Tales of the Riverbank: The Maidenhead Scandal

Once upon a time, the Thames-side town of Maidenhead was an alternative destination to Monte Carlo or Park Lane for wealthy pleasure-seekers. Reggie de Veulle, glimpses of whose character and exploits are visible in the posts below, was said to have attached himself to one such host for a season that came to an abrupt and scandalous end.

According to ‘Reggie Lindsay’, de Veulle’s barely-disguised avatar in the 1912 novel Les Fréquentations de Maurice, the host spent £300 on a ‘chic soirée’ complete with a Gypsy orchestra, Japanese lanterns in the garden, and orchids throughout. As an enthusiastic cross-dresser, he took similar trouble over his outfit, greeting the forty fashionable guests Reggie had invited in a blue chiffon gown with antique lace trimmings and a four-metre train. After supper, he tossed flowers, fruits and coins to the locals who had gathered to listen to the revels. Stones started to fly through the windows and the police intervened; Reggie made his escape by boat.

Reggie admitted his anxiety that his ‘uncle’ Alec would be angry with him over the episode – but he didn’t admit that, as rumour had it, he himself had been in drag. When that came up, he whisked his guests out of the door with uncharacteristic alacrity.

It’s rather satisfying for me to be able to report this after more than twenty years wondering where the tale was hidden; and that it was in the British Library all along. It’s equally pleasing that Reggie claimed the incident had been reported at length, with all the names, in two periodicals. The story is still to be continued.

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