Tuesday, October 29, 2013

From the Archives: Men Behaving Badly: Sir Charles Sedley, 1663

Tuesday, October 29, 2013
Isabella reporting,

Because today is a "travel day" for me, returning home from Colonial Williamsburg, I'm sharing one of my more lurid posts from the past. My five historical novels (written as Susan Holloway Scott) were all set in Restoration England, during the reign of King Charles II (1660 -1685.) This was a very good time for very bad gentlemen, when just about any excess could be explained away if one had a title, or at least was friends with the King.

Sir Charles Sedley (1639-1701) was a wealthy, well-connected baronet who wrote witty plays and poetry, played tennis with the King, dabbled in diplomacy, and eventually became a respectable politician in the House of Commons. He looks innocuous enough, left, but in 1663, he was best known for often being "rhetorically drunk", and also for one particularly bad example of bad-boy-dom, so scandalous that Samuel Johnson was still sputtering over it a century later:

Sir Charles Sedley, Lord Buckhurst, and Sir Thomas Ogle, got drunk at the Cock [a notorious tavern] in Bow Street, by Covent Garden, and going into the balcony exposed themselves to the populace below in very indecent postures. At last, as they grew warmer, Sedley stood forth naked, and harangued the populace in such profane language, that the publick indignation was awakened; the crowd attempted to force the door, and being repulsed, drove at the performers with stones, and broke the windows of the house.  For this misdemeanour, [the three gentlemen] were indicted, and Sedley was fined five hundred pounds....Sedley employed [his friend Harry] Killigrew [groom of the bedchamber to the King's brother, the Duke of York] to procure a remission from the King, but (mark the friendship of the dissolute!) they begged the fine for themselves, and exacted it to the last groat.

For a far more frank telling of these frat-house-style shenanigans, see Samuel Pepys's diary entry – scroll down to the first annotation/comment at the bottom by Terry F., and hold on to your coffee cup.

Above: Sir Charles Sedley, 5th Baronet. Engraving after a painting by Michael Van der Gucht, published 1722.


Julia said...

I'm thinking Silvio Berlusconi. Maybe a bit less power, but not much, and if Berlusconi never showed of his goods to the public, then only because he wasn't drunk enough to forget that he lives in a day and age where everyone and their grandmother owns a smartphone. "Frat-house-style" certainly describes it perfectly!

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