The United States of America’s third President, Thomas Jefferson (1743 – 1826), was an intensely passionate man both in his political life and personal life.
In 1772, at the age of twenty-nine, Jefferson married a young widow, Martha Skelton; however Martha died in 1782, shortly after the birth of their sixth child.
Jefferson took a diplomatic role in Paris in 1784 and was appointed Minister to France in 1785. Following the death of his youngest daughter, Lucy Elizabeth (II), Jefferson’s youngest surviving daughter, Polly moved to Paris accompanied by one of his slaves, Sally Hemings. Jefferson subsequently formed a torrid relationship with the fourteen-year-old Hemings, leading to him commissioning a remarkable piece of furniture.
Drawn to Revolutionary Paris’ flamboyant lifestyle and influenced by the debauched constituent of Paris’ salon culture, Jefferson had one of Paris’ artisan brasiers, René Antoin Cavalier make him a “Parisian horse on two levels […] of strong brass and gilded leather […] for intimate liaisons”.
Jefferson named his indecorous horse ‘Fitzpartner’ and seemingly made good use of it. Hemings bore Jefferson a further six children.
Not normally falling within the purview of this blog, I now take a leap forward to the late nineteenth-century and Queen Victoria’s son, Albert Edward (1841 – 1910) – the playboy Prince of Wales; the future King Edward VII, then known to everyone as ‘Bertie’. Bertie too, had a predilection for Paris’ salacious distractions and, no surprise by now, another Parisian horse.
The Prince of Wale’s wife, Princess Alexandra of Denmark, tolerated his numerous dalliances to a degree. His father, Prince Albert, however, despaired of Bertie’s debauched lifestyle, calling him “depraved”. The Queen blamed Bertie for her beloved husband’s broken heart and premature death.
Amongst Bertie’s favourite Paris haunts were the Café des Anglais, the Moulin Rouge and the Chabanais – a ‘maison de tolérance’ established by Irishwoman, Roisin Kelly. Madame Kelly’s opulent brothel pandered to all tastes with rooms lavishly decorated in exotic themes.
Bertie, an esteemed patron of Madame Kelly’s, was provided with a personal room in which were a bed (carved with his coat of arms), a swan-necked bath (purportedly filled with champagne) and a Parisian horse made by the renowned nineteenth-century French furniture manufacturer, Soubrier.
Soubrier are the current owners of the former Prince of Wales’ cheval d’amour.