Monday, April 12, 2010

18th Century Terminology: Cicisbeo

(chi-chez-bay-o) pl: cicisbei

A married lady's gallant or lover who would attend her in public. The practice of having a cicisbeo was socially acceptable and allowed by a husband, although some cicisbei were also lovers, whether the husband knew or not.

Lady D- was seen in Ranelagh Gardens last night with her new cicisbeo.


  1. Good idea. Should be revived today ;-)) kind regards, Martina

  2. School for Scandal! (Gosh I love being able to be a geek on this site ;D) I might follow Ly Teazle's example...tho' with less of a cad than Joseph Surface!



  4. Yes Ladies, and I don't mind taking credit for being a bad influence!

    @Anon, I saw that and couldn't believe that this is even an issue worth publishing. The sad part is I read the same article YEARS ago, criticizing historians for being pretty. So as ridiculous as it being printed once, to deserve being published years down the road in the modern age.

    God forbid women are smart and pretty!

  5. I just finished watching the movie "The Duchess" and found your blog while searching out info on the lovely Duchess...G. I love this period.
    I am enjoying your blog very much,I will be sure to come by often.

    I've put a link on my side bar leading back to your blog...if thats okay with you???

  6. LOL My husband doesn't enjoy renaissance faires the way I do. However his friend Matt enjoys them alot and many times we wind up meeting up & roaming around together. We are just buddies and my husband knows all about it and thinks it's funny. We hang out together and Matt holds my basket when I run to the privy. Although it is a little awkward at times when people come up to him and say, "You must be Ladycathead's husband!" now maybe I could smile sweetly and say, "Ah, my dear cicisbeo. He is charming, yes?" LOL

  7. @CC, Thanks! Of course I have no problem being a part of your sidebar. I hope you keep coming by!

    @LadyCatHead, Too funny! I would say that's a true-blue cicisbeo!

  8. OED has: ‘cicisbeo It.; of uncertain origin: The name formerly given in Italy to the recognized gallant or cavalier servente of a married woman.
    1718 LADY M. W. MONTAGU Lett. l. II. 66 The custom of cecisbeos..I know not whether you have ever heard of those animals.
    . . 1782 WESLEY Wks. (1872) XI. 158 English ladies are not attended by their cicisbys yet; nor would any English husband suffer it.
    . . 1817 BYRON Beppo xxxvii, The word was formerly a ‘Cicisbeo’, But that is now grown vulgar and indecent..But ‘Cavalier Servente’ is the phrase.’

  9. All that acting out. I wonder how many men got stuck in a half bow, with lumbago....that would have spoilt the style and the simpering.

  10. Cicisbeo was, in fact, the ancestor of modern "gay friend" - the "best friend" of a woman, someone able to understand, better than the husband, the "feminin issues" (as romance, fashion, poetry, gallantry...)