Nell Gwyn

Timeline created by Moosey
  • Born?

    an account published in The New Monthly Magazine and Humorist in 1838 states that she was born about 1642.
  • Born?

    The details of Nell's background are somewhat obscure. A horoscope in the Ashmolean manuscripts gives her date of birth as 2 February 1650
  • Restoration of Charles II

    'Oak Apple day'
  • Takes a lover by the name of "Duncan" or "Dungan"

    Their relationship lasted perhaps two years and was reported with obscenity-laced acidity in several later satires; "For either with expense of purse or p---k, / At length the weary fool grew Nelly-sick". Duncan provided Gwyn with rooms at a tavern in Maypole Alley, and the satires also say he was involved in securing Nell a job at the theatre being built nearby.
  • King's Company, led by Thomas Killigrew, opened a new playhouse, the Theatre in Bridges/Brydges Street

    King's Company, led by Thomas Killigrew, opened a new playhouse, the Theatre in Bridges/Brydges Street
    later rebuilt and renamed the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane.
  • Sells oranges at the Theatre Royal

    Sells oranges at the Theatre Royal
    Mary Meggs, a former prostitute nicknamed "Orange Moll" and a friend of Madam Gwyn's, had been granted the licence to "vend, utter and sell oranges, lemons, fruit, sweetmeats and all manner of fruiterers and confectioners wares," within the theatre. Orange Moll hired Nell and her older sister Rose as scantily clad "orange-girls", selling the small, sweet "china" oranges to the audience inside the theatre for a sixpence each.
  • Becomes actress at Bridges Street (later Theatre Royal)

    She was taught her craft of performing at a school for young actors developed by Killigrew[19] and one of the fine male actors of the time, Charles Hart, and learned dancing from another, John Lacy; both were rumoured by satirists of the time to be her lovers, but if she had such a relationship with Lacy (Beauclerk thinks it unlikely), it was kept much more discreet than her well-known affair with Hart.
  • Her first recorded appearance on-stage

    in John Dryden's heroic drama The Indian Emperour, playing Cydaria, daughter of Moctezuma and love interest to Cortez, played by her real-life lover Charles Hart.
  • appeared opposite Hart in James Howard's comedy All Mistaken, or the Mad Couple

  • Gwyn and the other ten "women comedians in His Majesty's Theatre" were issued the right (and the cloth) to wear the King's livery at the start of this exile, proclaiming them official servants of the King.

  • first mentioned in Pepys' diary

    first mentioned in Pepys' diary
    while attending a play, where the description 'pretty, witty Nell' is first recorded.
  • James Howard's The English Monsieur

    After the theatres reopened, Gwyn and Hart returned to play role after role that fit the mould of the gay couple. Also in Richard Rhodes' Flora's Vagaries, an adaptation of John Fletcher's The Chances by George Villiers, and then in their greatest success, Secret Love, or The Maiden Queen.
  • The Maiden Queen huge hit

    featured breeches roles, where the actress appeared in men's clothes under one pretence or another, and as Bax supposes "was one of the first occasions upon which a woman appeared in the disguise of a man"; if nothing else this could draw an audience eager to see the women show off their figures in the more form-fitting male attire. The theatres sometimes had a hard time holding onto their actresses, as they were swept up to become the kept mistresses of the aristocracy.
  • Mistress to Charles Sackville, titled Lord Buckhurst at that time.

    Mistress to Charles Sackville, titled Lord Buckhurst at that time.
    She supposedly caught his eye during an April performance of All Mistaken, or The Mad Couple, especially in one scene in which, to escape a hugely fat suitor able to move only by rolling, she rolls across the stage herself, her feet toward the audience and her petticoats flying about. Yet Hart more manners had, then not to tender
    When noble Buckhurst beg'd him to surrender.
    He saw her roll the stage from side to side
    And, through her drawers the powerful charm descry'd.
  • George Villers tries to swap out Barbara Palmer with Nell - and fails

    George Villers tries to swap out Barbara Palmer with Nell - and fails
    George Villiers, 2nd Duke of Buckingham took on the role of unofficial manager for Gwyn's love affairs. He aimed to provide King Charles II with someone who would supplant Barbara Palmer, his principal current mistress (and Buckingham's cousin), moving Buckingham closer to the King's ear. The plan failed; reportedly, Gwyn asked £500 a year to be kept and this was rejected as too expensive.
  • Gwyn and Buckhurst left London for a country holiday in Epsom

    accompanied by Charles Sedley, another wit in the merry gang. Pepys reports the news on 13 July: "[Mr. Pierce tells us] Lord Buckhurst hath got Nell away from the King's house, lies with her, and gives her £100 a year, so she hath sent her parts to the house, and will act no more."
  • Back to acting after end of brief affair with Buckhurst

    Pepys reports that by 22 August 1667, Nell had returned to the King’s Playhouse in The Indian Emperour. On 26 August, Pepys learns from Moll Davis that, ‘Nell is already left by my Lord Buckhurst, and that he makes sport of her, and swears she hath had all she could get of him; and Hart, her great admirer, now hates her; and that she is very poor, and hath lost my Lady Castlemayne, who was her great friend also but she is come to the House, but is neglected by them all’
  • Laxatives with Behn, to Moll Davis?

    Laxatives with Behn, to Moll Davis?
    Buckingham had an alternative plan, which was to set the King up with Moll Davis, an actress with the rival Duke's Company. Davis would be Nell's first rival for the King. Several anonymous satires from the time relate a tale of Gwyn, with the help of her friend Aphra Behn, slipping a powerful laxative into Davis's tea-time cakes before an evening when she was expected in the King's bed.
  • Starts affair with King Charles

  • Dryden's An Evening's Love

    or The Mock Astrologer, and in July she played in Lacy's The Old Troop, a farce about a company of Cavalier soldiers during the English Civil War, based on Lacy's own experiences. Possibly, Nell Gwyn's father had served in the same company, and Gwyn's part—the company whore—was based on her own mother.
  • Louise de Kérouaille came to England from France,

    to serve as a maid of honour to Queen Catherine, but also to become another mistress to King Charles, probably by design on both the French and English sides. She and Gwyn would prove rivals for many years to come. They were opposites in personality and mannerism; Louise a proud woman of noble birth used to the sophistication of Versailles, Nell a spirited and pranking ex-orange-wench. Gwyn nicknamed Louise "Squintabella" for her looks and the "Weeping Willow" for her tendencies to sob.
  • Birth to first child Charles

    Birth to first child Charles
    During Gwyn's first years with Charles, there was little competition in the way of other mistresses: Barbara Palmer was on her way out in most respects, certainly in terms of age and looks, while others, such as Moll Davis, kept quietly away from the spotlight of public appearances or Whitehall. Nell gave birth to her first son, Charles, on 8 May 1670. This was the King's seventh son—by five separate mistresses.
  • Return to stage

    Return to stage
    Gwyn returned to the stage again in late 1670, something Beauclerk calls an "extraordinary thing to do" for a mistress with a royal child. Her return was in Dryden's The Conquest of Granada, a two-part epic produced in December 1670 and January 1671. This may have been her last play; 1671 was almost certainly her last season.[49] Nell Gwyn's theatrical career spanned seven years and ended at the age of 21 (if we take 1650 to be her birth year).
  • moved into a brick townhouse at 79 Pall Mall

    The property was owned by the crown and its current resident was instructed to transfer the lease to Gwyn. Gwyn seemed unsatisfied with being a lessee only—in 1673 we are told in a letter of Joseph Williamson that "Madam Gwinn complains she has no house yett." Gwyn is said to have complained that "she had always conveyed free under the Crown, and always would; and would not accept [the house] till it was conveyed free to her by an Act of Parliament."
  • Gives birth to James (second child y king)

    Nell Gwyn gave birth to her second child by the King, christened James, on 25 December 1671. Sent to school in Paris when he was six, he died there in 1681. The circumstances of the child's life in Paris and the cause of his death are both unknown, one of the few clues being that he died "of a sore leg", which Beauclerk speculates could mean anything from an accident to poison.[52] Her family's history has been published in the authoritative book: The House of Nell Gwyn (1974).
  • Gwyn was granted the freehold of the property,

    which remained in her family until 1693; as of 1960 the property was still the only one on the south side of Pall Mall not owned by the Crown.
  • Nell's mother buried

    Nell's mother is said to have drowned when she fell into the water at her house near Chelsea. She was buried on 30 July 1679, in her 56th year, at St Martin in the Fields. an alcoholic whose business was running a bawdy house.
  • King Charles dies

    James II, obeying his brother's deathbed wish, "Let not poor Nelly starve," eventually paid most of Gwyn's debts and gave her an annual pension of £1,500. He also paid off the mortgage on Gwyn's Nottinghamshire Lodge at Bestwood, which remained in the Beauclerk family until 1940.[55] At the same time, James applied pressure on Nell and her son Charles to convert to Roman Catholicism, something she resisted.
  • Gwyn suffered a stroke that left her paralysed on one side.

  • Second stroke, makes will

    In May, a second stroke left her confined to the bed in her Pall Mall house; she made out her will on 9 July and a codicil on 18 October with her executors, Laurence Hyde (the Earl of Rochester), Thomas Earl of Pembroke, Sir Robert Sawyer the Attorney General, and Henry Sidney each receiving £100.
  • Dies

    from apoplexy "almost certainly due to the acquired variety of syphilis" on 14 November 1687, at ten in the evening, less than three years after the King's death. She was 37 years old (if she was born in 1650). Her balance at Child’s Bank was reported to be well over four figures, and she possessed almost 15,000 ounces of plate
  • Charles Beauclerc, the King's natural son, and to the heirs male of his body, of the dignities of Baron of Heddington, co. Oxford, and Earl of Burford in the same county, with remainder to his brother, James Beauclerc, and the heirs male of his body

    Charles Beauclerc, the King's natural son, and to the heirs male of his body, of the dignities of Baron of Heddington, co. Oxford, and Earl of Burford in the same county, with remainder to his brother, James Beauclerc, and the heirs male of his body
    -- Charles was six years old, on the arrival of the King, Nell said, "Come here, you little bastard, and say hello to your father." When the King protested against her calling Charles that, she replied, "Your Majesty has given me no other name by which to call him." In response, Charles created him Earl
    Nell grabbed young Charles and hung him out of a window and threatened to drop him unless he was granted a peerage. The King cried out "God save the Earl of Burford!"
  • Period: to

    childhood occupations

    Various anonymous verses are the only other sources describing her childhood occupations: bawdyhouse servant, street hawker of herring, oysters, or turnips, and cinder-girl have all been put forth.[13] Tradition has her growing up in Coal Yard Alley, a poor slum off Drury Lane.
  • Period: to

    experimented with cross-dressing

    going under the name "William Nell" and adopting a false beard; her observations informed a most successful and hilarious character interpretation acting as a man on the stage in March 1667.
  • Period: to

    Plague closes theatres

  • Period: to

    Go-slow on acting

    As her commitment to the King increased, though, her acting career slowed, and she had no recorded parts between January and June 1669, when she played Valeria in Dryden's very successful tragedy Tyrannick Love.