The sexual appetites of King Edward VII are well known: from the scandal of Nellie Cliffden, which Victoria blamed for her beloved Albert’s death, to the perfumed bosoms of aristocratic French ladies and courtesans, to Sarah Bernhardt and Lillie Langtry, to his long-time mistresses, Daisy Warwick and Alice Keppel, Bertie was very much a ladies’ man. His reputation and exploits not only opened the doors for the sophisticated spouse-swapping of the Marlborough House Set, but were so notorious, women openly propositioned him when he traveled to Europe to visit heads-of-state and to take the waters at Homburg or Marienbad. However renowned was his appetite or his mistresses, His Royal Highness preferred to take his pleasures in the exclusive Parisian brothels, particularly La Chabanais, the most exclusive of them all.
La Chabanais was founded in 1878 by the Irish Madame Kelly, and operated near the Louvre at 12 rue Chabanais. Madame Kelly was shrewd, aligning her brothel with the Jockey-Club de Paris and selling shares of the incredibly profitable business to wealthy, but anonymous investors. The interior was lavish, each bedroom styled in its own theme–Hindu, Pompeii, Japanese, Moorish, Louis XVI–at a cost rumored to be 1.7 million francs. Bertie was a frequent visitor during the 1880s and 1890s and was allotted his own chamber, decorated with his coat of arms. The most interesting features of the bed room were the copper tub decorated with a half-swan-half-woman, in which Bertie liked to bathe with a prostitute or two in champagne, and a chair, a siège d’amour (love seat) actually, in which the overweight Prince of Wales could do…well…whatever he wished with the cocotte of his choice.