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Buckingham Palace site may once have been home to a gay brothel

·2-min read

Hundreds of years ago, there was likely to have been a gay brothel on the site where Buckingham Palace now stands, historians believe.

According to LGBT+ historian Norton Rictor’s 2013 essay The Gay Subculture in Early Eighteenth-Century London, gay cruising spots and brothels may have started popping up in London in the early 1600s.

Although evidence is scarce, in 1649 English politician Clement Walker made an observation that has fascinated Londoners for centuries.

In his Anarchia Anglicana, Walker wrote that “there stood “new-erected sodoms and spintries at the Mulberry Garden at S. James’s”.

At the time, the term “sodoms” could have referred to brothels of any kind, but the word “spintries” was used specifically to mean gay male sex workers.

Hilariously, the British royal family may not have been the first queens to frequent the site of Buckingham Palace, as the spot where Mulberry Garden once stood is now the north-west corner of the royal residence.

Being gay was commonplace in 17th century London, not just in the Buckingham Palace brothel

Although there may well have been a gay brothel on the Buckingham Palace site, Norton Rictor explained that gay sex was almost always for pleasure, not profit, in 17th century London.

Commentators at the time had little language to refer to LGBT+ people, and often modified words referencing heterosexual sex work, for example “he-strumpets” and “he-whores”.

This was unlikely to mean that gay men were sex workers, but rather that the commentators could only express their moral outrage over homosexuality by using language related to prostitution.

However, being gay or bisexual was not unusual at the time, and some high-profile figures were completely open about it.

John Wilmot, a poet and the second Earl of Rochester, was candid about his gay love affairs in his poetry.

In one poem, he wrote: “There’s a sweet, soft page of mine,
Does the trick worth forty wenches.”

Another poem he penned read: “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**ked you, or I the boy.”

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