Student Honors Theses

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Charles II returned to England in 1660 accompanied by a “natural son” from a mistress. And within a decade he had new mistresses and more natural or illegitimate children. This thesis attempts to look at the political and cultural roles of these royal mistresses and bastards at the Restoration court of Charles II. It also examines how Charles II used the mistresses and bastards and how some of them used the royal court to their own advantage. Rather than focusing on the personalities of this mistress or that son, however, this thesis focuses on their roles and functions in a courtly context.

The English Restoration Court was of course unique. Each royal court of early modern Europe differed as to ceremony, politics, and social practices. Even so, there were similar courtly roles and practices across Europe. We should start perhaps with a definition of a royal court. Simply put it was the area around and the people who attended upon the monarch, wherever that monarch might be. So one could have a court at a military front, or a court at the horseraces if that is where the monarch was. By the 17th century, however, European courts were largely associated with one palace. The court was the scene for diplomatic exchanges and receptions, as well as formal and informal meetings on domestic politics. Charles envisioned moving to new palaces in his 25-year reign at Greenwich or at Winchester, but it proved difficult to abandon the 1,500 rooms at WhitehallInstead, numerous attempts were made to renovate and streamline the set of ramshackle buildings in Westminster for his use.

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