"The Duchess of York wished to have the portraits of the most beautiful women at Court," Anthony Hamilton wrote in the Memoirs of Count Grammont. "Lely painted them, and employed all his art in the execution. He could not have had more alluring sitters. Every portrait is a masterpiece."
The original set of "Beauties" painted by Lely were, as we find from James II's catalogue, eleven in number, their names being Barbara, Duchess of Cleveland (née Villiers); Frances, Duchess of Richmond and Lennox (née Stuart); Mrs. Jane Myddleton (née Needham); Elizabeth, Countess of Northumberland (née Wriothesley); Elizabeth, Countess of Falmouth (née Bagot); Elizabeth, Lady Denham (née Brooke); Frances, Lady Whitmore (née Brooke); Henrietta, Countess of Rochester (née Boyle); Elizabeth, Countess de Grammont (née Hamilton); and Madame d'Orleans.
It will be seen that in this list of "Beauties" Anne Hyde, Duchess of York, does not figure; but since she was responsible for the collection, it would be peculiarly ungracious to omit her from a volume that treats of it. Also, she deserves inclusion for her supreme courage in selecting the sitters-for what must the ladies who were not chosen have said and thought of her?
Nor in the series are Nell Gwyn, Louise de Kéroualle, and the Duchess Mazarin; but no account of the social life of the Court of Charles II can possibly omit mention of them, and therefore something has been said about each of these ladies.
The new Revised Edition restores Melville's masterpiece of the intricate relationships and day-by-day account of court life in the reign of Charles II of England. This edition also adds a new glossary, bibliography, and extended footnotes for the lay history reader. Also included are first-ever translations of French language poems, letters, and epitaphs of St. Evremond completed by Coby Fletcher.