Lucy Walter

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Lucy Walter
Lucy Walter.JPG
Bornc. 1630
Died1658 (aged 27–28)
Paris, France
Other namesLucy Barlow (pseudonym)
ChildrenJames Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth
Mary Crofts
Parent(s)William Walter
Elizabeth Protheroe

Lucy Walter or Lucy Barlow (c. 1630 – 1658) was a Welsh mistress of King Charles II of England and mother of James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth. She is believed to have been born in 1630 or a little later at Roch Castle near Haverfordwest, Wales, into a family of middling gentry.[1][a]

The question of whether King Charles had secretly married Lucy Walter was raised during the Exclusion Crisis, when a Protestant faction wished to make her son the heir to the throne, while the king denied any marriage, and supported the claim of his brother, the Duke of York.[2]

During the exclusion crisis [the possible marriage of Charles and Lucy] offered the Whigs the easiest way of excluding the Duke of York from the throne, while in 1685 it legitimized those who took up arms for Monmouth against James II. For these reasons Lucy Walter's short life is important as it explains why most of the political nation considered that a marriage between her and Charles was highly unlikely, but shows too that there were some straws available for the pro-marriage party to make use of.

— Robert Clifton (2006).[3]

The story goes that in 1879 the Historical Manuscripts Commission discovered an old black box amongst the Duke of Buccleuch’s papers at Dalkeith, which was found to contain a contract proving Charles II had married Lucy Walter.


Lucy Walter was born into a family of middling Welsh gentry.[3] She was the daughter of William Walter (died 1650) of Roch Castle, near Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire, and his wife Elizabeth (died 1652), daughter of John Prothero and niece of John Vaughan, 1st Earl of Carbery.[4] She is said to have been born at Roch Castle in 1630. In 1644, the castle having been taken and destroyed by the parliamentary forces, she sought refuge in London, whence she took shipping for The Hague. Algernon Sidney told James, Duke of York, that he had given fifty gold pieces for her, but, having to join his regiment hastily, had missed his bargain. His brother, Colonel Robert Sidney secured the prize, but did not retain it long.[4]

During the summer of 1648 this "private Welshwoman", as Clarendon calls her, "of no good fame, but handsome", captivated the then Prince of Wales (later Charles II), who was at The Hague for a short while about this time.[4] He was only eighteen, and she is often spoken of as his first mistress, but there seems good reason to suppose that he had a tryst as early as 1646,[5] James II admits Lucy's good looks, adding that, though she had not much wit, she had a great deal of that sort of cunning which those of her profession usually have.[4] On 9 April 1649, Lucy's son, James, the future Duke of Monmouth, was born in Rotterdam and recognised by Charles as his natural son.[6]

In August 1649 the respectable John Evelyn travelled with Lucy in Lord Wilmot's coach from Paris to Saint-Germain-en-Laye, and speaks of her as "a brown, beautiful, bold but insipid creature".[4][7] During July and August 1649 she was with Charles at Paris and Saint-Germain, and she may have accompanied him to Jersey in September.[4]

In June 1650 Charles left her at The Hague upon embarkation for Scotland. During his absence Lucy had an affair with Theobald, 2nd Viscount Taaffe, with whom she had a daughter, Mary (born 1651).[3] After his defeat at the Battle of Worcester in late 1651, Charles escaped from England and returned to the Continent. He made it clear to Lucy that their relationship was ended. At first she attempted to persuade Dr John Cosin that she was a convert,[8] but that did not work. For about four years, she was involved in one scandal after another, causing so much embarrassment to the royal court in exile,[3] that early in 1656 when she was in Cologne, the king's friends, by a promise of a pension of five thousand livres (£400 a year), persuaded her to return with her children to England.[4] [3] She sailed from Flushing and obtained lodgings in London over a barber's shop near Somerset House.[9] The Lord Protector's intelligence department promptly reported her as a suspected spy, and at the close of June 1656 she and her maid, Ann Hill, were arrested and sent to the Tower of London. On 16 July, after examination, she was discharged and ordered to be deported back to the Low Countries.[10] Once back on the Continent, she travelled to Brussels and resumed her extravagant lifestyle. Her attempt to use her son as a means of influencing Charles failed. However, after the court party botched an attempt to kidnap the boy, she was persuaded in March 1658 to hand him over to a royal tutor.[3] In September of the same year—after making a general confession to John Cosin—she died in Paris probably of venereal disease and was buried there.[3][b]


She is known to have had two children:

  1. James, born at Rotterdam on 9 April 1649, who was on 14 February 1663 created Duke of Monmouth.[11]
  2. Mary, (by Taaffe ?), born at The Hague on 6 May 1651,[3] who married William Sarsfield, elder brother of Patrick, Earl of Lucan, and, secondly, William Fanshawe (died 1708), master of requests, with whom she had children.[2]

Exclusion Bill and allegations of marriage to Charles II[edit]

Between 1673 and 1680 (while the Exclusion Bill agitation was maturing) a legend was prepared and industriously circulated by the country party to the effect that Charles had legally married Lucy Walter.[2] It was asseverated in course of time that the contract of marriage was preserved in a black box in the possession of Sir Gilbert Gerard, son-in-law of John Cosin (the bishop himself had died in 1672). In a novel which had a wide circulation it was the designing Prince of Purdino (James) who advised his brother, King Conradus of Otenia, to marry the beautiful "Lucilious", but, to avoid disgusting the Otenians, to do so with the greatest privacy imaginable, and in the presence of but two witnesses, himself and the priest (Cosin).[12] Sir Gilbert Gerard, summoned before an extraordinary meeting of the Privy Council convened by King Charles II, stated that he knew nothing whatever of such a marriage contract; and the King issued three declarations in denial of the marriage (January, March, and June 1678). One of these declarations, signed by sixteen Privy Councillors, was entered in the council book and registered in chancery.[2]

Popular literature[edit]

  • Her descendant, Lord George Scott, published a biography called Lucy Walter Wife or Mistress. London: George G. Harrap & Co. Ltd, 1947.
  • The novelist Elizabeth Goudge published a novel about Lucy, The Child from the Sea, in 1970.
  • In the 2003 television documentary, The Boy Who Would Be King, Sandra Darnell portrays Lucy Walter.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Lucy Walter is often spoken of incorrectly as Mrs. Walters or Waters, and during her career she seems to have adopted the alias of Mrs. Barlo or Barlow (the name of a family with which the Walters of Pembrokeshire had intermarried)" (Seccombe 1899, p. 260).
  2. ^ Tomas Seccombe in the article on Lucy Walter in the Dictionary of National Biography (1899) states that:

    A "demi-nude" portrait of Lucy Walter, was in possession of the Marquis of Bute, was engraved by Van der Berghe for Harding's Grammont; another portrait belongs to Earl Spencer, and a third to the Paynter family of Pembroke. At Ditchley is a portrait of the lady and the Duke of Monmouth as the Madonna and Child. A "curious" half-length by Honthorst was destroyed at Whitehall in the fire of 1699. Aubrey has this characteristic memorandum respecting a portrait: "Mr. Freeman (who married the Lady Lake) has the Duke of Monmouth's mother's—Mrs. Lucy Walters, who could deny nobody—picture, very like her, at Stanmore, near Harrow-on-the-Hill". (Brief Lives, 1898, ii. 283).

  1. ^ Chisholm 1911, p. 296.
  2. ^ a b c d Seccombe 1899, p. 260.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Clifton 2006.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Seccombe 1899, p. 259.
  5. ^ Seccombe 1899, p. 259 cites Gardiner, Hist. of Civil War, iii. 238; Boero, Istoria...di Carlo II, Rome, 1863.
  6. ^ Ward 1897, p. 28.
  7. ^ Clifton 2006 cites Evelyn, 2.561–2.
  8. ^ Seccombe 1899, p. 259 cites Macpherson, i. 76.
  9. ^ Seccombe 1899, p. 259 cites Thurloe, State Papers, v. 160, 169.
  10. ^ Seccombe 1899, p. 259 cites Mercure historique et politique. No. 318.
  11. ^ Seccombe 1899, p. 259–260.
  12. ^ Seccombe 1899, p. 260 cites The Perplex'd Prince, London, 1681? 12mo, dedicated to William, lord Russell, by T. S.


  • Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Walter, Lucy" . Encyclopædia Britannica. 28 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 296–297. Endnotes:
    • Steinmann, Althorp Memoirs (1869), pp. 77 seq. and Addenda (1880);
    • J. S. Clarke, Life of James II. (2 vols., 1816);
    • Clarendon State Papers, vol. iii. (Oxford, 1869–1876);
    • John Evelyn, Diary, edited by W. Bray (1890).
  • Clifton, Robin (October 2006) [2004]. "Walter, Lucy (1630?–1658)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/28639. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  • Ward, Adolphus William (1897). "Scott, James (1649-1685)" . In Lee, Sidney (ed.). Dictionary of National Biography. 51. London: Smith, Elder & Co. pp. 28–37.


Further reading[edit]

  • Editors (10 July 2012). "Lucy Walter". Britannica Encyclopaedia.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  • Gilbert, George, ed. (1913). "Appendix A: Lucy Walter Some Evidence for a brief for the defence". Memoirs of the court of England in 1675: Translated from the original French by Mrs. William Henry Arthur, edited, rev., and with annotations ... London & New York: John Lane; Toronto:Bell and Cockburn. pp. 343–425. — A source that is critical of the tone and some of the facts (such as the daughter Mary's stated date of birth) in Thomas Seccombe's DNB article.
  • Jesse, John Heneage (1840). "Lucy Walters". Memoirs of the Court of England During the Reign of the Stuarts: Including the Protectorate. 2. R. Bentley. pp. 217–224. – A source that presents the information in the same way Thomas Seccombe's DNB article but with additional details.
  • Rees, Sir James Frederick (2009). "Walter, Lucy". Welsh Biography Online. National Library of Wales.