Mrs Pack: The Milking of a Monarchy: Edinburgh Fringe 2022

I have a bit of an obsession with women who fulfilled important roles in history but whose stories have been lost to us over time. And this week I learned about one woman from Stuart England who saved the heir to the throne. She is featured in a new musical which will be performed at the Edinburgh Fringe this summer. 

Mrs Pack is a real historical figure, although you've probably never heard of her. She was a wet nurse to the ailing young son of Princess Anne, William Henry, born in July 1689. Soon after his birth he was made Duke of Gloucester. The story goes that the infant struggled to feed and so the royal family put a call out for wet nurses. Mrs Pack was noticed by the baby's father Prince George, waiting in  line with other hopeful women at Hampton Court. She was ushered in to attend on the young duke and fed the baby back to health. 

Roma Mother with Children, Cornelis Wisscher 1629-1658, Amsterdam.
The Met Museum, Public Domain

The fragility of the Stuart succession meant that all hopes for a Stuart heir to the throne were on this tiny baby that lay in Mrs Pack's arms, and the wet nurse that was able to give him nourishment was looked after and treated with respect. Suspicions began to circulate from jealous courtiers that she was gaining more influence with the royal family than her humble birth deserved. Mrs Pack lived to see William Henry reach the age of five before she died in 1694. The duke also died soon after, in 1700. His mother Anne would go on to become queen, but would struggle to produce an heir, meaning the end of the Stuart dynasty and the beginning of the Georgian one on her death in 1714. 

The new musical, which will be performed at the Edinburgh Fringe in August 2022, promises to show 'women at the heart of power, while ultimately powerless'. It's written by Nia Williams and directed by Katie Blackwell. Rhiannon Llewellyn plays the leading role of Mrs Pack, while her arch enemy at court is played by Olivia Baker. You can catch
Mrs Pack: The Milking of a Monarchy at the Edinburgh Fringe from 22-27 August 2022. Find more details here

You might also like: Sex and Sexuality in Stuart Britain: A Review, Health Tips from the 1600s and Charles II's Favourite Mistress.  

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