he who turns the other cheek has the last laugh

Anna Ivanovna was Empress of Russia from 1730 to 1740. Anna was famed for her big cheek, “which, as shown in her portraits”, Carlyle says, “was comparable to a Westphalian ham“.

Cheeky Anna found here

She reigned for ten years and was, on the whole, not liked by her people. Anna also had an unhealthy interest in grotesque, foolish or malformed people. She even had her own private collection and liked to have a hand in the marriages of all her courtiers.

Todd Browning’s Freaks found here

And, it didn’t do to not ask her permission, as one poor prince was to find out. Prince Michael Alexievich Golitsyn made a terrible error when he fell in love with an ordinary girl and, in order to marry her, became a Catholic. A double faux pas because Anna herself was Orthodox. Unfortunately, his wife died not long after the wedding.

check out this Russian Prince here

Anna’s first punishment was to demote the prince to the role of jester, a great humiliation for him. She then decided to pick another wife for him. Looking to her strange entourage, she chose an ugly Kalmuk serving woman called Avdotia, who she had nicknamed ‘Bujenina’, after her favourite dish of pork and onions.

Recipe for onions stuffed with pork found here

Even this wasn’t enough revenge for Anna. She commissioned a palace to be built entirely from ice for their honeymoon. Though a cruel joke, the palace was an architectural marvel. It was the one of the coldest winters Europe had experienced for 30 years. All the major rivers had frozen over, including the Seine, in Paris, and the Thames, in London.

frozen Thames found here

The palace was designed, in a classical style, by the architect Peter Eropkin. It was 80 ft long and around 30ft high and located on the Neva River. The ice was specially picked for its transparency. Every block was expertly measured, cut and joined together with water, which froze instantly in the cold weather. Additions to the castle, also made of ice, included trees, some with ice fruit, birds and statues, and six cannons. Even the windows were sheets of ice. Inside the palace, the furnishings were made of ice – a four poster bed, mattress, quilt, pillows, a clock. There was even a life-sized elephant in the grounds, also made of ice. It spouted 24 ft of water during the day. At night, petroleum was used to make it spout flames.

ice elephant found here

On their wedding night, the couple took part in a procession to the palace. They were locked in a cage sitting on top of a real live elephant, and led by Anna’s entourage of strange people. 300 guests were invited to a fantastic feast and transported on sleds pulled by a variety of animals, including pigs and bears.

Russian car sled found here

When they arrived at the castle, they were taken to their ice bedroom and made to spend the night there. Guards were posted on the doors to make sure they didn’t escape. One story has it that the prince had drunk a fair amount and didn’t feel the cold as badly as his new wife. In another version she swapped a pearl necklace, which Anna had given her as a wedding present, for the guard’s fur coat. She used it to keep them both warm enough to survive the night.

pearl necklace found here

The couple found that they got on really well and lived a long and happy life together. Empress Anna died of kidney disease soon after the ice palace incident, at the age of 47.

oh olga

The Shell Oil heiress Olga Deterding was known as the Mad Millionairess. For several years she lived like a louche socialite in a glossy white penthouse with realistic sculptured sheep nibbling at the grass coloured carpet. Her partners included television personalities Alan Whicker and Jonathan Routh and she was friends with restaurateur Peter Langan, the original “enfant terrible” of gastronomy. Langan once bet her £5 that she would not sit naked all afternoon by the street window of his restaurant – but she did.

Olga Kurylenko NOT Olga Deterding

Routh was one of the stars of Britain’s version of Candid Camera

Candid Camera was launched on an unsuspecting public in 1960 and became an instant success with viewers, who relished the misfortunes of Routh’s hapless victims. In the first programme he pushed an engineless car into a garage and told the mechanic that it had just broken down. The garage man opened the bonnet to find nothing there. Routh played dumb. Utterly bewildered, the mechanic then looked under the car and in the boot before summoning his mates to see if he’d missed something. Eventually, one of them pronounced to general astonishment that, indeed, there was no engine.

Jonathan Routh

On another occasion he posted himself from Sheepwash, Devon, to the offices of the Daily Mail in Fleet Street, claiming that he was too scared to go to London on his own. As “livestock”, parcels had to be accompanied at all times, he was put in a postman’s care for the duration of the journey and delivered for £2. The postman was silent throughout. Routh thought this episode demonstrated the height of English tolerance and good manners.

Postman found here

Routh also discovered a talent for naive painting. He restricted his subject matter principally to Queen Victoria and nuns because, he said, “faces, arms and legs were beyond me”. For Victoria he created imaginary journeys that she undertook to exotic places such as Jamaica, where Routh eventually settled as a semi-recluse.


Nuns were depicted drinking Coca-Cola, bouncing on trampolines, being shot from cannons, driving racing cars, flying balloons and picnicking in the jungle. The pictures were incorporated into a succession of children’s books, including The Nuns Go to Africa, The Nuns Go to Penguin Island, and Jamaica Holiday: The Secret Life of Queen Victoria. There were also a number of Mona Lisa paintings, showing her naked, drinking tea, smoking a cigarette and holding a tin of spaghetti.


Olga and Peter Langan shared a love of fine wine and whiskey.

His creation was food-as-theatre; when you stepped into Langan’s cream-painted Mayfair restaurant with its black-clad staff and exotically-dressed patrons, it was as if you were stepping on to a West End stage. In Langan’s Brasserie, everyone was a star.

Langan by Richard Young

An irate patron once brought him a cockroach she had found – Langan laughed and swallowed it with a swig of champagne. The designer Emillo Fiorucci came to dine, bringing his dog. Langan, not liking the dog’s looks, got down on his hands and knees and bit it.

Wayne Sleep, Peter O’Toole, the actresses Deborah Kerr and Jill Bennett and doyennes of bad behaviour such as Molly Parkin were regulars.

Molly Parkin

Wayne Sleep, at the height of his celebrity, reciprocated Peter’s gift of a case of chilled champagne after a Covent Garden first night by dancing naked across the Odin’s tabletops, startling the occupants of a nearby nurses’ home

One day he was told that Princess Margaret was dining in the restaurant with her cousin, the Earl of Harewood ‘Oh, is she now?’ he asked puckishly. ‘And what did she eat?’ On being told it was merely a coddled egg, he approached the table, not entirely sober. ‘And how was the ******* egg then?’ he inquired solicitously ‘I’m amazed you’d be bothered to go out, just to eat one of them. Don’t they know how to do them at the Palace?’ Staff say he had to be physically restrained from goosing the princess as she left, but it was Langan’s unique talent to act and speak offensively, yet not cause offence.

Margaret became a regular.

Princess Margaret by Lord Snowden

Published in: on May 24, 2010 at 6:53 am  Comments (36)  
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poodles and pearls

The divorce decree of Margaret, Duchess of Argyle took four and a half hours to read.


On the basis of the evidence, declared the judge, the duchess, 49, “was a completely promiscuous woman whose sexual appetite could only be satisfied by a number of men.” He named four specific adulterers including John Cohane, a U.S. businessman living in Ireland whom the court described as a “self-confessed wolf” with “the morals of a tomcat” and an unidentified partner who had been photographed in the nude with the duchess.


The Argylls’ litigation, which has dragged on for 3½ years, was the longest, most expensive and most sensational in Scottish history. And it may not be over, since the duchess still faces charges of libel and conspiracy stemming from her own divorce petition against the duke, which she dropped last May. In that suit, she accused her husband of committing adultery with her stepmother.”


In 1943, the Duchess who was then known as Margaret Sweeny had a near fatal fall down an elevator shaft while visiting her chiropodist on Bond Street.

“I fell forty feet to the bottom of the lift shaft,” she later recalled. “The only thing that saved me was the lift cable, which broke my fall.

After her recovery, Sweeny’s friends noted that not only had she lost all sense of taste and smell due to nerve damage, she also had become sexually voracious. As she once reportedly said, “Go to bed early and often.” (Given her numerous earlier romantic escapades, including an affair with the married George, Duke of Kent in her youth, this may have been a change in degree rather than basic predisposition.)


Introduced into evidence in the 1963 divorce case was a series of Polaroid photographs of the Duchess nude apart from her signature three-strand pearl necklace. Also included were photographs of the bepearled duchess fellating a naked man, and though the photographs showed his genitalia and torso, they excluded his face.

Also introduced to the court was a list of eighty-eight men the Duke believed had enjoyed his wife’s favours; the list is said to include two government ministers and three royals.

The duchess never revealed the identity of the “headless man,” though it was widely believed to be Douglas Fairbanks Jr. who denied the allegation to his grave.


She once told the New York Times, “I don’t think anybody has real style or class any more. Everyone’s gotten old and fat.” To the end of her life, her superficiality remained superbly intact, as evidenced by one characteristically vapid quote: “Always a poodle, only a poodle! That, and three strands of pearls!” she said. “Together they are absolutely the essential things in life.”

Published in: on May 17, 2010 at 8:25 am  Comments (35)  
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may I introduce my horse?


image found here

Gerald Tyrwhitt-Wilson, fourteenth Baron Berners, was a trifle eccentric.


He was known for such antics as dyeing the doves on his estate various colors, arranging color-coordinated meals, and traveling through Europe with a spinet piano in the rear seat of his Rolls-Royce.


He also wrote scatological verse, trained a parrot to walk across the floor while hidden beneath a bowler hat and once had a horse as a guest at a formal tea-party in the parlour of his ancestral home, Faringdon House in Berkshire. He built a folly in the garden there, a 140 foot high tower with a sign reading “Members of the public committing suicide from this tower do so at their own risk.”

One of his friends described how he kept strangers out of his railway compartment “Donning black spectacles and skullcap, he would, with a look of fiendish expectation, beckon in the passerby. Those who took the risk became so perturbed by his habit of reading the papers upside down and taking his temperature every 5 minutes that they invariably got out at the next station.”

glasses vintage printables

This is the epitaph he wrote for himself:

“Here lies Lord Berners,

One of the learners.

His great love of learning

May earn him a burning.

But praise to the Lord,

He was never bored.”

harold wheeler

image by Harold Wheeler found here

Published in: on October 28, 2009 at 7:59 am  Comments (34)  
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bourbonic pleasure


Sophie Dawes started out in life as the daughter of a smuggler and fisherman. Along the way she was mistress to a royal prince, wife to a wealthy Baron and a suspected murderess.

She became the mistress of the duc de Bourbon, afterwards Prince of Condé.

To prevent scandal and to qualify her to be received at court, the Prince had her married to Adrien Victor de Feuchères. He also provided her dowry and made her husband a baron.


Condé was induced in 1829 to sign a will bequeathing about ten million francs to her, and the rest of his estate – more than sixty-six millions – to the duc d’Aumale, fourth son of Louis Philippe.

When he was found hanging dead from his window curtain rod, the baroness was suspected and an inquiry was held. There were rumours that the new King of the French, Louis-Philippe, had collaborated with Sophie in the crime. Later, rumours circulated amongst the nobility that Condé had died pleasuring himself, engaged in what would later be known as autoerotic asphyxiation.

sophie dawes

There’s a wax model of Sophie Dawes at the Brading Wax Museum on the Isle of Wight. It also features this Victorian maid who seems to be exhibiting birch stripes across her bottom…..
victorian maid

….. as well as the best dressed kitten I’ve seen in a long time

stuffed kitty

All images of the Brading Museum came from marthasadie’s flickr site

Published in: on October 19, 2009 at 7:03 am  Comments (35)  
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