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BBC Harlots viewers praise raunchy drama about 18th century London’s sex industry

Viewers have praised raunchy new BBC2 drama Harlots, which details the booming sex industry of 18th century London.  

The first episode of the bawdy show, which originally aired on ITV Empire in 2017, followed the lives of feuding madams Margaret Wells (Samantha Morton) and Lydia Quigley (Lesley Manville), and the prostitutes who live in their brothels.

It saw brothel owner Margaret on the threshold of moving into a more up-market house in Soho when her premises was raided by the night-watchmen – forcing her to sell her daughter’s virginity in order to pay her fine. 

The show opened with a very raunchy scene, showing a compilation of the ‘Harlots’ having sex with customers. 

And viewers were quick to take to Twitter, with one writing: ‘This started off with a bang in every sense of the word’.

Viewers have praised raunchy new BBC2 drama Harlots, which details the booming sex industry of 18th century London. The first episode of the bawdy show, which originally aired on ITV Empire in 2017, showed Fleabag’s Hugh Skinner (pictured) in a very raunchy role as he pursued prostitute Charlotte (Jessica Brown-Findlay), pictured

The show opened with a very raunchy scene, showing a compilation of the 'Harlots' having sex with customers (pictured)

The show opened with a very raunchy scene, showing a compilation of the ‘Harlots’ having sex with customers (pictured) 

Taking to Twitter, one person wrote: 'This started with a bang in every sense of the word' (pictured)

Taking to Twitter, one person wrote: ‘This started with a bang in every sense of the word’ (pictured)

Meanwhile, a second added: ‘Spanking, nipples and bare bottoms so far on #harlots.’ 

The series, which was influenced by 1700s prostitution guidebook Harris’s List Of Covent Garden Ladies, started with Margaret’s daughter Lucy (Eloise Smyth), reading out reviews of the brothel’s residents.

Viewers were introduced to Nancy Birch (Kate Fleetwood) – a longtime friend and neighbour of Margaret who specialises in domination – and sex workers Betsey Fletcher (Alexa Davies) and Fanny Lambert (Bronwyn James).

Those who tuned in also met impulsive sex worker Emily Lacey (Holli Dempsey), who deserted Margaret to work for Lydia, but soon found her stay in the elite brothel nowhere near as luxurious as she once imagined. 

Margaret's oldest daughter Charlotte (Jessica Brown-Findlay) lives as the city's most coveted courtesan and is pursued by Sir George Howard (Hugh Skinner)

Margaret’s oldest daughter Charlotte (Jessica Brown-Findlay) lives as the city’s most coveted courtesan and is pursued by Sir George Howard (Hugh Skinner)

Viewers were stunned with what they witnessed in the BBC Two period drama

Viewers were stunned with what they witnessed in the BBC Two period drama

Margaret made clear her ambitions to move to the more elite Greek Street in Soho, but her plans were foiled when Quigley orchestrated a raid of the area with the help of Florence Scanwell (Dorothy Atkinson ) – a religious zealot who opposes sex work and becomes a pawn for Quigley. 

The raid left her unable to pay a £100 court fine, and, unable to pay the forthcoming payment on her Greek Street home, she was forced to sell her youngest daughter’s virginity. 

She then set up a plan to auction off the virginity of her youngest daughter to the highest bidder, after previously refusing one of the brothel’s client’s offers of £50 to have sex with her daughter. 

Meanwhile, Margaret’s oldest daughter Charlotte (Jessica Brown-Findlay), who lives as the city’s most coveted courtesan, was expected by Sir George Howard (Hugh Skinner), an aspiring Member of Parliament, to sign a contract to formally become his ‘keeper’. 

By becoming her keeper, George would pay for her lavish lifestyle in return for Charlotte having sex with nobody else, and legally becoming his property. 

Viewers have praised raunchy new BBC2 drama Harlots, which details the booming sex industry of 18th century London. Pictured, Eloise Smyth as Lucy Wells

Viewers have praised raunchy new BBC2 drama Harlots, which details the booming sex industry of 18th century London. Pictured, Eloise Smyth as Lucy Wells

The bawdy show, which originally aired on ITV Empire in 2017, follows the lives of feuding madams. Pictured, Sir George Howard (Hugh Skinner)

The bawdy show, which originally aired on ITV Empire in 2017, follows the lives of feuding madams. Pictured, Sir George Howard (Hugh Skinner)

 

In one amusing scene, the character was seen gifting the courtesan a pineapple,  which he believed to be the finest luxury he could acquire – and later donned Charlotte’s clothes as he waited for her to return home. 

However, in a fit of jealousy, after discovering that Charlotte had not been ‘living like a nun’ as promised, he successfully bid for Lucy’s virginity – and while the pair didn’t have sex, he forced Lucy to say otherwise. 

Margaret Wells had ambitions to move to the more elite Greek Street, in Soho, but her plans were foiled when Quigley orchestrated  a raid of the area. Pictured, Samantha Morton as Margaret

Margaret Wells had ambitions to move to the more elite Greek Street, in Soho, but her plans were foiled when Quigley orchestrated  a raid of the area. Pictured, Samantha Morton as Margaret

Lydia Quigley (Lesley Manville) owns an up market brothel and was the original madam of a 10-year-old Margaret

Lydia Quigley (Lesley Manville) owns an up market brothel and was the original madam of a 10-year-old Margaret 

Also introduced was impulsive sex worker Emily Lacey (Holli Dempsey), who deserted Margaret to work for Lydia, but soon found her stay in the brothel was not as luxurious as she once imagined

Also introduced was impulsive sex worker Emily Lacey (Holli Dempsey), who deserted Margaret to work for Lydia, but soon found her stay in the brothel was not as luxurious as she once imagined

Viewers were captivated by Hugh’s character, and laughed at the funny gesture of gifting a pineapple.

‘No one wants a man who thinks she’s a pineapple,’ wrote one, while a second joked: ‘”You are the pineapple of Great Britain.” Imagine interrupting sex to say that.’

A third commented: ‘Just what every woman wants, a pineapple.’

Others loved the raunchiness of the show from the get go, but others commented that it isn’t historically accurate for the sex workers to have ‘perfect hair and teeth.’

Harlots airs on BBC2 and BBCiPlayer from August 5th at 9pm 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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