Harry Jermyn


Barbara Villiers

Harry’s mercurial lover, Barbara Villiers

Harry Jermyn, his lover Barbara Villiers and the tangled web of sex, lies and writing parchment at the court of Charles II.

Harry Jermyn spent his early years in a country torn by the religious and political dissent which led to the Civil War and then in exile in France with his uncle Henry Jermyn, later Earl of St Albans.

As lover- some even said husband- of Queen Henrietta Maria, St Albans effectively ran the exiled Stuart Court, and placed Harry in the household of the young James, Duke of York. The two boys became firm- almost lifelong- friends and shared many adventures, risking life and limb fighting for the French against the Spanish, and later the Spanish against the French.

He made his transition into adulthood as the lover of James and Charles II’s widowed sister the widowed Princess of Orange, and almost certainly contracted a secret marriage with her on her deathbed in 1660.

Harry had already had an affair with Anne Hyde, who now secretly married James and, not long after his bereavement, began an unprecedented career of sexual encounters with ladies, single and married alike, in the Restoration court. His great conquest, though, was Charles II’s luscious lover Barbara Villiers.

His seduction of her was later described in all its erotic detail by Barbara’s lesbian lover Delarivierre Manley. The affair, which ran parallel to her relationship with the King, almost certainly produced a child, the Duke of Grafton, whose paternity is usually attributed to Charles II.

Harry’s career reached its height when his friend James ascended the throne in 1685. There was talk of him becoming Lord Treasurer and a Duke, but his hopes were dashed by the Glorious Revolution of 1688, when William of Orange – who was probably his stepson – seized the English throne. James and Harry shared an uncomfortable exile in Paris and Ireland, their cause riddled with setbacks until their army was crushed at the Battle of the Boyne.

The calamity destroyed their friendship- the defeated James returned to Paris and Harry found himself in poverty in Bruges. Eventually he persuaded William to pardon him and he lived his last years at his elegant Classical mansion near Cambridge.

This is a tale of intrigue, war, political greed and, above all, sex in one of the most bawdy, lascivious eras yet known to history.