» The Ladies Love Claude Duval.
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Libertines, Lotharios or Bastards?

The Ladies Love Claude Duval.

The Ladies Love Claude Duval.
Claude Duval 1643-1670

He Spends Your Cash On Looking Flash

January 20th 1670

The ladies do love Claude Duval.

He’s a famous gentleman of the road, a dashing wild eyed French cavalier, thumbing his nose at the law and kissing the hand of any pretty maiden who comes his way. He’s only twenty seven but already  he’s a legend, was ever a man so blessed by good fortune?

That’s what my wife Margaret says, I don’t see it myself.

I mean he’s sat in a prison cell at the moment, his only companion a turnkey who constantly refers to him as “A thieving frog ponce” and then in the morning they’re hanging him at Tyburn. My wife’s right though, the ladies certainly do love him.

I wonder if it’s his accent.

They say he was born a humble millers son in Normandy who, when he was thirteen, fell in with a group of English royalists on their way to Paris.

It would have been difficult not to, in the 50s there were more exiled royalists in France then fleas on a dog.

England you see held nothing for them; they had lost the war and under Cromwell, music, dancing, theatres, inns, whoreing, flamboyant clothing, Christmas and laughing on a Sunday had all been banned.

A Puritan relaxing. A Puritan relaxing.

Those of us of a Puritan persuasion enjoyed devoting our free time to pious worship and penitence but every Godless debauchee with an appetite for sin and a large enough purse immediately sailed across the channel and started calling himself “Monsieur.

Many of them lodged in the Fauberg St Germain and young Claude became an errand boy there at a tavern come cook-shop come brothel along the Rue de Bourchiere called St Esprit . Watching these well-to-do fools spend a fortune on wine and cunny while he scampered about filling their glasses and polishing their boots no doubt gave rise to impertinent thoughts of bettering his own station in life.

When, to the despair of the righteous, Charles returned as king in 1660 all of his followers came home too.  Many brought French footman to attend them. This was a fashionable affectation as it was thought that the rudeness and hauteur of their demeanor reflected well upon their masters breeding.

The kings back, lets fuck,get pissed and have a sing song down the theatre. The kings back, lets swive,get pissed and have a sing song down the theatre.

It was sign of the times that these exotic French imports were particularly popular among wanton married women who found the simple attentions of their English husbands too “Unromantic.”

You couldn’t move in the 60s without some insipid “Gallant” sniffing around your wife “Madame, dans cette robe, vous regardez tout simplement ravissante, si je peux toucher tes seins?”

"I know I'm a footman but i don't suppose i could give your bubbies a once over?" “I know I’m a footman but i don’t suppose i could give your bubbies a once over?”

Claude came to England in the employ of Charles Stewart, 3rd Duke of Richmond. By then he was well versed in gentlemanly manners, could ride a horse, shoot a pistol and appreciate the value of gold. Like many in his profession, he was a Highwayman in waiting.

It’s said by then he was already rummaging beneath the skirts of his employers bride-to-be, Francis Stewart.

So great was Francis’s beauty she was known as “La Belle Stewart”. Her face even adorns a coin of the realm in the role of  Britannia herself  (I hear however that recently the smallpox has left her features somewhat pitted.)

Claude who? never heard of him..I'm on a coin you know. Claude who? never heard of him..I’m on a coin you know.

Tumbling her though wasn’t enough for Claude; he left the Dukes service (before he was horse whipped) and took to the road.

Apparently he held up some gentlemen in Holborn Fields who were travelling to Newmarket races.  “I’ve been reliably informed that I’ll win a lot of money if I bet upon lord Exeter’s horse “Boopeepe” says he, “Give me all your gold and if my wager is successful I promise I will return your stake with interest.” Apparently he was very polite and holding two loaded pistols so no one argued with him. Needless to say they never heard from him again.

As a highwayman Duval quickly developed his distinctive “Foreign” style. This meant he never used violence, dressed like a velvet and lace popinjay and flirted with every woman he came across.

My wife Margaret often relates the tale of how Duval and his band stopped a coach in which they knew a lord carrying a purse of £400 was travelling. To show she was not afraid, one of the ladies in his company began to play a merry tune on a small flute she carried about her person. Duval then produced a similar instrument and began to accompany her. Dismounting, he asked if she could dance as well as she played and if so would she join him in a “Courante”. He then took £100 from the lord and charged him £300 for the dance. Obviously terrified by this effeminate minstrel brandishing a piccolo, the lord offered no resistance.

"Mademoiselle, would you like to ow you say, play a tune on my flute hahahaha"  “Mademoiselle, would you like to, ow you say, “play a tune on my flute hahahaha”

This tale seems pure folly which shames true Englishmen but I have seen with my own eyes the lustful expression on the faces of normally respectable ladies whenever it is told.

Funnily enough though, the story of how this brave “Knight of the Road” brutally snatched a silver sucking bottle from the mouth of a small child and then refused to give it back despite the child’s sobs, the mothers pleading and the disapproval of his own men is seldom told by ladies giddy with romance.

"What do you mean "its really a dog"? “What do you mean “its really a dog”?

Nor is the time he is supposed to have dressed up a dog in the skin of a cow and lowered it down the chimney of the Crown Inn in Beaconsfield. The taproom was hosting a wake and as this abomination exploded out of the blazing hearth the guests fled thinking the Devil himself was upon them.  In the confusion Duval made off with £100.

The London Gazette described him as “The most wanted Highwaymen in England” and he evaded capture for over seven years.

Then, at Christmas he was finally caught, reeling drunk and full of festive cheer at the Hole in the Wall Tavern. In court they tried him on multiple charges of robbery and even murder but so eloquent was his defence and so powerful his support, particularly among certain high born ladies, the King was tempted to offer him a pardon.

Mistress "Smith" Mistress “Smith”

Fortunately Sir William Morton, justice of the Kings Bench hates highwaymen with a passion and threatened to resign unless the sentence was carried out, so the nimble footed Frenchman will soon be dancing the Tyburn Jig.

Apparently, scores of women have visited his cell to offer comfort. They wear masks it’s said to hide their eyes which are red rimmed from sobbing, I also suspect it’s so their husbands don’t find out.

My wife, Margaret insisted that we come here to see if the rogue has repented of his sins. She has been in the cell for over an hour, on her knees before him in prayer.

 

 

End of the road Claude End of the road Claude

 

“Here lies DuVall: Reder, if male thou art,
Look to thy purse; if female, to thy heart.
Much havoc has he made of both; for all
Men he made to stand, and women he made to fall
The second Conqueror of the Norman race,
Knights to his arm did yield, and ladies to his face.
Old Tyburn’s glory; England’s illustrious Thief,
Du Vall, the ladies’ joy; Du Vall, the ladies’ grief.”

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