Lady Barbara FitzRoy
Lady Barbara FitzRoy (16 July 1672 – 6 May 1737) was the sixth and youngest child of Barbara Palmer, 1st Duchess of Cleveland, a mistress of Charles II of England. Although Charles publicly acknowledged her as his child, he was probably not the father. She became a Benedictine nun, known as Benedite.
Although her mother insisted she was a daughter of the king, Barbara was probably fathered by either John Churchill, later Duke of Marlborough, a second cousin of her mother, or Lord Chesterfield, whom she is said to have resembled in her features. Boyer says of Barbara: "I do not find the King ever owned her for his daughter; but a great man now living is her reputed father. [...] It is generally believ'd that Mr. Churchill, afterwards Duke of Marlborough, was her father."
Finally, it may be remarked that her mother's husband, Lord Castlemaine, believed her to be his daughter, and bequeathed her his estate. Charles, however, always insisted on acknowledging her as his child, while disavowing her in private.
She and her mother were painted by Thomas Pooley in 1677. They are seen holding a basket of flowers; Barbara Fitzroy is portrayed as a smiling, round-faced five-year-old with blonde curls.
Disgrace and the Monastery
The king died in 1685. In March 1691, eighteen-year-old Barbara gave birth to an illegitimate son of the Earl of Arran, whom she named Charles Hamilton (1691-1754). Arran's parents bitterly opposed his relationship with Barbara. Right after giving birth, she became a nun in the English Priory of St. Nicholas, at Pontoise in Normandy, France, taking the name Sister Benedicta, where she later became prioress in 1721. Her son Charles was raised by her mother, the Duchess of Cleveland, who supposedly disowned her.
An autograph of the Prioress is as follows:
Mon nom du monde est Barbe Fitz Roy est en Religion Benedite fille Du Roy De La grande Bretagne Charles 2dc j'ay fait profession dans Le Couuent des Benedictines Angloiscs De Pontoise L'annee 1691 Le 2* D'auril c'est maison est mittige.
Roughly translated as:
My name in the world is Barbe Fitz Roy, in Religion it is Benedicta, daughter of the King of Great Britain, Charles II. I made profession at the Convent of the English Benedictines in Pontoise, the year 1691, the 2nd of April. It is my place of penance.
The Lady Barbara died there in monastery on 6 May 1737, and lies buried in the church of the Priory.
|Ancestors of Lady Barbara FitzRoy|
- From John Heneage Jesse's Memoirs of the Court of England During the Reign of the Stuarts, 1855, page 171.
- Wynne, S. M. "Barbara Palmer (bap. 1640, d. 1709)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/28285. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
- From John Heneage Jesse's Memoirs of the Court of England During the Reign of the Stuarts, 1855, page 171–172.
- From G. Steinman Steinman's A Memoir of Barbara, Duchess of Cleveland, 1871, page 236.