Writing in 1619, Pedro de Leon reports a recent incident in Madrid. City authorities there had broken up a fistfight between a local student and a barber, arresting both men. Under questioning, it was soon discovered the student had entered the barber’s shop with “a large basket tightly fitted to his buttocks”. When the barber asked the reason for this, the student replied:
“These are dangerous times, what with the city full of Italian sodomites. I find it prudent to wear the basket as a preventative measure.”
The barber, who was Italian, naturally took umbrage at this provocation and threw the first punch. De Leon reports that both men escaped punishment and when the student was released, he was “still wearing his defence”.
The Court and Character of King James I was probably written in the 1640s and appeared in print toward the end of that decade. Though purporting to be an objective history of James’ reign, it is little more than an instrument of political assassination, attacking the king’s appearance, health, masculinity and judgement. It implies homosexual tendencies, claiming that the former king liked to surround himself “with young faces and smooth chins”. It suggests that James was physically feeble, if not deformed. It also says of his physical appearance and mannerisms:
“His tongue too large for his mouth, which ever made him speak full in the mouth and made him drink very uncomely, as if eating his drink… His skin was as soft as taffeta sarsnet, which felt so because he never washed his hands… His legs were very weak, having had (as was though) some foul play in his youth, or rather because he was born, that he was not able to stand at seven years of age, that weakness made him ever leaning on other men’s shoulders… His walk was ever circular [and] his fingers, in that walk, fiddling about his codpiece.”
Authorship of The Court and Character of King James I has been attributed to Sir Anthony Weldon, an English courtier who disliked the Scottish generally and the Stuart dynasty specifically. Several modern historians are sceptical of Weldon’s involvement, however.
In October 1595, Giuseppe Beltrame was hauled before the elders of Venice, after falling out with a pretty actress named Giulia. Witnesses had observed Beltrame cursing at and abusing Giulia. He also publicly suggested that the young noblemen interested in Giulia were his sexual playthings, declaring that he had:
“…put it up the asses of the most excellent nobles who favoured the young woman [Giulia].”
Beltrame was banned from Venice for three years.