BBC History Magazine

What was King Edward VII’s ‘love chair’?

- Hilary Mitchell, freelance journalist and editor

Albert, Prince of Wales – who ruled as King Edward VII between 1901 and 1910 – was famous for his appetite: for food, as well as love-making. So, to help him better entertain the famous courtesans of Le Chabanais brothel in Paris, the king-to-be commission­ed an elegant, double-decker chair by Louis Soubrier, the renowned cabinetmak­er of the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Antoine.

Adorned with elegant brocade fabric, the resulting piece of furniture was a marvel of both decadence and ingenuity, and enabled the corpulent royal to have sex with two women at the same time without subjecting them to the full weight of his body.

So, how exactly would the chair have worked? Picture the playboy prince (referred to as ‘Dirtie Bertie’ by the tabloids of the time) standing upright, with one companion reclining on her back before him, and another companion laying beneath her. All three parties would have needed to place their feet into the chair’s specially made bronze stirrups to help them stay in position during the no doubt vigorous process.

The original chair was reportedly sold to a ‘private individual’ in the 1990s, but a replica of the device – known as the siège d’amour (or ‘love seat’) – can be viewed at the Sex Machines Museum of Prague. Another replica was included as part of an exhibition entitled Splendour and Misery: Images of Prostituti­on 1850– 1910, which was hosted by the Musée d’Orsay in Paris between late 2015 and early 2016.

Intriguing, scandalous and undeniably captivatin­g, the love chair and the story behind it stand as a testament to the boundless appetite for pleasure that characteri­sed the Edwardian era.

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