Having survived -
The corgis have been consumed at the afternoon reception, the crowds are beginning to diminish, and we are left with a fresh royal recruit - Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cambridge- corgis being of course canapes - I was reminded of the recent ODNB profile of Jane Myddelton, who is characterised simply as a "beauty" and is famous for being famous, albeit with smelly feet.
The date of birth of Myddelton (née Needham) is unknown. She was baptised in 1646 and died some time between 1692 and 1703. She was married at the age of fourteen, as his second wife, to a man some ten years older than herself, Charles Myddelton as his second wife.
According to the courtier and writer Anthony Hamilton's ironic pen-portrait, Mrs Myddelton's beauty soon attracted many admirers, but she had an air of 'indolent langour' which not everyone found appealing, and her efforts to appear brilliant succeeded only in putting her audience to sleep. His acerbic comments may owe something to the failure of his friend the comte de Gramont to seduce her. Gramont, who arrived in London in January 1663, instantly pursued Jane Myddelton, as did Richard Jones, Viscount Ranelagh. Gramont soon desisted, the French ambassador reporting in August 1663 that Mrs Myddelton had ordered him to stop as it was both useless and disagreeable. Colonel William Russell, son of the Hon. Edward Russell, and grandson of Francis, fourth earl of Bedford, sent her presents and owned her portrait but only one of the admirers mentioned by Hamilton certainly became her lover - Ralph Montagu, master of the horse to the duchess of York and then the queen. Mrs Myddelton was painted by Sir Peter Lely in the early 1660s as one of a series of portraits of beautiful women to hang in St James's Palace. The portrait indicates she was blonde, with the fashionably full face, heavy-lidded eyes, 'bee-stung' lips, and rounded figure of the Restoration.Alas, there's a canker in every rose, or in every disagreeable memoirist. The ODNB records that -
In 1665 the diarist Samuel Pepys saw Jane twice: on 22 March at Gresham College, when he called her "a very great beauty I never knew or heard of before", and on 10 April in Hyde Park, where she was the only "beauty" he saw that day. ... On 3 October Pepys was troubled to hear that she was "noted for carrying about her body a continued soure base smell that is very offensive especially, if she be a little hot", a problem referred to in two later satires Colin (1679) and The Ladies March (1681):Virtuous, it seems, or merely descreet, as well as beautiful. Her younger sister Eleanor became the mistress of the king's son James, duke of Monmouth, about 1674 and had four children with him.Middleton, where'er she goes,... Rumours circulated that Jane was to be appointed a dresser to the queen but, Browne wrote, "the conditions have not yett a mutuall consent and I am told hir last indisposition hath a little impaired hir esclat". Nothing seems to have come of the negotiations. Pepys saw Mrs Myddelton on 5 February 1667 at the King's Theatre in Drury Lane, and on 23 June that year he wrote that a previous rumour he had heard, that Mrs Myddelton was now a mistress of the duke of York, was untrue. Robert, second earl of Sunderland, commissioned her picture from Lely in 1666, Lorenzo Magalotti visiting England in 1668 included her in his list of English beauties, and the following year the French ambassador reported that the king was pursuing her, but again she seems to have avoided becoming a royal mistress.
confirms the scandal of her toes.
Mrs Myddelton became friendly with both the king's mistress, the duchess of Portsmouth, and her rival the duchess of Mazarin, in 1676. In the summer of that year the French ambassador, Courtin, reported that Mrs Myddelton was the most beautiful woman in the kingdom and that the aged poet and philosopher M. de Saint-Evremond had fallen hopelessly in love with her, but that Ralph Montagu, who had been her lover for a long time, had now fallen for the duchess of Mazarin. Courtin was greatly attracted to Mrs Myddelton, who he claimed was not only a great beauty but most amiable. It was, however, difficult to get near her as she was surrounded by admirers and, moreover, Courtin did not think she could be seduced by money, having once refused a significant present from Gramont. Courtin's praise was such that the French minister Louvois requested her portrait.The profile comments that -
From a protestant Welsh gentry background and married young into a similar family, not wealthy and with nonconformist friends such as the Angleseys, Jane Myddelton's image as a 'beauty', which she no doubt cultivated, gave her an entree to court circles and gained her many male admirers, although she in fact seems to have been attracted to relatively few of them. "Illustre entre les belles" ("Illustrious among beauties"; Steinman, 60), "handsomely made, all white and golden" (Hamilton, 109), for her own and subsequent generations Jane Myddelton was the epitome of the Restoration beauty, never mentioned without the epithet "fair" or "beautiful". Such indeed was the exclusive interest in her looks that she seems almost wholly defined by them and the person remains rather less accessible than the famous image.Contemporary sources refer unkindly to "the notorious Mrs Middleton" and to "the fair one's funky hose".