The title of the royal mistress dates back thousands of years, but not something that you often read about in your history books. Drama and scandal surrounded these women and even the occasional man. Society also often looked down upon them and their actions. Yet these opinions often remained secret and hidden because, for a time, the position of a royal mistress or lover was one of the highest in the land. It was also the most precarious in that one wrong move can remove you from the ruler’s good graces, and may even result in death. Despite the unstable nature of this position, many women and men fought tooth and nail to get it. Few managed to possess it, but these people who did it managed to leave an everlasting mark on the pages of history.
23. Barbara Palmer (Villiers)
Also known as Barbara Villiers, the 1st Duchess of Cleveland is best known for being the most well-known mistress of Charles II of England. Born into rather meager beginnings, Barbara managed to climb the social ladder rather quickly due to her curvy body and good looks. Though Barbara was undeniably a bombshell, her marriage prospects were rather slim due to her family’s lack of money. She did manage to snag a man named Robert Palmer, who married her despite his family’s protests. The marriage was short-lived after Barabara gave birth to their son and they legally separated until Palmer died in 1662.
Despite still being legally married, King Charles took Barbara on as a mistress in 1960. As a favorite of the king, Barbara’s presence overshadowed that of his wife, Catherine of Braganza. None of that mattered to Charles and he went as far as to make his mistress Lady of the Bedchamber to the queen. She used her position to gain property and titles as well as bear 5 children for the king. Too bad nothing lasts forever and the two drifted apart and each began taking their lovers other than each other. Barbara reconciled with the king, but did eventually remarry. Too bad it was to a man who was already hitched to another woman. Any other suitors she had later in life lied, tried to kill her children or impregnate them. She died a rather ugly death for a woman that was the epitome of beauty in her youth. In the last years of her life she suffered from significant edema, meaning her body swelled to the point of pain. She ultimately passed away at the age of 68 from congestive heart failure.