Gay and Lesbian People in History

Richard the LionheartedRichard I, also called Richard the Lionhearted, was king of England from 1189 to 1199. His knightly manner and his prowess in the Third Crusade (1189-92) made him a popular king in his own time as well as the hero ofRichard the Lionhearted Castle countless romantic legends.


The third son of Henry IIand Elanor of Aquitane (rent the Academy Award-winning movie "Lion in Winter" with Peter O'Toole, Katherine Hepburn, and young Anthony Hopkins as Richard), Richard was precocious politically and militarily and soon outstripped his brothers and even his father to obtain the crown. Though he spent most of his time fighting with various lords and barons, he couldn't wait to realize his one ambition: to lead a Crusade to recapture Jerusalem from the Muslims. Displaying no concept of planning for England, he sold everything to raise Richard the Lionhearted Castlemoney and lit out for the Holy Land with his allies. The theory that a common heathen foe would unite these brave Christian soldiers was short-lived and they fought like, well, heathens among themselves. Richard was brilliant in the campaign but never quite recaptured Jerusalem. At one point he was stuck with over three thousand Muslim prisoners; not being able to ransom or keep them, he had their throats slit! On his way home he was shipwrecked and spent over a year imprisoned in Austria and Germany before he was ransomed. (This imprisonment was the inspiration for the romantic legend of the minstrel-lover finding Richard by singing outside his prison walls, which was written a hundred years later.) He returned to England only briefly to reassert his kingship after his long absence, then left for France never to return,spending the rest of his life doing what he did best: fighting with his barons until he was finally wounded by an unlucky crossbow bolt and died a few days later.




How do we know Richard was gay?

"Richard was irresponsible and hot-tempered, possessed tremendous energy, and was capable of great cruelty. He was more accomplished than most of his royal family, a soldier of consummate ability, a skillful politician, and capable of inspiring loyal service. In striking contrast with his father and King John his brother, he was, there seems no doubt, a homosexual. He had no children by Queen Berengaria, with whom his relations seem to have been merely formal."

-- Encyclopedia Britannica

Richard the Lionhearted Cathedral

The highlighted area above, as was pointed out to me by a correspondent, is no longer on the website.  It's been changed to this:

"The evidence that he was a homosexual seems persuasive but has been strongly challenged."

I wrote to Britannica to enquire about the change.  They responded:

Dear Jay Spears,
Thank you very much for writing to us. This is a response directly from our Editorial department:
Thank you for your email concerning our article on Richard I. The sentence in question was changed in 2005 to reflect recent scholarship, such as noted historian John Gillingham's Richard I (1999), that challenges the claim that Richard I was homosexual. The evidence for the assertion largely rests on an official document that states Richard shared his bed with France's Philip II. While some have argued that this indicates a homosexual affair, others believe it was simply a show of their political alliance. Our article was revised to reflect such uncertainty. We hope this information is helpful. We appreciate your interest in Britannica.
Britannica Customer Service
[June 11, 2012]




Richard the Lionhearted CastleHere's the "official document" mentioned above:

A contemporary account of Richard and King Philip of France:

"They ate every day at the same table and from the same dish, and at night their beds did not separate them. And the king of France loved him as his own soul; and they loved each other so much that the king of England [Henry II, Richard's father] was absolutely astonished at the passionate love between them and marveled at it."

Historians like Gillingham seem to believe that Richard & Philip sharing a bed was mere politics.  If that's true, how come Richard's father was "absolutley astonished" and "marveled at it"?  The author of the account is Roger of Hoveden, who served in the courts and entourages of all three kings, Henry, Richard, and Philip.  His style is called rigorously impersonal (on Wikipedia).  He doesn't describe the affair as "politics" but as "passionate love".  What part of "passionate love" does Gillingham not understand?  His claim of mere business-as-usual politics fails, and I'd venture to say he's just another historian who can't stand the thought of Richard being gay, even when a contemporary account indicates otherwise.  (You wouldn't believe how many indignant Greek people write me about how Alexander the Great was not gay.  Same thing here.)  I'm particularly disappointed in Encyclpopedia Britannica for caving before this incredibly weak argument.

LAST WORD: Encyclopedia Britannica says the evidence of Richard Lionheart's homosexuality "seems persuasive".  I agree.





Richard the Lionhearted Nave
British novelist and journalist Colin Spencer notes:
"There was nothing remotely effeminate about Richard, of course, a crusader and warrior devoted to hand-to-hand combat. Another of his lovers was a young knight, a crusader, one Raife de Clermon, whom he freed from Saracen captivity.
Richard was undoubtedly pious and constantly in the company of prelates; there was no shame attached to his predilections and nothing hidden. Though he did repent on several occasions of 'that sin,' public confessions being a tradition of the church, there is no sign that it was regarded as a more serious sin than many others."

Homosexuality in History; Harcourt (June 1996)





"A valiant prince, a mighty warrior, and a noble king, his character was strongly flawed by all-too-human vices. It was perhaps this very combination of great courage and great strengths with common failings that endows him with perennial appeal."

-- James A. Brundage

"Worthy, by the consent of all men, to sit with King Arthur and Roland and other heroes of martial romance at some Eternal Round Table, which we trust The Creator of the Universe in His comprehension will not have forgotten to provide."

-- Winston Churchill



Go on a crusade with Richard the Lionhearted. Your local library is a good place to start.


of gay pop songs!
with tunes like "I Like Mike" and
"Cryin' Over Brian"

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Jay Spears
Date Last Modified: 7/11/2012