Saturday 23 January 2021

Game of Gay Thrones 5: Byzantium, England, Scotland, Quito and Thurn und Taxis

Here’s another collection of lgbt pretenders, claimants, usurpers and heirs of some royal thrones. Again, these are listed in chronological order of each claim.

1) Olympius of Ravenna (d.652): self-proclaimed Emperor of Byzantium.

In my previous “Game of Gay Thrones” article I included Eleutherius, a eunuch who proclaimed himself Emperor of Byzantium in 620. A generation later another eunuch called Olympius did the same thing in similar circumstances.

Both Eleutherius and Olympius had been a cubicularius, an imperial court chamberlain, an office usually held by a eunuch. As with his predecessor we don’t know which type of eunuch Olympius was. He may have been a natural eunuch, a castrated eunuch, or intersex.

In 649 Emperor Constans II sent Olympius to Rome to arrest the pope because Constans had not approved the pope’s election. At the same time Olympius was appointed Exarch (the Byzantine-appointed governor) of Ravenna in central Italy. On his arrival in Rome Olympius tried to whip up support from the bishops and citizens but found them firmly behind the pope. Olympius eventually realised he was wasting his time and switched to the pope’s side. He then declared himself Emperor of Byzantium, with the backing of his new papal friend.

Olympius marched south to fight his Byzantine opponents, but he and his army were struck down by a mysterious plague and Olympius died even before he could defend his claim to the throne.

2) Sir Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley (1545-1567): heir to the thrones of England and Scotland.

ir Henry has several senior titles but is usually known by the one he used as heir to his father the Earl of Lennox. For this claimant I need to show his family tree (below - sorry if its a bit big and goes over the edge). It only includes the royal lines of people who were living in the years Mary, Queen of Scots, and Queen Elizabeth I of England ascended to their thrones (1542 and 1547 respectively). The fact that Darnley was created King Consort on his marriage to Mary doesn’t mean he reigned as a king, even though he fought for the right to do so.

Lord Darnley was probably bisexual. A recent fictionalised film about Mary, Queen of Scots, implies Darnley was the lover of her secretary. He wasn’t, though Darnley is believed to have been the lover of a distant older relative.

England during Queen Elizabeth’s reign was dominated by the question of succession. Mary, Queen of Scots, her most well-known heir, was Elizabeth’s closest living heir through Princess Margaret Tudor. The second in line was Princess Margaret’s only other living descendant, Lord Darnley.

Darnley’s Scottish claim is much more complicated. Mary, Queen of Scots’ heir is found way out on the family tree. When she became queen at the age of 6 days old in 1542 Regents were appointed to rule Scotland. The first was James, 2nd Earl of Arran, who was also declared heir to the throne as Mary’s closest bloodline heir (by primogeniture – male-preferred succession). However, Matthew, 4th Earl of Lennox, objected and claimed that Arran’s father was bigamous making the Regent illegitimate and ineligible for the throne. Lennox, as the next closest bloodline heir to Queen Mary, claimed himself to be first in line to the throne, and he had enough support from some of the bishops and nobles to make his claim valid. This made Darnley second in line to the Scottish throne through his father, as well as second in line to the English throne through his mother.

Now, here’s where it gets weird. Queen Mary and Lord Darnley only had one son, who became King James VI of Scotland when his mother abdicated. If we agree that the Arran family were illegitimate, the first person in line of succession to James’s throne would still have been the Earl of Lennox, his own grandfather. With Darnley dead, this made King James second in line to his own throne! Lennox did manage to get as near as he could get to becoming king – for a while he was one of the Regents who governed for his young grandson.

3) Carlos de Montúfar (1780-1816): heir presumptive to the throne of Quinto.

Back in November I wrote about the independence struggle in Ecuador and the role played by Carlos de Montúfar and his father Juan Pio, Marquis de Selve Alegre. When the Marquis was appointed President of the Government of Quinto in 1809 he assumed the title of His Most Serene Highness (HMSH). Historians are of the opinion that the Quinto government intended to form a monarchy with the Marquis becoming HMSH Juan, 1st Prince of Quinto. His sons would have become princes also. The eldest son would have become the heir apparent. However, this son had no children, so Carlos, the second surviving son, would have become second in line of succession – the heir presumptive.

Unfortunately, troops loyal to imperial Spanish rule forced the Quinto government and the de Montúfar family to flee into exile just a few months later.

4) Prince Johannes von Thurn und Taxis (1926-1990): heir to the sovereign principality of Thurn and Taxis.

Even though Johannes is usually referred to as the 11th Prince of Thurn and Taxis the title refers more to his status as head of the family rather than of the former sovereign principality of the same name. German law does not recognise aristocratic titles. However, like a lot of European ex-royals Johannes still lived like a prince. He was once called he wealthiest man in Germany.

Thurn and Taxis was one of almost two thousand sovereign kingdoms, principalities, duchies, counties, lordships and bishoprics within the Holy Roman Empire. When the Empire was abolished in 1805 the principality of Thurn and Taxis, like the other sovereign states, became a non-sovereign state within the Austrian Empire, and later the German Empire.

Johannes, 11th Prince of Thurn and Taxis, was a colourful character. He was openly bisexual and frequented the gay clubs in Munich. He virtually squandered his wealth away on luxuries and extravagant parties. On his 60th birthday his wife, the equally colourful and homophobic “Punk Princess” Gloria spent $20 million on a party, which included a birthday cake with candles shaped like penises.

I’ll leave you with that image in your mind! The next, and probable final, instalment of “Game of Gay Thrones” will appear in the summer.

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