In Pictures: A Sexist Victorian Christmas

Will Noble
By Will Noble Last edited 8 months ago

Last Updated 20 November 2023

In Pictures: A Sexist Victorian Christmas

If your idea of a Victorian Christmas is all plum duffs and the doffing of top hats — perhaps these two pictures will change your mind.

Taken from London publication The Illustrated Police News, in January 1898, the tableaux depict Christmas party hijinks, both in the upper and lower echelons of the building/society.


The upstairs ballroom scene initially strikes you as sophisticated — all evening dress and chandeliers — but this falls apart at the seams when you clock the amount of cleavage-ogling going on. The guy in the foreground dressed as Mr Peanut couldn't be any less subtle in his efforts, while, behind him, a monocle-sporting doppelgänger is guilty of a similar crime.

And if we peer further into the distance... ah look — another bloke with wandering peepers. Is that the face of a happy woman? Come to think of it, is that the face of a happy nude statue, off to the left? We think not.

Summary: you can flaunt all the 'tache and upmarket eyewear you like — it won't hide your true nature as an incorrigible perve.


Ah yes, the Titanic effect. Below deck is where the real party is. Well, for the blokes anyway. Groping and smooching their way around the kitchen, mistletoe and blindfolds are the weapons of these mens' choice. We say men... one of the offenders (chasing a fallen maid who's about to be knocked unconscious by a plum pudding), appears to be about nine.

At least some of the smooching appears to be consensual. Like this handsome couple. (And the butler, who's got his lips wrapped round a bottle of something festive):

Lord knows what this guy in the corner is doing:

Summary: Victorian men — rich or less so — were all as despicable as one another, especially when they'd been at the Christmas sherry. No wonder the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies had been founded just months earlier.

Find more historical images like this at the British Newspaper Archive.