Previously on “Another 80 Gays”: 67) Baron Friedrich von Steuben (1730-1794) suggested the throne of the newly independent USA should go to 68) Prince Heinrich von Hohenzollern of Prussia (1726-1802), the brother of 69) King Friedrich II the Great of Prussia (1712-1786), who fell in love with 70) Count Francesco Algarotti (1712-1764).
70) Count Francesco Algarotti was the same age as 69) King Friedrich II of Prussia
and they first met when Friedrich was still a prince. They became lovers and
when Friedrich became king he showered Algarotti with appointments and honours,
including creating him a Prussian Count. Their relationship lasted for two
years though they remained close for the rest of their lives.
Before arriving in Prussia
Francesco Algarotti travelled all over Europe visiting many Enlightenment
figures. One of his acquaintances was Voltaire, the French philosopher who
would also later spend a lot of time at the court of King Friedrich. Voltaire
gave Algarotti the nickname “The Swan of Padua” because of the way he seemed to
glide from one city to the next.
When Algarotti, who had
not yet met King Friedrich, arrived in London in 1736 he was a well-known
writer, philosopher and scientist. He was in the process of writing a book
called (in translation) “Newtonism for Women” on the theories of Sir Isaac
newton. It wasn’t long before Algarotti was made a Fellow of the Royal Society.
Algarotti’s arrival at King
Friedrich’s San Souci residence got him out of a love triangle in England. The
woman involved was one of the most free-thinking intellectual women of her
time, 71) Lady Mary Wortley-Montagu
(1689-1762). For more information on Lady Mary go to my two articles on
her Extraordinary Life.
The third person in this
Enlightenment love triangle was 72)
John Hervey, 2nd Baron Hervey (1696-1743). It was Voltaire who
introduced Francesco Algarotti to Lord Hervey in Paris. Hervey was the son of
the 1st Earl of Bristol and was elected a Member of Parliament in 1725. As heir
to his father’s earldom he was known as Lord Hervey, one of his father’s junior
titles. He wasn’t an actual peer of the realm because he was, basically, only
“borrowing” the title until his father died. This is still customary in British
Lord Hervey was such an
important member of the government that the Prime Minister of the day didn’t
wait until the Earl of Bristol died before Lord Hervey could enter the House of
Lords. So Lord Hervey was “accelerated” to the Lords as Lord Hervey in his own
right. His father, the Earl of Bristol, relinquished his title of Lord Hervey
to his son, and they sat in the House of Lords together. Lord Hervey, sadly,
predeceased his father so never became Earl of Bristol.
Although married with 8
children Lord Hervey was well-known for his camp and effeminate personality.
His style of dress was flamboyant, in a style that became known as “macaroni”
because it was as fashionable among the aristocracy as was the Italian food
they encountered on their Grand Tour of Europe. If you remember the song
“Yankee Doodle” and wondered why he put a feather in his cap and called it
“macaroni”, that’s why – it was fashionably flamboyant.
Lord Hervey was infatuated
with Francesco Algarotti from the moment they met, and it was when Hervey later
introduced him to Lady Mary Wortley-Montagu that things started to get
“interesting”. Lady Mary was well over 40 years old by then, 20 years older
then the two men. Her failed marriage and unhappy family life needed some
pleasantness and Algarotti provided it.
The three of them spent a
lot of time together in England. Algarotti read his Newton book to them and
Lady Mary helped him to improve his English. In September 1736 Algarotti went
back to Italy leaving the two English aristocrats heartbroken. They both wrote
love letters to him urging him to return. Algarotti, probably conscious of the
complications that might arise, gave polite excuses and encouraged them to
Lord Hervey was content to
bide his time but Lady Mary was truly infatuated. Her letters became more
agonising and she made known her intention of visiting Algarotti in Italy. By
this time, however, Algarotti was dating a young man from Milan, so you can
almost hear the alarm bells going off in his head when he read that letter.
Algarotti visited England
briefly in 1737, staying with Lord Hervey for a while before continuing on his
graceful travels around Europe. By this time Lady Mary was virtually stalking
him and she travelled down to Turin to meet him. This was in 1741, by which
time he had met King Friedrich of Prussia and had been created a count. It was
obvious to Lady Mary that she couldn’t compete with a king for Algarotti’s
affections and gave up trying.
So what became of our
Enlightenment love triangle? Lady Mary spent the next 20 years in retirement in
Europe before returning home to die in England in 1762. Count Algarotti died
two years later in Italy. Lord Hervey predeceased them both in 1743. His final
years were clouded by an unhappy marriage, despite having 8 children. He
virtually disinherited his wife in his will.
Throughout his short life
Lord Hervey attracted much attention for his effeminate appearance and
personality. As well as becoming a famous “macaroni” Lady Mary Wortley-Montagu
once remarked that there were three genders in England – male, female and
hervey. Other slang terms and names were given to him in his lifetime and he
was an obvious target for political satire and caricature. Alexander Pope in
his satirical “An Epistle From Mr. Pope to Dr. Arbuthnot” made no attempt to
hide his contempt for Lord Hervey by portraying him as the castrated youth who
was married Emperor Nero, a youth called 73)
Next time :
We watch Rome burn then go to a pantomime.