Category Archives: Peerage

Papal bull

You’ll search Vatican annals in vain for a reference to Pope Hadrian VII. There’s no marble effigy of him in the great, gaudy expanse of St Peter’s, no tomb thronged with credulous cripples; he’s not even enrolled among the bad-boy anti-popes. Hadrian, you see, was the fantasy projection of one Frederick Rolfe, otherwise known as Baron Corvo…

Papal bull

You’ll search Vatican annals in vain for a reference to Pope Hadrian VII. There’s no marble effigy of him in the great, gaudy expanse of St Peter’s, no tomb thronged with credulous cripples; he’s not even enrolled among the bad-boy anti-popes. Hadrian, you see, was the fantasy projection of one Frederick Rolfe, otherwise known as Baron Corvo…

The baron’s balls

The Baron de Redé was one of the city’s great hosts, standing in a tradition of party-givers strung across 20th century Paris like fairy lights: Étienne de Beaumont, George de Cuevas, Charles de Beistegui, Marie-Laure de Noailles. Redé knew them all, and took notes.

The baron’s balls

The Baron de Redé was one of the city’s great hosts, standing in a tradition of party-givers strung across 20th century Paris like fairy lights: Étienne de Beaumont, George de Cuevas, Charles de Beistegui, Marie-Laure de Noailles. Redé knew them all, and took notes.

La Marquise de Sade

Mathilde de Morny’s scandalous life and aristocratic background proved an irresistible combination for contemporary writers; she appears thinly disguised in numerous works of fiction, though often the portrayal owed more to the author’s projection than the marquise herself.

La Marquise de Sade

Mathilde de Morny’s scandalous life and aristocratic background proved an irresistible combination for contemporary writers; she appears thinly disguised in numerous works of fiction, though often the portrayal owed more to the author’s projection than the marquise herself.

Monsieur le Marquis

No-one I’ve written about thus far has so defied summary as Mathilde de Morny. It’s not just that her life was in and of itself a rare and wondrous thing, full of bravery and scandal, adventure and extravagance, but it also embodied so many currents and contradictions of her era as well as inspiring some of its greatest writers.

Monsieur le Marquis

No-one I’ve written about thus far has so defied summary as Mathilde de Morny. It’s not just that her life was in and of itself a rare and wondrous thing, full of bravery and scandal, adventure and extravagance, but it also embodied so many currents and contradictions of her era as well as inspiring some of its greatest writers.

Cosmic countess

One of the key characters associated with bohemian Munich was writer Countess Fanny zu Reventlow. Growing up in northern Germany, it was evident early on that she was of rebellious cast. “How stifling it is to be a ‘young girl from a good family’!” she exclaimed at one point.

Cosmic countess

One of the key characters associated with bohemian Munich was writer Countess Fanny zu Reventlow. Growing up in northern Germany, it was evident early on that she was of rebellious cast. “How stifling it is to be a ‘young girl from a good family’!” she exclaimed at one point.

Thin white archduke

Ludwig was getting reckless and had a reputation for spending hours in the Centralbad, a prestigious complex of Orientalist steam baths, where his (no doubt pruny) hands were apt to wander…

Thin white archduke

Ludwig was getting reckless and had a reputation for spending hours in the Centralbad, a prestigious complex of Orientalist steam baths, where his (no doubt pruny) hands were apt to wander…

“Scholar, connoisseur, drunkard, poet, pervert…”

The count’s bedroom featured a pentagram over the bed, and there he would smoke opium and play piano late into the night, emerging the next day – late, naturally – in a dressing gown with a snake wrapped around his neck.

“Scholar, connoisseur, drunkard, poet, pervert…”

The count’s bedroom featured a pentagram over the bed, and there he would smoke opium and play piano late into the night, emerging the next day – late, naturally – in a dressing gown with a snake wrapped around his neck.

Dress-down Friday: Jules Amédée Barbey d’Aurevilly

There are few names as evocative as Jules Amédée Barbey d’Aurevilly – I feel 12% more sophisticated just typing it out. One of those names like Auguste Villiers de l’Isle-Adam which seem to exist in their own perfumed cloud of posh, too archaic, too evanescent for an industrialised world.

Dress-down Friday: Jules Amédée Barbey d’Aurevilly

There are few names as evocative as Jules Amédée Barbey d’Aurevilly – I feel 12% more sophisticated just typing it out. One of those names like Auguste Villiers de l’Isle-Adam which seem to exist in their own perfumed cloud of posh, too archaic, too evanescent for an industrialised world.

The Katyn connection

In 1943, Count Geoffrey Potocki de Montalk published the Katyn Manifesto, which (correctly) blamed the massacre on the Soviets. For the British, allied with the Soviets since 1941, the revelations were supremely unwelcome…

The Katyn connection

In 1943, Count Geoffrey Potocki de Montalk published the Katyn Manifesto, which (correctly) blamed the massacre on the Soviets. For the British, allied with the Soviets since 1941, the revelations were supremely unwelcome…

Marquess Casati

This vision, dressed in something George Clinton might have rejected as being a little OTT, would be amazing enough if it had stepped out of a 1970s rock opera, or a disco fantasia about a mission to Mars manned exclusively by Village People.

Marquess Casati

This vision, dressed in something George Clinton might have rejected as being a little OTT, would be amazing enough if it had stepped out of a 1970s rock opera, or a disco fantasia about a mission to Mars manned exclusively by Village People.

Dress-down Friday: Lady Hester Stanhope

“I can assure you if I ever looked well in anything it is in the Asiatic dress,” claimed Stanhope, and like Isabelle Eberhardt, she found liberation not in assuming a traditional Arab female role, but by becoming an “honorary man”.

Dress-down Friday: Lady Hester Stanhope

“I can assure you if I ever looked well in anything it is in the Asiatic dress,” claimed Stanhope, and like Isabelle Eberhardt, she found liberation not in assuming a traditional Arab female role, but by becoming an “honorary man”.

Boni and the Palais Rose

After bagging his heiress in 1895, Boni de Castellane embarked on a spending spree which stood out even by the profligate standards of the Belle Époque, snapping up a schooner and a couple of chateaux and once hiring the entire Bois de Boulogne for a party.

Boni and the Palais Rose

After bagging his heiress in 1895, Boni de Castellane embarked on a spending spree which stood out even by the profligate standards of the Belle Époque, snapping up a schooner and a couple of chateaux and once hiring the entire Bois de Boulogne for a party.

Slave to love

In 1837 Prince Hermann von Pückler-Muskau visited a slave market in Cairo, there catching sight of a near-naked Abyssinian girl of no more than 13 called Mahbuba, “beloved”. He promptly purchased her.

Slave to love

In 1837 Prince Hermann von Pückler-Muskau visited a slave market in Cairo, there catching sight of a near-naked Abyssinian girl of no more than 13 called Mahbuba, “beloved”. He promptly purchased her.

Dress-down Friday: Count d’Orsay

“He indulged in extravagances, which he knew his reputation and his figure could carry off, and then laughed to see his satellites and toadies making themselves ridiculous by adopting them.”

Dress-down Friday: Count d’Orsay

“He indulged in extravagances, which he knew his reputation and his figure could carry off, and then laughed to see his satellites and toadies making themselves ridiculous by adopting them.”

Prophet of pain

Where Sade was a transgressor, Sacher-Masoch was a reformer; he was radicalised by the progressive movement of his time and saw a chance for social improvement.

Prophet of pain

Where Sade was a transgressor, Sacher-Masoch was a reformer; he was radicalised by the progressive movement of his time and saw a chance for social improvement.

A Casati family tree

Casati claimed to be her own work of art, but it was a work with its own set of influences. Her crepuscular glamour, for instance, owed much to Elisabeth of Austria and her cousin Ludwig II and she vied with Montesquiou as the Countess de Castiglione’s posthumous BFF.

A Casati family tree

Casati claimed to be her own work of art, but it was a work with its own set of influences. Her crepuscular glamour, for instance, owed much to Elisabeth of Austria and her cousin Ludwig II and she vied with Montesquiou as the Countess de Castiglione’s posthumous BFF.

Sweet destiny

Prince Hermann von Pückler-Muskau was one of those aristocratic 19th century polymaths of boundless initiative and insatiable curiosity who treated the world like their own private kunstkammer.

Sweet destiny

Prince Hermann von Pückler-Muskau was one of those aristocratic 19th century polymaths of boundless initiative and insatiable curiosity who treated the world like their own private kunstkammer.

Rare bird

The English painter, composer and author Lord Berners was both aristocratic and eccentric, but his keen wit and genuinely surreal flights of fantasy differentiate him from the “ooh I’m mad me!” antics of, say, Lord Bath. Although naturally shy, Berners had a rare gift for malicious social awkwardness…

Rare bird

The English painter, composer and author Lord Berners was both aristocratic and eccentric, but his keen wit and genuinely surreal flights of fantasy differentiate him from the “ooh I’m mad me!” antics of, say, Lord Bath. Although naturally shy, Berners had a rare gift for malicious social awkwardness…

Dada Baroness

There is ample evidence to suggest that the “Dada Baroness”, with her compulsion to invest mass-produced objects with totemic significance, exerted a strong influence on Duchamp’s readymades and thus on the entire history of 20th century art.

Dada Baroness

There is ample evidence to suggest that the “Dada Baroness”, with her compulsion to invest mass-produced objects with totemic significance, exerted a strong influence on Duchamp’s readymades and thus on the entire history of 20th century art.

Vampyr’s curse

Aristocracy and avant-garde ballet, high fashion and horror films, Jazz Age Paris and disco-era New York all improbably met in the impeccably chic person of Baron Nicolas de Gunzburg.

Vampyr’s curse

Aristocracy and avant-garde ballet, high fashion and horror films, Jazz Age Paris and disco-era New York all improbably met in the impeccably chic person of Baron Nicolas de Gunzburg.