Louise de Kérouaille was born on 5th September 1649, into the ancient and noble, but somewhat impoverished, Kérouaille family.
The young Louises time was divided between her schooling at a convent, and living at her parents estate in Brittany in virtual poverty.
Luckily for Louise, in 1668 she was appointed as a lady in waiting to Henriette-Anne, the wife of Philippe the Duc dOrleans, King Louis XIVs brother.
Henriette-Anne was also the beloved younger sister of Charles II.
Despite her beauty, which was often described as childlike and innocent, her prominent place at the French court, which was notorious for s3xual scandals, Louise maintained her virtue and innocence.
Her position in Henriette-Anne household was the turning point in Louises life, as it not only put her in the spotlight at the French court, but crucially it led to her meeting, not a husband, but a king.....
Charles and Louise first met in May 1670, when she travelled to England with Henriette-Anne.
The fifteen-day reunion between Charles and his sister was a happy time, and standing at Henriette-Anne's side through it all, was Louise.
However, just a few weeks after returning to France, Henriette-Anne suddenly fell ill, crying out that she had been poisoned.
She passed away after hours of pain the following morning.
King Charles was beside himself with grief, and blamed Henriette-Anne's husband and his lover, the Chevalier de Lorraine, for poisoning her.
George Villiers 2nd Duke of Buckingham, negotiated for Louise to come to England to console King Charles.
Intrigued by the idea, Louis XIV saw an opportunity to plant a French beauty under the English kings nose.
This would strengthen his negotiating power, by using Louise as a tool for French interests.
Louise made a good impression with King Charles, and he quickly invited her to live at the English court.
With her place close to Charles secured, Louise immediately began working for Frances interests, assuring him that Henriette-Anne was not poisoned.
She befriended him as one of his sisters closest ladies, and lending a pretty and kind shoulder to cry on.
Louise was young and virginal, but shrewd and wholly aware that her position as an unmarried woman made becoming the kings mistress a risky prospect.
It was some time before Louise would give in to Charles advances, keeping him just interested enough to want more.
In 1671, Louise and Charles were said to officially begin their relationship when the king was invited to stay at the Euston home of Lord Arlington, during a gathering and party that was to last for fifteen days.
Along with the French ambassador the pair colluded in luring Charles there by also inviting Louise in hopes of establishing her in the position of principal royal mistress.
She didnt have to work very hard to divert Charless attention from his other mistresses.
Barbara Palmer was already on her way out in terms of looks, influence and affection from the king.
Nell Gwyn had enjoyed considerable influence over the king up until that point.
Nell was unceremoniously dumped at her house in Newmarket, despite being pregnant with their second son.
Charles became absolutely smitten with Louise in the year since she had joined the English court.
Louise in turn, had been playing the long game of ensuring the kings affections, before she gave herself to him.
After days of drinking, feasting and entertainment, and some very public displays of affection, Louise and the King consummated their relationship.
The plan had worked, and Louise quickly attained the place as Charles favourite.
Just ten months after she and Charles II had first made their relationship official, in July 1672, Louise gave birth to their son Charles, safeguarding her place in the kings heart.
For this service, Charles awarded her a pension of £10,000 per year and in 1673 she was given a position as a lady-in-waiting to Queen Catherine.
Unlike Barbara Palmer, who had bullied her way into Queen Catherines household and tormented her with her very public affair with Charles, Louise was said to be respectful to Catherine, and the Queen found it much easier to tolerate her husband's newest mistress.
A year later, and much more swiftly than any of her rivals had been elevated into the peerage, Louise was created Duchess of Portsmouth, Baroness Petersfield, and Countess of Fareham.
Her son too benefited from a quick elevation in the peerage, gaining his titles of Duke of Richmond, Earl of March and Baron of Settrington.
He was also given the Scottish titles of Duke of Lennox, Earl of Darnley, and Lord of Torboulton at just three years old.
This favourable treatment irked her rivals Barbara Palmer and Nell Gwyn, who had been advocating for their sons dukedoms for years.
Louise was also Charles most expensive mistress. Charles funded her expenses, paid her gambling debts, and gave her money for her luxurious lifestyle.
He thought nothing of providing her with a full royal escort, or that she had her chambers at Whitehall torn down three times, to fully redecorate them.
Her personal allowances also exceeded the other mistresses funds.
By 1676 her main pension was established at £8,600 for life.
Her additional annuities had increased to £11,000 by 1680.
In the last four years of Charles reign, she is believed to have received an incredible £20,000 per year in additional income.
On top of this, for her services to both England and France, she was handsomely rewarded.
As well as her Duchy in England, she was awarded a French equivalent that came with estates and land, which Louis XIV gifted her, for duties carried out.
In 1675 she received earrings worth an astonishing £18,000, and she received pensions for life from the French crown.
Unlike Barbara Palmer and Nell Gwynne, Louise was much less feisty, and much more delicate in her treatment with Charles.
While Barbara wielded a formidable personality and temper, and Nell was the cheeky and blasé actress, Louise was a sensitive, polite and polished aristocrat.
Louise knew how to please the king, without him feeling that she was forcing his hand.
She used gentle persuasion and tears, to get what she wanted from him.
Tears came easily to her, she was known for her quick emotions and bouts of sadness.
Nell, who had been supplanted by Louise, was especially irritated by her replacement.
She spread rumours that Louise wore dirty underclothes and called her Squintabella.
Any attempts to engage in combative discussion always left Louise, who could never match Nells quick wit, deflated and reeling.
Eventually the two became unlikely friends, and often played cards or took afternoon tea together, though Nells teasing of Louise never stopped.
Barbara took a more flamboyant approach, and constantly tried to upstage Louise.
Barbara would wear excessive amounts of jewellery given to her by the king.
Barbara would ride around town in a coach and eight horses.
This didnt last long though, and where Barbara used brashness and vulgarity, Louise was careful to always exude sophistication and refinement.
Louise was distraught whenever Charles eye wandered to other women.
Louise was under the impression that she was Charles one and only, and took the kings indiscretions completely to heart.
Charles constant womanising, gave Louise a horrible bout of venereal disease in 1674.
This left her devastated, and confined to her rooms for some time.
By way of an apology he sent Louise a pearl necklace and a large diamond, worth a combined total of about £10,000!
When Hortense Mancini arrived at court in 1675, she completely enthralled the king and replaced Louise for nearly a year, as his favourite playmate.
Louise took to her bed, hid away, and sobbed almost constantly, earning her the cruel nickname from Nell of the weeping willow.
Luckily for Louise, the affair did not last too long, and soon she was back in Charles IIs bed and n his favour.
She would enjoy this position, until the kings death.
By now, Louise really was like an alternative queen.
Her grand apartments were like a mini-court.
She held dinners for foreign ambassadors, and hosted secret meetings between Charles and whomever he had private business with.
Even when they travelled, it was Louise that the courtiers followed and went to, knowing that it was she who could arrange an audience with the king.
Despite her firm place as the kings chief mistress, life wasnt always smooth and plain sailing.
Even though she had Charles love and attention, she was widely despised.
The English public hated her for being French and Catholic.
The French aristocrats disliked a minor noble making such a rapid rise in wealth and status.
Those at Charles court were infuriated by her power over the king and politics, especially given that she was often working for Frances interests.
Louises power had grown exponentially over the ten years that she had been at court.
Her place at the kings side, and her influence, despite how many people loathed her, was potent.
Even the queen, who for a long time had been on fairly amicable terms with Louise, complained to Charles in 1683 that Louise abused her position.
The innocent and sensitive girl who had first arrived in England was now gone, and a powerful woman had taken her place.
But the clock was running out for Louise...
In February 1685, Charles II died.
Unfortunately for Louise, her stock plummeted with the kings death.
Despite Charles having implored on his deathbed his brother, now James II, to take care of Louise, and be kind to her, little was done to ensure her personal comfort at court.
She quickly fell from favour and was suddenly left isolated and alone.
Almost immediately she made plans to leave for the continent, and by August of 1685 she was living at the French court with her son.
During the 1690s she divided her time between living in Paris, and on her estate under her Duchy in Aubigny.
Louise incurred heavy expenses for the upkeep of her estate and land, and eventually she resigned herself to make the trip back to England in August 1698, to plead with William III to reinstate her pensions.
She remained there for five months, attending court, and trying to negotiate a deal with the king.
But despite her efforts, Louise was given nothing more than a promise of £1,000.
Back in France she was hounded by creditors and had multiple lawsuits brought against her, yet continued to spend frivolously and avoid her responsibilities.
Her previous life of riches and privilege under Charles II, had left her with such a sense of entitlement that she saw herself only as a victim of others cruelness to her.
Despite her debts, she acted at court as she had always done, as someone of importance and stature, who deserved to be treated with the highest respect and admiration.
Louise's saving grace came in 1721, after the death of Louis XIV, when she was granted a large annuity of £24,000.
Once her finances were stable, Louise all but left the French court and spent most of her time in her duchy.
Her son died in 1723, after years of alcohol abuse and debauchery, and Louise's thoughts turned to her own mortality and soul.
Over her final ten years, she had a hospital built in Aubigny which was run by nuns who treated the sick and educated the young.
She had the local parish church re-furbished, and gave many donations to religious and charitable causes.
Louise de Kérouaille the Duchess of Portsmouth, died on 14th November 1734, at the great age of 85 years old.
She was buried in the Church of the Barefooted Carmelites, in Aubigny.
Many people believe that Louise was King Charles one true love.
Despite his other mistresses, it was Louise who always retained his full affection.
Towards the end of Charles life, a full-length portrait of Louise hung in his bedchamber, as a testament to his devotion to her.
The king admired her beauty, sensitivity, and she had remained his closest companion until he died.
Along with Barbara Palmer, Louise de Kérouaille, is the ancestress of Diana, Princess of Wales, and in turn, Diana's son Prince William, second in line to the British throne.
Louise de Kérouaille, later Duchess of Portsmouth, by Henri Gascar c.1670 .