There is this really unfortunate habit that every generation seems to pick up. Along with going through that whole “kids these days are ruining everything” nonsense phase as adults, humans of every era seem to believe that they invented sex.
Of course, I get it. We don’t want to think about our grandparents as young and horny, and we’re so desperate to believe that we are the young, invigorated, sexy, clever generation who has really, finally figured out what it means to get down and dirty.
I’m here to tell you all that ain’t so. The sex has always been good. Since caveman times. It’s just that during periods of puritanical value systems (and questionable methods of birth control), things had to be a little more discreet. So let’s talk about sneaking around and getting naked!
Medieval Europe was all at once a place of relentless brutality and fairy tale romance. Courtly love (and the entire concept of chivalry) was an answer to taming warriors into something that could function in society between battles. This was a lesson we didn’t learn again until after the Vietnam War, so take note, because boy was the “code of chivalry” approach ever effective!
While historians speak mostly of platonic courtship, sonnets and flowers and so on, I prefer to be a little more realistic. And my realism says: platonic my eye. You don’t build up that much sexual tension every day in gardens and courtyards and sumptuous palace rooms without the dam eventually bursting.
Now, one couldn’t really go around and boink random courtiers in full view of the palace, of course. Ye Olde Tinder was still in development, literacy was about as sparse as writing materials, and occasionally you’d have to deal with a psychotically possessive spouse getting in the way of your fun (looking at you, Kitty Howard).
That’s where the foundations of Europe come into play. The medieval castles that dot the European countryside by the thousand are not all unique structures, erected from nothing but dirt on the ground.
No, quite to the contrary, many of these castles were erected over the existing infrastructure of old Roman ruins.
The Romans really knew what they were doing architecturally and while the full splendor of their erections (heh) might not have survived the centuries, the bones absolutely did.
So of course, kings and nobles alike wanted to make good use of that, and not necessarily in a public way. These ruins provided a unique opportunity to build facades around them, allowing no one but the architect and the owner to know the secrets hidden within the walls of a new castle.
Secret passageways have a lot of great uses: espionage, panic rooms, and of course clandestine routes to funky town.
Most famously were the secret passageways of Versailles, which Kings Louis (several iterations) used to meet their many, many mistresses. This was not an idea that sprang into the genius mind of the Sun King on its own – rather, it was a tried and true tradition of royal life for many centuries ahead of time.
In my new book The Bathhouse Scandal, Princess Portia makes healthy use of an ancient passageway that links her bedroom to the secret structure beneath the palace grounds.
She mentions tales of ghosts that roam the halls of the palace where she grew up, and the moaning wails within the walls that convinced her of their existence as a child. Perhaps what she was hearing wasn’t so much spiritual as it was sensual.
And she’s about to get in on that action. Keep your eyes peeled for The Bathhouse Scandal, coming to Kindle this Friday!