Unexpected news out of the United Kingdom this week: A new historical essay has revealed that Buckingham Palace actually sits on a site once famous for hosting a gay brothel and cruising ground.
Writer Rictor Norton compiled his research in a new essay titled “The Gay Subculture in Early Eighteenth-Century London.” In it, he quotes English politician Clement Walker as chronicling gay sex in Mulberry Garden, now the site of Buckingham Palace. In 1649, Walker wrote of the “new-erected sodoms and spintries at the Mulberry Garden at S. James’s.”
For the uninformed, “sodoms and spintries” refer to brothels and sex workers.
Norton also quotes another writer from the 1600s, John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, who penned a poem about his love of linkboys–that is, young men tasked with carrying a torch alongside noblemen at night in the city:
Nor shall our love-fits, Chloris, be forgot,
When each the well-looked linkboy strove t’enjoy,
And the best kiss was the deciding lot
Whether the boy f*cked you, or I the boy.
Apparently, the Earl of Rochester was also versatile. Good for him.
Norton further notes that while documentation of the time suggests Mulberry Garden attracted men interested in meeting other men for sex, historians have a difficult time today determining if the men cruising the garden actually exchanged money. Norton notes that “The records of trials [of those arrested for indecency] suggest that the mollies engaged in sex for pleasure rather than profit.”
Good for them. More to the point, we have to wonder if the Queen is aware of the history of her beloved residence. Now that’s a tour we’d love to take.