King Charles II
Forget Henry VIII, when it comes to womanizing English kings, Charles II stands head and shoulders above the rest. This was a monarch for whom running the country appeared to be an unwanted distraction. He’d rather have devoted all his time and energy to satisfying his first love – the thrill of the chase. Indeed, while some kings and queens may have been discreet in their liaisons, Charles II was shameless, openly flaunting his affairs and boasting of his prowess in the bedchamber. So decadent was the monarch that he almost bankrupt the country. In his defense, however, maybe he had good reason to ‘live for the moment’….
Charles II had a stressful adolescence to say the least. In 1649, his father, King Charles I was executed by Oliver Cromwell in London, bringing the bloody English Civil War to an end. Worried that he would be next to feel Cromwell’s wrath, the young man went on the run, heading across the water to France and lying low for a while. Or for 11 years of drinking and womanizing, to be precise. In 1660, England’s experiment with parliamentary rule was over, and the monarchy was back in favour. Charles II was on the throne, and he had a divided country to unite. However, he clearly had other things on his mind.
By all accounts, the court of Charles II was like a 17th century Playboy Mansion. In 1662, Charles II married Catherine of Braganza, a sound political union. However, he chose to watch her state procession through London from the roof of his banqueting house, in the company of one of his favorite mistresses. This was far from the only time the king flaunted his infidelities. In fact, he tasked members of his court to bring him young women – actresses were a particular favorite – and he would usually have around 15 ladies in his harem at any one time. The exact number of lovers he had, and indeed the number of illegitimate children he fathered in his affairs, will never be known.
Charles loved to spoil his mistresses, often buying them apartments and fixing them up with expense accounts, much to the annoyance of Parliament. Given his financial mismanagement, as well as his decadent lifestyle, it’s a miracle that the people didn’t rise up against Charles II. However, he stayed on the throne for 25 years, living the good life. He eventually died in 1685, the morning after a lavish party in which he enjoyed the company of his favorite mistresses – an appropriate end for the ultimate playboy monarch.