King Charles II (1630-1685), left, of England loved women, and women in turn loved him. From high-born peeresses to humble orange-girls, literally hundreds of women enjoyed the royal person during his lifetime. Only one lady of his court is known to have refused him: a beautiful nineteen-year-old Maid of Honor named Frances Stewart (1647-1702), lower right. Although Charles pursued her for months, Frances clearly had other interests. This is an excerpt from the Memoirs of Philibert, Comte de Gramont, one of the greatest gossips of the 17th century.
It was near midnight: the king met [Frances's] chambermaids [at her bedchamber door], who respectfully opposed his entrance, and, in a very low voice, whispered to His Majesty that Miss Stewart had been very ill; but that, having gone to bed, she was God be thanked, in a very fine sleep.
"That I must see," said the king, pushing her back...He found Miss Stewart in bed, indeed, but far from being asleep: the Duke of Richmond was seated at her pillow, and in all probability was less inclined to sleep than herself. The perplexity of the one party, and the rage of the other, were such as may easily be imagined upon such a surprise. The king, who, of all men was one of the most mild and gentle, testified his resentment to the Duke of Richmond in such terms as he had never before used. The duke was speechless, and almost petrified...Miss Stewart's window was very convenient for a sudden revenge, the Thames flowing close beneath it..and seeing the king more incensed...than he thought his nature capable of, [the duke] made a profound bow, and retired, without a single word to the vast torrent of threats and menaces that were poured upon him.
Miss Stewart, having a little recovered from her first surprise, instead of justifying herself...said everything that was most capable to inflame the king's...resentment; that, if she were not allowed to receive visits from a man of the Duke of Richmond's rank, who came with honourable intentions, she was a slave in a free country;...if this was not permitted her...she did not believe that there was any power on earth that could hinder her from going over to France, and throwing herself into a convent, to enjoy there that tranquillity which was denied her in this court. The king, sometimes furious with anger, sometimes relenting at her tears...nearly was induced to throw himself upon his knees, and entreat pardon for the injury he had done her...when instead she desired him to retire, and leave her in repose, at least for the remainder of that night....This impertinent request provoked and irritated the king to the highest degree: he went out abruptly, vowing never to see her more.
Ladies who refuse kings, let alone berate them in their bedchambers, seldom fare well in history. But Frances won. Soon after this night in 1667, she eloped with her duke, and the pair were married – much to the displeasure and disappointment of the King.
Above: Charles II, King of England, Scotland, and Ireland, by James Michael Wright
Below: Frances Teresa Stewart, by Sir Peter Lely