The great seducers

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

It's not a question of looks, nor even of technique: for a colourful few, seduction just seems to be something that comes naturally . . .

Ah seduction, that noble art. Its roots can be found in the most ancient myths; the alleged nobility is more recent, perhaps originating from mediaeval courtly love, when the beguiling of an innocent virgin (or, if you were really good, a rival's wife) could be accomplished with flattery, favours and a joust or two. But baser motives have never been far below the surface, and, ultimately, the methods that work are the basic ones: get them to notice you in the crowd, make them feel special, win their trust, make their pupils dilate, get them into bed.

Yet seduction is, in its highest form, far more than a one-note, wham-bang-thank-you-ma'am skill: it's a ritual with a complex set of rules. It can't be too aggressive, or the element of beguiling is lost in the relentless advances; but it neither should it be too refined, too unobtrusive because then the interplay between the two protagonists is lost.

So what's the secret? These 10 great seducers may offer some clues. Selected from various eras, from ancient history to the present day, they have a lot in common: success, in spades but also a vast array of techniques, some conscious, some primal, to conquer fair maid (or young man). From wild romantic to mordant wit to eager charmer, these artful inveiglers are the best in the business.

Of course, the real art in seduction is not to take advantage of the seduced but to be more of a to use the mealy-mouthed modern word facilitator, helping the seduced to open up to a whole new world of freedom and satisfaction through sex.

It's a nice trick if you can get away with it.

Casanova

Giacomo Casanova was the seducer by whom all others are measured, the man who gave his name to the charming yet roguish breed. The Venetian adventurer, wit, charlatan, spy and writer had a law degree by the age of 17 always handy for extricating yourself from intrigue a short and of course scandalous career in the church; and was run out of most of Europe's grand cities after drawing the attention of the local constabularies because of his sexual escapades. His technique? Discover a lady in trouble; be attentive; extricate her from her difficulty; bestow small gifts; use alluring words; make hay; get bored; exit stage left.

Catherine the Great

All enlightened despots need a way to relieve the stress, and the Russian empress's outlet was to take lovers. She often gave them important positions in government and was good enough to pension them off after she'd had enough of them (which certainly beats being exiled/executed). Her technique? Employing a former lover to do the work for you: after her affair with Potemkin, he would select a candidate-lover for her who had both the looks and the intelligence to hold Catherine's interest. Bar-room historians still claim (wrongly) that even men, ultimately, failed to fulfill her needs, leading to an unfortunate accident involving a horse.

Cleopatra

The woman with perhaps the most famous nose in history ("Had it been shorter," wrote Pascal, "the whole face of the world would have been changed"), Cleopatra was the last Pharaoh of Egypt and a great beauty who consolidated her power through affairs with both Julius Caesar and Mark Antony. When she and Antony's navy were defeated at the Battle of Actium, she killed herself with the bite of an asp. Her technique? Playful, witty and coquettish, requiring access to large quantities of milk for bathing/flirting with Roman generals, and priceless pearl earrings to dissolve in vinegar to astonish onlookers.

Lord Byron

The acme of a Romantic, not just a brooding poet but a revolutionary soldier. And oh! did the ladies fall for that heady mix of searing intellect and man of action. As did the men, although that side of his sexuality was long ago airbrushed from history. Lady Caroline Lamb, one of his lovers, described him as "mad, bad, and dangerous to know". His most famous poem, "Don Juan", takes the fictional arch seducer and makes the hero susceptible to the seductive powers of women so it was all their idea, after all (always a good line). Byron's technique? Passion, passion, and more passion. And dead by 36.

Errol Flynn

The actor whose buckle swashed on screen like no other of his time also had a notoriously rumbustious life off-stage, with vast amounts of drinking, plenty of brawling, and oodles of womanising. His famously debauched lifestyle caught up with him in 1942 when two underage chorus girls, Betty Hansen and Peggy Satterlee, accused him of statutory rape (they were under 21 at the time). However, he was found not guilty at trial, and his reputation did not suffer any lasting harm. And his seduction method? If the expression "in like Flynn" really does refer to him, then it probably was none too subtle.

Wilt Chamberlain

If sheer quantity is the mark of a successful seducer, there can be no finer exponent than the 7ft 1in basketball player Wilt Chamberlain, who claimed to have slept with 20,000 women. If true, this suggests that he had sex with more than eight different women per week from the age of 16 (who are we kidding?) to the day he died. His technique? Confident but respectful. And being the highest paid basketball star of the time probably didn't hurt his chances either. "I think Wilt hit on everything that moved... [but] he never was bad or rude," said the Swedish high jumper Annette Tannander.

Russell Brand

The rakish, bohemian stand-up comic, TV presenter and "World's Sexiest Vegetarian" is a self-confessed erotomaniac. He even underwent treatment for his affliction in a Philadelphia clinic. As he writes in his autobiography, My Booky Wook: "At one point, I had a harem of about 10 women, whom I would rotate in addition to one-night stands and casual random encounters." And his technique? Verbal dexterity, hyperactive charm and, presumably, that ridiculously over-coiffured barnet: "In Bangkok ... bar girls in Patpong left their posts to follow me down the street, cooing and touching my hair."

Alan Clark

The diarist, MP and deadpan patrician snob (who dismissed Michael Heseltine as "a man who bought his own furniture") was also an incorrigible lech. He was also very sure of his type: "Girls have to be succulent," he pronounced; "and that means under 25." His most infamous escapade was an affair with what he described as his "coven" a judge's wife and two daughters. His technique? Boundless boyish enthusiasm "A plump young woman came into my compartment at Waterloo," he wrote in his diary. "She was not wearing a bra, and her delightful globes bounced prominently... I gave her a huge grin; I couldn't help it."

Jack Nicholson

Like his fellow Hollywood lotharios Warren Beatty and Frank Sinatra, the US acting legend and force of nature isn't a one-woman man. No, sir. "Physical and sexual vitality is one of the reasons that I'm lively," the 71-year-old, who has no fewer than six children by five women, recently claimed. Kim Basinger called him "the most highly sexed individual I have ever met". His technique? The bad-boy glint in his eye, that grin, the charm, the monomaniacal intensity the late Playboy model Karen Mayo-Chandler revealed that he ate peanut butter and jam sandwiches in bed "to keep his strength up".

John Wilkes

John Wilkes is an unlikely candidate. He was a radical MP, journalist and later Lord Mayor of London who wrote pornographic poetry. And he was described as the ugliest man in England. But his charm was extraordinary: "With the start of a quarter of an hour," he said, "I can get the better of any man, however good-looking, in the graces of any lady." (He later amended this to half an hour modestly.) In an exchange with the Earl of Sandwich, who declared "Sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox," Wilkes replied: "That, sir, depends on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." His technique? Unfettered charm.

News
newsVideo targets undecided voters
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Pixie Lott will take part in Strictly Come Dancing 2014, the BBC has confirmed
tv
Life and Style
Cooked up: reducing dietary animal fat might not be as healthy as government advice has led millions of people to believe
healthA look at how governments started advising incorrectly on diets
News
Evan Spiegel, the founder of Snapchat, dropped out of Stanford University just before graduation to develop his app
techAnd yes, it is quite a lot
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Retail Business Architect

    Flexible for the right candidate: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: I have a fa...

    Calypso Developer

    £500 - £700 per day: Harrington Starr: Calypso Developer Calypso, J2SE, XML, ...

    IT Developer/Analyst

    £35000 - £36000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A market leading financia...

    Pricing Manager, Finance, Edinburgh, £250-350p/d

    £250 - £350 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: My client, a leading bank, is cur...

    Day In a Page

    Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

    Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

    A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
    Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

    The science of herding is cracked

    Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
    Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

    This tyrant doesn’t rule

    It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?
    Rachael Lander interview: From strung out to playing strings

    From strung out to playing strings

    Award-winning cellist Rachael Lander’s career was almost destroyed by the alcohol she drank to fight stage fright. Now she’s playing with Elbow and Ellie Goulding
    The science of saturated fat: A big fat surprise about nutrition?

    A big fat surprise about nutrition?

    The science linking saturated fats to heart disease and other health issues has never been sound. Nina Teicholz looks at how governments started advising incorrectly on diets
    Emmys 2014 review: Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars

    Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars?

    The recent Emmy Awards are certainly glamorous, but they can't beat their movie cousins
    On the road to nowhere: A Routemaster trip to remember

    On the road to nowhere

    A Routemaster trip to remember
    Hotel India: Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind

    Hotel India

    Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind
    10 best pencil cases

    Back to school: 10 best pencil cases

    Whether it’s their first day at school, uni or a new project, treat the student in your life to some smart stationery
    Arsenal vs Besiktas Champions League qualifier: Gunners know battle with Turks is a season-defining fixture

    Arsenal know battle with Besiktas is a season-defining fixture

    Arsene Wenger admits his below-strength side will have to improve on last week’s show to pass tough test
    Pete Jenson: Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought

    Pete Jenson: A Different League

    Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought
    This guitar riff has been voted greatest of all time

    The Greatest Guitar Riff of all time

    Whole Lotta Votes from Radio 2 listeners
    Britain’s superstar ballerina

    Britain’s superstar ballerina

    Alicia Markova danced... every night of the week and twice on Saturdays
    Berlin's Furrie invasion

    Berlin's Furrie invasion

    2000 fans attended Eurofeurence
    ‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

    ‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

    Driven to the edge by postpartum psychosis