Charles II's reign was a time of revolutionary experimentation: in science, art and sexual relationships. For the first time in British history, Royal mistresses - like Nell Gwyn - maintained a vigorous public role in court life. Ladies became aware of new potentialities and freedoms, playing on stage, managing their own money, marital status and extra-marital affairs. Inspired by a libidinous King, 'being beautiful' might just get you what you needed in life. However if beauty was loved and revered, praised by poets and idealized by artists, it had been equivalently distrusted and feared, pursued and possessed. Lovely girls were pursued and abused, pilloried as whores. This equivocal nature of beauty explains the lives of a number of the foremost attractive and infamous men and ladies in British history - those Restoration mistresses and libertines who lived, loved and died amidst the beaded luxury of the late Stuart Court. Beauty, Sex and Power, printed to accompany an exhibition at Hampton Court Palace, examines the phenomenon that came to be known as the 'beautiful revolution;' from the Restoration of Charles II to the death of Queen Anne in 1714. It is also a book concerning the nature and power of beauty itself.
Related download: Some Beauties of the Seventeenth Century -18MB - London, Methuen & Co. 1907