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Venus and the Concubines: Part Twopalmerimage

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 overshadowed both in terms of glamour and influence to his mistress. In part one of this series we looked at the horoscope of one these remarkable women, Nell Gwynn. Now let’s take a look at the chart of the woman who preceded her as mistress to Charles II, Barbara Palmer.

We are using a horoscope for Barbara Palmer (also known as the Lady Castlemaine and the Duchess of Cleveland) from the Astrodatabank which quotes notebooks found in the British Museum. The birth date differs from what is given in other places but Astrodatabank is typically a reliable source.(Click here to see Barbara Palmer's horoscope.)

Barbara Palmer was born Barbara Villiers. Her father was the Duke of Castlemaine and an ardent supporter of Charles I in his war with Parliament and Oliver Cromwell.  Charles lost that war and Barbara’s family was left in dire circumstance. Eventually they joined the court of Charles’ exiled son, Charles II, in Brussels. By the time this Charles returned to England in triumph to accept the throne, Barbara was already his mistress.

Like Nell Gwynn, Venus in the chart Barbara Palmer is prominently placed. She has both Venus and Mars in Cancer at the very top of the horoscope in the 10th House of career. Venus in the 10th House is a particularly good omen for a career dependent on beauty and social grace and Palmer certainly had plenty of both. We’ll talk about Mars later.

The combination of Venus and Mars in Cancer can be tremendously sexy. It provides a sexuality that is based on deep emotions and an irresistible promise of complete surrender to love. Palmer sexual allure was famous and King Charles II was only one of several men who were caught in its web. Of course, with her Sun in Gemini, Palmer never allowed her promise of surrender to compromise her purely intellectual awareness of the situation.

Palmer’s Gemini Sun is conjunct Pluto. Palmer had an innate understanding of how to play the power game.  She understood both the limitations of her position and the leverage it gave her over the most powerful man in England. Among other things, Palmer freely used that power to enrich herself.  It was said during Charles’ reign that his army often went unpaid, but never his mistress.

Palmer had many enemies who considered her greedy, manipulative and disapproved of her interference in political matters. But people with the Sun conjunct Pluto know how to deal with enemies. Those who opposed Palmer at court, including the Queen herself, were forced to either change their opinion or leave thanks to wiles of the King’s mistress.

As in the horoscope of Nell Gwynn, Saturn plays an unusually benevolent role in the chart of Barbara Palmer. It is trine her Venus, and excellent representation of the way in which Palmer’s beauty held a figure of great authority (King Charles) in her thrall. Of course, this aspect also made Palmer a hard woman to love. Again, the promise of a total surrender to love we typically see with Venus in Cancer was countered by this aspect. For Palmer, the surrender came at a steep and thoroughly material price.

During the course of her twelve year affair with Charles II, Barbara Palmer became one of the wealthiest women in England. In addition, the five children she had with Charles were all granted titles and land. But Palmer always wanted more. Her insatiable appetite for money and honors placed a huge strain on her relationship with Charles.

As we saw, both Venus and Mars are in Barbara Palmer’s 10th House. The 10th House has a great deal to do with how we are perceived by the public. With Venus, Palmer was perceived as charming and sexy. With Mars, she was noted for her combativeness and for vicious outbursts of anger.

In the end it was Mars and Palmers’ fearsome temper that finally wore through King Charles’ patience. He tired of her belligerence and her incessant demands on the treasury. By this time he had other mistresses, including the easy-going Nell Gwynn. Palmer was packed off to one of her several estates and her ties to Charles severed.

There’s a sound astrological reason why Palmer seemed so greedy. With Venus and Mars in Cancer she had deep emotional needs that the glittering life at the court could never satisfy. King Charles might have loved her but he was not a man to offer the kind of comfort and emotional protection Palmer craved.

So she tried to fill this need with stuff; with jewels, money and vast holdings of real estate and wealth. She also sought to fill it with men. After she was put aside by Charles, Palmer took several lovers. None were as grand as the king but they no doubt made her feel less alone, and less cheated by love.