I suppose it runs in families. The many and various lovers of Jane Digby was on display in March of 2010 with the death of Winston Churchill (great grandson). The great british biographer Mary S. Lovell has written a very engaging biography of Jane Digby, the lover of at least four husbands and several other lovers throughout Victorian England. We can glimpse a like of her in Pamela Harriman’s French disgrace as U.S. ambassador to France.
For those with a decent education, many can recall the significance of the word ‘courtesan’. Of course everything sounds lovely in French; courtesan is a very high class, wealthy women who remains unmarried so she can enjoy the access of powerful men. The morality of such an issue was never engaged throughout the realm of Monarchs. It can like anything else decline into a hypocrisy bordering tyranny. It also has many uses throughout military and diplomatic history.
Metternich developed extensive use of courtesans throughout the Congress of Vienna. This remains the most obscure secret regarding exactly how he was able to maneuver so many aristocrats in constraining Napoleon. He did it through the clever use of dozens of lovely courtesans that reported back to him.
Many historians have not ignored the live of Winston Churhill’s own gorgeous mother named Jennie, who was born and raised in Rochester, New York. Jennie rocked many a man’s bedroom as a delightful courtesan that improved the lot of Winston’s military assignments.
We often cringe at the work of Marquis De Sade (rightly so) but he was only chronicling the sexual escapades of both Royal family and High Court. Any historical study of sadism or masochism begins in the bedrooms of both Catholic Church officials and the Monarchs of Europe. In case you think I’m being dishonest, do a keyword search on the first Canon decreed at Vatican I, you’ll find an amendment exclaiming that all Bishops must relinquish their ‘midwives’ (codeword for courtesan.) This is not to even begin a study of how clerics are portrayed throughout the works of Racine!
With such a rich history throughout the Empires of Europe, we should not be ashamed to read the sexual escapades of Jane Digby (1807-1881).
Mary S. Lovell’s book in America is titled ‘Rebel Heart’, in England it was titled ‘A Scandalous Life’. Either biography reveals a voracious appetite for sexual wanderlust.
Jane Digby traveled and romanced her way through Europe and the Middle East at a time when, for a women alone, travel was difficult, not to mention the snares of the Near East. She originally married at 17 (the first of four husbands) and rapidly turned to several lovers with many children. Her ability to mount both Generals and Kings is astonishing.
When she married an Albanian General she lived in caves with his brigand army, she adored being called a Queen. At the age of 50 she married a 30 year old Bedouin Sheik and totally submersed herself into desert life.
Her biography is a must read this year. Its simply impossible to put down. With such engrossing material, I find her character strong, mysterious and tenacious. A women who loved travel, wandering, dance, fine food, the company of powerful men and sex.
There are many other modern courtesans that emulate Digby, but none come close to the range and sincere depth of courage embodied in Jane Digby. Pamela Harriman dosen’t even come close!