When the world was focusing on Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding at Windsor Castle on Saturday, it reminds me that the monarchy has had hidden gay and bisexual members for hundreds of years. Despite there are hardly members of the Royal Family has come out publicly as gay or bisexual, many well-known figures lived relatively openly with same-sex partners or lovers.
Queen Anne of Great Britain (1655-1714)
Anne was most likely bisexual. Known for England and Scotland united as a single sovereign state across her reign, she also oversaw a passionate affair with Sarah Churchill, the wife of the Duke of Marlborough. The two were the embodiment of ‘opposites attract’. Sarah was beautiful and assertive and Anne plain and reserved. The two fell in and out of love until Anne dumped Sarah due to her argumentative attitudes, often disagreeing with the Queen.
William II of England (1056-1100)
Otherwise known as William Rufus after his red face, William II filled his courts with attractive young men. Never marrying and without children, he instead dressed his courtiers in pointed shoes and ordered they grow out their hair. Choosing to promote based on performance in bed, rather than talent. After being apparently assassinated, his successor, Henry I, forced his courtiers to trim their hair. William’s legacy was cut short.
Richard I of England, The Lionheart (1189-1199)
Despite spending just six months of his ten-year reign in the country, Richard I is one of England’s most iconic kings. When he was Duke of Aquitaine, he revolted against his father, Henry II.
For the sake of “diplomacy”, he allied with Philip II of France and “ate every day at the same table and from the same dish, and at night their beds did not separate them,” wrote Roger of Hovden, a chronicler who knew Richard personally.
William III of England (1650-1702)
Rumors circulated concerning the king’s homosexuality after the death of his wife Mary. These surfaced following satirical pamphlets that aimed to discredit the king’s legitimacy. Alleging that the monarch has homosexual inclinations as he had more close male friendships than mistresses. But these are based on more than suspicion, as two Dutch courtiers are among his likely lovers. This was due to their quick promotions and youth.
Edward II (1284-1327)
In the Hollywood blockbuster, Braveheart, Edward II was portrayed as camp and correspondingly incompetent. While not the most pro-LGBT depiction, Edward II is one of more famously ‘gay’ monarchs. He was ‘wedded brothers’ with Piers Gaveston, the Earl of Cornwall. The friendship agreement has often been likened to a church-approved same-sex partnership by historians. The Earl was often given special access to the King, much to the anger of nobles.
Elizabeth I (1533-1603)
Like Catherine the Great and her own father, rumors have surrounded the powerful Elizabeth’s sexuality for centuries. Some historians suggest the ‘Virgin Queen’ was actually a lesbian. However, though she never married, the queen had a series of male suitors and would insist she was married to her kingdom and subjects.
Richard II (1377-1400)
Richard was just 10-years-old when he became king. This meant leading nobles ran the country on his behalf. But when old enough to rule for himself, he surrounded himself with nobles such as Robert de Vere, the Earl of Oxford. The two were allegedly in a relationship. When de Vere died, Richard ordered for his coffin to be opened. He kissed his friend’s hand and reportedly gazed at his face one final time before the burial.
Henry VIII of England (1491-1547)
Despite his obvious love of women – and wives – some historians claim Henry VIII’s sexual appetite also included men. However, there is very little proof to substantiate the claims. With academics often referencing cases of extreme homophobia as a sign of denial. King Henry criminalizing gay sex in the Buggery Act of 1533 is considered as an example of this.
James IV and I (1566-1625)
James was King of Scotland as James VI from 24 July 1567 and King of England and Ireland as James I from the union of the Scottish and English crowns on 24 March 1603. But the union of two crowns wasn’t the only union he oversaw. He was disputedly in a relationship with Robert Carr, who he made Earl of Somerset.
Lord Ivar Mountbatten (1963-present)
The Queen’s cousin became the first member of the British royal family to come out as gay after revealing he is dating James Coyle. Lord Ivar Mountbatten is the Queen’s cousin, the great, great, great grandson of Queen Victoria and the great-nephew of Earl Mountbatten of Burma. He had previously married and had three children with Penelope Thompson.