Thursday, June 28, 2007

Happy birthday, Henry

Here's the lovely and talented Jonathan Rhys-Meyers as Henry VIII in that strangely lifeless TV series (and I thought he did a much better job as Elvis).

Yes, it's Henry VIII's birthday today (born June 28, 1491) and we all know what he's famous for: six wives, some of whom came to sticky ends, in his desperate attempt to get a male heir. The Tudor dynasty was very shaky at the time and there were various ambitious powerful families around who had claims as good (or as poor) as the Tudors' to the throne.

Henry was allegedly extremely handsome and athletic as a young man, so this casting does make some sense although the most common image of him is the Holbein portrait where he's immense and powerful and not at all pretty. And the codpiece. Eeew. I mean, really does anyone find codpieces sexy? Come on, you can confess. We're not judgmental here (well, actually I am but the others aren't). I can't even remember Jonathan RM's codpiece but that's just a sad reflection on my manviewing radar.

To continue. When Pam and I present Writing the Hot Historical (aka Pam and Janet Evening) at Dallas, I take it upon myself to discuss history--what you want to use and what you don't want to touch with a bargepole. Like codpieces. In the right hands they could be sexy. (Pause while I roll on the floor at my own single entendres.) Similarly, the whole atmosphere of the Tudor court--the king's private life made very public because the future of the country depended upon a strong succession, the ritualistic aspect of sex--you could do things with this in an erotic romance. The issue of privacy is interesting too--the word bedchamber did not come into being until later in the sixteenth-century--and most houses were not designed with corridors. Rooms opened onto rooms that opened onto more rooms. Privacy, as we know it, was not an issue.

And back to the codpiece--oh, if you insist, (sigh) here's a more, ah, detailed picture--how about that for a blatant sexual announcement: it's here, it's ready to go, even when you're wearing full armor. You'd think that might get in the way while you're jousting or whatever, if it didn't frighten the horses first. But it wasn't until the Regency that fashions allowed men to so blatantly display their attributes again.

What historical periods do you find sexy other than the Regency?

News from the squeaky-clean side (sort of): go to Pam Rosenthal's site, and enter her contest to win a copy of The Rules of Gentility.


Elizabeth Parker said...

Fun post here, Jane! I find the period of late-Victorian England so very sexy. Sex was so repressed, and women were expected to "lie back and think of England." Yet, underneath that repressive surface, things were pretty steamy (even kinky). Makes for lots of juicy conflicts.

Kalen Hughes said...

As some of you know, I've done 16th century reenactment for most of my life, and most of that time I spent doing Landsknechts (double entendre intended, LOL!). You wana talk codpieces? The rest of Europe took this fashion from the proto-Germans. I’ve made several men’s costumes from the era (1520-1560), and the thing that cracks me up the most is making the codpiece. It’s like a little puppet. *grin* Let me just say the men were not amused the day we stole their pants and had a little Punch and Judy show.

Pam Rosenthal said...

What historical periods do you find sexy other than the Regency?

To be honest, just about any period whose extremes of repression and mass murder it's possible for me to ignore.

I think what's sexy is differentness -- different clothing, different domestic space, different way of imagining desiring bodies in space and history. Habit and sameness are the enemies of eroticism; in the right context (which is to say slightly fictionalized and tarted up) even the ridiculous codpiece might work for me.

Lenora Bell said...

I'm with Elizabeth. I love the mid to late-Victorian era.

Kate Pearce said...

I love the Georgian period when the men got really dressed up as well and even wore make up and carried fans and elaborate snuff boxes.

Anonymous said...

Rutger Hauer's codpiece in Flesh and Blood. The feet under the table scene.

I like Vikings. Why won't anyone publish a Viking story (that's not a friggen time travel) any more?