Who do they think they are?
Egopendium: can you contribute?
Photo: Katie Price, startrip.tv
Image: Nell Gwynn, gwynn.name
Photo: fruit, andy laing
Photo : Young girl from theartwolf.com
I either don’t understand her or I don’t understand her world. It is not only time that separates us. I was the most famous woman of my age because I bedded a king as no other of my contemporaries did (and I had a legion of competitors, as I’m sure you know). Katie has made her fortune by besotting her country with her liberal charms. I admit mistress of a country is a harder role than king’s strumpet but, to judge her, I have to ask: does she love her country as much as I loved my master?
I wouldn’t have known the word – I was barely able to read back then – but I was an icon, as Katie surely is today. What does that say about our respective days? If I assert a right to look down on her, does that mean that I think nothing has really changed in three hundred years. Men are men and power is power; it’s only the cloaks that are different, is that it?
I’m being too clever, I hear you think. ‘You weren’t famous and powerful because you could totter prettily along beside fellows like Wren, Hooke and Boyle.’ Perhaps not. ’Clever, clever Nell,’ they used to say and you think I took it as earned praise not venal flattery, don’t you? Again, perhaps. ‘You’re no fool, Katie,’ is being said just as often and Katie will smile that smile that only really works when it is fixed in time. Like me, she knows exactly how stupid she is. So we have one connection that is not distasteful. A smidgeon of self-awareness. What are the others and do they support my right, or determination, to like myself but not her?
Made any connections?
If you can link the past to the present, we’d love to hear from you.
Exactly as Lady Castlemaine did, and I knew her too well to think that foolishness of any kind ever tinged that woman.
Nell Gwynn’s opinion was interpreted by Susan Clare. Dec 2010
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Young girl. Probably Barbara Villiers, later Lady Castlemaine by Lely
As a woman commonly described as a strumpet, trollop, whore, doxy and jade, I feel qualified to comment on how Katie Price runs her life. I have no problem with any woman making the most of her assets. Or any man, for that matter. I want to admire Katie, to cheer her, to toast her with the finest champagne as I so often was. I want to believe I would have done as she has done. I want to see echoes of Nell in the bold way she has taken her country by the balls. Like any strumpet. I’ll grasp at anything to make me feel better about myself.
Hard as I try, that’s not the way I incline.
I don’t think it’s in the nature of a strumpet to despise her kind without good reason. I know better than most why you become one. Am I making excuses? Do I only know how to become one? It’s possible. But I said it then, and I would not swallow my words now: a woman in love cannot be a whore. I never acted in his play – on stage, I was more Barbara Windsor than Flora Robson and tragedy didn’t suit my attributes – but John Ford sensed woman’s dilemma when he penned ‘Tis pity she’s a whore’. He was a man in thrall to sex and violence but he recognised overwhelming love nevertheless. I have to find the love in Katie to like her and I’m struggling.
My Coal Yard Alley beginnings were humbler than Katie’s Newport and Brighton start, though only by a mite. We were introduced to sex with the same absence of a ‘by your leave’. Therefore there are excuses for our behaviour that are shared. After those have been considered, I hope the divergences between us stand out more.
‘Do strumpets enjoy sex and is that why they are whores?’ I know that question is still unanswered in men’s heads and never will be. Sex to a whore is as getting wet is to a sailor. Rape turned me off sex no more than it has Katie. Nor no more than it turned us on. Maybe it educated us very quickly, not about sex but about men. Whatever the trigger, we both used sex to better ourselves. I know there’s a criticism both implied and inferred there and I’m not entirely willing to accept it.
I had little at the beginning. My mother sold her body to buy gin. A lot of gin, requiring volume transactions. My father never knew me – you didn’t get weekend passes from debtor’s prisons in my day. I had a sister, who I loved and who loved me. Apart from that, I had bumps on my body and a hole between my legs. If those are the only advantages life doled out, how can you be blamed for maximising them? You may not accept it as an excuse but I didn’t go down the volume route like my ma. I never had to, even later in my life. Luck rather than an individual morality is the cause of that. I know I was a low frequency whore mainly because an orange seller died a few days before I would have been consigned to Meg Ryan’s brothel.
Patrons of the King’s Theatre lapped up my oranges as though citrus deprivation was as great a threat as the plague. I see the symbolism of those shiny, round suckable fruits now, and I’m sure I sensed it then, as young and unschooled as I was. Slavering minds may seek melons as a better analogy but I was a petite girl. Oranges suited me. Both juicy and tart, which is how most men have found me. As a wile to make men look at your breasts, there is no better excuse than a basket of oranges platformed below them. No, that’s not the way to put it, is it? You don’t need wiles to make men ogle your chest, every woman knows that. What a woman wants is an excuse to display her tits without feeling tawdry about it, isn’t that it? The greater my décolletage, the more oranges I sold. Marketing you’d call it now, not indecency. Fresh oranges, mild cleavage, a genuine smile and a lively retort for every customer made me a sales package irresistible to commoner and king alike.
So can I scorn Katie for focusing attention on her most obvious attributes too? Can I take the higher ground because she hasn’t used natural devices, she’s used a surgeon’s scalpel and bags of jelly to get noticed? C’mon, Nell, the world’s the stage nowadays, so more drastic ruses may be perfectly acceptable for making your way in an equally cruel society. Costermongering wouldn’t get a girl anywhere now, I can grasp that. I unlaced my bodice at most opportunities, even when I was meeting Charlie’s Queen. How can I feel superior to Katie about that? Exclusivity, I tell myself. Katie has endowed the whole globe with her chesty melons while I only used mine to entertain court and theatre goers. I know that’s specious, that it’s the same damn thing.
I have to look elsewhere to put Katie out of my shadow. Wit was my greatest abundance, if you set aside luck. Lowly aimed and sexually charged it may have been, but it won me favour from some of the ladies of Westminster as well as many of its lords. I was earthy without being crass. I hope I have something over Katie here. No one has called her a wit unless from typographical error. Her critics, and I realise I am not alone in being one, suggest that she doesn’t just play dumb, she really is. Nonsense, of course. There are tribes of women with the same amount of silicon and only the gutter to live in. Katie may splash around but she’ll never drown there. She is remorseless in using sexual availability to garnish her fortune.