Parliamentary Tories this past week experienced a sort of renaissance of absurdity and bigotry, not really as noticeable on this scale since the Thatcher years. For example, Sir Gerald Howarth – self confessed ‘devoted to Thatcher‘ (and 1980s prejudices, apparently) – stood up to denounce the same-sex marriage bill as the work of “aggressive homosexuals” using it as a “stepping stone for something even further“. He didn’t elaborate on what “something even further” meant, or who the “aggressive homosexuals” specifically are. But he did show the World the intensely ridiculous lengths of a masterfully ignorant bigot, that we so woefully refer to as “Sir” will go to protect his prejudices.
Then came the manic ramblings of old Norman Tebbit. Tebbit remains insistent that allowing a same-sex couple to marry, would eventually allow him to marry his son to avoid paying inheritance tax. I address the ridiculous use of the slippery slope fallacy with regard same-sex marriage here, so I wont repeat myself. But Tebbit’s finest moment in this debate came, when he suggested that the Bill may in fact lead to a lesbian Queen with an artificially inseminated heir. Heaven forbid we have a Monarch who isn’t the result of slightly incestuous relationships.
It would appear that Tebbit is under the impression that people are only gay, if they can get married…. and that a gay Monarch would in fact be completely heterosexual, if only gays aren’t allowed to marry. Or maybe he’s suggesting that the gay Monarch will hide his or her homosexuality, and marry someone of the opposite sex, to produce an heir. Living their whole life as a lie, which apparently, doesn’t undermine the sanctity of marriage in the minds of the swivel-eyed loons. Norman Tebbit is more suited to the court of King Henry VIII, obsessing over heirs, than he is to any time after the 1950s.
Tebbit, as it turns out, in warning of a possible homosexual Monarch, is about 1000 years and about five Monarchs too late. The United Kingdom has had gay Monarchs in the past. Here are a few.
The third son of William the Conqueror, William II of England, succeeded to the thrown with great expectation. He was the Tiberius to his father’s Augustus. The second in the line of Norman Kings that began in 1066. William II was a rather terrible King. He was considered a tyrant, and had an incredibly fiery temper. He never married, produced no offspring, and surrounded his court with “pretty young courtiers” – all men. It is claimed that he promoted male courtiers, based almost solely on how attractive he found them to be. Rumours of his homosexuality sparked harsh disagreements between his court, and the Church. Owing to the times, William was ridiculed for surrounding himself with long haired attractive male courtiers, so much so that Henry I, upon succeeding William, insisted that no male courtier be allowed long hair. Rumours of his homosexual relationships were rife at the time.
In the graveyard of Hulton Abbey in Staffordshire, laid a decapitated body, belonging to a man named Sir Hugh Despenser the Younger. He was hung, drawn, and quartered following the overthrow of King Edward II by his wife Isabella in 1326. Despenser was married to Edward’s niece, Eleanor de Clare. This brought him close to Edward. He was considered a favourite of the King, joined him in battle, and was with him right until the end. The King reigned more and more favours and titles upon his nephew-in-law, leading to huge unrest with the nobility of the day. Despenser is also rumoured to be King Edward II’s gay lover. He wasn’t the first either. According to commentators of the day – including The Lanercost Chronicle – and some modern historians, posit that King Edward had been sexually linked to Piers Gaveston, 1st Earl of Cornwall, whose Royal patronage caused much upset during the reign. Gaveston’s biography, written by J.S. Hamilton, says:
“there is no question that the king and his favorite were lovers.”
Similarly, in “The Life and Times of Edward II” by Caroline Bingham, it is stated that when the not-yet-King, Edward was introduced to Gaveston for the first time, as youngsters:
“….the king’s son saw him he fell so in love that he entered upon an enduring compact with him.”
– There was a growing anger toward Edward’s treatment of both Gaveston, and Despenser. Queen Isabella noted that Despenser was a “sodomite“, and her jealousy is well documented.
The Meaux Chronicle, written a couple of decades later, states that King Edward:
“….took too much delight in sodomy.”
– We can of course never prove that King Edward was gay, or was sexually involved with some of his male friends, but the rumours at the time, the discomfort the Queen felt toward the relationship between her husband and male companions, and subsequent writings and plays from Marlowe, all strongly suggest it to be true.
It is rather ironic that those seeking to use the Bible to condemn homosexuality, may choose to do so by using the King James Bible, given that King James, is the only Monarch we can say with almost 100% certainty, that was gay. And a Monarch so dedicated to one of his lovers in particular, they would openly kiss in public, according to contemporaries at the Court of King James.
In the book “A History of England” by James Franck Bright, we are told:
“The first of his favourites was Robert Carr, for whom the King acquired a peculiar affection while he was lying wounded from an accident at a tournament. Carr had been his page in Scotland, and the King, feeling a natural interest in him, visited him and fell in love with his beauty.”
– We then learn that the King has a falling out with Carr, complaining, among other things, in a letter to Carr that still survives that Carr had recently been:
….withdrawing yourself from lying in my chamber, notwithstanding my many hundred times earnest soliciting you to the contrary.”
– After the downfall of Carr, King James seems to met, and fallen for George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham. Villiers was known to be a handsome man, of high intelligence. He was a commoners, and elevated to the Dukedom by the King.
In the early 2000s, the decaying Apethorpe Hall, a favourite of King James and the Duke of Buckingham was restored to past glories. During the restoration, a secret passageway was found, linking the King’s bedchamber, to the Dukes.
During time spent apart, Letters between the two that still exist raced between the two, and represent rather beautifully written Renaissance letters of romance and sexual flirtation. In one, Buckingham states:
“sir, all the way hither I entertained myself, your unworthy servant, with this dispute, whether you loved me now… better than at the time which I shall never forget at Farnham, where the bed’s head could not be found between the master and his dog”
– The King is also prone to letters of romantic intrigue, sent to Buckingham on several occasions. In one, James writes, referring to Buckingham as his wife:
“I desire only to live in this world for your sake… I had rather live banished in any part of the Earth with you than live a sorrowful widow’s life without you… God bless you, my sweet child and wife, and grant that ye may ever be a comfort to your dear dad and husband”
– In one particularly telling letter from King James to the Duke of Buckingham, James is extremely candid about the effect had on him, of their recent parting:
“I am now so miserable a coward, as I do nothing but weep and mourn; for I protest to God I rode this afternoon a great way in the park without speaking to anybody and the tears trickling down my cheeks, as now they do that I can scarcely see to write. But alas, what shall I do at our parting? The only small comfort I can have will be to pry in thy defects with the eye of an enemy, and of every mote to make a mountain, and so harden my heart against thy absence. But this little malice is like jealousy, proceeding from a sweet root; but in one point it overcometh it, for as it proceeds from love so it cannot but end in love. Sweet heart, be earnest with Kate to come and meet thee at Newhall [Buckingham’s mansion in Essex] within eight or ten days after this.”
– His jealousy, is out of love. His heart is hardened against his absence. The King refers to Buckingham as ‘sweet heart’. The passion and the love between the two is quite evident, and rather spectacular. I would recommend reading their correspondence. It is a wonderful story of romance, at a time when homosexuality was widely and violently condemned. On March 27th, 1625, King James died in his bedchamber, with George Villiers, the Duke of Buckingham, at his side.
Rulers, not just in England, have been heterosexual, bisexual, and homosexual throughout history. The only reason it is less discussed, and less historically provable, is because two of those three sexualities, have been oppressed so viciously for no other reason than religious doctrine. Rumours of homosexuality of rulers range from the Roman Emperors Nero, and Tiberius (the gender of a lover in Rome, was met with very little opposition, and far more indifference than much of the conservative party accept 2000 years later), to Emperor Jianwen of Liang, whose own poems speak of sexual liaisons with men. From Frederick the Great, to Al-Mu’tamid ibn Abbad. They range from Christendom, to Islamic societies, to the far reaches of the Chinese Empire. They do so, because the spectrum of sexuality is as natural and insuppressible as the spectrum of eye colour.
Norman Tebbit is simply echoing the bigoted screams heard throughout the centuries from hysterical anti-gay voices that wish a monopoly on telling others who to love, based on religious fanaticism. What we can take from this, is that Medieval anti-homosexuality language such as “sodomy” and “sinning”, and the unwarranted stigma that this attaches to homosexuality, is still used today by those who have apparently decided to forego all social, neurological, and genetic advancement, and instead choose to cling to archaic views made popular by 13th Century Papists who we may say, had the excuse that they knew no better. Norman Tebbit, and others like him do not have that excuse.