Although I was asked to write about five things not commonly known about Georgian England, I have decided to narrow it down to five obscure facts you probably didn’t realize were true from THE DEVIL DEVERE SERIES.
#1 The Otaheitian Feast of Venus
FACT: Charlotte Hayes was one of the leading brothel keepers of her day and her establishment at King’s Place was one of the premier pleasure houses. In the twilight of her long career Mrs. Hayes did indeed sponsor such an event in which three and twenty guest comprising “the first of nobility in addition to some baronets and but five commoners.” The formal invitations read:
Mrs. Hayes presents her most respectful compliments to Lord —
and takes liberty to acquaint him that tomorrow evening precisely at seven, a dozen beautiful nymphs, unsullied and untainted, and who breath health and nature will perform he celebrated rites of Venus, as practiced at Otaheite, under the instruction and tuition of Queen Oberea in which character Mrs. Hayes will appear on this occasion.
In A WILD NIGHT’S BRIDE, DeVere accepts this invitation thinking it the ideal opportunity to bring his grieving and celibate best friend Ned back to “the land of the living.”
#2 The Prince of Wales’ affair with actress Mary Robinson
18-year-oldPrince George (later Georve IV) truly did have an affair with actress Mary Robinson after seeing her perform as Perdita. According to Mary Robinson’s memoirs:
The prince offered Mary a bond of 20,000 pounds (to be paid upon his majority) after which she became his mistress. The affair lasted for about a year but the bond was never paid. Abandoned by her lover with no provision and with her reputation in tatters, Mary threatened to publish his love letters. Wishing to avoid a scandal, the king himself offered her a quiet settlement to the tune of about 5,000 pounds. The deal was negotiated by her then lover, Charles James Fox. This bit of gossip is exchanged between Phoebe and Peg, the Covent Garden wardrobe mistress, in A WILD NIGHT’S BRIDE.
#3 Prinny’s (later George IV) habit of collecting locks of hair from all of his lovers.
Throughout his life, George IV had many mistresses, and is said to have cut a lock of hair from each one, placing it in an envelope with her name on it. Supporting the rumor, an astonishing 1000 such envelopes were discovered upon his death. In A WILD NIGHT’S BRIDE, Phoebe holds the dubious distinction of having donated the first lock of hair.
#4 General John Burgoyne as a popular playwright
Although Burgoyne was a career soldier and politician, had he not played a prominent role in the American War of Independence, Burgoyne would most likely be remembered today as a leading Georgian dramatist.
Best known for his role in the American War of Independence in which he suffered defeat at Saratoga, he was never truly enamored of either politics or the military. Referred to by his contemporaries as “Gentleman Johnny,” he was very much a man of fashion who enjoyed the theatre world. Upon his retirement he wrote a number of plays.The most notable were The Maid of the Oaks (1783) and The Heiressand may have co-authored The Camp with Richard Brinsley Sheridan, as well as writing the libretti for William Jackson’s only successful opera, The Lord of the Manor. He also wrote a highly successful version of Richard Coeur de Lion for the Drury Lane Theatre. In THE VIRGIN HUNTRESS Lord DeVere offers Vesta and Diana his box at the Drury Lane for a performance of Burgoyne’s Maid of The Oaks.
#5 The ignoble Baron Baltimore
The story of Frederick Calvert, 6th Baron Baltimore as relayed by DeVere in THE DEVIL YOU KNOW, is largely factual. Baltimore was a profligate nobleman whose life was rife with scandal. He indeed travelled to the east and acquired a private harem. He was suspected of murdering his wife, although never formally accused. He was indeed tried for the abduction and rape of a young Quaker woman named Sarah Woodcock, who kept a milliner’s shop at Tower Hill. Although acquitted, the scandal forced him to go abroad where he died in Italy at the age of 39.