Ian Graham’s book, Scarlet Women, tells the stories of the most notorious courtesans, concubines and royal mistresses.
The hetaerae of Ancient Greece, the Cortigiani Onesti of sixteenth century Venice, the Oiran of Edo-Period Japan and the demimondaines of nineteenth century France were the premier division of courtesans and mistresses their time. Their liaisons with royalty, aristocrats and statesmen brought them wealth, freedom and influence undreamt of by most women. They preyed on kings and emperors trapped in loveless dynastic marriages. However, few of them enjoyed the fruits of their labour in old age. Disease, gaming tables and executioners often robbed them of a happy retirement.
They lived outrageous lives in the fast lane. Lola Montez triggered a revolution that unseated a king. Liane de Pougy ran away to become a courtesan after her husband shot her. Veronica Franco, the most famous Venetian courtesan, was accused of witchcraft by the Inquisition. A concubine called Cixi rose from obscurity to rule Imperial China for nearly half a century. Anne Boleyn was one of very few royal mistresses who married her king and became a queen ... until he executed her. Jane Digby was probably the only admiral’s daughter to romance a king and marry a Bedouin Sheikh. Harriette Wilson blackmailed 200 of her lovers. Cora Pearl is said to have served herself naked on a silver platter to guests at one of her legendary parties. Marie Duplessis made such an impact in her short life that she inspired characters in Dumas’ La Dame aux Camélias and Verdi’s La Traviata.
When the last of the great courtesans of the demimonde, a volcanic beauty known as La Belle Otero, was found dead in a French hotel room in 1965, a rare species slipped into extinction.
Ian Graham was born in Belfast in 1953. In the 1970s, he took a degree in applied physics and a postgraduate diploma in journalism at The City University, London. In the early 1980s, he worked as a magazine journalist and editor in London before becoming a freelance writer and moving to rural Norfolk.Ian has written more than 240 books, mainly illustrated non-fiction books for children and teens, on science, technology and engineering topics ranging from space exploration, aviation and forensic science to energy, inventions and science experiments. He has also written graphic novels based o...
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