Clio’s Company (registered charity no. 1101853) is grateful for generous financial support for this project from The Portal Trust
Clio’s Company (registered charity no. 1101853) is grateful for generous financial support for this project from The Portal Trust
Little is known of her early life, but she appears to have been one of the budding actors taught by Sir William Davenant. After a shaky start to her stage career, Barry became one of the great actors of her generation. She was also the lover of John Rochester, Earl of Rochester; they had a daughter, Elizabeth, who died in 1689
Born Harbledown nr Canterbury, daughter of Bartholomew Johnson, barber, and Elizabeth Denham, wetnurse. Probably married Johan Behn in 1666. Became in turn spy, playwright, poet, novelist, translator, political writer. Click here for more information on her life and here for reputation after her death.
Close ally of Charles II, one of the few who were in the know about royal policy, was aware of the 1670 Treaty of Dover, a close secret, under which the king promised to convert to Catholicism. Arlington was also effectively head of the secret service (the equivalent of Mi15 and MI6) and thus Aphra Behn’s ultimate boss.
Son of a court cook, first a publisher and, from 1660, a successful actor and producer, first at the Duke’s, then the United and finally at the new independent company. Betterton played opposite Elizabeth Barry and in several of Aphra Behn’s plays – he continued as an actor until 15 days before his death at 75.
Born in Northampton, probably a child actor, playing leading roles from 1688, including the Indian Queen in “The Widow Ranter”. Successful In both comic and tragic roles, starring in plays by Congreve and Vanbrugh, but retired in 1707 when her popularity began to wane. Lived on out of the public eye, and on her death in 1748 was buried close to Aphra Behn in the East Cloister at Westminster Abbey.
A member of the Duke’s Company and acted in a number of Aphra Behn’s plays including “The Revenge” and “The City Heiress”, specialising in “bad girl” and
crossing dressing roles. Reputedly the daughter of a gentry family, she had a brief relationship with Charles II, and enjoyed a long stage career from 1675, vanishing from the record in 1693.
A Canterbury girl; her father was a musician, probably a singing man at the Cathedral. Mary married a shoemaker, left him for a surgeon, and was next
heard of in London claiming to be a German heiress. She made several bigamous marriages, became something of a celebrity, and was finally hanged for returning from transportation in Jamaica.
Daughter of Sir Thomas and Elizabeth, Lady Lucas, maid of honour to Queen Henrietta Maria, m. William Cavendish, Duke of Newcastle 1645 – became a poet, playwright, scientist and author of science fiction – defied convention by publishing under her own name. Attended meetings of the Royal Society – buried in Westminster Abbey.
A Portuguese Princess who made a state marriage to Charles II. When she arrived in England, speaking little English, she had to negotiate not only the Restoration court and politics but the many affairs of her husband and her childlessness. She was no fool, however, and the two became on affectionate terms.
At generation younger than Aphra Behn, Centlivre was orphaned early; she probably joined a strolling theatre company, became popular in cross dressing roles, going on to become a poet and a successful playwright, taking on political as well as romantic themes and comedies.
Became king in 1625 on the death of his father James I of England, and was soon ruling as an absolute monarch, raising taxes and imposing religious policy on the country. It was shortage of money that made him finally call a parliament in 1640, and the ensuing conflict soon became an increasingly bitter civil war. Defeated militarily, the king refused to negotiate, and was finally tried and executed, leaving his country to its experiment in republican rule.
When he was restored as King in May 1660, it was one of Charles II’s first actions to reopen the London theatres, closed since the start of the civil wars in 1642. Two companies were licensed, attracting large crowds to their productions featuring the first women to act on the English stage.
Son of Sir Thomas Colepeper and Lady Barbara Sidney, formerly Lady Strangford. Regarded himself as Aphra Behn’s foster brother as her mother had been his nurse; it is likely he provided her with introductions to support her in her career. Army colonel, fellow of Royal Society. Wrote a memoir of Aphra Behn after her death.
Began his career as a lawyer, going on to write five successful romantic comedies, including “Love for Love” and “The Way of the World” – he wrote several parts for Anne Bracegirdle. He then withdrew from the theatre, taking on a political appointment in Jamaica and writing some poetry.
The third son of the far more famous Oliver. Richard lasted only nine months as Head of State after his father’s death; he had served in the army in the civil wars, but was not the stuff of which leaders are made, presided over increasing chaos and agreed with the Rump parliament to resign in return for a pension, going into exile for twenty years. He finally returned, living peacefully in Cheshunt until his death at the great age of 85.
The son of a Cambridgeshire gentleman, who became first an MP then a military commander, and finally, Lord Protector. Cromwell was among those who argued for the execution of Charles I; after several short-lived experiments in government, he refused the offer of the crown, but as Lord Protector he lived in a palace and answered to the title of “Your Highness”. On his death he was briefly succeeded by his son Richard.
Actress, member of the Duke’s Company from 1674, friend of Aphra Behn’s, who wrote comic roles specifically for her. Currer specialised in breeches roles as Nell Gwynn did for the King’s Company. She played the part of Ranter in 1689, and may then have retired from the theatre.
Born in Oxford, son of John Davenant, innkeeper and mayor, and his wife Jane. Playwright and poet, Royalist sympathiser and plotter who narrowly escaped execution. Pardoned and then settled in London; on the Restoration he became the patent holder of one of the two accredited theatre companies, the Duke’s Company, which he ran alongside his wife.
Was a member of the Duke’s Company , and appeared in a number of productions in the 1660s, retiring when she began an affair with Charles II; they had a daughter, who was to be known as Lady Mary Tudor. Moll gained a fine house and jewellery, but was eclipsed in the King’s affections by Nell Gwyn.
the first-ever Poet Laureate; he served under the Protectorate, Charles II and James II, drawing the political and religious line at William and Mary. He wrote for, and profited from, the theatre – his plays, especially “All for Love”, were very successful, but regarded himself as being somewhat above the theatrical world, although not above feuding with Lord Rochester.
Spent time in theatre circles in Paris in the 1650s, and so was ready to begin his career as a playwright in Restoration London. Best known for “The Man of Mode”, his plays are notable for their combination of wit and lightness of heart. Etherege, known as “gentle George”, combined theatre with a diplomatic career
Orange seller turned actor turned lover of Charles II, with whom she had two sons. Samuel Pepys (qv) called her “pretty, witty Nelly”; she was best known for breeches roles and comedy, remaining popular with the London crowd even after she retired from the stage; she was often to be found in the garden of her house in Pall Mall, sometimes talking to the King over the wall.
Daughter of Henri IV of France, Henrietta Maria married Charles I – after an unhappy start, the two became devoted to one another. Their children included the future Charles II and James II. Henrietta Maria was unpopular in England for her Catholicism; she left the country in 1642, partly for her own safety, partly to raise money for the king’s side in the imminent civil war; she was not to return until after her son, Charles II was restored.
Son of Sir Thomas Hoyle, Lord Mayor of York, who supported the execution of Charles I but then took his own life. John inherited substantial property, entered Gray’s Inn, 1660 and practised as a lawyer. Said to have been an atheist and bisexual, tried but acquitted for both murder and buggery. In what appears to have been a troubling relationship with Aphra Behn for many years.
The daughter of Edward Hyde, Lord Clarendon, Anne married James, Duke of York in the face of the opposition as she was a commoner marrying a prince, but approved of by her brother in law Charles II. Anne’s early death left her daughters Mary and Anne, both of whom were to be Queen of England.
James II became king on the death of his brother Charles II in 1685; it took only three years for him to upset enough people to have to leave the country hastily, to be succeeded by his daughter Mary and her husband William of Orange. Aphra Behn remained loyal to him, and probably accepted fees for writing in his support.
Barber surgeon and innkeeper in and around Canterbury; m Elizabeth Denham, father of Aphra Johnson, later Behn. The family probably lived at Harbledown, near Canterbury; Bartholomew was granted the freedom of Canterbury in 1648, and held various local offices, including being one of the overseers of the poor for his parish. Clearly a person of repute, if not high status, he vanishes from the record by 1665.
Wet nurse, mother of Aphra Johnson, later Behn and a daughter, Frances, and possibly a son. Elizabeth was born in Faversham, seems to have been a person of some education and had a brother who went to Oxford and became a doctor in Stamford. She lived for several years after her husband, and may have accompanied Aphra to Surinam.
Playwright, theatre manager, spy master – one of nine children of a court official, Killigrew gained his first appointment aged 13. A staunch royalist, he went into exile with Charles II, and on the restoration was rewarded with a warrant to found the new King’s Company. As spymaster, responsible for sending Aphra Behn to Surinam.
One of the first women to act in a London theatre, Anne and her sister Rebecca had careers lasting over two decades and were popular with audiences, including Samuel Pepys. Her roles included Celia in “Volpone” and, after she moved from the King’s to the Duke’s Company, she played Angelica Bianca in Aphra Behn’s “The Rover”.
With her elder sister Anne, one of the first group of female performers in the professional London theatre – much admired by Samuel Pepys, she petitioned Charles II for protection against harassment by male theatregoers. Rebecca appeared in several all-female performances staged by Thomas Killigrew; she vanishes from the record after 1677.
Eldest daughter of James II and his first wife Anne Hyde, Mary was brought up as a Protestant, and married to her cousin William of Orange at fifteen, going with him to the Netherlands. Mary was her father’s heir presumptive until the birth of a son to Mary of Modena, and it was in her name that her husband claimed the throne in 1688, but then insisted on ruling alongside her. She was intelligent, charming and far more popular than he.
2nd wife of James, Duke of York, later James II. She came to England, aged fifteen to marry a husband who was twenty-five years her senior; in 1687, after several stillbirths, she gave birth to a Catholic heir to the throne, many Protestants believed the baby was a changeling. She went into exile with her husband when he was ousted.
Chief architect of the 1660 Restoration. Monck’s military and naval career included service on both sides during the civil wars and interregnum. In 1659 when the country was drifting into anarchy, Monck, supported by Sir Thomas Fairfax, marched south from Scotland, set up his headquarters in London and spent two months negotiating the return of Charles II in return for a dukedom and a reputed £100,000
Elizabeth spent her girlhood at the court of Charles I and the civil war period quietly in the country, using her friendship with Oliver Cromwell to fend off any threat of losing her beloved home, Ham House. In 1672 she married as her second husband John Maitland, Duke of Lauderdale – he was one of Charles II’s Cabal ministry, and both were highly influential in court and political circles.
“The Matchless Orinda” – born in London, educated in Hackney, married Welsh Parliamentarian John Philips aged 16. Wrote plays, translations and poems, many of which celebrated female friendship. Philips was celebrated as a virtuous and self effacing role model for other women – she preferred to circulate her work among friends, using the name Orinda as a pseudonym. When an unauthorised edition of her work was published, she protested vehemently – in contrast to, for example, Aphra Behn.
Playwright and novelist – daughter of a vicar, married a tailor, started writing for the stage aged 30. One of those lampooned in “The Female Wits”, where she was characterised as being amiable, fat and stupid. In reality she was the author of eleven successful plays, enabling her to provide for her children.
Best remembered for the diary he kept from 1660-69, which is a major sources of information about Restoration London including the Plague 0f 1665 and Great Fire of 1666. The son of a Fleet Street tailor, Pepys was to serve on the Navy Board with some distinction. His diary was written in shorthand, and intended to be entirely private – Pepys would have been mortified to think of its being made public.
The daughter and, later, wife of Nonconformist ministers, Polwheele’s career was long enough to allow her to write and stage at least three plays: “Elysium”, a religious masque; “The Faithfull Virgins”, a tragedy probably staged at Lincoln’s Inn and “The Frolicks or The Lawyer Cheated”, staged by the Duke’s Company at the new theatre at Dorset Gardens in 1671. It is said she then retired to the country with her clerical husband.
Began his career aged nine as a chorister at Westminster Abbey and as a composer at eleven; he went on to write what is often thought of as the first English opera, “Dido and Aeneas” as well as incidental music for many plays and over 100 songs. Purcell was organist both at Westminster Abbey and the Chapel Royal; after his early death, the funeral music he has written for Queen Mary was played for his own funeral.
Playwright, poet, Member of Parliament, one of the “Merry Gang”, which included Rochester, and which was notorious for attention-seeking and sometimes violent nights out. Sedley’s plays included “The Mulberry Garden” and “Bellamira or the Mistress”; some of his poetry has been set to music. His daughter Catherine became a mistress of James II
Son of Robert Sidney, Earl of Leicester, brought up at Penshurst. A parliamentarian in a royalist family, army colonel and philosopher, member of the Long Parliament, opposed the execution of Charles I but was ultimately executed for supposedly plotting against Charles II – his writings were used as evidence against him
Bishop of Rochester, Dean of Westminster, member of the Royal Society and friend of Aphra Behn. Sprat, like many churchmen of his time, was interested in scientific subjects, and attended some of the early Royal Society meetings. It was almost certainly he who gave permission for Behn’s burial in the cloister at Westminster Abbey.
Playwright, novelist and philosopher, daughter of a sea captain who died early, leaving his family with little money. Catherine’s work became popular – her play “Fatal Friendship” was a success, as were several of her novels. She was one of the women writers lampooned in “The Female Wits”, having roused the male author’s ire by gaining an education.
Eldest son among the 20 children of a prosperous London sugar merchant, Vanbrugh was in turn a spy, political activist and passionate Whig, an army officer, an architect (of, among other projects, Blenheim Palace) and a playwright. “The Relapse” and “The Provoked Wife” both outraged some sections of society by supporting a woman’s right to leave an abusive husband
one of the earliest, and most notorious, of the lovers of Charles II, with whom she had at least five children (later pregnancies were by other lovers), all of whom were ennobled – her husband was bought off with an earldom. Beautiful, extravagant and grasping, she was the subject of many portraits, especially by Peter Lely.
Son of the favourite of James I and Charles I, Villiers was a childhood friend of Charles II (qv), with whom he went into exile, only to return to England and marry the daughter of Parliamentarian general Thomas Fairfax. After the Restoration, he spent much time in political intrigue, but wrote several plays, notably “The Rehearsal”.
Born William of Orange, grandson of Charles I. William married another Mary Stuart and became joint sovereign with her after the overthrow of James II in 1688. William was invited in by many of James’s Protestant opponents; they entered London virtually unopposed, but the subsequent coronation was overseen by Dutch troops. William spent much of the next decade out of the country, occupied with European wars and Jacobite uprisings.
Poet, courtier, rake – friend of King Charles II, who put up with his increasingly erratic behaviour with some forbearance. Eloped with the heiress Elizabeth Malet and had four children with her, but had multiple affairs, including a long term relationship with Elizabeth Barry (qv). Died of complications of syphilis.
As well being a bestselling author, Woolley kept a school in Hackney and was an expert in medical remedies. Her books were largely concerned with household management, cookery and etiquette. Like other authors of her time, Woolley’s work was plagiarised and republished by others, both in her time and after.
One of the “Merry Gang”, he dabbled in the academic life and the law, but devoted much of his time in the 1660s and 70s to writing for the theatre; he is remembered mostly for his last two plays, “The Country Wife” and “The Plain Dealer”, considered daring when they were first staged. He then married a rich widow, the Countess of Drogheda, and lived thereafter on her fortune