Lely’s Windsor Beauties

14 December 2010

In the early 1660s, the artist Sir Peter Lely was commissioned by Charles II to produce a set of ten paintings of the most beautiful women of the British court. The portraits were intended to be displayed in the Queen’s Bedchamber of Windsor Castle, but were later moved to Hampton Court Palace.

1. Barbara Villiers, Duchess of Cleveland, Charles II’s gorgeous but really quite awful mistress.

2. Frances Stuart, Duchess of Richmond, a distant cousin of the royal family, whose great personal beauty propelled her to the very top of society.

3. Jane Needham, Mistress Middleton, a great beauty who was well known at court for her enormous pride and general unwillingness to have a bath. Nonetheless she attracted several lovers.

4. Lady Elizabeth Wriothsley, Countess of Northumberland.

5. Mary Bagot, Countess of Falmouth.

6. Margaret Brooke, Lady Denham, a mistress of the Duke of York (future James II).

7. Frances Brooke, Lady Whitmore.

8. Lady Henrietta Boyle, Countess of Rochester.

9. Lady Elizabeth Hamilton, Countess of Grammont.

10. Princess Henrietta Anne Stuart, Duchesse d’Orléans, Charles II’s beloved sister.

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