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Digital Subscriptions > Attitude > May 2015 > The Cooke, the Duke, his Molly and his Lover: A Royal Cover-up

The Cooke, the Duke, his Molly and his Lover: A Royal Cover-up

Midnight, July 8th 1810. Unbeknown to Miss Sweet-Lips and the other notorious ‘bawds in breeches’ cavorting in the lofts of a ramshackle pub on Vere Street, constables are crouching on the narrow pavements outside. On the Captain’s signal, the policemen will rush up the tavern’s dogleg staircase, laying about with night-sticks, breaking heads. The pub’s name is The White Swan, London’s most infamous ‘molly house’, or gay bar, in today’s parlance. The raid about to get underway will represent a major event in the history of homophobia, as significant in its own right as the Oscar Wilde trials 80 years later.

Twenty-seven ‘sodomitical miscreants’ were rounded up that night. As Londoners woke to the sensational news, proto-tabloid newspapers, the Morning Post and Daily Chronicle, provided many readers with their first taste of the rich argot of Regency gay culture. The White Swan ‘monsters’ gave themselves outrageous pseudonyms. Kitty Cambric was a coal merchant, Blackeyed Leonora, a drummer. Miss Sweet-Lips was a country grocer. The ‘odious reptiles’ performed illegal marriages (the first same-sex unions in Britain presided over by a clergyman), and consummated them in full view on truckle beds. They took part in molly rites, giving birth to wooden dolls, and prinked themselves up in nankeen trousers and silk stockings, or else dressed in women’s clothing. Their wives were called Tommies, forced to act as makeshift men. Enraged female readers led the physical assaults whenever the mollies were publicly paraded. The city rubbed its hands at the prospect of riotous courtroom scenes, followed by the erection of a gallows in the public square. Fifteen minutes to die, spasmodic evacuation of the bowels. A voiding of the offence, some said.

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About Attitude

The latest Attitude is a glam rock spectacular with America’s biggest gay singer Adam Lambert on the cover, chatting about everything from working with Queen to his new solo material, and what he thinks of taking on Sam Smith in the charts and homophobia. We also have the only interview with former Westlife star Mark Feehily who opens up for the first time about his troubled dark years to re-emerge as a very different kind of solo artist. As we approach the General Election we have exclusive interviews with David Cameron, Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg, Nigel Farage, Nicola Sturgeon and Natalie Bennett, challenging them on LGBT issues and asking why they deserve your vote. We also rate the leaders’ style, and have interviews with a spread of LGBT candidates from around the country. Elsewhere in the magazine, we speak to Broadway stars Michael 'Ugly Betty' Urie and Christine Baranski, and we wave goodbye to Mad Men by talking a look back at Mad Men’s gay storylines. We also get a sneak peek inside John Whaite’s newly decorated home, and put Lulu to the How Gay quiz.