Charles II: Trapped in a Brothel

King Charles II of England had many problem to face after being restored to the throne following the death of Oliver Cromwell: The Great Plague of 1665, the Great Fire of 1666, major conflicts with Parliament, and so on. But he also had a nasty habit of traveling incognito to the brothels of London. One friend of his the Earl of Rochester decided to teach the King a little lesson on the dangers of his nocturnal adventures.

This account of the tale was recorded by Theophilus Cibber, a well-known poet, playwright, and actor in London. He was also known to exaggeration, so one must take this account with a grain of salt.


[Rochester] agreed to go out one night with him to visit a celebrated house of intrigue, where he told his majesty the finest women in England were to be found. The King [didn’t hesitate] to assume his usual disguise and accompany him, and while he was engaged with one of the ladies of pleasure, being before instructed by Rochester how to behave, she pick’d his pocket of all his money and watch, which the king did not immediately miss. Neither she nor the people of the house were made acquainted with the quality of their visitor, nor had the least suspicion of who he was.

When the intrigue was ended, the King enquired for Rochester but was told he had quitted the house, without taking leave. But into what embarrassment was he thrown when upon searching his pockets, in order to discharge the reckoning, he found his money gone; he was then reduced to ask the jezebel to give him credit until tomorrow, as the gentlemen who came with him had not returned, who was to have pay’d for both. The consequence of this request was, he was abused, laughed at; and the old woman told him, that she had often been served such dirty tricks, and would not permit him to stir till the reckoning was paid, and then called one of her bullies to take care of him.

Theophilus Cibber

In this ridiculous distress stood the British monarch, the prisoner of a bawd, and the life upon whom the nation’s hopes were fixed, put in the power of a ruffian. After many altercations the King at last proposed that she should accept a ring which he took off his finger, in pledge for her money, which she likewise refused, and told him that she was no judge of the value of the ring, she did not choose to accept such a pledge. The King then desired that a jeweler might be called to give his opinion on the value of it but he was answered that the expedient was impractical as no jeweler could then be supposed to be out of bed. After much entreaty, his Majesty at last prevailed upon the fellow to knock up a jeweler and show him the ring, which as soon as he had inspected, he stood amazed and enquired, which eyes fixed upon the fellow: who he had got in his house? To which [the man] answered,

“A black looking ugly son of whore who had no money in his pocket and was obliged to pawn his ring.”

“The ring,” says the jeweler, “is so immensely rich that but one man in the nation could afford to wear it; and that one is the King.”

Charles II

The jeweler being astonished at this incident, went out with the bully, in order to be fully satisfied of so extraordinary an affair; and as soon as he entered the room, he fell on his knees, and with the utmost respect presented the ring to his Majesty. The old jezebel and the bully finding the extraordinary quality of their guest were now confounded and asked pardon most submissively on their knees. The King in his best natured manner forgave them, and laughing asked them whether the ring would bear another bottle.

Thus ended this adventure, in which the King learned how dangerous it was to risk his person in night frolics.

-Theophilus Cibber

For more readings, try books by Rex Hurst. 

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