Monday 18 July 2011

Aristocrats and Royal Patronage

When I was in Hereford last year, I came across this plaque on what appeared to be the boundary wall of the grounds of the Bishops Palace. It explained the name of the road we were walking along – Gwynne Street. I was excited because I'd recently written an article about Nell Gwynne, but my research had found no mention of her connection to the city. You might have seen an uncut version of this pic here before because I wrote about it briefly early this year.

On revisiting it recently, I was intrigued by the references to her fame, particularly the fact that she was the mother of the first Duke of St Albans. It doesn't, of course, mention that he was one of the the illegitimate sons of King Charles II. This king was a great womaniser, and had many illegitimate offspring. History tells us that he was in the habit of awarding dukedoms to his sons from the wrong side of the blanket. It is interesting to learn the origin of a particular line of the Bristish aristocracy.

In my article, I wrote about how Nell was a favourite mistress of the king, and an actress who was popular with the public too. The other reference on the plaque calls her the founder of the Royal Chelsea Hospital (its full name). This was actually a residence for royalists veterans of the civil war that had raged in England in the 17th century and it was the king who made sure it was built and used. But it is widely believed that it was Nell who persuaded him to do so, which shows a compassionate side of her character that may have contributed to her popularity. 

The Royal Chelsea Hospital on the banks of the River Thames in London is still a home for pensioned off veterans of the British army. They have their own uniform which they wear with pride on ceremonial occasions. See the pic below which is by Sheynhertz-Unbay.

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