Sunday, November 18, 2012

Question from Ben - Evidence of Tudor homosexuality

Tudor Homosexuality - Has My Mum Made an Interesting Discovery?

My Mum enjoys researching local history and I think she may have discovered an interesting reference in a 1547 will.

A noble, Henry Marwood, apparently unmarried leaves various rings and valuable possession to his mother, brothers and a few others. What caught my Mum's eye was when he left:-

Mr. Peter Osborne, my bedfellowe and specyall frynde, my sealynge rynge of golde, whervvythe I have sealyd this my last wyll.

"Bedfellow and special friend" seems a delightful way to refer to a gay partner. As Marwood's mother was executor, presumably the family accepted the relationship. But are such references rare enough to make them interesting?

My Mum was looking at the book it in a local library, but the full text(Charles Worthy, Devonshire Wills 1896.), is online. The Marwood will is on page 2:-

Thank you


A few related threads are linked below. - Lara


PhD Historian said...

I do not see anything out of the ordinary in this will, and I have read a huge number of Tudor-era wills and extensively studied sexuality in early modern Europe. Unrelated persons of the same sex often shared beds. A bed was usually the most expensive single piece of furniture in a Tudor household, and it was often an honor to share a well-constructed costly bed. As for the phrase “special friend”, it occurs frequently enough in wills of the period that I would caution strongly against any anachronistic modern sexualized reading. I might also note that the preamble to this will ... the instructions for the disposal of the testator’s body ... is unusually extensive. The testator goes to extraordinary lengths to profess his reformist religious beliefs (e.g.: salvation by faith alone and not by works, burial to be quiet and without “ringing, piping, or singing”, etc). Because of the unusual intensity of the religious sentiment, I am inclined to think this Mr Marwood was quite probably a reformist cleric or pastor. Though apparently unmarried, his sexuality must remain unknown. But he was not actually “noble”.

Foose said...

Just as a sidenote, Anna Whitelock is coming out with a book next year titled Elizabeth's Bedfellows - and it's not about the queen's lovers, but rather her waiting women, since it was a duty of her bedchamber women to sleep in the same bed as the queen. Some modern novelists have presented this as an opportunity for lesbian romance, but I don't think there's any evidence that the queen's "bedfellows" were anything beyond trusted intimates. Royal people never slept alone, and as PhD Historian notes above, further down the ladder ordinary people often shared beds. I imagine besides the expensiveness of beds, sharing some kind of (non-sexual) animal warmth before the era of modern heating made having a bedfellow generally desirable.

Earlier ages featured close relationships outside the nuclear family that are alien or unfamilar to us - people often had strong emotional ties to the children of the woman who nursed them (a "milk brother or sister"), and "bedfellows" may be another example. Perhaps the goal, conscious or unconscious, was to spread "kinship" as widely as possible, in order to be able to call on assistance or leverage resources outside the immediate family.

Marilyn R said...

The Victorian writer Agnes Strickland believed that Katherine Howard was forced to live with the menials of the Duchess of Norfolk’s household in Lambeth, but actually many of her bedfellows in the maidens’ chamber were also related to the duchess, and this is not a sign of neglect on her part. Katherine shared a bed with another girl, who was somewhat embarrassed when Francis Dereham joined them there.

shtove said...

Agree with PhD and Foose.

In Ireland foster brothers commonly slept in the same bed, even into adulthood. All about kinship.

I've read accounts where foster brothers meet to plot against central government, and the spies report that all the important matters were discussed in bed.

Maybe the notion of a bedroom needs looking at, although it does seem intimacy and secrecy were the thing.

shtove said...

Just read the two previous threads - very interesting.

For entertainment, here's Benvenuto Cellini's defence to a charge of using one of his female models "after the Italian fashion" in France in the 1530s - the link should take you to chapter 29, paragraph beginning "Thinking that I could go of with a quiet mind":

Cellini's original Italian to describe the fashion is given in a footnote (it's a Victorian translation): Qual modo s’intendeva contro natura, cio√® in soddomia.

Foose said...

Tentatively, after rummaging around books on Renaissance friendship, I would venture that the term "special friend" tended to connote someone who did things for you in a materially useful way - i.e., marshalled resources, influence, connections on your behalf, supported your suits, went surety for your promise. Hence the saints were "special friends" in heaven, interceding for you with God; on earth, one's patron in the clientage network was often termed a "special friend." (Catherine of Aragon saluted Chapuys, the Imperial ambassador, as her "especial amigo," special friend, as he was championing her cause beyond what was strictly expected of him as a diplomat.)

Hence the meaning of the Tudor-era term in this type of context may be opposed to what we would consider a "special friend." Particularly in a modern romantic relationship, the theory is that you love the person for what they are, rather than what they do for you or their usefulness in getting you what you want.

PhD Historian said...

I am just reading the will of Thomas Grey, 2nd Marquess of Dorset. On folio 74v, he appoints as one of many executors Cuthbert Tunstall (then Bishop-elect of Durham), whom Grey describes as his "special friend". More evidence that the phrase was a common one and was used, as Foose noted, to refer to friends that performed material services.

Anonymous said...

Daughter Elizabeth Pomeroy Married Humphrey COURTENAY (son of Phillip Courtenay and Eliz Hungerford ) brother of William and Catherine They had children:
1 John Courtenay M Unknown
2 Philip Courtenay M Christian RALEIGH
3 Joan Courtenay M William MARWOOD Esq. An estate official for the Countess of Devon. Resident in West Merwood, Devon from temp. Hen. III (1216-1272) "9th Earl's feoffe to perform his will 1509. Bailiff of Crukerne 1512" Arms: Gules, a chevron Arg. between 3 goat's heads erased, ermine attired or.
Joan Cortenay and Willaim Marwood
1 John /Marwood/ b. 1475 d. 1545 Nb. of Oaks, Temp Hen. VII & VII (i.e. 1485-1509 & 1509-1547)
M Elizabeth /Holbeam/ widow of Robert Pollard
Nb. of Oaks, Temp Hen. VII & VII (i.e. 1485-1509 & 1509-1547)
John /Marwood/ M.1.
William /Marwood/
Gilbert /Marwood/ b. 1500
Jacquette /Marwood/ M.1.

2 Bernard /Marwood/

3 Baldwin /Marwood Occupation Servant of Countess of Devon 1524,
Succeeded William Marwood as tenant of Exminster; granted annuity of L3/6/8 by Marquis 1525 for good service. Doubt exists as to Baldwin being a son by Joan.

4 Henry /Marwoodd. 1547 died without children Nb. d.s.p
Henry Marwood. Administration granted I3th Sept., 1547.
NOTE. Will is an exact copy of the document, as collated, in an old book of the Archdeaconry, page 45. The original, in testator's "own hand" has disappeared.
It is the more important, as it is not referred to in the account of the Marwood family, " Genealogist,"
N.S. Vols. I. II. which deals chiefly with Dr. Thomas Marwood,
Physician to Queen Elizabeth, and his descendants, one of whom, his grandson, Thomas Marwood, attended James I. in his last illness, of which he left a MS. account, in Latin, and which has been recently printed. Testator appears to have been a great uncle of Dr. Thomas Marwood the elder, who died 1617, aged 105 years. Testator's mother, "Johan," was the daughter of Humphry Courtenay of Bickley, by his wife Elizabeth Pomeroy of Berry, sister of Sir St Clere Pomeroy who married Katherine Courtenay sister of Humphry
Arms of Marwood. Gu. a chevron Arg. between three goats' heads - erased Ermine.