Sunday, December 12, 2010


Via a conversation about Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel, I ended up discussing English history on Friday night. Well, I say discussing, but actually it was more like receiving an uninvited 15 minutes lecture on the English line of accession to the throne. The person I was with loves nothing more than a monologue.

I'm not generally very good at remembering historical facts but when our self-appointed lecturer got up to the "And after Elizabeth" bit I jumped in confidently and said, "Then it was King James. The gay one."

I know King James was gay because I once listened to a highly-charged historical novel about King James' gardener who has an affair with one of James' courtiers. It's called Earthly Joys by Philippa Gregory and was read by Steven Crossley.

Anyway, our self-appointed lecturer didn't like being interrupted and also didn't believe me. He said, "But James had a son Charles", bizarrely assuming that producing heirs to the throne is always an act of love. When I tried to explain that I had my information from an extremely reliable source, an historical fiction story tape, he remained unconvinced.

Because I'm not very confident of my ability to remember facts, I let it go. And he moved on to the Charleses. I weakly attempted to turn the monologue back into a dialogue by chipping in with, "He had a wig" but it was basically pointless.

When I got home I looked it up. Although it's not uncontroversial, Wikipedia confirmed that some of King James' biographers have concluded that James had homosexual relationships with his courtiers. I feel vindicated not only in this specific instance, but also more generally. Listening to historical romances is an improving activity.

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