Tuesday, October 04, 2005

She Works Hard For The Money

Put the word "sex" into the title of a book, put a Rubenesque nude onto the cover and subtitle it: "500 years of adultery, power, rivalry and revenge and you're sure to have a bestseller on your hands. Sex with Kings is not for the serious historian- or even the sex afficianado. It is, however, a highly amusing, lighthearted romp into the world of mistresses. Well European mistresses actually. Naturally, the French come out tops in all of this with the English coming in a respectable second place. The Germanic states manage alright but Southern Europe gets a right drubbing. If Ms Herman is to be believed (and that is a tough call) then the Spaniards and Italians spent several centuries producing dour, rosary clutching princesses who were invariably married into the royal houses of Europe and therefore, effectively begged the Kings in question to take mistresses.
This is a gossipy account of history and I'm not sure Ms Herman has quite the right credentials for it - she was a publisher for a NATO related journal in a previous incarnation. Nevertheless, her slightly shaky rendition of history is not without its moments. You don't even have to read the book (just see the pictures) to learn that you do not have to be beautiful to be a mistress. That role model of mistressdom- Madame Pompadour- looks positively dumpy. Clearly looks were not of prime importance in being selected as a mistress. Apparently, the women in question had minds-or at the very least the ability to keep their monarch's minds engaged and away from the dreariness of running a kingdom. We also learn that many of the women were not sex godesses. Madame Pompadour was actually frigid. Her successor, Madame Dubarry, was an accomplished prostitute, so perhaps she made up for this deficiency.
In order to qualify as a vaguely succesful royal mistress, one would have to have the ability to communicate and sympathise with one's monarch. Camilla Parker-Bowles'success may have stemmed from her having a sympathetic ear for Charles (avec a gin and tonic) while Diana was puking down toilet bowls. The French "regularised" the role of the mistress- she had a title, a stipend, royal apartments and a role to play - from the usual patroness of the arts to (in some cases) a role in the cabinet or even on the battlefield. The job description isn't quite as laid back (pun intended) as it may seem. There was a fair amount of work involved in all of this though not without its rewards. Mistresses were rewarded with jewels and estates, though some fared pretty badly. Lola Montez (the mistress of Mad King Ludwig of Bavaria) escaped but forgot to take her goodie bag with her. The Brits seemed to have had a penchant for performers-Nell Gwynn, Lillie Langtry- who generally got a raw deal.
In many cases, mistresses arrived with husbands who had to be given jobs, which kept them as far away from the royal court as possible. Others arrived with children and then produced more "bastards" given the general state of contraception. It seems about as far away from the sordid Lewinski world we live in today. Camilla, perhaps, is the last classic mistress in the true sense of the world. And her great great grandmother (Alice Keppel) was also a royal mistress. The French-as always-got the last word. President Mitterand kept a mistress for the longest and produced a daughter while he was at it. And there was no great mystery to it either. The French just thought it was too boring to make an issue out of it- while the Americans rabbited on about some dodgy stains on a blue dress. Sex with Kings is recommended for any wannabe mistresses- I'm waiting for the definitive frothy history of gigolos now.


Blogger say what? said...

I guess if the author tried to include the Asian Kings, the list of mistresses would know no bounds.

Camela parker story, haa .. finally the mistress blood shows. :D

Male whores might be very rare, I wonder what gossip might emerge there :D

11:15 am  
Anonymous EvilBunnie said...

its funny.....or strange moreover...how some mistresses choose to keep working in underpaid conditions....or still choose to entertain without renumeration at all.

1:56 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hehe. funny. do blog about the gigolo bit... will pick it up if one ever writes it...

10:08 am  

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