The Beggar’s Benison
During the 18th century, clubs were the main places where like-minded gentlemen gathered to discuss matters of interest to them. Some clubs focused on politics and commerce, others on science. And certain clubs were all about one thing—sex.
That was the case with the Beggar’s Benison, often touted as Scotland’s first sex club. Its full name was The Most Ancient and Most Puissant Order of the Beggar’s Benison and Merryland, Anstruther. The name referenced a story in which King James V received a blessing from a beautiful, young beggar girl, exemplified by the club’s motto: “May Prick and Purse Never Fail You.”
The goal of the Beggar’s Benison was to celebrate male sexuality. This usually meant talking about sex, looking at pornography, and sometimes being entertained by nude “posture girls.” Club members also likely indulged in group masturbation in protest of the accepted view of the day that onanism (masturbation) was a “health and social problem.” The Beggar’s Benison lasted for almost 100 years before closing in 1836. Today, we are mostly left with a few documents and records of their meetings, as well as several novelty phallic relics preserved in museums.
The Congress Of Vienna Was One Long Party
The Congress of Vienna was a pivotal moment in Europe’s history. Following Napoleon’s defeat, other powers came together to reach a long-term peace plan that would provide some much-needed stability to a Europe ravished by decades of wars. It lasted for nine months between September 1814 and June 1815 and it was mostly about Europe’s remaining powers—Britain, Austria, Russia, and Prussia—agreeing on new borders that wouldn’t give too much power to any one nation.
The Congress gathered Europe’s most powerful people in the same city for almost a year. And when they weren’t busy with politics, they were steeped in a world of sex, parties, and alcohol.
British ambassador Robert Stewart, Lord Castlereagh, became well-known to Viennese police for his many drunken exploits. One memorable example was an altercation between the British official and a carriage driver after a traffic dispute. Drunk after a few bottles of Bordeaux, the ambassador cursed the driver and challenged him to a fistfight while bragging about his boxing experience. The coachman, who spoke no English, simply cracked Stewart in the face with his whip and would have thrown him into the Danube if police didn’t arrive.
Austria’s main representative, Prince Klemens von Metternich, preferred women to wine and had numerous affairs during the Congress. Both Tsar Alexander (above) and British diplomat Frederick Lamb slept with mistresses of Metternich under the pretext of seducing them for information. Even the defeated French ambassador Prince de Talleyrand joined the festivities by sleeping with a mother and her daughter.