MARGARET BLAGGE WAS fourteen when her widowed mother arranged for her pretty youngest daughter to become a maid of honour to the Duchess of York. For the next seven years Margaret lived at court, serving first the Earl of Clarendon's daughter, and then Queen Catherine. Immersion in a world in which religion came perilously close to theatre and the worship of female beauty was paramount was testing for a pious girl. She found herself thrust into an unremitting life of public display, where the only comfort lay in the companionship with other girls in the same situation. Samuel Pevys described meeting the Duke of YO& entourage in carefree mood in the 1 spring of 1669 at the Treasurer's house in Deptford ('the ladies and all are of a gang'), as they camped out in the unfurnished house. Characteristically, John Evelyn was more impressed by Margaret's seemly I behaviour at church. H; wife, M~G, Margaret Blagge: amongst her first impressions of the seventeen-year-old, noted the 'extraordinary Charmes, marks of Vertue, & Discretion in her Conversation'.
It was three years later that the intense spiritual friendship between Evelyn and Margaret developed, after she had approached him for financial advice and he found himself, in his role as a Commissioner for the Sick and Wounded during the Dutch wars, spending long weeks at court in London.