Cora Pearl scandalised 19th century society. This red-headed Englishwoman was born Eliza Crouch in 1835. Educated in a convent school, when she left she wanted to be an actress.

Becoming the mistress of a promoter, he took her to Paris, where she noticed her looks attracted plenty of men in the cafes. Birthing a gambling habit, she became a courtesan, having a ‘golden chain’ of lovers that included notables such as the Prince Napoleon. Extravagant and sensuous, she once served herself up at a party on a silver carver, naked but for a sprig of parsley. Her career lasted until age began to whither her looks.
Spending her way through six fortunes bestowed on her, she rarely had only one lover, often playing several off at the same time. On the other hand, during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, she turned her house into a hospital, and slaved all day and night helping the injured. Touring most of Europe, she did, however, end up dying of cancer in 1886, living as a pauper in a cheap boarding house, her fortunes squandered as easily as she attained them.

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