Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Cavaliere servente - A Lady's Man

Portrait of Lord Byron
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 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

Would you like a cavaliere servente?

Would you like to be a cavaliere servente?

Do please escort your most noble comments into the box below.


  1. I applied for the position but was deemed 'too gassy' after the first interview.

    1. Oh C. It's one thing to be dismissed for being too gassy during the induction period, but on the first interview ...

  2. Lord Byron? Really? He's held in such high esteem in Greece because he was a "philhellene" (is that a word?). Was cavaliere servente the precursor of gigolo? Or of what we call today "an open relationship"? Too many questions.

    1. Yes, one can certainly be philhellenic. As for Byron, he was into all sorts. I don't know if the ultimate objective was ever explicitly discussed (though it might have been), but the job does sound rather gigoloesque, though I think it might be more akin to a high-class escort, what with the going to parties, church, functions and all that.

      But I'm no expert on this.

      I'm really not.

  3. I imagine the fellow would have been better tolerated by the husband if he was homosexual?

    1. But perhaps less desirable to the woman?

      After all, it's her cavaliere servente.

  4. Replies
    1. Ha! Quite, Sally.

      Although with this damn political correctness that's infested our culture, one just cannot inquire of such things in the pre-employment checks.

  5. See? World is full of unjustice... one stands up for someone who couldn't be bothered and is suddenly a Lady's Man which evolved into such a bed, I mean bad, name :o tsk tsk tsk.
    Well, back THEN it must have been nice to count with one and to be able to go out. World - even the homely one - was pretty segregated; we've all seen films where women are excused from the dinner table and go have some tea together to a room and men to another for cigars and spirits.
    And I imagine one wouldn't achieve such status by being made from the same fabric as Dear One so such occasions must have been highly antecipated... small wonder the women carried their fans everywhere ;)

    1. I'm not sure what you're suggesting, Teresa.

      Surely you don't think it would have been appropriate for the women to withdraw with the men for cigars and brandy?

      To discuss economics?

      These new fangled labour laws?

      Oh no no no. That would never do. They'd be smoking in public next.

    2. I don't know what came upon me... must have been that Lord Byron's photo... one's mind starts wandering and the words – nonsense, of course - sprout. :so ashamed:. ;)