Saturday, September 02, 2006
Faithless Mistress: Victorian Human Rights Symbol
Times were changing during the Victorian era for nearly every echelon of Society. Although formal mistresses were historically prominent in their roles, due in large part to the experiences of Ludwig I of Bavaria and Lola Montez, Victorian mistresses began to be tucked away, discreetly. In previous centuries they had ruled the proverbial roost, if only temporarily, but jittery Aristocracy decided to care for public opinions.
In 1847, in exchange for her role as royal mistress, Lola Montez was created the Countess of Landsfeld and awarded trappings provided by the State, which unsettled the highly religious and penny-conscious German citizenry. But King Ludgwig was in love, and had been duped into believing his mistress was true to him and somehow deserving of a gift of rank.
The German people cried out against Lola, not because of her low background as a dancer from Ireland - the fact of which had gathered a fan club from a University about her that chose to view her as a symbol of human rights worth rioting over – but rather, the people railed against paying for yet one more monarchical affaire. Unlike the King, the populace knew Lola for a selfish and manipulative woman. Ludwig abdicated for her, but discovered during the process that she was unfaithful on many accounts. As a result, she was exiled and left for America.
Lola made an historic splash as a notorious celebrity. Despite the ill omen of breaking a monarch’s heart and of being exiled after only sixteen months as mistress, Lola arrived in America heralded by newspapers and awaited by throngs. She had reached celebrity status across an ocean for her reputation as an adventuress. Living eventually in the Gold Country and dancing for a living for miners and investors, alike, she was retired to a quaint cottage in Grass Valley, California. Lola was known for her famous and sensual Spider Dance that wooed many a fresh admirer. A nicely pictorial sight about Lola is http://www.zpub.com/sf/history/lola.html.
Since Society was still holding its cumulative breath as the final results of the French Revolution were decided, despite a number of belatedly exonerated members of Aristocracy returning to the top, when the People decidedly objected to supporting mistresses through the State coffers, members of Society began to bow out. Notably, Queen Victoria’s son kept his mistresses more circumspect, as a result. Society’s gentlemen followed suit. Gone, it seemed, were the days when the most prestigious and prominent parties were hosted by a blueblood’s latest mistress, dressed to the Nines and intentionally outshining all other women and wives in the room. A useful book for comparative anecdotal passages about royal mistresses is Sex with Kings, by Eleanor Herman, ISBN #0060585440.
Once considered an indispensable accessory for centuries, men who could afford the trappings of a mistress during Victoria’s reign were less inclined to flaunt them over their wives. The more clever of men unwilling to give up mistresses were engaging financial planners for them to develop income sources that weren’t out of sacrosanct coffers or traceable from their own ledgers.