This post is about a man few people have heard of, yet was a major influence at the English court between about 1315 and 1320: Sir Roger Damory. (Thanks to Prince Lieven for providing the inspiration for this post!)
Roger Damory began his career as a rather obscure knight of Oxfordshire. He was about the same age as Edward II, who was born in 1284: Damory's father Sir Robert died in 1285. The identity of Damory's mother is unknown. His elder brother Sir Richard was Sheriff of Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire, and later (1322-1325) the Steward of Edward II's household. It's possible that Roger Damory was knighted at the great ceremony of May 1306, when almost 300 young men were awarded the honour alongside the future Edward II (other men knighted at this ceremony were Hugh Despenser the Younger and Roger Mortimer, as well as numerous others destined to play a large role in Edward's reign.)
Roger Damory was in the retinue of Gilbert de Clare, Earl of Gloucester, a nephew of Edward II who was killed at Bannockburn in June 1314. His bravery in the battle brought him to Edward's attention, and he was soon transferred to the royal retinue.
He was Edward's great 'favourite' between 1315 and 1318, until he was ousted from Edward's favour by Hugh Despenser the Younger. It's interesting to see Damory's rise to favour from the beginning of 1315, around the time Edward finally had Piers Gaveston's embalmed body buried, two and a half years after his death! Perhaps Piers' funeral had finally enabled Edward to draw a line under his past, though to be fair to Edward, it's obvious that he remembered Piers with great love and affection for the rest of his life. You can criticise Edward II for many things, but fickleness to those he loved was emphatically not one of his faults.
Edward's growing infatuation with Damory can be tracked from the extensive list of gifts, grants, wardships, lands etc, until by 1317 Damory was the most important man at court. He was married to Edward's niece Elizabeth de Clare in 1317 as a mark of Edward's great favour - Elizabeth, probably the richest woman in England after the queen, was one of the heirs of her brother the Earl of Gloucester's vast inheritance, and she also held many dower lands from her first two husbands John de Burgh and Theobald de Verdon. As her husband, Damory controlled all these lands.
There were two other men, Hugh Audley and William Montacute, who jostled for favour in this period (Audley was married to Piers' widow and Elizabeth de Clare's sister Margaret, probably the next richest woman in England), but Damory was dominant and had a powerful influence on Edward, even persuading Edward to attack the Earl of Lancaster at his stronghold of Pontefract in 1317 (fortunately, the Earl of Pembroke managed to talk Edward out of such a foolish, dangerous action). The great historian JRS Phillips has described Damory as malignant and dangerous, and in late 1317 the Earl of Pembroke and Lord Badlesmere forced him to sign an indenture with them, to curb his reckless and irresponsible influence on the king.
What's really fascinating about all this is that the so-called Middle Party of barons (Pembroke and Badlesmere and a few others) put Hugh Despenser the Younger next to the king (as chamberlain) in 1318, deliberately, to minimise the dangerous influence of Damory. Ironically of course, Hugh turned out to be far more dangerous than Damory or Piers, made himself the de facto ruler of England and became a hugely rich extortionist. From 1318 to 1320, Hugh worked himself into Edward's favour and then infatuation, and the gifts/grants etc to Damory decreased rapidly, until in 1321 he joined the rebellion against Edward and Hugh and was killed in 1322.
Hugh was about 30 in 1318, the barons must have known him all his life and thought they could trust him, and yet they obviously had no inkling what he was going to do - or they'd never have put him so near the king. This says to me that Hugh was incredibly clever, had hidden his true nature and aims for many years, and had schemed like holy hell. And the way he made Edward infatuated with him - although they'd known each other since boyhood and Edward had apparently either disliked him or been indifferent to him - is intriguing! It's such a shame that there's no proper biography of Hugh. Please, please somebody write one!
There's no way of knowing if Roger Damory was Edward II's lover or not, but it seems to me that Edward's infatuation with Roger was weaker than his feelings for Piers and Hugh Despenser - perhaps that's why most people have never heard of him. Roger, Hugh Audley and William Montacute were banished from court in 1318, and the key point is, Edward let them go. He fought hard to keep Piers with him, years later he refused to banish Hugh Despenser from court even to stop his wife and her lover invading, but he let Roger go. Roger and Hugh Audley repaid Edward's favour by rebelling against him and Hugh Despenser in 1321-22. Roger was killed fighting against Edward, and Hugh Audley was imprisoned until Isabella and Mortimer released him in 1326, saved from execution only by the pleas of his wife, Edward's niece. Although their actions appear at least partly understandable, Edward must have found their betrayal hard to bear.
I think Edward's list of favourites - Piers Gaveston, Roger Damory and Hugh Audley, then Hugh Despenser the Younger - proves that emotional reliance on, and infatuation with, men was an important part of his make-up. The only period when he was 'alone' from the age of about fourteen (when Piers entered his household) was June 1312 to circa January 1315, when he was mourning the loss of his beloved Piers. Presumably he was bisexual, but his intensely emotional relationships seem to have all been with men.