Monday, May 12, 2008

London Design Centre produced beautifully detailed wood and cloth dolls in mid 1970s

I receive notices of particular historical figure dolls that are coming up for bid on Ebay and today I saw an English seller was offering some wonderfully detailed 12" dolls of King Charles II and one of his mistresses that were made in 1975 by the London Design Centre. I had never seen their dolls before and found them beautifully costumed with delicately painted wooden faces that I couldn't resist.

I searched for other dolls made by this firm and the only other search result I came up with was a clothespin doll of Jane Grey also made in the mid 1970s. I also noticed the company made things like coasters and little wooden double-decker London buses for the tourist market. As I was unable to find anything produced after the 70s, I assume the company is no longer in business but I will keep my eye out for any more of their dolls when I visit London in July.

I have a couple of Charles II dolls in my current collection - a Nisbet prototype and a 16" OOAK handmade doll by Chicago artist Mary Branca. Charles wore such flamboyant costumes that dolls of him are always so colorful and elaborate. This historical figure by artist George Stuart demonstrates the extent Charles would go to dazzle the ladies. Charles was also notorious for his bevy of mistresses.

" Monarchs and mistresses were an expected combination when royal wives were chosen for dynastic or political rather than for personal reasons. However, even by the permissive standards this implied, King Charles II (1630-1685) was an extraordinarily active monarch, who ran more than one mistress in harness at a time and made no secret of his fourteen illegitimate children. Charles started young, at eighteen, when he was in exile in France following Parliament's victory in the Civil War against his father, Charles I. There, in his idleness, Charles had little to do but womanise. The first pretty girl to catch his eye and the first of at least fifteen mistresses, was a Welshwoman, Lucy Walter whom he met in The Hague in the summer of 1648. Lucy took up with Charles shortly after his arrival , and in 1649 gave birth to his first child, James, later Duke of Monmouth. Lucy was her lover's constant companion, but he made the mistake of leaving her behind when he left The Hague in 1650. He returned to find she had been intriguing with a certain Colonel Henry Bennet. Charles ended the affaire there and then, leaving Lucy to a life of prostitution. She died, probably of venereal disease, in 1658.

Charles, meanwhile, moved on to other mistresses and enjoyed at least four more before his exile ended and he was recalled to England to become king in 1660. The list of illicit royal affaires burgeoned after that, and came to typify the unbuttoned society which grew up around the restored monarch. Joyless puritans did not berate Charles as 'that great enemy of chastity and marriage' for nothing, One of the spectacles at his court was Charles ' toying with his mistresses,' and surrounded by his favourite spaniels. For a scene of decadence, that took some beating.

Charles was not fussy about the status of his women. A pretty face and a comely figure were enough for a mistress to be taken on the strength, and he was particularly prone to actresses. . The stage provided a handy hunting- ground for the regular royal theatregoer, and it was here that Charles encountered Moll Davis in about 1667. Moll was a popular singer-dancer- comedienne, but she had her dark side. Mrs. Pepys, wife of Samuel Pepys the diarist, called her 'the most impertinent slut in the world' and she was grasping and vulgar with it. Moll flaunted her success as a royal mistress, showing off her 'mighty pretty fine coach' and a ring worth the then vast sum of £600.

Moll , who gave up the stage in 1668, had a daughter by Charles the following year but soon fell foul of Nell Gwynne, one of the King's concurrent mistresses, who had a wicked sense of humour. Hearing that Moll was due to sleep with the king on a night early in 1668, Nell invited her to eat some sweetmeats she had prepared. Unknown to Moll, her rival had mixed in a hefty dose of the laxative jalap. After that, the night in the royal bed did not exactly go as planned. Charles, too, had a sharp sense of humour, but this time, he was not amused and Moll was summarily dismissed. Being a generous man, though, Charles sent Moll packing with a pension of £1,000 a year...More" -

Charles was even a flashy dresser as a child as seen in this portrait of him with his siblings painted after Van Dyck in 1639:

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