The answer to that is “No.” Trudeau may be the only current world leader to have a tattoo, but he is by no means that first one. Throughout history, monarchs, ministers, generals and various types of leaders had tattoos, and this is because the culture from which these leaders emerged valued the symbolism and artistry that inked skin offered. So if you want to know more about Justin Trudeau and the history of tattooed then here’s what you want to know.
A Brief Overview of Justin Trudeau’s Tattoo
Justin Trudeau’s famous (and some would say controversial) tattoo is a raven with a globe inside of it. This little patch of ink got very famous on social media during and before Canada’s election night. People were curious not only about the tattoo, they were also interested about its significance for Trudeau and his reasons for getting it.
The tattoo is actually the combination of two different tattoos, and each one was taken during different periods of Trudeau’s life. According to Trudeau, the tattoo is that of the “Earth inside a Haida raven.” He had the Earth tattoo when he was 23, while the Robert Davidson (a Haida artist) Raven tattoo was added on his 40th birthday.
Trudeau’s choice of tattoo is no coincidence. The Trudeau family are honorary members of the Haida tribe, which partly explains the nature of the tattoo. The raven is a recurring symbol in Haida art, and in Trudeau’s case, the image most likely represents his family’s connection with the Haida tribe. So based on this information, it’s very likely that Trudeau got the globe and raven tattoos for personal and/or family reasons.
World Leaders Who Have Had Tattoos
Justin Trudeau is by no means the first world leader to have a tattoo. In the not so distant past, numerous world leaders were reported to have possessed tattoos of one kind or another. Although some of these reports were only based on rumors, there are also many confirmed cases of leaders who possessed tattoos. Several good examples include:
- Tsar Nicholas II – The famous Russian Tsar, Nicholas II was recorded to have gotten a dragon tattooed for his forearm while on a visit to Japan.
- King Fredrick IX – King Fredrick IX’s tattoos were the result of many years of service in the Danish navy, and most of his tattoos were related to sailing and naval tradition.
- King George V – King George V possessed a Jerusalem Cross on his arm as a reminder of his pilgrimage to the Holy City.
- King Edward VII – Like King George V, King Edward VII also had a Jerusalem cross tattooed on his arm in order to mark his visit to Jerusalem.
- King Henry IV of France – King Henry IV was reported to have had Christian and romantic tattoo.
- King Harold of England – King Harold was reported to have had a tattoo on his chest. The purpose of the tattoo was to make his body identifiable should he fall in battle.
- Prime Minister Winston Churchill – Winston Churchill was believed to have had an anchor tattoo somewhere on his body.
- President Theodore Roosevelt – American President Theodore Roosevelt possessed a tattoo of his family crest on his chest.
- President Andrew Jackson – American President Andrew Jackson reputedly had a tomahawk tattoo somewhere on his thigh.
Aside from western leaders, it’s also worth mentioning that many cultures practiced tattooing as a way to signal social position. Native American tribes, like the Secotans for example, were fond of tattoos, and it is very likely that their leaders possessed many tattoos to signify their social positions. It’s also worth mentioning that various tribes in Central and South America also possessed similar traditions with regards to tattoos, and such markings are used by their leaders to signify their status within the tribe.
Another good example is pre-colonial Philippines, where tattoos symbolized rank, accomplishments and even magical powers. In fact, early Spanish explorers referred to the tribes that they encounter as “Pinatdos,” meaning painted or tattooed. Furthermore, there are also various records exist of pre-colonial Flipino warriors who covered themselves with colorful and intricately designed tattoos in order to mark their position within society.
Likewise, Persian culture also had a tradition of tattooing as well as body painting. There are, for example, numerous statues that date back to the Achaemenid Empire which prove the existence of tattoos and body piercings among kings and even gods. This tradition lasted for centuries, and played an important role throughout Persian history.
Finally, it’s important to remember that tattoos existed all throughout human history in almost every culture. Although attitudes towards tattoos tended to vary from period to period, this practice never really died out, and in situations where tattooing is considered by most of society to be either positive or neutral, it’s not unusual for leaders and elites to get a few tattoos for themselves.
All of these various examples prove that leaders with tattoo is neither new nor special. The fact that Trudeau has one speaks more about contemporary culture than tattoos in general. Tattooed leaders have been around for a very long time, and it’s likely that there may be more of them in the future.
Why Does Justin Trudeau’s Tattoo Matter?
With regards to his tattoo, what makes Justin Trudeau interesting is that he is the only current world leader who has no qualms about showing off his tattoo to the public. Presently, no other world leader is reported to have a tattoo, and even if there are, it’s very likely that they don’t want anyone to know about it.
Major world leaders, like Vladimir Putin or Barrack Obama for example, don’t seem to have any tattoos anywhere on their body. Trudeau’s tattoo, therefore, makes him relatively unique among many contemporary leaders, and lends to his image as a new breed of leader for Canada.
So does this mean that tattooed leaders are making a come-back? Maybe, maybe not, but Trudeau’s victory signifies that tattooed leaders are not only acceptable, they’re also kind of cool.