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Demimondaines of the 19th Century
Famous Women : Infamous
"Glamour, glitz, fame, diamonds, champagne in slippers, princes at their feet ... These women had all of this and more. Who were they?"
15 Points Per Correct Answer - No time limit
In 19th century France, an enterprising young woman of intelligence, beauty and liberality of spirit had a chance of becoming fabulously rich and a celebrity in her own right. She could also possess personal freedom that other women could not. The writer Alexandre Dumas fils (son) coined the term 'demimonde' to describe their social habitat and the women as 'demimondaines'. What does 'demimonde' mean literally?
Marie Duplessis was a poor girl who started working the streets at the age of twelve. Nevertheless, she was clever and ambitious and became one of the first great courtesans of 19th century Paris. The poor girl lived fast, made and lost a fortune, and then died of tuberculosis at the age of 23. Her tragic life inspired a book and a play, which in turn inspired an opera and a film. What's the name of the book?
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
The Lady of the Camellias
The greatest of the great demimondaines of mid-19th century Paris was an English girl who was a sometime actress with a genius for making the right friends. At one time she possessed the largest house in Paris, Prince Napoleon sent her a carriage full of violets in February and her personal fortune came to millions of francs. After one of her lovers shot himself on her doorstep her career ended and she eventually died in poverty. By what name was she best known?
Emma Elizabeth Crouch
Lily Langtry was living proof that a girl didn't have to go to Paris to make it to the top. 'The most beautiful woman in the world' came from an obscure gentry family on the island of Jersey. Possessed of great charm and a better-than-average education, the 'Jersey Lily' took London by storm in the 1870s, and had affairs with many powerful men, the most notable being Edward VII. At varying points in her career Oscar Wilde promoted her as an actress. She created the concept of celebrity endorsement, and ran a winery in California which has survived ever since. Her portrait inspired deathless love in a lawman from Texas, who named his town Langtry and his saloon 'The Jersey Lily'. Who was he?
Judge Roy Bean
Caroline, 'La Belle Otero' was the last and possibly the greatest of the great courtesans of France's Belle Epoque. From about 1890 to 1914 she was the most famous courtesan in Europe and one of the richest women in the world. She also appeared in at least one very early film and travelled all over the world as an entertainer. She numbered amongst her lovers six crowned heads of state, including one who would die before a firing squad later on. Who was he?
King Petar I of Serbia
The future Edward VII of England
The future Nicholas II of Russia
Prince Albert I of Monaco
Marie Duplessis was not the only courtesan to make it into print in 19th century France. Emile Zola wrote a celebrated novel about a fictional demimondaine without brains or charm, but with a certain 'chemical' attraction that lured and then ruined men. This girl is portrayed as a kind of human animal; operating on some feral level that destroys everyone and everything around her. In the end she too is destroyed, dying horribly of smallpox. What book are we talking about here?
Almost everyone knows that the exotic Mata Hari was actually Gertrude Zelle, a Dutch girl with a very complicated past who made her name as a dancer and courtesan in Paris at the end of the 19th century. Absolutely everyone knows that she was shot as a spy in 1917. People rarely remember the details, though. Who shot her?
As Clara Ward would explain it, she wasn't a courtesan at all. She was an American, the Princess of Chimay and the daughter of the first millionaire in Michigan. Her father married her to a poor but noble Belgian and she became a celebrity in Europe and the USA at the end of the 19th century. She was so famous in Paris that a great painter of the demimonde caught her and her lover on canvas. Who was that artist?
Leonardo da Vinci
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
Talk about great opening lines! Legend has it that Camilla Parker Bowles walked up to Prince Charles and said something like 'My great grandmother was your great grandfather's mistress. So how about it?' Who was she talking about? Edward VII and ...?
Liane de Pougy (1869-1950) had a life that really should be on film. She was raised in a nunnery, ran off with what turned out to be a wifebeater, literally ran away from him and then worked hard to become one of the most famous demimondaines in Paris. When her star faded, she ended up back in a nunnery helping children with birth defects. At the height of her fame she had a notorious affair with an American woman writer and wrote the book 'Idylle Saphique' about their relationship. Who was the writer?
Natalie Clifford Barney
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Compiled Jun 30 12