This week I’m going to bring the focus of my blogs closer in to my story A Gentleman’s Folly rather than discussing the broader history of this fascinating period.
What prompted me to write the story? I made a visit to the West Wycombe Caves, a tourist attraction with a salacious reputation.
Much has been written about the debauched behaviour of the Knights or St Francis as they were known, or the monastery. I was intrigued and found the caves fascinating. There is so much to ponder.
While I was musing over the visit the idea for the story came and stayed with me. I did some research into the caves and into the order of St Francis, that later became known as the Hell Fire Club.
The story continued and the more I discovered the more I felt the Knights of Saint Francis of Wycombe were unfairly given a reputation for a level of wickedness they didn’t attain in reality.
This club had members from the highest levels of society. Yes, I know that doesn’t exclude them from questionable practices, but I discovered elements that made me think religion had a lot to do with the club and its activities.
It is certainly known that Sir Francis had an antipathy to main stream religion. Hence in my story the explanation of the role male and female members took in what they called ‘worship’.
From this point the story rolled on.
During my research I didn’t find any evidence of young maidens despoiled but old rues and lechers, far from it. The female members of the monastery, known as nuns, had choices. Some of them were courtesans but others were member’s wives. This is why they appeared masked, so they had the choice to withdraw or to accept a different partner than their husband. There seems to have been a lot of feasting and entertainment and a ready wit was most necessary for a member of this club.
The club forms a minor part of the story A Gentleman’s Folly but its influence runs through the story and is I think an example of an age of experimentation in many different aspects of life.