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Louise de Kérouaille
Duchess of Portsmouth
Portrait by Sir Peter Lely, c. 1671
Full name
Louise Renée de Penancoët de Kéroualle
Born5 September 1649
Died14 November 1734 (aged 85)
Paris, France
BuriedChurch of the Carmelite Convent
Nationality
IssueCharles Lennox, 1st Duke of Richmond
FatherGuillaume de Kérouaille
MotherMarie de Plœuc, Dame de Timeur et de Kergorlay

Louise Renée de Penancoët de Kéroualle, Duchess of Portsmouth (5 September 1649 – 14 November 1734) was a mistress of Charles II of England. She was also made Duchesse d'Aubigny in the peerage of France.

Early life

Chateau de Kérouaille, near Brest, property of Louise; she was born there in 1649

Louise was the daughter of Guillaume de Penancoët, Seigneur de Kéroualle, and his wife, Marie de Plœuc, Dame de Timeur et de Kergorlay. The Kérouaille family were nobles in Brittany, and their name was so spelt by themselves. The form "Quérouaille" was commonly used in England. All are derivations of the original Breton name Kerouazle, which is the most common form in Brittany. Louise had a sister, Henriette Mauricette de Penancoët de Kérouaille, who married firstly in 1674 Philip Herbert, 7th Earl of Pembroke, and secondly in 1685 Jean-Timoléon Gouffier, Marquis de Thais.[1] Her paternal aunt, Suzanne de Penancoët married Claude Le Veyer; their daughter Catherine became the matriarch of the Breton noble family de Saisy de Kerampuil of Carhaix, Brittany.[2][3]

Mistress to Charles II

De Kéroualle was introduced early to the household of Henrietta Anne Stuart, Duchess of Orléans, sister of Charles II of Great Britain, and sister-in-law of Louis XIV of France. Louis de Rouvroy, duc de Saint-Simon, asserts that her family threw her in the way of Louis XIV in the hope that she would become a royal mistress. In 1670, she accompanied Henrietta on a visit to Charles II at Dover. The sudden death of Henrietta left her unprovided for, but Charles II appointed her as a lady-in-waiting to his own queen, Catherine of Braganza. Unlike her predecessor Barbara Palmer, who had openly insulted the Queen, de Kéroualle was careful to show her every respect, and relations between the two women were never less than amicable.[4]

Louise de Kéroualle with an enslaved African child presenting precious coral and pearls to the duchess to emphasise her wealth and social standing, painting by Pierre Mignard

It was later said that de Kéroualle had been selected by the French court to fascinate Charles II, but there seems to be no evidence for that. Yet when there appeared a prospect that Charles would show her favour, the intrigue was vigorously pushed by the French ambassador, Colbert de Croissy, who was aided by the secretary of state Henry Bennet, 1st Earl of Arlington, and his wife.

De Kéroualle, who concealed great cleverness and a strong will under an appearance of languor and a rather childlike beauty (diarist John Evelyn speaks of her "baby face"), yielded only when she had already established a strong hold on Charles' affections.

In 1672, de Kéroualle gave birth to Charles II's son. The following year, on 19 August 1673, the titles of Baroness Petersfield, Countess of Fareham and Duchess of Portsmouth[5] were granted to her for life. Her pensions and money allowances of various kinds were enormous. In 1681 alone she received £136,000.[6] The French court gave her frequent presents and, in December 1673, at the request of Charles II, conferred upon her the title Duchess of Aubigny in the Peerage of France. Her son by the king, Charles (1672–1723) was created Duke of Richmond in 1675.[7]

A 1683 painting of Louise de Kéroualle by Simon Du Bois

At about that time, Portsmouth was instrumental in bringing to Charles II's attention a young Frenchman who proposed a solution to the longitude problem. While the Frenchman's proposal was ineffective, it led Charles to establish the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, and appoint John Flamsteed as Astronomer Royal.[8]

The support Portsmouth received from the French envoy was given on the understanding that she should serve the interests of her native sovereign. The bargain was confirmed by gifts and honours from Louis XIV and was loyally carried out by Portsmouth.[9] However, she was much disliked by people in England.[10] King Louis XIV gave her a pair of earrings worth the astonishing sum of eighteen thousand pounds, his most expensive gift to England that year and certainly more lavish than anything he had ever given Charles' queen.[11]

Portsmouth was openly distrusted in England, if not hated, due to her religion and nationality as well as her role as a mistress. Her work to secure alliances with, and favours for, France provoked strong resentment. Nell Gwynne, another of Charles' mistresses, called her "Squintabella" and, when mistaken for her, replied, "Pray good people be civil, I am the Protestant whore."[12]

Portsmouth's thorough understanding of Charles' character enabled her to retain her hold on him to the end. She contrived to escape uninjured during the crisis of the "Popish Plot" in 1678, and found an unexpected ally in Queen Catherine, who was grateful for the kindness and consideration which Portsmouth had always shown her. She was strong enough to maintain her position during a long illness in 1677, and in spite of a visit to France in 1682. One of Charles' nicknames for her was 'Fubbs', meaning plump or chubby.[13] That female form was much in vogue at the time and, in 1682, the royal yacht HMY Fubbs – in reference to Portsmouth's nickname – was built.[13] According to the French ambassador, she assisted in measures to see that Charles II was received into the Catholic Church on his deathbed in 1685. That Charles was truly attached to her is shown by his dying instruction to his brother to "do well by Portsmouth",[14][notes 1] making her one of three women in his life, along with the Queen and Nell Gwynne, who were in his thoughts at the end.

After Charles II's death

Soon after the death of Charles II, Portsmouth quickly fell from favour. She retired to France, where, except for one short visit to England during the reign of James II and her attendance at the Coronation of George I, she remained. Her attendance at George I's coronation was remarked upon by the Countess of Dorchester when they met the Countess of Orkney ("we three whores"). Between them, they had been in turn the maîtresse en titre for successive kings for over 20 years. Her pensions and a grant on the Irish revenue given her by Charles II were lost either in the reign of James II or at the Revolution of 1688.[15]

During her last years, Portsmouth lived at Aubigny under mounting debt. The French king Louis XIV and, after his death, the regent Philippe II, Duke of Orléans, gave her a pension and protected her against her creditors. Portsmouth died in Paris on 14 November 1734, aged 85.

In literature

  • Louise figures, together with Barbara Villiers and Nell Gwyn, in Bernard Shaw's late play In Good King Charles's Golden Days (1939) and Jessica Swale's Nell Gwynn (2015).
  • Louise briefly appears in Kathleen Winsor's Forever Amber.
  • Louise is mentioned in the children's novel, Eliza Rose, by Mary Hooper, as a minor role.
  • Louise appears in Dark Angels by Karleen Koen, although her character goes by the name of Renee.
  • Louise is the primary character in The French Mistress by Susan Holloway Scott.
  • Louise is a major character in The Empress of Ice Cream by Anthony Capella.
  • Louise is mentioned in the poem "A Satyr on Charles II", a poetical lampoon at the King's expense, written by John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, in which she is referred to with her last name spelt Carwell; the work was completed by the Earl near the end of January 1673. At that time Charles II himself happened to request a specific piece by Rochester — who, upon delivery, discerned that he had delivered directly into the hands of the King the impudent satire aimed at his person instead of the sought-after text. This led to Rochester's abrupt flight from Court. Despite this incident, there appears to be evidence of the absence of any malice felt by the King toward him, as he acquired two coveted offices at the royal court. In 1675, after two years thus back among the Court, Rochester was again guilty of a slight against King Charles, this time by demolishing an elaborate sundial belonging to the king when he and a few companions stumbled upon it in the Privy Garden while in an alcohol-induced revelry. Yet he did not finally meet with a prolonged banishment from Court until near the end of summer of that same year, when he was condemned by the Duchess of Portsmouth, the King's mistress — Louise herself. Despite his own declarations of ignorance as to his manner of offence, he remained in banishment for the remaining five years before his death, which came five years prior to Louise's retirement from England's royal court and relocation to France.
  • Louise, and the Royal Yacht were mentioned in the film England, My England. Of Louise, a character notes that she was "squat, and broad of beam."

Arms

Coat of arms of Louise de Kérouaille, Duchess of Portsmouth
Coronet
That of a duke[16]
Escutcheon
Barry of 6, Argent and Azure[17][16]
Supporters
Two greyhounds regardant, collared (tinctures unknown; could be the White Greyhound of Richmond, as mother of Charles Lennox, 1st Duke of Richmond).[16]
Other elements
A mantle of peer.[16]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ "Marquis de Thais".
  2. ^ Famille de Saisy de Kerampuil
  3. ^ "Catherine Le Veyer dans la famille de Saisy de Kerampuil".
  4. ^ Herman 2011, pp. 160–162. 'Ladies have a great influence, Over the mind of the queen of England'
  5. ^ Herman 2011, p. 141
  6. ^ Herman 2011, p. 147
  7. ^ Herman 2011, pp. 186–189. Legitimate Bastards
  8. ^ Farrell, Maureen (1981). Farrell. pp. 125–127. ISBN 9780405138546.
  9. ^ Saint-Evremond (1930). Evremond. p. 146.
  10. ^ Herman 2011, pp. 177–180. 'I am the Protestant Whore'
  11. ^ Herman 2011, pp. 147–150. Bribes and Gifts
  12. ^ Derek Parker (2000) Nell Gwynn
  13. ^ a b Madge. Royal Yachts of the World. p. 34.
  14. ^ Fraser 1979, p. 456.
  15. ^ Herman 2011, pp. 200–202. Death of the King-'Let not poor Nelly starve'
  16. ^ a b c d Maison, Marc. "Belle plaque de cheminée ancienne aux armes de Pénancoët de Kéroualle". Marc Maison (in French). Retrieved 19 October 2023.
  17. ^ Mauguin, Michel. "Armorial de Bretagne: Compilation" (PDF). Recherches Héraldiques (in French). p. 205. Retrieved 19 October 2023.
  1. ^ This is a paraphrase by Fraser.

References

External links

4 Annotations

First Reading

Second Reading

Bill  •  Link

Louise de Querouaille, or Queroville, dutchess of Portsmouth, was sent over to England by Lewis XIV. in the train of the dutchess of Orleans, to bind Charles II. to the French interest. This she did effectually ; and the business of the English court was constantly carried on with a subserviency to that of France. She occasionally dissembled love, the vapours, or sickness; and rarely ever failed of working the easy monarch to her point. Her polite manners and agreeable temper riveted the chains which her personal charms had imposed upon him: she had the first place in his affections, and he continued to love her to the day of his death. Her beauty, which was not of the most delicate kind, seemed to be very little impaired at seventy years of age. Ob. Nov. 1734, Æt. 89.
---A Biographical History of England. J. Granger, 1775.

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