In the little over a month that Lady B has so graciously opened her ballroom to us, the dear lady has shown remarkable forbearance. Between shameless (and nameless) flirts, incorrigible warriors, a near naked woman taking advantage of a near naked man, and even a veiled threat on Albert’s life, she’s shown her incredible sense of humor and breeding.
I simply hope that after today and Monday, she doesn’t decide that having a gaggle of authors (do authors come in gaggles?) is far too much trouble. You see, I’ve invited mistresses to her parlour.
It’s a bit of a surprise. Mistresses and courtesans have always held a particular fascination for me and after Lady B read about the fictional house of ill repute that I created, she wanted to know how I had any knowledge of the matter. I explained that I’d researched the subject quite extensively. Really, it’s very dense reading. So I’ve invited a few of the more intriguing mistresses from history that represent the wide variety of mistresses and courtesans.
Presenting, my guests for Monday:
The Celebrated Mistress:
A lady has not truly arrived until she has been immortalized by an artist whether in paint, marble or print. Sir Joshua Reynolds found Kitty Fisher a perfect subject for their art, but one woman’s charm, beauty and air of tragedy inspired not only visual art, but also a book, an opera, and several movies: Marie Duplessis.
The Political Mistress:
In France, the role of Mistress to the King was so accepted that there was even a position. Several brilliant ladies held the place of Chief Mistress over the centuries, influencing their respective monarchs and gaining enemies along the way. But one of these women was known for her scheming as well, for her willingness to go to any lengths to get her way: Françoise Athénaïs de Rochechouart de Mortemart, marquise of Montespan, mistress to King Louis XIV of France.
The Literary Mistress:
These women were the epitome of the phrase “write what you know.” And while such famous courtesans as Harriette Wilson and Cora Pearl traded on their conquests by publishing their memoirs, one mistress wrote a roman á clef of her affair out of revenge. Falling slightly more into the lover than mistress camp, nonetheless Marie d’Agoult had been mistress to that rock star of the 19th century, Franz Liszt, for four years before he left her for another. She penned Nelida several years later.
The Virtuous Mistress:
There is no one path from girlhood to mistress, but for some women that path is particularly arduous. Especially when the urgings of her peers run counter to the teachings of her faith. Marie Walewska caught the eye of the Napoleon Buonaparte and though she at first resisted, realized that perhaps in the privacy of the bedchamber she could influence him to spare her much abused homeland. In that respect she verges on being a political mistress as she lay back and thought of Poland.
Then, there is the––
Oh no! I have been informed that my fifth guest will unfortunately be detained. Perhaps one of our lovely visitors would be kind enough as to suggest a suitable replacement?