About writing The Servants of the Crown
a little bit about male mistresses and molly boys in the 19th century
I write LGBTQ historical fiction, mostly with some sort of relationship running through the story. I’d be lying if I said I wrote romances in the traditional meaning of the m/m romance genre. However, there’s always a beating heart running through my stories, and not more than one or two men finding each other one way or another.
An Edwardian theatre murder mystery, a collection of stories of men in love and at war, a cross-cultural timeless story of connection between two men and the land they live on, a WW2 spy thriller series, and a 1950s pulp-fiction style private investigator series: those are the sorts of books I write.
As you probably know, you can’t write historical fiction without research and I’m lucky in that I love research. Both my post-graduate degrees have been research-based and to me it’s just as much fun doing the homework as fleshing out my fellas, and putting the words on the page.
The idea for the Servants of the Crown grew from a seed of an idea; the mere mention in an article about the waxing and waning popularity of Queen Victoria, and which suggested how different the country would have been had one of her father’s brothers had actually produced a legitimate male heir after the demise of George IV’s daughter, Princess Charlotte, who died in childbirth, leaving no legitimate heir to the throne.
What if, what if … two short words that are the impetus to any writer’s story. What if indeed there had been a legitimate child born before Queen Victoria and whose existence had been hushed up, known only to a very few, issue of a morganatic marriage between a royal prince and a commoner, later annulled by a furious George III?
That’s the basis of the story of a group of six men, friends since adolescence, some high born, some low, being tasked to uncover a claque of disaffected nobles and industrialists, fuming at what they think is interference by Prince Albert, the Queen’s consort, and who wish to overthrow the monarchy and install this first-born male upon the throne.
I had the fun of Cork, as they say, researching the life of gay men in mid-Victorian England, many of them in the same situation as men during the great depression of the early 1930s, earning money to feed their families by dropping their trousers with an agreeable man for the promise of remuneration.
In an age when men of a certain class married for reasons other than love, Victorian marriages were often business arrangements, and men kept mistresses for love and affection while maintaining a respectable Christian profile in society with a wife at their side. However, not a few of the mistresses were male, and more often than not, also strong virile men able to supply their patrons with the only sexual activity that could not be provided by a woman … use your imagination 😊.
There’s quite a bit in the literature if you care to look. Even reading contemporary spurious, populist reports of Queen Victoria’s son, Prince Albert Victor, who was supposed to have been caught out in an upper-class male brothel—far more genteel than the usual Molly Houses that existed at the time—can reveal what actually went on in these luxurious bordellos.
There’s a general perception <rolls eyes> that homosexuality somehow disappeared between the times of the ancient Greeks and Romans and re-emerged in the 1960s with the first real gay awareness movements, coinciding with the decriminalisation of homosexual acts in many countries—the UK, for example, in 1967. However, whenever there’s a need for specific sexual activity outside the marriage bed, there’s always a willing market only too happy to supply it—not to mention the myriads of enthusiastic amateurs keen to satisfy those needing something different.
In my story, Mrs. Hedger’s well-appointed house for gentlemen of discernment, staffed with handsomely endowed men in their twenties, is a meeting place for activities and for people who serve to advance the plot of this exciting spy-thriller.
“As I said, Mr Malloray, more often than not it’s play-acting. The right grunting and groaning, eyes rolling back in their sockets, and vigorous thrusting, culminating in a dramatic, pretend sigh of release at the same time as the gentleman beneath me has earned a gratuity more than once.”
“I’m intrigued, and I suppose if a gentleman requires you to, well, you know …”
“Gentlemen who require a man to roll onto his back or lie face down don’t come to Mrs Hedger’s. We’re renowned for assets other than our arses; there’s plenty all over town give theirs away for free.”