The real history of the Harlots


Blackleaf
#1
However lurid the many sex scenes may appear to viewers of the upcoming ITV series Harlots, the reality was even more startling, according to leading historian Dan Cruickshank, author of The Secret Georgian History Of London...

The real history of the Harlots: ITV's new bonkbuster features sex, depravity and debauchery. But most shocking of all? It's actually accurate!


By Chris Hastings Arts Correspondent For The Mail On Sunday
19 March 2017

It is a world steeped in depravity and vice, where tens of thousands of women are preyed upon by the wealthiest men in society and ruthlessly exploited as playthings for pure pleasure.

This is the shocking setting for Jessica Brown Findlay’s return to costume drama. And it’s a million miles away from the niceties of life at Downton Abbey, in which she played genteel Lady Sybil.

Ms Findlay stars as an elegant Georgian courtesan in Harlots, which turns a spotlight on the secret world of 18th Century England’s highly lucrative sex trade.


ITV series Harlots turns a spotlight on the secret world of 18th Century England’s highly lucrative sex trade

But, however lurid the many sex scenes may appear to viewers of the upcoming ITV series, the reality was even more startling according to leading historian Dan Cruickshank, author of The Secret Georgian History Of London.

‘Some of the claims made in Harlots might seem unlikely or outlandish or pure exaggeration – but virtually all are born out by research,’ he said.

‘A German visitor to London recorded that “… as soon as the streets are lamp-lighted… they begin to swarm with street girls”.

‘The consensus was that one woman in five in Georgian London was involved with the sex industry.This equated to about 50,000 wh*res working full time or part time.’


The courtesan - FICTION: Jessica Brown Findlay plays courtesan Charlotte, who believes she is a match for any of her clients. FACT: A wh*re’s bid for independence usually ended in disease, poverty and premature death


The client - FICTION: Aristocrat Sir George Howard (Hugh Skinner) is obsessed with the courtesan Charlotte. FACT: Aristocrats would pay many tens of thousands in today’s money to take a young girl’s virginity

The drama’s storyline turns on the rivalry between two madams and their brothels: ambitious upstart Margaret Wells (Samantha Morton) whose attempts to better herself and her establishment are thwarted at every turn by the scheming Lydia Quigley (Lesley Manville), who runs the exotic House Of Earthly Delights.

Ms Findlay plays Margaret’s beautiful elder daughter Charlotte, who prides herself on being the most coveted courtesan in London, while Kate Fleetwood plays the aptly named dominatrix Nancy Birch.

In Georgian Britain, prostitution was not illegal and the original inspiration for the series was an 18th Century directory of courtesans in London that, according to Cruickshank, ‘circulated the names, addresses, charges and specialities of middling prostitutes’.


The madame... and her hit list - FICTION: Lydia Quigley brandishes a users’ guide to the courtesans of London. FACT: This was a real book that detailed every depraved act conceivable… along with prices

He added: ‘It was called the List Of Covent Garden Ladies and was circulated from the late 1750s by a publican and pimp called Jack Harris.’

The guide is used to highlight the very different approaches of the two madams. In the Wells house, the girls are seen reading and laughing at their own descriptions.

By contrast, Lydia Quigley uses the guide as a weapon of control.

The madam reacts with fury when she reads a description of her prized French courtesan as being dead behind the eyes and she warns the woman she will be handed over to the ‘pimps of Cheapside’ unless she gets her act together.


The long arm of the law - FICTION: Egged on by religious zealots, constables raid the brothel run by Margaret Wells and turf her girls and clients on to the street. FACT: Although brothels could be shut down as ‘disorderly houses’, they were rife across London and a rich source of cash for criminals

In one disturbing scene, a young girl’s virginity is auctioned off. This horrific phenomenon was also all too true of Georgian London.

‘The obsessional desire of debauchees to “deflower” virgins, the high financial cost of the exercise, and the manner in which virgins were “restored” for repeated profitable deflowerings is one of the recurring themes of the 18th Century sex industry,’ said Cruickshank.

‘It was often the depraved and greedy mother who orchestrated the exercise.’

Some of Britain’s biggest female stars have signed up for the eight-part drama.

Producer Alison Owen said: ‘It’s traditionally a story that has been done through the male gaze and has all been very titillating. What we wanted to do was inhabit the lives of the women.


The house of ill repute FICTION: The ladies of The House Of Earthly Delights rehearse a tableau to attract the better class of punter

Our ruling on set was that everything had to be seen from the wh*re’s eye view.’

The final legacy of the sex trade is still to be seen in the capital, says Cruickshank.

‘Much of Georgian London was built either from the proceeds of the sex industry or for those involved in this vast and dark enterprise that did so much to define the age,’ he adds.

But there is a terrible price paid by the women whose exploitation built so much of the city.

‘One way of women liberating themselves and gaining financial independence was to make themselves available to men, but at a price,’ said Cruickshank. ‘This bid for independence usually ended in disease, poverty and premature death.’

Harlots begins on Monday, March 27, on ITV Encore at 10pm


P.S. For a TV period romp, this may take some beating! Has ever a dominatrix been more aptly named than Nancy Birch, played by Kate Fleetwood?




Read more: ITV's Harlots features sex, depravity and debauchery | Daily Mail Online
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Last edited by Blackleaf; 6 days ago at 07:29 AM..
 
Curious Cdn
#2
When did they become a high-end department store?

"Bras and Panties half off, today"
 
Ludlow
+1
#3  Top Rated Post
Why do Limey men look like ugly women?
 
taxslave
#4
Quote: Originally Posted by LudlowView Post

Why do Limey men look like ugly women?

I thought it was the other way around.
 
White_Unifier
#5
It would seem British men really get around like dogs in a dog park.
 
Remington1
#6
For every harlot, you can count 2 male-*****.
 
Curious Cdn
#7
Quote: Originally Posted by Remington1View Post

For every harlot, you can count 2 male-*****.

... 2 x 10^3 ...
 
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