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'Pretty witty Nell', as Pepys called her, came to London as an orange-seller and rose to become one of the leading comic actresses of the day, and mistress to the King, Charles II. The playwright Dryden supplied her with a series of saucy, bustling parts, ideally suited to her talents. She had two sons by the King, the elder of whom was created Duke of St Albans, and she was said to have been remembered by Charles on his deathbed with the words 'Let not poor Nelly starve'.
oil on canvas
H 73.7 x W 63.2 cm
Bequeathed by John Neale, 1931