Who were these incredible women?


Veronica Franco (1546-1591) was a Cortigiana Onesta – the most honoured class

of Venetian courtesan –  with a luxurious lifestyle, a scholarly education and an array

of literary and artistic accomplishments at her disposal. In particular, Veronica excelled

as a poet and her (frequently erotic) verses made her the most famous – and infamous

– woman in the Republic of Venice.

In FIVE CLEVER COURTESANS, learn what happened when Veronica met the Inquisition...



Nell Gwynn (1650-1687) began her notorious career as a Covent Garden orange seller,

but quickly established herself as the most sparkling actress on the Restoration London stage,

specialising in ‘breeches’ roles that allowed her to show off her legs to the gentlemen in the audience.

As celebrated for her wit as for her physical charms, Nell dallied with a series of lusty Lords,

before finally finding her way to the royal bedchamber of King Charles II.

Nell Gwynn


In FIVE CLEVER COURTESANS, discover how Nell seduced a ‘Merry Gang’ of aristocrats...



T’zu-Hsi (1835-1908) was plucked from obscurity when she was selected as a

Concubline, Fifth Class, for the Emperor Xianfeng. Very few facts are known about her

early life in the Forbidden City, but she quickly rose from her initially lowly

station to Empress Consort and upon the Emperor’s death, became the Regent

for her infant son – the new Emperor. T’zu-Hsi ruled over of the Chinese Empire

for 47 years, earning the soubriquet: ‘the Dragon Lady’.

In FIVE CLEVER COURTESANS, find out about the secret book that teaches T’zu-Hsi’ all she needs to know...



Cora Pearl (1835-1886) was an English prostitute who – through sheer determination,

character and charm – transformed herself into the most expensive courtesan in Paris.

Famous for her outrageous antics – such as dancing naked on a carpet orchids,

or serving herself up on a silver platter for dessert – and her extravagant mode of living,

Cora was a forerunner of today’s modern celebrity, whose every look, word and change of dress

was noted down and circulated for the panting public.

In FIVE CLEVER COURTESANS, see what happens when Cora meets her greatest rival...



Catherine ‘Skittles’ Walters (1839-1920) used her skill as a horsewoman to become the favourite

courtesan of London Society. Frequently seen trotting through Hyde Park – in a riding habit

cut so close to her body, it was rumoured she didn’t wear anything beneath it –

Skittles soon became a leader of fashion and her stylish innovations in dress

were copied slavishly. Her adoring ‘patrons’ included the Duke of Devonshire,

King Edward VII and Napoleon III.

In FIVE CLEVER COURTESANS, watch Skittles whip the competition into shape...