As a would-be actress and woman of the world in her late twenties, “divine-looking” Hannah Hill Chaplin fascinated her most ardent and worshipful admirer—wide-eyed, six year-old Charlie--by portraying riveting scenes from the lives of Napoleon and Josephine
and those of Nell Gwyn
and Charles II.
The painting (above) of Nell Gwyn with her out-of-wedlock child (the Duke of St. Albans) was once attributed to Sir Peter Lely. Chaplin remembered that an unidentified copy of a Nell Gwyn painting once hung in their living room when he was a small boy. Was it this graphic portrait?
In My Autobiography (1964), Chaplin recalled his childhood feelings of mild embarrassment concerning that prominently displayed life-sized portrait--which his formerly glamorous showgirl mother utilized as an informal back drop for her spontaneously improvised theatrical dramatizations of scenes from the bawdy Cockney actress’s life. (As Charles II’s royal mistress, Gwyn unabashedly described herself as “his majesty’s Protestant whore.”)