I’ll preface this post by saying I know absolutely nothing about Canada’s new Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, other than the fact that last night my Facebook feed was flooded with images of his toned, semi-naked body and comments about how the new world leader was incredibly hot. Given his propensity to be photographed shirtless, I immediately spied his tattoo. Yes! Another world leader to add to my list of tattooed historical people.
(I did not call this image beefcake, the original source did!)
He joins the ranks of a long line of tattooed world leaders: well-known examples include fellow chest-baring aficionado King Frederick IX (of Denmark) and his prodigious collection of naval tattoos (photographically documented in many images and in this amazing film footage for which I’d love to find the original source), Tsar Nicholas II who had a dragon inscribed on his forearm in Japan (photographically documented), and British monarchs George V (a Jerusalem cross pilgrimage tattoo and a Japanese dragon, confirmed in his personal diary) and his father Edward VII (a Jerusalem cross pilgrimage tattoo, confirmed via his son’s personal diary). Prime Minister Winston Churchill has long been rumored to have had an anchor on his arm, but the Churchill Foundation disputes this (and reports of his mother Jennie’s tattoo are definitely apocryphal). King Alexander I of Yugoslavia appears to have had an eagle tattooed across his chest (I’m trusting a footnote in a language I can’t read here). A number of American presidents were supposedly inked: Theodore Roosevelt was alleged to have his family crest on his chest (Franklin D. also sometimes gets added to this list, but I’m guessing that may be people confusing the two), James Polk supposedly had a Chinese character that translated to “eager”, and Andrew Jackson was said to wear a tomahawk on his thigh. Henry IV of France (1553-1610) was said to have had a Christian tattoo (very plausible) as well as a romantic tattoo. (Someday I’ll get around to doing the proper archival research to confirm or refute all of these.) It has even been said that King Harold of England sported a tattoo on his chest (“Edith”, his wife’s name) that allowed for the identification of his body after his death on the battlefield in 1066, but this may be embellished historical fiction.
[I’ll note that these are all the heads of state I could find. If we extend the list to other types of world leaders–legislators, ministers and cabinet members, princes and princesses, various lesser noblepeople, judges, etc., etc.–the list gets much, much longer.]
Trudeau’s tattoo history spans approximately 20 years. It began with a small globe on his left upper arm, fairly crudely rendered, that he says he got when he was in his early 20s (one article said 23). I found this picture online of a younger Trudeau with the original piece.
Later, when he was 40, he added a Haida raven around the globe, and clearly also updated the older tattoo. Why the Haida raven? I’m guessing he’s too clever to have just picked the image as an exotic marker of Canada’s indigenous-peoples history.
Could this have been a bold political move to court indigenous people from the other side of Canada (the Haida traditionally lived on the northwest coast of North America, including in British Columbia)? A symbol that he represents all of Canada? Haida tattoos have certainly become divorced from their origins in the twenty-first century, inscribed on the skin of plenty of non-indigenous cultural admirers. Although, as images that held particular family meaning for their original bearers, Haida tattoos, for me, become a set of images that I’m not sure people of non-native heritage should get tattooed, unless they can claim some particular cultural affiliation. [Full disclaimer: I have a very old Haida-inspired tattoo that I got when I was 18…if I knew then what I know now…]
[Update: Trudeau’s family has some really interesting history with the Haida people! Cultural adoption of outsiders is common throughout many of the indigenous cultures of the Americas, and it turns out, he and his parents were honored with this. Read this great bit of biographical digging by Maria Lavis. So, he totally can wear that image with pride.]
Will he become more inked? In one interview, he said he doesn’t want to get any more tattoos. But then he proceeded to draw up a little sketch of what he would get (also joining the ranks of the world’s leaders who can doodle pretty darn well). Watch the short video clip in the interview link, but here’s a screencap of his final doodle for your convenience:
Now what does it mean that a tattooed world leader is the same age (43) as me? I picked the wrong business, I guess…perhaps he needs a tattoo consultant as part of his new staff. (Hey Justin–may I call you Justin? I’ve been staring at images of your naked chest after all–feel free to contact me if you do want to get something new…perhaps an homage to the beaver tattoo that your fellow Canadian, John Long, got while living among the Ojibwe (Chippewa in the original source) in 1777, since you seem to have a passion for the art of Canada’s First Nations, and the Ojibwe historically lived in Ontario, where you were born and where you will spend a lot of time over the coming years.)