear he respects what Nell accomplished and is proud to have her as a forebearer.
Mark Gaulding
What a bawdy and fun biography this was. Charles II was really quite a grand king. He had many maitresse-en-titres, but Nell Gwynn was his favorite. Interesting story, written from the perspective of Ms. Gwynn's descendants.
Cheryl
Like this book written by one of her descendants. Would have liked a lot more "in-depth" biography but I guess since it's the 1600's there is only so much info one can find. Always love historical biographies though.
Liza
Rags to riches true story. Nell became the King's mistress after leaving the life of a prostitue and actress in 17th century England.
She remained the King's favorite until his death.

Susan Wands
This is a good read but a little too taken up with his ancestor's goodness - I would have liked to hear him settle up why she cost the Crown so much money in terms of her upkeep.
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