Nell Gwyn
Nell Gwyn was a theater actress who rose to prominence as the long-time mistress of King Charles II

Full Name Eleanor Gwyn
Who royal mistress, actress
Birth Date February 2, 1650
Death Date November 14, 1687
Country England
Born London, England, UK
Died London, England, UK
Cause of Death stroke
Education n/a
Father unknown
Mother Ellen Gwyn
Spouse n/a
Children Charles Beauclerk
Siblings Rose Gwyn


Gwyn was an acquaintance of Samuel Pepys from a young age. He attended her first appearance on stage in 1664, and often mentioned her in his diaries after that.

Gwyn, a young actress on the road to fame at the time, was made the mistress of Charles Sackville, 6th Earl of Dorset, in 1667. During their affair, Gwyn was 17, and Sackville was 30. Their dalliance did not last long, and was over within a few months. During this time, he reportedly paid her to quit acting.

Through Sackville, Gwyn was introduced to his friends Charles Sedley, 5th Baronet, and Andrew Marvell.

Gwyn was a friend of Aphra Behn.

Gwyn was approached in late 1667 by George Villiers, 2nd Duke of Buckingham, with a request that she become the mistress of Charles II. She requested a sum of 500 pounds a year, which was rejected as too expensive.

Moll Davis was Gwyn's first true rival, being a celebrated actress with a rival theater company, and mistress to Charles II. Davis began her relationship with the king after Gwyn was rejected as being too expensive. Davis was known for crudely flaunting her newfound status, and showing off her wealth in exorbitant splurges, much to Gwyn's frustration. She once famously slipped a powerful laxative into Davis' cakes, just before the other girl went to bed with the king.

Gwyn began her long relationship with Charles II in 1668. He had been interested in her for many months before that, and had undoubtedly already seen her perform onstage. After going to a play specifically to meet her, the King asked her to dinner with himself and James II. They soon afterward began a love affair, though Gwyn continued acting. Within a year, she had become Charles' head (and possibly only) mistress, and the two fell in love. Gwyn left the stage and had a son with him, Charles Beauclerk, in 1670. She remained Charles' main lover until his death in 1685, and is considered by many to have been the love of his life.

Gwyn's primary rival was Louise de Kerouaille, who came to England in 1670, shortly after Gwyn gave birth to her son, under the guise of wishing to become a maid of honour to Queen Catherine of Braganza, though she quickly became Charles' mistress. The two women were opposites in temperment: Gwyn being a feisty and outspoken girl of lower birth, and Kerouaille a genteel and sophisticated young lady raised in the luxuries of Versailles. Gwyn would often criticize Kerouaille's "squinting" cat eyes and tendency toward weeping, while Kerouaille often criticized Gwyn's obscenities and unladylike behavior.

As the royal mistress, Gwyn was also close to the king's brother, and later King of England, James II. After Charles' death, James kept his word to his brother about taking care of Nell, and payed off her debts, paid for her mortgage, and gave her a generous annual allowance. He also attempted to convert her to Catholicism, which she resisted.

Gwyn was a long-time friend of John Dryden, who praised her wit and cleverness.


London, England, UK - Born here, 1650. Lived entire life here. Died here, 1687.

Oxford, Oxfordshire, England, UK - Traveled here during the Plague, 1665.

Epsom, Surrey, England, UK - Traveled here, 1667.

How Found - Through her lover Charles II of England.

Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.