Mary Ruiz’s amusing post on Samuel Pepys and his “towsing” of “ladies not his wife” puts me in mind of that most intelligent and charming of English monarchs, Charles II, who was famous for his dalliances with the ladies. (G.K. Chesterton, in a ballad from his delightful and neglected novel The Flying Inn , wrote of King Charles that “In convent schools no man of tact/ Would trace and praise his every act/ Or argue that he was in fact/ A strict and sainted bloke.”)

One fact that caused particular scandal in Charles’ court was that so many of his mistresses were Catholic. Someone indignantly inquired of him why he did not compel these women to become members of the Anglican Church. The Merry Monarch replied, “I do not interfere with the souls of ladies, but only with their bodies, insofar as they are gracious enough to permit it.” (It seems his "theology of the body" may have needed a little work.)

He became a Catholic on his deathbed and apparently took pleasure in the act of bestowing, as a Catholic, the royal blessing upon the Archbishop of Canterbury, who had come to minister to him at his death.

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Articles by Stephen M. Barr

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