What gives me huge pleasure in writing historical novels is finding little known facts about a real character and trying to restore them to history! In this case my heroine is Frances Stuart, known as 'La belle Stuart,' whom Charles II feel desperately in love with, yet who may welll have been about the only woman who ever turned him down. Perhaps that explained the depth of his love and desire for her! Rather like Ashley & Cheryl, are they or aren't they back together? was the question that buzzed around the Restoration court. There was endless gossip abut whether Frances had or hadn't succumbed! The gossips looked for signs - not the ones we'd look for, but whether she had taken the sacrament or not (if not was it because she was in a state of sin because she'd succumbed to the King?) One courtier experienced in the ways of love actually took bets. He was sure the King was being too polite to have bedded her. Another said that the King only ever slept with one woman at a time and that he was still hopping into a rival's bed, hence Frances must be holding out. Pepys even branded her a 'cunning slut' only protecting her maidenhead because she wanted to be Queen. Indeed there is an amazing scene in my book when Queen Catherine of Braganza is dangerously ill and everyone thinks he will marry Frances if she dies. Frances' own mother comes to examine her and make sure she's still a virgin because this will count in her favour in the Will She Be Queen stakes.
Frances knew her own mind, though. She didn't want the very peculiar life of being a royal mistress. She wanted a real life with husband, home and children. And she'd fallen in love with the Duke of Richmond. Everyone thought she only married him to get away from the King but their letters preserved in the British Library are very tender. The thing I loved and related to her about was that after they'd elped and she finally had a home of her own she talks about painting the bedchamber in a shade of pigeon breast. How Farrow and Ball is that?!!