Sunday, April 22, 2012
Nell Gwynne was a beautiful, witty woman who was the mistress of King Charles II of England for nearly twenty years in the late 1600's. Born to an alcoholic mother who ran a brothel, Nell learned prostitution at a young age, serving alcohol to the men in her mother's establishment. But when women began to be allowed to play the women's roles on stage in England (what a concept!), Nell soon showed herself to be a clever comedian indeed, demonstrating particular skill at playing in-your-face women (what a surprise!).
When she caught the eye of Charles II, however, her fate -- and her place in history -- was sealed. She left the theater at the age of 21 (having already produced a son for the king) and moved into a brick townhouse provided by the crown, where a second son was soon born. When the King died fourteen years later, he was very clear in his instructions: "Let not poor Nelly starve." And she continued to live in the manner to which she had become accustomed until she died of syphilis at 37. What made this woman of uncommon good fortune an in-your-face woman? Her witty tongue. Once, when her coachman was fighting with another man who had called Nell Gwynne a whore, Gwynne broke up the fight, saying, "I am a whore. Find something else to fight about." In-your-face women make no apologies for who they are.