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The Windsor Beauties: Ladies of the Court of Charles II Hardcover – 1 Jun 2005


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 244 pages
  • Publisher: Victorian Heritage Press; Rev. Ed edition (1 Jun 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1932690131
  • ISBN-13: 978-1932690132
  • Product Dimensions: 15.6 x 1.4 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,559,126 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By MarkK TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 31 Oct 2005
Format: Hardcover
As an editor and biographer, Lewis Melville (the pseudonym for Lewis Saul Benjamin) produced numerous works of literary and social history. Though written nearly a century ago, his books on such figures as William Makepeace Thackeray, John Gay, and Lady Mary Wortley Montagu persevere as well-written and insightful studies of their subjects. This book is something different, a collection of chapter-length biographical studies of women who were prominent in the court life of King Charles II. Eleven of them were noblewomen who were the subjects of a series of portraits commissioned from Peter Lely by the Duke of York, to which Melville added studies of the Duchess of York, Nell Gwyn, Louise de Keroualle and the Duchess Mazarin.
First published in 1921, this book has been reissued by Victorian Heritage Press in a revised edition, with explanatory footnotes, translations, and a glossary added. This is obviously a labor of love, one designed to make Melville’s enjoyable accounts accessible to a new generation of readers. Though the research could have been more solidly based (I had a problem with the reliance on Wikipedia as a source, especially when the shelves overflow with so many excellent scholarly works on Stuart England), this is a welcome resuscitation of a useful study of the English upper class in the 17th century.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 7 reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Useful collection of Stuart social portraits 31 Oct 2005
By MarkK - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
As an editor and biographer, Lewis Melville (the pseudonym for Lewis Saul Benjamin) produced numerous works of literary and social history. Though written nearly a century ago, his books on such figures as William Makepeace Thackeray, John Gay, and Lady Mary Wortley Montagu persevere as well-written and insightful studies of their subjects. This book is something different, a collection of chapter-length biographical studies of women who were prominent in the court life of King Charles II. Eleven of them were noblewomen who were the subjects of a series of portraits commissioned from Peter Lely by the Duke of York, to which Melville added studies of the Duchess of York, Nell Gwyn, Louise de Keroualle and the Duchess Mazarin.

First published in 1921, this book has been reissued by Victorian Heritage Press in a revised edition, with explanatory footnotes, translations, and a glossary added. This is obviously a labor of love, one designed to make Melville's enjoyable accounts accessible to a new generation of readers. Though the research could have been more solidly based (I had a problem with the reliance on Wikipedia as a source, especially when the shelves overflow with so many excellent scholarly works on Stuart England), this is a welcome resuscitation of a useful study of the English upper class in the 17th century.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Fascinating Behind-the-Scenes Peek at Restoration England 22 Jan 2007
By Linore Burkard - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Without repeating what other reviewers have said about the content and composition of this book, I do want to reiterate that it is an excellent and fascinating study of life in Restoration England. (For newbies, that refers to the reign of Charles II.) While there are some problems with readability that the original author (Charles Melville, in the 1928 edition) did not fully resolve, such as smoothly incorporating all of his quotes into the text--it is nevertheless a greatly enjoyable book. As much of it comes from diaries and correspondence that were contemporary to the time, the reader is treated to the uncensored opinions that people only write privately, or at most, to one or two other people--usually--but we get to "eavesdrop" as it were. Rich, gossipy, full of small details that delight--it's a painless history lesson. You learn about the period, the monarch, and the mistresses (many of them, at any rate) by people who were there. It is not a scholarly book, which I mention as encouragement for the casual reader; but it is a fabulous introduction to the time, and to a great many amazing characters that you will find yourself wanting to know even more about, afterwards. That's what I call history at its best! Many thanks to Victorian Heritage Press for publishing this valuable work.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Recommended especially for lay historians and writers planning to pen court life period pieces 12 Jan 2006
By Midwest Book Review - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
The Windsor Beauties: Ladies of the Court of Charles II is the newly revised edition of the classic 1928 text. An absorbing masterpiece that meticulously and faithfully renders the day-by-day interplay of court life during the reign of Charles II of England, especially focusing upon those women notable enough to be immortalized in a portrait project at the behest of the Duchess of York, The Windsor Beauties is sparsely illustrated with black-and-white copies of the famous portraits. Yet the real draw is the eye-opening, unrepentantly honest written account, now enhanced with a new glossary, bibliography, extended footnotes for lay history readers, and the first-ever translations of French language poems, letters, and epistles. Highly recommended especially for lay historians and writers planning to pen court life period pieces.
Not much has changed over the centuries 20 Nov 2010
By Irene Watson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Grace, elegance, sophistication, refinement and beauty is what we imagine when we think of women of royalty. Anne, Duchess of York, Barbara, Duchess of Cleveland, Elizabeth, Countess de Grammont, and Henrietta, Countess of Rochester are just a few of the women that are depicted in this book. Each held her own grace in society, but more so each had her own story, some of polished lives, others of dysfunction and scandal.

I found this book an interesting read because I knew very little, or nothing, of the ladies. I smiled often as I read the accounts of their lives and realized these women were no different from the women of our society today, especially those of the royal families. Not much has changed.
Images of life at court 25 Aug 2011
By Dani Alexis - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
The Windsor Beauties: Ladies of the Court of Charles II is a recent reprint of Lewis Melville's classic history of the court of the last Stuart king, first published in 1928. The book takes as its basis a series of portraits painted by Peter Levy in the late seventeenth century. Known collectively as "The Windsor Beauties," the ladies portrayed in these portraits were all ladies of the court, from Anne, Duchess of York to several of the Queen's maids of honor. Followers of the English monarchy will recognize many of the women's maiden names; the series includes, among others, a Villiers, a Hamilton, and a Wriothesley. The book also includes a well-defined black and white reproduction of each portrait.

Melville, however, goes beyond merely reproducing each painting and reciting the details of its creation. He also details the world in which these women lived, the reputations under which they thrived (or suffered), and the contemporary views of them held by their peers and others. For instance, Melville's two chapters devoted to Barbara, Duchess of Cleveland (whose portrait graces the cover of the book) contain several excerpts from the diary of Samuel Pepys regarding her life and doings. While it's nearly impossible to disentangle fact from gossip, especially four hundred years after the fact, these vignettes provide a look into the lives of the ladies Levy so brilliantly portrayed in the paintings commissioned by the Duchess of York. The Windsor Beauties is a valuable source for anyone interested in post-Civil War painting, portraiture, or the court of Charles II.
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