Ask Chiffinch: 17th century love-life advice

Ask Chiffinch: 17th century love-life advice

Ask Chiffinch - sketch of William Chiffinch

1 May 2012

Get 17th Century love-life advice from King Charles II’s ‘Pimp-master General’

Live from 27 April 2012 at

Tips for royal mistresses; SYPHILIS!!! - spot the tell-tale signs; Make-up tips for women AND men; How to avoid seduction by social climbing women; Sleeping with the King: when’s best for an ambitious woman?… and much more.

We are all familiar with agony aunts and problem pages but can you imagine what advice you would get from the 17th century ‘Pimp-master General’ of Charles II? Well, forget Dear Deidre, from 27 April 2012 you can find out on

Over the next eight weeks William Chiffinch, infamous for managing the King’s ‘backstairs intrigues’ and  known as the ‘Pimp-master General’, will be giving his no-nonsense 17th century responses, not only to the period's most scandalous character’s dilemmas, but to 21st century dilemmas submitted by the public. What would Chiffinch think about someone cheating on their other half, lusting after an older man or having an illegitimate child?

The 17th century problems will be in the style of a photo-casebook using the characters featured in Hampton Court Palace’s new temporary exhibition ‘The Wild, the Beautiful and the Damned’.  These include;

  • Nell Gwyn and Charles II: “I’m the King’s favourite mistress – but is this as good as it gets?” (Chiffinch: "… as royal mistress, it is not the King's mind you are supposed to stimulate")
  • Samuel Pepys: “The Young Bucks at Court get the pick of the girls – does success count for nothing?"
  • Carey Fraser:  “HELP! I tried too hard to follow fashion, now my suitor thinks I’m mad”

Tim Powell, Digital Media Manager at Historic Royal Palaces, says, “This was a uniquely extravagant period in British history. Making the right decisions could transport you from rags to riches, but a bad decision could ruin you. We want modern audiences to experience these moments of dilemma, using the familiar problem page format. We hope the public will recognise the universal human stories of love, sex, friendship and ambition – but be shocked at how different the 17th century advice is from that we’d offer today.

Notes for Editors:

For more information about Ask Chiffinch, requests to use the images, or any further enquiries, please contact Tim Powell in the Historic Royal Palaces digital media team on 07812 241 572 or at

William Chiffinch (c.1602–1691) was Charles II’s Page and Keeper of the Closet, a role in which he became one of the King’s closest and most trusted servants – and yielded great power and influence. He became “the King’s confidential go-between in every kind of backstairs intrigue” (David Allen) who was even nicknamed the “Pimpmaster General” by the satirists for his role in granting access (or not) to the King’s mistresses.

The Wild, the Beautiful and the Damned

A new temporary exhibition at Hampton Court Palace telling the story of beauty, debauchery and decadent art in the Restoration Court, running from 5 April to 30 September 2012.

The exhibition explores the meaning of beauty, and the lives and loves of the courtesans and libertines who lived and died in the Stuart Court during the reigns of Charles II, James II, William III & Mary II and Anne (1660-1714).

At the heart of the exhibition are portraits of Charles II’s principal mistresses, including Nell Gwyn and Barbara Villiers, brought together at the palace for the first time. Also on display are the resident ‘beautiful women’ of the Royal Court: Peter Lely’s ‘Windsor Beauties’ and Godfrey Kneller’s ‘Hampton Court Beauties’, joined by other Royal Collection paintings, rarely seen portraits from private and public collections, and exquisite fashion accessories.

Historic Royal Palaces

Historic Royal Palaces is the independent charity that looks after the Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, the Banqueting House, Kensington Palace and Kew Palace.  We help everyone explore the story of how monarchs and people have shaped society, in some of the greatest palaces ever built.

We receive no funding from the Government or the Crown, so we depend on the support of our visitors, members, donors, volunteers and sponsors.
These palaces are owned by The Queen on behalf of the nation, and we manage them for the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport.

We believe in four principles.  Guardianship: giving these palaces a future as long and valuable as their past. Discovery: encouraging people to make links with their own lives and today’s world.  Showmanship: doing everything with panache. Independence: having our own point of view and finding new ways to do our work.     

Registered charity number 1068852


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