queer stories of a queer craze

In 1898, R J Stephen wrote this article –  TATTOOED ROYALTY: Queer Stories of a Queer Craze for The Harmsworth Monthly Pictorial Magazine.

image found here

“What wonder, then, that tattooing is now the most popular pastime of the leisured world? For one of the best-known men in high European circles, the Grand Duke Alexis of Russia, is most elaborately tattooed. And Prince and Princess Waldemar of Denmark, Queen Olga of Greece, King Oscar of Sweden, the Duke of York, the Grand Duke Constantine, Lady Randolph Churchill, with many others of royal and distinguished rank, have submitted themselves to the tickling, but painless and albeit pleasant, sensation afforded by the improved tattooing needle, aided by the galvanic current, the genius of the artist supplying the rest of the operation.

Lady Randolph Churchill found here

The Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, like his cousin Alexis of Russia is another elaborately tattooed man; but even his decorations, and those of other profusely tattooed men, fall short in point of quantity when compared with those marks upon the body of that Greek gentleman who was exhibited not long ago at the Royal Aquarium, whose body was completely covered with fine tattoo work, every square inch of it.

world’s most tattooed man found here

Professor Riley’s work is pronounced to be the finest in the world. The present fancy for being tattooed, according to Professor Riley, mainly exists among men who have travelled much; while ladies have also taken a strong liking to this form of personal decoration, which, from a woman’s point of view, is about as expensive as a dress, but not so costly as good jewellery. In place of spending her spare time posing in front of the camera, or reclining her head in the dentist’s chair, or placing herself resignedly in the hands of her hairdresser, or for the purpose of passing her time in the “off” season, the lady about town now consents to be pricked by the tattoo artist’s needle, and to have her forearm or shoulder adorned with a mark such as this – a serpent holding its tail in its mouth – a symbol representing eternity.

image found here

Tattooing has its humorous side. A lover who once felt a passionate love, got the artist to imprint a single heart of charming and delicate outline, coloured in all the blushing tints, with the name of his loved one stamped thereon. Three years later he followed the artist to London, and, seeking him out, with face pallid, the light of his eye almost gone out, and looking utterly miserable and careworn, he requested that the tattooer imprint under that same symbol, in bold, big letters, the word “deceived”.

A well known army officer had tattooed over his heart the simple name of “Mary” with a lover’s knot, but six months afterwards the same gentleman had the uncanny word “traitress” tattooed underneath.

An English actress had a butterfly tattooed on her fair shoulder, the initials of her fiance, “F.V.” being placed underneath. Not long afterwards she also came back and had the “F” converted into “E” and the “V” into “W”, the letters reading “E.W.” She eventually married “E.W.” and to this day “E.W” thinks his initials were the first tattooed on her arm.

image found here

Professor Riley is at the present time engaged in etching on a man’s back Landseer’s famous picture “Dignity and Impudence”. He is also outlining on the chest of a Scotch baron a copy of Constable’s famous etching, “Mrs. Pelham,” after Sir Joshua Reynolds, the original of which fetched, at Christie’s, the record sum of 425 pounds.

Dignity and Impudence by Landseer found here

While most people are pleased to go through the performance of being tattooed just for the fun of it, many approach the tattooer with a serious object in view. Eschewing all fancy designs, they choose frequently their own name and address as an aid to identification in case of accident

Stargate address tattoo found here

Tattooing spread among the upper classes all over Europe in the nineteenth century, but particularly in Britain where it was estimated in Harmsworth Magazine in 1898 that as many as one in five members of the gentry were tattooed. There, it was not uncommon for members of the social elite to gather in the drawing rooms and libraries of the great country estate homes after dinner and partially disrobe in to show off their tattoos. As well as her consort Prince Albert, there are persistent rumours that Queen Victoria had a small tattoo in an undisclosed ‘intimate’ location. Winston Churchill’s mother, Lady Randolph Churchill, not only had a tattoo of a snake around her wrist, which she covered when the need arose with a specially crafted diamond bracelet, but had her nipples pierced as well.

Lady Churchill and Winston found here

Published in: on March 20, 2012 at 7:58 am  Comments (48)  
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