17 August, 2020

Edward II's Tastes Did Not 'Run To Boys'

A claim I've sometimes seen in books - I'm not stating which ones, as I refuse to give them the publicity - is that Edward II's 'tastes ran to boys' or that he 'liked boys'. Um, no. This is an unpleasant smear and emphatically untrue. Edward II had relationships with men, not with boys. His 'male favourites', as the saying goes, were: Piers Gaveston, Roger Damory, Hugh Audley, William Montacute and Hugh Despenser the Younger, and three of them were older than he was.

- Piers Gaveston's date of birth is absolutely impossible to determine, though he was the second child of a couple who were already married by 30 June 1272. That in itself is not necessarily very helpful in determining his approximate date of birth - Edward II's own parents married on or about 1 November 1254, but he wasn't born until 25 April 1284 - though according to one Gascon commenter on my blog a few years ago, Piers's sister Amie was the Gavestons' fifth child and was born in 1285. Piers was likely born around the late 1270s or early 1280s, and in July 1283 at the latest (he was made the guardian of Roger Mortimer of Wigmore in July 1304 and must have been at least twenty-one then). He was older than Edward II by at least nine months and probably more. 

- Sir Roger Damory's father Robert died in c. July 1285, so even if Roger was posthumous he can't have been born later than c. March/April 1286, and he was probably a few years older than that. His elder brother Richard Damory was already active as a soldier and keeper of the peace by the late 1290s, therefore can't have been born later than the late 1270s or thereabouts. Roger Damory was either Edward II's own age or older, and was emphatically an adult and at least thirty when their relationship began in 1315.

- Sir Hugh Audley was the second child of a couple who married c. 1288/89 (his mother's first husband died in 1287), and was born sometime in the early 1290s. He was therefore a few years younger than Edward II, but was around twenty-three or twenty-five when their relationship began c. 1315/16, and was well into adulthood. He was already a knight when he joined Edward's household in late 1311.

- Sir William Montacute or Montague was older than Edward II: the eldest of his four sons was born in 1299, and one or several of his seven daughters might have been older than that. Given that Montacute became a father in or before the late 1290s, he isn't likely to have been born much after 1280 and was probably born in the 1270s. When his relationship with Edward began c. 1315/16, he was not only an adult, he was the father of many children and a husband of many years' standing (he married Elizabeth Montfort in or not long after 1292, though that doesn't say anything very much about his age).

- Sir Hugh Despenser the Younger was the second child of parents who married in c. December 1285, was born in the late 1280s, and became a father in 1308 or early 1309. His relationship with Edward II, about four or five years his senior, began in late 1318 or sometime in the first half of 1319, by which time Hugh was around thirty years old, a husband for thirteen years, and the father of at least half a dozen children.

Look, if you want to criticise Edward II, there are a million and one things you can reasonably criticise him for. Have at it, but don't slyly imply that he was a paedophile who was attracted to boys. That's a nasty, offensive little smear, it's entirely untrue, and in my opinion it comes across as pretty homophobic to boot.


Anonymous said...

Poor Edward. Accused of being interested in boys, not in men ... and then slammed for not being sexually attracted to his wife when she was only 12.


Kathryn Warner said...

Absolutely! One of my friends commented that if you made a Venn diagram of all the people squealing 'Ooooh, he liked BOYS!' and all the people who moan about poor unfancied 12-year-old Isabella, there'd be considerable overlap.

sami parkkonen said...

Well done, Kathryn.

There seems to be a certain bunch of people who just love to spread falsehoods based on their own perversions and these people who attack Edward II seem to be part of that group. It is very annoying when considering that these have been proved as lies many many years ago. But these people just can not let go.

Yes, Edward can be criticized about many things but for some reason most of his accusers do not take that route. Instead they spew these lies and nasty rumors like manure to the fields. I have no idea why.

Personally it annoys me a lot when people claim that he was the worst king of them all. That is also a lie. He had his bad moments and failures, yes, but there are many kings in the history of England whose rule was much more disastrous for the nation than Edwards. Some of those are hoisted up and touted as heroes and such when in reality they were much of nothing.

Let me give you an perfect example of this double standard. Richard the Lionheart. Right? This is a man who visited England very few times and was not much interested in it at all except as a way to get some cash for his crusade and wars in France. When you say his name, everybody sees this magical knight king, shining hero of the land but in reality he saw his domains in France much more valuable than England.

Prince John gets all the bad rap but it was his brother Richard who was the reason for the over taxation and misery of the people during this time. At first Richard needed money for his crusade, then he needed money for his ransom and finally for his wars in France. He ruined the economy of the land and then some but for some reason he is the super king and Edward II is the rotten one?

And let us not forget. Richard Lionheart also liked men very much according some RUMORS.


Anerje said...

Great post on yet another attempt to smear Edward.

Anonymous said...

I was about to make exactly the same comment as Esther... how can there be such controversy over Edward failing to immediately go to bed with his 12 year old wife whilst at the same time being criticised for this fictional "taste in boys"? Some people seem to have rather offensive prejudices, which you would hope wouldn't rear their heads in modern society, whilst not even thinking through their own double standards.


Anonymous said...

Edward was not a paedophile. It is total nonsense.
He may or may not have had 'close' relationships with adult men.
So what? As long as it was consenting, it doesn't matter.
I really like Edward II as a character and his sexuality is totally not my concern.

Danielod said...

Terrific article. Edward had his failings. Obviously he loved Gaveston. And yes he worked alongside his manor Laborers including wrestling with there aprentices including teenagers but that's not evidence of pedophilia.

Anonymous said...

Was Edward accused of being gay in his lifetime or was it after his death? People do have strange ideas. I was looking at a conspiracy debunking video and one lady had some idea that Mary Queen of Scots and Mary I Tudor were the same person. I tried to put her right but she doubled down. I think she was an American lady and I can see that so many ladies of the royal line being called Mary could be confusing but it's not that hard to check up with the internet.

Not saying I haven't liked the occasional 'bad' history play. I liked 'The Private Life of Henry VIII' with Charles Laughton back in the day though that was when I was but a girl and didn't know the real history.

Patricia O

Anonymous said...

Let's say he was gay, something we can't really prove either way - as it's not unlike other Kings like Henry III didn't also have unpopular male favourites at court - the charge of pedophilia is a very, very strong one. And clearly way out of line.

You said it smacked of homophobia and you were dead on. Edward's favourites were older than himself, but even then, if Edward liked younger, prettier men, that wouldn't denote pedophilia either. We don't talk that way about men who like younger women, but when it comes to men who like men, suddenly it's perfectly okay.

It's a charge often leveled against gay people, and as a gay guy myself it really stings. In the context of historical characters, it feels like an intentional simplification, so (allegedly) gay figures like Edward can be slandered and forgotten about. Something which has been a long running theme with the guy.

Thank you for running this blog and speaking up for him, because a lot of what you have written has certainly educated myself on the man and taught me things about him and his reign I otherwise wouldn't have known!

Kathryn Warner said...

Many thanks for the kind, supportive comments, everyone! x

Steve said...

Could i suggest it depends on context? "Liked boys" can be an allegation of pedophilia, but it isn't always. Sometimes it's just a euphemistic way of saying "is gay", with "boys" just referring to men regardless of age (and the same with "liked girls"). So, for instance, there's a lesbian singer named Abby Glover, who has a song about having a crush on her straight best friend, called "I Wish You Liked Girls", with the lyric "But you like boys, boys, boys, And you don't like me"

Likewise (and it seems all I'm thinking of is song lyrics nowadays), there's a gay rap song that came out last year by Todrick Hall which has the lyrics:

"Mama, I like boys
I like pecs
Like them arms when they flex
Like that print, in them sweats
Tell them girls, thank you next
I like when they text me sexy pics of 'em
Like them abs when there are six of 'em
Tell them girls I'm sorry
I like boys"

In other words, I don't think when you see "boys" or "girls", that's necessarily a pedophilia accusation. Even when you're talking about non-gay relationships, there's the 1963 song "When a Boy Loves a Girl", when said boy and girl are, one assumes, adults. You just see the term used a lot when talking about relationships.