Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Nineteenth Century Bad Boys, Part I: The Disreputable Duke

First, I feel like I should make a disclaimer here…unlike a lot of females, I have zero interest in what we today call “bad boys” and what our counterparts in the 19th century called rogues or rakes. I just don’t get the attraction…but I know a lot of women do…and did.

Princess Victoria definitely appreciated a good bad boy. In 1837 the seventeen year old began to take notice of a second cousin of hers who had come to London and could be seen at fashionable balls and the opera and out with his friends in Kensington Gardens. His name was Charles, Duke of Brunswick and he was a nephew of the late Queen Caroline, wife to George IV…and what made him a bad boy was that he’d been booted out of his duchy of Brunswick as being “unfit to rule” and his younger brother installed as reigning duke. It seems his seven year rule was marked by corruption and poor judgement, and when he reacted to political unrest in France by clamping down on reform in his own country, he was not-very-politely shown the door. Though he tried many times to interest other European governments in helping him retake his country, no one ever did.

So he spent most of his time in London and Paris, being attractive. He wore his dark hair long and shaggy, had dark, fierce eyebrows, and a romantically military moustache. Vic was fascinated, and sketched him from memory (yes, she drew the above picture!) as well as recording sightings of him in her diary:

[at a ball] “He was in a black and dark blue uniform with silver; his hair hanging wildly about his face, his countenance pale and haggard; I was very sorry I could not see him de pres for once, that I may really see if he is so ferocious looking.”

[out walking in Kensington Gardens] “He is, I think, very good looking, for we passed him close, though I was told by a lady who had seen him at Almacks, that he was not so, but I don’t think she saw him very close, and perhaps he looks handsomer by daylight and with his hat on. He was very elegantly dressed.”

Of course, nothing ever came of Victoria’s interest in her exiled cousin, and he slouched about Europe for most of his life, collecting diamonds as a hobby and dying in Geneva in 1873.

Stay tuned for more entries on Nineteenth Century Bad Boys…believe me, there were plenty of them around!


PJ Hoover said...

Oh, so juicy! Love it!

Gillian Layne said...

I'm floored. I didn't know you could be "booted out" because you were/are unfit to rule. I thought once a duke, always a duke.

I just love this blog! I'm constantly learning something new. :)

Marissa Doyle said...

Thank you, Gillian!

Well, poor old Charles kept his title as a social courtesy but certainly lost any of the political power attached to it...there are plenty of dukes and princes hanging around Europe today who have titles which more or less mean nothing in their now democratic countries.

And yes, he fled the duchy when attacked by mobs of stone-throwing Brunswickers after his crackdown on reformers. His brother became de facto ruler by popular acclaim, and took the title of duke a year or two later, much to his elder brother's fury.