Sunday, August 16, 2015

The Windsor Beauties are a famous collection of 11 paintings by Sir Peter Lely, painted in the early to mid-1660s.

The ‘Windsor Beauties’ series, were a set of eleven portraits of celebrated women at the Restoration court. The series was commissioned, or assembled, by Anne Hyde, Duchess of York, probably around 1662-5; painted by Peter Lely (1618–1680) depicting the most beautiful ladies of the court of King Charles II of England. 


Peter Lely (1618–1680)
Portrait of Frances Theresa Stuart, Duchess of Richmond and Lennox
circa 1662 and circa 1665
Medium oil on canvas
125.8 × 102.7 cm (49.5 × 40.4 in)
Hampton Court Palace

Frances Teresa Stewart, Duchess of Richmond and Lennox (8 July 1647 – 15 October 1702) was a prominent member of the Court of the Restoration and famous for refusing to become a mistress of Charles II of England. For her great beauty she was known as La Belle Stuart and served as the model for an idealised, female Britannia.

she caught the eye of Charles II, who fell in love with her. The king's infatuation was so great that when the queen's life was despaired of in 1663, it was reported that he intended to marry Stewart, and four years later he was considering the possibility of obtaining a divorce to enable him to make her his wife because she had refused to become his mistress.


Following the war with the Dutch, Charles had a commemorative medal cast, in which her face was used as a model for Britannia; this subsequently became customary for medals, coins and statues. She continued to appear on some of the copper coinage of the United Kingdom until the decimalization of the currency in 1971.[2] She also appeared on the fifty pence piece in 2006. More

Lely flattered his subjects, and gave each portrait a similar languorous and ‘sleepy eyed’ air, said to have been influenced by the features of the noted court beauty Barbara Villiers, Duchess of Cleveland who was painted many times by Lely. Only one of the sitters, Frances Teresa Stuart actually held the position of Maid of Honour in the Royal Household. Some of the others were noted courtesans, while others were respected members of the nobility.

Peter Lely (1618–1680)
La Belle Hamilton, Elizabeth, Countess of Gramont
circa 1663
Oil on canvas
125.1 × 101.6 cm (49.3 × 40 in)
Hampton Court Palace

Elizabeth, Countess de Gramont (née Hamilton; 1640 – 3 June 1708), was an Irish-born courtier and a lady-in-waiting to Louis XIV's queen consort, Maria Theresa of Spain. Shewas born in Strabane, Ireland. She became a member of the English court in 1661. She was described as a great beauty and became known for her judgement, charm and sensibility. She was much courted, by — among others — the Duke of York, the Duke of Richmond and the Heir of Norfolk, but she reportedly rejected them all.

She was married in London to Philibert, Count de Gramont, a French exile at the English court. "La belle Hamilton" was one of the great beauties of the English court. When Gramont was given permission to return to France, however, he left in a haste.


She followed her spouse to France in 1669, where she was made Dame du Palais to the French queen. She was a woman of considerable wit, and held her own at the court of Louis XIV, but her husband pursued his gallant exploits to the close of a long life. In 1696, her spouse was afflicted with a grave illness, and after he recovered, he turned to a religious life, in which she followed him. She died one year after being widowed. More

In 1674, after the death of Anne Hyde, the pictures were hanging as a group in the White Room at Whitehall. Eleven pictures are mentioned in the inventory, although only ten are identified today as belonging to the group. The series was taken from Whitehall to Windsor. During the reign of Queen Anne they were hung in the Queen’s Waiting Room and later in the Queen’s State Bedchamber. They were at Hampton Court by June 1835. More

Peter Lely (1618–1680)
Jane Needham, Mrs Myddleton (1646-92) with a cornucopia, possibly as Demeter
Ooil on canvas
124.1 × 101.6 cm (48.9 × 40 in)
Hampton Court Palace

Jane Myddelton or Middleton (1645–1692), was a reputed English beauty of the Restoration period. Sshe was born at Lambeth during the latter part of 1645, and baptised in Lambeth Church on 23 January 1646.

Jane was married at Lambeth Church on 18 June 1660 to Charles Myddelton of Ruabon, third surviving son of Sir Thomas Myddelton of Chirk. Myddelton and his wife lived in London and appear to have subsisted for a time upon the bounty of relatives. A legacy from Lady Needham fell in upon that lady's death in 1666, and another upon Sir Thomas Myddelton's death in the same year.

After the accession of James II, "Mrs. Myddelton" enjoyed an annual pension of £500 from secret service money. Her husband, who had for some years held a place of about £400 a year in the prize office, died insolvent in 1691. She died in the following year, and was buried beside her husband in Lambeth Church.


As a married woman was much courted by men; she is now thought to have taken just two lovers, Ralph Montagu and Laurence Hyde, 1st Earl of Rochester. Antonia Fraser writes that her life "was founded on masculine support in return for sexual favours", but also that her affairs "were seen more as a tribute paid to her great beauty". She was an amateur artist capable of contributing to the iconography of her portraits. Besides that by Peter Lely in the "Windsor Beauties" series, there was second Lely portrait (1666) commissioned by Robert Spencer, 2nd Earl of Sunderland for another series. More

Peter Lely (1618–1680)
Margaret Brooke, Lady Denham (ca 1647-67)
Oil on canvas
124.5 × 101 cm (49 × 39.8 in)
Hampton Court Palace

Margaret Brook, Lady Denham,  (ca 1647-67), was married to a man twice her age. Determined to make her own way at Court and in Restoration England. The way to social advancement for a pretty young woman, was to catch the eye of the king or his brother. Her attempts to set her cap at King Charles II were thwarted by the king’s principal mistress Barbara Palmer, turning her attention to his brother, the Duke of York. By June 1666 the Duke of York was wholly given up her. Lady Denham, declared that she woul not be his mistress, but would be owned publicly.  The affair ended in tragedy with her sudden death. She believed she had been poisoned and insisted before she died that an autopsy should be carried out. No trace of poison was found but it did not allay public suspicion that her husband Sir John Denham had murdered her with a poisoned cup of cocoa at the behest of the jealous Duchess of York, an early example of death by chocolate. More

Peter Lely (1618–1680)
Frances Brooke, Lady Whitmore (d. 1690)
Frances Brooke, Lady Whitmore was the sister was Margaret Brooke, Lady Denham, above
circa 1665
Oil on canvas
124.4 × 101.3 cm (49 × 39.9 in)
Hampton Court Palace

Hon. Frances Brooke (1640 – c. 1690) was a British courtier. She was styled Hon. Frances Brooke, and then Lady Whitmore. She was granted the style of a daughter of a baron. 


Her father was Sir William Brooke (1601–1643), and her mother was Penelope Hill ( -c.1694). Frances was first married to Sir Thomas Whitmore ( -1682), had three children with him. She then married Matthew Harvey ( -c.1693/94). She lead a life of quiet domesticity away from the hurly burly of court life. More


Peter Lely (1618–1680)
Mary Bagot, Countess of Falmouth and Dorset (1645-79)
circa 1664 and circa 1665
Oil on canvas
124.3 × 101.3 cm (48.9 × 39.9 in)
Current location
Hampton Court Palace

Mary, Countess of Falmouth and Dorset (1645 – 1679) was a British courtier. She was one of the Windsor Beauties painted by Sir Peter Lely. Her portrait by Lely was erroneously named "Elizabeth, Countess of Falmouth" and also as "Countess of Ossory" in some portrait prints and books in the 18th and 19th centuries, many of which were later reprinted, compounding the error.

Her father was Col. Henry Bagot, and mother was Dorothea Arden. She married Charles Berkeley, 1st Earl of Falmouth in 1663. He died at the Battle of Lowestoft. The widowed Countess of Falmouth, lady-of-the-bedchamber to the Queen appears in the various lists of the King’s mistresses, though apparently not as one of the main contenders. She then married Charles Sackville, 6th Earl of Dorset in June 1674. This second marriage for Mary Bagot terminated after five years with her death in childbirth. More

Peter Lely (1618–1680)
Henrietta Boyle, Countess of Rochester (1646-87)
circa 1665
Oil on canvas
124.4 × 101.4 cm (49 × 39.9 in)
Hampton Court Palace

Henrietta Hyde, Countess of Rochester (née Boyle; 1646 – 12 April 1687) was an English noblewoman, daughter of the Richard Boyle, 1st Earl of Burlington, whose namesake went on to build the stunning Chiswick House. She was born in Wiltshire, England to Sir Richard Boyle, 2nd Earl of Cork and Elizabeth Boyle, Countess of Cork. In 1665 she married Laurence Hyde, 1st Earl of Rochester; becoming sister-in-law to Anne Hyde, Duchess of York. She was later Governess to Anne's daughter, Princess Anne, between 1677 and 1682 . Henrietta had four children. 


Like most of the Boyle dynasty, who in the space of two generations had become almost all-powerful in the south of Ireland, Henrietta was strong-minded and acquisitive, and could be ruthless in asserting her rights. During the last two years of her life, when her husband was Chief Minister to his brother-in-law King James II, Henrietta took full advantage of his power to claim every possible privilege. She clashed bitterly with her husband's niece, the future Queen Anne over who should have the best apartments in Whitehall Palace. She died 1687 in her 42nd year.


File:Barbara Villiers, Duchess of Cleveland, 1662 by Lely.jpg
Peter Lely (1618–1680)
Barbara Villiers, 1st Duchess of Cleveland (ca 1641-1709)
circa 1665
Oil on canvas
124.5 × 101.4 cm (49 × 39.9 in)
Hampton Court Palace

Barbara Palmer, 1st Duchess of Cleveland, Countess of Castlemaine, also known as Lady Castlemaine (27 November 1640 – 9 October 1709) was an English courtesan from the Villiers family and perhaps the most notorious of the many mistresses of King Charles II of England, by whom she had five children, all of whom were acknowledged and subsequently ennobled. Her influence was so great that she has been referred to as "The Uncrowned Queen." Her immediate contemporary was Madame de Montespan, mistress of King Louis XIV of France.

Barbara was the subject of many portraits, in particular by court painter Sir Peter Lely. Her extravagance, foul temper and promiscuity provoked diarist John Evelyn into describing her as the "curse of the nation", whereas Samuel Pepys often noted seeing her, admiringly.


Barbara's 1st cousin Elizabeth Villiers (later 1st Countess of Orkney 1657–1733) was the only acknowledged mistress of King William III. More


Peter Lely (1618–1680)
Anne Digby, Countess of Sunderland (ca 1646-1715)
before 1666
Oil on canvas
124.9 × 101.8 cm (49.2 × 40.1 in)
Hampton Court Palace

Anne Spencer, Countess of Sunderland (née Digby; c. 1646 – 26 April 1715) was the wife of Robert Spencer, 2nd Earl of Sunderland and the daughter of George Digby, 2nd Earl of Bristol and Lady Anne Russell.

Sunderland had previously broken off their long-standing engagement. He told his friends that he had reason enough and was resolved never to have her. He soon had second thoughts and their mothers worked together to produce a reconciliation which resulted in an entirely successful marriage. She was a lady-in-waiting to Mary of Modena during the reign of James II, and was present at the birth of the Prince of Wales, signalling to the king that his new child was a boy.

She is alleged to have had an affair with Henry Sidney, Earl of Romney, her husband's uncle. Her devotion to her husband was never seriously questioned; his biographer considered that it was principally his happy marriage which sustained Sunderland through a long and unhappy life.


She had at least five children by Sunderland, only one of whom outlived her. More

File:Elizabeth Wriothesley, Countess of Northumberland.jpg
Peter Lely (1618–1680)
Lady Elizabeth Wriothesley, later Countess of Northumberland, later Countess of Montagu (1646-90), mother of Lady Elizabeth Percy, Countess of Ogle
circa 1665
Oil on canvas
125.7 × 103.5 cm (49.5 × 40.7 in)
Hampton Court Palace

Elizabeth Percy, Countess of Northumberland (née Wriothesley; 1646 – 19 September 1690), was a British courtier. Her father was Thomas Wriothesley, 4th Earl of Southampton, and her mother was Lady Elizabeth Leigh, daughter of the 1st Earl of Chichester.


She married Joceline Percy, 11th Earl of Northumberland, on 23 December 1662. They had two children. She traveled with her husband to Italy, where he was taken ill and died in Turin, the next year. Upon his death, being a wealthy heiress, she married Ralph Montagu, 1st Duke of Montagu, at Titchfield, Hampshire, on 24 August 1673. More

Peter Lely (1618–1680)
Henrietta of EnglandDuchess of Orléans seated in a landscape
c. 1662
Oil on Canvas

Henrietta of England (16 June 1644 (26 June n.s.) – 30 June 1670) was the youngest daughter of King Charles I of England, Scotland and Ireland and his wife, Henrietta Maria of France. Fleeing England with her governess at the age of three, she moved to the court of her first cousin Louis XIV of France, where she was known as Minette. After she married Philippe of France, brother of King Louis XIV, she became known as Madame. Very popular with the court, her marriage was marked by frequent tensions. Henrietta was instrumental in negotiating the Secret Treaty of Dover prior to her unexpected death in June 1670. More

Sir Peter Lely (14 September 1618 – 30 November 1680) was a painter of Dutch origin, whose career was nearly all spent in England, where he became the dominant portrait painter to the court. Lely was born Pieter van der Faes to Dutch parents in Soest in Westphalia, where his father was an officer serving in the armed forces of the Elector of Brandenburg. Lely studied painting in Haarlem. He became a master of the Guild of Saint Luke in Haarlem in 1637. 

He arrived in London in around 1641. His early English paintings, mainly mythological or religious scenes, or portraits set in a pastoral landscape. Lely's portraits were well received, and became the most fashionable portrait artist in England. He became a freeman of the Painter-Stainers' Company in 1647 and was portrait artist to Charles I. His talent ensured that his career was not interrupted by Charles's execution, and he served Oliver Cromwell, whom he painted "warts and all", and Richard Cromwell. 

After the English Restoration in 1660, Lely was appointed as Charles II's Principal Painter in Ordinary in 1661. Lely became a naturalised English subject in 1662. 

Among his most famous paintings are a series of 10 portraits of ladies from the Royal court, known as the "Windsor Beauties", formerly at Windsor Castle but now at Hampton Court Palace; a similar series for Althorp; a series of 12 of the admirals and captains who fought in the Second Anglo-Dutch War, known as the "Flagmen of Lowestoft", now mostly owned by the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich; and his Susannah and the Elders at Burghley House.

His most famous non-portrait work is probably Nymphs by a fountain in Dulwich Picture Gallery.

Lely was knighted in 1680. He died soon afterwards at his easel in Covent Garden, while painting a portrait of the Duchess of Somerset, and was buried at St Paul's Church, Covent Garden.