The lives of royals always appear chaotic and full of drama—in other words, extremely interesting and totally binge-worthy. Lucy Walter wasn’t exactly royalty, but considering her romantic entanglements with both royalty and nobility alike, her story of scandal, misguided relationships, and a truly tragic end is definitely worth the same kind of attention!
1. She Wasn't Like The Other Girls
Lucy Walter’s high society parents gave birth to her in 1630 in Wales. She likely lived comfortably in her early years, but she didn’t grow up like the girls of today. Instead of going to school to study writing and reading, she learned etiquette—fancy language for learning to be “a lady". Unfortunately, her family’s status didn’t protect her for long.
2. She Had A Broken Home
Life at home didn’t fare well, as Walter’s parents separated in 1640. They then sent her and her two brothers to London, where they stayed with their grandmother for several years. Walter spent her young adolescent years there, without the stability or protection of her parents. That may explain how her life took such a dark turn.
3. He Bought Her
Walter’s own pedigree was nothing to turn your nose up at, but her first brush with real power came when a noted politician, Algernon Sidney, paid several gold pieces for her. It’s unclear exactly who he paid these gold pieces to, but the agreement promised the teenager’s body and time to the fulfillment of Sidney’s desires. This set the stage for her future of scandal, but not without giving her an unexpected chance.
4. She Got Lucky
Before Sidney could make good on his purchase, the military called him back to service. 17 and set free from her first “customer," so to speak, Walter placed her sights elsewhere. Considering the circumstances of Great Britain in the 1600s, she needed a man to survive and thrive. She traveled to the Dutch Republic in search of just that, but she got much more than she bargained for.
5. She Kept It In The Family
Interestingly enough, Lucy Walter found herself in an affair with Robert Sydney, the very brother of the man she just managed to escape. Whether it was a real romantic affair or a connection of convenience, we may never know. What we do know is that the relationship ended quickly, as she found herself on the verge of landing her biggest catch yet.
6. She Made A Way
In 1648, Walter and an only eighteen-year-old Prince Charles met when he sailed to the Dutch Republic in the midst of political unrest. Considering the prince’s standing, the highest in the land next to his father, King Charles I, Walter probably had to do some finessing and charming to find herself in his eyeline. Finesse and charm she absolutely did.
7. She Caught A Prince
While the juicy details of their first interactions remain off the record, reports say the two got involved with each other in less than a week's time once Charles set foot in the country. Many consider Walter his first mistress, considering they were still just teens. Her true intentions with him aren’t totally clear, but the next occurrence set her up to be tied to him for the rest of her turbulent life.
8. She Had His Baby
Lucy Walter birthed the prince’s son in 1649, naming him James. Details of Walter's life right after birth remain a bit unclear. Her baby may have been sent away to a wet nurse for some time, but eventually the teen mother went to live with her mother in law, the Queen, in Paris. It should've been a special bonding time, but Walter's baby faced a grave danger.
9. He Wasn’t Safe
Charles left James and Walter in the care of his mother and staff, which, considering the political temperatures, might have been a bad idea. Eventually called the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, unrest characterized Great Britain as Scotland, Ireland, and England all battled for power. Even though royal laws technically deemed the baby illegitimate, that didn’t keep him out of the reach of his father’s enemies.
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10. They Snatched Him
The young baby disappeared in 1650. Walter, likely mortified, found herself and her son in the midst of what she assumed was a dig at the future possible heir to the throne of England. Luckily, Charles’s authority probably came into play, as they found little James ten days later. But Walter decided it was time to take matters into her own hands.
11. She Found Another
Even in spite of these dangers, Charles remained away, battling for his country and power, leaving Walter and their baby in flux. In less than a year after her son’s disappearance, Walter made her way into the care of another man—Viscount Theobald Taaffe. Some report that this relationship actually seemed real, and that the two actually cared for each other. Perhaps that explains Walter's next move.
12. She Went Public
Even though Charles and Walter were not reported married at James’s birth, her affair with him and his fatherhood of her first child likely floated around the kingdom as common knowledge. That’s why the birth of her second child, Mary, with the Viscount, likely caused quite a stir. It just wasn’t a good look. Unfortunately for her, the prince agreed.
13. He Dropped Her
Charles already felt defeated when he returned to Walter in 1651. He took a huge loss at the Battle of Worcester, and returned to find his mistress with another man’s child. It proved too much for the young heir, who reportedly made an official end to their affair. Still, Walter seemed to have something Charles still craved.
14. He Couldn’t Get Enough
The relationship supposedly ended, but reports still note that something romantic seemed to continue between the two for several years. One Earl even reported that she stayed “for some Years in France in the King’s sight.” Political relations aside, the prince was probably used to getting what he wanted, which probably made Walter's next moves infuriating.
15. She Kept It Up
Suspected trysts with Charles aside, Walter continued her relationship with the Viscount, though not for very long. The reasons for their breakup may have included Walter’s consideration of another man, Sir Henry de Vic. The Viscount’s family wanted to be done with her, and they weren’t the only ones.
16. Her Mother-In-Law Gave Her The Boot
Walter spent several of her son’s younger years living with her mother-in-law in Paris, even throughout her relationship with the Viscount. She didn’t make a great houseguest, though. In fact, the Queen reportedly put Walter out in 1655, leaving her scrambling for another caretaker. The experienced mistress didn’t stay alone for long.
17. She Used Her Assets
Walter set her sights on yet another man of high esteem, this time the brother of an Earl—Thomas Howard. Two children at her side, she involved herself with this new man, likely making use of his standing to her advantage. But Walter didn’t behave like a normal wife or lover. Notably, she did quite the opposite!
18. She Got A Chaperone
Breaking up with Lucy Walter didn’t do enough to separate the future English king from her scandalous behavior. Her son was, after all, his firstborn child, legitimate or not. Reports of Walter's involvements with men, as well as allegations of blackmail and more, fueled the gossip mills. In response, Charles sent Daniel O’Neill to keep tabs on her and report her behavior. He found much more evil than he expected.
19. She Hated The Help
The prince’s little “spy” likely never found himself short of scandalous, unsavory behavior to report about Walter. What may have surprised him, though, was the time he discovered her making plans to take the life of her own maid. That was bad enough, but the details of Walter’s plans were actually disturbingly well thought out.
20. She Made Sinister Plans
According to O'Neill's reports, Walter planned to use a knitting needle to kill the maid. She figured if she or someone else put the needle all the way into the maid’s ear, she’d pass without anyone ever being able to figure out why or tie her to the act. Luckily for the maid, O'Neill managed to interfere, but not without making a tragic discovery.
21. She Was A Victim Of Blackmailing
Lucy Walter certainly had her reasons for wanting her maid gone. She threatened to release Walter's private information, namely to add news of her abortions to the rumor mill. It’s quite possible Walter actually miscarried more than one child, as seemed common at the time. Either way, her overreaction to the possibility of her spilled secrets made it clear she needed to be dealt with once and for all.
22. She Had To Go
By 1656, Charles likely felt fed up with her behavior. In cahoots with O’Neill and his other cohorts, he pleaded with Walter to leave Paris and head to England, placing an appropriate amount of distance between her and his image. Already involved with Howard and romantically done with Charles, it probably seemed like a good move, but she refused to go empty handed.
23. She Drove A Hard Bargain
Walter didn’t actually agree to leave until Charles’s people bribed her with money, an expensive pearl necklace, and promises to regularly send more funds her way once she settled in London. She took the deal and headed to England with her current beau—Thomas Howard—and her two children in tow. It probably looked like an opportunity for a fresh start, but things got worse than ever.
24. They Locked Her Up
Walter's family hadn’t settled in London for a full year before life took a troubling turn. Authorities figured Charles’s mistress must be a spy, and locked both her and her maid away in the tower of London. They tried to question her motives, but Walter was no spy, she had no useful information to share. She could, however, serve Charles’s opponents in a more sinister way.
25. They Used Her
Unable to get any useful details from Walter, the authorities decided to use her sullied name instead. While keeping her confined in the Tower, they spread news and articles using her scandalous behavior and record, as well as her connection to the royals, to make a mockery of the monarchy. They eventually released her and sent her back to the Dutch Republic, but she had no safe haven there either.
26. The Honeymoon Ended
As you might expect of her by now, Walter's relationship hit the rocks once Charles’s enemies released her from prison. It was likely headed there before, as some reports suspected her lover, Howard, only dated her to spy on her. Spy or not, their relationship reportedly ended with an explosive argument, one that seemingly pushed Walter to a fatal decision.
27. She Wanted Him Gone
Lucy Walter felt so strongly about her situation with Thomas Howard that she wanted him totally wiped from the face of the earth. She didn’t handle her own dirty work, though. Instead, she hired someone to take her ex out. Fortunately for him, Howard survived this ambush wounded but alive. But that didn’t satisfy Walter. She didn’t feel too pleased with her more royal ex either.
28. She Went Back To Old Tricks
After all the work it took to get his past mistress away from him, I don’t imagine Charles felt pleased when Walter returned to the country of his momentary exile. She didn’t come quietly either. With her most recent relationship and source of security gone, Walter looked back to Charles for the care of her and her children. He probably responded reluctantly, as she met this hesitancy with her own devious plans.
29. She Threatened Her Royal Ex
Charles’s friends promised Walter an allowance even before she left for London, and she demanded it from the prince. She assured him she’d make their private letters very public if he didn’t submit to taking care of her. The content of these letters remain a mystery, but we can only imagine that it was serious, considering the prince’s shocking next move.
30. He Plotted Against Her
Totally done with Walter's embarrassing, reckless, and dangerous behavior, Charles decided the next best move was to get his son away from his mother, probably to cut final ties between them. She didn’t agree, of course, perhaps for love of her son or to maintain a connection to Charles. But the royal committed to getting rid of her.
31. She Had To Go
Charles’s advisors first came up with the idea to have Walter put in jail. Now, the woman was clearly a mess, and totally inappropriate by the standards of the day, but technically, she couldn’t be found guilty of wrongdoing. That meant they’d have to get crafty to get her in real trouble, and get crafty they certainly did.
32. She Got Set Up
They went straight for what appeared to be Walter's weak spot—a good looking guy. On a mission for Charles, a handsome colonel who reportedly owned a type of inn invited Walter for a special stay. After a few weeks, the colonel accused her of not paying her bill, declaring the authorities were en route to take her away. But Walter had something else up her sleeve.
33. She Wouldn’t Take It
If you’ve been keeping up with this entire rundown of her drama, you've probably already figured out that Walter didn’t take this accusation lying down. In fact, she ran out into the public area outside the colonel's place and put on a show of wailing and histrionics, declaring he mistreated her and her child. Her dramatic show did just the trick.
34. He Saved Her, Kind Of
Walter's reputation remained questionable, but a woman crying in the streets with her child is likely to touch anyone’s heart. That’s what happened with Don Alonso Cardenas, a past Spanish ambassador who saw Walter and took her and James in. She probably thought she'd hit a lucky streak, but her luck soon ran out.
35. He Turned On Her
The ex ambassador’s kindness proved to be short-lived. He reached out to Charles about his new guest, initially to report how terribly the colonel treated her. But after an intense discussion with the future leader, Cardenas decided he was on the wrong side of things. He joined Charles’s efforts against Walter, becoming another in the litany of men who turned their backs on her.
36. She Wouldn’t Budge
Notably, Cardenas is on record as at least attempting to remove young James from his mother as amicably as possible. Instead of just taking the child, he enlisted Spanish officials to back up his request to her. Walter, however, refused to part with James. Charles likely realized he was running out of options, as he turned to more drastic measures.
37. He Made Her Stay
With his plan to put Walter in prison off the table, Charles took more decisive action. Along with his new Spanish associates, he had her and her children completely confined to her home. Down to her last and unable to live a normal life, she held their private letter correspondence over Charles’s head again, but he had already finalized his plans to destroy her.
38. He Struck
In 1658, Charles sent in another man to take care of her once and for all. His associate, Thomas Ross, went to see Lucy Walter, giving the impression that they needed to handle important business. The two did business as normal, but the minute Walter took her attention off the man for just a moment, she found that both he and her son were gone.
39. She Lost Him
Like any mother would, Walter searched furiously for her first born. Although inconclusive, some reports say that Ross kept little James hidden by moving him place to place, rendering any clue Walter might discover irrelevant. Other reports state Charles sent the baby to Paris, where he remained hidden from his mother under the eye of a Lord Crofts. Walter finally seemed defeated, in more ways than one.
40. It Caught Up With Her
Around this very same time, Walter started to fall ill. Reportedly, she suffered the effects of a venereal disease, which makes total sense considering her reputation of spending time with multiple suitors. Anyone else in her situation might find themself ready to give up completely, but Lucy Walter still had one more ace to play.
41. She Got Another Man
Sick and still unable to find her son, Walter began keeping company with another man, this time a chaplain named John Cosin. He didn’t present himself to her like any of the other men she dealt with in her life, and she didn’t want from him what she wanted from the other men either. She told him she needed to confess.
42. She Told All
Walter told the chaplain what must have been the biggest secret she had ever held on to. By her own accounts, she and Prince Charles married each other for a short period. She further asserted they were in fact married when they had James. In essence, that made James the next heir to the throne of the kingdom after Charles—if it proved true.
43. She Kept It Dramatic
Walter's sickness progressed quite quickly, and just before the year ended, she passed. She never saw her son again after Charles took him, and likely never saw his father again either. Her ultimate end certainly seems tragic and merciless by all accounts, but maybe she saw it coming. She certainly didn’t go without making a splash.
44. She Left A Mystery
Walter's confession to the chaplain was allegedly more than just her own word. By multiple accounts, Walter claimed she left hard evidence of her marriage to the royal locked in a "black box," and left it with the chaplain with a commitment that it would stay unopened until the passing of her ex. As you might have guessed, it didn’t quite go as she planned.
45. Her Son Took It On
Walter's life made that of her first son quite turbulent in his childhood. He likely had a decent life growing up after her passing, but he always knew himself to be Charles’s son, who became king in 1660. This might have ended up being of no real consequence were it not for the fact that the lineage was already on shaky ground. As such, Walter's name and relation to the throne resurfaced later in the 1600s.
46. Her Scandals Couldn't Be Squashed
The chaplain she confessed to already passed on by this time, and his son-in-law, Sir Gilbert Gerard, came into possession of the black box containing the supposed evidence of James's legitimate sonship. Unfortunately for Charles, he and his wife, Queen Catherine, found themselves unable to have children. This presented the perfect opportunity for Walter’s son to make a reappearance, and reappear he did.
47. He Tried
No "legitimate" children for Charles meant his brother was next in line to the throne. But, in the background, James gathered support for himself as the heir, especially due to the fact he identified as Protestant, while Charles’s brother identified as Catholic. Courts summoned the legendary black box and demanded to know the contents.
48. Her Mystery Lived On
In 1678, the royal authorities commanded Gerard to come forward with the proof of Walter's marriage to Charles. He claimed he knew nothing of such a box or anything that might be contained inside it. With no evidence to prove Walter's son legitimate, there remained no smooth path for him to royalty. That didn’t mean it was over, though.
49. He Tossed Him A Bone
Once he actually became king, Charles didn’t completely forget about his first son. Feel as he may have towards his mother, he took responsibility for James. Interestingly enough, James was illiterate, probably because of his unstable life growing up. All that aside, Charles took it upon himself to make James a Duke. Unfortunately, it didn’t appease him.
50. Her Son Went Tragically
Maybe he maintained much of his mother’s spirit, because James refused to go down without a fight. He led a rebellion in 1685 when his father passed and the royal tradition declared Charles’s brother the next king. The rebellion was easily and totally squashed. Its fearless and relentless leader, Walter’s son, lost his head for treason.