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C17th England: Nell Gwynn

Nell Gwynn

Nell Gwynn (or Gwyn or Gwynne), (1650–1687), was one of the earliest English actresses and a long-time mistress of king Charles II. Her mother ran a brothel and Nell first made a living selling oranges in the pit of a London theatre, while probably procuring actresses for the men in the audience. When she was fifteen she became an actress – definitely not a respectable profession at that time – and was reportedly a sensation. When she was nineteen she became the king’s mistress, having previously been the mistress of Lord Buckhurst and of Sir Charles Sedley.

The movies

The First Churchills (1969): coming soon …

Lilacs in the Spring (1954): Carole Beaumont (Anna Neagle) is knocked unconscious during an air raid. In her subsequent confused state, fantasies flash through her mind and she sees herself as Nell Gwyn and later as the young Queen Victoria. Anna Neagle had played Nell some twenty years previously. Harold Fletcher was the makeup artist.