Oh No They Didn’t: Victorian Scandals

In true fashion of the era, Victorian scandals were as prim as they were preposterous.

The Queen was no exception.

Her reign nearly ended before it began thanks to an accusation. No doubt a ploy to discredit Sir John Conroy, Victoria made veiled accusations targeting a lady-in-waiting who’d recently presented a swollen abdomen. . . and had been most recently traveling alone with the manipulative controller.

Adamant of her purity, Lady Flora Hastings humbled herself to the court’s suspicions and, to her great humiliation, submitted to an examination by the royal doctor.

Her diagnosis of liver disease proved Lady Hastings was, in fact, not with child. Further, it confirmed to Queen Victoria’s adversaries that she still was one.

The “baby” scandal wasn’t the only plot that backfired. . .

The Chicken Dance

He called her “that nasty little swine,” with good reason.

In regards to her ballet, choreographer Marius Petipa could appreciate —perhaps even admire— Mathilde Kschessinskaya. She was Prima Ballerina of the Imperial Ballet. It was a title no Romanov could secure on her behalf. And, it seemed, no one could strip her of.

Though not for lack of trying on Petipa’s part.

He repeatedly casted her. Each role was cruelly revised with intensified choreography.


But still, she rose every occasion until Petipa discovered a young dancer.

When Olga Preobrajenska seized the coveted role in La Fille Mal Gardée, Mathilde sought to sabotage Petipa and his production. A unique aspect of the particular ballet included live chickens. During the first act, Mathilde freed the fowl from their coops. 

At the resounding first note of music, they flailed onto the stage.

Following tradition, the show went on, ending in thunderous applause.

In true Victorian fashion, their scandals were prim & preposterous. – Click to Tweet 

Ice-cuse You!


Actress Lillie Langtry had many a dalliance. Perhaps no lover was more famed than Edward, the Prince of Wales.

She may have been a married woman, but she took her title of official mistress most seriously. Once Langtry arrived at a costume party wearing an identical costume to that of the one Edward had donned for the event.

He was not amused, and Langtry was not impressed by his tantrum. She promptly dropped an ice chunk down the back of his shirt.

A Public Dismay of Affection

Of all the etiquette to abide by in Victorian society, kissing in public was the height of impropriety. Therefore, when Thomas Edison released the first on-screen kiss in 1896, the 23-second reel shocked viewers.

According to Brain Pickings, “the act of kissing was referred to as ‘sparkin’ if it took place indoors, usually the parlor, or ‘spoonin’ when performed outdoors, in a secluded spot far from the public’s eye.”

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 A Magician Never Reveals His Secret Affairs

Few knew the true genius of Harry Houdini’s illusions. He’d made a name for himself mastering impossible handcuffs, locks, and safes. No one knew better of their limitations.

With such knowledge, it’s surprising he entrusted a safe, of all things, with love letters from mistresses.

His widow discovered them, of course. Imagine after the lighthearted marriage they’d shared! After Harry told her that magic “is something that happens when we’re together.” After years of keeping his secrets. . .

It was her turn to have a trick up her sleeve.

Rather than seek out audience and submit the correspondence for newspaper publication, Bess Houdini invited the “other women” to tea at her home. After their visit, each prepared to take her leave. But not before accepting a parting gift, her letters.


From Russia With Love

“Quite cross about it,” a young Queen Victoria had no more sat down to dinner than tsarevich Alexander II arrived with his entourage of 70. Finally. A telegraph had alerted her to his delay. She ranted in her diary of “What a contretemps!”

Her vexation soon dissipated. The apparent heir’s agreeable company wouldn’t allow for it. Nor would his appearance fail to charm. For Alex was dashing and a lady’s man.

And in spite of being mother to a nation, Victoria was still a young woman.


Together, they swept across the dance floor until three in the morning, Alex claiming an inappropriate number of dances.

The Grand Duke flirted in French and in a whisper only she could hear.

Victoria offered Alex a seat in her opera box. Behind the curtain, the besotted royals cared not of their breach of decorum.

However, Alex could not be ruled by his heart when he was meant to rule. Tsar Nicholas refused for his son to submit to that of a prince consort.

Following a farewell dinner in his honor, the lovers danced.

Spellbound, she wrote, “the Grand-Duke is so very strong, that in running round, you must follow quickly, and after that you are whisked round like in a Valse, which is very pleasant […] I never enjoyed myself more. We were all so merry; I got to bed by a 1/4 to 3, but could not sleep till 5.”

Throughout her reign, Victoria carried on several romances. Her marriage to Prince Albert shadows other dalliances. Still, there is another scandalous love. . . Only, it is more of a tender Victorian love story.


4 thoughts on “Oh No They Didn’t: Victorian Scandals

Add yours

  1. I like Bess Houdini! That had to be one awkward tea party. Wonder what kind of cookies she served with tea? Lady fingers? Snickerdoodles? Thank you for sharing, love your site!!

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