Among the bordellos of Victorian Paris, Le Chabanais was the most exquisite, and the most lavish. Over the years this ‘maison de tolerance’ — the word ‘brothel’ was considered too tawdry — saw visitors as illustrious as Humphrey Bogart, Mae West and Cary Grant.
But in the 1880s, one of its principal clients was the future King Edward VII, then known to everyone as ‘Bertie’, the playboy Prince of Wales.
Each of the establishment’s 30 rooms had its own theme, such as Moorish, Louis XIV and ancient Roman — but Bertie’s favourite was the Hindu room.
For there lived an extraordinary contraption, a testament to the Prince’s insatiable lust and to his immense corpulence. Known romantically as a ‘siege d’amour’, or love-seat, this chair allowed the distinctly unathletic Bertie to have his way with two women simultaneously, all with the minimum of effort.