Above painting: Louis Jean Francois - Mars and Venus an Allegory of Peace
***All photos accompanying posts are either owned by the author of said post or are in the public domain -- NOT the property of History Undressed. If you'd like to obtain permission to use a picture from a post, please contact the author of the post.***

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Tudor Fun Facts


Ready for some fun facts about the Tudors?



  • Elizabeth of York (mother of Henry VIII) had the good fortune to be the most royal English queen of all queen’s. How so? She was daughter to the King of England (Edward IV), sister to the King of England (Edward V), neice to the King of England (Richard III), wife to the King of England (Henry VII), and mother to the King of England (Henry VIII). It’s no wonder Henry didn’t want anyone to think he was only king by marrying her.

  • Before marrying Edmund Tudor at the age of 12, Margaret Beaufort, aged 7 married John de la Pole, the son of her guardian William de la Pole. The union was later dissolved when Henry VI deemed she should marry his half brother Edmund.

  • Despite being married four times (the first of which was never consummated) Margaret Beaufort only had one pregnancy and one child, Henry VII, who she bore at the tender age of 13.
    Prince Arthur was named after King Arthur of Camelot.
    To listen to a clip of Anne Boleyn’s song “Oh Death Rock Me Asleepe,” which she supposedly wrote while in the Tower of London, visit: http://www.nellgavin.com/boleyn_links/ODeath.htm

  • Despite the fact that Henry VIII was having Anne Boleyn executed, he did decide not to have her burnt at the stake, and instead of an axe allowed her to die by a sword, which she was also allowed to choose her own executioner.

  • Anyone who disobeyed the commands of Henry VIII was arrested for treason and executed…supposedly he executed 72,000 people during his reign. Yikes!

  • Henry VIII’s nickname was Sir Loyal Heart, which he came up with early in his marriage to Catherine of Aragon after she gave birth to their son who only lived a short time. He toted the name in tournaments.

  • Henry VIII was somewhat of a hypochondriac and extremely scared of contracting disease.

  • Henry’s waist went from a lean 32 inches in his prime to 54 inches at his death…He was weighing in at over 300 pounds.

  • In her late teens Mary I, was sent to attend her half sister, infant Elizabeth in her household.

  • Mary I did not want to execute Lady Jane Grey (nine days queen) and in fact refused to do so for about 7 months until her council pressed her hand.

  • Even though she never got married, Elizabeth I did have 26 different marriage proposals to consider (some were repeat offenders :)

If you love the Tudors and want to learn more about this epic dynasty, I am teaching a workshop beginning May 4th. The workshop runs for one month. Visit www.elizaknight.com/workshops.aspx to register.


Cheers!


Eliza

Seduced by Medieval Castles

Today I'm blogging at Seduced by History on medieval castles. Come on by to visit!

Here's a sneak peak...

Castles in medieval times varied greatly from large wooden forts to magnificent stone structures. Earlier castles were built up on large man-made hills called mottes. Surrounding the motte was a bailey, which is like a courtyard. Atop the motte was the castle or better known as a keep, which was fenced in. Surrounding the bailey would be a wall or fence, and sometimes a castle could have more than one bailey, an upper bailey and a lower bailey or inner/outer. Inside the bailey were huts for the people, stables, a chapel, blacksmith, tanner, etc…All the things that will keep the people within the castle thriving—especially if they were caught in a siege. The bailey could be surrounded by a mote and a drawbridge could be raised or lowered to allow entry.
To read more, click here.
Cheers!

Eliza

Monday, April 27, 2009

Guest Bloggger: Nancy Badger on Highland Games, Then and Now

Today we have a special guest author, Nancy Badger! Nancy Lee Badger is a member of RWA, Sisters-In-Crime, and Celtic Hearts. She is PRO Liaison for HCRW in Raleigh, NC. She and her husband, Richard, are long-time volunteers for NHHG, headquartered in Concord, NH. They are lifetime members of the St. Andrew’s Society of NH, and now live near family in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Here is the caption for the picture to the left: A visitor to the NH Highland Games dresses in ancient garb in contrast to this author’s son, Army Reserve Spc. Eric Badger, who chose to wear a modern kilt in the U. S. Army camo material. These men represent the highland games, then and now.

Modern Day highland games have a short history here in the United States and I have been fortunate enough to attend several over the last twenty or so years. I am also proud to be a long-time volunteer at the annual New Hampshire Highland Games, even though my husband and I moved from New Hampshire to North Carolina. We still go back each fall to help. It takes hundreds of volunteers to pull off a multi-day event attended by over 40,000 people!

The modern games incorporate so much more than athletic competition. People assume this is what is meant by the term ‘games’. They are so much more. Historically, the games came into being as a way to hone skills and build a sense of community when upheaval scarred the country. Scotland came under duress when it became illegal to bear weapons or wear ‘the plaid’ of one’s clan. Many of the athletic events require skill, stamina, or down-right determination to carry out. The use of simple tools such as stones, hammers, and even the occasion sack of hay, morphed into tremendous feats of prowess.

Take the sheaf toss, one of my favorites. Using a pitchfork, participants try to throw a sixteen pound sack of straw over a bar for height. Considering the bar gets raised again and again to well over their heads, this isn’t as easy as it looks.

The heavy hammer event introduces us to kilt-clad muscle men swinging a twenty-two pound sledge hammer around their heads while their feet stay put before giving it a gut-wrenching toss for distance. Ouch!

The most popular event is the caber toss where men, and a few women, attempt to throw a telephone pole end over end to have it fall as close to twelve o’clock on the ground as possible. They must balance it on their shoulder then run forward. Easy you say? Cabers are typically eighteen to twenty feet in length and weight over one-hundred-thirty pounds!

The kilted mile, generally open to all ages, is a popular event and some believe it came into being when clan members ran to prove the fastest, who was then chosen as the clan’s messenger during tribal wars. The only requirement during the modern day equivalent? The participant MUST wear a kilt. To see a six year old boy running his heart out in a kilt well below his knees tugs at your heart…until the men arrive. Honestly, there is something about a man in a kilt, especially when he tosses away his shirt and lets his long hair loose to fly free behind him and…oops, getting off-track.

What do the other athletic events have to do with the past? Well,

I’ve been told the hammer has the richest early history, being once called ‘casting the bar’ or ‘putting the stone’. All of the heavy events were the object of periodic royal bans as they might encourage the practice of military skills. It has been said Edward II (reigned 1307-1327) and Henry VIII (1509-1547) considered the events to be promoted as being essential training, so thinking changed now and then.

The Braemar games are said to have been derived from the contests introduced by King Malcolm Canmore in 1040 A.D. These events included a hill race, but it is uncertain whether heavy events were included. In twelfth century London, which may have influenced the nearby Scots, open spaces were provided so that the populace could practice "leaping, wrestling, casting of the stone, and playing with the ball". Unfortunately, 'The Scots Laws and Acts' of 1572 banned many sports, which were said to interfere with church attendance and archery practice.

Also, the Act of Proscription in 1746 outlawed Scottish customs, including gatherings and dress. Yes, the colorful tartans seen predominately displayed at modern games were outlawed. Happily, the act was appealed in 1782, and so began the revival of the highland games.

In 1822, things improved immensely for the games when King George IV strutted about in Edinburgh dressed in Scottish garb. This event started a fad for all things Scottish, and many of the things regarded as ‘traditional' at modern day Scottish games date from this period, including the vast majority of tartan patterns.

The wearing of kilts, kilt hose, sporrans, billowing ‘ghillie’ shirts, tams, and more (or less, if most men have their way) have become tradition. With a wool kilt made to order and costing upwards of six-hundred dollars, they are worn with pride and ceremony. My husband, Richard, looks sexy in his ‘Gunn’ tartan and will soon strut around in a new kilt, currently being hand-made in Scotland in the ‘MacBean’ colors, thanks to his wife (me!) buying a raffle ticket at a fund-raiser.

Many states, and Canadian provinces, host highland games and all are family-friendly with programs for children. Scottish dress is never required, nor do you have to be of Scottish descent. Any author contemplating writing a Scottish Historical ought to look into attending one to get the flavor and romantic vibes emanating from every clan tent, dance performance, and rock concert. Young men sporting leather vests and sassy kilts playing bagpipes and guitars? Heavenly!

Not to be missed, but that’s my opinion.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Guest Author Marjorie Gilbert on The Making of an Empire Gown

Today on History Undressed, we have a special guest author, Marjorie Gilbert who is going to take us through the making of an empire gown!

Without further ado...

Because I am a fan of Jane Austen, I thought I would be a fun project to make an Empire gown using Janet Arnold’s book Patterns of Fashion 2: Englishwomen's Dresses and Their Construction, C. 1660 – 1860. I had already made a Spenser from the book that was from the same era, so I thought the project would be fairly easy.

Here’s picture of the gown as it appears in the book:

Here’s the pattern: a line drawing on graph paper in which every square equals an inch.
For some reason the words, circa 1798 to 1805, did not have the proper resonance they should have. The first time I made the gown, I followed the pattern exactly, making the pattern pieces that same size as drawn. And, when I tried on the bodice, I found that it was far too small. In fact, I could not move my arms, rather like the Randy in the Christmas Story.

I had to make the bodice bigger. But here’s the thing: I’m not a trained costumer, and I’ve never sized up patterns for myself. I’ve only worked with patterns someone else has kindly sized for me, like the nice people at Simplicity, McCalls, or Folkwear. This was challenging, to say the least.

My second go-round was better, in that the bodice was bigger. However, the bodice didn’t fit properly and concealed rather revealed. Well, half concealed and half revealed—in any case it was embarrassing.

Here’s the three stages of the patterns. As you can see, the bodice back grows larger and larger along the bottom of the picture.

The third time around I decided to take no chances, and made a mock-up of the back, sizing up the pattern each time until I got it right.
Once I got that down, I began putting together the bodice.
I added the sleeves,















and added the skirt.

One of the big issues was trying to choose the fabric for the bodice. In the book, the fabric is described as having purple fluer de lise on a white ground. The closest I could find was slate flowers on an off-white ground. I tried to disguise the off-whiteness by edging the bodice piece with blue edging. That backfired. The fact that I misread the pattern and made the edging an inch wide did not help either. I managed to create something that resembled the black bars one sees on COPS when someone has forgotten his or her clothing. Dramatic? Yes. Period? Well...
Oh, yeah. I made two of them because, well, I plead the fifth.

My second choice was far better: an off-white jacquard pattern on a white ground.


The final result, three tries later? Well, judge for yourself…

My next project? Make a chemise and petticoat to go along with the Regency stays I made to go with the dress…but not yet…

Marjorie Gilbert is author of The Return, a novel set in Georgian England.
Check out her website at www.marjoriegilbert.net.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Medical History and Actual Oddities with Tammy Strickland

Today I'd like to welcome Tammy Strickland to History Undressed! Here is a little info about today's guest blogger...

Being the quintessential Gemini, writing multiple genres wasn’t so much of a conscious choice as it was a necessity to be able to carry on conversations with dozens of brain dwellers (characters) at the same time without a 72 hour lock up.

An Emergency Department nurse for 19 years, Nurse of the Year 2005, Top 100 Nurses in the US in 2006, and comic relief extraordinaire has given me a huge range of interests.


RWA member since 2002, PRO -2004, President of Central Florida Romance Writers 2005 and 2006. Currently a member of the critique group aptly named “The Nuts of the Roundtable.”


Get ready for Tammy Strickland to tantalize our minds with medical history and actual oddities. Enjoy!

Historical Medical Practices

In 1809...

* Dr. Ephraim McDowell removed a 22 lb. ovarian tumor at the time physicians beliebed injections of castile soap were the appropriate treatment for ovarian cancer.

* Emetics (purgatives) were recommended to clear breast cancer

* Benjamin Rush believed in "Enlightenment" a philosophy of Natural Law stating that the body is a machine and all diseases were caused by the overstimulation of the nerves and blood.

* Treatment for such maladies were to restore balance. Patients were bled, blistered, purged. These were called "heroic" medicines and sometimes the patient actually survived.


  • Venesection - cutting open vein to drain
  • Scarification - series of small cuts on arms, legs, back, wherever, to allow "poisons" to escape.
  • Cupping - warmed glass applied over a cut - worked by filling the glass as pressure dropped.
  • Blistering - hot plasters applied to skin to raise blisters then drain them.
  • Purgatives - Calomel most common - made from murcuruc chloride; in a small amount an effective laxative; in a large amount a purgative.

* France was leading the technology race by studying pathophysiology vs. treatment and temperature/pulse.

In 1819...

*Daniel Drake started the State Medical College of Ohio

In 1837...

* Sylvester Graham (of Graham Cracker fame) wrote the first book on the benefits of health foods.

In 1838...

*Graham also felt you could recognize a person who masturbated by certain tell-tale signs- they were usually, shy, suspicious, unconcerned with hygiene, jaundiced and had acne. He stated they would grow up with a body full of disease and a mind full of ruins.

* John Kellogg (of cereal fame) founded a "Wellness Clinic." He was obsessed with bowels. His clinic was an enema machine to run 15 gallons of water through in seconds. Then the patient recieved one pint of yogurt-1/2 to eat and 1/2 by enema to replace the "happy" flora of the bowel.

*Kellogg also professed that circumcision for boys and pure carbolic acid treatments for girls was the only way to cure them of sexual thoughts. For those who were not cleared of impure thoughts and found themselves in the family way - the advised methods of ridding pregnancy were to jump from a table; roll on the floor; take abortificients or use blunt instruments.

In 1840...

* United States abolished physician licensing stating anyone was free to practice healing-the business was so profitable that the government placed a war tax to raise funds for civil war (By 1859 -$3.5 million business & by 1904 $74.5 million in business)

*Sears catalogue sold a morphine laced mixture intended to be slipped into the husband's coffee in order to keep him home at night. Those women were the first addicts.

*Patent medicine could be ordered through the mail; importated through Europe and sold by postmasters, goldsmiths, grocers and tailors.

*Secret Nostrums and Systems were published-the first recipe book for do it yourself patent meds.

*Temperence followers wanted theirs with alcohol. Most were laced with cocaine, caffiene, opium, morphine.

*Florence Nightingale thought washing your hands was a good thing. Set up Nurses Corp. only accepting nurses who were over thirty years old and of plain appearance.

In 1844...

*Goodyear/Hancock Company produces vulcanized rubber condoms. Not widely recieved.

In 1851...

* Dorthea Dix became superintendent of US Nursing Corp. Took knowledge to the trenches of civil war.

In 1861...

*First advertisment for condoms in American paper for, "Dr. Power's French Preventatives"

In 1862...

* Evacuation system initiated to remove wounded from battlefield. Periodic "breaks" were called to clear the field. Then they resumed fighting like civilized people.

*Dr. William Hammond proposed that during the War two died from disease for every one dying from wounds (560,000 to 200,000). Field surgeons had no anesthesia - they waited for patients to go into shock when heart rate highest they amputate. Studied gangrene and use of bromine to wounds.

In 1872...

*American Public Health Association founded - developed "Germ Theory" that all disease could be contagious.

* Also during the Civil War-mass production of condoms- old method was to use section of "sheep gut" soaked, turned inside out, macerated in alkaline solution, scraped, exposed to brimstone vapors, rewashed, blown up, dried out, cut and for aesthetics they were given a colored ribbon. The user had to soak them for suppleness.

In 1873...

*Just when we thought we were making breakthroughs - Dr. Robert Battery professes that removing the ovaries would cure insanity in women.

* The law of continence by John Cowan states that married couples should have sex only every two years to procreate and then on a sunny August or September day when the sun's electricity correlates to the parent's electricity.

Medications and Everyday Household Items:

* Acentine- derived form the plant monkshood relieves arthritic pain but when ingested paralyzes the body organs until the patient dies of heart failure.

* Atropine-used widely in hospitals and emergency settings. Derived from Deadly Nightshade plant. When ingested causes headaches, hallucinations, coma, and death. Also found in the medication Lomotil (for diarrhea)

* Thallium- readily found in the body and in nature. Used thousands of times daily for cardio-stress tests. This tasteless medication dissolves in water and replaces potassium in the cells and nerves. Great poison as it dissipates easily and is widely used.

* Ricin- made from castor oil seeds. Considered to be one of the highest biological warfare weapons available today. Has an enormous effect due to its ease of dilution into water and air streams. Ricin is 500 times more powerful than cyanide and anyone in possession of even minute amounts is considered high alert on the Homeland Security list and usually arrested for Federal Charges.

*Willow Bark- once chewed on for headaches and tooth aches, is now known as Aspirin.


* Foxglove- plant responsible for natural digitalis. Heart medication.

* Crocus plant- although the consumption of the plant is more often deadly than not, the medication derived from it is great for gout relief. Colchicine.


* Mud Baths- while mud is a soothing property, check your sources. Only partake in sterile mud. Non-sterile mud is most likely from someone’s back yard and comes with all the organisms therein. Clostridium, Ghiardia (not the chocolate), and most often really lusty ringworms. Trust me when I say that there are places that you should remain sacred from ringworm.

* Kola Marque- French stimulant made from cocaine.


* 4% Cocaine still used in hospitals to control epitasis (fancy term for nosebleeds)

* 1873 Lydia Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound was first introduced. Treatment for “female weaknesses” became so popular for its curative properties it was soon the cure all for nearly everything. Some believe it was due to the huge percentage of alcohol.

* Leeches- found in your local swimming hole. Used throughout history for draining an inflamed area of blood to reduce swelling and bruising. Still used today. **Leeches are used where epinephrine is prohibited. In medicine we have a saying about epinephrine. Never use on fingers, toes, penis, nose. **

* Black Cohosh plant is a great pain reliever

* Black Pepper, Spider webs, or Spanish moss are fantastic blood staunchers.

* Nutmeg- during Victorian times, nutmeg was made into a tea for its hallucinogenic properties.


* Cloves are a natural impotence remedy.


* Mescal, or peyote is a cactus from the southern US. Native Americans use it to enhance communication with their spirits.

* Rhubarb in 1800’s was prescribed for the purging of hypochondriac constitutions, but its real intention was to expel worms.

* Celery and pineapple will enhance the taste of seminal fluids, whereas broccoli will cause a bitter taste.


* Black lights found in the kid’s rooms are cool for many reasons-one is to detect the presence of sperm. Shines Day-Glo under fluorescence.


* Maggots are great for wound care. They are placed on the poorly circulating tissue, allowed to eat to their little gluttonous heart’s content and when they morph into flies they are released and they wound is in better shape to heal.

Crime Scene Evidence

* Body temperature falls roughly 1.5 to 2 degrees per hour for the 1st 12 hours.

* When the body isn’t found right away, flies lay eggs on the flesh. The eggs hatch around 14 hours-maggots. Maggots transform in 3 stages and are considered full grown in 10-12 days. Great evidence for timing a death.


* RigorMortis- the stiffness of death


* Livor Mortis- the bruising of death.


* Death from an injury high on the cervical spine will most often leave the body with a priaprism (erection) due to the sympathetic/parasympathetic tone loss. Dr. Martin Luther King was shot high in the neck.

Terms

* Pythogenesis- term for diseases believed to spontaneously generate from filth.

* Piloerections- goosebumps


* Blepharospasms- eye twitches


* Sphygmomanometer- blood Pressure apparatus


* Trepannning- holes drilled in the skull of a live person to relieve evil spirits

* Humors- Earlier medicine practitioners believed keeping the 4 humors in balance would relieve all illness. Blood, Phlegm, Yellow Bile, Black Bile.


* Cupping- a piece of lint was caught fire, placed in a metal cup, cup placed onto wound, sore area, etc. As lint burned out, the oxygen removed from the cup created a vacuum and pulled the area into the cup in an attempt to remove pus, whatever. Usually just caused horrible blisters.


* Bloodletting- opening a vein and draining 1 to whatever amount of blood from a person. George Washington was said to have died from falling from his horse, from a sore throat, from many things. It is most likely he died from the 9 pints of blood that were drained form him in less than 24 hours. The norm then was 1-4 pints per letting. Today the blood bank standards are around 1 pint per 120 days.


* 1547- Ambroise Pare introduced the idea that suturing wounds would kill less infantry men than the cauterizing of the freshly amputated limb with iron pokers fresh from the fire.

* 1847- Ignaz Semmelweiss taught his students to wash their hands in order to reduce infections. He was forced to resign his job in Vienna for spouting nonsensical ideas


* Insipidus versus Mellitus in diabetics- until as recent as 25 years ago it was standard practice for the physician to taste the urine of his patient to see if it was sweet or plain. Different treatments for sweet diabetics than non-sweet. Now known as Type I, Type II.


* Persons of violent passions in 1817 were prescribed to be ‘thrown in a cold bath headlong over and over again until calm or weak.”


* 1780- “When the neck is dislocated, the patient is immediately deprived of all sense and motion. To reduce this dislocation the head must be pulled with considerable force, gently twisting at the same time. Afterward, the patient should be bled and rest in bed for some days.”

* “Intense Thinking and inactivity never fail to weaken the powers of digestion.”


* 1916 Margaret Sanger opened the first US birth control clinic. She spent a month in prison for her crime.


* Medieval Europe- the church frowned on bathing as it was ‘perceived to be a bodily pleasure.”


* 1700’s Benjamin Franklin introduced the idea of “air bathing” by sitting naked in front of a open window.


* 1792- King Hammurabi wrote his infamous ‘Code of Hammurabi’ in it details 17 rules and guidelines of punishment for when a doctor’s treatments failed to work.


* During the days of Piracy, the oft written code for maiming was: One’s right arm being their sword arm received 600 pieces of eight. Left arm or either leg earned 500 pieces of eight. One eye garnered 100 pieces of eight.

* 1871- During the Siege of Paris- the town’s citizens resorted to eating the zoo animals when their stores ran out.

The Inventive minds of Rednecks, Naturalists, The people who make duct tape, and those in serious need of therapy.

* Rustoleum spray paint can lids are not to be used as Redneck diaphragms.


* Duct tape will seal any wound, anywhere.

* Icy Hot gels are good for topical application. Strongly recommend not using it as a sexual lubricant.


* When your child gets a bead stuck in one side of his nose. Save yourself a ton of money and frustration. Waft some pepper under his nose. One violent sneeze will save you a trip to the ER.

* Use caution when camping not to use honey scented lotions on your feet. Rats are known to love honey flavored toes.


* When your dear hubby has a fish hook caught in himself. Use a pair of wire snips. Snip off the barb end, pull it back through the entry hole and slap some antibiotic ointment on it.


* When travelling greater the 1 hour before dinner, you can cook your dinner while on the road. Get a heavy aluminum pie tin; slice carrots, potatoes, onions and layer them on the bottom. Pat out a hamburger relatively thin and of a size to cover the vegetables. Cover well with foil, place and secure on to of the engine. Drive until meat done. Tasty!


* When your best brew pot of coffee has excess grounds in it. Wait ‘til they settle to the bottom then slowly crack an egg into the coffee. The egg will settle to the bottom and attach to most of the grounds. Pour away.

* Maalox, Head and Shoulders/ Selsun Blue shampoos are fantastic for healing and preventing bedsores.


* Regular toothpaste, just a smidge on a zit and cover with a band aid. Gone ASAP.

References available upon request.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Life of a Courtesan

What do you think of when you hear the term courtesan? I picture a room filled with red satin and lace. Plush pillows, a lush bed with curtains, dimly lit candles, and woman who knows all the ways to pleasure a man, and not just physically but mentally as well.

The term originated around 1540, and meant literally a woman of the court. Why? Because a courtesan is a glorified prostitute, a paramour to the royal, noble and wealthy men of society. She is much more educated and charming that a typical light-skirt walking the streets. Think of her as the European equivalent of a Japanese Geisha. She charges high dollar, and may have one sugar-daddy, ie, she’s the mistress to one man who houses her, clothes her, be-jewels her, and in return she provides him with companionship—at the same time she may be entertaining other men. A courtesan may even accompany a man to a social function, taking the place of his wife.

By the mid 18th century, courtesans were accepted on some level in society, but prior to this they were persecuted heavily at times. They could be accused of witchcraft, back-stab each other to get ahead, which happens at all times, but earlier on this could result in imprisonment and execution. Power struggles are something that will happen in any time period, but the repercussions are something that change drastically. In the 19th century it wasn’t unlikely to hear a courtesan’s name dragged through the gutter and then her lover’s name following it, tarnishing his reputation—and publicly humiliating her.

You must know that there is a difference between a mistress and a courtesan—and that is love. Courtesan sold herself, body and mind, as a career. A mistress gave away her love, and often had children with her lover. Now that’s not to say a courtesan couldn’t become a mistress, but then she wouldn’t be a courtesan anymore.

A courtesan could seduce a man with her mind, her charms, and knew all the latest techniques in bed—sometimes being bold enough to use toys.
Commonly a courtesan would go from one lover to the next. The most famous of courtesans came from France and were known as the demi-monde. However, they weren’t necessary born in France. France was much more open about women and sex, than anywhere else. When a courtesan came to England, it was a huge scandal. Of course most of them men were excited about it, and even some women were excited to learn some new techniques to entice their own men, or wanted to become a courtesan themselves.

So how does one get started as a courtesan? There were so many ways… The women came from all walks of life. Some grew up poor, and headed for a town where they learned to sell themselves—not just sex, but themselves. Others were actresses, who continued to perform both on stage and off. Widows, divorcees, women of the upper classes, you name it.

She may start as an assistant or companion to another courtesan, learning the ways of the trade, or she could simply start out as a mistress to a wealthy man, and then moved on. But for most women they realized what they could gain by being a courtesan—freedom. She was free to make her own decisions and not reliant on a husband to tell her what to do. Sure her clients might make demands, but if it became too much she wiped him from her list.

A very successful courtesan could be disgustingly rich—and some even gambled all their money away, or simply lived beyond their means. Because they were so wealthy and had mounds upon mounds of jewels, they often had a body guard or more than one to protect them and their possessions.

A courtesan would have her own suite of apartments or a grand house that she entertained in. And she wouldn’t just entertain clients—she would hold grand parties too.

When she began to reach an age where she was no longer a beautiful sight to see, some women still maintained a high volume of clientele, because they were intelligent and engaging. Others didn’t have so much luck and withered into the background. If she didn’t save any money, or had no family to look after her, she would often fall to dire straights, dying poor and sick. Some died in opulence, and even more so ended their careers by getting married.

You will find that some of the famous courtesans of the day wrote memoirs, here’s a list that I enjoyed reading:

*Harriette Wilson’s Memoirs: The Greatest Courtesan of her Age

*The Memoirs of Cora Pearl: The Erotic Reminiscences of a Flamboyant 19th Century Courtesan

For more famous courtesans, I lead you to one of my favorite blogs, Scandalous Women, written by Elizabeth Kerri Mahon. She is an amazing and talented writer!

Here are a few of my favorite articles she’s written:

Cora Pearl

Mata Hari Part 1 & Part 2






Who are your favorites?

Monday, April 6, 2009

Museums Collaborate on Creative Spaces!

As you know I am a huge history fan--so when I recieved an email about a new site called Creative Spaces, which collaborated with 9 British Museums to put their collections online, I was all over it!

Here's a list of the museums: The Royal Armouries, The V&A, The Imperial War Museum, British Museum, Tate, National Portrait Gallery, Natural History Museum, Sir John Soane’s Museum and The Wallace Collection.

Its a great way to see some amazing pieces. One of my favorite parts about it is the site allows you to search all the collections at once, tag and store items in notebooks and groups, and upload your own images, videos and notes to share creative inspiration with others.

Visit http://vna.nmolp.org/creativespaces/ to start your tour! There is a search box at the top, so for instance, I wanted to check out gowns. I typed in gowns and up popped tons of beautiful historical gowns complete with descriptions! I did the same thing for medieval furniture, it was amazing.

Let me know what you think!