Lady Unmentionable: Donna Britannica Hollandia
As a well-know A-list celebrity socialite, or at least that is how the Playful Promises team describe me, I take inspiration and interest in inspirational characters and socialites from past and present. I'd like to share some of these notable personages.
I recently came across Donna Hollandia, perhaps not the most moral role-model, however her story stands out for me. During a time where women were repressed and treated like objects she broke free and became a socialite of her period.
Her story starts in 1542. William Baseley was the King's Bailiff, and in that year he purchased the lease for a Manor House in Paris Gardens, located in Southwark. He transformed this estate into a casino with all the tricks of the day including card tables and dice games.
The Manor House began to gain a reputation, however when the house was passed onto Henry Carey, Queen Elizabeth I's cousin, this was when the reputation really began to take a turn. Henry Carey, better known as Lord Hudson or 'The Golden Lad', began renting the Manor to Pimps and Madams.
The Manor House of Paris Gardens became a High-Class club, catering for the nobility, gentry and emerging affluent middle class. The Manor still offered gambling as well as wine, food and sex.
The Manor House changed hands regularly. The infamous 'Long Meg' of Westminster was one of the Madam's pimping out prostitutes before Donna Britannica Hollandia took charge.
Her preposterous 'nom de guerre' (war-name), testified to her experience as a whore, a Madam and an undying character. Later, the Manor House was named Holland's Leaguer after Donna and a punning reference to the Anglo Dutch wars of the 17th century. She was also known as the 'princess of whoredom'.
Donna started life as a prostitute in the 'Italian Quarter' of London in Cripplegate. She then promoted herself to the role of a Madam at St Andrews-by-the-Wardrobe. She had impeccable credentials and a vast array of contacts including nobility, gentry and royalty. When she found herself arrested and sent to Newgate Goal, prison, she soon pulled strings to escape as she threatened to expose saucy secrets from her 'little black book' of clients.
Once she had paid her dues to those who helped her to freedom, she sought work outside of the City walls. She was directed to the Manor house of Paris Gardens.
The High-Class brothel was located on the bankside, on the southern shore of the River Thames. Brothels were commonly located around Southwark and the bankside, outside the control of the London civil authorities, just as were the theatres and bars. It was situated in a street now known as Holland Street.
The building itself was equipped with a moat, portcullis and a drawbridge. Securely fortified images depict the Manor house with armed guards with muskets and ladies amusing themselves in the garden.
Donna Hollandia saw the possibilities of this house and its location. She wasted no time in transforming the Manor House into a discreet gentlemen's club. With her prestigious contact list she was able to have the authorities turn a blind eye to the activites of the business in exchange of a fresh young prostitute.
The Manor House and Donna received fame and fortune. She soon became one of the most famous Madams in London. A whole host of celebrity patrons were associated with the brothel including King James I and George Villiers.
The bordelloe was luxuriously furnished and offered every comfort known to man. Wine and food was free flowing. The girls were experts in 'squeezing' every penny out of their clients. But customers got what they paid for; they left exhausted and satisfied.
Donna was reknown for her strong character, running the house with great efficiency and offering a draconian security to her employees. The safety of her girls was paramount; nobody was allowed to mistreat them. Donna hired full-time security as well as a doctor to keep the girls healthy and clean. Any misbehaviour meant instant and permanent expulsion, whatever the rank or class of the customer.
As a private club, membership was much sought-after with potential punters being asked to present credentials at the gatehouse before being turned away or further questioning. After this they would be escorted across the drawbridge. Donna would personally greet each client and delve into his requirements and needs.
As a rule, customers with no money were not allowed inside the club, no matter how famous or important they may have been. This ensured the Manor House remained an exclusive club with plenty of fortune.
Donna's club started with just four hand-picked girls, selected for their 'special' talents. Beta Brestonia rumoured to be impudent and insolent, Eliza Caunce a nymphomaniac, Longa Maria, Maria Pettit considered to be a real live-wire. Many girls tired of the discipline Donna ensued and therefore the turn-over of prostitutes was high.
A bout of bad publicity after a case of 'whore-bashing' by certain members of nobility meant standards started to slip. Donna and her club was safe during the reign of James I, but when Charles I succeeded the throne parliament became commited to cracking down on brothels and prostitution. She could no longer bribe the local constables.
By december 1631 the authorities decided to intervene and shut-down the club. This is where Donna Britannica Hollandia and her 'nom de guerre' really showed her true colours and capabilities.
Thirty years as a Madam had turned her into an excellent strategist. She greeted the law with defiance and an army of whores. Using the Manor House's defence system, her first action was to attract the defence as far as her drawbridge. She then let the drawbridge fall to the ground, pounding the floor and sending the officers flying into the moat of muddy water.
The whores were ready, launching missiles and throwing whatever they could towards the men. Unfortunately this included a mass of chamber-pots including their contents! The men limped away in shame.
A second attempt to gain access into the Manor House was met with similar defences and the men were thwarted. Onlookers jeered at the soldiers as a bunch of harlots lead by Donna managed to push away the small army.
From this time, the Manor House of Paris Gardens was named Holland's Leaguer.
Unfortunately Donna and her girls were finally ambushed and Holland's Leaguer was shut-down and further demolished.
There is no further information about Donna Hollandia, but I suspect her list of contacts meant she was not sleeping rough.