Agent Triple P was having a long lunch with his particular friend J at the National Gallery this week. J, who gets quite inebriated after even one glass of wine, was drinking large quantities of sparkling water and, consequently, had to keep disappearing to the ladies. While looking at some of the Gainsborough paintings, later, J wondered how ladies in such voluminous skirts relieved themselves.
The answer, of course, is demonstrated in this rather charming picture, attributed to Boucher, of a lady using a bordaloue. These, women-only chamber pots, known as coach pots in Britain (as they were used on long journeys) enabled a lady to relieve herself under her skirts, standing up, without having to squat over a normal pot. Unlike the round chamber pots these were smaller, oval and some even had indented sides enabling the lady to grip them snugly between her thighs.
The legend is that they were named after a Parisian priest whose sermons were so long ladies had to sneak pots into the church, which seems unlikely. Recently the National Trust (we think) organised an authentic Regency ball and dinner. Everything was as it would have been in the early years of the nineteenth century except for the bathroom arrangements. In those days even the grandest houses wouldn't have had toilets so men would go out to the garden for relief and women would go up to an upstairs room where they were attended by maids with bordaloues. There was a lot less embarrassment over this bodily function two hundred years ago. It was only the arrival of the toilet cubicle in people's homes (or in their gardens) that made this an activity requiring complete privacy.