10 Dirty History Facts You Never Learned in School

2. The Bawdy House Riots And The Whores Petition


In 17th-century London, Shrove Tuesday riots were common. These occurred during Easter Week as the devout attacked places of ill-repute such as playhouses, taverns, and the like. They were usually let off without severe consequence, but that wasn’t the case in 1668. That year, King Charles II banned conventicles, which caused thousands of dissenters to unleash their fury on brothels. Samuel Pepys recorded the whole thing in his famous diary. That year, the ringleaders were tried for treason and some were drawn and quartered.

In response to the riot, several madams and their workers wrote “The Poor-Whores Petition” and addressed it to Countess of Castlemaine, the king’s mistress. It was a mocking letter that was widely distributed and openly referenced the king’s promiscuous ways as well as those of other high-profile courtesans. The letter ended with a plea to Lady Castlemaine to help her “sisters.”

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