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Message updated 6th Jan 2022

Tuesday, 20 July 2021

Royale Studio 1a - Sailors in the Rigging

Royale Studio in the 1950's was one of the first British producers of overtly gay erotica with a bias towards military themes and corporal punishment. The 1970's Guys In Uniform Studio (which I covered in a previous series of articles) covered very similar subject matter, they were quite separate enterprises but closely connected. For information on the personalities that made that connection, I refer you to the milism article by Squaddie John. 
In this article I make some comments on the stylistic crossover.

Royale - Sailor Flogged In The Rigging

I'm going to start where I left off the GIU series, with images featuring sailors and rigging. This one is fairly well-known and the dramatic quality is striking. Compare it with the Physique Pictorial imagery which was a contemporary. The technical quality is also surprisingly good.
 The flogger here is Ron Wiltshire, I think. He has a striking face and build and his bell bottom trousers add solidity to the forceful pose as well as enhancing his thighs. Those creases would earn him a punishment of his own in real life though! Royale reputedly made it's models sit in a bath of cold water to wet their trousers so they would cling in sexy places like buttocks and thighs. You can also see the effect of cold water on the man at the right making a record of the punishment, since he clearly isn't wearing any underpants. I believe this might be Tom Harding, who we will see much of.
The anchoring effect of their bell-bottoms contrasts with the 'flying' pose of the victim. His rolled-up legs mark him as a 'worker', who would normally be scrubbing decks or climbing in the rigging, hence that nice, muscular back.  His legs are spread very wide creating an exaggerated sense of helplessness and stress and also helping those wet pants to highlight a delicious bubble butt. His leg pose matches the arrow-like shape of the soaring rigging ropes and there's a sense of upward thrust which finds erotic significance in the thick central rope which rises exactly in the middle between his thighs.

There's a theatrical quality to this staging, reflecting a highly creative mind at work.
Compare it now with the similar GIU image below (taken from my GIU set 9 review). You'll notice a gulf in impact and authenticity, however, the styling and sailor-flogging subject matter itself suggests there must be a close connection between these images. It looks like GIU are using the same rigging prop and the same combination of black belts and button-front, white trousers, both rolled-up. No wonder these studios are commonly confused with each other. The question becomes not what are the similarities between them, but rather how can you tell them apart?

Guys in Uniform - Sailors in the Rigging
A key differentiator is the reference number which appears in the bottom corner of some Royale pictures (see above). These occasional numbers enable whole image groups to be firmly identified as Royale rather than GIU. They are there because in those days photographs were bought from a catalogue by mail order, not downloaded from the internet! 

Royale Catalogue - Key List 8
Fortunately some of these catalogue pages are also available to us (above) and can help with set identification. This one has an image you probably recognise (middle row, far left) labelled 1-UNAP, whuch was short hand for 'Unapproved' (a suggestive play on the term 'Approved School' which was a UK euphemism for youth detention centres in the 1950's). There are 3 more UNAP's on the bottom line which you probably don't recognise but wish you did! 
These pages also guide you to model identities (abbreviated in their labels, HEB = Henri Barjac). Being able to recognise models and place them in their correct era (Royale 50's, Guys In Uniform 70's) is probably the best differentiator of all 

Royale - Nude Sailor Flogged In The Rigging

 I used to think all Royale photos were in black and white, but the masters were coloured apparently and some coloured originals did surface recently (see below). This picture has been subtly coloured and altered using Photo-shop type software. However, in general, coloured images are from GIU. There are nevertheless lots of black and white examples in my GIU series of posts, but they are reprints from 1970's magazines, which in those days always had limited colour content for cost reasons. 
The photo-shopper of this variant has bestowed a more substantial backside on the victim and it's a result I imagine Royale would have approved of. The cropping here brings out a subtle, erotic feature of the original picture - the suggestive shaping of the flogger's free hand which seems to be reaching towards his captive's groin. Not accidental methinks, but an example of the art of 'hidden eroticism' (see label at foot of this post for links to more).

Royale - Sailors in the Rigging 1
 This is another well known Royale composition which combines 2 different viewpoints. Put together they are both atmospheric and sensual. There's no illusion of this being a real ship or a real flogging but the close juxtaposition of two shapely, male bottoms is erotic and enticing. 
Royale - Sailors in the Rigging 2

 This image is a subtle variation of the last picture and the shift in far man's backside position is very sexy if they are viewed close together. The nearer man turns his backside towards us and they both bow their heads submissively in acknowledgement of the restraint and punishment scenario that unites them and, indeed, all these images. 
As you can see above, GIU pictures featured nudes but Royale men remain clothed below the waist in accordance with the sanitised constraints of the times. Even so, with trousers as tight as this a comparable effect to nudity is achieved and is arguably more erotic. The dramatic lighting exploits the black and white mode, it brings out the men's slender muscularity and curvaceous bottoms - compensating for the lack of bare flesh.
Royale - Sailors in the Rigging 3 coloured

 Royale lovers were given a surprise present in 2019 when a small collection of coloured images, including the one above, surfaced in the Colville Exhibition. Apparently they were the photographer's masters, which were only sold on in black and white versions. 
The far man's physique is a delight in colour, it makes you realise what treasures have been lost. The change doesn't enhance their bottoms very much which is some compensation. This slightly altered viewpoint makes the sexy, bottom-brushing effect even more pronounced. 

Royale - Sailors in the Rigging 4 (Frontal)

The frontal variant is less daring but there's still plenty visible below the waist for the sharp-eyed. Exaggerated organs were left to artists like Tom of Finland in this era. This pose doesn't have quite the same sense of struggle and sexy vulnerability as the reverse views above. The models look as though they are relaxing rather than being restrained against their will. However, it does nicely showcase once again the physique of the far model. I haven't identified him yet but the boyish man on the left is Peter George.
Royale - Sailor Stripped for Flogging

There was another surprise with this image from the Colville exhibition. Forcible stripping is portrayed in some Royale 'sets' but not quite as vividly or near the knuckle as this. The colour finish and model's faces (which look familiar to me, Frank Lampard?) would have made me guess it to be by GIU, but apparently not. The victim's absence of underwear suggests there may even have been a nude sequel. That wouldn't be too surprising, plain envelope and under-the-counter explicitness was a feature of this market place and solo, nude, model studies have survived, but if nude images formed part of Royale's storyettes they all seem to have been lost.

This picture seems to be thematically linked to the first image in this post but the models look different to me. The white gym shorts are also a difference, they are an accessory we haven't seen before but were a Royale staple and will return in other sets.


Rigging Punishments continue in Royale Part 1b
You can view all my articles featuring GIU and Royale Studio by clicking on the label at the foot of this post. 
This article was originally published in July 2010 but extensively revised and extended for republication in July 2021, a process that I hope to apply to the rest of the series in due course. As an adjunct to that I am creating an archive housing my entire collection of GIU and Royale images. I have provided a link to the 'Rigging' album in Part 1b.


speedoric said...

great to return to this series & to have yr revisions.

Mitchell said...

Thanks, I'm surprised to find how much my own knowledge has moved on since I wrote these articles.