|That old scallywag Lord Byron might have included cavaliere servente on his résumé|
(portrait by Thomas Phillips)
Noun phrase. Mid-18th century.
[Italian, literally 'gentleman-in-waiting'.]
A (married) woman's lover or solicitous admirer.
There was a time (the 18th century) and a place (Italy) during which it was common for ladies of noble birth to have gentlemen escorts for such engagements as the theatre, public appearances and, of course, church. Such a gentleman escort was known as a cavaliere servente or a cicisbeo and, rather than being a source of ire for the woman's husband, it was an arrangement that was actively encouraged, as it no doubt spared him from the onerous labours of attending upon, showing interest to, or otherwise being excessively involved with his cara sposa.
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