From princesses to country girls to actresses the loves of Charles II come to life.Ten years after Charles I was deposed and executed, his son, Charles II, regains the throne after many years in exile. Charles is determined not only to restore the monarchy but also to revive a society that has suffered under many years of Puritan rule, when everything from theater to Christmas festivals was illegal. As king, Charles II throws himself into the gaiety of court life, becoming a patron of the arts and a consummate lover of women. He first secures a strong dynastic alliance by marrying Catherine of Braganza, a shy, plain Portuguese princess who falls in love with her handsome husband and brings him great wealth, but can never give him the son he longs for. For many years, his "untitled queen" is a bold and sensual older woman-Barbara, Countess of Castlemaine-whose husband is routinely paid to look the other way.
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October 24, 2005
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Excerpt from The Loves of Charles II by Jean Plaidy
It was late afternoon on a July day in the fourth year of the Great Rebellion. The sun was hot; the grass banks were brown; and the purple nettle-flowers and the petals of the woundwort were peppered with fine dust.
A small party two men and two women trudged slowly along the road, looking neither to right nor to left, their eyes fixed on the ground. One of the women was a hunchback, and it was this deformed one who carried a sleeping child.
Sweat ran down her face; she caught her breath as she saved herself from tripping over a stone and going headlong into one of the numerous potholes which were a feature of the road. She wiped the sweat from her face but did not lift her eyes from the ground.
After a while she spoke. "How far from the inn, Tom?"
"We'll be there within the hour."
"There's time before dark," said the other woman. "Let's stop for a rest. The boy's heavy."
Tom nodded. "A few minutes will do no harm," he said.
The hunchback spoke again. "Only let us rest if you are sure there's time, Tom. Don't let the dark overtake us. There'll be robbers on the road at twilight."
"There are four of us," answered Tom, "and we look too poor to rob. But Nell's right. There's time for a rest."
They sat on the bank. Nell took off her boots and grimaced at her swollen feet while the hunchback laid the child gently on the grass. The others would have helped, but she waved them aside; she seemed determined that none but herself should touch the child.
"Here's the best spot for you," said Tom to the hunchback. "The bush makes a good support." But the hunchback shook her head and looked at him with some reproach. He smiled and sat down at the spot he had chosen as the best. "We should be in Dover long before this time tomorrow," he added.
"Call me Nan," said the hunchback.
"Yes . . . Nan . . . I will."
"You must remember to call me Nan. It is short for Nanette. Ask my husband. Is that not so, Gaston?"
"Yes . . . that is so. Nan . . . it is short for Nanette."
"And that is my name."
"Yes, Nan," said Tom.
"There is someone coming," said Nell quickly.