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Venus and the Concubines: Part One

If the 16th century was the age of the queen (see my articles: Three Queens and the Sign of the Bull, parts one, two and three,) the 17th and 18th centuries were the age of the concubine. It was a time when the king’s official wife was frequently secondary both in terms of glamour and influence to his mistress. Let’s look at the horoscopes of some of these women, starting with the irrepressible Nell Gwynn.

Nell Gwynn was a poor girl from the streets of London who took advantage of King Charles’ order that allowed women to act in plays and became a popular actress by the time she was 17. She had ample opportunity to show her gratitude toward King Charles II when the king made her one of several mistresses.

The horoscope we have for Nell Gwynn (click here to see the chart) comes from the most illustrious astrologers of the era, William Lilly, but we do not know the original source of his data. Since it is unlikely that there was any official person present to record the exact time of Gwynn’s birth, we might surmise that the horoscope was rectified from an approximate time of sunrise. (A rectified horoscope is an educated guess arrived at by careful examination of the circumstances of the person and the timing of events in his or her life.)

Assuming this was the case, we can see why Lilly settled on this chart. It shows Venus prominently placed in the 1st House.  Planets in the 1st House always play a big role in the person’s life. Venus in the 1st House is indicator of beauty and charm. Nell Gwynn was noted for her prettiness but her Venus is in Aquarius, an intellectual Air sign, and what really set Gwynn apart was way the combination her physical beauty with a lively and irreverent wit.

The most famous story about Nell Gwynn involved a conflict over religion. A crowd of Londoner, seeing a closed carriage on its way to the palace, assumed that Charles was getting ready to entertain his current favorite, who was both French and a Catholic. The Protestant Londoners attacked the carriage. They were stopped when Gwynn poked her head out of the carriage window and ordered them to be civil. “It’s the Protestant whore!” she declared and the crowd cheered and allowed to the carriage to proceed to its destination.

As might be guessed from this story, Gwynn was not shy about the particulars of her relationship with the king.  Nor was she shy about pointing out that Charles’ other mistresses, mostly women of noble birth, were practicing the same ancient profession. Lilly’s horoscope places no-nonsense Capricorn on the Ascendant. That, in combination with her rebellious Aquarian Sun, gave Nell an outlook that was both realistic and decidedly democratic.

Charles II was famous for enriching his mistresses with money, jewels, property and titles. Gwynn saw very little of this. In Lilly’s chart we have Mars in the 2nd House of money, afflicted by Pluto. Because of her common birth, Charles kept Nell in a rented house for most of their time together. He granted a title to the son she bore him only after Gwynn shamed him into it. But the problems we get with Pluto are often self-inflicted. Gwynn’s money troubles had as much to do with her addiction to gambling as the miserliness of her king.

Saturn trines the Sun in Gwynn’s horoscope. This aspect made her more level-headed and practical than the typical Aquarian Sun. It also influenced the way she related to figures of authority. With the Sun trine Saturn, Gwynn could feel at ease with her “betters” because she was always working with the assumption that, regardless how she behaved, they were predisposed to like her.

King Charles II obviously liked Nell Gwynn. On his deathbed he begged her brother and successor, James II “don't let poor Nell starve.” James obeyed Charles last wishes and paid off Gwynn’s debts but he didn’t have to look after his brother’s ex for very long. Nell followed Charles to the grave two years later and the age of 37.

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