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There She Lived: Nell Gwynne's House

by Gloria Schramm

A lovely work of art has been hanging on the wall in our home for 26 years, since the birth of my first son, Ryan. It is a replica of the Windsor Church Street storefront home of Nell Gwynne, "pretty, witty Nell," mistress of King Charles II of England. The manner in which it picks up angles of light gives it mystery.

Nell Gwynne House

One day, I decided to search the Internet for Nell Gwynne. I examined the artwork and saw a sign over the entrance, which says,"Ye Old Nell Gywnne's House," while a brown crooked sign on the sidewalk by the entrance informs the visitor of the year of her birth: "A.D. 1640" and tells us, "There She Lived." Who was she? The Internet quickly revealed the answer.

Nell Gwynne was born in 1650 and died in 1687. She once sold oranges on the street until she got her first acting break in theater. At 19, Nell became mistress to King Charles II, and was the most popular of his long line of mistresses -- not only with Charles, but with the public as well, partly thanks to her acting career. Nell bore the King two sons and died at 37.

Nell Gwynne HouseShe chose the Church Street locale -- or perhaps Charles chose it for her -- for its obvious convenience. Charles II lived from 1630 to 1685, and his reign was known as the time of Merry Olde England. Charles was a patron of the arts, and is remembered for being the king who restored the monarchy, retrieving it back from Oliver Cromwell. He also dallied with at least 13 mistresses (that history has recorded), and fathered many children.

The tour guide says the street where Nell lived hasn't changed much, with a pub from the 1500s still in operation. In my picture of Nell's house, antiques are being sold in her residence while accoutrements preserve the landmark that it is. Today, the house is actually an Internet café on the still charming street. The painting of her image still hangs above the doorway. Gone are the santiques and flowers and crooked sign on the sidewalk near the entrance. But the bow window, white façade and upper brickwork remain intact. Ironically, today, I can sit inside and browse the web and read all about Nell and the abode in which she once dwelled.

My husband bought that framed painting of Nell's house long ago from a street vendor on a corner in downtown Brooklyn, New York. Who knew that one day we would step 'inside' that work on my wall at home, and that it would come alive for me on a quiet street in Medieval Windsor?

More Information:

Berkshire Biographies: Nell Gwynne

Nell Gwynne

Nell Gwynne's House
Interesting documentation of the history of the house itself.

Freelance writer and career counselor Gloria Brigio Schramm has earned her publishing credits in The New York Times, Newsday, Diabetes Forecast, Romantic Homes, The Annals of St. Anne de Beaupre, Nursing Homes, TimeTravel-Britain.com, DabblingMum.com, and many others. She also has an e-book on Mother Teresa online at http://www.1chapter.com. Married for 35 years to Fredrik, she is the mother of Ryan, 29. Another son, Erik, is deceased.
Article © 2006 Gloria Schramm; Photos © Fred Schramm


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