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Charles II's Illegitimate Children (Hardback)

Royal Bastards

Military > By Century > 17th Century P&S History > British History P&S History > Royal History

By Sarah-Beth Watkins
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 208
Illustrations: 40 black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781399000949
Published: 11th July 2023


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Charles II had at least twelve illegitimate children that we know of. Although his queen, Catherine of Braganza, fell pregnant several times she was not able to bear any children to full term. The king, who was known for his many mistresses, had his first recognised child out of wedlock in 1649; the child was James Croft who would become Duke of Monmouth and mastermind of an infamous rebellion. Not all of his children would gain such notoriety but they would live long and full lives creating a Stuart bloodline that descends to the present day.

There was Nell Gywn’s son, Charles Beauclerk, Duke of St Albans who was present at the siege of Belgrade in 1688. The French mistress, Louise de Keroualle’s son, Charles Lennox, Duke of Richmond who was an early patron of cricket. Catherine Pegge’s son, Charles Fitzcharles, 1st Earl of Plymouth who was a colonel in the King’s Own Royal Regiment and lost his life in Tangier and Moll Davis’ daughter Mary Tudor, Countess of Derwentwater who separated from her husband because she refused to be a Catholic.

Not to mention Charles’s offspring by Barbara Villiers, Lady Castlemaine and later Duchess of Cleveland – there was Anne who had an affair with one of her father’s mistresses, Charles who succeeded to the dukedom of Cleveland, Henry who became vice-admiral of England, George who was in the secret service in Venice, Barbara who after a torrid affair with the Earl of Arran gave birth to illegitimate twins and became a nun in France and Charlotte, who became Countess of Lichfield and had eighteen children!

And then there are the stories of other children like James de la Cloche and Charlotte Boyle whose births and lives are shrouded in mystery and rumour. This book will bring to life the king’s many illegitimate children and tell their stories.

It is always a little tricky to write historical facts in a way which also appeals to a lay reader and in this book on Charles II's many illegitimate children, Watkins does an excellent job in doing just that. It is widely known that this king loved women and had no qualms in sharing his largesse to many of them. His children have been largely mentioned as footnotes to his women and here we find out more of their lives. The author dedicates a chapter to each child, expanding on their future positions within the Royal Courts. I enjoyed this book very much and found it a fascinating insight to lives of those in the King's orbit. I liked Charles, he brought a liveliness through his Court into an England which had sustained so much misery during Cromwell's Ill fated 'reign'. Well done Ms. Watkins, an excellent read.

NetGalley, Carol Elizabeth Keogh

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this book as the illegitimate children of monarchs are largely ignored unless they have an important role to play in history, such as the Duke of Monmouth.
I also found it fascinating that one of Charles' sons had a learning disability.
This is very well researched... This is will be a very useful guide to those who are fans of the early Stuarts.

NetGalley, Emma Potter

I enjoyed this book - the author's knowledge and research was clear, the style was easy to read and the details enhanced my knowledge of the time, places and people involved in the historical work.

NetGalley, Terri Brisbin

I found this book an easy read, and enjoyed the gossipy nature of the narrative. Ms Watkins manages to convey the hedonistic and pleasure-loving atmosphere of Charles II’s luxurious royal court where his mistresses jockeyed for position and the wandering attention of their sovereign, and where their offspring grew up.
A nice touch were the items in the Appendices, including a parallel chapter on the mistresses and illegitimate children of Charles’s younger brother and heir James.
All in all, this book was a pleasure to read. It’s well researched but doesn’t bog the narrative down with unnecessary information. And the interconnecting lives of the women, their children and the wider nobility of Restoration England is fascinating to discover.

Jo Thompson, In My Lady's Chamber

The lives of these illegitimate children have been well-researched by the author... book is definitely recommended for anyone with an interest in the British monarchy and its history.

The New Royalty World Blog

Watkins’ detailed prose and clear investigative researching skills adds to the experience, as her commitment to maintaining and preserving these individual historical narratives shines through the pages of this book. Watkins really does bring these historical figures to life, and she adds a great deal of contextual information to situate these Stuarts, albeit outside the royal family and line of succession, into the larger historical record in this fantastic new book.

NetGalley, Lily Amidon

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

It was full of information that I didn't know before. Highly recommend for history buffs out there!

NetGalley, Heather Michael

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Interesting and informative book, well written so it keeps you interested from beginning to end. A must read for history lovers of this time period in history.

NetGalley, Heather Bennett

It is a very informative book that I will be recommending to all history lovers.

NetGalley, Sianne Wardle

My local art museum has a painting of Charles II, by Philippe de Champaigne. Every time I go to the museum, I make my way up to the room with European armor to see him. He was the last King to wear a suit of armor according to the museum display even though he never set foot on the battlefield.

Charles has been one of my favorite Kings for a few reasons: he brought back the monarchy, he loved to party and gamble, and my favorite fact to tell to someone who doesn't know Charles is he had numerous children, none of them with his wife. It usually brings two very different reactions; amused laughter or sheer horror. Mine being the first, of course not without sympathy of Catherine of Braganza, his Queen Consort who appeared to be unable to have children. Although I enjoy studying Charles' court, I've never studied his children.

Browsing around netgalley, I saw this book listed as an ARC option. I began to wonder why I never studied his children and realized the opportunity had presented itself to be able to.

Charles II's Illegitimate Children: Royal Bastards by Sarah Beth Watkins focuses on each of Charles' children, his mistresses and their stories. We learn what they did with their lives. Many of them have important stories and contributions to society of their own. whether in the spotlight or in mystery. It's very easy to follow.

I found my found it fascinating to learn the Stuart bloodline continues to this day, although of course not on throne. There are at least twelves illegitimate children, so imagine how many descendants are living currently!

4/5 stars. Recommend to anyone wanting to learn more about the Stuart Dynasty. Excellent topic.

NetGalley, Traci Hoffman

This was a well-researched and informative look into the lives of Charles II's children.

NetGalley, Andrea Romance

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

A fascinating look into the Monarch, Charles II and his multiple illegitimate children. His long-suffering wife put up with his various mistresses and extreme amount of royal bastards. I really enjoyed this book as this is not typically the time period that I'm drawn to. Charles II was a rake but I do find him so interesting and the time period of the Restoration is fabulous. I do plan on doing further research on this King and his illegitimate children as I really was intrigued. I recommend this book to anyone that is interested in the British monarchy, Mistresses and illegitimate progeny.

NetGalley, Sheri O'Neill

You could be forgiven for mistaking this for a work of fiction, so convoluted and scandalous are some of the circumstances and relationships recounted in this book. It’s fascinating and really well written considering how confusing it had the potential to be! The author pulls together timeframes and relationships in an easily followed way and makes for a really interesting book.

NetGalley, Louise Gray

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This was a well-researched book about Charles II and his illegitimate children. It was interesting to read about how many kids there were. Sarah-Beth Watkins does a great job in bringing this topic to life.

NetGalley, Kathryn McLeer

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I recently had the pleasure of reading a book about Charles II's illegitimate children. The book was a compelling and enlightening read, bringing attention to a frequently overlooked facet of the monarch's personal life

NetGalley, Karen Bull

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I found this book to be quite fascinating. It seemed to be researched abundantly and it was very well-organized from start to finish. I have not read anything regarding Charles II yet, but this book has made me want to learn more about him. I would reread this one again after publication.

NetGalley, Stephanie Peterson

About Sarah-Beth Watkins

Sarah-Beth Watkins is the best-selling author of Tudor and Stuart non-fiction books including Lady Katherine Knollys: The Unacknowledged Daughter of King Henry VIII. She writes articles for The Tudor Society and various history blogs. Watkins grew up in Kew, not far from Richmond and Hampton Court Palace, and was often to be found as a child soaking up history at Ham House. She now lives in Ireland.

Perfect Partner

Charles II's Favourite Mistress Pretty, Witty Nell Gwyn (Hardback)

Nell Gwyn, the most infamous mistress of Charles II, was a commoner raised from the dingy back alleys of London to the stage and into a king’s arms. Hers was a true rags to riches story that saw a young girl rise from selling oranges to capturing the heart of a king. The Restoration period was one of change. After the troubled years of the English Civil War, it was time for pleasure, debauchery and entertainment with the ‘Merry Monarch’ restored to the throne. Nell was one of the first actresses on stage; a loveable comedienne who wowed audiences with her wit and charm. She fell in love…

By Sarah-Beth Watkins

Click here to buy both titles for £36.49
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