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Elizabeth Cresswell c. Starting with houses in Bartholomew Close, in the City of London and St Leonard's, Shoreditch , she built a widespread network of brothels across London, supplied with girls and women from across England.
Her employees included the wives of soldiers pressed into service for Charles II and gentlewomen who had supported the Cavalier cause during the English Civil War and had since fallen on hard times.
Her bawdy houses were favoured by King Charles and his court as well as powerful figures in government and city guilds. This position gave her a measure of immunity from prosecution and added to her profile as a caricature of iniquity and corruption. During the Bawdy House Riots of , apprentices smashed up brothels across London, including those belonging to Cresswell. She is listed as one the addressers of the satirical Whores' Petition , sent to Lady Castlemaine , the King's courtesan.
The letter requests help for the "sister" prostitutes who have had their livelihoods destroyed, asking that the brothels be rebuilt with money from the national tax coffers. Supporter of the prominent Whig , anti-Catholic, and anti-Carolean Thomas Player , Cresswell financed his political campaigns.
In her final years she was attacked by both Protestants and Catholics: by Protestants for providing the royal court with whores, and by Catholics for financing Player's political rebellion. Cresswell occupied a rare position in seventeenth-century England, as a person of common birth who rose to a position of high status as an independently wealthy, unmarried woman running a substantial business enterprise.