Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Hughes, Margaret

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HUGHES, MARGARET (d. 1719), actress and mistress to Princess Rupert, has contested with Mary Betterton the position of the earliest actress on the English stage, which in fact belongs to neither. As a member of the king's company playing at the Theatre Royal, subsequently Drury Lane, she was, in 1663, the first recorded representative of Desdemona. According to Downes (Roscius Anglicanus, p. 8) she was the original Theodosia in Dryden's `Evening's Love, or the Mock Astrologer,' 22 June 1668. She also played Panura in the `Island Princess' of Fletcher on its revival, 7 Jan. 1669. After this, time she disappears from the stage of the Theatre Royal, carried off presumably by Prince Rupert. Hamilton's words concerning this transaction are: 'Prince Rupert had found charms in the person of another player, called Hughes, who brought down and greatly subdued his natural fierceness' (Memoirs of Grammont, p. 269, ed. 1846). In 1676 she returned to the stage and joined the Duke's company, playing at Dorset Garden Cordelia in D'Urfey's 'Fond Husband,' licensed 15 June 1676; Octavia in Ravenscroft's `Wrangling Lovers,' licensed 25 Sept. 1676; Mrs. Monylove in 'Tom Essence, or the Modish Wife,' by Rawlins, licensed 4 Nov. 1676; Charmion (sic) in Sir Charles Sedley's 'Antony and Cleopatra,' licensed 24 April 1677; Valeria in Mrs. Behn's 'Rover, or the Banished Cavaliers,' licensed 2 July 1677; and Leonora in the `French Conjuror,' licensed 2 Aug. 1677. Prince Rupert bought for her in 1683 the fine seat near Hammersmith of Sir Nicholas Crisp [q. v.], subsequently occupied by Princess Caroline, who became the wife of George IV, and known as Brandenburg House. By the prince she had a daughter Ruperta, born 1673, who married Emanuel Scrope Howe [q.v.], died at Somerset House about 1740, and had a daughter, Sophia Howe, who was maid of honour to Caroline, princess of Wales. According to the burial registers of Lee in Kent, copied by Lysons, `Mrs. Margaret Hewes from Eltham' was buried there on 15 Oct. 1719. By his will, dated 1 Dec. 1682, Prince Rupert left all his goods, chattels, jewels, plate, furniture, &c., and all his rights, estates, &c., to William, earl of Craven, in trust for the use and behoof of 'Margaret Hewes and of Ruperta, my naturall daughter begotten on the bodie of the said Margaret Hewes, in equal moyeties' (Wills from Doctors' Commons, Camden Soc.) He also bade Ruperta be dutiful and obedient to her mother, and not dispose of herself in marriage without her consent and the advice of the Earl of Craven. In the scandalous `Letters from the Dead to the Living' of Tom Brown (1663-1704)[q.v.] and others `N[e]ll G[wy]n' arraigns `P[e]g H[ug]hes' for having wasted over cards and dice the money she received from Prince Rupert. In the answer, which, like the attack, is, of course, imaginary, the charge is admitted. In a book of accounts at Coombe Abbey is a document signed by Mrs. Hughes and Ruperta (see Warburton, Prince Rupert, iii. 558). An excellent portrait of Margaret Hughes, by Lely, is at Lord Jersey's house, Middleton Park, near Bicester, Oxfordshire, and a full-length of Ruperta by Kneller is at Lord Sandwich's house at Hinchinbrook, Huntingdonshire.

[Books and plays cited; Genest's Account of the English Stage; Downes's Roscius Anglicanus, ed. Waldron; Notes and Queries, 2nd ser. iii.7.]

J. K.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.162
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

Page Col. Line  
185 i 11 Hughes, Margaret: for Princess Rupert read Prince Rupert