LastTime : 66) Johann Joachim Winckelmann (1717-1768) used the excavations of Pompeii to promote modern archaeological methods, his passion for Ancient Rome (and handsome young men) shared by his patron 67) Cardinal Allesandro Albani (1692-1779), who was on the same conclaves that elected 2 popes as 68) Cardinal Prince Henry Stewart, Duke of York (1725-1807), the Jacobite heir to the throne of Great Britain, a double monarchy first held by his great-great-grandfather 69) King James I of Great Britain (1566-1625).
When Queen Elizabeth I of England died
in 1603 she was succeeded by the nearest Protestant heir 69) King James I. After
a strong female monarch England was hoping for a strong male monarch. When
James arrived in England he was followed by the rumours of his private life.
There were pamphlets circulating in the capital which declared “Elizabeth was
king, now James is queen”. King James was known for having several male “favourites”.
I was amused by a remark made by the gay
comedian and quiz champion Paul Sinha in a light-hearted radio history lecture.
He questioned the sexual equality of the founding colonies in America. Paul
remarked that the colonists pointed out the sexual status of Elizabeth I, known
as the Virgin Queen, was celebrated in the naming of the colony Virginia. Paul
wondered why King James only got the small settlement of Jamestown named after
him and not in a colony celebrating his sexual status, which could have
been called Bisexualabama!
King James’s first favourite following
his accession to the English throne was Robert Carr, Earl of Somerset (d.1645).
His replacement 400 hundred years ago this year was 70) George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham (1592-1628). George met King James in
April 1614 and the king was instantly attracted. Almost a year later, in 1615,
George found himself sharing a bed with the king on an overnight stay at
Farnham Castle. Two men sharing a bed for the night was common, but when one of
those men was a king the personal relationship between the two men must be
It is very clear from the surviving
letters between King James and the Duke of Buckingham, as George Villiers would
become in 1623, that there was a genuine romantic aspect on the king’s part.
With Buckingham the personal feelings are more difficult to describe. He
obviously returned the king’s romantic attentions and they may have shared a
bed many times, but nothing approaching King James’s many gushing letters survive from
Both men were married and had children.
Producing heirs was a top priority for any man of their status regardless of
personal preferences. King James had been separated from his wife long before
he met Buckingham, and Buckingham was married off to a wealthy heiress,
Catherine, Baroness de Ros. This lady was daughter of the hereditary Constable
of Nottingham Castle, a position that was only ceremonial and honorary by that
time as the castle was a ruin and uninhabitable. Buckingham inherited this
honorary position from his father-in-law.
Buckingham was a great friend of King
James’s son and successor King Charles I and he continued to play an important
part in British politics. Indeed, Buckingham was the only court official to
retain his appointment after “Queen” James died. But, like all politicians, he
had his enemies. Even during James’s reign Buckingham was accused of corrupt
practices, particularly in procuring honours and titles to many members of his
own family. His inept handling of international affairs also made him unpopular
and eventually he was despised by most politicians and public alike.
Such was the anger at Buckingham’s
management of affairs and influence over King Charles I that he was stabbed to
death in a tavern in 1628.
Like all people of historical importance
Buckingham turns up as a character in popular historical novels. The most
famous of these being “The Three Musketeers” by Alexandre Dumas, published in
1844. As with most historical novels involving real people a certain amount of
literary licence is used. Buckingham has a fictional romance with the equally
fictional Milady de Winter, and even Buckingham’s murderer, John Felton, is
fictionalised. In “The Three Musketeers” it is Milady de Winter who persuades Felton
to murder Buckingham.
Buckingham is, however, a supporting
character in the novel. None of the three musketeers of the title are even the
central character. That honour goes to a dashing young swordsman called
D’Artagnan. Surprisingly, as it may seem, D’Artagnan was also based on a real
person. In fact, all of the Three Mustekeers were as well. The real D’Artagnan
was called Charles de Batz-Castelmore d’Artagnan (c.1611-1673) and he really
was a musketeer. He inherited his d’Artagnan name from his mother’s family, the
Montesquiou-d’Artagnans. The senior line chose not to use the d’Artagnan name
even though they were created Counts d’Artagnan. The counts died out a century
ago and the remaining junior Montesquiou family readopted the d’Artagnan name as
recently as 2011.
Among the few members of the Montesquiou
family who could have used d’Artagnan in his name but didn’t was someone who
relished the romantic antics of his swash-buckling ancestor. He was poet,
aesthete and dandy 71) Count Robert de
Next time we join Count Robert in the