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Monday, September 6, 2010

The Newmarket Races and Charles II

One of Charles II’s favorite places to go on progress was to Newmarket for the horse races held there. Races had been being held at Newmarket since 1622 and the popularity of this place increased with the interest of the Royal Court. 1660 was the first time, as King, that Charles visited the race course and would return twice a year for every year after. Charles had Palace House built at the race course in the 1670’s and this is where the court would go. Charles really brought a new passion to these races and was considered by many of the women left at home to be a place of debauchery (as the royal mistresses often accompanied). Charles not only liked to watch the spectacle, but he would participate too – and won his fair share. Another credit to Charles was the creation of the second race course at Newmarket that is still in use today, the Rowley Mile. Charles also, through an Act of Parliament, required that the Town Plate race occur every year. This was the first race run under official rules and occurred in 1666. Charles himself won in 1671. Incidentally, this is the world’s oldest surviving horse race.

In Susan Holloway Scott’s novel, The Countess and the King, Catherine Sedley travels to Newmarket with James and this is the first time that she is really recognized as being his mistress, although they were attempting to be discreet.

Other events today for HFBRT:

Lucy's Review of The Countess and the King
Guest Post by Susan Holloway Scott at Historical-Fiction.com

For more information on the Newmarket Races, check out:


Copyright © 2010 by The Maiden’s Court


  1. Great post! The period of Charles II is not my forte, so this bit of information was very interesting to read. I just learned something new! Thanks for sharing!

  2. What an interesting tidbit! Just gave my mum a reason to visit England; she loves horses!

  3. Irena - I am not well versed in the period of Charles II either, this is only the second book that I have read. But the period is so exhuberant and exciting that I can't wait to read more. It's always great to learn something new!

    Marie - any reason that works, right!

  4. Excellent post and pix, Heather! I was always amazed by how all the royal men participated in these races. I esp. like the stories of Charles racing against his various (illegitimate) sons - it sounds like a real coming-of-age moment. (The Duke of Monmouth was supposed to be so skilled a rider that he won major races in France, where you have to think the other riders weren't quite as willing to let the King of England's son win.) The races sound like such wild, breakneck affairs across the grass - can you image any world leader behaving so recklessly today?

    I've put the races in the other mistress books as well. Nell liked to watch, but was leery of horses. In "The French Mistress", the races are an excuse for Charles and Louise to meet, and finally become lovers in an over-the-top scene that I swear I didn't invent - several contemporaries reported it as happening exactly like that! *g*

  5. Thanks for the visuals! You always hear of the races and the area they were held in Restoration novels.

  6. Interesting tidbit. That is what is cool about reading historical fiction is learning about little tidbits here and there that I may not have bothered with before.

  7. Susan - I didn't know that he often competed against his offspring. I haven't yet read about Renee and Nell - but I look forward to it.

    Arleigh - The visuals definatly help!

    Ibeeeg - This was certainly something that I didn't know about before too.


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