Though Charles II both craved and enjoyed female companionship till the end of his life, there is no question that by the cold, rainy autumn of 1682 his physical appetites had diminshed considerably. The Duchess of Portsmouth was, after all, more than twenty years his junior; and there comes a time in nearly every such relationship when the male partner is simply unable to fully accommodate the female partner. Or as Samuel Pepys tartly noted in his diary, "the king yawns much in council, it is thought he spends himself overmuch in the arms of Madame Louise, who far from being wearied, seems fresher than ever after sporting with the king.
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It was a fact generally acknowledged by all but the most contumacious spirits at the beginning of the seventeenth century that woman was the weaker vessel; weaker than man, that is... That was the way God had arranged Creation, sanctified in the words of the Apostle... Under the common law of England at the accession of King James I, no female had any rights at all (if some were allowed by custom). As an unmarried woman her rights were swallowed up in her father's, and she was his to dispose of in marriage at will. Once she was married her property became absolutely that of her husband. What of those who did not marry? Common law met that problem blandly by not recognizing it. In the words of The Lawes Resolutions [the leading 17th century compendium on women's legal status]: 'All of them are understood either married or to be married.' In 1603 England, in short, still lived in a world governed by feudal law, where a wife passed from the guardianship of her father to her husband; her husband also stood in relation to her as a feudal lord.
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As the Dauphine stepped out of her carriage on to the ceremonial carpet that had been laid down, it was the Duc de Choiseul who was given the privilege of the first salute. Presented with the Duc by Prince Starhemberg, Marie Antoinette exclaimed: 'I shall never forget that you are responsible for my happiness!