Did Henry VIII of England have any illegitimate children?
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Henry VIII’s thirst for sons made him famous. But he already had a son for most of his early reign—thanks to his lover, Bessie Blount. Henry Fitzroy was the only acknowledged illegitimate child of Henry VIII, although the boy died at the age of 17. Blount would still be greeted with the refrain, ‘Bless ye, Bessie Blount” for that proving the Henry VIII could produce male babies.
True or False: Benjamin Franklin once wrote an entire pamphlet advising young men to pursue affairs with older women.
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Benjamin Franklin was the author of many wise words. He was also the pen behind a famous letter titled, “Advice to a Young Man on the Choice of a Mistress.” The founding father sings the praises of an older woman as your paramour. Older women will nurse you when you’re sick, they’re clean, they’re harder to impregnate, and (his words) there’s ultimately little difference between them and a younger lady in the sexy cover of darkness.
True or False: Madame de Pompadour, the chief lover and political advisor to King Louis XV of France, almost never had sex with the king.
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Madame de Pompadour was the chief lover, political advisor, and best friend to King Louis XV of France. She also stopped having sex with the king just five years into their almost 20-year long relationship. The reason: her poor health and aversion to sex in general.
In which of these countries is adultery NOT criminalized?
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There are a surprising number of countries where adultery is still considered a crime. India recently decriminalized the practice.
Mary Godwin (the woman who wrote Frankenstein) had an affair with which English poet...before later marrying him?
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When the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley starting hooking up with Frankenstein author, Mary Godwin (later to be Mary Shelley), he wasn’t exactly unattached. In fact, Shelley was married. Shelley and Godwin did, eventually, tie the knot to each other—some three weeks after Shelley’s very pregnant wife was found self-drowned in a river.
True or False: The French author Victor Hugo once had an affair with his son’s partner.
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The French author Victor Hugo was a notorious philanderer—but he was also a dad trying his best. These two roles came together when his son’s partner, the actress Alice Ozy, began seeing other men. In response, Hugo slept with Alice himself, thinking that the embarrassing affair would “avenge” and cheer up his son. The boy was shockingly ungrateful towards Hugo’s efforts.
Which French leader died while making love to his mistress?
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Sadly, “Death Pump” is not the name of a rockin’ heavy metal band. Instead, it’s the cruel nickname waged upon the grieving mistress of French President, Félix Faure; the 58-year-old Faure had died in the middle of a sex act with his 30-year-old paramour.
How many US states consider adultery a criminal misdemeanor?
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As of 2019, adultery is a criminal misdemeanor in 20 of the US states.
Who was the only Pope to father an illegitimate child while he served his pontificate?
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In the 15th-century, courtier Giulia Farnese acted as mistress to Pope Alexander VI. Her nickname in Italian was "Giulia la bella"... which means Julia the Beautiful. Suffice to say, she was quite the stunner. She also holds a pretty, uh, surprising distinction: to date, Farnese is the only woman to have (publicly) mothered an illegitimate child with a Pope while he served his pontificate.
Frieda Khalo had a number of affairs during her 10-year marriage to Diego Rivera. Which of these people did she take as a lover?
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Iconic for her paintings and her eyebrows, Frieda Khalo had a ten-year, mutually unfaithful marriage to Diego Rivera. Khalo’s personal list of lovers included high-profile names such as revolutionary Leon Trotsky and painter Georgia O'Keeffe.
True or False: For years, maitresse en titre (Chief Mistress) was an official title in France.
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It’s true!
Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton were both married other people when they met on the set of which movie?
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Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton fell in love on the set of Cleopatra while they were both married to other people. Together, the power couple went on to make 11 movies, earn several Oscar nominations, and divorce each other twice—once in 1974 and again in 1976.
When ex-lovers refused to pay her a pension, how did the former mistress, Harriette Wilson, earn herself a living?
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Harriette Wilson was a retired mistress with a backup plan. When ex-lovers refused to pay her a pension, Wilson published her Memoirs. Her writing gave every salacious detail of her steamy affairs with British Regency-era elites. The book was both a historic sex scandal and a historic lesson in keeping your financial promises.
True or False: for years, the title of “mistress” had nothing to do with extra-marital activity.
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The title of “mistress” was not originally associated with adultery. In fact, people of the 15th, 16th, and 17th century were just as likely to refer to a woman of high standing and authority as a “Mistress,” even if she wasn’t involved in any extramarital activity.
True or False: The House of Tudor was descended from the children of a royal mistress.
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Katherine Sywnford may have “just” been the mistress of John of Gaunt, fourth son of Edward III. However, after seeing John through two marriages, the prince officially wed Swynford in 1396. This legitimized their children, whose descendants would form the royal House of Tudor—who gave us another powerhouse of mistress production, Henry VIII.
As of 1857, women in England could finally use adultery as grounds for divorce. What was the legal act which made this possible?
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The Matrimonial Causes Act of 1857 opened a brave new world for English wives, who could finally use adultery as grounds for divorce. However, the wives had to prove the adultery in addition to a series of other cruelties (violence, rape, incest, etc.) if they wanted their separation.
Which Roman emperor was planning to murderer his lover...until she murdered him first?
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In a pre-emptive strike, Marcia Demetrias poisoned the customary pre-bath drink of her lover, the Roman Emperor Commodus. She had no choice: Commodus was planning to execute Marcia herself for insulting his choice of dress.
True or False: Near the end of his life, Louis XIV of France made his children’s governess a Queen.
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Late in life, the lusty Louis XIV of France fell into extreme piety and love. The woman in question was the religious Madame de Maintenon, who was governess to his children. Louis eventually made an “honest woman” of Maintenon. Their marriage was an open secret at court, but Maintenon was never formally crowned before the people. It appears that openly bedding your children’s nanny was less of a scandal than making her a queen.
True or False: The science-fiction writer H.G. Wells carried on numerous affairs—WITH his wife’s consent.
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H.G. Wells authored some of the most iconic science-fiction stories in English literature, from War of the Worlds to The Invisible Man. He also carried on numerous affairs and kept meticulous notes about them his diary. His wife, Jane, didn’t just turn a blind eye—she lent both of her ears. Jane was reported to have feelings that ranged from neutral to downright enthusiastic when it came her husband’s religiously delivered sex stories. Wells would often ask for Jane’s blessing to stray, at which point Jane would deliver nothing harsher than a riotous chuckle.
True or False: Henry VIII had an affair with Anne Boleyn’s sister.
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Years before Henry VIII married his second queen, Anne Boleyn, he conducted an affair with Anne’s sister, Mary Boleyn. It was this sisterly(-in-law) sojourn which formed the basis of Henry’s annulment from his marriage to Anne in 1536. To Henry’s new church, his previous relations with Mary rendered his union to Anne incestuous and thus invalid. But don’t worry—the marriage was just valid enough that he still could charge and execute Anne for adultery.
Which legendary French woman was said to drink liquid gold in order to maintain her good-looks?
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Despite being 20 years his senior, Diane de Poitiers kept the interests of Henri II of France for as long as the king lived. It was only rumored that Poitiers drank liquid gold to maintain her legendary looks. However, in 2009, French scientists examined Poitiers’s corpse and found that her hair contained gold levels at 500 times the human average.
“Where there’s marriage without love, there will be love without marriage." Who said this quote?
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That is a Benjamin Franklin quote.
True or False: Edward III of England was robbed on his deathbed by his much younger mistress.
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As Edward III lay on his deathbed, his young mistress, Alice Perrers, stayed with the king right until the end. Here, “The End” translates to “Long Enough to Pull the Rings Off His Dead Fingers and Get Out With Her Swag.”
True or False: The world-famous pilot Charles Lindbergh had different families in different parts of the world.
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International pilot and daredevil had Charles Lindbergh had three different families across the world with three different women. Two of the mistresses, Bridget and Marietta, were sisters.
Which famous American businessman built a castle as a retreat for he and his mistress?
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: Travel outside of Los Angeles, and you’ll find a luxurious castle property called San Simeon, which was designed in 1919 as a retreat for William Randolph Hearst and his mistress-turned-wife, Marion Davies. Also known as “Hearst Castle,” the residence was host to Hollywood stars, millionaires, and you can visit it today as a public landmark.
Edward VII is said to have had an affair with the mother of which of these famous Englishmen?
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When Alexander was ten years old, he was brought a horse by a trader from Thessaly. The horse proved impossible to tame, and his father ordered it sent away. Alexander noticed that the horse was afraid of its shadow and pleaded for permission to tame the horse. Much to the joy of Philip, he did. As a reward for his courage and ambition, Philip bought him the horse which he named Bucephalas or “Ox Head.” When the horse died in battle at the ripe old age of 30, Alexander named the city Bucephala after him.
Which English king is said to have abandoned his mistress after she dropped a piece of ice down the back of his shirt?
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Edward VII of England allegedly dumped his mistress, Lillie Langtry, because she jokingly dropped a piece of ice down the back of his shirt and then refused to apologize.
True or False: In Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, adulterers are forced to wear a letter to mark their shame. This, however, is NOT based on any historical reality.
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Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter was based on something. Early Puritans really did sentence adulterers to bear their shame with sewn letters on their clothing (they also used whipping, which was at least as bad).
When the French Revolution started, revolutionaries executed the former king’s chief-mistress.
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Most people know Jeanne Bécu (better known as “Madame du Barry”) as the last official maitresse en titre of France's original experiment with monarchy. Bécu outlived her beloved Louis XV, but she nevertheless lost her head when the French Revolution brought that experiment to a close.

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For most of recorded history marriage was a business deal. Physical and emotional fulfillment could be happy accidents, but they were certainly not prerequisites for wedlock. For such things, a man (and it was mostly men, sorry) had to step outside of holy matrimony. And if the partners were high-profile, such extramarital risky business could often shape the face of international politics and culture. So how much do you know about the world of illicit love? Time to find out...

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