This paper discusses the study and analysis of portraiture of the favorites of King James I: Esmé Stuart, Robert Carr, and George Villiers. Although famous female mistresses (such as Anne Boleyn before her queenship or Madame de Pompadour) often did wield immense political power, there is better historical documentation for the power of male favorites in politics, the military, economics, and other areas of national affairs. Studying visual primary source material allows a new perspective on contemporary thought and propaganda of the time. Certain aspects of character are better communicated through the intricate symbology of the time, and portraiture allows a perfect avenue to bringing those observations to light. The art forms discussed—official depictions as well as engraved prints, which were more easily disseminated to a wider public—had very different audiences and therefore carried different messages. By analyzing these works, we can draw new conclusions about the ways in which the contemporaries of the favorites, regardless of social status, perceived these men. "Reading” visual and written sources through a queer lens will also provide a depth of understanding missed by earlier sources, which have historically lacked that lens.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License