Royal wedding: Prince William and Kate Middleton met at St. Andrews, home to a cache of erotic relics.

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April 12 2011 5:12 AM

Royal Sex Toys

The secrets of Prince William's "college of love."

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The king may have chosen the gift because, back in 1777, a rebellious Benison member had made off with the beloved pubic wig and started his own breakaway club in Edinburgh, the Wig Club. In this society, new members were obliged to add a hair from their own loved one's nether regions, helping to renew the headpiece's fraying size. In fact, George may have intended his contribution to serve as the embryo for a replacement wig.

The Benison proved to be remarkably resilient, lasting for more than a century. But in 1836—the year before Queen Victoria's accession to the throne, ushering in a far less fun-loving era—the club held its last meeting in Anstruther, and it petered out elsewhere. In the repressive Victorian atmosphere, the relics of most British sex clubs were destroyed by disgusted relatives. But many of the Benison and Wig Club items miraculously survived, passed hand-to-hand around Scotland for generations. In 1921, a history-loving Scottish army officer named Col. Robert Maxwell "Canch" Kavanagh tracked them down and even tried to revive the club rites for a while, without success. ("Male bonding rituals had rather changed," Stevenson told me dryly.) His cache was eventually donated to the Museum of the University of St. Andrews, although sadly, the most infamous item, the pubic wig, was lost.

Despite the proliferation of sex museums in Europe, the Beggar's Benison and Wig Club Collection has never been publicly displayed. ("St Andrews is such a family tourist spot," one museum assistant explained, when I inspected the fabled items. "There was some thought of exhibiting a few of the tamer items, but it was vetoed. I mean, how do you explain what they were used for in a G-rated way?")

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Today, we can only speculate as to whether Prince William was aware of the sexy stash at his alma mater and the royal connections that swirl around it.

And the mysterious disappearance of the Wig Club's legendary mascot, last seen in a lawyer's office in Leith in the 1930s, should give royal conspiracy theorists pause. Millions believe that Jack the Ripper was the minion of Buckingham Palace and that a Secret Service assassin took care of Lady Di and Dodi. Surely the palace agents could spirit a royal wig out of a solicitor's filing cabinet …

If so, Kate Middleton may be in for quite a surprise on her wedding night.

A contributing writer at Smithsonian Magazine, Tony Perrottet is the author of The Naked Olympics:The True Story of the Ancient Games.