For a couple of weeks I’ve been telling the tale of Harriette’s affair with the Marquis of Worcester, which I think was her pitch for a happy ending. But before I carry on, I’ll do the recap for anyone joining this series of posts today. Read on from the end of the italics if you’ve read them before.
In 1825 Harriette Wilson, a courtesan, published a series of stories as her memoirs in a British broad sheet paper. The Regency gentleman’s clubs were a buzz, waiting to see the next names mentioned each week. While barriers had to be set up outside the shop of her publisher, Stockdale, to hold back the disapproving mob.
Harriette was born Harriette Debochet, she chose the name Harriette Wilson as her professional name, in the same way Emma Hart, who I’ve blogged about previously, had changed her name. Unlike Emma, it isn’t known why or when Harriette changed her name.
She was one of nine surviving children. Her father was a watchmaker and her mother a stocking repairer, and both were believed to be from illegitimate origin.
Three of Harriette’s sisters also became courtesans. Amy, Fanny and Sophia (who I have written about before). So the tales I am about to begin in my blogs will include some elements from their lives too.
For a start you’ll need to understand the world of the 19th Century Courtesan. It was all about show and not just about sex. The idle rich of the upper class aspired to spending time in the company of courtesans, it was fashionable, the thing to do.
You were envied if you were linked to one of the most popular courtesans or you discovered a new unknown beauty to be admired by others.
Courtesans were also part of the competitive nature of the regency period too, gambling was a large element of the life of the idle rich and courtesans were won and lost and bartered and fought for.
So courtesans obviously aspired to be one of the most popular, and to achieve it they learnt how to play music, read widely, so they could debate, and tried to shine in personality too. They wanted to be a favoured ’original’.
The eccentric and outspoken was admired by gentlemen who liked to consort with boxers and jockeys, and coachmen, so courtesans did not aim for placid but were quite happy to insult and mock men who courted them, and demand money for any small favour.
When Harriette, wakes in her new love nest, it’s to hear her sister Sophia’s future husband, calling on her and Lord Worcester, inviting them to dine with him, so that Sophia will come to dine.
Then Lord Worcester presents Harriette with a very fine horse, and an equally fine side-saddle, which he claims he will keep in his dressing room so no one else might use it, and when they are out riding, they meet Colonel Palmer, a former acquaintance of Harriette’s, who invites her to dine with the Marquis of Worcester at the mess. Then hints that the Marquis’s Colonel is not happy with Lord Worcester for missing the parade.
‘I shall scold you,’ he says to Harriette. ‘If this happens again.’
When they return Lord Worcester, will not allow his groom to help Harriette dismount, and tells him to desist, insisting that he has the honour of holding his hand for her to place her foot in, even though Harriette deters him and says she would like him less with a muddy glove.
What I love about this part of Harriette’s memoirs, is that they gave me a really unusual insight into army life, or rather army life for the aristocracy. I am very sure it would not have been the same for lower ranks. But the 10th Hussars, that the Marquis of Worcester had joined, was a regiment known for taking in the aristocracy, and Lord Worcester was an heir to a Dukedom, so he had a lot of influence. Hence it being acceptable for him to keep a mistress while he was in training barracks, and why it was considered perfectly normal to invite that mistress to dine with the regiment. Something I would never have imagined without this evidence.
When Harriette describes her visit to the mess, she speaks of sitting down with thirty men, and her being the only woman. But she does also speak of Lord Worcester having been given a severe warning that morning for not attending the parade, and Colonel Palmer urges her to encourage Lord Worcester to attend. She claims she does encourage him, but again the next day he misses the parade, and this time, is arrested, and has his sword taken away from him ( a fairly minor reprimand really). But Harriette intercedes, and arranges for Lord Worcester to have his sword back, making a bargain to accompany him to the parade ground so he will attend.
I know, really you couldn’t make it up.
So from then on, every morning, both Harriette and Lord Worcester rise by eight, ride to the parade ground, and she breakfasts in his barrack room while he is on parade. She describes herself as a ‘young recruit’ and of course at the time, military style riding habits were the fashion, so hers was blue with gold frogging and with it she wore a military style cap. She talks of watching the parade through the window of Lord Worcester’s barrack room, ‘reviewing the troops’ and states she likes watching them being taught their sword exercise most.
This is just one of the odd little stories from her time with the Marquis of Worcester… But I’ll save the rest for next week.
Jane Lark is a writer of authentic, passionate and emotional love stories.
See the side bar for details of Jane’s books, and Jane’s website www.janelark.co.uk to learn more about Jane. Or click ‘like’ on Jane’s Facebook page to see photo’s and learn historical facts from the Georgian, Regency and Victorian eras, which Jane publishes there. You can also follow Jane on twitter at @janelark