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Victorian mistresses

Madame PompadourMadam Pompadour, we all know her name, she’s the famous or infamous mistress of Louis XIV the Sun King. Royal mistresses were popular, nearly every monarch had one. They were installed in lavish apartments with every amenity of their time available. This phenomenon of mistresses treated as near queens was exclusive to the royals for a long time.

 And then the Victorian Era came about.

 By now, maintaining a mistress was no longer limited to royals or aristocrats. It’d trickled down to the middle class, becoming a more common occurrence for a gentleman to go home to his family in the afternoon and have an evening’s tryst with his mistress across town in a small, well maintained flat.

 Many things once reserved for the upper class became commonplace to the middle class, and even to some extent, the lower classes. While brothels and street walkers were always around, to many, having one woman as a mistress became more civilized.

 Whether they were mistresses of a gentleman with means, or lesser means, they did have their own household to maintain. Oftentimes, they had children to go with it. In many novels you  hear of illegitimate children being sent to the country, it was also quite common for the mistresses to be kept in the country as well—sent to pasture so to speak, or keeping her away from the wife, or even so 2100521994_3ec3ed1a82they could raise their children.

 It was also common for them to be abandoned by the men in their lives, forcing them to seek out another protector. If they could not find another, they came to an awful end. However, less frequently, married their paramour if the wife passed—through real or induced means. 😉

 It was very rare for a man to divorce his wife in favor of a mistress, but it did happen. And not just in romance novels! But the most common, long-term arrangements were where the man lived with his wife and maintained his mistress until he died.

 We romance readers (and writers!) don’t want to read about the hero having an affair. Still, it was a sad fact of the time; then and now.

On an aside, tomorrow Thursday, June 25 the last in my Druids series, Temptations and Treachery will be released! Lady Isadore Harrington finally gets her own story. Check out my blog for an excerpt.

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8 Comments

  1. Skhye says:

    Great post! Dare I say things really haven’t changed. Or did I study primatology too much? LOL Best of luck with that new release tomorrow. Since I write about Druids, I’m off to check it out. 😉 ~Skhye

  2. Interesting post, Isabel! And of course you’re right, what romance reader wants to read about a hero who keeps another woman on the side?

    Congratulations on your latest release!! I’ll be by to check out that excerpt.

  3. Isabel Roman says:

    Primatology? I love it, Skhye! You writer Druids, too? Must check out your stuff. I hope you enjoyed the excerpt.

    Susan, I agree! No one wants to read about that. 🙂

  4. Seems like mistresses are still getting men in trouble as we’ve seen with a lot of politicians lately. Maybe they should come up with a male form of chastity belt that is connected to their zipper. Look how many careers have been ruined because of the loose zipper. Always tragic when the innocent children are hurt as badly as they’ve been over the years. My great grandfather was the bastard child of a king….

  5. Michelle says:

    So, were aristocratic women also allowed to keep, ah, manstresses? Male Mistresses? Misters?

    I’d heard stories, but ya know, ya hear stories.

  6. Isabel Roman says:

    I always wondered what the male would be called, too. I couldn’t come up with anything that made sense, either. But I do object to the man allowed to have a woman with a specific name and the woman can’t! Double standards.

  7. Emily says:

    Madame du Pompadour was Louis XV’s mistress, not Louis XIV’s. She didn’t just enjoy the luxuries of court life, she was highly involved in both court and European politics at the time, much to the displeasure of the king’s ministers. A lot of illegal literature was circulated round France at the time to discredit her name – not because she slept with the king, but because she came from a common background, and had so much political influence.

  8. Flamenco says:

    As for the several posts here referring to a ladies ‘right’ to a male version of a mistress, please remember that amongst the upper classes in 18 and 19th century Europe–indeed, to this day–being married means that both married partners enjoy a form of social ‘flexibility’ that would be impossible if unmarried; read, being ‘alone and unmarried with someone of the opposite sex’ was considered ‘compromising.’ Classic case in point? Jenny Jerome, American, who became Lady Randolph Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough, mother of Winston. Married to a difficult man, she had many discreet lovers among the aristocracy. We, in America, do adultery very badly. We’ve so much to learn. Our Jenny Jerome did us proud. Sigh!.

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