"Commission of chastity": how Empress Maria Theresia fought with representatives of the oldest profession
"Commission of chastity": how Empress Maria Theresia fought with representatives of the oldest profession
Austrian Empress Maria Theresa

The gallant age in Europe was distinguished by very free morals. Love for money was not considered something reprehensible, and body trade often became a common craft for women. In many countries, rulers tried to fight this social ailment, but they staged the most fierce struggle in Austria in the 18th century. Empress Maria Theresa.

Jean-Etienne Lyotard. Portrait of the Austrian Empress Maria Theresa

The upbringing and education of Maria Theresa was entrusted to the Jesuits, she grew up a zealous Catholic, dividing all people into Catholics and non-Catholics. At the same time, the latter for her were charlatans in alliance with the devil, and enemies of the empire, such as the Protestant Frederick II. But Louis XV, despite the unbridled morals at his court, in her eyes had more advantages - he was a Catholic.

Donner. Fountain of the Four Rivers

Maria Theresia has become an implacable fighter against immorality. At the same time, her criteria for assessing the "freedom of morals" were very specific. For example, Donner's "Fountain of the Four Rivers" seemed indecent to her due to the fact that half-naked sculptures were installed on it. The masterpiece of art was almost destroyed as it was shaking the moral foundations of society. The owner of the workshop hid the sculptures under a pile of rubbish, thanks to which they survived.

Founder of the Chastity Commission

But living people got more from the empress than works of art. So, by a special decree, the ladies were forbidden to blush and whiten. This turned out to be insufficient, and a special "Commission of Chastity" was established to combat immorality.

Austrian Empress Maria Theresa

There were really a lot of prostitutes in those days - in Vienna their number reached 10 thousand (in Paris - 4 times more, in London - 5 times). City guards and secret agents tracked down the "walking women." At the same time, everything that could force people to leave the house was considered "walking". The first to come under suspicion were the servants of the city taverns, which Maria Theresa considered to be disguised brothels.

Priestess of love

M. Farquar writes in this regard: “There were patrols everywhere: in theaters, in public meetings, and even in homes. Anyone could be arrested, foreigners were accused of corruption, and ordinary citizens were expelled from the country. All those convicted of moral and moral transgressions were usually severely punished for the edification of others. They were chained to the city gates. There they sat in the mud and their own feces for weeks and months. Compassionate passers-by brought them food and water; instead of despising and avoiding those who were chained to the gates, the inhabitants of Vienna considered them to be real heroes, cared for them and cruelly laughed with them at the empress's hypocrisy and her husband's infidelity."

William Hogarth. Engraving from the series A Prostitute's Career - Trapped by a Prostitute

The punishments were sophisticated: those caught in the sale of the body were brought to church, put in a sack, and tied at the chin. The executioner shaved off the wicked woman's hair and smeared her head with soot and tar. In this form, she was put up for desecration during the divine liturgy. At the end of the mass, they would strip her and flog her with rods, and then they would take her out of town and dump her into a roadside ditch. Often prostitutes were sent to reeducation - to work as street sweepers.

William Hogarth. Engraving from the series Prostitute Career - Arrest

A bachelor caught in his mistress's apartment was obliged to marry her. The married were accused of adultery, extramarital affairs were punishable by high fines. The pimps were flogged with rods.The results of this violent struggle did not live up to expectations: prostitution could not be eradicated, the number of prostitutes did not decrease. They worked clandestinely, and were officially registered as housekeepers and housekeepers. The number of abortions and cases of infanticide increased - after all, every single mother was considered immoral and punishable by law.

Maria Theresia

They say that Maria Theresa did not become such a convinced conservative by accident - perhaps the war on moral liberties was a reaction to the numerous novels of her husband, Franz I.

Franz I and Maria Theresa Maria Theresia

In France, the representatives of the oldest profession lived easier: Parisian brothels of the Belle Époque that have become hotels today

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