So, I’ve combined these requests to give you this. Sorry it took a little long. I’ve been pretty busy with school, but i finally got a bit of down time to write this out. Hope you like it, and thanks for the request :) xx
When Harry had called Y/N and asked her to meet him at a local cafe between their two flats just off campus, she figured it was just for a quick meet up like they usually did. So, she’d donned a jacket to protect against the biting cold of a late fall day in London and trekked her way the short walk from her flat to the warm shoppe.
Harry and Y/N had met their first year of uni during their very first class of the year, and they’d been pretty good mates ever since. It was the first time either of them had been in London for more than a day’s trip, both having been from other parts of England. Harry was from Holmes Chapel, a small village in Cheshire, and Y/N was from Malmesbury, a similarly small village in Wiltshire. They’d bonded over their humble upbringings and their similar tastes in music, as well as their love for baking. It also helped that they were both studying law and were in many of the same classes and made sure they were always together for any projects and study groups.
Three years in, they were thick as thieves, and they spent most of their free time together with the occasional added company of Niall, an Irishman whom Harry shared a flat with, and Y/N’s own flatmate, Penelope. Harry and Y/N remained the closest out of the bunch, though, and many mistook them for a couple, even though there’d never even been an inkling of anything other than platonic love in their friendship. They usually just laughed it off, and Y/N only really blushed when Penelope brought it up now.
The chapel was suffocatingly hot and crowded, but the bride showed no sign of nervousness, appearing to be in the best of spirits and chattering away to the Duke of Clarence, who escorted her up the aisle. The groom, on the other hand, “looked like death” and, as Lord Malmesbury put it, “had manifestly had recourse to wine or spirits”. The Duke of Bedford saw him swallow several stiff brandies, and by the time he arrived at the altar he had reached that state sometimes described as “tired and emotional” - fuddled, weepy, and so unsteady on his legs that his two ducal groomsmen, Bedford and Roxburghe, had their work cut out to keep him upright.
Caroline and Charlotte, The Regent’s Wife and Daughter - Alison Plowden
Hey, so I read your post on Richard the Lionheart and sexuality from a while back, and I found it interesting, but I was also wondering how much of that is colored by our modern view of things? Like, can we really know or is it just our way of reading things that they wouldn't? Thank you for your time.
Fair warning, this will be long. It will also be ranty about queerness and history and other things that I have strong feelings on, so if that is not someone’s bag, I suggest you just keep on a-scrollin’, scrollin’, scrollin’ in the deep.
(Also in case anyone is wondering, the post being referred to is here.)
Honestly, I am not sure where to even start with my views on Straight Historians writing Straight History (as I have been complaining to @extasiswings about) and how I have encountered a particular amount of it around Richard. Basically, most of it ends up in two different camps: one, to “prove” that he was straight and also a good king, or to “prove” that he was gay and also a bad king. In short, the discourse around his sexuality has become tied to value-judgments on his success as a ruler. John Gillingham, much as I otherwise respect his work, is probably one of the biggest culprits in the former regard. After a lot of frankly sloppy work had been done on Richard, reacting against the idealized Victorian image of him as a glorious/righteous crusader and essentially painting him as completely undeserving of his heroic status, Gillingham showed that the historical reality was (surprise!) a lot more complicated and in many ways a lot more admirable than that. However, this involved having to bend over backward to discredit the numerous pieces of primary source material/comments in chronicles that seemed to suggest, shall we say, some questions around Richard’s sexuality. Whether Gillingham realises it or not, his agenda has pretty clearly been to strip any suggestion of queerness away from Richard, since in the existing paradigm, it would not be possible for him to be both not straight AND a good king. (And frankly it surprises me, although it shouldn’t, how much people have never even tried to go for a middle ground. I have never once seen a suggestion that hey, Richard might have been bisexual, or at least strategically so, in any published work on him, even though it’s imho clearly so.)
I dealt with some of the chronicle evidence commenting on Richard’s questioned sexuality in the post. There is more. There is the 1187 reference to his and Philip’s “vehemently” intimate friendship that alarmed Henry II. There is the 1191 penance in Messina for sexual sins (prior to leading the crusade, i.e. he really needed to be in squeaky-clean spiritual standing), there is the 1195 rebuke in Roger of Howden referencing the “fate of Sodom,” (which Gillingham is helpfully at hand to explain just means not obeying God well enough – WOW, GOOD THING SODOMY DIDN’T ALREADY MEAN A SPECIFIC SIN AT THAT TIME PERIOD AND EVER SINCE, JOHN, NOW THAT WOULD JUST BE CONFUSING, BUT I’M SURE IT WAS JUST A SLIP OF THE TONGUE. YEP DEFINITELY NO CORRELATION HERE AT ALL.) There is the 1198 rebuke from Hugh of Lincoln, once again for sexual sins. There is also a chastisement from Fulk of Neuilly, a traveling preacher, that referenced Richard’s transgressions in this regard. And oh boy have I listened to/read so much commentary from Straight Historians on how apparently this was just a particularly naughty kind of sex with women. Nothing to see here. Move along.
Let’s then ignore the fact that Richard’s father, Henry II, his brother, John, and his great-grandfather, Henry I, were rampantly known for their womanizing, that they had multiple illegitimate children (in Henry I’s case, more than twenty) and that we generally know some of the names of their mistresses, if not all. The lengths chroniclers went to excuse this, if they noted it at all, were vast: William of Malmesbury claims that Henry I only did so much porkin’ because he had a noble duty to beget royal blood into the world. You can also then helpfully ignore the fact that none of these men, again known very well for womanizing, were rebuked the way Richard was even once, let alone repeatedly. Yes, he had an illegitimate child. He had one. One son. And no recorded names for his supposed mistresses at all. So we can, following the Straight Historian paradigm, just assume that he was banging tons and tons of women, whose names we know nothing about, and apparently had really great 12th-century birth control because he had no children as a result, even though the rest of his family had done the same thing and indeed, had a lot of little Jon Snows running around. And that this was somehow Kinky enough to get the church on his case, explicitly referencing sodomy, multiple times from many different places, rather than turning a blind eye to it as they did to every other king of the time period because… well… The Gays Are Bad, I guess.
Frankly, I am not interested in reading the inevitable “here’s why all this evidence is definitely wrong” disproving section that comes up in most stuff about Richard. Protip, if you have to really labor to explain why multiple pieces of evidence, from multiple different sources, are all out of context, wrong, or Nothing to See Here… you might just be doing it wrong.
On the other side of the coin, then, we have people like James Reston. I’m not going to link to his book, because frankly it’s terrible, but he wrote a historical study, purportedly of Richard and Saladin, that congratulated itself for “dealing frankly” with Richard’s homosexuality, or confirming it, or some other wording to that effect, and then went on to claim that Richard’s marriage was never even consummated, total sham, he was basically a really awful person and also Gay, Gay, Gay. Aside from the fact that there is no way we can know half of the stuff Reston claims with such confidence (and it goes against what we do know of Richard and his wife’s relationship, again in the context of the 1195 excerpt from Howden), it was just as clear that in Reston’s mind, Richard’s success or worth as a king was just as linked with his sexuality. Gillingham had to scramble to explain how all the pieces of evidence did not actually apply to Richard because he was a good king; Reston’s project is to tie Richard to them as closely as possible to confirm that he was in fact Bad all the way around.
Oy mother fucking vey.
I likewise don’t want to hear about how “we didn’t think Richard/William Shakespeare/so on and so forth were gay until the modern period, so it’s clearly just a matter of cultural context!” I have actually seen the argument made for Richard’s straightness that nobody actually wrote down/accused him explicitly of being gay (or the medieval equivalent), therefore he cannot have been gay. Yep. That is actually the criteria. None of this other chronicle evidence which exists uniquely around him, and nobody else of his famously womanizing family, can prove it, because nobody says it outright. We can barely get the Straight Historians today to write about it, when LGBTQ is a recognized and high-profile demographic with pride months, equality drives, political battles etc. What on earth makes you think that they would even remotely think of doing it beforehand? That is the entire f’n point of any academic discipline: to look at things with new information and to draw new inferences. We didn’t “invent” the fact that, say, germs made people sick instead of “foul miasmas” or whatever else; we learned that it had always been the case. We didn’t “invent” that the earth was round; we looked at the evidence and realised that it was. Likewise, we didn’t “invent” queerness; we just realised (very slowly and still in some goddamn cases not at all, in the year of our lord 2017) that it was the case. Which is why you get the Straight Historians, and the general operation of that system, working overtime to “prove” that no, no queer people ever existed before the 20th century, just as apparently feminism and resistance to the patriarchy was only invented in the 1960s and women were just silent and passive and resigned or even happy to be oppressed before then.
Oy MOTHER FUCKING vey.
We also see this with the other king who was almost certainly Not Straight, Edward II, in the 14th century. He is blamed as a bad king because he was too busy Gayin’ (remember the effete prince whose boyfriend gets pushed out a window in Braveheart? That’s him) and likewise, Braveheart goes as far as to (wildly implausibly) suggest that William Wallace was Edward III’s real father, because clearly Edward II could not a) have sex with a woman, when in fact he and Isabella had four children, and b) could not have fathered a famous warrior like Edward III what with all the fancy boy, limp-wristed homo bangin’ he’d evidently been doing. The other side of the coin is to describe Piers Gaveston and Hugh Despenser the Younger as Edward II’s “close friends” (he gave Gaveston the jewelry he was supposed to give Isabella as a wedding present, and had Gaveston sit in her place during the wedding feast, THEY WERE BONING) and try to blame Isabella and Roger Mortimer instead. In both cases, Edward II is presented as a Bad king because he was gay, or a Good (or at least Not That Bad) king because he was straight. Again. Bisexuality Does Not Exist. It Has Never Existed. Shhh.
Because the Plantagenets are also a popular subject for historical fiction, I always see this come up in some way as well. Take for example Sharon Kay Penman; I have read most of her books and enjoyed them. However, in her most recent novel about Richard, she basically apologized for writing him as gay in a passing mention in one of her earlier books, and said something to the effect that it was based on “limited research.” Evidently, she has now read the Straight Historians and can basically breathe a sigh of relief and make Richard safely non-queer again. Her version of Richard, likely not coincidentally, is also fairly likable. There are minor critiques of his peccadilloes here and there, but he’s still a character you can root for with no major flaws. Removing any “mixups” about his sexuality has made him a Good Guy again.
I encountered this in my own novel about Richard, on which I once got a review remarking that the reader liked my writing and my earlier stuff, but disagreed with all the “assumptions” I made about Richard’s sexuality and that basically the Plantagenets were interesting enough without getting into any of that Stuff, heaven forbid, and they didn’t like that I had included it. So yes. Evidently I made “assumptions” rather than doing, you know, research, and that if I was going to write a fictional version of Richard, the only one I should have written was one where I didn’t deal with his sexuality (or just made him Straight, I suppose). Because it was interesting enough if I didn’t.
Aaaaaand people wonder why THEY DIDN’T WRITE DOWN THAT THEY WERE NOT STRAIGHT ™, THEREFORE THEY WERE STRAIGHT ™!!! is almost entirely still accepted as an actual legitimate counter-argument.
It is also not the case, of course, that everything ever has actually been queer. I disagreed that medieval “brother-making,” or adelphopoiesis,was an actual, full-fledged form of medieval gay marriage once I looked at the evidence more closely, as while it was used to join two men together in a church-sanctioned relationship, it was probably then to live together celibately. However, I agreed that the practice of matelotage in the 17th-18th centuries absolutely was, and likewise, if historians have to write 12 books and pull all the receipts to even try to suggest that someone was, y’know, Not Straight, why don’t they have to do the same for the Straights? Because we are still operating in a system in which everyone is inherently and default-assumed straight, and which the Gays have never existed prior to the system finally acknowledging that they did in the 20th century. So, as we’re just barely starting to get a discourse acknowledging the existence and agency of women in history (you know, HALF THE GODDAMN HUMAN RACE), and that has come with considerable pushback anyway, we have even less that for a discourse of queer history that isn’t a very niche subject. Because history as a construct (and I say this as someone with multiple degrees in history, working on her doctorate) is still an incredibly white, androcentric, heterosexual space, so it’s NO FUCKING WONDER that it doesn’t accept the entrance and possibility of accommodating something else easily. Does it mean that those others don’t exist at all, and never did?
Spoiler alert: No. It does not.
IN THE YEAR OF OUR GOD DAMN LORD 2017.
OY MOTHER FUCKING VEY!
So yes. This leads me back to Richard. Can we “really know?” No, because we can’t get into the actual head of someone who’s been dead for 800 years. But that is the same with literally every other person ever on every topic and feeling they might have had, and it’s always funny how the sufficient level of “proof” necessary to claim that anyone was Different gets higher and higher, the further you get away from the “default” (that Straightness is the natural state of all human beings and anything else is a “deviation.”) And yes, of course we’re looking at it differently now, because we’ve learned new things. At least some of the time, and you can see how much resistance there STILL IS. We have figured out some absolutely amazing things, and yet sometimes we are so incredibly fucking god damn dumb about what should be the simplest and most evident fact of all of humanity: that people are different from each other, and always have been. There’s a surah in the Qur’an about God/Allah making us that way on purpose, so we could then get to know each other.
Lastly, I don’t give a big ripe fart if all the evidence about Richard is somehow, as Gillingham would like to think, totally wrong and he was Straight, because I have written a fictional version of him that fits with that evidence and which allows him to be much more complex than Good king or Bad king, Straight king or Gay king. Which allowed him, in short, to be frigging HUMAN. That’s also why I wrote Sam Bellamy the way I did in The Dark Horizon. There is not an actual document somewhere saying THIS MAN WAS NOT STRAIGHT, NOTARIZED BY THE GAY POLICE!!, but as I was researching him, I discovered that SO MUCH about his character, appearance, actions, backstory, etc was easily explained by making him queer, and which made him more interesting to me as a result. I am queer. Took me a while to figure that out, but it made SO MUCH of my life make sense, and for me to realize why I had been pushing against the “I bet straight women also find women very attractive/fantasize about marrying women/want to be around women/etc, I’m still totally straight I swear,” mindset as much as I had. Guess what! Simple explanation! I’M NOT STRAIGHT!
(I’m bi. Shh. Don’t tell anyone. We don’t actually exist.)
So yes. I am gonna write queer characters as a novelist/fic writer, and I am going to write a lot of them, because you can bet they existed, and I like to do my small bit for the “representation matters” train. As a historian, I am not going to be the person explaining why 58 pieces of evidence or whatever are Wrong and clearly, Watson, Straight. Doesn’t interest me at all. I want to be more honest to myself, and the world, than that.
Æthelflæd, Lady of the Mercians, was born over 1100 years ago in dark-age England, an was the daughter of Alfred, the first king of England. She eventually ruled Mercia in the English Midlands from 911 until her death. She was the eldest daughter of Alfred the Great, an was born around 870 in the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Wessex. The name Æthelflæd is old English an means ‘noble beauty’ ~ an it is pronounced ‘ef-el-fled’.
After the Battle of Edington in 878 the foundation of England was born, as the Wessex-controlled western half of Mercia came under the rule of Æthelred, Lord of the Mercians, who accepted Alfred’s overlordship. In the mid-880s, Alfred sealed the strategic alliance between the surviving English kingdoms by marrying Æthelflæd to Æthelred. Æthelred and Æthelflæd fortified Worcester against vikings raids several battle.
After her husbands health declined early in the next decade, Æthelflæd was mainly responsible for the government of the Mercian kingdom.
After Æthelred died in 911, Æthelflæd then ruled Mercia as Lady of the Mercians. The accession of a female ruler in Mercia is described by historians as “one of the most unique events in early early-medieval history”.
Alfred had built a network of fortified boroughs and in the 910s King Edward and Æthelflæd embarked on a programme of extending them. In 917 she sent an army to capture Derby, the first of the Five Boroughs of the Danelaw to fall to the English, a victory described by historians as “her greatest triumph”.
In 918 Leicester surrendered without a fight. Shortly afterwards the Viking leaders of York offered her their loyalty, but she died on 12 June 918 before she could take advantage of the offer, and a few months later Edward completed the conquest of Mercia. Æthelflæd was succeeded by her daughter Ælfwynn.
Historians agree that Æthelflæd was a great ruler who played an important part in the conquest of the Danelaw. She was praised by Anglo-Norman chroniclers such as William of Malmesbury, who described her as “a powerful accession, the delight of the kings subjects, the dread of his enemies, a woman of enlarged soul”. Like Queen Elizabeth I, she became a wonder to historians in later ages.
English actress Millie Brady plays her the historical tv-drama ‘The Last Kingdom’
Six sons and two daughters were born to Queen Margaret. Three of the sons, Edgar, Alexander, and the noblest of his family, David, were kings. Edgar was a pleasant and lovable man, like his kinsman King Edward in everything. He did nothing tyrannical, nothing harsh, nothing avaricious to his people, but governed his subjects with the greatest charity and benevolence. What is more, Alexander was humble and lovable to clerics and monks but dreadful beyond measure to his other subjects. [David] was a great-hearted man, extending himself beyond his powers in everything. He was educated, and he was extremely zealous in regulating the churches, in searching out the relics of saints, in making and arranging priestly vestments and sacred books. He was in fact so devoted to the poor that in nothing did he seem to take more pleasure than in receiving, washing, nourishing, and clothing them.
But we have digressed somewhat in the foregoing description of what we feel about King David. The sister of these men, Matilda, married the most glorious king of the English, Henry. Anyone who wants to write about her wonderful renown and her strength of mind, how assiduous and devoted she was at the divine offices and holy vigils, how humble she was, especially considering her great power, will show us another Esther in our own time.
The sister of this blessed woman, Maria by name, was given as wife to Count Eustace of Boulogne. Of this excellent and Christian queen [Matilda] was born Matilda, who first married the Roman emperor, then the noble count of Anjou, Geoffrey. Of Maria was born Matilda who was given in marriage to him who was then the count of Morocco; she is now the wife of Stephen, king of the English. By the arrangement of King Henry, King David took to wife Matilda the daughter of Count Waltheof and Judith, who was granddaughter of King William the First. From her he received his son Henry, a man gentle and devout, a person of sweet spirit and cheerful heart and worthy in every way to be born of such a father. I lived with him from the very cradle. I grew up with him, boys together, and even when we were both adolescents I knew him. To serve Christ I left him while he was stamping out the flowers of youth, as I did his father, whom I loved beyond all mortals, at that time illustrious in the flower of old age. I left them bodily, but never in heart.
These are the ones which survive from that holy generation. From the Empress Matilda you [Henry of Anjou] came, most illustrious man, whom we now hail as Duke of the Normans and of the Aquitainians, Count of the Angevins, and truly heir to England. Your brothers are Geoffrey and William, of whom we hope for good things, to whom we wish the best. From Queen Matilda and the devout King Stephen came William, count of Warenne and Boulogne. From Henry [of Scotland] came Malcolm, William, and David, heir to his grandfather’s name. May God have mercy on their childhood, and may you too be merciful, whom divine loving-kindness has established as the most noble head of your whole people. May your holy gaze, your loving heart, and your effective action be upon them in all their necessities. They are orphans, left to you by their grandfather, who loved you above all people; you will be a helper to these your wards, for you are in age more mature, in hands stronger, and in feeling more mature than they.
Aelred of Rievaulx, in his Genealogy of the Kings of the English, translated by J.P. Freeland.
I don’t usually quote at length on this blog but I’m being lazy tonight and thought I’d share this.
Ailred of Rievaulx, mostly famous for his spiritual treatises but also the author of several historical works, was born in Hexham, Northumberland, but spent much of his youth at the court of David I of Scotland, where he rose to the position of court steward. As he himself testifies, this meant growing up alongside David’s son, Henry of Scotland, and though he eventually left the Scottish court to enter Rievaulx Abbey, Ailred seems to have remembered both David and Henry fondly.
(Henry II of England)
In 1153, Ailred completed his ‘Genealogy of the Kings of the English’, which was the same year that David I died in his castle of Carlisle. The genealogy was dedicated to David I’s great-nephew Henry, Count of Anjou, and then heir to the English throne (he would succeed as king of England the following year). Through his maternal grandmother, Matilda of Scotland, David’s elder sister and the daughter of St Margaret, Henry II was descended from the House of Wessex, thus uniting both the old Anglo-Saxon ruling house of England, with the House of Normandy (Henry being descended also from William the Conqueror). As well as this, though, Henry had been knighted by his great-uncle David at Carlisle in 1149, and in his preface to the genealogy Ailred names Henry as the heir to David’s spirit, expressing his hope that he would mould himself in his great-uncle’s image.
As the genealogy was dedicated to Henry II, Ailred narrates his descent from St Margaret, among others, describing the virtuous lives of several of her children, three of whom became kings of Scots in their own right (as named above, Edgar, Alexander, and David). The other three sons, who are not named here, were her eldest Edward, who died alongside his father Malcolm III at the Battle of Alnwick, Aethelred the lay abbot of Dunkeld, and Edmund, whom William of Malmesbury claims was the only son of Margaret to fall from grace through his role in the death of his half-brother Duncan II and who may have been briefly regarded either as co-king or tanaiste by his uncle Donald Ban. The daughters meanwhile were Edith or Matilda, who married Henry I of England and was the mother of William the Atheling and the Empress Maud, and Mary, who married the Count of Boulogne, and was the mother of King Stephen’s queen, also Matilda. Henry II was the eldest son of Empress Maud, and was eventually named Stephen’s successor. After a period of civil war, hopes must have been high for the young but capable Henry to bring peace and order to the kingdom, and Ailred seems to give voice to these hopes.
(David I and his grandson Malcolm IV in the Kelso Charter)
Meanwhile in Scotland, David I had died in 1153. The previous year, his only son Henry of Scotland had beaten him to the grave, leaving behind several children by his wife Ada de Warenne. Malcolm, the eldest, was to succeed his grandfather as king of Scots at the tender age of twelve, and he himself would die young in 1165, having lived an apparently chaste and pious life. He was to be succeeded in turn by his brother William, who was of a very different character, though in 1153 both boys were still children and succession by primogeniture to the Scottish throne was far from certain, though fortunately for Malcolm IV he succeeded in comparative peace. Thus Henry II is charged- at least rhetorically- with protecting the interests and moral development of the boys, though in the end relations between Henry and his young cousins would not always be friendly. Also mentioned in the list of Henry of Scotland’s children is his posthumous son David, later Earl of Huntingdon and ancestor to the Balliol and Bruce kings, while Henry also had at least two daughters who survived to adulthood but are not named here- Margaret, Duchess of Brittany and later Countess of Hereford, and Ada, Countess of Holland.
The whole quote, though, I think is an interesting one from a man who had experience of both the English and Scottish kingdoms at a time when it may have seemed like relations between the two would be much friendlier than we usually assume in hindsight, and also as an indication of Ailred’s view of major figures of his time, particularly Henry II and David I and their relationship to a ‘holy generation’, as well as perhaps expressing hopes for the future that may well have been shared by many others in 1153.
(I skipped over the section where Ailred gives an anecdote relating to Matilda washing the feet of the poor, though it’s still of interest that he claims that David I was his source, but I didn’t want to go on for too long).
(Ailred of Rievaulx being presented to Edward the Confessor, in a fourteenth century copy of his life of that saint)
The conqueror touching the ground when he lands is a trope. Cesar does it in Africa according to Suetonius (Iul. 59) and William the Conqueror did it in England according to Wiliam of Malmesbury (Gesta regum Anglorum, book III, chapter 239). So what does this tell us about Daenerys? She is a conqueror and Julius Cesar and William the Conqueror might have been very successful, but they were certainly not good guys.