They were two of the most "lustful" Kings of England and they worked well to cultivate their reputation as being the ultimate symbols of virility.

King Charles II was the first king to use condoms but still managed to have six children as well as at least 14 "official bastards" by seven different mothers.

King Edward VII was said to have at least three to four women a week for 50 years. And, with his specially designed sex chair he was easily able to entertain two ladies at once.

Neither King was terribly fussy and they certainly were not snobs; happily taking their pickings from noblewomen and actresses as well as prostitutes.


It was 350 years ago this month that King Charles II cemented his reputation as the ultimate royal playboy when he fell for English actress Nell Gwyn in 1669, even though he was married and juggling at least six other mistresses.

But were the Kings addicted to sex? Or were they just doing what kings are supposed to do? Let's take a look at the monarchs who set the scene for a risqué court where hedonism was the name of the game.

King Charles II of England was the first king to use condoms but still managed to have six children. Photo / Getty Images
King Charles II of England was the first king to use condoms but still managed to have six children. Photo / Getty Images

King Charles II

Ruling England from 1660 until his death in 1685, King Charles II was famously nicknamed "Old Rowley" in honour of an old racehorse that became a famous stud stallion. He was also known as the "Merry Monarch" and seems to have truly lived up to his name when it came to the pursuit of women.

There was a lot going on during the King's rule; the plague, the great fire of London to name just two.

But Charles' priorities were elsewhere.

Courtier John Evelyn said Charles would have been an excellent king "if he had been less addicted to women."

There was no doubt Charles II loved sex and he had a succession of mistresses while he was married to Queen Catherine of Braganza. Charles was said to have a very low boredom threshold; he loved to be entertained and he loved women.


One of his favourite mistresses was Barbara Villiers, who gave birth to six of his children which he accepted as his own. (Poor Queen Catherine never managed to produce an heir, suffering three miscarriages.) Charles had 14 children by his mistresses and agreed to support them all. However, he had doubts that Villiers' youngest daughter was his because he'd caught her in bed with the Duke of Marlborough.

Unlike previous Kings, Charles really looked after his mistresses and admired them not only for their looks, but he was said to be attracted to their intellect as well as their capacity to gossip.

Two of his mistresses became duchesses in their own right; Barbara Villiers became Duchess of Cleveland and Louise de Kerouaille became Duchess of Portsmouth. It was a move that was a far cry from any of his predecessors who tended to toss their mistresses aside once a fresh woman was on the scene.

Barbara Palmer (née Villiers) Duchess of Cleveland, with her son, Charles Fitzroy, as the Virgin and Child By Sir Peter Lely, c. 1664. Photo / Supplied
Barbara Palmer (née Villiers) Duchess of Cleveland, with her son, Charles Fitzroy, as the Virgin and Child By Sir Peter Lely, c. 1664. Photo / Supplied

Associate Professor Clare Monagle from Macquarie University's Department of Modern History, Politics and International Relations told virility was seen as a sign of a good king.

"The rampant womanising and being able to impregnate them was a way to prove your virility and masculinity," Ms Monagle said.

"One thing we assume is that people were more moral or religious back then. And they were in some ways but the relationship between the idea of a king as a warrior and a strong man was interwoven and the idea of 'taking a woman' was part of the job description."

"It was the cost of doing business, and the king would have quite enjoyed having that reputation of virility."

"The kings were expected to be robust because they bore the security of the crown in their body, so they were a metaphor for the whole body politic, so to have a robust virile, masculine king is a great comfort for everyone."

King Edward VII

1863: Bertie, Prince of Wales and his bride, Princess Alexandra of Denmark. King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra. Photo / Supplied
1863: Bertie, Prince of Wales and his bride, Princess Alexandra of Denmark. King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra. Photo / Supplied

King Edward VII carried a variety of nicknames that reflected his personality. His family called him "Bertie," a shortened version of his first name Albert. His friends liked to call him "Tum Tum" because he was overweight, but the eldest son of Queen Victoria was more widely known as "Dirty Bertie" and "Edward the Caresser" due to his innumerable sexual dalliances and countless mistresses.

Edward VII ruled England from 1901 until his death in 1910, marrying Princess Alexandra of Denmark in 1863 when she was 19 and Edward was 21 (she was fifth on the list of women deemed a suitable match.)

"She is my brood mare," he once said.

"The others are my hacks."

The couple went on to have six children and were said to be relatively happy but whatever happiness they might have enjoyed did nothing to stop the King from being a rampant skirt chaser.

His mistresses included the beautiful actress Lilly Langtry, as well as Jennie Jerome (who later became the mother of Winston Churchill). His last "official" mistress was Alice Keppel, whom he first met in 1898. On the King's deathbed in 1910 he had written instruction for his staff to make sure she was allowed to visit him.

Interestingly, Keppel was the Great Grandmother of Camilla Parker Bowles, first the mistress and later wife of the current Prince of Wales (Edward's great-great grandson).

Sexual stories of the Playboy King

Edward had a "sex chair" designed by the French furniture manufacturer Soubrier. It allowed the king to have sex with two women at the same time. Looking at the chair today, it's not that simple to work out exactly how the thing functioned although we can safely assume that the King had it all sorted.

Edward VII's (Bertie's) sex chair. Photo / Supplied
Edward VII's (Bertie's) sex chair. Photo / Supplied

Edward indulged in 'Corridor Creeping'

When a party was held at the palace, Edward and his friends would wait until the women had retired to their bedrooms. Then, they'd wait until the lights were out, creep down the corridors looking for the woman they wanted to spend the night with and simply let themselves into the room of their choice.

Whether consent played a part in this was anybody's guess but it's believed the palace maids would lend a hand and leave a note of some sort outside the room of each woman. Just to make it easier for them to find the "lucky lady."

An insatiable sexual appetite

From the time he lost his virginity at the age of 19, King Edward was said to have had sex with at least four women a week until his death at the age of 69. Nobody knows the real figure, but some historians claim the King could possibly have slept with between 15,000 and 18,000 women, allowing for the weeks when he was able to have sex with six or seven women in one week.

Let's not forget the King also had his "special chair," allowing for sex with two women at once.

Destroying the evidence

There were rumours the King had fathered multiple illegitimate children as a result of multiple affairs, but because Edward never officially acknowledged any illegitimate children it's been impossible to trace any of them.

The King was said to be very diligent at destroying evidence and ensuring his affairs remained secretive. Historians believe he had hundreds of letters from women burned and even his diaries are lacking in personal information, so we can only guess as to how many of his descendants are scattered around the world.

Do we really believe "Edward the Caresser" slept with up to 18,000 women in his lifetime?

According to Clare Monagle, these figures might not be an exaggeration.

"Yes, it is quite possible. There's also a chance some of them were actually spreading stories about how many women they were having. There's a chance this was part of the cultivation of the myth, a PR tactic," Monagle said.

"But we'll never know for sure. We do know there were strong attempts to repress stories of illness. The courtiers were always trying to make sure that any stories about fallibility or frailty of the King didn't get out. So there's a chance they were also spreading stories about how much sex their King was getting on a daily basis too."

But it seems, in the case of King Edward VII, mistresses were only tolerated by the long-suffering wives up to a point. According to author of Edward VII: the Prince of Wales and the women he loved Catharine Arnold, when the King was on his deathbed, Queen Alexandra sent for his long-time mistress, Alice Keppel. It was said to be a bizarre scene.

The Queen hadn't summoned Keppel because she wanted to do a good deed for her dying husband — apparently, she only invited Keppel into the palace because she was causing a ruckus banging on the gates and yelling for "Bertie".

Once she was at the King's bedside, he was drifting in and out of consciousness and didn't recognise her.

Once she said her goodbyes, the Queen demanded, "get that woman out of here!"