Portrait of Louise de Keroualle, duchess of Porthsmouth
by Sir Peter Lely, circa 1671
It was said that she had been selected by the French court to fascinate the king of England. Her pensions and money allowances of various kinds were enormous. 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 promiscuity. Nell Gwynne, another of Charles’ mistresses, called her “Squintabella”, and when mistaken for her, replied, “Pray good people be civil, I am the Protestant whore.”
Saint-Simon asserts that her family originally threw her in the way of Louis XIV in the hope that she would become a royal mistress.
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. She received support from the French king 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.
Some of Louise’s descendants, Diana, Princess of Wales, The Duchess of Cornwall and Sarah, Duchess of York would eventually play major roles in the lives of later Princes of the United Kingdom, The Prince of Wales and The Duke of York.