Item description for The Windsor Beauties: Ladies of the Court of Charles II by Lewis Melville...
"The Duchess of York wished to have the portraits of the most beautiful women at Court," Anthony Hamilton wrote in the Memoirs of Count Grammont. "Lely painted them, and employed all his art in the execution. He could not have had more alluring sitters. Every portrait is a masterpiece."
The original set of "Beauties" painted by Lely were, as we find from James II's catalogue, eleven in number, their names being Barbara, Duchess of Cleveland (ne Villiers); Frances, Duchess of Richmond and Lennox (ne Stuart); Mrs. Jane Myddleton (ne Needham); Elizabeth, Countess of Northumberland (ne Wriothesley); Elizabeth, Countess of Falmouth (ne Bagot); Elizabeth, Lady Denham (ne Brooke); Frances, Lady Whitmore (ne Brooke); Henrietta, Countess of Rochester (ne Boyle); Elizabeth, Countess de Grammont (ne Hamilton); and Madame d'Orleans.
It will be seen that in this list of "Beauties" Anne Hyde, Duchess of York, does not figure; but since she was responsible for the collection, it would be peculiarly ungracious to omit her from a volume that treats of it. Also, she deserves inclusion for her supreme courage in selecting the sitters-for what must the ladies who were not chosen have said and thought of her?
Nor in the series are Nell Gwyn, Louise de Kroualle, and the Duchess Mazarin; but no account of the social life of the Court of Charles II can possibly omit mention of them, and therefore something has been said about each of these ladies.
The new Revised Edition restores Melville's masterpiece of the intricate relationships and day-by-day account of court life in the reign of Charles II of England. This edition also adds a new glossary, bibliography, and extended footnotes for the lay history reader. Also included are first-ever translations of French language poems, letters, and epitaphs of St. Evremond completed by Coby Fletcher.
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Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 9.3" Width: 6.3" Height: 0.8" Weight: 1.05 lbs.
Release Date Jul 31, 2005
Publisher Victorian Heritage Press
ISBN 1932690131 ISBN13 9781932690132
Availability 91 units. Availability accurate as of Jan 17, 2017 02:28.
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Reviews - What do customers think about The Windsor Beauties: Ladies of the Court of Charles II?
Fascinating Behind-the-Scenes Peek at Restoration England Jan 22, 2007
Without repeating what other reviewers have said about the content and composition of this book, I do want to reiterate that it is an excellent and fascinating study of life in Restoration England. (For newbies, that refers to the reign of Charles II.) While there are some problems with readability that the original author (Charles Melville, in the 1928 edition) did not fully resolve, such as smoothly incorporating all of his quotes into the text--it is nevertheless a greatly enjoyable book. As much of it comes from diaries and correspondence that were contemporary to the time, the reader is treated to the uncensored opinions that people only write privately, or at most, to one or two other people--usually--but we get to "eavesdrop" as it were. Rich, gossipy, full of small details that delight--it's a painless history lesson. You learn about the period, the monarch, and the mistresses (many of them, at any rate) by people who were there. It is not a scholarly book, which I mention as encouragement for the casual reader; but it is a fabulous introduction to the time, and to a great many amazing characters that you will find yourself wanting to know even more about, afterwards. That's what I call history at its best! Many thanks to Victorian Heritage Press for publishing this valuable work.
Restored gem Aug 28, 2006
Reviewed by Joanne Benham for Reader Views (08/06)
Samuel Pepys was born in London, England in 1633. He attended Cambridge University, graduating in 1654 and became a well-known man of business in London, with an insatiable thirst for knowledge as well as an appetite for pleasure. In 1660, Pepys began keeping a diary in which he recorded all of the details of his life in London.
At approximately this same time, Count Grammont of France arrived at the English court after being banished from the French court of King Louis XIV for seducing the King's mistress.
Lewis Melville used the memoirs of Count Grammont and the diaries of Samuel Pepys extensively when he wrote this book in 1928. The book is a fascinating look into the inner workings of the royal court of King Charles II of England woven around a series of pictures commissioned from Sir Peter Lely by Anne, Duchess of York, who wished to have portraits of the most beautiful women in the court. The eleven portraits were called "The Windsor Beauties" because they were originally hung in the Queen's bedchamber at Windsor Castle.
This revised edition, supervised by Victor R. Volkman, retains the original text. To help the reader better understand the political and social issues of the time, Mr. Volkman has added a large glossary as well as extensive footnotes. He has also added a proper bibliography for anyone who wishes to do further reading.
The Windsor Beauties is the first of a series of restorations Mr. Volkman hopes to do, introducing the great literature of the 17th and 18th centuries to a new generation of readers. I spent several wonderful hours reading this book and then many more online as I started reading more and more about the people in this book.
Recommended especially for lay historians and writers planning to pen court life period pieces Jan 12, 2006
The Windsor Beauties: Ladies of the Court of Charles II is the newly revised edition of the classic 1928 text. An absorbing masterpiece that meticulously and faithfully renders the day-by-day interplay of court life during the reign of Charles II of England, especially focusing upon those women notable enough to be immortalized in a portrait project at the behest of the Duchess of York, The Windsor Beauties is sparsely illustrated with black-and-white copies of the famous portraits. Yet the real draw is the eye-opening, unrepentantly honest written account, now enhanced with a new glossary, bibliography, extended footnotes for lay history readers, and the first-ever translations of French language poems, letters, and epistles. Highly recommended especially for lay historians and writers planning to pen court life period pieces.
Useful collection of Stuart social portraits Oct 31, 2005
As an editor and biographer, Lewis Melville (the pseudonym for Lewis Saul Benjamin) produced numerous works of literary and social history. Though written nearly a century ago, his books on such figures as William Makepeace Thackeray, John Gay, and Lady Mary Wortley Montagu persevere as well-written and insightful studies of their subjects. This book is something different, a collection of chapter-length biographical studies of women who were prominent in the court life of King Charles II. Eleven of them were noblewomen who were the subjects of a series of portraits commissioned from Peter Lely by the Duke of York, to which Melville added studies of the Duchess of York, Nell Gwyn, Louise de Keroualle and the Duchess Mazarin.
First published in 1921, this book has been reissued by Victorian Heritage Press in a revised edition, with explanatory footnotes, translations, and a glossary added. This is obviously a labor of love, one designed to make Melville's enjoyable accounts accessible to a new generation of readers. Though the research could have been more solidly based (I had a problem with the reliance on Wikipedia as a source, especially when the shelves overflow with so many excellent scholarly works on Stuart England), this is a welcome resuscitation of a useful study of the English upper class in the 17th century.