Portrait of Margaret Hughes

Portrait of Margaret Hughes

Margaret Hughes was one of England's first actresses, who appeared on the stage shortly after the Restoration of Charles II to the throne in 1660. A performance of The Moor of Venice (Othello) was given in December of that year in an indoor tennis court that had been converted into a theatre. Margaret Hughes is thought to have played the role of Desdemona, the first time that a woman rather than a boy actor had appeared in the part.

Samuel Pepys saw her in the same part in 1669. An actress's wages were not generous and many of the women looked for rich lovers for financial and social advancement (as well as for love of course). Margaret had an affair with an aristocrat called Sir Charles Sedley in the 1660s and a few years later she moved even further up the social scale when she became the mistress of Prince Rupert, a cousin of King Charles II.