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Stories of the Stuarts: Lucy Walter, mistress of King Charles II


In this new ongoing series of articles, we will be delving in to the world of the House of Stuart, a royal dynasty who first became monarchs of the Kingdom of Scotland in the late 14th century before eventually inheriting the Kingdoms of England and Ireland in the early 17th century. The House of Stuart reigned until 1714 when they were succeeded by the House of Hanover. As we delve further in to their world, we will be focusing on, not just the people, but the events, the places and just about everything to do with the House of Stuart. Here begins the Stories of the Stuarts.

Our first piece tells the story of Lucy Walter, one of the many mistresses of King Charles II.

Lucy Walter, mistress of King Charles II.

Lucy Walter, mistress of King Charles II.

Lucy Walter or Lucy Barlow was a mistress of King Charles II but also mother to James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth. Born in 1630 to William Walter and Elizabeth Protheroe at Roch Castle, Lucy’s family were considered a family of middling gentry.

At the height of the English Civil War, Roch Castle was said to have been destroyed and so Lucy sought refuge in London, where she took shipping for The Hague. It was whilst she was at The Hague that she caught the attention of The Prince of Wales (later Charles II) who took Lucy Walter for his mistress. Though it is often said that Ms Walter was Charles’s first mistress it has also been speculated that he had a tryst as early as 1646, when he was just sixteen.

The intimacy between Charles and Lucy continued with intervals until the Autumn of 1651. In 1649, Lucy gave birth to her first child, James Scott, who Charles irrevocably claimed paternity of hence why the boy was created Duke of Monmouth. When Charles left The Hague in 1650 for Scotland, Lucy had an affair with Theobald, 2nd Viscount Taaffe who was apparently the father of her second child, Mary, though it has also been argued that Mary’s father was Henry Bennett, Earl of Arlington.

In late 1651, after his defeat at the Battle of Worcester, Charles returned to the Continent and promptly told Lucy that their relationship was over. Taking the news rather badly, Lucy began to cause embarrassment after embarrassment for an exiled Royal Court, already an embarrassment in itself. She was eventually persuaded to return to England with her children though when the Lord Protector’s intelligence department assumed she was a spy, she was arrested and sent to the Tower of London.

After her eventual release from the Tower, Lucy was sent back to the Continent where she resumed an extravagant lifestyle, even trying to use her son as a way of influencing Charles. When this didn’t work, Lucy was persuaded to hand over James to a royal tutor in March 1658.

Lucy Walter abandoned herself to a life of promiscuity which possibly led to her premature death in September 1658.

One of the biggest mysteries of Lucy’s life was whether she actually married the future King or not. There was a rumour at the time that a marriage certificate had been hidden in a black box in a place that only Charles knew. The intrigue of the black box was often brought up by Exclusionists who wished to see the Duke of Monmouth become heir instead of James, Duke of York. Monmouth was a Protestant whilst the Duke of York was a Catholic. Ultimately King Charles II denied this rumour on a number of occasions.

As for the black box, well who knows if that was ever found….

Photo Credit: Lisby

Featured Photo Credit: Sharaf