If the King hadn’t already met Nell at Madam Ross’s house, then there’s little doubt that she would have caught his eye crying oranges below the stage. Flushed with the attentions of the gallants, she must have presented an enticing spectacle. According to the anonymous ‘Memoirs of the Life of Eleanor Gwin’ (1752): 'no sooner had she appeared in the Pit and behind the Scenes with her Oranges, than the Eyes of the Players, and those sparkish Gentlemen who frequent the Theatres were fixed upon her, all anxious to the Story and Birth of the handsome Orange Wench.’ And she in turn must have gazed across the green baize benches of masked ladies and their witty suitors to where the King sat with his auburn-haired mistress, confident that there was everything to play for.
But what would those sparkish gentlemen who frequented the theatres have actually seen when they fixed their eyes upon the delightful orange wench with her back to the stage. She was undoubtedly small and fine-boned (with the smallest and prettiest foot in the country), but with a full figure and the confidence to make it show. According to Dryden’s description of her as Florimel, she had an oval face, clear skin, dark eyes and thick brown eyebrows that contrasted beautifully with her warm, bronze-red hair, which was streaked with gold. Biographer Arthur Dasent, who considers this contrast as 'perhaps the greatest beauty of her face,’ claims that it is a feature 'seldom or never found in those of plebeian birth.’ Her cheeks were dimpled when she laughed and her face alive with mischief. Her portraits too reveal something more profound in those large, melting eyes: the melancholy of the jester.
— Nell Gwynn: A Biography // Charles Beauclerk