10 Mistresses That Changed The World

It is widely believed that there must be a very strong woman behind any successful man. What is not elaborated is that the lady looming in the background of a successful man mustn’t necessarily be the wife! Meet the several most powerful women whom exercised power with their influential paramours but never walked down the isle. These women left a mark in books of history by serving as advisers, strategists, muses and confidantes

Diane de Poitiers

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Having been born in the year 1499 from a noble family in France, the celebrated beauty queen underwent a humanist education that perfectly matched any renaissance king. At the age of 15 she married a royal officer who was 40 years older than her. His name was Louis de Brézé. The prominent position of her husband enabled her to become an insider in the house of King François I; here she was privileged to become a lady in waiting to Queen Claude. Being favorite at the court, she attended King Henry ‘s birth; she was later on given the task of training the heir to the throne courtly manners. She would later become a widow in the year 1531. Two years later in 1533, Henry was joined by Catherine de’ Medici in a gloomy matrimony By 1538, the relationship between Diane and Henri had become so close and evolved into a very passionate love affair, in 1547 after Henri ascended to the throne; Diane would advice Henri on most political matters. She signed most of Henri’s official letters as HenriDiane. Her images would appear on coins and other works of art. Henri would have an unwavering love to this middle aged mistress and would on numerous occasions send her to his matrimonial bed with the intention of getting legitimate heirs. It’s unfortunate that Diane never bore him children although other mistresses did. When Henri died in 1559, Diane’s de facto reign came to an abrupt end. Catherine took over her roles and banished her from the city to the countryside. She died at 66 years with her beauty intact

Aspasia of Miletus

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Via www.thoughtco.com

There was a powerful woman by the name Aspasia who was a lover to the ancient statesman of Greece called Pericles. She appeared in the writings of Xenophon, Aristophanes, Plato as well as other Athenian writers. It is believed that she originated from the Miletus colony where she was born around 470 B.C. She later went to Athens and became a hetaera (a courtesan who was educated with the purpose of keeping company to the sophisticated and intelligent men). She later moved in with Pericles bearing him a son. It is believed that Pericles loved her so much that he would kiss her during all mornings and evenings in all days of his life. The only thing that prevented them from getting married was that Aspasia wasn’t a native but a foreigner. The Athenian laws didn’t allow marriages between natives and foreigners Ancient sources indicate that Pericles consulted his companion on most military and political matters. Plato would joke that Aspasia was a great conversationalist and skilled orator in her own right. Although it is difficult to measure the extent of Aspasia’s influence, Pericles was successful in building several building projects. It was also during their relationship that the democratic space was actually opened. Pericles died before Aspasia, Aspasia would later on have a relationship with another Athenian bureaucrat by the name Lysicles

Lola Montez

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Via staging.cv.vic.gov.au

Very little is told about Lola Montez early life but she is believed to have been born as Eliza Rosanna Gilbert in Ireland between 1818 and 1821. Described as extremely beautiful, she eloped when she was still a teenager and lived in India for some time. Her marriage broke just within a few years. At around the year 1843 Eliza Rosanna Gilbert made her debut on stage, this was in London. Her stage name was Lola Montez but she was commonly referred to as ‘the Spanish dancer’. After doing her performances in several European cities, she settled in Munich as the mistress to Ludwig I of Bavaria. The old German king raised eyebrows when he built her a palace and made her the most influential person in his kingdom. He always consulted her on most political matters For more that one year, Lola was practically the ruler in Bavaria where she ruled with the use of an iron fist. She spied and destroyed all her critics. Her dictatorial rule led to revolutions; she abdicated in 1848. Lola sought asylum in Bavaria where she resumed to dancing. She spent most of her time in Europe, USA and Australia. She later settled in New York. She would have two legitimate marriages in New York, face a murder charge and get embroiled in several scandals due to the nature of her ‘spider dance’ which was very provocative in nature. She was aged 40 years when she passed on in New York in the year 1860. She died a month before her 40th birthday

Barbara Palmer

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Via erinlawless.wordpress.com

Barbara Palmer was truly beautiful and ambitious. Born as Barbara Villiers, she was the most infamous mistress during the reign of King Charles II of England. She had been born in a modest family in 1640. At the age of 19 years, she fell in love and married Robert Palmer. They traveled together to the Netherlands where Charles had been living in exile during the parliamentary rule of Oliver Cromwell. Being a sympathizer to the royalist made her to become a lover to the ousted king. When the king returned to London one year later, Barbara was summoned by him to come to his side. Barbara later on gave birth to seven siblings. Five were officially acknowledged by the king. Barbara’s estranged husband had no option but to accept their relationship albeit grudgingly. He received many favors as a reward for his complacency Barbara’s powers waned when Charles marries Catherine of Braganza. Barbara had appointed herself the lady of the bed-chamber. This is a position that would guarantee her access to the most influential figures at the court as well as getting hefty salaries. Barbara had amassed a small fortune because of her closeness with the ruler. She was always wrangling for recognition. She wanted her sons to be considered amongst royalties despite their paternity. Charles terminated her relationship with Barbara in 1674 and Barbara died aged 68 in 1709. Barbara’s most notable descendant includes Diana, The late Princess of Wales

Odette de Champdivers

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At the age of 17 years, the King of France fell in love with Odette de Champdivers and the two became bosom lovers. Charles was a mad king who was greatly affected by paranoid delusions. He at one time believed that he had been made from glass. He had schizophrenic and bipolar disorders; this made him to become so violent to the queen of Bavaria, Isabella. Since the medieval doctors were of the belief that releasing one seed was of great necessity for the King to be healed, Isabella assented the relationship between the king and Odette. Odette became so close to the king earning the title little Queen’. She bore him a daughter. Charles ensured that his daughter and the mistress benefited in his will. France was plunged in civil war after his death. Although Odette’s final fate remains unknown, she is still a captivating historic object up to this date. Her story is written in many captivating novels, she has also peen painted by several famous painters

Agnes Sorel

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Via www.patrimoine-normand.com

She was a blue eyed golden beauty during her early 20’s when she met the French ruler king Charles VII. She immediately plunged into controversy with her revealing dresses that even revealed her nipples But again, it wasn’t her clothing that made her unpopular in France; it was her interference in the French political affairs. Agnes became ill all of a sudden and died after bearing the king his 4th child. It is mostly believed that she was poisoned. Charles’ legitimate son who would later ascend to the throne was the key suspect. His son Louis had always had an open revolt against his father’s relationship with Agnes. He loathed Agnes Charles VII was very distraught after the death of Agnes but this didn’t stop him from falling in love with her cousin. He immediately made the 14 year old Antoinette Maignelais his lover

Gabrielle d’ Estrées

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Via artuk.org

King Henry IV had a lot of mistresses but Gabrielle d’ Estrées was the most faithful. History records her as the only one who made a positive impact to the king. She is credited with persuading the king then a protestant to become a catholic once more. Gabrielle bore Henry three children from their relationship all of whom got legitimized. He even requested the pope to preside the annulment of his marriage to his 1st wife Marguerite of Valois in order to marry Gabrielle.While Henry loved his mistress, the people of France didn’t . When Gabrielle died while giving birth, he was disappointed; she had died before becoming a Queen. To compensate this, she gave her a funeral that resembled that of a Queen

Alice Perrers

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Alice Perrers was only 15 years when King Edward got attracted to her. When Queen Philippa died a few years later Edward began pampering Alice with gifts. These gifts included jewels and clothes of his late wife As Edward grew older, Alice Perrers’ influence increased. She would sit next to him during council meetings. She had a bench at Westminster and would instruct the royal judges on how to rule. Her interference didn’t go down well with parliament. Parliament banished her from the court but Alice was to make a return later after the incoming parliament ruled that the banishment had been unconstitutional Edward died from stroke in 1377. It is believed that Alice waited until everybody left the king’s side. She stole a gold chain and several rings from the dead king. She lived in Essex for the rest of her life until she died in around 1400

Nell Gwynn

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Via en.wikipedia.org

Nell Gwynn was a daughter of a brothel keeper who was alcoholic. Her mother must have been a prostitute since nothing is heard about Nell Gwyn’s father. Nell Gwynn was only 15 years when she was discovered’ by an actor by the name Charles Hart. He got interested in her when she came to sell her oranges at Drurry lane theater. Charles Hart and Nell Gwynn became lovers .They would later train together on stage. Sooner rather than later she would become an accomplished comedic actress in London Even though Nell hadn’t gone to school and wasn’t that beautiful, her theater skills appealed the Londoners who had been oppressed by the rule of Oliver Cromwell. Nell and Charles didn’t have much interest in politics but unlike the other mistresses, Nell made his days shorter by making him laugh. She also rarely asked for any favors. Nell and Charles had two sons and one of them died at a very tender age. It’s said that Charles made a wish to his brother before he died, he must never let Nell to starve. His brother James faithfully fulfilled his wish. Nell was to only live for two years after the death of Charles. She died from an illness that left one half of her body in a paralyzed state

Maria, the Walewska Countess

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Maria was born in the year 1786, she originated from the Aristrotic kingdom that had lost too much wealth during the partition of Poland. When she was only 16, she married count Walewska who was a wealthy old man in his mid 70’s. Her intention was to improve the position of her family In 1806 at the New Year’s Eve party, she met Napoleon. Napoleon the emperor became obsessed with Maria, he wooed her using jewels and letters. When Maria got pregnant, napoleon was ecstatic. Josephine his wife had never borne him any child. Maria’s pregnancy had proved that he had no fertility problems, his wife had all along been incapable of bearing a child. He divorced Josephine who was already at menopause and wed Marie Louise who was a daughter to the Emperor of Austria. Later on, napoleon ended his love affair with Maria Maria had already developed affection for Napoleon since she had offered to stay with him when he got exiled to St Helena. Napoleon didn’t accept. Maria was to later divorce Walewska only to be married by a General who served in Napoleon’s army. She died from a kidney disease after bearing a son with the General. She was only 31. Later on her body was taken back to Poland while her heart was interred in Paris at Prep Lachaise Cemetery


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