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Sophie Gardner-Roberts. Did you know that the Jardin du Palais Royal in Paris used to be a bustling place for prostitution? In fact, unbeknown to most visitors, many locations in the Palais Royal district have a rather racy past.
In the Middle Ages, prostitutes were generally accepted in society and were housed in convent-like dwellings. On one occasion, the wife of King Philip II embraced a nicely dressed young woman in church during the sign of peace but later realised she was a prostitute.
She was profoundly shocked and as a result, the king banned prostitutes from wearing coats and ordered they wear golden belts so that they were recognisable. He also asked for brothels to be located less than m from a church so that clients could repent after their visit….
Under the reign of Louis IX also known as Saint-Louis in the 13th century, brothels were removed from the centre of town and forced outside the main walls. They also had to have a red light outside the door as a sign they were a place of debauchery. Much later in the 17th and 18th centuries, maisons closes became more and more frequented and luxurious. They were held by formidable women such as Marguerite Gourdan or Mademoiselle Brion known as Comtesse de Launay who published a kind of journal relating her story.
In the 18th century, brothels were still thriving but regulations were enforced, particularly in terms of hygiene and safety. Girls had to have regular medical check-ups and brothel owners had to provide clean linen and bathing products. A French icon: the life of Serge Gainsbourg. The life of French writer Colette. Shops, cafes and brothels were lined up under the arcades which you can still see today and a wooden palisade separated the courtyard from the rest of the palace, cutting it off like a small, independent town within the city of Paris — there was even a circus there!