In January 1763, a French aristocrat named Christophe-Louis Pajot de Villers hosted a private showing of a Rousseau opera in the ballroom of his Paris home. It was attended by more than 30 minor royals, aristocrats and wealthy members of the bourgeoisie.
The performance concluded at around 10pm and guests prepared to leave. Behind the curtain, de Villers’ coachman, Nicolas Dandeli, mounted the stage, shouted “Tiens, la voila la comedie!” (Hey, here’s a funny show!) and offered a parting gesture:
“The coachman… decided to undo his trousers and turn his back to the curtain, with the intention of displaying his bare rump to those who were still in the room. At this point, Capolin, a negro aged 13 years, raised the curtain so that those remaining in the hall saw the nude posterior of the coachman, who was bent over in such a way that his rear end stuck out towards the audience. He even slapped his backside loudly with his hands to call attention to himself. As a result, all of those still in the room saw, much to their astonishment, an act of tremendous impudence, which so greatly revolted them that they left the room immediately, complaining of the terrible scandal.”
The outraged de Villers immediately summoned the commissioners, who dragged Dandeli off to prison. He remained there for several days while the commissioners took a series of depositions. He was released after de Villers – apparently unable to tolerate not having a coachman – withdrew his complaint.
In 1728 the British diplomat Philip Stanhope, fourth Earl of Chesterfield, was stationed in The Hague. In October he wrote to his fellow peer and diplomat, Earl Waldegrave, who was representing Britain in Austria. Pausing from matters of state, Chesterfield enquired into Waldegrave’s “private pleasures”, asking whether he had taken mistresses in Vienna:
“As I know that both your rammer and balls are made for a German calibre, you may certainly attack with infinite success… So I expect some account of your performances. As for mine, they are not worth reciting… the warmest thing I have met with here between a pair of legs has been a stove…”
Several weeks later Chesterfield wrote to Waldegrave again, reporting that he had found the means to engage “a little into pleasures… provided it is at my own expense”.
Simon Harcourt was raised to the peerage in 1749 after his military service to George II. As the 1st Earl Harcourt, he served as an advisor to the future George III and an ambassador on the European continent, including four years in Paris.
Harcourt met a watery end in September 1777, aged 63. While walking on his estate in Oxfordshire, the earl apparently fell head-first into a well while trying to rescue his dog:
“…the body of Earl Harcourt was found dead in a narrow well in his park, with the head downwards and nothing appearing above water but the feet and legs. It is imagined this melancholy accident was occasioned by his overreaching himself in endeavouring to save the life of a favourite dog, which was found in the well with him, standing on his lordship’s feet.”