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27 February 2009

Princess Seraphina (16?? – 17??) servant.

John Cooper, a gentleman's servant. was active in the Molly houses in London in the 1720s, using the name, Princess Seraphina. He was a gay transvestite just at the period when people were beginning to conceive of such a role - to which they applied the label 'molly'.

Trumbach quotes some of Seraphina's contemporaries. One called her a Mollycull, 'one of the runners that carries messages between gentlemen ... going of sodomitical errands'. Another said that she had 'never heard she had any other name than the Princess Seraphina', and that she had 'seen him several times in women's clothes, she commonly used to wear a white gown and a scarlet cloak with her hair frizzled and curled all around her forehead; and then she would so flutter her fan and make such fine curtsies that you would not have known her from a woman: she takes great delight in balls and masquerades'.

However she sometimes dressed as a man. In 1732 John Cooper was the plaintiff in a court case in which he charged Thomas Gordon with forcing him to undress in Chelsea Fields in order to exchange his fine male clothes for those of Gordon. Gordon insisted that this was part of a deal in permitting Seraphina to bugger him.
  • Randolph Trumbach. "The Birth of the Queen: Sodomy and the Emergence of Gender Equality in Modern Culture”. In Martin Baumal Duberman, Martha Vicinus & George Chauncey, Jr (eds) Hidden from History: Reclaiming the Gay and Lesbian Past. New York: New American Library 1989: 138-9.
  • Rictor Norton. “Princess Seraphina”. Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England.

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