Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Follow-up question to previous post

From Mike: I am piggybacking off of Angie's question on homosexuality in Tudor times. phd Historian named a few monarchs as possibly being homosexual, one of them being Henry II. My question is this, was Henry II homosexual or did he mean William II?

[4/1/2008 - edited typo in subject line]


PhD Historian said...

To clarify for Mike, yes, I did mean Henry II, son of Matilda, husband of Eleanor of Aquitaine, and father of Richard I and John. There were contemporary rumors that Henry had young male lovers, and historians occasionally speculate on the exact nature of the early relationship between Henry and Thomas Becket. But now that you mention it, William II (a.k.a. William Rufus) can be added to the list of "might-have-been"s.

PhD Historian said...

For the sake of absolute clarity, I should reiterate for Mike that referring to any pre-modern figure as "homosexual" is entirely anachronistic. None of the monarchs on my list would be readily recognized today as "homosexual" under the usual meaning of that modern term. Henry II, Edward II, James VI&I, et al each engaged in sexual activity with women, to greater and lesser relative degrees, and each produced one or more legitimate children. It would thus be incorrect to refer to any of them as truly "homosexual." Richard I had no legitimate children, but he did at least marry and was rumored to have had violent sexual relations with a number of non-consenting women, so that we cannot label him as "homosexual" either. Only William II remained unmarried and completely without children, either legitimate or illegitimate. The documented historical record for his sexuality is too clouded with rumor and propaganda for us to be able to say defintively that he had sexual relations only with men and never with women, though the available evidence (documented plus rumor/propaganda) does suggest that his sexual behavior may have approached the modern definition of "homosexual" (i.e., a long-term, habitual practice under normal social circumstances of engaging in sexual relations only with those of the same sex) And thank you, Mike, for pointing out my obvious oversight in omitting him from my initial list.

aceviewer said...

Thank you. I never thought about Henry II but, as you have indicated and now that I think about it, after reading the information on Henry and Thomas Becket, it could suggest that their relationship may have been a little more than just (professional) for lack of a better word. Thanks again.