Wednesday 10 February 2010

The LGBT History Series (10) - Princess Serafina

(most of the info for today's blog is shamelessly stolen from the Georgian London blog, thanks guys :D)

Picture the scene, the year: 1732, the place: a Picadilly alehouse. John Cooper swans in dressed as his outrageous alter-ego, Princess Serafina. London's first recorded transvestite was a 'fixer' for queer society, he arranged meetings between rich men and their male conquests.

In the witness box, after Cooper was put on trial for accusations of "Buggery", a local laundress, Jane Jones repeatedly referred to Cooper/Serafina as "she", and was "sad that a simple case of Sodomity, whatever that is, had come to court".
Another witness said "Her highness ... us'd to come to my house to enquire after some Gentlemen ... I have seen her in Women's Cloaths ... a white Gown, and a scarlet Cloak ... she would so flutter her fan ... She takes great Delight in Balls and Masquerades ... dancing with fine Gentlemen."

The widespread acceptance of Serafina/Cooper in her preferred character, whilst heart-warming was probably unique in this period - he made his living as a nurse (a uniformly female occupation in this period); regularly wore women's clothes, and was tolerated by his home community, who clearly didn't see transvetitism or "Sodomity" as that much of a big deal.