Philanderers Have Been Around Thousands of Years

King Henry VIII

The list of famous philanderers doesn’t start nor end with the likes of Tiger Woods and John Edwards. The adulterous unzipped go back to Biblical times and include women.

Contemporary wife betrayers—New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford and sports celebrities, such as Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird—join a long list of those experiencing marital missteps. Philandering presidents sent Americans to the moon and got the Civil Rights Act passed.

Across the Atlantic, both the wife and illegitimate daughter of a French president attended his funeral. Belgian crime novelist George Simenon, whose works include his celebrated Inspector Maigret series, once told film director Federico Fellini that he had slept with 10,000 women.

Historic Wife Betrayers

The Biblical account of King David relates not only his affair with Bathsheba, but also that he was responsible for her husband’s death.

The much-married King Henry VIII is one of history’s most talked about wife betrayers, but a number of more recent English kings had mistresses.

DNA testing indicates that Thomas Jefferson had illegitimate children with one of his slaves, but technically he doesn’t count as a philanderer as they were born after his wife’s death.

Historic Husband Betrayers

The lovely Lillie Langtry (1853-1929), born Emilie Charlotte Le Breton on the island of Jersey, was the only daughter of the Dean of Jersey, the Rev. William Le Breton. Rev. Breton’s wife left him because of his womanizing. Lillie, wife of Irish gentleman Edward Langtry,had her most famous affair with Albert Edward, the Prince of Wales, then married to Princess Alexandra and father of six children. A well-known philanderer, he became England’s King Edward VII. Lillie also had affairs with the Earl of Shrewsbury, Prince Louis of Battenberg and two American millionaires.

Alice (Edmonstone) Keppel, daughter of Sir William Edmonstone and wife of the Earl of Albemarle, also was a mistress of King Edward VII, had extramarital affairs with several prominent men of the day, and had an illegitimate child to Lord Grimthorpe. She is the maternal great-grandmother of Camilla (Shand) Parker Bowles, who became Duchess of Cornwall and second wife of Prince Charles, Prince of Wales. Camilla also descends from an illegitimate son of King Charles II and is distantly related to both Prince Charles and his first wife, Princess Diana.

The Adultery Cover-up

In the case of President Bill Clinton and would-be president John Edwards, Americans may be more upset about the denials than the adultery. Who these leaders unzip for apparently doesn’t negatively affect trust in them as much as the lies do. People rely on leaders to run the country and look out for the welfare of its citizens. It’s a shock to find out they have gone on record as lying to their constituency.


  1. Camp, Anthony, Royal Mistresses and Bastards: Fact and Fiction 1714-1936 (London: 2007).