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Lady Castlemaine…[went] away…upon some slighting words of the king, so that…the king, the next morning, under pretence of going a hunting, went to see her and make friends…After which she came back to court, and commands the king as much as ever, and hath and doth what she will.  –  The Diary of Samuel Pepys, July 22nd, 1663

Though the majority of whores have always been born in the working class, when disposition, circumstance and necessity converge to make harlotry the most attractive choice, women of noble birth are just as quick to make it as their humbler sisters.  And when looks and personality converge to give her a higher-than-ordinary degree of sexual power over men, a noble-born courtesan is no more likely to be sparing in the use of that power than any other.

Barbara Villiers was born in Westminster on November 17th, 1640*, the only child of William Villiers, the 2nd Viscount Grandison, and his wife Mary (heiress of the 1st Viscount Bayning).  She would have been a very wealthy little girl after her father’s death in battle** had it not been for the fact that he had given his entire fortune to the Cavalier war effort; Mary and her daughter were left in poverty, and she was forced by necessity to marry her husband’s cousin Charles (the 2nd Earl of Anglesey) in order to have any income at all.  The Commonwealth was not a good time for the Villiers family; though like many others they had officially espoused loyalty to Cromwell, they secretly supported the claim of the exiled Charles II and lived under a cloud of suspicion due to their active participation on his father’s side during the Civil War.  Barbara was raised in the country by relatives, but by 15 she had blossomed into an exceptionally beautiful young woman (tall and voluptuous, with chestnut hair and eyes of so dark a blue they looked black); her mother brought her to London with the idea of marrying her to a wealthy family despite her lack of a dowry.  Within a year the intelligent, independent Barbara had become the mistress of Philip Stanhope, 2nd Earl of Chesterfield, and on April 14th, 1659 she married a young lawyer named Roger Palmer, heir to a large fortune, over his family’s vociferous objections (including, but not limited to, the fact that he was Catholic and she Anglican).  Though on paper they never divorced, in reality they separated in 1662.

The reason for that separation was, as you may have already guessed, her infidelity.  In the autumn after their marriage, the royalists dispatched Barbara to The Hague with letters and money for the King; since she was only 18 at the time, it was felt she would arouse less suspicion (and her person was much less likely to be searched in any case).  Before she returned to England, she had already become Charles’ lover; at first they were relatively discreet about it, but by the Restoration of the monarchy in April of 1661 it was secret to virtually nobody.  When her daughter Anne was born in February of 1661 the King, her husband and Chesterfield all claimed the child as theirs, and when Palmer was created Baron Limerick and Earl of Castlemaine later that year it was whispered that the titles were payment for his wife’s services; unlike the husbands of Lillie Langtry and Alice Keppel, however, Palmer was not at all sanguine about the arrangement.  When Barbara’s second child, Charles, was born in June of 1662, Palmer had him baptized Catholic; Barbara later had him re-baptized Anglican in a ceremony attended by His Majesty, who publicly proclaimed the child his.  It was the last straw for Palmer, who never saw his wife again; though he had a long (but stormy) political career until his death in 1705, he was deeply humiliated by his reputation as “Europe’s best-known cuckold”.

When the new Queen, Catherine of Braganza, arrived at court from her honeymoon soon after baby Charles’ birth, she discovered her new husband’s mistress already in control; the fact was hammered home when the King demanded she accept Barbara’s appointment as a Lady of the Bedchamber, an official position which would give both an income and rooms at the Palace.  The Queen had already been told about Barbara by friends, so naturally she refused; Charles became furious and sent the ladies she had brought with her home to Portugal.  The King’s chief advisor, Edward Hyde, 1st Earl of Clarendon, hated Barbara with a passion, but gritted his teeth and advised the Queen to relent for her own good; Barbara repaid this reluctantly-given help by plotting with his political enemies to bring about his downfall in August of 1667.

These are only a few examples of Barbara’s extraordinary selfishness and viciousness.  Though she was witty and charismatic and could be generous and even kind when it suited her, she had a terrible temper and was merciless to those she perceived as enemies; she was described by George Reresby as “the finest Woman of her age“, but by John Evelyn as the “curse of our nation“.  She had a powerful hold on King Charles, partly due to her looks and partly to her legendary sexual prowess; her influence was so great that after one of their many arguments she could always get him to come crawling to her, and on more than one occasion she actually got him to apologize in front of witnesses.  He showered her with gifts, and not long after his coronation gave her a payment of £30,000 (about £2.5 million today); he also granted her an annual pension of £4700 (£400,000) from the Post Office, and allowed her to take additional money out of his own purse whenever she liked.  After her sudden conversion to Catholicism in December of 1663, she also made extra money by charging French and Spanish diplomats for using her persuasive powers to sway the Anglican King in their favor.

Barbara bore King Charles three more children:  Henry (1663), Charlotte (1664) and George (1665); all of her children were eventually granted titles, even the youngest (also called Barbara), who was born in 1672 and was probably the daughter of John Churchill.  Neither Barbara nor King Charles had ever been faithful to each other, but while the King did not care she was quite jealous because it meant her income.  The concern was not an invalid one; since April of 1668 the King’s favorite had been the younger and far more even-tempered Nell Gwyn.  In June of 1670 he gave Barbara one final set of generous gifts as a kind of severance package:  she was given Nonsuch Palace, built by Henry VIII, and the titles Baroness Nonsuch, Countess of Castlemaine and Duchess of Cleveland (the latter was a true peerage, made with a condition allowing her to pass the title to her son Charles).  She was still nominally the official mistress until 1673, when the Test Act banned Catholics from holding office; she thus lost her position as Lady of the Bedchamber to Louise de Kéroualle, Nell Gwyn’s chief rival.  In 1676 she moved to Paris with her four younger children, but returned to England in 1680 and enjoyed a friendly relationship with the King until his death in February of 1685.  By this time she had developed a terrible gambling habit, and in 1682 had Nonsuch Palace entirely dismantled so she could sell off its expensive materials to pay her debts.  In her later years she became involved with a series of unscrupulous fortune-hunters; after Roger Palmer’s death in 1705 she actually married one of these, though it was later annulled when she discovered he already had a wife.  In 1709 she developed what was then called dropsy, a condition which caused her to become so edematous that she died of congestive heart failure on October 9th.  It is clear that Barbara, like so many other courtesans, had been totally unable to recognize that her sex appeal had deserted her, and adjust her expectations, lifestyle and expenditures so as to live out her declining years in comfort and some small measure of dignity.  But then, dignity was never something that Barbara was very good at, even when she still had her youth and looks.

*Because Catholic realms (including France and Ireland) had already converted to the Gregorian calendar at this time but the United Kingdom had not, it is not unusual to see her birthday expressed in the new style as November 27th, and some sources record the year as 1641.
**There is considerable disagreement about which Civil War battle claimed Villiers’ life; Wikipedia says Newbury (September 20th, 1643); other sources say Bristol (July 26th, 1643); and Bishop Burnet’s contemporary history says Edgehill (October 23rd, 1642).

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Diary – Week 226

TulaneI’m not sure how the hell I did it, but I managed to forget my laptop at home when I left for New Orleans last Thursday.  Remember, I’m the Princess of Paranoia; I compulsively inspect my luggage, counting each item in the car to be sure I”m not leaving anything behind.  Yet that day, my head was in some kind of fog; I didn’t notice the omission until after I had pickup up my rental car in Shreveport and was well on the way down the road.  This, of course, will make me much more paranoid in the future; the rare occasion of my actually doing whatever it is I’m worried about doing acts to reinforce the paranoia.  You can bet I will not be forgetting it when I leave for my Northwest tour a week from today!

Other than having to make do with online maintenance, though, it was a really good weekend.  On Friday morning I met my little sister for breakfast, and we had a good long talk about family stuff.  Then in the afternoon I went to the library to check my emails and Twitter, and I took my cousin Alan to dinner in the evening.  Saturday was a long day, but a fruitful one; the Students for Liberty conference was excellent and the lineup of speakers very interesting.  Some libertarian gatherings are dominated by people who seem more concerned with economic issues than anything else, but this was not one of them and the speaker lineup reflected that; the afternoon block was especially subversive, with my talk followed by Thaddeus Russell‘s and then Angela Keaton‘s a bit later.  And I can assure you that whatever trees remained unshook when Thad Russell and I were done, were entirely cleared of loose branches and leaves by the time Angela put down the mike!  After dinner there was a social, and then a house party at the organizers’ home; I borrowed Angela’s computer to finish Sunday’s “Links” column, then sat on the porch swing and fielded questions until after 1 AM.

It’s a good thing I don’t need a lot of sleep any more, because I had to get up early Sunday morning for breakfast with Thad Russell; we talked about future projects and then I took him on a short tour of the city before bringing him to the airport.  After that, Denise was kind enough to allow me the use of her computer for several hours, during which time I was able to mostly catch up on my bookkeeping (though I was behind on my Twitter blog-promotion until this morning) and write the very column you’re reading.  Then on Monday I drove home, and for the next week I’ll be busy trying to get as far ahead as I can in preparation for the next trip!  Last but not least, my sincere thanks to the readers who sent me monetary gifts over the weekend; y’all covered my entire trip to New Orleans and left some for Chicago and Seattle!  If anyone else would like to donate, just see the subscription box at right.  Your donations not only help me in the practical sense, but also let me know that y’all appreciate my efforts and think my work is important enough to support; that moral support is every bit as vital as the financial.

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My short break from running around the country is almost over; this Thursday I’ll be departing for New Orleans, where I’ll be speaking on Saturday at the Students for Liberty regional conference along with Thaddeus Russell, Angela Keaton and several other big names.  Then on Monday I’ll be home for just one week before leaving again two weeks from today; on Wednesday, November 5th at 7 PM I’ll be speaking to another chapter of Students for Liberty at Loyola University in Chicago, then on Thursday I’ll get on a train for Seattle.  The day after I arrive, that is Sunday November 9th, I’ll be speaking at the Foundation for Sex Positive Culture at 7 PM, and the next day there’s a private event for SWOP members which I think I’ll enjoy very much.  The rest of my time will probably be spent visiting various individuals I’m friendly with there, and doing things that I may even be able to tell you about.  Or maybe not, depending on whether the other participants give their permission.  I’m still trying to arrange for a visit to Portland, but I’m not sure if that will work out; it seems as though it’s a bad time of year for Portland.  C’est la vie.  Anyway, as things stand now I’m supposed to be back here on the afternoon of the 22nd, but that may be subject to change.

I thank y’all very much for the good thoughts and kind words last week; y’all really did succeed in raising my spirits, and very quickly, too.  I’ll have some more news pretty soon; there are several irons in the fire, and I’ll announce each as it comes ready (or forget about it if it doesn’t pan out).  All I can say for now is that the next year should be very interesting.

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Cat PrayerAs of last Tuesday evening my trains to Chicago and Seattle are paid for; I’ve also booked my hotel room in Kansas City, though I decided to wait a little for Chicago because everything near Union Station was too pricey when I last looked (I’m trying to do this trip on the funds I have left from my fundraiser this summer).  As of right now, the only gig that’s fixed in place is a talk at the Foundation for Sex Positive Culture at 7 PM on Sunday the 9th, the day after I arrive; I expect to hear back from SWOP this week, and then I’ll try to fill in a few private meetings with donors and a few sex workers I know there from online.  Due to a miscommunication about the dates my Portland side-trip is still up in the air, but that should be remedied this week; by next Tuesday I should have the whole trip mostly penciled in just before I leave for New Orleans two days later.  And I’ve even figured out what I’m probably going to do with my internet-less time during the 46-hour trip to Seattle.

I mentioned my leftover donations above, and that reminds me:  if you look at the subscription box on the right, you’ll notice I’ve added text about how to give me a one-time cash gift if you prefer to do that instead of subscribing.  It’s very simple; all you have to do is PayPal whatever amount you like to my email address, maggiemcneill@earthlink.net.  Ta-dah!  I like to keep things simple whenever possible.  But even if your budget won’t allow that sort of thing right now, there’s another way you can help me that won’t cost you a dime.  The pressures of this year seem to have inflicted more stress on me than I bargained for, so I’ve found myself moody and very blue lately and would appreciate your prayers, good thoughts, well-wishing, positive vibrations or whatever the equivalent in your philosophy.  You needn’t worry; these moods do come occasionally and I always get past them.  But I figure a little extra psychic support can’t hurt, even if the effect is only in my own mind…which, since it’s where the problem lies anyhow, seems perfectly reasonable.

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Despite [all], some men stubbornly fight for our rights anyway; I don’t mind saying that I find that sort of obstinacy rather sexy.  –  Maggie McNeill

It’s already getting close to a year since I’ve compiled a list of men who have spoken out for sex worker rights, in defiance of the popular Swedish-flavored narrative which casts sex work as tantamount to rape and a form of male “oppression” of women.  In such a climate, speaking out for sex workers is liable to get one labeled a client or even a “pimp”, so “these days it takes some serious balls for a man to stand up, demand rights for sex workers, and actually sign his real name to the thing.”  Here, then, is another list of male allies; remember, this doesn’t include men who are directly involved in our industry, since it’s as personal for them as it is for us.  It does, however, include clients who have chosen to “out” themselves for the cause.  As before, this is by no means complete; please make any new suggestions in the comments below, so I can include them in a follow-up next year.

Noah Berlatsky is a freelance journalist who writes often about feminism, comic books and “geek” culture; he’s been published in Slate, the Atlantic, Wired and many others, and he has a book on the Golden Age Wonder Woman comics out early next year.  Follow him on Twitter at @hoodedu.

Magnus Betnér is a Swedish comedian who has dared to mock the Swedish model in front of Swedish audiences in Sweden; that automatically qualifies him for this list. Follow him on Twitter at @Magnusbetner;  he tweets in both Swedish and English.

Andy Bodle is a journalist and scriptwriter who has written for the Guardian, the Times, the BBC, and ABC.  He is out about having hired sex workers when he was younger, and has written several times debunking “trafficking” claims and arguing for decriminalization from a harm reduction viewpoint.  Email him at andybodle@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter at @_Womanology_

Felix Clay is not a cat, but rather a writer for the humor site Cracked who not only writes sex-positive articles, but even defended sex work in one where he admitted to hiring an escort (though he denied having sex with her).  Follow him on Twitter at @Felix_Clay

Leonard Fahrni is a regular reader and an instructor at Metro State University in Denver; beside speaking up in person and in a number of blog posts, he also proved hugely helpful to me when I reached Denver on my tour this past June.  Follow him on Twitter at @LeonardFahrni.

Robert King is a professor of applied psychology at University College, Cork, Ireland; he writes the blog Hive Mind at Psychology Today, in which he has on a number of occasions defended the legitimacy of sex work.  Email him at r.king@ucc.ie or follow him on Twitter at @DrRobertKing

Ed Krayewski is an editor at Reason who has, like so many libertarian journalists, consistently supported people’s right to do whatever they damned well please with their own bodies, including sell or buy sex.  Email him at ekrayewski@reason.com or follow him on Twitter at @edkrayewski

Jay Levy is a Cambridge University researcher whose 2012 PhD looked at Swedish prohibitionism as a form of violence against women; he has also written a book on the subject and discusses it in this video.  Email him at j.levy.03@cantab.net.

Nicola Mai is a professor of sociology and migration studies at London Metropolitan University; he not only authored an important study debunking “sex trafficking” myths in the UK, but has also supported decriminalization in both scholarly and popular articles.  Email him at n.mai@londonmet.ac.uk.

Robert Murphy is a well-known libertarian economist who, though he has not written on the subject of decriminalization before, did so after attending my presentation in Nashville back in July.  Email him via this page or follow him on Twitter  @BobMurphyEcon

Jim Norton is a comedian who recently came out as a client and published an article about it (in Time, no less), opening himself to the kind of prohibitionist attack that would cause fainter hearts than his to quail.  I don’t know if he ever reads this blog, but I have it on good authority that he owns an autographed copy of Ladies of the NightEmail him via this page or follow him on Twitter at @JimNorton

Peter Brian Schafer is a photographer and regular reader who strives in his work to portray whores with dignity and respect and to debunk the Madonna/whore dichotomy.  Email him at hookstrapped@gmail.com 

Sam Seder is a comedian, writer, actor, film director, television producer-director, and talk radio host; in the latter capacity, he has debunked ridiculous excuses for the criminalization of sex work and had Melissa Gira Grant as a guest on his show, Majority Report.  Contact him while on the air via this page or follow him on Twitter at @SamSeder

Michael Smerconish is a radio (on Sirius XM) and TV (formerly on MSNBC, now on CNN) personality who has made at least one persuasive on-air defense of prostitution from a harm reduction perspective, also mentioning clients with disabilities.  Follow him on Twitter at @smerconish

If you’d like to be on the next list of this type, just email me with a link to whatever public statements you’ve made about sex worker rights under your real name, and we’ll see about adding you to the next one (don’t be shy; if you don’t tell me, who will?)  In the meantime, keep your eyes peeled for “Stand-Up Guys” in my weekly TW3 column, where I’ll mention guys who come to my attention without having to wait another year.

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I realize that most people wouldn’t struggle with the process of figuring out a way to designate the individual entries of a new recurring feature.  I’m sure many probably wouldn’t bother with it at all; they’d just call this feature “diary” and delineate the individual entries by date (if they gave it even that much thought).  But most people don’t view blogs as monumental projects, either; it takes a special kind of obsessive-compulsive thinking to maintain daily posting of (mostly) full essays for four years, and to insist on a fairly rigid format and schedule.  You want a window into my crazy librarian brain?  Read the intro to “Links and Changes“,  then watch the first video in Sunday-before-last’s Links column.  Anyhow, I’ve decided to just use the blog week number (as explained in “Links and Changes”) and call it good.  This is the second day of the 223rd week (WordPress starts its statistical weeks on Monday) since I’ve had the blog, hence the title.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, here’s an update on my travels.  Everything’s all set for New Orleans the weekend of the 25th, and I know two of the other speakers (Thaddeus Russell and Angela Keaton), so it’ll be fun to visit with them again.  I’m finalizing the details of my Seattle tour, and everything should be paid for by the end of the week; I’m staying with friends there, so the only lodging I’ll have to worry about will be my few days in Portland.  As of right now, here’s what it looks like: I’ll drive to Kansas City on Tuesday, November 4th (it’s the nearest Amtrak hub with halfway-decent connections), then take a train to Chicago on the 5th to speak at Loyola.  On the afternoon of the 6th I’ll depart by train for Seattle, arriving the morning of Saturday the 8th, then around the 12th-15th I’ll do a little side-trip to Portland.  I’ll leave Seattle on Tuesday the 18th, reach Chicago on Thursday the 20th, take the train back to Kansas City on Friday the 21st and drive home on Saturday the 22nd.  I’ll probably have more details on my appearances next week, so if you have any ideas please contact me as soon as you can!

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As I wrote in “Change Is“, most Tuesdays will now be diary columns bringing you up to date on what I did the week before and what I’m about to do in coming weeks.  I also think it will be a good place to share links to podcasts and  embed video interviews I’ve done, to tell you about articles I publish in other venues, and even to thank readers for presents and the like.  That means I’ll be retiring the “Maggie in the Media” and “Presents, Presents, Presents!”  headings from TW3 columns, but the tags will persist to enable location of diary columns with items that would’ve gone under those tags.  I don’t have any media for you this week, but I do need to mention a couple of presents I received in Washington, DC and forgot to mention earlier:  when I met Eddie Cunningham for dinner he gave me copies of Guns, Germs and Steel and The Boat of a Million Years.  Thank you, Eddie, and I apologize for not mentioning your gift earlier!

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been immersed in catching up on work I had to neglect in the last month of the tour; I was so busy with activities and writing new columns for August and early September that I had to neglect correspondence, plus indexing and other blog maintenance, and by the time I got home my normal one-month buffer was entirely gone.  However, you’ll be glad to know that my correspondence is fully caught up, that the buffer was restored by last Saturday, and that the indexing will be fully caught up sometime today; once I bring up the PAQ page and a few other little things I’ll be all done.  Furthermore, you’ll be glad to hear I didn’t have to run myself ragged to do it; my improved procedures are making things easier on several fronts, and that means now that I’m caught up I’ll have time to start working on a few other things.  One of them is increasing my mainstream presence by submitting articles to a few big sites you may have heard of; another is that essay collection I’ve promised y’all for almost two years now, and the other…well, let’s not say too much about it yet.

On the travel front, I’ll be back in New Orleans again the weekend of October 25th to speak at a convention of Students for Liberty, then on November 5th I’ll be speaking to the same organization at Loyola University in Chicago.  The following afternoon I’ll be leaving Chicago by train for my mini-tour to Seattle and Portland; there is no wi-fi on long-distance routes yet, so I will be out of touch all day Friday the 7th, all evening on Thursday the 6th and the morning of Saturday the 8th.  But don’t worry, everything will be set up to go, so those who don’t follow Twitter closely probably won’t even know I’m missing.  I want to get all of my activities for those cities planned before I leave, though, so if you would like me to speak or read anyplace in either Seattle or Portland please let me know by two weeks from today, three weeks at the absolute latest!

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