Frances Teresa Stuart

(Duchess of Richmond and Lennox; La Belle Stuart)

1647 - 1702

The face of Britannia and mistress of King Charles II. Born in England, the daughter of the Scottish court physician to Charles I (1600-49) and a remote relation of the royal family. Her paternal grandfather was the 1st Lord Blantyre. On the execution of Charles, her family accompanied the widowed Queen Henrietta Maria back to her native France, where Frances was educated. She returned to England after the restoration of Charles II (1630-85), and was maid of honour at his marriage in 1662. Known as 'La Belle Stuart', who diarist Samuel Pepys described as "the greatest beauty I ever saw", her beauty was not lost on the King and she became one of his long line of mistresses. She married the Duke of Richmond and Lennox (1667), much to the King's displeasure, but her husband was posted to Scotland (1670) and then Denmark (1671), where he died, and the King was able to renew his attentions. Charles used Frances' face as Britannia on a medal to celebrate naval victories against the Dutch. This image continued to appear on statues, crests and coinage until modern times.

Just before she died, she purchased the house and estate of what was then Lethington (East Lothian) as a present for her nephew Alexander, Lord Blantyre, and it was renamed 'Lennox love to Blantyre' or simply 'Lennoxlove'.

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