On this day 12 November 1687, Nell Gwyn died at Pall Mall, London aged 37.
According to Nell's horoscope which she had casted for herself, she was born February 2, 1651 at 6:00 AM, probably in Oxford. The year 1642 has been put forward in an account published in The New Monthly Magazine and Humorist. Although there are many other theories and nothing can be confirmed for sure. Nell was the youngest daughter of Helena Smith and an uknown father but possibly could be a Royalist army Captain named Thomas Gwyn.
Helena moved to London with her young daughters Nell and Rose. Neither of them was educated and couldn't even write their names. Helena was most likely a drunk who ran a bawdy house (brothel) in the city near Coal Yard Alley, Covent Garden. Nell and her sisters would pour drinks to customers and there is even some speculation that Nell worked as a child prostitute, which Peter Thomson, in the Oxford Illustrated History of Theatre, says it is "probable" but there is one second-hand source entry in Samuel Pepys' diary:
Here Mrs Pierce tells me [...] that Nelly and Beck Marshall, falling out the other day, the latter called the other my Lord Buckhurst's whore. Nell answered then, "I was but one man's whore, though I was brought up in a bawdy-house to fill strong waters to the guests; and you are a whore to three or four, though a Presbyter's praying daughter!" Though is she actually said that cannot be confirmed.
She also spent time selling oysters and cinders.
When the monarchy was restored under King Charles II, one of the first things he did was to reinstate live theatre, which was banned under Oliver Cromwell. He established the Theater Royal in Drury Lane run by Thomas Killigrew. As King, he often attended plays there. Charles allowed women to act women’s parts whereas in the past they were played by men. In 1662, Nell became the mistress of a man named Duncan. Their relationship lasted perhaps two years. He managed to secure Nell a job at the theatre in Drury Lane. She was allowed to "vend, utter and sell oranges, lemons, fruit, sweetmeats and all manner of fruiterers and confectioners wares," within the theatre. -> continued. ♡