Weird History Here's What Sex Was Like At The Court Of Different British Monarchs  

Melissa Sartore
410 votes 161 voters 13.6k views 12 items

List Rules Vote up the royal courts whose sexual cultures sound the most appealing.

The sex lives of kings and queens have been the subject of scrutiny and scandal for centuries. The Tudor period alone runs the gamut, from the highly sexualized court of Henry VIII to that of his daughter, the "Virgin Queen," Elizabeth I. Extramarital sex at the British court was accepted - or even encouraged - by some monarchs, but it was punished severely by others. 

Whether it was rolling around with a Restoration actress à la Charles II, or non-stop marital romping in the royal boudoir like Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, each English monarch had a private life that still fascinates and titillates to this day. And the way monarchs' private preferences inflected their broader courts doesn't disappoint the curious modern reader, either.

Queen Victoria is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list Here's What Sex Was Like At The Court Of Different British Monarchs
Photo: Victoria/PBC

Sexy TL;DR: Victoria and Albert set a standard in their private lives that, had it been known, would have been enviable for married couples the world round. But there was also an extremely repressive side to sex in the Victorian Era beyond the staid manners typically associated with it. Homosexuality was criminalized in 1885. Allegedly Victoria was so fond of the male form that homosexuality was made illegal - but just when it involved men. Lesbianism was not condemned because the queen "could not conceive how women could find other women attractive."

The Longer Story: The Victorian era is known for sexual repression and prudishness, especially for women. The court of the queen was concerned with presenting the appearance of propriety and order, but Queen Victoria herself was a bit more open about her sexual appetite. Queen Victoria wrote about her first night with Prince Albert after their wedding in 1840, sharing the same bed and laying together in the dark. Victoria enthusiastically claimed

I NEVER, NEVER spent such an evening! MY DEAREST, DEAR Albert sat on a footstool by my side, and his excessive love and affection gave me feelings of heavenly love and happiness I never could have hoped to have felt before. He clasped me in his arms, and we kissed each other again and again! His beauty, his sweetness and gentleness,—really how can I ever be thankful enough to have such a Husband! Oh! This was the happiest day of my life!

By this point in the 19th century, the tradition of attendants being present for the couple's first night together had gone out of practice. Victoria's first days as a married women were full of sensual moments with her new husband, and, given the times, her expressions of sexuality are surprising.

It's not entirely unlike Victoria, however, who wrote when she first spotted her future husband about "how handsome Albert looks in his white cashmere breaches with nothing on underneath.” When her doctor cautioned her about having a child at the age of 38, she complained that he was taking from her the ability to have fun in bed. 

Age: Dec. at 82 (1819-1901)

Also Ranked

#87 on The Most Influential People of All Time

#51 on The Most Important Leaders in World History

#28 on The Most Inspiring (Non-Hollywood) Female Role Models

#1 on The Most Powerful Women Of All Time

39 38
Is this the court for you?
see more on Queen Victoria
George III's Court Was Fam... is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list Here's What Sex Was Like At The Court Of Different British Monarchs
Photo: The Madness Of King George/MGM
2 30 VOTES

George III's Court Was Family-Focused

Sexy TL;DR: George III's reign and his court were pretty boring compared to rulers who came both before and after him. His Proclamation for the Encouragement of Piety and Virtue, and for the Preventing and Punishing of Vices, Profaneness, and Immorality of 1787 condemned immorality and depravity, making it pretty clear what the king and his reign were all about. 

The Longer Story: King George III was brought up under the tutelage of his mostly-faithful and controlling grandfather, something that characterized his own court when he became king in 1760.

George III and Princess Sophia Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz were married in 1761 and had 15 children together, attesting to their mutual satisfaction. The couple remained faithful to one another throughout their lives. George, his family, and his favorites, spent their time at Kew Palace in "domestic simplicity" between his bouts with mental illness and relative confinement to Kensington Palace. The Hanoverian push to emphasize family was clear in how George attempted to find some common ground with his subjects. 

15 15
Is this the court for you?
George II of Great Britain is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list Here's What Sex Was Like At The Court Of Different British Monarchs
Photo: Aristocrats/BBC

Sexy TL;DR: Some scholars look at 18th-century England as a moment of sweeping change with regard to how people conceptualized sex and gender, which is encoded into some of the erotica written during the period. The authors at George II's court played no small role in this.

The Longer Story: George II married Princess Caroline of Brandenburg-Ansbach in 1705, and the couple had nine children. George, who had an "official mistress" for over 20 years, was "passionately in love with his wife, the fat, funny and adorable Princess Caroline," and preferred her presence to that of other women. It was said that when his father died, George had to be torn away from a love-making session with Caroline to be told.

George's official mistress - Henrietta Howard - was Caroline's own woman of the bedchamber. Courtiers believed that Charles took Henrietta as a mistress "rather as a necessary appurtenance to his grandeur as a prince than an addition to his pleasures as a man," but she was also witty, intelligent, and the king cared for her. Howard was also liked by literary contemporaries, including Jonathan Swift and Alexander Pope, although she never wielded any large influence at court.

Age: Dec. at 77 (1683-1760)

18 19
Is this the court for you?
see more on George II of Great Britain
Charles II of England is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list Here's What Sex Was Like At The Court Of Different British Monarchs
Photo: Charles: The Power And The Passion/BBC

Sexy TL;DR: Known as the "merry monarch," Charles became king after the English throne was restored in 1660. He had spent his youth in exile, womanizing practically every step of the way. Once back in England, King Charles brought playfulness and pleasure to court, even keeping Colonel Cundum, the inventor of the condom, close at hand.

The Longer Story: King Charles II had a lot of mistresses and a lot of illegitimate children, setting the tone for a bawdy court rife with sex and hedonism. 

Charles's numerous mistresses included the wives of his courtiers, although they were not usually kept around for more than an encounter or two. During her relationship with Charles, Barbara Villiers produced six illegitimate children, although Charles only acknowledged five as his own. Villiers, described as "a woman of great beauty, enormously vivacious and ravenous; foolish but imperious," was both feared and envied at court due to her influence. After Villiers and Charles's relationship ended, she remained in close proximity to the king, providing him with other young women to satisfy his sexual appetite.

Another one of Charles's lady-friends, Nell Gwynne, was a professional actress. After she took up with the king in 1669, she became a regular source of entertainment for the royal court. The wit, beauty, and comedic ability she demonstrated both on stage and off continued to earn her notice and even helped her maintain her popularity with the public

Age: Dec. at 55 (1630-1685)

32 38
Is this the court for you?
see more on Charles II of England