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In mesmerising, graphic detail Sara Slater, a tour guide at Hampton Court Palace, took us on a jolly romp with her tales of Sex, Secrets, Scandal & Salacious Gossip of the Royal Court from 1660-1830. After the downfall of Cromwell and the restoration of the monarchy, the upper classes and the aristocracy celebrated in ways which made the 1920s and 1960s appear tame. Charles II, known as the Merry Monarch because of his hedonism, led the way. He acknowledged 13 of his lovers (Nell Gwyn being the most famous), but there were many more and many illegitimate children. We heard the shocking tale (true?) of one of his lovers, Barbara Villiers, having an intimate encounter with a 250 year old mummified corpse discovered after the Fire of London. William and Mary both had lovers and Lady Churchill was thought to be Queen Anne’s long term lover. Other monarchs, including George I, and William IV also had lovers. In the 18th century Harris’ List gave ‘Descriptions of Ladies of Pleasure’ around Covent Garden. (In 1791 it sold 8,000 copies!) In 1811 The Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue was published; Sara gave us some fine examples! She went on to tell us how in the past people tried to prevent pregnancy (e.g. French letters made from sheep guts or bladders), to terminate a pregnancy (e.g. drinking the urine of a stallion), how ladies wearing long ball gowns went to the toilet (was that antique gravy boat you use really used for gravy?), and what women did before underwear or sanitary pads were invented (I’m not telling!). There was so much more, including learning what ladies wore, from the skin outward. It was an unforgettable coffee morning! Report by Karen Mahony
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