Louise de Kérouaille, Duchess of Portsmouth

Louise de Kérouaille, Duchess of Portsmouth

Louise Renée de Penancoët de Kérouaille, Duchess of Portsmouth (September 1649 – 14 November 1734), was a mistress of Charles II of England. The exact date of her birth is apparently unknown.

Early life

She was the daughter of Guillaume de Penancoët, Seigneur de Kérouaille (d. 1690) and wife (married on February 27 1645) Marie de Ploeuc de Timeur (d. January 1709), paternal granddaughter of René de Penancoët, Seigneur de Kérouaille et Villeneuve, and wife (married on October 12 1602) Julienne Emery du Pont-l'Abbé, Dame du Chef du Bois, and maternal granddaughter of Sébastien de Ploeuc, Marquis de Timeur, and wife (married on January 8 1617) Marie de Rieux (d. 1628). The name Kérouaille was derived from an heiress whom an ancestor François de Penhoët had married in 1330.

The family were nobles in Brittany, and their name was so spelt by themselves. The form "Quérouaille" was commonly used in England, where it was corrupted into Carwell or Carewell, perhaps with an ironic reference to the care that the duchess took to fill her pocket. In France, it was variously spelt Quérouaille, Kérouaille and Kéroualle.

She had a sister, Henriette Mauricette de Penancoët de Kérouaille, who married Jean-Timoléon Gouffier, marquis de Thais, ancestors among others of the Comtes de Bourbon-Busset. Her aunt Renée Mauricette de Ploeuc de Timeur married Donatien de Maillé, Marquis de Carman (d. 1652), and among others they were the great-grandparents in male line of the mother of the Marquis de Sade.

Becoming mistress to royalty

Louise was placed early in her life in the household of Henrietta Anne Stuart, the Duchess of Orleans, sister of Charles II and sister-in-law of Louis XIV of France. Saint-Simon asserts that her family threw her in the way of Louis in the hope that she would become a "royal mistress". In 1670, she accompanied the duchess of Orléans on a visit to Charles II at Dover. The sudden death of the duchess, attributed on dubious evidence to poison, left her unprovided for, but the king appointed her a lady-in-waiting to his own queen, Catherine of Braganza. It was later said that she had been selected by the French court to fascinate the king of England, but for this there seems to be no evidence. Yet when there appeared a prospect that the king would show her favour, the intrigue was vigorously pushed by the French ambassador, Colbert de Croissy, aided by the secretary of state, Henry Bennet, 1st Earl of Arlington, and his wife.

Louise, who concealed great cleverness and a strong will under an appearance of languor and a rather childish beauty (John Evelyn, the diarist, speaks of her "baby face"), yielded only when she had already established a strong hold on the king's affections and character. Her son Charles (1672–1723) was created Duke of Richmond in 1675.

The support she received from the French envoy was given on the understanding that she should serve the interests of her native sovereign. The bargain was confirmed by gifts and honours from Louis XIV and was loyally carried out by Louise. However, she was much disliked by the people in England.

However, the hatred openly avowed for her in England was due as much to her own activity in the interest of France as to her notorious rapacity. Nell Gwynne, another of Charles's mistresses, called her "Squintabella", and when mistaken for her, replied, "Pray good people be civil, I am the "Protestant" whore." According to Gwynne, Louise's underclothing was unclean [Derek Parker (2000) "Nell Gwynn"] .

The titles of Baroness Petersfield, Countess of Fareham and Duchess of Portsmouth were granted to her on 19 August 1673. Her pensions and money allowances of various kinds were enormous. In 1677 alone she received £27,300. The French court gave her frequent presents, and in December 1673 conferred upon her the fief "Duchess of Aubigny" in the Peerage of France at the request of Charles II.

The Duchess's thorough understanding of the king's character enabled her to retain her hold on him to the end. She contrived to escape uninjured during the crisis of the "Popish Plot" in 1678. She was strong enough to maintain her position during a long illness in 1677, and a visit to France in 1682. In February 1685 she assisted in measures to see that the king, who was sympathetic to Roman Catholicism, did not die without Roman confession and absolution.

After the king's death, later life

Soon after the king's death, the Duchess quickly fell from favour, and retired to France, where, except for one short visit to England during the reign of James II, she remained. Her pensions and an outrageous grant on the Irish revenue given her by Charles II were lost either in the reign of James II or at the Revolution of 1688.

During her last years she lived at Aubigny, and was harassed by debt. The French king, Louis XIV, and after his death the regent Philip II, Duke of Orléans, gave her a pension, and protected her against her creditors. The Duchess died in Paris on 14 November 1734.


Louise's descendants, Diana, Princess of Wales, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, and Sarah, Duchess of York would eventually play major roles in the lives of later Princes of the United Kingdom, Prince Charles and Prince Andrew.


*1911|article=Louise De Keroualle, Duchess Of Portsmouth|url=http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Louise_De_Keroualle,_Duchess_Of_Portsmouth
*H. Forneron, "Louise de Keroualle", Paris, 1886.
*Mrs Colquhoun Grant, "From Brittany to Whitehall", London, 1909.


External links

* [http://www.nzartmonthly.co.nz/ward_001.html Portraits of Louise de Keroualle]
* [http://www.thepeerage.com/p10504.htm#i105038 Her entry at thePeerage.com]

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