Monday, 1 November 2021
Tuesday, 26 October 2021
|“Robin Hood and his Merry Men Entertaining Richard the Lionheart” by Daniel Maclise (1806-1870). This painting was always on display at Nottingham Castle in my time there.|
When I worked at Nottingham Castle the last weekend in October was the annual Robin Hood Pageant. The grounds were filled with craftsmen, re-enactors and jousting contests. Sadly, the last pageant at the castle was in 2018. To remind me of those happy days I’ll continue telling the lives of Sir John Clanvowe and Sir William Neville. In the previous article Sir William had been appointed Constable of Nottingham Castle.
You can’t think about Nottingham Castle without thinking of Robin Hood. I believe Sir John Clanvowe wrote the ballad “The Geste of Robyn Hode”, printed posthumously between 1493 and 1534 (“geste” means “adventure”). It contains a remarkable amount of similarities to people, places and events in the lives of Sir John, Sir William, and William's wife Elizabeth le Waleys.
I wrote a small e-book called “Robin Hood – Out of the Greenwood: His Gay Origins Revealed” in which I go into much more detail about my theory. You can purchase it from Amazon here. There is only room for a very brief explanation of my theory on this blog.
The earliest reference to Robin Hood as a subject of ballads is in "Piers Plowman, a poem written around 1377. One line says: “But I know rhymes of Robin Hood and Randolf, Earl of Chester", indicating that “rhymes”, or ballads, about Robin Hood were well known. Unfortunately no-one wrote those ballads down, meaning everything we know about Robin Hood the outlaw hero was written after 1377. Before then, many legal documents record Robin’s as a common alias adopted by criminals. "Piers Plowman" is the first time Robin is associated to ballads.
The other man mentioned with Robin in "Piers Plowman" was a real person, Randolf de Blundeville, 6th Earl of Chester (b.1170). By 1216 Randolf was the greatest magnate in all England and virtual ruler of Cheshire. He also appears in another ballad, probably written in 1260, named after another folk hero, "Fulke le Fitz Waryn". Its plot bears more than a passing resemblance to "The Geste of Robyn Hode”. The synopsis of both are interchangeable and goes like this -
The outlaw hero has a right-hand man called John who waylays travellers in a forest and brings them back to the camp for a meal with the hero. They pay for the meal with their valuables. One of the hero’s companions assumes a false identity in the presence of the hero’s archenemy. The disguised companion lures the archenemy into the forest where the hero kills him. The king hears about the outlaw hero and comes to deal with him in person. The king’s men injure one of the hero’s companions who begs to be killed. The hero seeks refuge with a friendly knight. The king can’t find anyone willing to help him find the hero, but eventually he finds and pardons the outlaw.
Historians are convinced that “The Geste of Robyn Hode” (which I’ll just refer to as “The Geste” from now on) has some influence on “Fulke le Fitz Warine”. The real Fulk FitzWarin was a popular folk hero in the county where Sir John Clanvowe was born and raised. I believe he based “The Geste” on “Fulke le Fitz Waryn” and moved the action from his home county to Nottinghamshire.
Elizabeth le Waleys, the wife of Sir John’s partner Sir William Neville, (explained here) was step-niece to King Robert the Bruce of Scotland whose ancestor Prince David of Scotland was married to the sister of Randolf, Earl of Chester.
The few surviving ballads about Robin Hood date from the 1400s. Scholars of language and grammar use in “The Geste” suggest it was originally written before 1400. The same grammar is used in "Piers Plowman" and Sir John Clanvowe’s own poem "The Boke of Cupide" throughout, suggesting it was written in their lifetime. The language in "The Geste” is also consistent with Sir John's Lollard writing (explained here) - another clue linking Sir John to “The Geste”.
"The Geste" is composed of four interwoven plotlines. The first and last are set in Barnsdale Forest, Yorkshire. The plotlines in the middle takes place in a forest in Nottinghamshire. Sherwood is never mentioned, it is only implied by us today because it is the only forest in Nottinghamshire. A manuscript from around 1410 contains the line "Robin Hood in Sherwood stood." However, another document of 1429 says "Robin Hood in Barnsdale stood”. Both are used in a similar fashion to someone today saying “Is the Pope Catholic?” meaning something is blatantly obvious. This suggests the locations were interchangeable. There’s much rivalry today between Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire over which county Robin Hood comes from. The answer is, both. The forests were a short distance from each other, and the main road from London to York runs through both.
The author of “The Geste” shows a geographical knowledge of specific locations in both areas. Sir William Neville’s wife Elizabeth owned several manors in Barnsdale, and William himself was Constable of Nottingham Castle. Sir John Clanvowe would have known both areas well, and my theory is that he used this knowledge of both areas to write “The Geste”.
It’s difficult to imagine Robin Hood without King Richard the Lionheart and his brother, the evil Prince John. One read of "The Geste" and you are struck by the absence of both. The only king mentioned is Edward. Before 1400 there were only three kings called Edward – a father, son, and grandson - who reigned beween 1272 and 1377. But which King Edward is featured in “The Geste”?
Edward II was the most frequent to visit Nottingham and is the most widely accepted candidate by modern historians. One visit of note was in 1323-4 when he came in pursuit of outlaws whom he later pardons, as King Edward does in “The Geste”. One of those pardoned was Sir Richard le Waleys, Elizabeth le Waleys’ grandfather.
One interesting fact is the presence of a real man named Robin Hood in documents relating to this visit. Robin is one of Edward's porters, but about six months later he leaves the king's service. In "The Geste" Robin Hood joins the king's service after being pardoned and leaves a year later. Was this Robin Hood the man who was turned into an outlaw hero by ballad writers, and was the man whose “rhymes” became widely known by the time “Piers Plowman” was written in around 1377?
This is just an outline of some of my research. Historians of medieval literature agree that “The Geste” was written by a competent author, someone writing in the late 1300s whose work was considered worthy of saving and printing in the 1490s. None of the known English writers or poets of the late 1300s can be connected to “The Geste” in as many different ways as Sir John Clanvowe, either directly or through his partner Sir William Neville and William’s wife Elizabeth.
In the next part of “William and John“, published some time next year, I’ll continue to look at the Robin Hood connection and some of the famous characters in “The Geste” and reveal more family ties to Sir John, Sir William and Elizabeth, including Little John and the Sheriff of Nottingham.
Friday, 1 October 2021
Welcome to the first of my lists of monthly birthdays. Every day of every month sees the anniversary of the birth of many lgbt people. In this series I list one person for each date. Those listed represent the widest range possible – nationality, ethnicity, occupation, gender identity, sexuality and era.
These birthdays come from my personal spreadsheets containing names and information of almost 25,000 lgbt people whose identities have been made public in the media or online.
Do you share your birthday with someone famous – or infamous? If you’re not happy sharing a birthday with someone infamous, don’t worry. Next year’s list will have a different set of names.
The list of November birthdays will appear on November 1st.
Saturday, 11 September 2021
Most of us who were born before 2000 will remember what they were doing and where they were on 11th September 2001, 20 years ago today. I was at work, stationed in the main art gallery on the top floor of Nottingham Castle. It was time for my afternoon break but my colleague who was to take over from me for 20 minutes was 5 minutes late. I wasn’t too worried. Then he was 10 minutes late, and I was wondering where he was. Then he was 15 minutes late, and I radioed down to the office to ask where he was. At which point he arrived and told me that he had been watching the television in the staff room. Two planes had crashed into the World Trade Centre, he said. It didn’t sink in for a minute or two until I got to the staff room and saw for myself the tragedy unfolding on television.
There was a sombre feeling in the air for the rest of the day. About an hour later one of my ex-partners (let’s call him Sam) came to visit me in the gallery. He has just come off duty as a nurse and had been effected by the news, which was made more personal for him as only a month beforehand he and his then partner were standing on the top of the World Trade Centre. For reasons which don’t concern us, he and his partner had split up since then and Sam was feeling vulnerable. He asked me to keep him company that evening. I agreed and we couldn’t help but watch what was going on in New York for the rest of the night.
Many commemorative events are taking place around the world. There are too many names of those who lost their lives for us to remember individually. Many have family and friends to remember them, but some may not. The lgbt community lost just a tiny group of people compared to the full list of casualties. Below is a list of those known to us.
I list their names alone in alphabetical order of surname. Just by reading down the list you are contributing to the global commemoration and helping to keep their names alive, whether they are remembered by their loved ones or by no-one other than yourself.
James Joe Ferguson
Ronald Gamboa and his partner Dan Brandhorst
William Anthony Karnes
“Roxy Eddie” Ognibene
and two people who are known to us by their first name only,
Wednesday, 1 September 2021
I’ve been saying this for a long time, but I need to slow down. The time has come to put my words into action.
When I began this blog way back in 2011 I didn’t know what reaction I’d get. Ten years later, and exactly a week after my 10th anniversary, the blog passed half a million page views. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate people’s interest in what I write, even if they stumble on my blog by accident and never return.
For several years my intention was to stop writing when I reached my 10th anniversary. It would also be when I’ve reached an age when I can start thinking about early retirement. Reaching half a million page views is another reason why I’ve thought about it again – the 10th anniversary, half a million page views, entering my 60s. It seems an appropriate time to step back.
This has always been a hobby. I’ve never asked for money from readers and I don’t accept adverts (I’ve lost count of the ads that crop up masquerading as comments that I’ve deleted). So I’ve never made a living out of this, not even from my Olympic research which has been very popular from the start.
History should also be freely accessible without censorship (I leave that sort of manipulation of facts to politically left and right activists).
There has always been something in lgbt history that catches my eye when researching, and there’s so much more to find. With that in mind I want to reassure regular “fans” that I’ll still keep researching and writing – but not as often.
To ensure that at least one article appears each month, a list of birthdays will (hopefully) appear on the first day of each month or the last day of the previous month.
Fans of my annual Heraldic Alphabet, and I know there are many out there from the reaction I’ve received on social media, can expect another edition in June 2022.
The planned articles that will appear for the rest of this year are listed below. It is unlikely that this schedule will change.
11th September – 9/11 20th anniversary in memoriam.
1st October – list of October birthdays.
26th October – William and John: Part 5) Robin Hood.
1st November – list of November birthdays.
28th November – Advent 1: The first of my annual Christmas articles with an lgbt theme.
1st December – list of December birthdays.
5th December – Advent 2.
12th December – Advent 3.
19th December – Advent 4.
1st January 2022 – list of January birthdays.
A provisional list of proposed article for 2022 will appear at the beginning of January.
Thinking well ahead to 2023 I have begun research for a new series of “Around the World in 80 Gays”. The individual who will start and finish this circle of 80 connected lgbt people through time and location has already been chosen – the Roman Emperor Hadrian.
Once again, thank you for showing an interest in my blog. I hope you return to check out the new articles when they are published.
Tuesday, 24 August 2021
|Nottingham Castle gatehouse, part of the medieval castle that survives.|
Nottingham Castle reopened to the public last month after a £30 million pound make-over (of the parts not protected by law). As regular readers may recall, I worked there for seven years as a gallery assistant and tour guide (winning the Best Guided Tour in the UK award in 2003 by “Good Britain Guide”).
2021 is an anniversary year for Nottingham Castle, because 640 years ago Sir William Neville was appointed Constable of Nottingham Castle. In the previous chapter I described how he and his partner Sir John Clanvowe acquired positions at the court of King Richard II. Today I’ll explore their connection to Nottingham.
Sir William’s first appointment which brought him to Nottingham was as Justice of the Forest North of the Trent in May 1381. The office, one of two English Justices of the Forest (the other being South of the Trent) were the chief magistrates of forest law. Sir William's appointment covered the forests of Sherwood in Nottinghamshire, and Knaresborough and Inglewood Forests in Yorkshire.
The medieval idea of a forest is different to ours today. A forest was not just trees, as you imagine Sherwood Forest to be. The word derives from the Latin for “outside”, so a forest included open fields, meadows, rivers, villages, and occasionally a small town. What united them was that the area covered by forest law, where the king had sole rights of hunting, hence they are called royal forests.
Being Justice of the Forest meant you only had to carry out your duties once every three years, but the actual performance of these duties would take many months as the Justice was required to sit and judge the accumulated violations of forest law and review the forest’s administration. If anyone poached deer or took wood for fire without permission within a royal forest, the Justice presided over their case. In modern versions of Robin Hood it is often the Sheriff of Nottingham who arrests and presides over the court in Sherwood Forest, but in real life he had no authority there. He couldn’t arrest Robin Hood for any law he broke in Sherwood Forest. That was the job of the Foresters. In 1387 Sir William Neville resigned from this appointment.
Often accompanying the office of Justice of the Forest North of the Trent was the constableship of Nottingham Castle. Unlike the Justice, this was a full-time position. Sir William Neville was appointed as Constable in November 1381. Nottingham was a royal castle and his appointment was a further sign of the king's favour, and William was appointed for life. Sir William would travel between Nottingham and his Yorkshire estates all the time.
But what is a constable? Basically, it’s the general manager of a castle. He kept the castle running when the king wasn’t in residence, and ensured that everything the king wanted when he was in residence was available. As a royal residence Nottingham Castle was visited by King Richard II every year that Sir William was Constable.
One of the most well-known events of King Richard's reign was the Peasant's Revolt of June 1381. Neither Sir William nor his partner Sir John Clanvowe had any real part in it. The revolt was partly a response to the changing social make-up after the Black Death, and partly due to growing support for Lollardy, an early form of Protestantism. There was also a political move against the king who was giving too much importance to his friends and advisers. By 1385 a political group called the Lords Appellant had been formed which openly criticised the king.
Through the influence of the Lords Appellant the parliament of 1386 took away the powers of the 19-year-old King Richard and put them into the hands of commissioners. Richard retaliated by going on a journey around the country to gather support against the commission. At Nottingham Castle in August 1387 he gathered his supporters at a Great Council. A group of judges pronounced the Lords Appellant commission as treasonable.
The king made an error of judgement in thinking that the supporters who gathered at Nottingham Castle were powerful enough to defeat the Lords Appellant, who issued a reciprocal accusation of treason against members of the court, including Archbishop Alexander Neville, the younger brother of Sir William Neville. Sir William had neither the political power nor resources to openly support his brother against the charge. Sir William Neville was wise to not openly declare his own views, which would be to his advantage. As constable of a royal residence he was required to support the king, but he was perhaps remembering the earlier crisis surrounding the impeachment of his brother Lord Neville for the failure of the military campaign in northern France in 1376.
The king reluctantly agreed to arrest the named traitors and bring them to trial at the so-called "Merciless Parliament" in February 1388. Archbishop Neville was found guilty of treason. Only his position as a clergyman protected him from execution. He ended his days in exile as a parish priest in France.
Several courtiers who weren’t charged with treason were, however, banished from court. Sir John Clanvowe was one of them. He disappears from court records for a while, perhaps returning to estates in Herefordshire and Wales. Sir William, however, earned the trust of the victorious Lords Appellant. They awarded him an annuity out of the forfeited estates of the traitors.
The power of the Lords Appellant lasted less than two years. After Richard II regained his personal rule on reaching 21 years of age, Sir John Clanvowe and Sir William Neville were again regular attendees at court, and for a few brief years Richard was secure on his throne.
Earlier I mentioned Lollardy as being a cause of the Peasants Revolt. Both Sir William Neville and Sir John Clanvowe were prominent Lollard supporters, members of a small group of courtiers called the Lollard Knights. I wrote about this several years ago, so I’ll direct you over to those articles where you can read more.
While visiting his royal residence in Nottingham King Richard II would have been entertained with lavish banquets, jousts and entertainment. Sir John Clanvowe was a poet and it is my belief that on one occasion he produced a new ballad to be recited in front of the king and the court at one of those banquets. It featured a well-known character in a new setting, not unlike modern reboots of films and television series. Sir John used personal knowledge and the family backgrounds of himself, Sir William Neville, and the king to give local interest to his ballad. That well-known character was Robin Hood. Most of what is familiar to us about this legendary outlaw comes from the ballad I believe was written by Sir John Clanvowe, and I’ll explain more about it in the next chapter of the lives of Sir William and Sir John.
However, you’ll have to wait a while for that. I’ll explain why in a couple of weeks, but look out for 26th October, Robin Hood Day, when his connection to Sir John Clanvowe and Sir William Neville will be explained.
Wednesday, 18 August 2021
I’m exhausted! Even though most of the action at the Tokyo Olympics took place outside my working hours it was difficult keeping up with all 180+ athletes. I will definitely be taking time off work during Paris 2024.
Let’s look back at Tokyo 2020. The bidding process for the 2020 Olympics began in May 2011. The final candidate cities were Tokyo, Baku, Doha, and Madrid. Each bid had its own logo. Madrid’s logo caused a bit of controversy. The illustration below helps to explain. Top left is the winner of the logo competition. Top right is what the Madrid bid committee did to it. Below them is promotional material for two Italian gay dolls called Gayskelly and Spaggaytti. In the top left corner of the advert you’ll see their logo. You won’t be surprised to learn that critics of the Madrid bid logo accused the committee of plagiarism. The dolls are no longer produced.
As we know, Tokyo won the 2020 Olympics. In February 2017 the Tokyo Organising Committee held its first Open Day to show National Olympic Committees (NOCs) how preparations were progressing. Among the delegates was Luke Pellegrini, Head of Games Operations and Sports Services with the Australian Olympic Committee. In this role he ensures that all the Australian athletes (including its 13 lgbt Tokyo athletes) received adequate support before and during the games. He was listed among the Outstanding 50 LGBTI Leaders of 2018 by Deloitte and Google Australia.
Currently, the only other known openly lgbt member of an NOC is Fumino Sugiyama, a former fencing champion, who was elected to the Japanese Olympic Committee in June.
2020 was the 10th anniversary of Pride House, a place where lgbt athletes, friends and allies could meet. The first official Pride House was set up for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. Tokyo’s Pride House was announced in April 2017.
Just as the athletes were entering their final stages of training the covid pandemic struck. For the first time in the modern era the Olympics were postponed. For some athletes this was a hindrance, but for others it was a blessing, as they would probably not have qualified had the games been held in 2020.
There were several lgbt coaches who trained Tokyo 2020 athletes during the qualification period. These included Alyson Annan-Thate (head coach, women’s hockey, Netherlands), Cheryl Reeve (assistant coach, softball, USA), Pia Sundhage (head coach, women’s football, Brazil), and Denis Vachon (coach to Canadian gymnast Brooklin Moors).
The IOC appointed several lgbt officials and judges. Among them were Craig Hunter (swimming and water polo judge) and Jon Napier (Technical Delegate, sailing competition, mainly responsible in resolving registered protests). Deputy Sport Manager for the badminton competition was Bambang Roedyanto, Gay Games badminton champion (men’s doubles 1994).
There was also the first transgender judge. Kimberly Daniels was a judge in the canoe slalom, in which her daughter Haley competed.
Staying with transgender issues, the inclusion of Laurel Hubbard on New Zealand’s weightlifting team drew the same criticism she received in previous competitions. Credit should be given to the IOC for taking the decision to accept her inclusion. In the women’s football competition Canada’s team included the self-identified transgender player Quinn.
At last, on 23rd August 2021 the Tokyo 2020 Olympics began. The muted opening ceremony contained little lgbt content apart from the flag bearers mentioned several weeks ago. Former Olympic rowing champion Marnie McBean was the Chef de Mission (the head of an Olympic delegation) of Team Canada, the only nation known to have had an openly lgbt Chef de Mission. Marnie is their second following Mark Tewkesbury in London 2012 (Craig Hunter, above, was Chef de Mission of Team GB at the London 2012 Paralympics).
Team Out (our lgbt athletes) was bigger than most national teams. It would take too long to chronicle every day and result, so I suggest you hop over to Outsports which reported on all the best action.
Francine Niyonsaba, the Burundi sprinter, was one of several athletes who were subject to gender regulations from the IOC and World Athletics. Her inclusion in my list is based on official announcements of her being on the intersex spectrum. Other athletes were affected by the regulations. I won’t place them on the full list until I have verified the precise nature of their Disorder of Sexual Development (as it is called in official circles).
The first member of Team Out was Kaia Parnaby in the Australian softball team on 21st July. Their competition was one of several which began before the opening ceremony.
The lgbt medal was won by French judoka Amandine Buchard on 25th July. As stated last week Amandine topped the lgbt Tokyo medal table by winning one gold and one silver. In doing so she leapt straight in to equal 36th place on the all-time summer medal table.
The last lgbt medal was won by Alexandra Lacrabere and Amandine Leynaud, members of the French handball team who won the gold medal on the final day. They were the last lgbt athletes to finish competing. How appropriate that French athletes would be first and last to win medals in Tokyo. Perhaps it’s a good omen for the next Olympics in Paris 2024. By becoming handball champion Lacrabere joins Buchard in equal 36th place. Leynaud was making her debut and only (!) has a gold medal. Three members of New Zealand’s rugby sevens team also jumped up to equal 36th by winning the gold medal to add to the silver they won in Rio 2016.
On the final day Team Out finished in 7th place in the final Olympic medal table. Once we started winning medals we jostled with Team France in the medal table, and only the presence of the above mentioned members of the winning handball team put us higher. (Update: several lgbt athletes have become know to us since then, though their results keep us in 7th place).
The highest climber in the medal table among the experienced Olympians was Brazilian swimmer Ana Marcela Cunha who, by wining the gold medal in the marathon swim, leapt up 142 places to joint 21st position.
Only four members of Team Out managed to hang on to their position in the medal table due to their results ensuring that newcomers in the table above them didn’t push them down. These athletes were British dressage rider Carl Hester (31st place), and Australian footballers Chloe Logarzo, Sam Kerr and Tameka Yallop (equal 244th place). Incidentally, the full summer medal table (up to 8th place finishers) has 478 places.
The closing ceremony had two lgbt flag bearers – Nesthy Petecio (Philippines, boxing silver medallist) and Francine Niyonsaba (Burundi sprinter). Nesthy was just one of quite a few athletes who publicly thanked their same-sex partner for support.
So, that wraps up this rather lengthy “brief” review of Tokyo 2020. It has been a record-breaking Olympics, both in terms of the size of Team Out and in the overall positive support from the Tokyo organising committee. This is surely a turning point in lgbt sport.
Attention returns to Japan next week with the Paralympics. As I have said several times recently I have stopped research into lgbt Paralympians because of the volume of Olympic research there is to do. I will return to the Olympics in just a few months for the winter games of Beijing 2022.