The Eagle Rider of Circassia

26 Oct

Recently I wrote a post about kick-arse Victorian heroines in melodramatic productions on London’s East End. I’ve also written about the vogue for Circassian ladies in freak-shows in the late nineteenth century. Now I’ve stumbled across an undated playbill in the V&A Theatre Museum’s Enthoven Collection which neatly merges the two phenomena.

The playbill is for an East London melodrama featuring the derring-do of a Circassian heroine. Roll up, the poster declares, for an evening of Grand Equestiran and Dramatic Military Romantic Spectacle:

“The Conquest of Tartary; or the Eagle Rider of Circassia and Her Monarch Steed of the Desert, has surpassed the most sanguine expectations of the Management,… the general Acting, with the powerful Equestrian tablueax, Effects, Battles, Processions, and Gorgeous Scenery, with the strong interest created by the perilous adventures and feaful Escapes of the Circassian Prophetess, supported by Mrs R Buxton Taylor (the celebrated Female Equestrian), totally defies competition”.

This Eagle Rider of Circassia sounds even more like an exotic Lara Croft than the characters played by Amy Stirling at the Standard Theatre discussed in that recent post of mine. Picture her with bust rearing beneath beaded dress, diaphanous harem pants beneath, silver sword in hand, with her beer-frazzled hair abundant beneath a fetching helmet… All she needs is a Within Temptation goth-rock-style backing, and the Victorian heroine-does-World of Warcraft image is complete.

(NB above Circassian-beauty image from


8 Responses to “The Eagle Rider of Circassia”

  1. Lidian 26 October 2008 at 3:34 pm #

    What a fabulous photograph! She looks a little like Sandra Bernhard in a wig…I love your posts about these women, they are utterly fascinating.

  2. residentjudge 27 October 2008 at 7:29 am #

    Wow! That’s some hair!!

  3. Darial Kaghdou 7 February 2009 at 2:32 am #

    I. As an American Circassian, would like to know when,& where this picture was taken.Was it before my people’s forced exile from our beloved Caucasus( after a 100 year conflict with Russia ), or after we were obsorbed by the Otoman Turks after 1864.It was said that due to the beuty of our women that Eurpean were called Caucasians. I’d like to see if you have any more pics icluding our fearless Circassian horsmen of that time. Thank you so much.

    • Melissa Bellanta 8 February 2009 at 11:01 am #

      Dear Darial – apparently, this picture was taken around 1870. However, it’s overwhelmingly likely that the woman depicted in it was not Circassian at all. Most of the women in freak shows who were passed off as beautiful Cricassians in the late nineteenth century were in fact just locals with teased hair and pretty faces. And since I have only really come across the Circassian phenomenon in bogus freak-show exhibits or melodramas, I’m afraid I can’t point you to any horsemen pics. Hope you find some, though.

      Regards, Melissa

      • Darial Kaghdou 23 October 2009 at 12:51 am #

        Thank you Melissa for your study tells me that in the late 19th centry many circassian women were traded as slaves in Otoman Turkey and some were actually displayed in some freak shows in the US & Europe. Very sad but true. and I did find some old pics of Circassian horsemen of the 19h Centry. Thanks for your reply. Darial

  4. circassian 19 July 2009 at 6:16 pm #

    very good
    you can see old circassian photos

    • Darial Kaghdou 23 October 2009 at 12:55 am #

      Thanks for the site it was great.


  1. Slimejam • Kick ass Victorian heroines - with some big ass hair - 28 January 2011

    […] Kick ass Victorian heroines — with some big ass hair Picture her with bust rearing beneath beaded dress, dia­phanous harem pants beneath, silver sword in hand, with her beer-frazzled hair abundant beneath a fetching helmet. […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: