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Biographies and Portraits

Frances Stuart, or “La Belle Stuart” as seen through the eyes of Samuel Pepys and beautifully depicted by artist Peter Lely here and by Wissing and Van der Vaart here, won her fame as the love interest of King Charles II and was “immortalized” in coinage as the face of Britannia. Pepys and other writers of the time extolled on her beauty and charms and all noted her dramatic impact on King Charles. Several wonderful websites offer excellent short biographies or stories related to Frances, including: Face of Britainna; 1911 Encyclopedia;Wikipedia and Royalty Restored or London under Charles II by J Fitzgerald Molloy where Frances first appears in Chapter 7. Of note, although some of these sites, and even initially Pepys in his Diary, assume that she was a “mistress” of Charles II, most historians consider her to have actually eluded the charms of the sovereign, remaining a virgin until her “runaway” marriage to the Duke of Richmond.

Frances in the Diary

Frances’ first entry into the Diary takes place on 8 February 1662/1663 when Sam introduces gossip from Captain Ferrers detailing the mock marriage of Frances to Lady Castlemaine. This mock marriage frolic and the implications behind the court politics of the time are further detailed in Section I of the Article A Walk with Ferrers. In Sam’s words, Ferrers shared the following:

Another story was how my Lady Castlemaine, a few days since, had Mrs. Stuart to an entertainment, and at night began a frolique that they two must be married, and married they were, with ring and all other ceremonies of church service, and ribbands and a sack posset in bed, and flinging the stocking; but in the close, it is said that my Lady Castlemaine, who was the bridegroom, rose, and the King came and took her place with pretty Mrs. Stuart. This is said to be very true.

Several months later Sam catches a glimpse of Frances, and sees that her beauty sets her apart from all other beauties of the day, even the now “former” beauty of all beauties, Lady Castlemaine:

into the Queen’s presence, where all the ladies walked, talking and fiddling with their hats and feathers, and changing and trying one another’s by one another’s heads, and laughing. But it was the finest sight to me, considering their great beautys and dress, that ever I did see in all my life. But, above all, Mrs. Stewart in this dress, with her hat cocked and a red plume, with her sweet eye, little Roman nose, and excellent taille, is now the greatest beauty I ever saw, I think, in my life; and, if ever woman can, do exceed my Lady Castlemaine, at least in this dress nor do I wonder if the King changes, which I verily believe is the reason of his coldness to my Lady Castlemaine.

Other Court political players will also note Frances’ beauty and her impact on the King’s affections. They will try to use her to their benefit by hopefully establishing her as the King’s mistress. Sam shares the gossip that he hears about the “committee” from Lord Sandwich:

… we begun to talk of the Court, and he tells me how Mr. Edward Montagu begins to show respect to him again after his endeavouring to bespatter him all was, possible; but he is resolved never to admit him into his friendship again. He tells me how he and Sir H. Bennet, the Duke of Buckingham and his Duchesse, was of a committee with somebody else for the getting of Mrs. Stewart for the King; but that she proves a cunning slut, and is advised at Somerset House by the Queen-Mother, and by her mother, and so all the plot is spoiled and the whole committee broke. Mr. Montagu and the Duke of Buckingham fallen a-pieces, the Duchesse going to a nunnery; and so Montagu begins to enter friendship with my Lord, and to attend the Chancellor whom he had deserted.

During the months of October and November 1663, Queen Catherine fell sick, with an illness that almost claimed her life. Shortly after this, on 9 November 1663 Mr. Pierce, confirms the general belief shared by many of the Courtiers, that had Queen Catherine died during her illness, Frances would have taken her place as Queen:

and how the King is now become besotted upon Mrs. Stewart, that he gets into corners, and will be with her half an houre together kissing her to the observation of all the world; and she now stays by herself and expects it, as my Lady Castlemaine did use to do; to whom the King, he says, is still kind, so as now and then he goes to have a chat with her as he believes; but with no such fondness as he used to do. But yet it is thought that this new wench is so subtle, that she lets him not do any thing than is safe to her, but yet his doting is so great that, Pierce tells me, it is verily thought if the Queene had died, he would have married her.

From this point on, Frances is now well established as a “presence” in the Court of the King and a much admired beauty of Sam and others. Although her nature never revealed an interest in the world of politics and intrigue, her beauty and the King’s desire to have her for his mistress dominated much of her role in the Diary.

The King’s Anguish

While the King surrounded himself with a bevy of mistresses throughout his life, most historians see Frances, the “one who got away”, as the one love interest who truly broke his heart. During his pursuit of her, Charles wrote her the love poem, “The Pleasures of Love”:

I pass all my hours in a shady old grove,
But I live not the day when I see not my love;
I survey every walk now my Phyllis is gone,
And sigh when I think we were there all alone,
Oh, then ‘tis I think there’s no Hell
Like loving too well.

But each shade and each conscious bower when I find
Where I once have been happy and she has been kind;
When I see the print left of her shape on the green,
And imagine the pleasure may yet come again;
Oh, then ‘tis I think that no joys are above
The pleasures of love.

While alone to myself I repeat all her charms,
She I love may be locked in another man’s arms,
She may laugh at my cares, and so false she may be,
To say all the kind things she before said to me!
Oh then ‘tis, oh then, that I think there’s no Hell
Like loving too well.

But when I consider the truth of her heart,
Such an innocent passion, so kind without art,
I fear I have wronged her, and hope she may be
So full of true love to be jealous of me.
Oh then ‘tis I think that no joys are above
The pleasures of love.

As Frances started to mature and “come into her own” she realized that the only role she would ever have in the Court of Charles II, would be that of his mistress. In order to avoid that role, on March of 1667, she eloped with the Duke of Richmond, a shock that would cut to the heart of the monarch.

Months after Frances’ elopement her departure still pained Charles greatly as seen in this portion of a letter he wrote to his sister Minette (from Ruth Norrington’s My Dearest Minette) dated 26 August 1667:

I do assure you I am very much troubled that I cannot in everything give you the satisfaction I could wish, especially in this business of the duchesse of Richmond [Frances’ formal title through marriage], wherein you may think me ill natured, but if you consider how hard a thing ‘tis to swallow an injury done by a person I had so much tendernesse for, you will in some degree excuse the resentment I use towards her; you know my good nature enough to believe that I could not be so severe, if I had not great provocation, and I assure you her carriage towards me has been as bad as breach of friendship and faith can make it, therefore I hope you will pardon me if I cannot so soon forget an injury which went so neere my hart.

Charles eventually forgave Frances and established her as a Lady in Queen Catherine’s bedchamber. After the death of her husband, she never remarried.

Further Resources

Biographies and related non-fiction about Frances are listed below. Although the Hartmann biography is the only book focused solely on Frances, additional information about her is found on books related to the mistresses of Charles II. These books may be available through your local library (with the help of the research department) or are sometimes available through the used book search. Some may be available on the US Amazon or UK Amazon .

  • La Belle Stuart by Cyril Hughes Hartmann
  • All the King’s Women by Derek Wilson
  • The King’s Ladies by Dorothy Ponsonby Senior

Additional Background Articles


This text was copied from Wikipedia on 17 July 2024 at 3:11AM.

The Duchess of Richmond and Lennox
Frances Teresa Stuart by Sir Peter Lely, c. 1662–65.
Frances Teresa Stewart

8 July 1647
Died15 October 1702(1702-10-15) (aged 55)
Other namesLa Belle Stuart
Occupation(s)Lady-in-waiting, courtier
Known for
(m. 1667; died 1672)​
Parent(s)Walter Stewart
Sophia Carew
RelativesSophia Bulkeley (sister)

Frances Teresa Stewart, Duchess of Richmond and Lennox (8 July 1647[1] – 15 October 1702) was a prominent member of the Court of the Restoration and famous for refusing to become a mistress of Charles II of England. For her great beauty she was known as La Belle Stuart and served as the model for an idealised, female Britannia. She is one of the Windsor Beauties painted by Sir Peter Lely.


Frances was the daughter of Walter Stewart, a physician in Queen Henrietta Maria's court, and a distant relative of the royal family as the son of Lord Blantyre, and his wife, Sophia (née Carew). She was born on 8 July 1647 in exile in Paris, but was sent to England in 1663 after the restoration by Charles I's widow, Henrietta Maria, as maid of honour (a court appointment) and subsequently as lady-in-waiting to Charles II's new bride, Catherine of Braganza.[2] The great diarist Samuel Pepys recorded that she was the greatest beauty he ever saw. She had numerous suitors, including the Duke of Buckingham and Francis Digby, son of the Earl of Bristol, whose unrequited love for her was celebrated by Dryden. Her beauty appeared to her contemporaries to be equaled only by her childish silliness; but her letters to her husband, preserved in the British Museum, are not devoid of good sense and feeling.[3]

Frances Stewart wearing a buff coat by Jacob Huysmans

The Count de Gramont said of her that "it would be difficult to imagine less brain combined with more beauty."

While a member of the royal court, she caught the eye of Charles II, who fell in love with her. The king's infatuation was so great that when the queen's life was despaired of in 1663, it was reported that he intended to marry Stewart, and four years later he was considering the possibility of obtaining a divorce to enable him to make her his wife[4] because she had refused to become his mistress.

Eventually, in March 1667, she married (as his third wife) Charles Stewart, 3rd Duke of Richmond, 6th Duke of Lennox (1639–1672), a fourth cousin of King Charles II, but produced no issue. It is possible she had to elope, after being discovered with him by Lady Castlemaine, a rival for the king's affections.

The now Duchess of Richmond, however, soon returned to court, where she remained for many years; and although she was disfigured by smallpox in 1669, she retained her hold on the king's affections.[4] It is certain, at least, that Charles went on to post the Duke to Scotland and then to Denmark as ambassador, where he died in 1672. It is however speculated that the duchess of the King may have had an affair. Samuel Pepys recorded in May 1668:

(..)he is mighty hot upon the Duchess of Richmond; insomuch that, upon Sunday was seen, at night, after he had ordered his Guards and coach to be ready to carry him to the Park, he did, on a sudden, take a pair of oars or sculler, and all alone, or but one with him, go to Somersett House, and there, the garden-door not being open, himself clamber over the walls to make a visit to her, which is a horrid shame.


Some evidence appeared in the Dutch television series "Verborgen Verleden" that she and Charles had an illegitimate daughter named Rebecca, who was kept hidden to preserve Frances' reputation[6]

The duchess was present in 1688 at the birth of James Francis Edward Stuart ("The Old Pretender"), son of James II, and was one of those who signed the certificate before the council.[4] She attended the coronation of Queen Anne in April 1702, before dying in October aged 55. Much of her estate was left in trust to purchase a Scottish property that came to her relative Alexander Stuart, 5th Lord Blantyre; it was renamed from Lethington to Lennoxlove after her.

Reverse of a medal commissioned by Charles II from John Roettiers commemorating the 1667 end of the Second Anglo-Dutch War with the Peace of Breda, showing Britannia bareheaded with spear and Union Flag shield, marked: favente Deo ("with God favouring")[7]


Following the Second Anglo-Dutch War, Charles had a commemorative medal cast celebrating the 1667 Peace of Breda.[7] According to Samuel Pepys, it was her face that was used by the artist John Roettiers as a model for Britannia, and Roettiers adapted the image for reproduction on the reverse of the copper coins issued from 1672.[7] This was the first time the national personification had appeared on coinage since Roman times and began an ongoing tradition of Britannia depicted on the coins of the pound sterling.[7]

In fiction


  1. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica
  2. ^ "Britannia History: Frances Stuart, the Face of Britannia". Archived from the original on 1 February 2017. Retrieved 25 October 2016.
  3. ^ McNeill 1911, pp. 311–312.
  4. ^ a b c McNeill 1911, p. 312.
  5. ^ "Diary entries from May 1668 (The Diary of Samuel Pepys)".
  6. ^ "Van Koninklijken Bloede". 13 October 2010.
  7. ^ a b c d Hewitt, Virginia (2017) [2004]. "Britannia (fl. 1st–21st cent.), allegory of a nation, emblem of empire, and patriotic icon". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/68196. Retrieved 15 February 2021. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)



  • This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainMcNeill, Ronald John (1911). "Richmond and Lennox, Frances Teresa Stewart, Duchess of". In Chisholm, Hugh (ed.). Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 23 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 311–312. This work in turn cites:
    • Gilbert Burnet, History of my own Time (6 vols., Oxford, 1833)
    • Samuel Pepys, Diary, 9 vols. (London, 1893–1899, and numerous editions)
    • Anthony Hamilton, Memoire of Grammont, translated by Boyer, edited by Sir W. Scott (2 vols., London, 1885, 1890)
    • Anna Jameson, Memoirs of Beauties of the Court of Charles II, with their Portraits (2nd ed., London, 1838)
    • Jules J. Jusserand, A French Ambassador at the Court of Charles II (London, 1892)
    • Edmund Ludlow, Memoirs, 1625–72, edited by C. H. Firth (2 vols., Oxford, 1894)

External links

8 Annotations

First Reading

Jeannine  •  Link

"La Belle Stuart" by Cyril Hughes Hartmann is the biography of Frances Teresa Stuart, a young lady who was a distant relative of Charles II and a beauty of his court. While her family sought refuge in France during the Cromwell period, she was a favorite of the French court and well regarded by both Charles' mother Henrietta and his sister Minette. Her family returned to England upon the Restoration when Frances was still a young girl of about 13 or so. She was incredibly beautiful, silly and childish in her manner, but her looks and frivolous nature caught the eye of Charles II. During the next few years of immature flirtation she led him to believe that someday she would be his mistress and thus managed to unseat Lady Castlemaine's "power" over Charles. (Pepys makes note of this in several places, starting around 1663 and revels in the related gossip).
Around the time that Queen Catherine became ill (Sept, 1663) it was believed by almost everyone that if Catherine died from her illness that Charles would wed Frances and Castlemaine would be gone for good.
What is most interesting is Hartmann's view of the "curious complexity" of Charles' character through his interactions with Frances. He states that "Charles was dividing between three women at the same time the love that an ordinary man would devote to one at different stages of his passion." For Frances he had a young romantic passion for her gaiety and beauty. For Catherine " it was love growing old, a tenderness free from all passion, a placid affection which was a haven for all his better instincts" and with Lady Castlemaine both romance and tenderness were missing and all that remained were the basest physical element.
As Frances grew into womanhood she had to face the reality of her behavior which left 3 choices: mistress, convent or marriage to anyone who would take her. She threw herself at the Queen's mercy and Catherine guided her towards marriage to the Duke of Richmond. This marriage was an extreme insult and embarrassment to Charles, who banished Frances and her husband from court. The fall out of this situation turned political as the parties in the court opposing Clarendon (Buckingham and Arlington) blamed the marriage on him. Charles, who clearly was struggling to soothe his ego and couldn't think that any woman would leave him for the Duke of Richmond without someone manipulating her to do so, fell for the bait and Clarendon was forced to exile himself to France.
Over time the wounds began to heal and Frances and her husband were welcomed back to the court. After her husband's death Charles appointed her as a lady of Queen Catherine's bedchamber. Catherine and Frances shared a sincere friendship. Frances never remarried, but she remained friendly with Charles who granted her financial support for her life. This is usually available used through a search at…

jeannine  •  Link

From Grammont's footnotes (some spoilers)
Frances, Duchess of Richmond, daughter of Walter Stewart, son of Walter, Baron of Blantyre, and wife of Charles Stewart, Duke of Richmond and Lennox: a lady of exquisite beauty, if justly represented in a puncheon made by Roettiere, his majesty's engraver of the mint, in order to strike a medal of her, which exhibits the finest face that perhaps was ever seen. The king was supposed to be desperately in love with her; and it became common discourse, that there was a design on foot to get him divorced from the queen, in order to marry this lady. [Pepys describes her as the greatest beauty he ever saw in his life: "With her cocked hat and a red plume, with her sweet eye, little Roman nose, and excellent taille;" and adds, "If ever woman can, do exceed my Lady Castlemaine, at least in this dress: nor do I wonder if the king changes, which I verily believe is the reason of his coldness to my Lady Castlemaine."] Lord Clarendon was thought to have promoted the match with the Duke of Richmond, thereby to prevent the other design, which he imagined would hurt the king's character, embroil his affairs at present, and entail all the evils of a disputed succession on the nation. Whether he actually encouraged the Duke of Richmond's marriage, doth not appear; but it is certain that he was so strongly possessed of the king's inclination to a divorce, that, even after his disgrace, he was persuaded the Duke of Buckingham had undertaken to carry that matter through the parliament. It is certain too that the king considered him as the chief promoter of Miss Stewart's marriage, and resented it in the highest degree. The ceremony took place privately, and it was publicly declared in April, 1667. From one of Sir Robert Southwell's dispatches, dated Lisbon, December 2/12, 1667, it appears that the report of the queen's intended divorce had not then subsided in her native country. -- History of the Revolutions of Portugal, 1740, p. 352. The duchess became a widow in 1672, and died October 15, 1702. See Burnet's History, Ludlow's Memoirs, and Carte's Life of the Duke of Ormond. A figure in wax of this duchess is still to be seen in Westminster Abbey.

Note: For whatever reason Grammont was not taken by her looks and didn't speak highly of her, which sharply cotnracts other writers of the time.… see note 69

Sjoerd  •  Link

Below is a link to some portraits;
Apparently "Frances Theresa Stuart" was the original model for the figure of Britannia used on coins since 1667.…

JWB  •  Link

Edmund Waller:


Our guard upon the royal side!
On the reverse our beauty's pride!
Here we discern the frown and smile,
The force and glory of our isle.
In the rich medal, both so like
Immortals stand, it seems antique;
Carved by some master, when the bold
Greeks made their Jove descend in gold,
And Danaë[2] wond'ring at their shower,
Which, falling, storm'd her brazen tower.
Britannia there, the fort in vain
Had batter'd been with golden rain;
Thunder itself had fail'd to pass;
Virtue's a stronger guard than brass.

[1] 'Golden Medal': it is said that a Miss Stewart, the favourite of the
unprincipled king, is the original of the figure of Britannia on the
medals to which the poet here alludes.

Second Reading

Bill  •  Link

The dutchess of Richmond, who is better known by the name of Mrs. Stuart, was a daughter of captain Walter Stuart, son of lord Blantyre, a Scottish nobleman. She was perhaps the finest figure that ever appeared in the court of Charles II. Such were the attractives of her person, that, even in the presence of lady Castlemaine, she drew upon her the eyes of every beholder. It was supposed that Charles would have divorced his queen, and raised her to the throne: certain it is that she made the deepest impression upon the heart of that monarch; and his passion for her was daily increasing when she married the duke of Richmond. All the rage of a disappointed lover fell upon the duke, his consort, and the earl of Clarendon, who was supposed to be instrumental to the match. Her wit was so far from being extraordinary, that it stood in need of all her beauty to recommend it. See more of her in lord Clarendon's "Continuation of the Account of his own Life." There is a good deal of her secret history in the "Memoires de Grammont," written by count Hamilton.
---A Biographical History of England. J. Granger, 1775.

Bill  •  Link

STUART or STEWART, FRANCES TERESA, Duchess of Richmond and Lennox (1647-1702), 'La Belle Stuart,' granddaughter of Walter Stewart or Stuart, first Lord Blantyre; educated in France and imbued with French tastes; remarkable for her beauty; maid of honour to Queen Catherine of Braganza; mistress of Charles II; had many lovers and aspirants; eloped from Whitehall with the third Duke of Richmond, 1667, in consequence of which Charles II, suspecting it to be the work of Clarendon, determined to disgrace the chancellor; returned to court after her marriage. She was probably the original of the figure of Britannia on the copper coinage.
---Dictionary of National Biography: Index and Epitome. S. Lee, 1906.

Bill  •  Link

Frances Terese, eldest daughter of Walter Stuart, third son of the first Lord Blantyre, one of the greatest beauties at the Court of Charles II., became the third wife of Charles Lennox, sixth Duke of Lennox, and fourth Duke of Richmond. She died October 15, 1702, without issue, having survived her husband thirty years. Pepys spells her name Stuart, Steward, and Stewart; the first is right.
---Diary and correspondence of Samuel Pepys, the diary deciphered by J. Smith. 1854.

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