Duchess of Portsmouth (1673-1734)
Born 1649 Died 1734
Louise de Kéroualle, mistress of the English king Charles II, was the daughter of Guillaume de Penancourt and his wife Marie de Plaeuc de Timeur. The name of Kéroualle was derived from an heiress whom her ancestor Francois de Penhoet had married in 1330. The family were nobles in Brittany, and their name was so spelt by themselves. But the form Querouailles was commonly used in England, where it was corrupted into Carwell or Carewell, perhaps with an ironic reference to the care which the duchess took to fill her pocket. In France it was variously spelt Queroul, Keroual and Keroel. The exact date of her birth is apparently unknown.
Louise was placed early in life in the household of Henriette, Duchess of Orleans, sister of Charles II. Saint-Simon asserts that her family threw her in the way of Louis XIV in the hope that she would be promoted to the place of royal mistress. In 1670 she accompanied the Duchess of Orleans on a visit to Charles II at Dover. The sudden death of the duchess, attributed on dubious evidence to poison, left her unprovided for, but the king placed her among the ladies in waiting of his own queen. It was said in after times that she had been selected by the French court to fascinate the king of England, but for this there seems to be no evidence. Yet when there appeared a prospect that the king would show her favour, the intrigue was vigorously pushed by the French ambassador, Colbert de Croissy, aided by the Secretary of State, Lord Arlington, and his wife Louise, who concealed great cleverness and a strong will under an appearance of languor and a rather childish beauty (Evelyn the diarist speaks of her "baby face"), yielded only when she had already established a strong hold on the king's affections and character. Her son, ancestor of the dukes of Richmond, was born in 1672. The support she received from the French envoy was given on the understanding that she should serve the interests of her native sovereign. The bargain was confirmed by gifts and honours from Louis XIV and was loyally carried out by Louise.
The hatred openly avowed for her in England was due as much to her own activity in the interest of France as to her notorious rapacity. The titles of Baroness Petersfield, Countess of Fareham and Duchess of Portsmouth were granted her for life on the 19th of August 1673. Her pensions and money allowances of various kinds were enormous. In 1677 alone she received £27,300. The French court gave her frequent presents, and in December 1673 conferred upon her the ducal fief of Aubigny at the request of Charles II. Her thorough understanding of the king's character enabled her to retain her hold on him to the end. She contrived to escape uninjured during the crisis of the Popish Plot in 1678. She was strong enough to maintain her position during a long illness in 1677, and a visit to France in 1682. In February 1685 she took measures to see that the king, who was secretly a Roman Catholic, did not die without confession and absolution.
Soon after the king's death she retired to France, where, except for one short visit to England during the reign of James II, she remained. Her pensions and an outrageous grant on the Irish revenue given her by Charles II were lost either in the reign of James II or at the Revolution of 1688. During her last years she lived at Aubigny, and was harassed by debt. The French king, Louis XIV, and after his death the regent Orleans, gave her a pension, and protected her against her creditors. She died at Paris on the 14th of November 1734.
See H. Forneron, Louise de Keroualle (Paris, 1886); and Mrs Colquhoun Grant, From Brittany to Whitehall (London, 1909).
Being the entry for PORTSMOUTH, LOUISE DE KEROUALLE, DUCHESS OF in the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica, the text of which lies within the public domain.