A Treasury of Royal Scandals: The Shocking True Stories History's Wickedest, Weirdest, Most Wanton Kings, Queens, Tsars, Popes, and Emperors

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9780140280241: A Treasury of Royal Scandals: The Shocking True Stories History's Wickedest, Weirdest, Most Wanton Kings, Queens, Tsars, Popes, and Emperors

From Nero's nagging mother (whom he found especially annoying after taking her as his lover) to Catherine's stable of studs (not of the equine variety), here is a wickedly delightful look at the most scandalous royal doings you never learned about in history class.

Gleeful, naughty, sometimes perverted-like so many of the crowned heads themselves-A Treasury of Royal Scandals presents the best (the worst?) of royal misbehavior through the ages. From ancient Rome to Edwardian England, from the lavish rooms of Versailles to the dankest corners of the Bastille, the great royals of Europe have excelled at savage parenting, deadly rivalry, pathological lust, and meeting death with the utmost indignity-or just very bad luck.

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About the Author:

Michael Farquhar, a former writer and editor at The Washington Post, is the bestselling author of numerous books, including the critically acclaimed Behind the Palace Doors and Secret Lives of the Tsars, as well as the popular Penguin "Treasury" series: A Treasury of Royal Scandals, A Treasury of Great American Scandals, A Treasury of Deception, A Treasury of Foolishly Forgotten Americans, and his latest title, Bad Days in History. He lives in Washington, D.C.                             

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Table of Contents

 

PENGUIN BOOKS

Title Page

Copyright Page

Dedication

Introduction

 

PART I - The Lust Emperors

Chapter 1 - From Russia with Lots of Love

Chapter 2 - French Kiss

Chapter 3 - England Swings

 

PART II - Six Royals Sinning

Chapter 1 - Envy: If Anyone Should Oppose This Union

Chapter 2 - Pride: Here Comes the Sun King

Chapter 3 - Wrath: Have an Ice Day

Chapter 4 - Gluttony: Eat, Drink, and Be Mocked

Chapter 5 - Covetousness: Hail Mary, Full of Greed

Chapter 6 - Sloth: An Idle Mind Is the Duchess’s Playground

 

PART III - Unholy Matrimony

Chapter 1 - Mad About You

Chapter 2 - Until Divorce or Decapitation Do Us Part (in Six Sections)

Chapter 3 - Head Over a Heel

Chapter 4 - A Wedding! Let’s Celibate!

Chapter 5 - Wails From the Vienna Wood

Chapter 6 - A Marriage Made in Hell

 

PART IV - Mom Was a Monster, Pop Was a Weasel

Chapter 1 - How to Make a Bloody Mary

Chapter 2 - Jane Grey’s Blues

Chapter 3 - Hun, I Shrunk the Kid

Chapter 4 - Peter the Not -So-Hot

Chapter 5 - We Are Not Abused. We Are Abusive

 

PART V - Royal Family Feud

Chapter 1 - The Royal Raptors

Chapter 2 - Crown of Thorns

Chapter 3 - Trouble in the House of Tudor

Chapter 4 - Shattered Sorority

Chapter 5 - Dislike Father, Dislike Son

Chapter 6 - In-Laws on the Outs

Chapter 7 - The Battling Bonapartes

 

PART VI - Strange Reigns

Chapter 1 - Temper, Temper

Chapter 2 - Swimming in a Shallow Gene Pool

Chapter 3 - The Belle of Versailles

Chapter 4 - A Great Mind Is a Terrible Thing

Chapter 5 - Drool Britannia

Chapter 6 - The Law Is an Ass

Chapter 7 - The Eyes Have It

 

PART VII - When in Rome

Chapter 1 - The Rage of Tiberius

Chapter 2 - Oh, God !

Chapter 3 - I Claudius, Aren’t I?

Chapter 4 - A Son Should Love His Mother, But . . .

Chapter 5 - The Year of Living Dangerously

 

PART VIII - Papal Vice

Chapter 1 - Not So Dear Johns

Chapter 2 - A Matter of Grave Consequence

Chapter 3 - Her Holiness?

Chapter 4 - King of Kings

Chapter 5 - Innocent Proven Guilty

Chapter 6 - Feel the Burn

Chapter 7 - Papal Bully

Chapter 8 - Will the Real Pope Please Rise?

Chapter 9 - Double, Double, Toil and Trouble

Chapter 10 - All the Holiness Money Can Buy

Chapter 11 - Indulge Me If You Will

Chapter 12 - In the Ghetto

 

PART IX - Death Be Not Dignified

Chapter 1 - A Tight Squeeze

Chapter 2 - A Royal Pain in the Ass

Chapter 3 - Spinning in Her Grave

Chapter 4 - Strike Three

Chapter 5 - Prescription for Disaster

Chapter 6 - A Look of Detachment

Chapter 7 - Eat Your Heart Out

Chapter 8 - Royal Flush

Chapter 9 - A Lot Off the Top

Chapter 10 - The Case of the Purloined Penis

Chapter 11 - Extreme Overkill

Chapter 12 - It ’s Not Nice to Kill the King

APPENDIX I - British Monarchs (1066-Present)

APPENDIX II

Appendix III - Russian Monarchs (1682-1917) The Romanovs

APPENDIX IV

Select Bibliography

Acknowledgements

PENGUIN BOOKS

A TREASURY OF ROYAL SCANDALS

Michael Farquhar is a writer and editor at The Washington Post specializing in history. He is coauthor of The Century: History as It Happened on the Front Page of the Capital’s Newspaper, and his work has been published in The Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Tribune, Dallas Morning News, Reader’s Digest, and Discovery Online.

Henry VIII

PENGUIN BOOKS
Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Putnam Inc., 375 Hudson Street,
New York, New York 10014, U.S.A.
Penguin Books Ltd, 27 Wrights Lane,
London W8 5TZ, England
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Penguin Books Canada Ltd, 10 Alcorn Avenue,
Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4V 3B2
Penguin Books (N.Z.) Ltd, 182-190 Wairau Road,
Auckland 10, New Zealand

 

Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices:
Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England

 

First published in Penguin Books 2001

 

 

Copyright © Michael Farquhar, 2001

All rights reserved

 

Illustration credits
Frontispiece (ii), pages 28, 54, 100, 126, 172, 202, 260:
The Granger Collection, New York.
Page 2: © Leonard de Selva/CORBIS.
Page 222: © Christel Gerstenberg/CORBIS.

 

eISBN : 978-1-101-01039-6

CIP data available

 

 

This book is dedicated with love to my grandmother, Claire O’Donnell Donahue Courtney. What a life!

All I say is, kings is kings and you got to make allowances.

—Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Introduction

The twentieth century was a slaughterhouse for European monarchy. Across the continent, scores of kings and queens were swept from their thrones in a frenzy of war and revolution. Those managing to cling to their crowns, meanwhile, have been rendered either faceless and bland, as in, say, Norway, or, as in Britain, regarded as little more than inane tabloid fodder.

Maybe the decline of monarchy is for the best. After all, the notion that one individual—no matter how stupid or depraved—should by some fluke of birth hold dominion over all others is ridiculous and well past its prime. Still, there’s a void now. People with unlimited power and an inbred sense of their own superiority tended to misbehave. Royally. Democratically elected presidents and prime ministers—not to mention constitutionally constrained monarchs—simply can’t compete. Consequently, things are a lot duller these days, and what passes for scandal is almost laughable.

So what if Charles and Diana were miserably married? He never slammed the doors of Westminster Abbey in her face, or buried pieces of her boyfriend under the floorboards of his palace. That was behavior typical of a bygone era celebrated in this treasury—a time of lusty kings and treacherous queens; of murderous tsars, insane emperors, and unholy popes (once the supreme monarchs in Europe). Toe sucking aside, Fergie and the rest of this generation’s royals can’t hold a scandal to their forbears. Not one of them has delivered anything worthy of the name, and are thus excluded from this collection.

Some of the stories that do appear here are no doubt familiar to readers of history. But they are classics, and no anthology of royal bad behavior would be complete without them. Others have been mined from the past, largely unexposed. All of the stories showcase the rich assortment of scandals that once flourished across Europe. And, thanks to the generations of royals who unwittingly created them, they remain immensely entertaining.

Family Trees

PART I

The Lust Emperors

Lust’s passion will be served,” the French libertine and novelist Marquis de Sade once wrote. “It demands, it militates, it tyrannizes.” The Marquis might have added that this relentless vice has always been oblivious to social status. So, the whole theory behind royalty—that it conferred a certain exalted status over ordinary mortals; a place closer to God in the hierarchy of the universe—was compromised somewhat by the fact that kings and queens proved themselves to be every bit as sex-driven as the peons who served them. The only difference was that, from their positions of power, royal folk were able to serve the demands of lust more creatively and energetically than most.

Henri III preening amongst his minions.

1

From Russia with Lots of Love

 

 

Catherine the Great loved horses. She also loved sex. Contrary to popular legend, however, she never managed to unite the two passions. Still, the autocratic empress of Russia brought all the enthusiasm of a vigorous ride to her extremely busy bedroom.

After ridding herself of her imbecile husband Peter III in 1762,1 Catherine grabbed the Russian crown and came to dominate her kingdom for the next thirty-four years. Boldly indulging herself as she grew more secure in her position, the empress consumed handsome young lovers with an appetite that sometimes shocked her contemporaries. “She’s no woman,” exclaimed one, “she’s a siren!”

The empress relished her weakness for men, abandoning herself to a giddy romanticism that belied her cold and pragmatic rule. She loved being entertained, even into old age, by a succession of well-formed young studs eager to please her. “It is my misfortune that my heart cannot be content, even for one hour, without love,” she wrote.

Sharing the empress’s bed brought ample rewards, not the least of which was an intimate proximity to power, but getting there wasn’t easy. A good body and a pleasant face, combined whenever possible with wit and intelligence, were merely starters. Potential lovers also had to have the right pedigree and pass a crucial test. Catherine had several ladies-in-waiting—test drivers of sorts—whose job it was to ensure that all candidates for their mistress’s bed were up to the highly demanding task of satisfying her.

The applicants were most often supplied by the empress’s one-eyed ex-lover—the man many assumed to be her secret husband—Gregory Potemkin. She had fallen in love with this rough, hulking officer relatively early in her industrious sexual career, overcome by his brash courage, quick wit, and almost primitive sexuality. Wasting little time disposing of Alexander Vassilzhikov, her boyfriend at the time, Catherine was delighted the first night Potemkin came to her bedroom, naked under his nightshirt and ready for action. “I have parted from a certain excellent but very boring citizen,” the empress wrote to a confidante, “who has been replaced, I know not how, by one of the greatest, oddest, most amusing and original personalities of this Iron Age.”

Because of his long greasy hair, and brutish unwashed body, many women found Potemkin repulsive. Catherine, however, reveled in his strength, charm, and sexual domination. She couldn’t get enough of this strange man who made her forget her royal dignity. Whenever they were parted, even for a few hours, she regaled him with an avalanche of feverish love notes, each peppered with at least one of her special pet names: “My marble beauty,” “my darling pet,” “my dearest doll,” “golden cock,” “lion of the jungle,” “my professional bon bon.”

In one letter, she pretended to be shocked at the intensity of her passion and tried to get hold of herself: “I have issued strict orders to my whole body, down to the smallest hair on my head, not to show you the least sign of love. I have locked my love inside my heart and bolted it ten times, it is suffocating there, it is constrained, and I fear it may explode.” In other letters she gloried in his good company: “Darling, what comical stories you told me yesterday! I can’t stop laughing when I think of them . . . we spend four hours together without a shadow of boredom, and it is always with reluctance that I leave you. My dearest pigeon, I love you very much. You are handsome, intelligent, amusing.”

Of course Catherine loved the sex, and in her exultation could sound much more like a bad romance novelist than the authoritarian empress of all the Russias:

—“There is not a cell in my whole body that does not yearn for you, oh infidel! . . .”

—“I thank you for yesterday’s feast. My little Grisha fed me and quenched my thirst, but not with wine. . . .”

—“My head is like that of a cat in heat. . . .”

—“I will be a ‘woman of fire’ for you, as you so often say. But I shall try to hide my flames.”

 

Moody and temperamental, subject to bouts of black depression and fits of jealousy, Potemkin was sometimes lovingly scolded by his royal mistress: “There is a woman in the world who loves you and who has a right to a tender word from you, Imbecile, Tatar, Cossack, infidel, Muscovite, morbleu! ” The relationship was so physically intimate that Catherine did not hesitate to share even the most unflattering of ailments with him: “I have some diarrhea today, but apart from that, I am well, my adored one. . . . Do not be distressed because of my diarrhea, it cleans out the intestines.”

There is no surviving evidence to support the rumor that Catherine secretly married Potemkin, although she often referred to him in her letters as “my beloved spouse,” or “my dearest husband.” Married or not, the relationship certainly transcended the bedroom as it evolved into a close political partnership. Catherine shared her vast kingdom with Potemkin as if he were her king. She consulted with him on all affairs of state, working closely with him on her ambitious plans to expand Russia’s borders and crush the Muslim Turks.

The empress’s powerful lover is perhaps best remembered for the legendary “Potemkin Villages” he is said to have created for her benefit as she embarked on a grand tour of all the newly Russianized lands he had conquered for her. These “villages,” it was said, were little more than elaborate stage sets of prosperous towns, populated by cheerful serfs, all of which were quickly collapsed and set up again at the next stop on Catherine’s carefully plotted itinerary. The artificiality of the Potemkin Villages came to represent in the minds of many, Catherine’s superficial and halfhearted attempts to reform and liberalize her kingdom.

Though the relationship with Potemkin endured until his death in 1791, the sexual intensity between them dimmed after only a few years. No longer champion of the empress’s boudoir, Potemkin resolved to retain her favor by pimping his replacements. He handpicked a steady succession of new lovers for his erstwhile mistress—all of whom paid him a handsome brokerage fee for the privilege of servicing her. There was Zavadovsky, followed by Zorich, followed by Rimsky-Korsakov, followed by Lanskoy, followed by Ermolov, followed by Mamonov and so on and on, and on.

After being installed in the official apartment set aside for Catherine’s lovers, each new favorite was feted and adored by the passionate monarch with almost girlish enthusiasm. But each, in turn, was eventually dismissed, either for boring Catherine or breaking her heart. Few, however, left her service without a handsome settlement. When Zavadovsky was dismissed in 1776, for example, Chevalier de Corberon, the French chargé d’affaires in Russia, wrote that “He has received from Her Majesty 50,000 rubles, a pension of 5,000, and 4,000 peasants in the Ukraine, where they are worth a great deal [serfs at the time were trade-able commodities, like cattle]. . . . You must agree, my friend, that it’s not a bad line of work to be in here.”

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