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Ravenous: A Life of Barbara Villiers, Charles II's Most Infamous Mistress (Hardback)

P&S History > British History P&S History > Royal History P&S History > Social History Women of History

By Andrea Zuvich
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 256
Illustrations: 40 black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781526769107
Published: 30th July 2024


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Barbara Villiers was a woman so beautiful, so magnetic and so sexually attractive that she captured the hearts of many in Stuart-era Britain. Her beauty is legendary: she became the muse of artists such as Peter Lely, the inspiration of writers such as John Dryden and the lover of John Churchill, the future great military leader whom we also know as the 1st Duke of Marlborough. Her greatest amorous conquest was King Charles II, King of England, Scotland, and Ireland, with whom she had a tempestuous and passionate relationship for the better part of a decade.

But this loveliest of Stuart-era ladies had a dark side. She hurt and humiliated her husband, Roger Palmer, for decades with her unashamedly adulterous lifestyle, she plotted the ruin of her enemies, constantly gambled away vast sums of money, is remembered for the destruction of the Tudor-era Nonsuch Palace, and was known to unleash terrible rages when crossed. Crassly lampooned by John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester, and subjected to verbal and written assaults, she was physically abused by a later, violent spouse.

Barbara lived through some of the most turbulent times in British history: civil war, the Great Plague of London, which saw the deaths of around 100,000 people, the Great Fire of London, which destroyed much of the medieval city, and foreign conflicts such as the Anglo-Dutch Wars, the Williamite wars, and the War of the Spanish Succession.

An impoverished aristocrat who rose to become a wealthy countess and then a duchess, taking her lovers from all walks of life, Barbara laughed at the morals of her time and used her natural talents and her ruthless determination to the material benefit of herself and her numerous offspring. In great stately homes and castles such as Hampton Court Palace, her portraits are widely seen and appreciated even today. She had an insatiable appetite for life, love, riches, amusement, and power. She was simply ‘ravenous’…

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 Andrea Zuvich

About Andrea Zuvich

Andrea Zuvich is a seventeenth-century historian specialising in the House of Stuart (1603–1714), as well as a historical advisor and author of historical fiction. She is the host of the popular ‘The Seventeenth Century Lady’ blog and has degrees in History and Anthropology from the University of Central Florida. Zuvich has appeared on television and radio discussing the Stuart period and gives lectures on the Stuart dynasty throughout the UK. She was one of the original developers of and leaders on the Garden History Tours at Kensington Palace. Zuvich, a Chilean-American born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, now lives in England with her family. This is her sixth book.

Perfect Partner

Sex and Sexuality in Stuart Britain (Paperback)

Peek beneath the bedsheets of Stuart Britain in this frank, informative, and captivating look at the sexual lives of the peoples of the British Isles between 1603 and 1714. Popular Stuart historian Andrea Zuvich, “The Seventeenth Century Lady”, explores our ancestors’ ingenious, surprising, bizarre, and often entertaining beliefs and solutions to the challenges associated with maintaining a healthy sex life, along with the prevailing attitudes towards male and female sexual behaviour. The author sheds light not only on the saucy love lives of the Royal Stuarts, but also on the dark underbelly…

By Andrea Zuvich

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