It has been a while since I’ve posted about the historical information I find all around, so it’s time for another post. Indeed, I have read another historical book this one about the English great home Cliveden. The Mistresses of Cliveden: Three Centuries of Scandal, Power, and Intrigue in an English Stately Home was written by Natalie Livingstone who is the current owner of the place, which is now a hotel. The book focuses on five women who were among the several mistresses of the house since its building in 1605.
The first woman examined was actually the mistress of the second Duke of Buckingham. Although her biography had a duel and a passionate love affair, it wasn’t her story that fired my imagination. I was caught by the short summary of how the duke met and wooed his wife.
George Villiers, the second Duke of Buckingham, was a close friend of Charles II. When the king escaped into exile in France after losing the English Civil War, the duke went too. The king had a price put on his head by Cromwell’s government, and as a Royalist, so did the duke.
Although one of the richest men in England, exile and being on the losing side of the war, meant the duke had no money. He lived by selling paintings, what gifts he could obtain, and his wits. He was considered very witty. It was not how he wanted to spend his life.
In England, Cliveden had been bestowed on a successful general in Cromwell’s army. General Fairfax had only one daughter, Mary who was his heiress. Buckingham saw marriage to her as the way back to claiming his fortune, but how to wed when there was a price on his head and he was proclaimed a traitor?
Page 21 of the Mistresses book describes how in 1657 the duke disguised himself as a troubadour and performed his way across England until he reached Cliveden. There he met, wooed and married Mary, despite the fact that the banns had already been called twice for another man.
Apparently she loved her husband all of her life, while a man of his times, he continued to live large. He was involved in plots against the government. He was arrested, escaped and eventually wound up in the Tower of London where his father-in-law the general stood surety on the duke’s promise not to try to overthrow the government again. The duke was there when Charles II was restored to the throne in 1660. Of course, he had a mistress of many years whom he seemed to have loved. She was the cause of the duel he fought.
As a romance author, I was intrigued by the snippet of the duke wooing the heiress as a wandering minstrel. Such a story plot actually had occurred in history. What a book idea! I copied out the relevant pages and put them in my Ideas Box. Maybe some day I’ll be able to write a romance set in mid-1600’s England about a disguised duke braving all the might of England to woo the heiress. Of course, in my romance, everything ends happily, and they will both fall in love forever.
Also, I’m becoming much more cautious about the history books I read. There are only so many books I can actually write.