A few months back, I was asked to do a commission of John Wilmot, the second Earl of Rochester and his monkey. Well, I don't know if it was really his monkey, but it is a monkey with whom he was famously painted (apparently to the irritation of his long-suffering who felt a bit miffed at being passed over for a monkey).
Rocehster was a Restoration courtier and writer, best known for his bawdy poetry (naughty-word warning!) and a rather dissolute lifestyle; he was exiled for a satire he wrote that mocked Charles II for being preoccupied with sex over his duties as Monarch.
Oh,how I yearn for the good old days! Wouldn't it be fun of Queen Liz
would exile someone? Or be even remotely scandal-ridden for something
other than just being too...British? No, they just don't make scandals
like they used to... I feel that if, as a Canadian, I have to have a monarch on my money and pay taxes that go to funding anachronistic ceremonies, she should at least have to entertain me now and then.
I did very much enjoy the film The Queen, but I feel I have the goddess Helen Mirren to thank for that. (She was also brilliant in the BBC series Prime Suspect, but I digress). Okay, my anti-royalist tirade is over now. It's just that the royalty of yore were so much more interesting. They got up to all kinds of intrigue and shenanigans, and today it seems like all they do is live off the fat of the land and cut ribbons at gardens.
But back to Rochester, there was a film made about him a few years back called The Libertine (based on the Stephen Jeffrey's play of the same name). Some people complained that it was too slow, but I loved it. Johnny Depp plays Rochester and he is very good but the real star is Samantha Morton, probably my favourite youngish female actor, who plays his lover, the actor Elizabeth Barry. She rawks. Here's a scene that still gives me chills (Johnny Depp-in-ravages-of-syphilis-make-up warning!)