With all the emphasis on moral purity, money, and royal titles in the Victorian era, it’s refreshing to hear about an outsider beating the Upper Tens at their own game. Liverpool-born lass Catherine Walters (1839 – 1920) was the Kim Kardashian or Paris Hilton of her era. Nicknamed “Skittles” (perhaps stemming from her early job at a bowling alley), her exceptional beauty allowed her to rise to the level of a superstar. Among her lovers were royals, intellectuals, and wealthy benefactors alike, and her discretion was nearly as valuable as her looks. Among other properties, she had a home in the exclusive London neighborhood of Mayfair. An accomplished horsewoman, she drew admiring crowds whenever she rode on Rotten Row in Hyde Park. Her taste in clothes set trends and sparked envy among aristocratic ladies. She “retired” at about the age of 50 (cougar anyone?) as a wealthy woman.
Although my current work-in-progress (Jessamine’s Folly) is set in the Edwardian era, the story includes a character reminiscent of Skittles. I admire the mindset of a woman who goes about living life in her own fashion, thumbing her nose at snobbish conventions and refusing to bow to a set of societal “rules” which excluded her from birth. I drink a toast to an iconoclast of a prior era. ~ S.G. Rogers