Eleanor "Nell" Gwyn (2 February 1650 – 14 November 1687; also
spelled Gwynn, Gwynne) was a long-time mistress of King
Charles II of
England and Scotland. Called "pretty, witty Nell" by Samuel Pepys, she
has been regarded as a living embodiment of the spirit of Restoration
England and has come to be considered a folk heroine, with a story
echoing the rags-to-royalty tale of Cinderella. She was the most
famous Restoration actress and possessed a prodigious comic talent.
Gwyn had two sons by King Charles: Charles Beauclerk (1670–1726);
and James Beauclerk (1671–1680). The surname of her sons is
pronounced 'Bo-Clare'. Charles was created
Earl of Burford
Earl of Burford and later
Duke of St. Albans.
1 Early life
3 Early years with King Charles II
4 After the stage
7 In stage works and literature
8 In film and television
9 See also
11 External links
The details of Nell's background are somewhat obscure. Her mother's
name was Ellen (or a variant) and she was referred to in her lifetime
as "Old Madam", "Madam Gwyn", and "Old Ma Gwyn". Madam Gwyn was born,
according to a monumental inscription, in the parish of St Martin in
the Fields, London, and is thought to have lived most of her life in
the city. She is also believed, by most Gwyn biographers, to have been
"low-born". Her descendant and biographer Charles Beauclerk calls this
conjecture, based solely on what is known of her later life. Madam
Gwyn is sometimes said to have had the maiden surname Smith. However,
this appears to be derived from a pedigree by
Anthony Wood that shows
signs of confusion between different Gwyn families and it has not been
Nell Gwyn is reported in a manuscript of 1688 to have been a daughter
of "Thos [Thomas] Guine a Capt [captain] of ane antient fammilie in
Wales", although the reliability of the statement is doubtful as its
author does not seem to have hesitated to create or alter details
where the facts were unknown or perhaps unremarkable. There is some
suggestion, from a poem dated to 1681, again of doubtful accuracy,
that Nell's father died at Oxford, perhaps in prison.
Nell's mother drowned, while drunk, in a ditch near
was buried on 30 July 1679, in her 56th year, at St Martin in the
Fields. It has been claimed that Nell was the paternal granddaughter
of an Edward or Edmund Gwynn (installed Canon of Christ Church on 11
May 1615, died on 24 August 1624), but that is highly unlikely to
be true. Nell Gwynn used arms similar to the arms of Gwyn of
Llansanwyr. The Gwyns of Llansanwyr are descended from Richard Gwyn of
Llansanwyr, liv. 1545 [WG2 Godwin 6 (C)] and his wife Ann f. Llywelyn
[WG2 Ein. ap G. 16 (A)]. The connection, if any, between Nell Gwynn
and the Gwyns of Llansanwyr is
Three cities make the claim to be Nell Gwyn's birthplace: Hereford,
London (specifically Covent Garden), and Oxford. Evidence for any one
of the three is scarce. The fact that "Gwyn" is a name of Welsh
origin might support Hereford, as its county is on the border with
The Dictionary of National Biography
The Dictionary of National Biography notes a traditional belief
that she was born there in Pipe Well Lane, renamed to Gwynne Street in
the 19th century.
London is the simplest choice, perhaps, since Nell's
mother was born there and that is where she raised her children.
Alexander Smith's 1715 Lives of the Court Beauties says she was born
in Coal Yard Alley in
Covent Garden and other biographies, including
Wilson's, have followed suit. Beauclerk pieces together circumstantial
evidence to favor an
Oxford birth. The time of Nell's birth is given
in a horoscope, with perhaps spurious precision, as Saturday, 2
February 1650, at six o'clock in the morning, though it has also been
suggested that a birth around 1642 may be more likely.
One way or another, Nell's father seems to have been out of the
picture by the time of her childhood in Covent Garden, and her
"dipsomaniac mother, [and] notorious sister", Rose, were left in a low
situation. She experimented with cross-dressing between 1663-1667
going under the name "William Nell" and adopting a false beard; her
observations informed a most successful and hilarious character
interpretation acting as a man on the stage in March 1667. Old Madam
Gwyn was by most accounts an alcoholic whose business was running a
bawdy house (or brothel). There, or in the bawdy house of one Madam
Ross, Nell would spend at least some time. It is possible that she
herself worked as a child prostitute; Peter Thomson, in the Oxford
Illustrated History of Theatre, says it is "probable". A rare mention
of her upbringing from the source herself might be seen to contradict
the idea: A 1667 entry in Samuel Pepys' diary records, second-hand,
Here Mrs. Pierce tells me [...] that Nelly and Beck Marshall, falling
out the other day, the latter called the other my Lord Buckhurst's
whore. Nell answered then, "I was but one man's whore, though I was
brought up in a bawdy-house to fill strong waters to the guests; and
you are a whore to three or four, though a Presbyter's praying
However, it is not out of the question that Gwyn was merely echoing
the satirists of the day, if she said this at all.
Various anonymous verses are the only other sources describing her
childhood occupations: bawdyhouse servant, street hawker of herring,
oysters, or turnips, and cinder-girl have all been put forth.
Tradition has her growing up in Coal Yard Alley, a poor slum off Drury
Around 1662, Nell is said to have taken a lover by the name of
"Duncan" or "Dungan". Their relationship lasted perhaps two years and
was reported with obscenity-laced acidity in several later satires;
"For either with expense of purse or p---k, / At length the weary fool
grew Nelly-sick".) Duncan provided Gwyn with rooms at a tavern in
Maypole Alley, and the satires also say he was involved in
securing Nell a job at the theatre being built nearby.
During the decade of protectorate rule by the Cromwells, pastimes
regarded as frivolous, including theatre, had been banned. Charles II
had been restored to the English throne in 1660, and quickly
reinstated the theatre. One of Charles' early acts as king was to
license the formation of two acting companies and to legalize acting
as a profession for women. In 1663 the King's Company, led by Thomas
Killigrew, opened a new playhouse, the Theatre in Bridges Street,
which was later rebuilt and renamed the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane.
Mary Meggs, a former prostitute nicknamed "Orange Moll" and a friend
of Madam Gwyn's, had been granted the licence to "vend, utter and sell
oranges, lemons, fruit, sweetmeats and all manner of fruiterers and
confectioners wares," within the theatre. Orange Moll hired Nell
and her older sister Rose as scantily clad "orange-girls", selling the
small, sweet "china" oranges to the audience inside the theatre for a
sixpence each. The work exposed her to multiple
aspects of theatre life and to London's higher society: this was after
all "the King's playhouse", and Charles frequently attended
performances. The orange-girls would also serve as messengers between
the men in the audience and the actresses backstage; they received
monetary tips for this role and certainly some of these messages would
end in sexual assignations. Whether this activity rose to the level of
pimping may be a matter of semantics.
Nell Gwyn by Simon Verelst, circa 1680
The new theatres were the first in
England to feature actresses;
earlier, women's parts were played by boys or men. Gwyn joined the
rank of actresses at Bridges Street when she was fourteen, less than a
year after becoming an orange-girl.
If her good looks, strong clear voice, and lively wit were responsible
for catching the eye of Killigrew, she still had to prove herself
clever enough to succeed as an actress. This was no easy task in the
Restoration theatre; the limited pool of audience members meant that
very short runs were the norm for plays and fifty different
productions might be mounted in the nine-month season lasting from
September to June. She was reputed to have been illiterate.
She was taught her craft of performing at a school for young actors
developed by Killigrew and one of the fine male actors of the
time, Charles Hart, and learned dancing from another, John Lacy; both
were rumored by satirists of the time to be her lovers, but if she had
such a relationship with Lacy (Beauclerk thinks it unlikely), it was
kept much more discreet than her well-known affair with Hart.
Gwyn was slated to play a part in Killigrew's Thomaso, or The Wanderer
in November 1664, but the play seems to have been cancelled.
Instead, she made her first recorded appearance on-stage in March
1665, in John Dryden's heroic drama The Indian Emperour, playing
Cydaria, daughter of Moctezuma and love interest to Cortez, played by
her real-life lover Charles Hart.
Pepys, whose diary usually has great things to say about Gwyn, was
displeased with her performance in this same part two years later:
"...to the King's playhouse, and there saw 'The Indian Emperour;'
where I find Nell come again, which I am glad of; but was most
infinitely displeased with her being put to act the Emperour's
daughter; which is a great and serious part, which she do most
Gwyn herself seems to agree that drama did not suit her, to judge from
the lines she was later made to say in the epilogue to a Robert Howard
We have been all ill-us'd, by this day's poet.
'Tis our joint cause; I know you in your hearts
Hate serious plays, as I do serious parts.
It was in the new form of restoration comedy that
Nell Gwyn would
become a star. In May 1665, she appeared opposite Hart in James
Howard's comedy All Mistaken, or the Mad Couple.
There is some debate over the year The Mad Couple debuted, with
earlier authorities believing it to be 1667. This was the first of
many appearances in which Gwyn and Hart played the "gay couple", a
form that would become a frequent theme in restoration comedies.
The gay couple, broadly defined, is a pair of witty, antagonistic
lovers, he generally a rake fearing the entrapment of marriage and she
feigning to do the same in order to keep her lover at arm's length.
Theatre historian Elizabeth Howe goes so far as to credit the enduring
success of the gay couple on the Restoration stage entirely to "the
talent and popularity of a single actress, Nell Gwyn".
The Great Plague of
London shut down the Bridges Street theatre, along
with most of the city, from the summer of 1665 through the autumn of
1666. Gwyn and her mother spent some of this time in Oxford, following
the King and his court.
King's Company is presumed to have mounted some private theatrical
entertainments for the court during this time away from the virulent
capital. Gwyn and the other ten "women comedians in His Majesty's
Theatre" were issued the right (and the cloth) to wear the King's
livery at the start of this exile, proclaiming them official servants
of the King.
After the theatres reopened, Gwyn and Hart returned to play role after
role that fit the mold of the gay couple, including in James Howard's
The English Monsieur (December 1666), Richard Rhodes' Flora's
Vagaries, an adaptation of John Fletcher's The Chances by George
Villiers, and then in their greatest success, Secret Love, or The
This play, a tragicomedy written by the theatre's house dramatist,
John Dryden, was performed in March 1667. It was a great success: King
Charles "graced it with the Title of His Play" and Pepys' praise
... to the King's house to see 'The Maiden Queen', a new play of
Dryden's, mightily commended for the regularity of it, and the strain
and wit; and the truth is, there is a comical part done by Nell, which
is Florimell, that I never can hope ever to see the like done again,
by man or woman. The King and the Duke of York were at the play. But
so great performance of a comical part was never, I believe, in the
world before as Nell do this, both as a mad girl, then most and best
of all when she comes in like a young gallant; and hath the notions
and carriage of a spark the most that ever I saw any man have. It
makes me, I confess, admire her.
After seeing the play for the third time, Pepys writes, "It is
impossible to have Florimel’s part, which is the most comical that
ever was made for woman, ever done better than it is by Nelly.”
Killigrew must have agreed with Pepys’s opinion. Once Nell left the
acting profession, it would be at least ten years before his company
The Maiden Queen and even the less favored The Indian Emperor
because “the management evidently felt that it would be useless to
present these plays without her.”
The Maiden Queen featured breeches roles, where the actress appeared
in men's clothes under one pretense or another, and as Bax supposes
"was one of the first occasions upon which a woman appeared in the
disguise of a man"; if nothing else this could draw an audience
eager to see the women show off their figures in the more form-fitting
male attire. The attraction had another dynamic: the theatres
sometimes had a hard time holding onto their actresses, as they were
swept up to become the kept mistresses of the aristocracy. In 1667,
Nell Gwyn made such a match with Charles Sackville, titled Lord
Buckhurst at that time. She supposedly caught his eye during an April
performance of All Mistaken, or The Mad Couple, especially in one
scene in which, to escape a hugely fat suitor able to move only by
rolling, she rolls across the stage herself, her feet toward the
audience and her petticoats flying about. A satire of the time
describes this and also Hart's position now, in the face of
competition from the upper echelons of society:
Yet Hart more manners had, then not to tender
When noble Buckhurst beg'd him to surrender.
He saw her roll the stage from side to side
And, through her drawers the powerful charm descry'd.
Beauclerk describes Buckhurst: "Cultured, witty, satirical, dissolute,
and utterly charming". He was one of a handful of court wits, the
"merry gang" as named by Andrew Marvell. Sometime after the end of
April and her last recorded role that season (in Robert Howard's The
Surprisal), Gwyn and Buckhurst left
London for a country holiday in
Epsom, accompanied by Charles Sedley, another wit in the merry gang.
Pepys reports the news on 13 July: "[Mr. Pierce tells us] Lord
Buckhurst hath got Nell away from the King's house, lies with her, and
gives her £100 a year, so she hath sent her parts to the house, and
will act no more." However,
Nell Gwyn was acting once more in late
August, and her brief affair with Buckhurst had ended.
Early years with King Charles II
Nell Gwyn as
Cupid c. 1672; engraving by Richard Thomson, of a
painting by Peter Cross. Pepys owned a copy of this engraving and
displayed it over his desk at the Admiralty.
Late in 1667,
George Villiers, 2nd Duke of Buckingham
George Villiers, 2nd Duke of Buckingham took on the role
of unofficial manager for Gwyn's love affairs. He aimed to provide
Charles II with someone who would supplant Barbara Palmer, his
principal current mistress (and Buckingham's cousin), moving
Buckingham closer to the King's ear. The plan failed; reportedly, Gwyn
asked £500 a year to be kept and this was rejected as too expensive.
Buckingham had an alternative plan, however, which was to set the King
up with Moll Davis, an actress with the rival Duke's Company.
Davis would be Nell's first rival for the King. Several anonymous
satires from the time relate a tale of Gwyn, with the help of her
friend Aphra Behn, slipping a powerful laxative into Davis's tea-time
cakes before an evening when she was expected in the King's bed.
The love affair between the King and Gwyn allegedly began in April
1668. Gwyn was attending a performance of George Etherege's She Wou'd
if She Cou'd at the theatre in Lincoln's Inn Fields. In the next box
was the King, who from accounts was more interested in flirting with
Nell than watching the play. Charles invited Nell and her escort (a
Mr. Villiers, a cousin of Buckingham's) to supper, along with his
brother the Duke of York. The anecdote turns charming if perhaps
apocryphal at this point: the King, after supper, discovered that he
had no money on him; nor did his brother, and Gwyn had to foot the
bill. "Od's fish!" she exclaimed, in an imitation of the King's manner
of speaking, "but this is the poorest company I ever was in!"
Having previously been the mistress of Charles Hart and Charles
Sackville, Gwyn jokingly called the King "her Charles the Third". By
the summer of 1668, Gwyn's affair with the King was well-known, though
there was little reason to believe it would last for long. She
continued to act at the King's House, her new notoriety drawing larger
crowds and encouraging the playwrights to craft more roles
specifically for her. June 1668 found her in Dryden's An Evening's
Love, or The Mock Astrologer, and in July she played in Lacy's The Old
Troop, a farce about a company of
Cavalier soldiers during the English
Civil War, based on Lacy's own experiences. Possibly, Nell Gwyn's
father had served in the same company, and Gwyn's part — the company
whore — was based on her own mother. As her commitment to the
King increased, though, her acting career slowed, and she had no
recorded parts between January and June 1669, when she played Valeria
in Dryden's very successful tragedy Tyrannick Love.
Charles II had a considerable number of mistresses through his
life, both short affairs and committed arrangements. He also had a
Queen consort Catherine of Braganza, whose
pregnancies all ended in miscarriages, and she had little or no say
over Charles's choice to have mistresses. This had come to a head
shortly after their marriage in 1662, in a confrontation between
Catherine and Barbara Palmer which became known as the "Bedchamber
crisis". Ostracised at Court and with most of her retinue sent back to
Portugal, Catherine had been left with little choice but to acquiesce
to Charles's mistresses being granted semi-official standing.
During Gwyn's first years with Charles, there was little competition
in the way of other mistresses: Barbara Palmer was on her way out in
most respects, certainly in terms of age and looks, while others, such
as Moll Davis, kept quietly away from the spotlight of public
appearances or Whitehall. Nell gave birth to her first son, Charles,
on 8 May 1670. This was the King's seventh son — by five separate
Louise de Kérouaille. Painting by Pierre Mignard, c. 1681.
Several months later,
Louise de Kérouaille
Louise de Kérouaille came to
France, ostensibly to serve as a maid of honour to Queen Catherine,
but also to become another mistress to King Charles, probably by
design on both the French and English sides. She and Gwyn would prove
rivals for many years to come. They were opposites in personality and
mannerism; Louise a proud woman of noble birth used to the
sophistication of Versailles, Nell a spirited and pranking
ex-orange-wench. Gwyn nicknamed Louise "Squintabella" for her looks
and the "Weeping Willow" for her tendencies to sob. In one instance,
recorded in a letter from George Legge to Lord Preston, Nell
characteristically jabbed at the Duchess's "great lineage," dressing
in black at Court, the same mourning attire as Louise, when a prince
of France died. Someone there asked, "What the deuce was the Cham of
Tartary to you?" to which Nell responded, "Oh, exactly the same
relation that the French Prince was to Mademoiselle de
Kérouaille." The Duchess of Portsmouth's only recorded riposte
was, "anybody may know she has been an orange-wench by her
swearing" Their relationship was not strictly adversarial; they
were known to get together for tea and cards, for example. Basset was
the popular game at the time, and Gwyn was a frequent — and
high-stakes — gambler.
Gwyn returned to the stage again in late 1670, something Beauclerk
calls an "extraordinary thing to do" for a mistress with a royal
child. Her return was in Dryden's The Conquest of Granada, a two-part
epic produced in December 1670 and January 1671. This may have been
her last play; 1671 was almost certainly her last season. Nell
Gwyn's theatrical career spanned seven years and ended at the age of
In the cast list of Aphra Behn's The Rover (produced at Dorset Garden
in March 1677) the part of Angelica Bianca, "a famous Curtezan" is
played by a Mrs Gwin. This has sparked some confusion. The spelling of
'Gwin' does not refer to Nell Gwyn, but to Mrs. Anne Quin. Nell Gwyn
had left the stage by this point.
After the stage
In February 1671, Nell moved into a brick townhouse at 79 Pall
Mall. The property was owned by the crown and its current resident
was instructed to transfer the lease to Gwyn. It would be her main
residence for the rest of her life. Gwyn seemed unsatisfied with being
a lessee only – in 1673 we are told in a letter of Joseph Williamson
that "Madam Gwinn complains she has no house yett." Gwyn is said to
have complained that "she had always conveyed free under the Crown,
and always would; and would not accept [the house] till it was
conveyed free to her by an Act of Parliament." In 1676, Gwyn would in
fact be granted the freehold of the property, which would remain in
her family until 1693; as of 1960 the property was still the only one
on the south side of Pall Mall not owned by the Crown.
Nell Gwyn gave birth to her second child by the King, christened
James, on 25 December 1671. Sent to school in
Paris when he was six,
he would die there in 1681. The circumstances of the child's life in
Paris and the cause of his death are both unknown, one of the few
clues being that he died "of a sore leg", which Beauclerk speculates
could mean anything from an accident to poison. Her family's
history has been published in the authoritative book: The House of
Nell Gwyn (1974).
There are two variations about how the elder of her two children by
Charles was given the Earldom of Burford, both of which are
unverifiable: The first (and most popular) is that when Charles was
six years old, on the arrival of the King, Nell said, "Come here, you
little bastard, and say hello to your father." When the King protested
against her calling Charles that, she replied, "Your Majesty has given
me no other name by which to call him." In response, Charles created
him Earl of Burford. Another is that Nell grabbed young Charles and
hung him out of a window of
Lauderdale House in Highgate, where she
briefly resided, and threatened to drop him unless he was granted a
peerage. The King cried out "God save the Earl of Burford!" and
subsequently officially created the peerage, saving his son's life. On
21 December 1676, a warrant was passed for "a grant to Charles
Beauclerc, the King's natural son, and to the heirs male of his body,
of the dignities of Baron of Heddington, co. Oxford, and Earl of
Burford in the same county, with remainder to his brother, James
Beauclerc, and the heirs male of his body." A few weeks later,
James was given "the title of Lord Beauclerc, with the place and
precedence of the eldest son of an earl."
Shortly afterwards, the King granted a house which was renamed as
Burford House, on the edge of the Home Park in Windsor, to Nell and
their son. She lived there when the King was in residence at Windsor
Castle. In addition to the properties mentioned above, Nell had a
summer residence on the site of what is now 61-63 King's Cross Road,
which enjoyed later popularity as the Bagnigge Wells Spa. According to
London Encyclopedia (Macmillan, 1983) she "entertained Charles II
here with little concerts and breakfasts". An inscribed stone of 1680,
saved and reinserted in the front wall of the present building, shows
a carved mask which is probably a reference to her stage career.
Just after the death of Henry Jermyn, 1st Earl of St Albans, at the
turn of the year, on 5 January 1684, King Charles granted his son
Charles, Earl of Burford, the title of Duke of St Albans, gave him an
allowance of £1,000 a year, and also granted him the offices of Chief
Enfield Chase and
Master of the Hawks in reversion (i. e.
after the death of the current incumbents).
King Charles died on 6 February 1685. James II, obeying his brother's
deathbed wish, "Let not poor Nelly starve," eventually paid most of
Gwyn's debts and gave her an annual pension of £1,500. He also paid
off the mortgage on Gwyn's
Nottinghamshire Lodge at Bestwood, which
would remain in the Beauclerk family until 1940. At the same time,
James applied pressure on Nell and her son Charles to convert to Roman
Catholicism, something she resisted.
In March 1687, Gwyn suffered a stroke that left her paralysed on one
side. In May, a second stroke left her confined to the bed in her Pall
Mall house; she made out her will on 9 July and a codicil on 18
Nell Gwyn died from apoplexy "almost certainly due to the
acquired variety of syphilis" on 14 November 1687, at ten in the
evening, less than three years after the King's death. She was 37
years old. Although she left considerable debts, she left a legacy to
the Newgate prisoners in London.
She was buried in the Church of St Martin-in-the-Fields, London, on 17
November 1687. In compliance with one of Gwyn's final requests, Thomas
Tenison, the Archbishop of Canterbury, preached a sermon on 17
December from the text of Luke 15:7 "Just so, I tell you, there will
be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over
ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance." Her will
and codicil were proved on 7 December 1687.
Nell Gwyn was often caricatured as an empty-headed woman, John
Dryden said that her greatest attribute was her native wit, and she
certainly became a hostess who was able to keep the friendship of
Dryden, the playwright Aphra Behn, William Ley, 4th Earl of
Marlborough (another lover), John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester, and
the king's other mistresses. She is especially remembered for one
particularly apt witticism, which was recounted in the memoirs of the
Comte de Gramont, remembering the events of 1681:
Nell Gwynn was one day passing through the streets of Oxford, in her
coach, when the mob mistaking her for her rival, the Duchess of
Portsmouth, commenced hooting and loading her with every opprobrious
epithet. Putting her head out of the coach window, "Good people", she
said, smiling, "you are mistaken; I am the Protestant whore."
The Catholic whore was still the Frenchwoman Louise de Kérouaille,
who had been created Duchess of Portsmouth in 1673.
The author of her 1752 biography relates a conversation (more than
likely fabricated) between Nell and
Charles II in which he, feeling at
a loss, said, "O, Nell! What shall I do to please the People of
England? I am torn to pieces by their clamours."
"If it please your Majesty," she replied, "there is but one way left,
which expedient I am afraid it will be difficult to persuade you to
embrace. Dismiss your ladies, may it please your Majesty, and mind
your business; the People of
England will soon be pleased."
She is noted for another remark made to her coachman, who was fighting
with another man who had called her a whore. She broke up the fight,
saying, "I am a whore. Find something else to fight about."
In 1937, a new ten-storey block of 437 flats in Sloane Avenue,
Chelsea, was given the name Nell Gwynn House, and in a high alcove
above the main entrance is a statue of Gwynn, with a
Charles spaniel at her feet. Mostly unnoticed by passers-by, this is
believed to be the only statue of a royal mistress in the capital
In stage works and literature
Nell Gwyn has appeared as the principal, or a leading character, in
numerous stage works and novels, including:
1799, The Peckham Frolic : or Nell Gwyn, a comedy in three acts
by Edward Jerningham
1884, Nell Gwynne, an operetta by
Robert Planquette and H. B. Farnie
Sweet Nell of Old Drury
Sweet Nell of Old Drury a play by Paul Kester
1900, Mistress Nell, a swashbuckling melodrama by George Hazelton
1900, English Nell, a play by Edward Rose, later retitled Nell Gwynne,
adapted from Anthony Hope's book, Simon Dale. Composer Edward German
wrote incidental music for the play which is still performed on
Nell Gwyn – Comedian, a novel by Frank Frankfort Moore
1924, Our Nell, a musical by
Harold Fraser-Simson and Ivor Novello; a
rewrite of 1919's Our Peg), replacing
Peg Woffington with Nell Gwyn.
(The 1922 Broadway musical by George Gershwin, also called "Our Nell,
was not based on the
Nell Gwyn story.)
Mistress Nell Gwynne a novel by Marjorie Bowen
1939, a character in Bernard Shaw's late play In Good King Charles's
1944, a character in Kathleen Winsor's novel Forever Amber
1975, Here Lies Our Sovereign Lord, the third part of Jean Plaidy’s
historical trilogy, The Loves of Charles II
1993, a prominent character in Playhouse Creatures, a play by April De
2006, The Remarkable Life and Times of Eliza Rose, a children's
historical novel by Mary Hooper where Gwyn is a central character.
2007, The Perfect Royal Mistress, a novel by Diane Haeger
2008, The King's Favorite a novel by Susan Holloway Scott
2011, The Darling Strumpet, a debut novel by Gillian Bagwell
2011, Exit the Actress, a novel by Priya Parmar interwoven with
authentic contemporary documents in order to portray the political and
social tumult of the time
2015, Nell Gwynne: A Dramatick Essaye on Acting and Prostitution, a
play by Bella Merlin
2015-17, Nell Gwynn, a play by Jessica Swale
In film and television
In the 1911 film,
Sweet Nell of Old Drury
Sweet Nell of Old Drury (based on the play of the
same name described above), Nell is portrayed by Nellie Stewart
In the 1915 film, Mistress Nell, based on Hazelton's play of 1900;
Nell is portrayed by Mary Pickford
In the 1922 film, The Glorious Adventure, Nell is portrayed by Lois
In the 1926 film, Nell Gwyn, Nell is portrayed by Dorothy Gish
In the 1934 film, Love, Life and Laughter, Nell is portrayed by Gracie
In the 1934 film, Nell Gwynn, Nell is portrayed by Anna Neagle
In the 1941 film, Hudson's Bay, Nell's minor part is portrayed by
In the 1949 film, Cardboard Cavalier, Nell is portrayed by Margaret
In the 1969 mini-series, The First Churchills, Nell is portrayed by
In the 1995 film, England, My England, Nell is played by Lucy Speed
In the 2003 mini-series, Charles II: The Power and The Passion, Nell
is played by Emma Pierson
In the 2004 film, Stage Beauty, Nell is portrayed by Zoe Tapper
English royal mistress
^ Howe 1992, p. 67.
^ a b c Davies, p. 124.
^ T. C. D., "The Will of Nell Gwynn", The Genealogists' Magazine, vol.
VII, pp. 8-10.
^ George Wilson, "Nell Gwynn", The Genealogical Magazine, vol. IV
(1901), pp. 384-389 (contains most of her descendants but ignores the
^ Arthur Irwin Dasent, Nell Gwynne (London: Macmillan, 1924), pp.
^ John Harold Wilson,
Nell Gwyn (London: Muller, 1952), pp. 3-11.
^ Clifford Bax, Pretty Witty Nell (London: Chapman and Hall, 1932),
^ H. Noel Williams, Rival Sultanas (London: Hutchinson, 1915), pp.
^ Lewis Melville,
Nell Gwyn (London: Hutchinson, 1924), pp. 8-23, esp.
^ Peter Cunningham, The Story of
Nell Gwyn (New York: Blom, 1923), pp.
^ Bryan Bevan,
Nell Gwyn (New York: Roy, 1970), pp. 18-23.
^ Reitwiesner, William Addams. "The Family of Nell Gwynn".
^ Beauclerk 2005, p. 9.
^ Beauclerk 2005, p. 5.
^ Wilson 1952, p. 13.
^ Pepys' diary for 26 October 1667 at www.pepys.info
^ Beauclerk 2005, pp. 37-38.
^ From The Lady of Pleasure, quoted in Beauclerk, p. 40
^ Beauclerk 2005, p. 56.
^ Howe 1992, p. 67: "She began, as has become legendary, selling
oranges (and probably herself as well)...".
^ Beauclerk 2005, p. 74.
^ Dasent 1924, p. 43.
^ Beauclerk 2005, p. 73.
^ Pepys' diary, 22 August 1667.
^ Quoted in Beauclerk p. 78 from the epilogue to Robert Howard's Duke
^ a b Howe 1992, p. 66.
^ Dasent 1924, p. 60.
^ Beauclerk 2005, p. 85.
^ Howe 1992, pp. 67-70.
^ According to Dryden's preface to the first printed edition, 1668.
(Beauclerk p. 97.)
^ Pepys diary for 2 March 1667; spelling and punctuation from
Beauclerk p. 97.
^ Melville 1926, p. 74.
^ Bax 1969, p. 141.
^ Bax 1969, p. 89.
^ Anonymous, The Lady of Pleasure. Quoted in Beauclerk p. 105.
^ Beaclerk p. 103.
^ Beauclerk 2005, Quoted from Beauclerk p. 106.
^ Beauclerk 2005, pp. 108-109.
^ Beaclerk p. 62
^ Beauclerk 2005, pp. 121-122.
^ Beauclerk 2005, pp. 126-127.
^ Beauclerk 2005, pp. 128.
^ Beauclerk 2005, pp. 131-137.
^ Beauclerk 2005, p. 148.
^ Melville 1926, p. 268.
^ Melville 1926, p. 270.
^ Beauclerk 2005, p. 249.
^ Beauclerk (pp. 182–183) dismisses reported appearances in the late
1670s and early 1680s as non-credible, noting "the publicity that
would have attended such a comeback is absent".
Oxford English Drama -
Oxford World Classics: Aphra Behn: The Rover
and Other Plays, Oxford, New York:
Oxford University Press: 1995
Notes. P. 336
^ Details and quotes about the house from Sheppard
^ Beauclerk 2005, p. 300.
^ a b Wilson 1952, p. 158.
^ Wilson 1952, p. 209.
^ Beauclerk 2005, pp. 317, 358.
^ Bax 1969, p. 232.
^ MacGregor-Hastie 1987, p. 190.
^ Beauclerk, p. 307, gives a slightly different quote.
^ Melville 1926, p. 273.
^ Rooftop statues at knowledgeoflondon.com/rooftops, accessed 13
Oxford Companion to American Theatre, OUP 2004, p.437
^ The overture and incidental music are available on YouTube
^ Google preview
^ Online resumé
^ Historical Novels Society
^ Online review
^ Good Reads review
^ Online review Archived 26 September 2015 at the Wayback Machine.
^ Shakespeare in LA
Bax, Clifford (1969). Pretty Witty Nell. New York/London: Benjamin
Blom. ISBN 0-405-08243-6.
Beauclerk, Charles (2005). Nell Gwyn: Mistress to a King. Atlantic
Monthly Press. ISBN 0-87113-926-X.
Cunningham, Peter (1888). The Story of Nell Gwyn: and the Sayings of
Charles the Second. John Wiley's Sons, New York.
Dasent, Arthur (1924). Nell Gwynne. New York/London: Benjamin
Davies, Edward J. (2011). "
Nell Gwyn and 'Dr Gwyn of Ch. Ch.'", The
Bodleian Library Record, 24:121-28.
Ford, David Nash (2002). Royal Berkshire History: Nell Gwynne. Nash
Howe, Elizabeth (1992). The First English Actresses: Women and Drama,
1660-1700. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-42210-8.
Lynch, Jack (2007). Becoming Shakespeare: The Strange Afterlife That
Turned a Provincial Playwright into the Bard. Walker & Co., New
MacGregor-Hastie, Roy (1987). Nell Gwyn. London: Robert Hale.
Melville, Lewis (1926). Nell Gwyn. New York: George H. Doran
Kent, Princess Michael of (2006).
Cupid and the King. Simon &
Schuster UK. Chapter one, "Nell Gwyn" available online.
Sheppard, F.H.W., ed. (1960). "Pall Mall, South Side, Past Buildings:
No 79 Pall Mall: Nell Gwynne's House". Survey of London: volumes 29
and 30: St James Westminster, Part 1. pp. 377–78. CS1
maint: Extra text: authors list (link) Online at
www.british-history.ac.uk. (URL accessed 10 June 2006.)
Williams, Hugh Noel (1915). Rival Sultanas: Nell Gwyn, Louise de
Kéroualle, and Hortense Mancini. Dodd, Mead and company. Entire
book available from Google Books.
Wilson, John Harold (1952). Nell Gwyn: Royal Mistress. Dell Publishing
Company, Inc., New York.
Adamson, Donald; Beauclerk Dewar, Peter (1974). The House of Nell
Gwyn. The Fortunes of the Beauclerk Family, 1670-1974. William Kimber,
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Nell Gwyn.
Wikisource has the text of the 1921
Collier's Encyclopedia article
Nell Gwyn (WikiTree), a biographic genealogy of the King's mistress
and her many descendants.
The House of Nell Gwyn. The Fortunes of the Beauclerk Family,
Donald Adamson and Peter Beauclerk Dewar, London: William
ISNI: 0000 0000 9789 8240