For much of history, LGBTQ+ royalty needed to hide their identities. Even though some societies embraced homosexuality, most refused to accept a gay monarch. But before we talk about LGBTQ+ kings and queens, let’s start with the history of sexual identity.
The terms heterosexual and homosexual didn’t exist until the 1860s. And until the 1930s, heterosexual meant an abnormal attraction to the opposite sex. For centuries, many societies didn’t see sexuality in binary terms at all. Ancient Greeks and Renaissance Florentines took both male and female lovers. King Edward II of England openly kissed his male lover on his wedding day. And the Roman emperor Hadrian named a city after his male lover. Many kings and queens needed to keep their sexuality quiet, but others defended their lifestyle openly.
Queen Anne Was Close With Her “Lady Of The Bedchamber”
The last of the Stuart monarchs, Queen Anne of Great Britain maintained a long-term relationship with Sarah Churchill in the early 1700s. Anne wrote to Sarah, “I hope I shall get a moment or two to be with my dear… that I may have one dear embrace, which I long for more than I can express.”
Anne has been called England’s lesbian queen because of her close relationship with Churchill, who served as “Lady of the Bedchamber.” But when Queen Anne pulled back, Sarah publicly accused the monarch of choosing another woman over her. Anne stayed above the fray, however, and remained popular through her death in 1714.
Pope Julius III Named His Lover A Cardinal
Pope Julius III ran the Catholic Church from 1550 to 1555. He also created a scandal thanks to his young male lover. Julius met Innocenzo, a 15-year-old beggar, in 1548, when Innocenzo was fighting with his pet ape on the street. The future pope swept the boy away and named him a cathedral provost.
When Julius became pope two years later, he convinced his brother to adopt Innocenzo, and later named his alleged lover a cardinal. Julius’s enemies called Innocenzo “Cardinal-Monkey” and complained the boy shared the pope’s bed.
Edward II Kissed His Male Lover In Front Of His Bride
Most stories about a royal’s sexuality were only mentioned in secret and whispers. That’s not the case for King Edward II of England, who openly showed affection for his male lover, Piers Gaveston. When Edward married Isabella of France, he showered kisses on Piers in front of the entire court.
As chroniclers wrote at the time, Edward’s affection for Gaveston was “beyond measure and reason,” “excessive,” and “immoderate.” One writer even said, “I do not remember to have heard that one man so loved another.” The relationship didn’t end well: Edward’s barons beheaded Gaveston.
Queen Elizabeth’s Partying Sister Allegedly Had A Female Lover
The younger sister of Queen Elizabeth II, Princess Margaret, was known for being a party girl. In addition to multiple affairs, she married bisexual photographer Antony Armstrong-Jones, who explained, “I didn’t fall in love with boys, but a few men have been in love with me.”
Royal reporter Noel Botham claimed in his book Margaret: The Last Real Princess that Margaret had an affair with the American ambassador’s daughter, Sharman Douglas, known as Sass. One of Douglas’s close friends told Botham that Sass confessed to being the princess’s lover in the 1950s.
Richard The Lionheart Shared A Bed With France’s King
Richard the Lionheart became King of England in 1189. Today, he’s famous for his role in the Third Crusade and his alleged association with Robin Hood. To others, though, Richard I is a gay icon. The king chose not to marry and never fathered an heir. Instead of having a queen by his side at his coronation, Richard invited his mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine, to play the role of his partner.
According to historical documents written at the time, Richard shared a bed with King Philip II of France. One chronicler even wrote the men were so close that “at night the bed did not separate them.”
Prince George Had A Ménage À Trois With An Ambassador’s Son
Prince George was the son of George V and the brother to Edward VIII and George VI. Called “the most interesting, intelligent and cultivated member of his generation” by biographer Christopher Warwick, George also allegedly carried on multiple bisexual affairs.
Married to Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark, Prince George never stopped partying. In the 1920s, George became addicted to morphine and cocaine during an affair with American socialite Kiki Preston – known as the girl with the silver syringe. George reportedly had a ménage à trois with Kiki and Jorge Ferrara, the son of Argentina’s ambassador. George died in 1942 in a tragic plane crash.
Hadrian Named A City After His Male Lover
Roman emperor Hadrian is best remembered for building Hadrian’s Wall, marking the northern border of his empire. And although Hadrian married around the year 100 CE, he also had a male lover. Hadrian’s partner was a young Greek named Antinous. When his lover drowned, Hadrian founded a city in Egypt and named it Antinopolis in his honor.
The Romans didn’t care about men taking male lovers. It was only important what part a man played during sex: older men always needed to take a dominant, active role.
Alexander The Great Had Sex With A Eunuch
Alexander the Great conquered enough land to rule one of the largest empires in ancient history. During a whirlwind military campaign, Alexander toppled the Persian Empire and invaded India. But where did he fall on the spectrum of sexual identity? Historians still debate Alexander’s sexual preferences, but most agree he had sex with men and women.
Alexander’s most likely male lover was Bagoas, a eunuch. Being a eunuch, the Greeks didn’t see him as a man – instead, he was in a third category, between man and woman. Many also believe Alexander maintained a relationship with his companion Hephaestion. The ancient Greeks were very open-minded about homosexuality.
James I Defended His Right To Love Other Men
When James I of England took the throne in 1603 after the death of Elizabeth, he had big shoes to fill. England loved Elizabeth, and they remained uncertain of the Scottish ruler with a reputation for homosexual love affairs. In his early years, his new subjects circulated a Latin phrase which translates to “Elizabeth was King: now James is Queen.”
As James rode through the streets of London, people yelled out “Long live Queen James!” James himself defended his right to love other men in 1617, in a speech to his Privy Council:
I, James, am neither a god nor an angel, but a man like any other. Therefore I act like a man and confess to loving those dear to me more than other men. You may be sure that I love the Earl of Buckingham more than anyone else, and more than you who are here assembled. I wish to speak in my own behalf and not to have it thought to be a defect, for Jesus Christ did the same, and therefore I cannot be blamed. Christ had John, and I have George.
The Last Medici Ruler Lost Tuscany Because He Wouldn’t Have Sex With His Wife
The last Medici to be Grand Duke of Tuscany, Gian Gastone, knew if he didn’t issue a male heir, his domain would go to the Bourbon rulers of Spain. Gian Gastone’s sister arranged his marriage to a German princess, but she refused to move to Florence. Gian moved to her small village, but eventually ignored her and spent his time with a male groom, Giuliano Dami, who reportedly became his lover.
Gian Gastone also allegedly paid young male prostitutes for sex. They became known as the Ruspanti, after the coins (ruspi) Gastone gave them. Needless to say, Gian Gastone never produced an heir and the Spanish seized Tuscany when he died.
Henry III Of France Was Called A Buggerer And A Sodomite
King Henry III of France was the son of Catherine de Medici and the last Valois king of France. In 1589, one of his subjects called the king “Henry of Valois, buggerer, son of a whore, tyrant.” During his lifetime, Henry was attacked for sexual deviancy, and people blamed the calamities of his reign on his sexuality.
Although Henry endured repeated accusations of sodomy, most historians believe they were just rumors. As Nicolas Le Roux argued, “It is less the supposed or real sexual practices of the king and those close to him that interests the historian than the image of illegitimacy conveyed by the discussion of sex.” In short, regardless of his sexual identity, Henry’s enemies used slurs to attack his masculinity.
King William II May Have Had An Affair With A Bishop
The third son of William the Conqueror became King of England in 1087. William II, also known as William Rufus, was his father’s favorite, explaining why William the Conqueror skipped over his older sons to make him king.
For centuries, rumors swirled about William Rufus’s sexuality. The king never married or fathered a child. His close advisor, Ranulf Flambard, is considered a possible sexual partner. William appointed Flambard as the Bishop of Durham in 1099. As William’s reign was over a thousand years ago, however, historians don’t have much to extrapolate from, other than the king’s close friendship with Flambard and his reputation for surrounding himself with attractive men.
Louis XIII Of France Might Not Be The Sun King’s Father
Most famous for his son, the Sun King, Louis XIII of France became king at 9 and helped transform France into a major European power. He married Anne of Austria at 14, and loathed her. Many assume Louis XIII was gay, and believe Louis XIV might not have been his son at all.
According to rumors, Louis carried on relationships with two men: Charles d’Albert, Duke of Luynes and Henri Coiffier de Ruzé, Marquis de Cinq-Mars. While little proof remains that Louis had sexual relationships with these men, many generally accept the king did not enjoy sex with women.