Ménage à trois

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Postcard, c. 1910

A ménage à trois is a domestic arrangement in which three people have romantic or sexual relations with each other, typically occupying the same household. A form of polyamory, contemporary arrangements are sometimes identified as a throuple[1] or thruple.[2]

Historical instances[edit]

History has a number of examples of ménages à trois relationships.

Sir William Hamilton (British ambassador to Naples), his wife Emma Hamilton, and her lover, the naval hero Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson, were in a ménage à trois from 1799 until Nelson's death in 1805.[3] The German intellectual Dorothea von Rodde-Schlözer, her husband Mattheus Rodde and the French philosopher Charles de Villers also had a ménage à trois from 1794 until her husband's death in 1810.[4] At the age of 16, in 1813, the future author of Frankenstein, Mary Godwin, eloped with her to-be husband Percy Bysshe Shelley and engaged in a ménage with Claire Clairmont, future lover of Lord Byron, with whom the Shelleys would later have an extensive relationship.[5] The writer Aldous Huxley and his first wife Maria engaged in a ménage with Mary Hutchinson, a friend of Clive Bell.[6] The author E. Nesbit lived with her husband Hubert Bland and his mistress Alice Hoatson, and raised their children as her own.[7] The actress Hattie Jacques lived with her husband John Le Mesurier and her lover John Schofield.[8] The political philosopher Friedrich Engels lived in a ménage à trois with his mistress Mary Burns and her sister Lizzie.[9]

Speculation exists that, in 1547–48, Queen Catherine Parr, widow of Henry VIII, and her fourth husband Thomas Seymour were involved in a ménage with the future Queen Elizabeth. This is probably exaggerated, although episodes of sexually charged horseplay involving the three were well attested.[10][11] The Russian and Soviet poet Vladimir Mayakovsky lived with Lilya Brik, who was considered his muse, and her husband Osip Brik, an avant garde writer and critic.[12][13]

In 1913, psychoanalyst Carl Jung began a relationship with a young patient, Toni Wolff, which lasted for some decades. Deirdre Bair, in her biography of Carl Jung,[14] describes his wife Emma Jung as bearing up nobly as her husband insisted that Toni Wolff become part of their household, saying that Wolff was "his other wife". Erwin Schrödinger, his wife Annemarie Bertel, and his mistress Hilde March had a ménage à trois.[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Throuple Relationships vs Threesomes Explained: What It's Like To Be In A Three-Person Romance, HuffPost, 2016 July 28.
  2. ^ A thruple of a married male couple and their girlfriend want to have kids, PinkNews, 2017 November 22.
  3. ^ Constantine, David (2001-03-08), Fields of Fire: a life of Sir William Hamilton, London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, p. 242 et seq., ISBN 1-84212-581-8 
  4. ^ Poulet, Anne L. (2003-12-12), "Dorothea von Rodde-Schlözer (1770–1825)", Jean-Antoine Houdon: Sculptor of the Enlightenment, University of Chicago Press, p. 319, ISBN 0-226-67647-1 
  5. ^ Treasure, Geoffrey Russell Richards (1998-01-01). Who's who in British History: A-H. Taylor & Francis. p. 1115. ISBN 9781884964909. 
  6. ^ Mars-Jones, Adam (2002-04-06), "Aldous and His Women", The Observer, retrieved 2013-09-06, Aldous was shy and impractical, not the sort of man who could manage adultery without help from his wife. The correspondence with Mary Hutchinson makes clear that Maria was not merely complicit but actively 'omnifutuent', to borrow her husband's splendid word for bisexuality. 
  7. ^ Perrin, Noel (2003-09-01). A Child's Delight. University Press of New England. p. 106. ISBN 1-58465-352-3. 
  8. ^ BBC Four: Hattie
  9. ^ Hands, Gill (2015). Marx: A complete introduction. London: Hodder & Stoughton Ltd. p. 35. ISBN 9781473608696. 
  10. ^ Starkey, David (2000-04-27), Elizabeth, Chatto & Windus, ISBN 0-7011-6939-7 
  11. ^ Porter, Linda (2010-03-19), Katherine the Queen: The Remarkable Life of Katherine Parr, Macmillan, ISBN 0-230-71039-5 
  12. ^ Gray, du Plessix Gray (2006-06-06), Them: A Memoir of Parents, New York: Penguin Press, pp. 51–52, ISBN 0-14-303719-6, In 1918, when Mayakovsky and the Briks became inseparable, he simply moved in with them. Throughout the rest of his life, he made his home at a succession of flats that the Briks occupied. 
  13. ^ Elena Golovin (June 2000), Караван Историй [Caravan Stories] (in Russian), retrieved 2013-09-06 
  14. ^ Bair, Deirdre (2003-11-13), Jung: A Biography, Boston: Little, Brown, ISBN 0-316-07665-1 
  15. ^ Moore, Walter J. (1992-05-29), Schrödinger: Life and Thought, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-43767-9 

Further reading[edit]

  • Birbara Finocster, Michael Foster, Letha Friehakd. Three in Love: Ménages à trois from Ancient to Modern Times. ISBN 0-595-00807-0.
  • Vicki Vantoch. The Threesome Handbook: A Practical Guide to sleeping with three. ISBN 9781568583334.

External links[edit]