For most people in the Anglo-Saxon world at least, Danish history is a blank, perhaps filled in only by vague memories of Hamlet’s line “something is rotten in the state of Denmark”. I’m going to write about one of the most significant figures in 18th century Danish history and possibly one of the most intriguing political figures I have ever…
I sometimes find in my research that there is a wall that prevents us seeing the whole panorama of history stretching off into the distance. One of them is that of the English family, as shown by Victoria and Dickens, which were far from typical through time. Most English people had to wait for someone to die for them to get somewhere to live so could marry, so extended families were rare. This also explains why there was a population explosion after epidemics – cleared out the housing stock.
But there is another wall here – that of the discovery of the contraceptive pill, which for the first time liberated women from the constant danger of pregnancy. We assume that a marriage involves sex. Adultery, ie the breach of the marriage contract, is based on physical intimacy with another person. But there were marriages with no children. In my research…
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or, The Royal Stag
The king’s promiscuity was an affair of state. It made government vulnerable to abuse from the wrong kind of woman pushed on him by a court faction, with domestic or foreign policy agendas, a scenario as familiar to modern republics as autocracies of any time. He was very lucky to find the rational, loyal and responsible Madame de Pompadour, or rather, that she introduced herself to him.
Nattier, Portrait of Louis XV of France, 1745. Oil on canvas The Hermitage, St. Petersburg
He was known as the handsomest man at Versailles; he was also the most libidinous and depressed. Here, portrayed in the year he moved his new mistress Madame d’Étioles, into Versailles, he looks disconcertingly like a chubby Dan Stevens, but Ryan Gosling would be better casting to convey his enigmatic emotional isolation.
He needed but was not obsessed with sex; he spent far…
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A fascinating and funny snapshot of how certain marriages were conducted in mid-to late 18th century Lancashire, England. The article has extra interest for me as I believe the marriage denier Thomas Whitaker is an ancestor of mine!