Royal Mistresses part 1 of 3


"In the sixteenth through the eighteenth centuries, the position of royal mistress was almost as official as that of prime minister (5)." The position of royal mistress was so accepted, that even Frederick III appointed an official royal mistress-whom he never touched. Spain, however, did things differently at the time. Spain's royal mistress had no official position. Plus, with the king being "one step away from God," women were sent to a convent after sleeping with the Spanish king.

"It was reported that Philip IV of Spain (1605-165) chased
a young woman through his palace and hurled himself at the door
she had bared against him, commanding her to let him in. The
sobbing girl cried, "No, no Sire! I don't want to be a nun." (8)

Common non-bedroom duties of the royal mistresses included patronizing the arts and entertaining the king. Even some mistresses whose physical relationship with the king had ended kept their position due to their various skills such as diplomacy, entertainment or companionship.

A royal mistress was most often a well-born and titled lady at court, and most often married. Indeed, it was considered scandalous for an unmarried woman to have a child. If the king was interested in an unmarried woman, he would often marry her to a husband who would look the other way.

The royal mistress was expected to keep up appearances, wearing gowns that outshone even the queen's. Many royal mistresses were left in debt by the end of the month as a result of the gowns, servants, carriages, etc, they were expected to have.

Titles were often given to royal mistresses, but some kings waited until after their mistress was dead to grant titles (so they could have a splendid funeral). The royal mistress was often rewarded with titles, property and jewelry, but she could be removed from her position and have her property and jewels taken at the king's whim. There could only be one official royal mistress at a time and the king's fancies changed.

While the royal mistress was frequently treated better than the Queen, her position was far less stable. For many kings, the queen's treatment of his royal mistress determined his treatment of the queen. The king chose the queen's living quarters, her ladies in waiting, her activities and her allowance. The court, after all, took its cue from the king- if the king snubbed his queen for the royal mistress, so would the court. If the king insulted his queen, so would the court. It was wise to at least tolerate the royal mistress. Some queens even made allies of the royal mistress causing the mistress to ask the king to treat his wife better.

But just as the king's treatment of his queen varied, the king's treatment of his royal mistress varied. Some mistresses were allowed to receive foreign dignitaries, while other were forbidden to dabble in politics-even forbidden from granting titles to their family (a common practice of the time). The king could marry off his illegitimate children by his mistress to profitable marriages, or he could refuse to give them titles at all. The position of the royal mistress was as varied as it was interesting.

Lola Montez (1786-1868)

After the French Revolution, while royal mistresses still existed, their positions were not nearly as powerful as their predecessors, and the public was not as tolerant of excesses.

Lola was very fiery-carrying knives and pistols and threatening to hurt herself if she didn't get her way. She horsewhipped gentleman who she felt insulted by, as well as slapped and hit shop owners and passers-by for the same reason.

Lola was a dancer born in Ireland, raised in India, married and divorced in England who claimed to be French. When Ludwig convinced Lola to stay in Bulgaria, the public grew nervous that their king would be influenced politically by her. Ludwig showered Lola with jewels. While Ludwig made his Queen wear old dresses, Lola would show up to the opera in a 13,000 florin dress and diamond tiara.

Ludwig forced Lola's Bulgarian citizenship through. In 1847 he forced Parliament to make Lola, a countess,but his entire cabinet resigned and Queen Therese shunned those who "received" Lola. Yet, Lola's new title allowed her to drive a carriage with a nine-pointed crown on it.

The public avoided Lola, suspicious of her influence and shocked by her behavior. In the street, boys threw manure at her and people yelled insults. This behavior inspired a volunteer group of student bodyguards called the Alemannia, distinguishable by their red caps. Lola threw wild parties for her Alemannia, but the other students disliked the Alemannia-leaving lectures en mass when they arrived.

When Ludwig heard of the disturbances, he closed the university for a semester, prompting riots which Lola participated in until she was recognized and pelted with manure. When she took refuge in a church, she was thrown out, but escaped to the palace. The next day, the hundreds-strong mob had stormed and trashed police headquarters prompting the city commandant to promise that Lola would be out of the city in one hour.

When Lola, from her balcony, dared the gathered crowd to kill her, her coachman and a lieutenant forced her into her carriage and fled. Ironically, Lola was in a plain dress, without jewels or cloak.

Lola started more riots when she snuck back to see Ludwig disguised as a man. Ludwig abdicated his throne during the riots, but stayed in Bulgaria because his son plead with him not to flee. If Ludwig would have fled, it might have cost his son's claim to the throne.

Ludwig tried for two years to be reunited with Lola, but was prevented. Lola went to America where she made both a dancing, acting and lecturing career as a former royal mistress. She married twice and settled in California. "She raised a bear in her backyard, invested in a mine, and was known to tour the mine shafts chomping on a cigar. . . Lola was known for her charitable works and, surprisingly, Bible study (229)." She donated $300 to a charity for reformed prostitutes upon her death and lived a quiet life at the end.

An older and much more life-battered Ludwig wrote a poem about Lola:

Through you I lost the crown
But I do not rage against you for that
For you were born to be my misfortune
You were such a blinding, scorching light!

Source: "Sex With Kings" by Eleanor Herman (a very interesting book).


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

ahhhh it's good to be the King...

satire and theology said...

Interesting history and pictures.

odd facts said...

anonymous: Definitely a different time and culture

coopernicus: However, it is usually not very good to be anyone around the king

satire and theology: Thank you