HENRY VIII: 10 MISTRESSES
Henry VIII’s libido is legendary, so you might be surprised to find he is only number 3 on my top 10. On 11 June, 1509, he was married to his first wife Catherine of Aragon, the young widow of his older brother King Arthur. Catherine was pregnant at least 5 times, with only Mary I surviving infancy. Henry’s first mistress was Anne Stafford Countess of Huntingdon in 1510, a year after he married Queen Catherine. When discovered, this affair caused a scandal and resulted in Anne being sent to a convent by her husband. Jane Popincourt was his second mistress, in 1514, she was his sister’s tutor, and was rumoured to be so promiscuous that even the French king wouldn’t allow her into his court. Next was Elizabeth Blount: this affair was less discreet and the attention he gave her even upset Catherine, Henry’s wife. Elizabeth gave birth in the spring of 1519: the boy was the first son of the king and named Henry FitzRoy. Elizabeth was married off to the 1st Baron Tailboys of Kyme, who was one of Henry’s courtiers and Member of Parliament. It was around this time Henry had at least 3 other illegitimate children, Thomas Stukley in 1520 by Jane Stukley, Etheldreda Malte in 1527 by Joan Dingley and John Perrot in 1528 by Mary Perrot. The King’s next official mistress Mary Boleyn, was known as a courtesan: King Francis I of France described her as “a great prostitute, infamous above all.” Mary was married to Sir William Carey who was compliant due to the status and favor it afforded him. Both of Mary’s children, Catherine (1524) and Henry Carey 1st Baron Hunsdon (1526), were Henry’s illegitimate offspring. Henry soon tired of his mistress and Mary was sent to live with her husband in the country.
EDWARD VII: 9+ MISTRESSES
Edward VII was notorious for his infidelities, he managed to carry out each affair in a discreet manner, and as such no one is entirely sure how many mistresses he had. There is some speculation that it could have been up to 55, though there is no clear evidence of how far each relationship went. His wife, Queen Alexandra, whom he married in 1862, is believed to have been aware of many of his affairs and, for the most part, to have accepted them. It was normal during the Victorian era for married woman of good standing to become mistress to men of higher social standing, with her husband’s knowledge, to advance the couple socially or politically. In 1864, after her husbands death, Lady Susan Pelham-Clinton began a short affair with Edward. Allegedly, Susan had Edwards’s illegitimate child in 1871, and a letter written to Edward by one of Susan’s friends states that “the crisis was due within two or three months” nothing further is known about this child, though. Lillie Langtry was a renowned beauty known as Jersey Lily, and in 1877 Edward arranged to sit next to Lillie at a dinner party. She soon became his mistress and a friend of Queen Alexandra. It was a short affair and cooled off after the arrival of Sarah Bernhardt. Sarah was a stage and film actress who had already had a son by Belgian Prince Charles-Joseph Eugène Henri Georges Lamoral de Ligne. She would often sleep in a coffin, as she claimed this helped her understand tragic roles. From 1879, she was Edwards mistress, and like most of his affairs, this was brief and kept as secret as possible.
HENRY I: 9+ MISTRESSES
Henry I has the distinction of having the most recognized illegitimate children of any English king, with more than 20 to his name. A lot of the documents have been destroyed in the centuries since Henry lived, which, when combined with the low literacy levels during this era, makes it not surprising that details have been lost. The main issue, though, is that women where not considered important enough to be written about, and most of the information on these women comes from what was written about their husbands or children. We do know Robert, 1st Earl of Gloucester (1090), is probably Henry’s first illegitimate child, and his mother was most likely one of Rainald Gay’s daughters. Henry next illegitimate son was Gilbert FitzRoy, and we know he died sometime after 1142 and that his mother may have been one of Walter de Gand’s sisters. With a mistress, known only as Edith, Henry had a daughter, Matilda du Perche, in 1086. Matilda married Count Rotrou III of Perche, and died in the shipwreck of the White Ship in 1120. Henrys next son, Henry Fitzroy (1103), was the child of Princess Nest Ferch Rhys (1073). She was later married off to Gerald de Windsor. Nest is said to have been remarkably beautiful, and was even kidnapped by her cousin, Owain, after he fell in love with her. With Ansfride of Seacourt (1070) Henry had three children, Juliane de Fontevrault (1090), Fulk FitzRoy (1092) and Richard of Lincoln (1094). Juliane de Fontevrault once tried to kill her father with a crossbow. Henry kidnapped a rebellious nobles son, so the noble kidnapped Henrys granddaughters (Juliane’s daughters). They tried to negotiate peace and agreed to call it a truce and swap hostages. Henry wanted to humiliate the noble so he blinded his son before returning him, and in retaliation the noble mutilated his young granddaughters by blinding them and cutting their nose’s off.
GEORGE IV: 8 MISTRESSES
In 1795, George IV was married to Caroline of Brunswick in a purely politically arranged marriage which was doomed from the outset. In 1796, their only child, Princess Charlotte Augusta of Wales, was born and shortly after that they were living completely separate lives. George had been keeping mistresses since 1779, when he met Mary Robinson while she was performing in a play. He offered her twenty thousand pounds if she would become his mistress. George had tired of her within a year, and dumped her without paying her. The affair had ruined her reputation and she wasn’t able to find work, so she threatened to sell some of his love letters to a newspaper, and he agreed to pay her a small pension. Two years later, George began an affair with Grace Dalrymple Elliott, again it was a short affair which was kept quiet, but within a year Grace had a daughter, Georgina Seymour. George acknowledged the child and she was baptized as Georgina Frederica Augusta Elliott, Daughter of His Royal Highness George, Prince of Wales. There was speculation that the child was not George’s as she resembled another of her mothers lovers. Grace didn’t last much longer as a mistress, but she did manage to survive the French revolution, despite being jailed and sentenced to death by guillotine.
HENRY II: 6 MISTRESSES
Henry II was notorious for his illicit relations with other men’s wives, and for having several illegitimate children. However, few records containing information about them have survived, and only records about the most infamous mistresses would have been written to start with. Henry II married Eleanor of Aquitaine in 1152, the same year Henry’s first recorded illegitimate son, Geoffrey Plantagenet Archbishop of York was born, details of his mother are unclear but her name is believed to have been Ykenai. Henry fell deeply in love in 1163, when he met Rosamund Clifford: there are lots of legends surrounding Rosamund so it is difficult to pick the truth from the folklore. There is some belief that she had at least one child by Henry, what is clear though is that the affair lasted until 1176, shortly before she died. After Rosamund’s death, Henry helped pay for her burial and tomb, which most people take as a proof of his true affection for her. To strengthen their alliance, Louis VII of France sent his 8 year old daughter, Alys Countess of the Vexin (1160), to England to marry Henry’s legitimate son, and heir, Richard I of England. Richard married Berengaria of Navarre in 1191, by this time Alys was already his fathers mistress, she is also thought to have had a child by Henry. In 1175, Matilda Abbess of Barking was born, the name of her mother has unfortunately been lost to time, and less than a year after Matilda’s birth William Longespée 3rd Earl of Salisbury was born. He was Henry’s son by Ida de Toesny, Countess of Norfolk and the wife of Roger Bigod, Earl of Norfolk. Henry also had a son by Lady Nesta Bloet, the wife of Sir Ralph Bloet, and Morgan would later become the Bishop of Durham.
EDWARD VIII: 3 MISTRESSES
Edward VIII is said to have been quite promiscuous during his youth, and had many affairs with married women, but most of the reports of this are hearsay and very difficult to verify. He had 3 official mistresses, which puts him quite low on this list. Edward met Winifred Dudley Ward, a wealthy socialite, in 1918 at a dinner party, and for the next sixteen years Freda was Edward’s mistress. There is speculation that her son Timothy Ward Seely is actually Edwards illegitimate son, although this remains unproven. When Edward met Viscountess Thelma Furnessin in 1929, he was smitten. Like Freda she was an attractive and wealthy socialite, and along with Freda she was Edwards mistress for the next 5 years. Then, in 1934 both Freda and Thelma found themselves very suddenly replaced by an American divorcee, Wallis Simpson. Edward had meet Wallis at a party thrown by Thelma, and by 1934 she was firmly in control. In 1936, Edward was King and Wallis had divorced her second husband, however they couldn’t marry due to constitutional laws governing royal marriages. Edward was determined, though, and less than a year after becoming king he abdicated and left to live in exile so he could marry Wallis. For what its worth, they lived out the rest of their lives happily ever after.
GEORGE I: 2 MISTRESSES
George I came to Britain from Hanover in 1714, after he inherited the throne, and with him he brought his two long-established mistresses. He had divorced his wife Sophia Dorothea of Celle in 1694, and had her imprisoned in the Castle of Ahlden for the rest of her life, after a scandalous affair. Her lover, Philip Christoph von Königsmarck, disappeared one morning never to be seen again, and years later two men confessed that George had paid them to kill him and dump his body in a river. His first mistress was Ehrengard Melusine von der Schulenburg, nicknamed “The Maypole” because she was so thin. Together they had three Illegitimate children: Anna Luise Sophie von der Schulenburg Countess of Dölitz (1692), Melusina von der Schulenburg Countess of Walsingham (1693) and Margaret Gertrude von der Schulenburg, Countess of Oeynhausen (1701). After Georges death she kept a pet raven which she believed was George’s re-incarnated soul. George’s second mistress, Sophia von Kielmansegg, was nicknamed “The Elephant” due to her portly size. In European royalty inbreeding was prolific as families struggled to keep their wealth and power, however this was usually a match between cousins. Sophia was actually George’s illegitimate half-sister as they were both children of Ernest Augustus Elector of Hanover. Sophia’s family have denied she slept with George, but it was common knowledge at British court she was his mistress. Both women were George’s mistresses until his death, in 1727.
WILLIAM IV: 1 MISTRESS
William IV was king of the United Kingdom for 20 years, but while he was Duke of Clarence he lived with his mistress, an Irish actress named Dorothea Jordan . They never married as they needed permission from the king in order to have a legitimate wedding. They were said to be very much in love and together they had 10 children George FitzClarence 1st Earl of Munster (1794), Henry Edward (1795), Sophia Sidney Baroness De L’Isle and Dudley (1796), Lady Mary Fox (1798), Lieutenant General Lord Frederick FitzClarence (1799), Elizabeth Hay Countess of Erroll (1801), Rear-Admiral Lord Adolphus FitzClarence (1802), Lady Augusta Hallyburton (1803), Lord Augustus FitzClarence (1805) and Amelia Cary Viscountess Falkland (1807). The relationship ended badly in 1811, Dorothea claimed that the split was due to money problems. The surname FitzClarence come from FitzRoy, an Anglo-Norman name meaning “son of the king”. Different versions of this name were used by many royals as a surname for their illegitimate children.
Queen Mary’s Diamond Riviere
Queen Mary gifted this diamond riviere (river of diamonds) to her granddaughter, Princess Margaret. The necklace is fashioned from a strand of 34 graduated old-cut diamonds set in silver and gold, and dates from about 1900.
The necklace sold at auction for $1,828,224.
Even with all this space, the art work is plastered across the walls outside the building, proudly displaying the cheeky slogan, ‘God Save the People’ as thought our Liz had painted it herself.