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The Underpants Revolution and other stories from the past...
July 3, 2013 8:33 AM   Subscribe

"Whereas yesterday's Cora Pearl was eccentric, charming and a little cold-hearted, today's Victorian courtesan, La Païva, is straight-up eerie. Like, so eerie that a lot of people thought she was a vampire. My hand to Baby Jesus, people actually believed she was a supernatural being. " Bizarre Victoria shares (what else) bizarre, scandalous, and noteworthy stories form the Victorian era (and more). What do you serve at a country club for fat men? Devil's footprints! Lola Montez: servant whipper, de facto ruler of Bavaria. Empress Sissi and her No Good Very Bad Life. Aristocratic marriage at gunpoint. Public pubic hair trimming. Specialties of the Victorian Brothel. Curing hiccups by setting your shirt on fire. Gilded Age Arranged Marriages.
posted by The Whelk (8 comments total) 78 users marked this as a favorite

 
Curing hiccups by setting your shirt on fire.

Well, to be fair, that one does work, providing you give it sufficient time.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 8:56 AM on July 3, 2013


So I've only had time to read the first link but wow, that's entertainment: lurid, creepy, and a good dose of outrageous on the side. I think I'll be spending some quality time on that site.
posted by tuesdayschild at 8:57 AM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is all tons of fun! As a Habsburg history geek, though, I must correct a few of the inaccurate assertions on the Cray-Cray Empress Sisi page (mainly because the truth is still goofy enough in its own right).

1) Franz Joseph did not give her syphilis; he gave her gonorrhea (still no fun, but not as disastrous as syphilis), and it was probably earlier in their marriage than stated here. Syphilis was incurable in the 19th century, and there's no evidence that either Sisi or FJ were specifically treated for it or suffered the long-term physical effects that inevitably accompanied the disease.* (There's plenty of evidence in the archives that they were treated for gonorrhea, though.) FJ in particular was incredibly physically healthy and lived till 86.

2) Franz Joseph's affair with Katharina Schratt was in fact arranged by Sisi; she set them up (if memory serves, she commissioned a painting of Schratt, which was then presented to FJ as a gift...), because even though she couldn't stand to be around her husband or in Vienna, she still felt he should have a steady companion. (Letters between Schratt and FJ suggest that they never actually slept together.) All three of them were rather cozy friends, in fact, till Sisi died; Schratt's official title at court was "Reader to Her Majesty," which meant that she could openly drop by the palace when Sisi was in town, ostensibly to read Sisi some poetry or something, but really to go hang out with FJ. (Schratt and FJ had an elaborate protocol of "whoops, just bumping into each other" -- usually at dawn, because that's how he rolled, yo -- that they kept up for decades when Sisi wasn't around.)

*Fun veneral disease-related side notes: A) FJ and Sisi's son, Crown Prince Rudolf, also gave his wife, Crown Princess Stephanie (known variously as "the Belgian Camel" and "the Most Tactless Woman in Europe" by her in-laws) gonorrhea, and may have also contracted syphilis by the time of his suicide in 1889; B) Archduke Otto, the younger brother of Franz Ferdinand (known as "Handsome Otto" and "The Most Wicked Man in Europe," and actually FJ's preferred choice for Crown Prince after Rudolf's death) definitely had syphilis; before he became ill, he was known for several scandals, including appearing in the dining room of the Hotel Sacher naked except for white gloves and his saber, and for disrupting a funeral procession by jumping his horse over the coffin as a lark. By the time he died in 1906 (nursed by both his wife and his actress-mistress), the middle of his face had collapsed and he had to wear a leather nose in public.
posted by scody at 9:17 AM on July 3, 2013 [20 favorites]


Is it wrong or VERY VERY right that I immediately knew The Whelk had posted this before I even scrolled down?

Awesome.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 12:06 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's interesting - given the material, how could it not be? - but he's a little too cute for words.

I mean, referring to Guido Henckel von Donnersmarck as "Count Playboy Zygote von DollaMakeMeHolla" and "Count BadTasteMcGee Von StillRicherThanGod"? Not exactly Wildean wit, here. I'm hearing crickets. (And no illustrations? Here's what La Paiva looked like.)

(BTW, the Count in question is of great interest in his own right. Financier, industrialist, second richest man after the Krupps, he was also responsible for founding the Fürst Donnersmarck-Foundation in 1916, so give him a few points for that. For the less high minded, here's a little bauble he got for his second wife.

Oh, and one of his descendents is Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, he of The Lives of Others.)
posted by IndigoJones at 12:32 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Gotta love entreprenurial spirit! Henriette Wilson and Blackmail was fabulous.
posted by NorthernAutumn at 3:26 PM on July 3, 2013


Thank you for posting this! I have a very great love for our Victorian forebears. They are so much more interesting and diverse than they're usually given credit for.
posted by andraste at 3:40 PM on July 3, 2013


And down the rabbit hole I go. Dammit Whelk, I was supposed to be updating my resume and looking for work....
posted by ninazer0 at 4:55 PM on July 3, 2013


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