Holt author launches book detailing the colourful world of scarlet women from all over the world
PUBLISHED: 06:30 14 July 2015
Our interest in the wanton woman has never waned.
From the scandalous trysts filling the pages of glossy magazines today to the coffeehouse newspaper gossip of the 17th and 18th centuries- the public has always been curious to delve into lives so unlike their own.
Now a north Norfolk author has written a book telling the history of courtesans, concubines and royal mistresses right up to the 20th century.
‘Scarlet Women: The Scandalous Lives of Courtesans, Concubines and Royal Mistresses’- published by Thistle- is the 269th book written by Holt freelance writer Ian Graham.
The book is filled with the stories of women from ancient Greece, India and China with chapters dedicated to 19th century French courtesans, British and French royal mistresses.
Mr Graham has revealed the sensational- and at times ostentatious -lives of scarlet women including British courtesan Harriette Wilson, the tragic exotic dancer Mata Hari and famous Venetian courtesan Veronica Franco.
Mr Graham, who spent much of his career writing children’s non-fiction, explained he became interested in 19th century French courtesans after writing his first adult non-fiction book The Ultimate Book of Imposters.
The 61-year-old, who was born in Belfast, said his first problem was deciding which women from history’s collection should go into the book.
He then read everything he could online and in print to source the material for the women and researched the latest findings about them to bring the book up to date.
“The women were powerful in their own right but in some cases it was because they were incredibly wealthy. They were like the film stars of their day. It’s a bit like the celebrities of today- you don’t approve of them but you still read the news items about them,” he said.
He added it was difficult to find a new line in non-fiction but he believes his book is one of the first to bring together a variety of scarlet women from all different times and countries.
“Most of the women didn’t write their own life stories. We know about them through the powerful men they were associated with,” said Mr Graham.
But he added some of the later French courtesans were ostentatious and flaunted their status while others are known to the history books as a result of court cases they were involved in.
The author said: “They were envied- if one was looking after the king he would keep her in the style he expected.
“Queens weren’t allowed to have bits on the side- they were expected to be respectable.”
And it wasn’t always their good looks which caught the attention of their clients.
“Some of the women were very beautiful but a lot of them were not,” said Mr Graham.
“I have looked at photographs and a lot of them look very ordinary or very severe. Today they don’t look very attractive.”
He added one of the differences between the common prostitute and a courtesan was the latter would gain knowledge of politics and culture in order to make conversation.
Scarlet Women: The Scandalous Lives of Courtesans, Concubines and Royal Mistresses is available now.