Wednesday, April 3, 2013



Born in London in about 1789 as Harriette Dubochet, at 15 she became the mistress of the Earl of Craven.  Today we are sure that a 15 year old teenager who is sexually involved with an adult man is being molested or raped.  In Regency England many women married that young.  There were no "teenagers," only children or adults. Some say she "allowed herself to be seduced."

Her father was a Swiss clock maker, a master craftsman. The sisters had ambitions.

Whatever their motivation, at least four of Harriett's five sisters became mistresses too and one of them married into the aristocracy. Her sisters were Fanny, Amy, who mistressed to the Duke of Lorne after Harriet had and who produced a son of the Duke of Argyle, and the youngest, Sophy or Sophia who at 13 became the mistress of Lord Deerhurst but at 17 and still young managed to join the peerage by marrying Lord Berwick.

Harriet wasn't in the closet as a mistress. Harriet retired as a mistress at the age of 35, but not until she had become an exceedingly popular mistress.  She was a leading female figure of the demimonde. She had her own box at the theatre.   She was seen around town on dates.  She lived in fashionable houses and had servants.  Once she fell deeply in love with Lord John Ponsonby but he left her for her sister Fanny.

After the Earl of Craven, she became the mistress of the Duke of Argyle, until he moved to Scotland.  She didn't want to leave her social life in London.  Then she became the mistress of the Duke of Wellington, who she stayed with until her retirement as a mistress.  It is not known if she retired out of boredom or even meant to retire.

She had not pressed for marriage.  She was unprepared however, to be left in poverty.  Harriett was said to start affairs by writing men letters.  Now she decided to write a tell all, a memoir, of her life as a mistress, to make some money.  It's been suggested that she was willing to take payment in order to not write it.  It's also said that she, like her sister Amy, died in poverty.

One of the famous quotes about Harriette Wilson comes from the Duke of Wellington who, when hearing of her writing said "Publish, and be damned!" 

While many other mistresses of the period are lost in memory, we know about Harriette because of her memoirs published in 1825!

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