Sunday, 7 December 2014

The Twelve Noels of Christmas : 2

Today’s three Noels have this name in different places. The first one has it as his first name, the second as his middle name and the third as his surname.

The 4th Noel – NOEL CURRER-BRIGGS (1919-2004)
Noel Currer-Briggs was a man with many “hats”, in that throughout his life he could be different things at different times – war-time code-breaker, gays-in-the-military advocate, husband, genealogist, and historian of the Turin Shroud and Holy Grail. I’ve written about Currer-Briggs a couple of times before – here and here.

Even though I’ve mentioned his code-breaking role I haven’t really covered the others, so I’ll do that now. During his military service Noel was always aware of his sexuality. He married Barbara in 1947 after meeting at Cambridge University. They got on like a house on fire and Noel loved her very much – but he was not sexually attracted to her. “I regarded it to some extent as a duty,” he said in a Channel 4 documentary on UK television in 2002.

Noel’s work as a professional genealogist and historian dates from the early 1960s until his death. He was a consultant on Debrett’s Peerage for a number of years and published many articles and books. One specialist area of research was into Huguenot refugee families of the 16th century. But the subject which earned him the greatest attention was his work on the genealogy of the owners of the Shroud of Turin. This was the legendary shroud in which Christ was wrapped after his crucifixion. By researching the earliest recorded references to the Shroud Noel proved its existence and ownership through several influential families from the 11th to 13th centuries – ownership which predated the now discredited scientifically-derived date of origin in the 14th century. Unfortunately for Noel, genealogical proof has no scientific meaning to scientists.

Of all Noel’s books only one was fiction – “Young Men at War”, published in 1970. This novel is a love story between two soldiers, one English and the other German. Noel used personal experience to call upon, and in his later years supported the campaign for more acceptance of lgbt military personnel. He was invited to speak at the first lgbt Remembrance Day event at the Cenotaph in 1999, but was unable to attend.

The 5th Noel – DAVID NOEL BOSLEY (b.1974)
There isn’t a lot of available information on David Noel Bosley, despite his high profile in the lgbt community in the Philippines. He was born in Baltimore, Maryland, into a mixed race family, and studied at the St. Louis Anne Academy in San Pedro in the Philippines, and at the Philippine Christian University in Manila.

He started working as a visual merchandiser in Makati, a job which encompasses many aspects of promoting and displaying products in retail outlets. In the “old days” David would have been called a window dresser, but visual merchandising has advanced so much since the 1960s that the two jobs can hardly be considered the same. A lot more technology and design goes into merchandising these days, and more money to fund it. At this time of year, in the run up to Christmas, the role of a visual merchandiser is more important than it probably is at any other time of the year. Just take a walk down your nearest high street and look at how stores have displayed their merchandise and you’ll see what I mean.

David rose to prominence in 2009 when he entered and won the Mr Gay Philippine contest. This gave him a place in the Mr Gay World finals in early 2010 in Oslo. David made it to the final round, but the eventual winner was Mr Gay South Africa, Charl van den Berg.

David currently lives in Quezon City in the Philippines and still works in marketing, this time for an international online gay dating website. He is also a “poster boy” for the Philippine National AIDS Council’s AWARE campaign.

The 6th Noel - RODEN NOEL (1834-1894)
Lord Byron (himself a Noel, as we’ll see next time) is not the only vain, aristocratic lgbt poet to come from the UK. In the generation after Byron comes the Honourable Roden Noel, a younger son of the 1st Earl of Gainsborough. Roden (named after the title in his mother’s family) never denied his bisexuality and he contributed to Havelock Ellis’s book “Sexual Inversion” (1897). He said that “sexual inversion” was “hereditary and inborn” in his family, recounting that his great-uncle, the Bishop of Clogher, was arrested after being caught in an intimate embrace with a soldier.

What Roden and Byron have most in common is their vanity. Both were always fussing over their appearance, and Roden in particular often remarked on how gorgeous he was!

Despite being known more as a poet these days Roden’s life followed that traditional path on an aristocrat. His father was an influential landowner. Though it is his mother, Lady Frances Jocelyn, daughter of the Earl of Roden (the elder brother of the Bishop of Clogher mentioned earlier), that Roden Noel has a royal connection. Lady Frances was one of Queen Victoria’s Ladies of the Bedchamber. This connection led to Queen Victoria becoming Roden’s godmother, a sort of real fairy godmother in effect who personally appointed him as a courtier himself in 1867 as Groom of the Privy Chamber.

Roden wasn’t really cut out for royal duty so he resigned in 1871 to pursue his poetic career. He also became one of those forgotten Victorian philanthropists who championed the poor.

You can read about Roden’s poetry and his sexual leanings in this article by Dr. Rictor Norton on his website.

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