Hyde Park and Charles II

As your Gentleman Administrator was lounging in the shade at Hyde Park last week, waiting for Blur and drinking expensive gig lager, I was reminded of Samuel Pepys’ comments concerning the park during the Restoration period. On Thursday and Friday Hyde Park was definitely one of the coolest places to be in London (unless you were an Oasis fan), and during Charles II reign it was certainly a fashion hot spot. The gig was actually pretty close to the area know as ‘the ring’, which was where the King would ‘tour’ or parade in coaches and generally kick back and be fashionable. Pepys seemed to thoroughly enjoy the pastime of celeb watching in the park:

Being very glad of this news Mr. Povy and I in his coach to Hyde Parke, being the first day of the tour there. Where many brave ladies; among others, Castlemayne lay impudently upon her back in her coach asleep, with her mouth open. There was also my Lady Kerneguy, once my Lady Anne Hambleton, that is said to have given the Duke a clap upon his first coming over. Here I saw Sir J. Lawson’s daughter and husband, a fine couple, and also Mr. Southwell and his new lady, very pretty. Sunday 19 March 1664/65 (www.pepysdiary.com)

Thence with my Lord Bruncker in his coach to Hide Parke, the first time I have been there this year. There the King was; but I was sorry to see my Lady Castlemaine, for the mourning forceing all the ladies to go in black, with their hair plain and without any spots, I find her to be a much more ordinary woman than ever I durst have thought she was; and, indeed, is not so pretty as Mrs. Stewart, whom I saw there also. Saturday 21 April 1666 (www.pepysdiary.com)

I home, and immediately dressing myself, by coach with my wife to my Lord Sandwich’s, but they having dined we would not ‘light but went to Mrs. Turner’s, and there got something to eat, and thence after reading part of a good play, Mrs. The., my wife and I, in their coach to Hide Parke where great plenty of gallants, and pleasant it was, only for the dust. Friday 22 April 1664 (www.pepysdiary.com)

I love Pepys’ attitude to Lady Castelmaigne in the second quote, particularly given how much he fawns over her in earlier posts in his diary, he had no shame that man. I can empathise with the final quote though, as Hyde park on a sunny day is pretty much a dust bowl now as well.


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