March 10, 2023 | Dancy Mason

History's First "Dumb Blonde"

Rosalie Duthe was a beautiful French courtesan with a dubious claim to fame. Although she lived through the French Revolution, socialized with many of the key players in the Bourbon Restoration, and managed to live well into the 19th century, none of that put her on the map. Instead, she's now notorious as “the first officially recorded dumb blonde". But what's the truth?


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Fact Or Fiction?

In some ways, Duthe's history contradicts the claim of her stupidity. For one, she certainly knew her way around manipulating men. Born in 1748, Duthe spent her formative years in a French convent, but soon escaped France and its burgeoning discontents to move to London, England.  Once there, she had no trouble seducing the English financier George Wyndham.

This was good for Rosalie Duthe, and terrible for poor George Wyndham. Despite Wyndham beginning their dalliance with piles of money, his coffers couldn't stay full with the rosy-cheeked, flaxen-haired Duthe around. By the time Duthe moved back to France, Wyndham was reportedly "ruined".

Rosalie Duthe EditorialWikimedia Commons

From this point, Duthe's story took on the proportions of a sleazy fairy tale. She became the "companion" of many illustrious Parisian men, including the future Bourbon king, Charles X, and was an immensely popular artists' model for nude portraits. Her services were so in demand, the high-ranking Duke of Orleans "gifted" Duthe to his 15-year-old son so the boy could "learn some facts of life". She proved an apt teacher.

A Dumb Blonde Is Born

Thus, Duthe went through the bedroom door and up the social ladder—but the entire time, vicious gossip dogged her. As it happened, Duthe had a habit of "pausing for extended periods of time before speaking". Unfortunately, this quirk led many in the supremely witty royal courts to assume that beautiful Rosalie wasn't just stupid, she was also quite literally dumb.

It didn't help that when Duthe put out her autobiography later in life, many suspected she had a prolific author friend of hers ghost-write the book. It helped even less when a one-act play mocking her stupidity, Les Curiosities de la Foire, came out during the height of her fame and "kept Paris laughing for weeks".

Whatever the truth, Duthe wasn't stupid enough to laugh off this scathing theatrical satire, and she reportedly promised to kiss any person who took it upon themselves to defend her honor and her brains against Les Curiosities de la Foire. Most tragically of all, no one took the beauty up on it. When Duthe died at about the age of 82, her "dumb blonde" reputation carried on without her.

Sources:  1, 2, 3, 4

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