The Garden Guide

Book: London Parks and Gardens, 1907
Chapter: Chapter 3 St. James's and Green Parks

John Evelyn on Nell Gwynn

Previous - Next

The Park was by his time a much-frequented spot, and crowds delighted to watch the King and his courtiers displaying their dexterity. Charles II. is more intimately connected with St. James's Park than any other great personage. He sauntered about, fed his ducks, played his games, and made love to fair ladies, all with indulgent, friendly crowds watching. He stood in the "Green Walk," beneath the trees, to talk with Nell Gwynn, in her garden "on a terrace on the top of the wall" overlooking the Park; and shocked John Evelyn, who records, in his journal, that he heard and saw "a very familiar discourse between the King and Mrs. Nelly." Charles's well-known reply to his brother, that no one would ever kill him to put James on the throne, was said in answer to James's protest that he should not venture to roam about so much without attendants in the Park. His dogs often accompanied him, and perhaps, like most of their descendants, these pets had a sporting instinct, and ran off to chase the deer. Any- how, they managed frequently to escape their master's vigilance, and fell a prey to the unscrupulous thief, and descriptions of the missing dogs were published in the Gazette. One, answering to the name Towser, was "liver colour'd and white spotted"; and a "dogg of His Majestie's, full of blew spots, with a white cross on his forehead about the bigness of a tumbler," was lost on another occasion. [Nell Gwyn (or Gwynn or Gwynne), born Eleanor, 1650-52 - 14 November 1687), was one of the earliest English actresses to receive prominent recognition, and a long-time mistress of King Charles II. Called "pretty, witty Nell" by Samuel Pepys, she has been called a living embodiment of the spirit of Restoration England and has come to be considered a folk heroine, with a story echoing the rags-to-royalty tale of Cinderella. Wikipedia, 2007]