Friday, October 16, 2020

Introduction to the Secret Lives of Royals, Aristocrats & Commoners

Potemkin & Catherine the Great
This will examine, through existing works, the lives of the men and women who were in a relationship with royal and noble persons throughout history.

Research of current Internet materials will focus on the following: 
  • Personal and Family Background: 
  • Spouse(s) and Children: 
  • Children and descendants and what became of them. 
  • Natural Offspring
  • Physical Appearance and Personal Qualities: 
  • Character or Persona: 
  • Why him or her? 
  • Achievements and Honours: 
  • Love Life: 
  • First Encounter: How they first met and when the sparks started. 
  • Benefits - What was the windfall to the lucky lover? 
  • Beneficiaries and Patronages: Who benefited from his/her relationship with the royal/noble and how. 
  • Keeping Appearances Up: Marrying off mistress or lover for appearance's sake.
  • Effects on Lovers' Family, Other People and Society - How royal or noble and his/her family affected by relationship. 
  • Affair's Development & Aftermath - Whatever happened to...? 
  • In addition, quotes from existing books and other materials available on the Internet will be featured here (with appropriate citations) which expound on the dynamic and impact of "royal favourites" on the individuals, families, friends and society of the men and women involved in the relationship. 
A lover's pledge.  
". . . Take me, lead me wherever you like. . . I will be no trouble to you.  I sleep all day, go to the theatre in the evenings and at night you can do with me whatever you please. . . . "  Marie Duplessis to Franz Liszt in The Book of Courtesans)

Royal mistresses in the Middle Ages 

"Most of the women who became royal. mistresses in the Middle Ages were form one of two backgrounds: either they were the wives or daughters of the lesser landowning class -- those who later came to be known as the country gentry -- or they were sprung form the civic bourgeoisie...." (Given-Wilson and Curteis, p. 13)

Varieties of royal favourites.

There are two varieties of royal favorites: the proud and the meek; those who plume themselves upon their shame, and those who blush at it. The haughty ones wear their dishonor like an emblem of victory. In their insatiable greed for wealth, influence, and pleasure, they grow drunken on the fumes of the incense which is burned at their feet, and proudly wave on high the sceptre of queen de la main gauche.

The meek variety are less preposterous in their acts and demands. They gladly shrink from publicity, and try to make excuses to themselves for being found in a situation of which they fully appreciate the degradation; and while they lack the necessary moral courage voluntarily to forego the profits of their position, they have not sufficient impudence to urge imperiously their claim to homage or adulation. Madame de Montespan, in the time of Louis XIV, was a perfect specimen of the haughty mistress. We must class among the meek and humble the first mistress of Louis XV, the Comtesse de Mailly." (The Women of the Court of Louis XV: 48)

Social acceptance

"The Zimmern Chronicle shows that keeping concubines was socially acceptable for unmarried noblemen in the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, and that most nobles (in contrast to the chronicler) had no objection to married men keeping concubines as long as they did not cause a public scandal. Little stigma attached to the concubines themselves, who were usually servants or other women of low social status. Once the liaison ended, they were able to marry men of their own social class, using as dowries the gifts of bequests they received from their noble lovers...." (Hurwich, 2006, p. 205) 

Courtesan's nebulous social position.

"Despite her wealth, elegance and cultured bearing, the courtesan occupied a nebulous position in society.  Her scandalous reputation and the threat to decency that she posed, prevented admittance into respectable, elite circles, yet her lovers were invariably drawn from this class.  Indeed, as Peakman has noted, the successful courtesan often 'maintained a similar social status and lifestyle to that of her clients.'" (White, 2014, p. x

The 'value' of a mistress

In the 1700s, wealthy and powerful men kept wives for appearances and mistresses for amusement. Society tolerated, even expected, such arrangements as long as the men were discreet. A mistress was an amusing plaything, a creature to be cosseted as long as she distracted her man from his cares and made him look good in the eyes of the world. The sexier the mistress, the more envious the man's friends. The man who sported a fair young temptress on his arm was demonstrating to his friends that he was a man of power and influence. She might wink at them, but she belonged to him. Mistresses who lost the bloom of youth or no longer excited the ardor of their gentlemen were often discarded---sometimes with small living allowances or parting presents, and sometimes without." (Billinghurst, 2004, pp. 58-59) 

Types of a ballerina's lovers:  
". . . It was generally thought that no self-respecting ballerina went with fewer than three lovers at a time---one for prestige, one for money, one for love. . . "  (Kelly, 2012, p.18

The heir and spare from the prince's spare lady (ies).

". . . While some Spanish noblemen had casual affairs with women of lower social status than their own, others practiced an unofficial form of polygamy that could enhance their masculinity, meet their sexual and emotional needs outside the restrictions of an arranged marriage, and often provide them with alternative families.  Noble mistresses could provide extra heirs or disrupt the inheritance process completely. . . . "  (Coolidge)

Maintaining the courtesan's image & her essential encouragements.

"The courtesan was also meticulous in presenting herself in public as an expensive and rarefied commodity, available exclusively to the select few who could afford her prices or the expense of taking her into protection.  Only the wealthiest of men were able to provide the essential accoutrements of a courtesan in high-keeping -- a lavish home complete with furnishings, servants and equipage, a box at the theatre, sumptuous clothes and jewels, and an almost limitless allowance."  (White, 2014, p. x)

The role of the favourite 

"The role of favorite was an unofficial position of a close friend or lover (thought not necessarily) with direct access to the ruler. The ruler bestowed positions, titles, and great wealth on the favorite to legitimize the favorite's access and official duties; the favorite's family benefited enormously...." (Catherine II & Cruse, 2005, p. lix)

Mistresses & royal favourites of the House of Stuart.

"The role of royal favourite was not unfamiliar to Esme for his aunt Helen had been a mistress of James V of Scotland by whom she had a son Adam. Another relative Agnes Stewart, a mistress of James IV of Scotland, later married Adam Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell, husband of Mary, Queen of Scots. Agnes's daughter Jean, Lady Fleming rounded off the family tradition by becoming mistress of Henri II, King of France. Esme's wife Catherine de Entragues was also connected to the French Royal Family via her sister-in-law, the beautiful MNarie de Touchet, one time mistress of Charles IX of France and mother by him of a bastard son, the Duc de Angouleme. Marie's legitimate daughter Catherine-Henriette also chose to follow in the mother's footsteps and went on to become the mistress of Henri IV of France.
" (Royal Sex: The Scandalous Love Lives of the British Royal Family)

The Katharina Schratt model of royal mistress.
"It is taken as axiomatic that 'Royal Favourite' is synonymous with 'Royal Mistress' and designates a woman fully prepared to exploit her position in furtherance of her ambitions and of material advantage. Here however we have a case almost if not wholly unique, that of a woman chosen by another woman to become the mistress of a great potentate at whose side she stood for a fateful spell of thirty years, one who never sought or was offered status, title, rank or distinction of any kind, one who without abating a jot of her own high spirits and joie de vivre, could prove herslef the devoted cmpanion, in health, sickness and old age, of an uncommonly dour and difficult ruler, the trusty repository of his State and domestic secrets, and a wise counsellor to all who sought her guidance and advice." (A Woman of Vienna: A Romantic Biography of Katharina Schratt)

A husband who bears the name, another who performs the duties.

" . . . 'Men look upon their wives' gallants as favorably as upon deputies that take the troublesome part of their business off their hands,' Lady Mary Wortley Montagu had written during the reign of Maria Theresa's father, 'though they have not the less to do, for they are generally deputies in another place themselves. In short, 'tis the established custom for every lady to have two husbands, one who bears the name, and another who performs the duties.' The extramarital liaisons were usually of long duration, and were sealed with agreements under whose terms the woman received a 'pension' from her lover. Without such a pension, and a lover, no woman could be regarded as genteel, Lady Mary noted; securing the pension was considered an essential part of the bargain. So well established were these arrangements that hostesses regularly invited both a woman's husband and her lover to dinner, seating her equitably between the," (Erickson, 2004, p. 29) 

Prostitute vs. Courtesan

" . . . The terms 'courtesan' and 'prostitute' were synonyms in the sixteenth century, but the term cortigiana is already found in Venetian diarists and chroniclers from the late fifteenth century on. The term was soon used to designate the various classes within prostitution: courtesan whore, courtesan by lamplight or candlelight, honest courtesan (cortigiana puttana, cortigiana de lume o da candela, cortigiana onesta), so that those who were called 'honest prostitutes' could be compared with prostitutes of the lowest caste. By the end of the eighteenth century, the two terms had become so distinct from one another that Tassini, Franco's first biographer, found it necessary to change the word meterice (prostitute) to cortigiana (courtesan) on the title page of the second edition of his work. Certainly, the distinction was based on the professionalism and lifestyle of the courtesan as well as on her acquired mastery of erotic poetics." (Robin, et. al., 2000, p. 153)

The Roman courtesan.
"Roman courtesans in many respects resembled the ladies of the Italian courts with whom the well-born young men who flocked to Rome looking for lucrative employment were familiar.  They were elegantly dressed, cultured, witty, musical -- and available. .   Courtesans. . . were one of the sights of Rome, speeding by in splendid coaches, riding prancing Spanish steeds or led by grooms on mules that were richly caparisoned and plumed. Their clothes were of the highest elegance and greatest luxury. they wore the finest perfumed underwear and dresses of silk, velvet, and the richest gold brocades.  Their accessories were showy: the rarest of furs, the most precious Venetian laces, gloves perfumed with Spanish jasmin or carnation, dazzling jewellry rings, bracelets, necklaces, earrings, and diadems.  They were attended by maidservants and pages and accompanied by throngs of admirers." (Pietro Bembo: Lover, Linguist, Cardinal:154-155)

From Marguerite Bellanger, mistress of Emperor Napoleon III.

"I'm not claiming I was the most chaste of women, but between the prostitute I've been made out to be . . . and the courtesan which I really was, the distance is great." (Mossman, 2009, p. 53)

The courtesan in the 19th century.

". . . The courtesan -- that diva of prostitution -- began to come into prominence in the 1840s during the reign of King Louis-Philippe, rising to even greater heights over the two decades during which Napoleon III exercised power. . . . "  (Mossman, 2009, p. 5)

Grandes Horizontales.
"Line the Baron de Rothschild, most men came accompanied by women, and also like the baron, their guests were not their wives.  Maxim's was a place of lavish pleasure, and no respectable society woman would be found inside.  Instead, the men brought courtesans, called grandes horizontales.  These were educated, witty, and beautiful women whose talents were worth a great price.  Their male patrons showered them with money and gifts, and the women were often dripping with furs and jewels. There were three especially well-known courtesans: La Belle Otero, Emilienne d'Alencon, and Liane de Pougy -- called 'Les Grandes' Trois.'  The three of them often competed for attention, and one night, in a plan to outshine Liane de Pougy, La Belle Otero arrived at Maxim's wearing her entire collection of jewelry and an evening gown cut so low as it could go.  Moments later, Liane de Pougy arrived wearing a chaste white gown and only a single diamond (she had been tipped off by a friend)---and behind her, her maid carried her entire jewelry collection piled on a velvet cushion." (Paris Walks: n.p.)

The Fashionable Impures.
" . . . For those among the 'Fashionable Impures' who won the favour of an affluent gentleman it meant a life of wealth, luxury and indulgence for as long as they held his favour.  To win carte blanche from a lover was the ultimate aim but the harsh reality for many of the women and girls selling themselves on the street was that it was about survival more than luxury or comfort."  (Georgette Heyer's Regency World:128)

And now for some statistics about the courtesan throng.
". . . Infessura inhis diary gave the number of courtesans in Rome in1490 as 6,800.  By 1524 the figure given by the Spaniard, Delecado, was an improbable 30,000, indicating the impression foreigners took away.  On the basis of the 1526-27 census it is thought that the number for the year was 4,900, a little less than one tenth of the population."  (Pietro Bembo: Lover, Linguist, Cardinal:155)

The dancers as courtesans or mistresses.
" . . . Many young women were unable to make their way simply as dancers in professional theaters, even with their elevated status---they were still paid less than men, of course---and so became courtesans and mistresses to high-paying aristocratic clients, which afforded them a life o fluxury. Most were able to choose their lovers, which gave them significant political and social power. Many were shrewd businesswomen who set aside money and provided futures for their own children and families, gladly taking money from the well-off who had far too much of it." (Weird Dance: Curious and Captivating Dance Trivia)

The French Courtesan.

Le Demimonde.
"The political upheaval of 1789 created a less rigidly stratified society than that of the ancien regime, a society in which birth and wealth no longer dictated access to power. Under Napoleon I and increasingly throughout the nineteenth century, a growing and affluent bourgeoisie claimed its right to the lifestyle and privileges formerly the prerogative of the elite. In this opportunistic culture of burgeoning capitalism and materialism, men and women were on the make. The social mobility, economic expansion, and, to a degree, the political uncertainty of nineteenth-century France gave birth to le demimonde.

"Coined by Alexandre Dumas fils in 1855 for the title of his play, Le Demimonde, the term 'demimonde' (literally, half-world) originally designated a class of fallen society women. But the definition came to be much broader, including all women of loose morals who lived at the edge of respectable society and, by extension, the men - royal, aristocratic, bourgeois, and bohemian - who frequented the ambiguous world. Although the demimonde certainly existed prior to the mid-nineteenth century, it was during the Second Empire (1852-197) and the early Third Republic (1870-1914), that it flourished and that its supreme type, the courtesan, achieved spectacular notoriety." (Demimonde @ Love to Know)

La Courtesan.
"In an age of limited career possibilities for women, the courtesan took maximum advantage of one of the oldest professions open to her. Prostitution was widespread in nineteenth-century Paris, but the courtesan was set apart from the anonymous streetwalker by virtue of the wealth and status of her protectors and her own celebrity and visibility on the social scene. In addition to their physical beauty and sexual attractiveness, the most successful courtesans were also personages. . . Accomplished in the arts of gallantry, courtesans were strong-willed and independent women as well as cultivated, entertaining and witty." (Demimonde @ Love to Know)

"A courtesan has been defined by Joanna Richardson as a woman who is "less than a mistress because she sells her love for material benefits [but] more than a prostitute because she chooses her lovers." Unlike even top-grade call girls of later times, courtesans were celebrities. They inhabited a kind of social and moral limbo. Marriage in the middle and upper classes was about property, not love or sex except for the procreation of heirs. So extramarital affairs were viewed with indulgence, albeit much more so for men than for women. Courtesans were respectable in the sense of having an accepted place and role in the monied classes while yet regarded as "fallen" and hence unsuitable for marriage. Even so, many did end up marrying, some into the upper class." (Encyclopedias, Almanacs, Transcripts and Maps)
Au cabaret (1887) by Emile Bernard
Au Cabaret
by Emile Bernard, 1887
Musee d'Orsay
The Guardian
Les Cocottes, Grisette & Lorette.
"The cocottes (literally, hens) and 'grand horizontals' of the latter half of the nineteenth and early twentieth century (sic) were the the culmination in an evolution of women of dubious character. The grisette (a reference to her gray work dress) of the First Empire (1804-1814) and Bourbon Restoration (1814-1830) was a tenderhearted, good-natured young woman, toiling in the fashion trades, who formed a relationship based on love and necessity - with a student, artist, or writer. The more venal lorette made her appearance during the July monarchy of the bourgeois king, Louis Philippe (1830-1848), a time of rapid growth and industrialization in France. In 1841, the French writer Nestor Roqueplan applied the name lorette to the kept women who inhabited the newly developed area in the ninth arrondissement, around the parish church, Notre-Dame-de-Lorette. Unlike the grisette, the lorette did nt work for a living; instead, she sold her favors and relied on liaisons (sometimes simultaneous) with men of substantial (though not lavish) means to support her.

"The ostentation lifestyle and moral corruption of the Second Empire produced la garde, as the group of about a dozen of the most flamboyant grandes cocottes was  was designated. In fact, the fete imperial, or imperial party, has been described both by those who lived through it as well as later historians as the heyday of the demimondaine." (Demimonde @ Love to Know)

Lifestyle of the grandes cocottes: "The grand cocottes had very eccentric, wealth lives. Although they moved between their own world and high society, they captivated the public as movie stars do today. They were iconically beautiful and those who appeared on stage received glowing reviews. Their love affairs were the talk of Paris and closely followed by the public. A grande cocotte was seen in all the most modern places. Although no bourgeois would have invited her to dine, bourgeois fashion and beauty often came directly from her." (Girls Guide to Paris)

Trophy companions to powerful men: "By 1900, Europe's female celebrities were les cocottes, Paris-based courtesans whose taste dictated fashion. Figures such as Mata Hari, la Belle Otero and Cleo de Merode were seen as ultimate Parisian women. But the work of these grandes horizontales was hardly all horizontal. They served as the trophy companions of powerful men, but also as hostesses and artistic muses. No place were these great beauties seen more frequently than at Maxim's. The historic restaurant, once their showplace, celebrates the women's rich lifestyle in its museum." (Girls Guide to Paris)


The Exotic Woman in Nineteenth-century British Fiction and Culture @ Google Books
Victorian Paris: Life in 19th Century Paris.