Barbara Villiers, 1st Duchess of Cleveland (Royal Mistress of Charles II)

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Duchess Barbara Palmer (Villiers), Duchess of Cleveland, Countess of Castlemaine

Also Known As: "Barbara", "Palmer", "Villiers", "1st", "Duchess", "of", "Cleveland", "Lady Castlemaine", "The Uncrowned Queen of England", "Scotland & Ireland", "Heveningham", "Royal Mistress of Charles II"
Birthplace: St. Margarets, Greater London, England (United Kingdom)
Death: October 09, 1709 (68)
Chiswick, Middlesex, England (United Kingdom) (dropsy with congestive heart)
Place of Burial: Chiswick, Middlesex, England
Immediate Family:

Daughter of William Villiers, 2nd Viscount Grandison and Hon. Mary Bayning
Wife of John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough; Roger Palmer, 1st Earl of Castlemaine, PC and Sir William Heveningham
Ex-wife of Robert "Beau" Fielding
Partner of Philip Stanhope, 2nd Earl of Chesterfield and Charles II of England
Mother of Lady Barbara Fitzroy, Prioress of St. Nicholas de Pontoise; Lady Anne Fitzroy Stuart-Lennard; Charles Fitzroy, 2nd Duke of Cleveland; Henry Fitzroy, 1st Duke of Grafton; Charlotte Lee, Countess of Lichfield and 3 others

Occupation: 1st Duchess of Cleveland, Duchess of Cleveland; Countess of Castlemaine; Baroness Limerick; Royal Mistress, Duchess of Cleveland Royal Mistress, Lady of the Bedchamber
Label: Royal Mistress of Charles II
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Barbara Villiers, 1st Duchess of Cleveland (Royal Mistress of Charles II)

Share some things about Barbara Pauler............

Wikipedia: English:,_1st_Duchess_of_Cleveland


Barbara Palmer, 1st Duchess of Cleveland (27 November [O.S. 17 November] 1640 – 9 October 1709) was an English courtesan and perhaps the most notorious of the many mistresses of King Charles II of England, by whom she had five children, all of whom he acknowledged and subsequently ennobled. Her immediate contemporary was Madame de Montespan, mistress of King Louis XIV of France.

Barbara was the subject of many portraits, in particular by court painter Sir Peter Lely. Her extravagance, foul temper and promiscuity provoked diarist John Evelyn into describing her as the "curse of the nation".

Formerly an Anglican; in 1663, she converted to Roman Catholicism.

Early life

Born Barbara Villiers at the parish of St. Margaret's, Westminster, London, she was the only child of the 2nd Viscount Grandison, William Villiers (a half-nephew of the 1st Duke of Buckingham), and his wife, Mary Bayning, heiress of the 1st Viscount Bayning. On 20 September 1643, her father died in the English Civil War from a wound sustained at the Battle of Newbury while fighting for the Royalists. He had spent his considerable fortune on horses and ammunition for his Cavalier regiment; his widow and daughter were left in straitened circumstances. Shortly after Lord Grandison's death, Barbara's mother the Lady Mary remarried to Charles Villiers, Earl of Anglesea, a cousin of her late husband.

Upon the 1649 execution of King Charles I, the impoverished Villiers clan secretly transferred their loyalty to his son, Charles. Every year on 29 May, the new King's birthday, young Barbara, along with her family, descended to the cellar of their home in total darkness and clandestinely drank to his health. At that time, King Charles was wandering about the Continent, exiled and penniless.

King's Mistress

Tall, voluptuous, with masses of auburn hair, slanting, heavy-lidded blue-violet eyes, alabaster skin, and a sensuous, sulky mouth, Barbara Villiers was considered to be one of the most beautiful of the Royalist women, but her lack of fortune left her with reduced marriage prospects. Her first serious romance was with Philip Stanhope, 2nd Earl of Chesterfield, but he was searching for a rich wife; he would wed Elizabeth Butler in 1660. On 14 April 1659 she married Roger Palmer (later 1st Earl of Castlemaine) against his family's wishes; his father predicted that she would make him one of the most miserable men in the world. Palmer was a Roman Catholic. The two separated in 1662, following the birth of her first son. They remained married for his lifetime, but it is believed that Palmer did not father any of his wife's children.

Barbara became King Charles's mistress in 1660, while still married to Palmer, and whilst Charles was still in exile at The Hague. The Palmers had joined the ambitious group of supplicants who sailed for Brussels at the end of 1659. As a reward for her services, the King created her husband Baron Limerick and Earl of Castlemaine in 1661. In many contemporary accounts, including Pepys's Diary, she is referred to as "Lady Castlemaine".

Of her six children, five were acknowledged by Charles as his:

Lady Anne Palmer, later FitzRoy (1661–1722), probably daughter of Charles II, although some people believed she bore a resemblance to the Earl of Chesterfield. She later became the Countess of Sussex.

Charles Palmer, later FitzRoy (1662–1730), styled Lord Limerick and later Earl of Southampton, created Duke of Southampton (1675), later 2nd Duke of Cleveland (1709)

Henry FitzRoy (1663–1690), created Earl of Euston (1672) and Duke of Grafton (1675)

Charlotte FitzRoy (1664–1718), later Countess of Lichfield. She gave birth to twenty children.

George FitzRoy (1665–1716), created Earl of Northumberland (1674) and Duke of Northumberland (1683)

Barbara (Benedicta) FitzRoy (1672–1737) - Barbara Villiers claimed that she was Charles' daughter, but she was probably the child of her mother's second cousin and lover, John Churchill, later Duke of Marlborough

Lady of The Bedchamber

By 1662, Barbara, the King's mistress, had more influence at the court than his queen consort, Catherine of Braganza. In point of fact, Barbara chose to give birth to their second child at Hampton Court Palace while he and the Queen were honeymooning. In the summer of 1662 she was appointed Lady of the Bedchamber despite opposition from Queen Catherine and Edward Hyde, 1st Earl of Clarendon, one advisor to the King and a bitter enemy of Barbara's. Behind closed doors, Barbara and the Queen feuded constantly.

Barbara's influence over the King waxed and waned. Her victory in being appointed as Lady of the Bedchamber was followed by rumours of an estrangement between her and the King, the result of his infatuation with Frances Stuart. In December 1663, Barbara announced her conversion to Catholicism. Historians disagree as to why she did so. Some believe it was an attempt to consolidate her position with the King, and some believe it was a way of strengthening her ties with her Catholic husband.

In June 1670 Charles created her Baroness Nonsuch (as she was the owner of Nonsuch Palace). She was also, briefly, granted the ownership of Phoenix Park in Dublin as a present from the King. She was made Countess of Castlemaine and Duchess of Cleveland in her own right. However, no one at court was sure if this was an indication that she was being jettisoned by Charles, or whether this was a sign that she was even higher in his favours. The dukedom was made with a special remainder which allowed it to be passed to her eldest son, Charles FitzRoy, despite his illegitimacy.


Barbara was known for her dual nature. Diarist John Evelyn called her "the curse of the nation"; yet, others described her as great fun, keeping a good table and with a heart to match her famous temper. Lady Barbara took advantage of her influence over the King, using it to her own benefit. She would help herself to money from the Privy Purse and take bribes from the Spanish and the French. She was famously extravagant and promiscuous. She also meddled in politics, supporting the Second Dutch War (declared in February 1665), along with most of the court and Parliament.[10] But there are accounts of exceptional kindness from Barbara; once, after a scaffold had fallen onto a crowd of people at the theatre, she rushed to assist an injured child, and was the only court lady to have done so.


While the King had taken other mistresses, the most notable being the actress Nell Gwynne, Barbara took other lovers too, including the acrobat Jacob Hall and her second cousin John Churchill. Her lovers benefited financially from the arrangement; Churchill purchased an annuity with £5,000 Barbara gave him. As the result of the 1673 Test Act, which essentially banned Catholics from holding office, Barbara lost her position as Lady of the Bedchamber, and the King cast her aside completely from her position as mistress, taking Louise de Kéroualle as his newest "favourite."

In 1676 she travelled to Paris with her four youngest children, but returned to England four years later. In 1705 Roger Palmer died, and she married Major-General Robert "Beau" Fielding, an unscrupulous fortune-hunter whom she later had prosecuted for bigamy. She died at the age of 68 on 9 October 1709 at Chiswick Mall after suffering from an oedema, known at the time as dropsy.


Barbara had many notable descendants, including Diana, Princess of Wales and Sir Anthony Eden, British Prime Minister from 1955-1957.

In Movies, Film & Television

In the 1911 film, Sweet Nell of Old Dury, Barbara is played by Agnes Keogh

In the 1922 film, The Glorious Adventure, Barbara is played by Elizabeth Beerbohm

In the 1926 film, Nell Gwynne, Barbara is played by Juliette Compton

In the 1934 film, Colonel Blood, Barbara is played by Anne Grey

In the 1947 film, Forever Amber, Barbara is played by Natalie Draper

In the 1969 mini-series, The First Churchills, Barbara is played by Moira Redmond

In the 1974 TV series, Churchill's People, Barbara is played by Diana Rayworth

In the 1989 film, The Lady And The Highwayman, Barbara is played by Emma Samms

In the 1995 film, England, My England, Barbara is played by Letitia Dean

In the 2003 mini-series, Charles II: The Power & The Passion, Barbara is played by Helen McCrory

In the 2009 film, Broadside, Barbara is played by Antonia Kinley

In literature

Barbara is the protagonist in the book Royal Harlot (2007) by Susan Holloway Scott.

Barbara Villiers figures prominently in Bernard Shaw's play In Good King Charles's Golden Days.

Barbara is the protagonist in Royal Mistress, by Patricia Campbell Horton (1977)

Barbara Palmer née Villiers, as Countess of Castlemaine, features prominently in Kathleen Winsor's scandalous 1944 bestseller "Forever Amber".

Barbara features largely in A Health Unto His Majesty, by Jean Plaidy (1956)

arbara Villiers, Duchess of Cleveland1 F, #105029, b. 17 November 1640, d. 9 October 1709

Last Edited=27 Apr 2011

Barbara Villiers By Peter Lely, 1667 2

    Barbara Villiers, Duchess of Cleveland was baptised on 17 November 1640 at St. Margaret's Church, Westminster, London, England.4 She was born in 1640.4 She was the daughter of William Villiers, 2nd Viscount Grandison of Limerick and Hon. Mary Bayning.3 She married, firstly, Roger Palmer, 1st Earl of Castlemaine, son of Sir James Palmer and Lady Catherine Herbert, on 14 April 1659 at St. Gregory's by St. Paul's, London, England.1 She married, secondly, Colonel Robert Feilding on 25 November 1705 in a bigamous marriage as his second wife was still alive marriage.5 She and Colonel Robert Feilding were divorced on 23 May 1707.5 She and Roger Palmer, 1st Earl of Castlemaine were separated before 1661.3 She died on 9 October 1709 at age 68 at Chiswick, Middlesex, England, from dropsy.3,5 She was buried on 13 October 1709 at Chiswick, Middlesex, England.5 Her will was probated on 10 October 1709.5
    Barbara Villiers, Duchess of Cleveland and Charles II Stuart, King of Great Britain were associated between 1659 and 1668.3,6 From 14 April 1659, her married name became Palmer. She held the office of Lady of the Bedchamber to the Queen Consort in August 1662.6 She and John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough were associated circa 1668.7 She was created 1st Duchess of Cleveland [England] on 3 August 1670, with special remainder to her eldest son, Charles Palmer and then to her 'second' son, George Palmer.1 She was created 1st Baron Nonsuch, co. Surrey [England] on 3 August 1670, with special remainder to her eldest son, Charles Palmer and then to her 'second' son, George Palmer.5 She was created 1st Countess of Southampton [England] on 3 August 1670, with special remainder to her eldest son, Charles Palmer and then to her 'second' son, George Palmer.5 She held the office of Ranger of Bushy Park in 1677.5 From 25 November 1705, her married name became Feilding.5 Her last will was dated 11 August 1709. Children of Barbara Villiers, Duchess of Cleveland and Charles II Stuart, King of Great Britain Lady Anne Palmer+8 b. 25 Feb 1660/61, d. 16 May 1722 Charles Fitzroy, 2nd Duke of Cleveland+9 b. 18 Jun 1662, d. 9 Sep 1730 Henry Fitzroy, 1st Duke of Grafton+10 b. 28 Sep 1663, d. 9 Oct 1690 Lady Charlotte Fitzroy+11 b. 5 Sep 1664, d. 17 Feb 1717/18 George FitzRoy, 1st Duke of Northumberland11 b. 28 Oct 1665, d. 28 Jun 1716 Barbara Fitzroy+11 b. 16 Jul 1672, d. 6 May 1737 Child of Barbara Villiers, Duchess of Cleveland and Cardonell Goodman unknown son Goodman11 b. Mar 1686 Citations [S6] G.E. Cokayne; with Vicary Gibbs, H.A. Doubleday, Geoffrey H. White, Duncan Warrand and Lord Howard de Walden, editors, The Complete Peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain and the United Kingdom, Extant, Extinct or Dormant, new ed., 13 volumes in 14 (1910-1959; reprint in 6 volumes, Gloucester, U.K.: Alan Sutton Publishing, 2000), volume III, page 90. Hereinafter cited as The Complete Peerage. [S3409] Caroline Maubois, "re: Penancoet Family," e-mail message to Darryl Roger Lundy, 2 December 2008. Hereinafter cited as "re: Penancoet Family." [S6] Cokayne, and others, The Complete Peerage, volume III, page 91. [S2] Peter W. Hammond, editor, The Complete Peerage or a History of the House of Lords and All its Members From the Earliest Times, Volume XIV: Addenda & Corrigenda (Stroud, Gloucestershire, U.K.: Sutton Publishing, 1998), page 187. Hereinafter cited as The Complete Peerage, Volume XIV. [S6] Cokayne, and others, The Complete Peerage, volume III, page 281. [S6] Cokayne, and others, The Complete Peerage, volume III, page 280. [S6] Cokayne, and others, The Complete Peerage, volume VIII, page 493. [S11] Alison Weir, Britain's Royal Family: A Complete Genealogy (London, U.K.: The Bodley Head, 1999), page 256. Hereinafter cited as Britain's Royal Family. [S6] Cokayne, and others, The Complete Peerage, volume III, page 282. [S37] Charles Mosley, editor, Burke's Peerage, Baronetage & Knightage, 107th edition, 3 volumes (Wilmington, Delaware, U.S.A.: Burke's Peerage (Genealogical Books) Ltd, 2003), volume 2, page 1616. Hereinafter cited as Burke's Peerage and Baronetage, 107th edition. [S37] Charles Mosley, Burke's Peerage and Baronetage, 107th edition, volume 2, page 2096

Barbara Villiers, 1st Duchess of Cleveland (Royal Mistress of Charles II) is our second cousin 11 times removed.
Janet Milburn

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Barbara Villiers, 1st Duchess of Cleveland (Royal Mistress of Charles II)'s Timeline

November 17, 1640
St. Margarets, Greater London, England (United Kingdom)
November 17, 1640
St. Margaret's Church, Westminster, London, England (United Kingdom)
February 25, 1661
Westminster, Middlesex, England
June 18, 1662
Westminster, Middlesex, England
September 28, 1663
Whitehall Palace, London, Middlesex, England
Age 22
London - became Catholic
September 5, 1664
London, England (United Kingdom)
December 28, 1665
London, natural son of Charles II & Barbara Villiers