Princess Seraphina

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Princess Seraphina was the alias for butcher John Cooper of Number 11, Eagle-court, the Strand, who was a popular London cross-dresser. Cooper’s friends referred him as ‘her’ or ‘her royal highness’. He was described as indistinguishable from a woman, often wearing a white gown and scarlet cloak, fluttering a fan and would curtsey.

In 1732 Princess Seraphina brought a case at the Old Bailey against Thomas Gordon, an unemployed servant, for stealing his clothes and jewelry at knife point in Chelsea Fields, a popular gay cruising ground. Cooper’s clothes were described as fine masculine apparel. The thief then changed into Cooper’s clothes, saying, if he brought a case against him he would accuse him of sodomy and paying for his services.

In court, Princess Seraphina was described as being lady-like at all times, there was a risk that she could be tried for a capital crime. Princess Seraphina called her ‘ladies in waiting’ to be witnesses, who were both dramatic, humorous and well liked.

Such characters were called ‘Molls’ and visited Molly Houses or Vauxhall Gardens where it was the rage for the men to dress as women and vice versa.

People were often preyed upon for their clothes which were often their most valuable possessions.

37. Thomas Gordon , was indicted for assaulting John Cooper Field in Chelsea Parish, putting him in Fear, and taking from him a Coat, a Waistcoat, a pair of Breeches, a pair of Shoes, a pair of Silver Shoe-buckles, a Shirt, a Stock, a Silver Stock-buckle, and 4 1/2 d. in Money, May 30.[1]

Princess Seraphina was a fixer for the richer members of Gay London when they desired an assignation: when they fancied a drummer boy, or a market labourer.

Mary Poplet was the landlady of the Two Sugar-loaves in Drury Lane and a neighbour to Princess Seraphina and his official employers, the Tulls, gave this account of his character:

I have known her Highness a pretty while, she us'd to come to my House from Mr. Tull, to enquire after some Gentlemen of no very good Character; I have seen her several times in Women's Cloaths, she commonly us'd to wear a white Gown, and a scarlet Cloak, with her Hair frizzled and curl'd all round her Forehead; and then she would so flutter her Fan, and make such fine Curt'sies, that you would not have known her from a Woman: She takes great Delight in Balls and Masquerades, and always chuses to appear at them in a Female Dress, that she may have the Satisfation of dancing with fine Gentlemen. Her Highness lives with Mr. Tull in Eagle-Court in the Strand, and calls him her Master, because she was Nurse to him and his Wife when they were both in a Salivation (salivation was a mercurial cure for syphilis); but the Princess is rather Mr. Tull's Friend, than his domestick Servant. I never heard that she had any other Name than the Princess Seraphina.

Princess Seraphina did not win her case and was not prosecuted for sodomy, little was heard of her after this event.

References

  1. http://www.oldbaileyonline.org/browse.jsp?id=t17320705-30&div=t17320705-30&terms=Princess%7CSeraphina#highlight

External links

http://rictornorton.co.uk/eighteen/seraphin.htm
http://www.georgianlondon.com/a-mollys-map-of-georgian-london