The Windsor Beauties Mar 30, 2020 12:21:03 GMT -5
Post by The Duchess on Mar 30, 2020 12:21:03 GMT -5
In the first half of the 1660s, Anne Hyde, Duchess of York, commissioned the portraitist Sir Peter Lely, to paint all of the most beautiful women present at her brother-in-law, Charles II's, court. Lely obliged, and during the span of a couple of years, turned out a series of 10 portraits, as well as one of the Duchess. The very composure of the sitters seems to be a blatant reaction to the moral tyranny of the Commonwealth that preceded the king's return. With long hair tumbling down bare shoulders, exposed décolletage, and sleepy bedroom eyes, the women featuring in Lely's Windsor Beauties -- so named because they were first housed at Windsor Castle -- represent the sensuous and hedonistic manner of courtly life. Quite a few of the women represented -- such as Margaret Brookes, Lady Denham and Barbara Villiers, Lady Castlemaine -- were royal mistresses to both the Duke of York and the king, respectively. The portraits are decadent and erotic, and capture the atmosphere of the court perfectly.
Frances Stewart, Duchess of Richmond & Lennox. She was pursued by Charles II, yet rebuffed the royal advances.
Elizabeth Hamilton, Countess of Grammont. Notice the looseness of the fabric draped around her, and the alarmingly low neckline!
Jane Myddleton, née Needham. While she seems to have adopted a more courtly fashion here compared to the state of undress that some of her companions seem to be in, the shoulders and chest are still exposed.
Margaret Brooke, Lady Denham. She was James, Duke of York's principle mistress until her very sudden and untimely death in 1667, aged just 20. Rumours circulated that James' wife poisoned her, but it's more likely she died of an ectopic pregnancy.
Frances Brooke, Lady Whitmore.
Mary Bagot, Countess of Falmouth and Dorset.
Henrietta Boyle, Countess of Rochester. NB that she was not married to John Wilmot, but rather, to Laurence Hyde, who took the title upon the former's death.
Barbara Villiers, Lady Castlemaine, Duchess of Cleveland. She was the principle mistress of Charles II throughout the 1660s. Irascible, controlling, and controversial, she came to loggerheads with the Queen upon her arrival to England from Portugal.
Anne Digby, Countess of Sunderland.
Elizabeth Wriothesley, Countess of Northumberland.
Anne Hyde, Duchess of York. Although she commissioned Lely to paint the series, she herself is not often counted among the Beauties.