The main quarrel of Harlots lies between the two houses of Quigley and Wells, but Madam Nancy Birch left her mark when she struck us with her birch twigs in the first episode of Hulu’s original series.
Here’s why Nancy Birch, played with strength and flare by Kate Fleetwood, is queen of the harlots:
So I normally don’t focus on wardrobe, but in a show like Harlots where the clothes matter just as much as the story, we need to take a moment to appreciate Nancy’s sense of style.
First, she doesn’t wear dresses. Nancy struts around in trousers, a vest, and a coat most of the time. She’s also rarely seen without her three-point hat.
In a time where women’s fashion consisted of the tallest wigs and biggest skirts, Nancy’s wardrobe is decidedly masculine. In the eighteenth century, Nancy doesn’t conform to the norms of the time.
Plus, she smokes a pipe.
I know it’s weird for me to say that about a prostitute, but Nancy’s got class. Not the fake kind that Mrs. Quigley imposes on her own house with the harpsichord playing in a salon. I’m talking about the kind of class that allows someone to walk away from the conversation with the last winning word.
That’s Nancy. She visits Mrs. Quigley in enemy territory and basically tells her to stay the eff away. That takes guts, but it also takes class.
While Nancy isn’t afraid to wop a man in the face with her birch switch, she refrains from making a scene in the Quigley house.
Nancy Birch, class act.
While Nancy puts on a cool, badass exterior, she’ll fight for her own and truly cares about her friendships.
When it looks like her old friend Margaret was about to go down some dark territory, Nancy tries to talk her out of it. When she finds an abandoned girl in need, she takes her in. When Lucy’s having trouble processing a traumatic incident that happened with a man, Nancy strings up a punching bag and tells her to hit it as hard as she can.
Nancy might be the dominatrix, but her heart makes her queen of the harlots.