Who was the first British woman actor?

MARGARET HUGHES c1645 – 1719

More famous as the mistress of Prince Rupert, Margaret Hughes is credited with being the first British female professional actor.

Aged thirty she played Desdemona in the King’s Company production of Othello at the Vere Street theatre in London.

As the Prince’s mistress Margaret gained considerable status and her portrait was painted four times by the renowned Peter Lely.

She appeared in several plays written by dramatists of the day including The Rover by Aphra Benn where Margaret played the part of Valeria.

Margaret lived a wealthy, lavish lifestyle throughout the whole of her relationship with Prince Rupert with whom she had a daughter, Ruperta.

However after the death of the Prince her income dried up and she was forced to start selling off many of the possessions that had been given to her including jewels and property.

Photo credit: Hunter Kahn, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons