Groom of the Bedchamber to the Duke of York.

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Second Reading

Terry Foreman  •  Link

Henry Killigrew (1637-1705), 'Young Killigrew', son of Thomas, the dramatist… . Page to the King 1661; Groom of the Bedchamber of the Duke of York 1663, and to the King 1674; 1694 Jester to the King. One of the most disreputable of the court sparks. 'A most notorious lyer', according to the King; twice banished from the court. (L&M Companion)

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Henry, "Young Killigrew" seems to have avoided much biographical scrutiny. The best I found for the Diary times was in a biography of the scandalous Countess of Shrewsbury, written in the exaggerated style of Grammond, with no dates or citations. It has the feel of the times, and I've added what dates I can, and deleted much hyperbole.

MCMVI [1906]…

Had Anna Maria Brudenell Talbot, Countess of Shrewsbury only to deal with suitors like Richard Butler, 1st Earl of Arran, and Col. Thomas Howard, she might have evaded infamy. As her career proceeded, her amours became more wanton, and the men she attracted lacked both chivalry and decency.
Anna Maria’s depravity was already the subject of the idle Court gossip when Henry Killigrew (known as the Young Killigrew) fell in love with her.

Henry Killigrew was a Groom of the Bedchamber to James, Duke of York. Young Killigrew’s advances were well received, said Hamilton, "as Lady Shrewsbury, by an extraordinary chance, had no engagement at that time, their liaison was soon established."

Wide as the Countess of Shrewsbury’s experience of men had been, it is doubtful if she had ever had a lover quite so impudent and foolish as young Killigrew.

Henry was the son of Thomas Killigrew, a man bien vu at Whitehall and well known in the Restoration times, who had, says Pepys, "a fee out of the wardrobe for cap and bells and the title of King's Fool or Jester, and might revile or jeer anybody, the greatest person, without offence, by the privilege of his place."

But Tom Killigrew had the courage to aim his quips at much more dangerous targets; to his sorrow often, once being boxed on the ears and another time even stabbed for his jests. The revival of the office was only due to the cynicism of the Merry Monarch. Tom took his knocks with a good grace, and reaped all the advantage possible out of his dangerous sinecure.

Tom "the Jester" Killigrew is best remembered as the founder of the Drury Lane Theatre and as the first to introduce Italian opera to England. From acting as a boy, Tom Killigrew took to writing plays, and during his time in Venice fundraising for the exiled Charles II (and from which he was turned out for his immoral life), he wrote some indifferent comedies.

Under Tom the Jester Killigrew’s management Nell Gwyn and the Duchess of Cleveland's friend Cardell Goodman first appeared at Drury Lane in Beaumont and Fletcher's "Rule a Wife and Have a Wife." Coupled with his fooleries and his profligacy Tom Killigrew had sound sense — a faculty son Henry lacked.

Young Killigrew, who owed what prestige he had to his father, affected the beau of his period. He had plenty of wild, obscene wit, and early gained the reputation of being a swashbuckler.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link


Pepys met Young Killigrew and some of his associates one night at Vauxhall, [… ] "as very rogues as any in the town, who were ready to take hold of every woman that came by them." They invited Pepys "to supper in an arbor, but Lord! their talk did make my heart ache! Here," continues the prurient gossip, "I first understood the meaning of the company that lately were called 'Ballers'; Harry telling me how it was by a meeting of some young blades, when he was among them, and my 'Lady' Bennet (a notorious procuress) and her ladies and their dancing naked, and all the roguish things in the world."

That the Countess of Shrewsbury should openly admit such a man to her closest intimacy shows the free rein she gave to her passions. But although Henry Killigrew prefered the lowest haunts of the town, a shadow of respectability still clung to him. Through the Killigrew interest at Court (besides his father's favor with the King, one of his aunts, “Black Betty” Boyle, Lady Shannon, had been one of Charles’ first mistresses), Henry had secured his post with the Duke of York, and become a bit of a favorite. Consequently he was in contact with the cream of Restoration society, but his insufferable airs and impertinences meant he had offended nearly everyone.

Much to the Court's general satisfaction, George Villiers, 2nd Duke of Buckingham gave young Henry Killigrew a lesson he richly deserved. Having presumed to take a liberty with His Grace at Drury Lane, Buckingham, in full view of the approving audience, "did soundly beat him, and take away his sword, and make a fool of him, till the fellow prayed him to spare his life." Pepys reports at…

The sobering effect of his humiliation was only temporary, so when Young Killigrew had the Countess of Shrewsbury for his mistress, the memory of his public chastisement ceased to have any effect. Even the resentment he could have felt towards Buckingham disappeared. Hamilton says he was "a frequent guest at his Grace's table."

Buckingham, the most brilliant wit of anyone of the period and who enjoyed that in others, in the cynical indifference with which he regarded both vice and virtue, was amused by Young Killigrew. He started to use Henry as a pimp and a spy, but mistrusted him knowing his weakness for exaggeration and lies, so Buckingham enjoyed intoxicating him as the surest means of extracting the truth. Killigrew, enormously flattered by being the accepted lover of the Countess of Shrewsbury, no sooner got drunk than his tongue would praise her ladyship's "most secret charms and least visible beauties, concerning which more than half the Court knew quite as much as he knew himself."

Buckingham resolved to test the truth of these praises, so Young Killigrew lost his mistress, and Anna Maria Brudenell Talbot, Countess of Shrewsbury gained a new lover.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link


Foolish Young Killigrew then gave proof of his folly. After being cut dead by Lady Shrewsbury, "he assailed her with invectives from head to foot. He painted a frightful picture of her conduct, and turned all her charms which he had previously extolled into defects."

Buckingham was not a person to be trifled with, and nor was Anna Maria Brudenell Talbot, Countess of Shrewsbury. But as Young Killigrew's indiscretions had provide her with a lover more to her taste, "he was privately warned of the inconvenience to which his declamations might subject him, but as he despised the advice, and persisted, he soon had reason to repent of it."

Young Killigrew’s punishment was delayed by an event and its consequence, which for 16 months engrossed the attention of George Villiers, 2nd Duke of Buckingham and the Countess of Shrewsbury to the exclusion of everything else.

There comes a time when even a worm will turn, and that time had come for the Countess’ husband, Francis Talbot, 11th Earl of Shrewsbury — to his cost. The unfortunate man, who had silently endured being made a cuckold by infatuated chivalrous Earl of Arrans, Col. Thomas Howard, and the impudent Young Killigrew, drew the line at George Villiers, 2nd Duke of Buckingham.

Shrewsbury accordingly challenged Buckingham, and "his Grace, as a reparation for his honor, having killed him upon the spot, remained a peaceable possessor of this famous Helen" as reported by Hamilton.

This duel, or murder (for it was nothing less) in which Shrewsbury and one of his seconds lost their lives, while the other was dangerously wounded, was infamous from the part the Countess of Shrewsbury played, as she accompanied her lover to the duel clad as a page, and held his horse during the combat. When he was victorious she embraced him, covered as he was with her husband's blood. Pepys tells the story here…

Old Shrewsbury took two months to die. Unbridled as the times were, even the Court of St. James could not stomach this outrageous crime. Queen Catherine, on her own initiative, and supported by an indignant public, tried to bring Anna Maria and her paramour to justice. This time the Duke of Buckingham was more powerful than the law. Pepys tells us about Charles II’s pardon at…

San Diego Sarah  •  Link


As if to flaunt his defiance of all authority in the face of the angry nation, shortly after the death of Lord Shrewsbury, George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham installed his mistress in his own house.

To Mary Fairfax Villiers, Duchess of Buckingham, this was the last straw. "It is impossible for both of us to live under the same roof," she protested, when the Countess of Shrewsbury arrived.

"So I thought," retorted Buckingham, "and therefore I have ordered your carriage to be got ready to carry you back to your father's." Pepys tells the story here…

The public, staggered by the contempt with which this brazen couple treated the law and public opinions, were reduced to the usual futile expedient with which virtue -- when baffled by vice -- seeks to console itself. Aware of the fickle characters of the two lovers, which presupposed their speedy falling-out, the indignant public awaited this dénouement.

Satisfaction was denied to the virtuous, for "never before had my Lady Shrewsbury's constancy been of such long duration; nor had his Grace ever been so solicitous a lover."

When the indignation about their murderous behavior had somewhat subsided, Buckingham was able to assist Anna Maria Brudenell Talbot, Countess of Shrewsbury to take her long-deferred revenge on foolish Young Killigrew. As she wished to be present when the punishment was inflicted, the ingenuity required to arrange matters to suit her made this new crime particularly cold-blooded.

Henry Killigrew, after 16 months, had no idea of the attack to be made on him, was to a certain extent protected by the irregularities of his life. The spies employed to watch him were finally able to tell the Countess that one night at a certain hour, after having performed some duties for the Duke of York, he would leave St. James's Palace for a house in Turnham Green.

Anna Maria planned accordingly.

Young Killigrew left the Palace and fell asleep in the coach, when he was suddenly "awoke by the thrust of a sword which pierced his neck and came out at the shoulder. Before he could cry out he was flung from the vehicle and stabbed in three other places by the valets of the Countess, while" — as reported by the French Ambassador to the Minister for Foreign Affairs at Versailles — "the lady herself looked on from her own coach and six, and cried out to the assassins, 'Kill the villain!' Nor did she drive off till he was thought dead."

San Diego Sarah  •  Link


Darkness favored Young Killigrew, and it was an unfortunate servant who was slain defending his master.

When Anna Maria learnt Henry had escaped, although badly wounded, and was thinking of demanding redress, far from being alarmed at the consequences to herself, she sent him word that he had better be satisfied with the punishment he had got, for the second time she tried to murder him she should not fail. Pepys tells the story here…

Young Killigrew, wiser from experience, took the hint, and lived so circumspectly afterwards that little more was ever heard of him.

George Villiers, 2nd Duke of Buckingham explained the affair to the satisfaction of the easy-going Charles II, so the matter was hushed up.

It is thought Henry Killigrew succeeded his father as Court Fool in the reign of William III and Mary II, and was three times married, once to a peer's daughter and twice to servant-girls.

It seems he took care never to cross Anna Maria Brudenell Talbot, Countess of Shrewsbury's path again.

Beatrice Otto  •  Link

According to 'The Great Wardrobe Account: An account of debts owing to several persons in the Office of the Great Wardrobe, which accrued in the reign of the late King William and were due at the time of his said Majesty's death and still remain unpaid', William owed money to Henry Killigrew who is listed in the accounts as 'jester':

'Jester: Henry Killegrew, for his bills for one year's livery allowed every second year, due at Lady day 1701: £75, 8s.'

Source: 'Civil List Debt: Great Wardrobe', in Calendar of Treasury Books, vol. 17 (1702), William A Shaw, ed. (London: His Majesty's Stationery Office, 1939), pp. 1035-1045. 

See: British History Online -…

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Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.