Tuesday 24 August 2021

William and John: Part 4) Nottingham

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

Tokyo Review

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.

Thursday 12 August 2021

Olympic Record Breakers

What a record-breaking Olympic Games! Who would have thought that Tokyo 2020 would see such an increase in lgbt visibility in competitive sport on a global scale. Japan has surprised me in showing such open support for the community. Yes, there have been critics and phobes, but that is the price of free thought. Without opposition there is no discussion or progress, and the Tokyo Olympics may have pushed the debate about transgender and gender variance ahead quicker than it would have done without it. The London 2012 Paralympics was a turning point in the general attitudes to athletes with disabilities in sport. They were seen as athletes, not as people with disabilities who do sport. Tokyo 2020 may have the same effect on gender identity in sport. Only time will tell if that is a good thing for sport or not.

Waffle over, let’s get on with the new lgbt Olympian list. This list only covers the summer Olympics (including Youth Olympics). Previous lists were fairly uniform, but this year I have included colour coding and more symbols to cut down on text. Since I completed this list at the beginning of this week another Olympian can be added, Argentine hockey player Sofía Maccari. She will appear on future lists. So, here is the link to the new list.

Summer Olympians

There are many other athletes who have been suggested for inclusion. As Cyd Zeigler said in this Outsports article, being told someone is lgbt is just hearsay, unless it comes from the actual athlete. Research into Olympians who have passed away is often difficult if they left no recorded confirmation, one way or the other, of their sexual identity or orientation. Several of the earliest lgbt Olympians are listed on probability based on secondary evidence. In this article I gave the reasons for excluding two Olympians from my list. There are another two names I am currently researching who would be the earliest known lgbt Olympians (both from 1908) if their orientation can be adequately determined.

Looking at the size of the list I think the time is right for a complete change. The number of athletes competing for Team Out (my name for the whole lgbt contingent) has amazed everyone. The list I compiled with my friends at Outsports just kept growing, and dozens of athletes asked to be added to the list. In fact, with over 180 members Team Out was bigger than most of the national teams. This made it difficult for me to keep up to date with what each individual athlete was doing. I have a job which kept me away from any coverage for several hours each day. Catching up on what was going on, and keeping an eye on live events, took a lot of energy out of me. I am extremely pleased that I have decided not to continue with my Paralympic lists. After beginning my lists in 2012 I can relax and watch the Tokyo Paralympics as an ordinary viewer and cheer on my own nation.

Because of the sheer amount of statistics I need to analyse I won’t bring a full account of the games today. I’ll do that in a couple of weeks after I’ve viewed all of my recordings. But there are a few facts and figures I can bring you now.

I’ll start by being a bit parochial and mention the BBC’s coverage. This year the BBC was too mean to put up enough money to pay for full broadcasting rights to the games. They were only allowed to show two live events at any time. They have justifiably received a lot of criticism because of it. However, what coverage they did show was enough to keep me, as an lgbt historian, happy. Not only was 99 percent of the lgbt Olympians shown competing (the only athlete or sport I don’t recall ever being covered was Kayla Miracle in the wrestling), but a host of lgbt commentators and pundits were brought into the studio. The main coverage was fronted by Claire Balding, who has done this over several games and is regarded as the BBC’s “Face of the Olympics”. In the UK studio there was the usual parade of past Olympic greats to help commentate and analyse the sports. These included several on my list – Colin Jackson, Mark Foster, Kate Richardson-Walsh and Nicola Adams.

In the previous article about Tokyo I mentioned the flag bearers at the opening ceremony. Apparently, Yulima Rojas, the Venezuelan flag bearer, missed her flight to Tokyo and couldn’t make it in time. Her place was taken by someone else. This was such a last minute change that even the BBC didn’t notice and still named Yulima as the flag bearer, even going further by mentioning her lgbt activism. Even I didn’t notice until I watched it again.

Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi (USA, basketball) became the first lgbt Olympians to win gold medals in 5 successive games. By doing so they toppled Greg Louganis (USA, diving) and Jayna Hefford (Canada, ice hockey) off their joint third places on the all-time (summer and winter) medal table. There’s no change at the top. Swimmer Ian Thorpe remains at the head of the summer medal table, with speed skater Ireen Wüst topping him with more winter medals.

Tom Daley (GB, diving) and Amandine Buchard (France, judo) were the only athletes to win more than one medal in Tokyo. Amandine won a gold and silver, and Tom won a gold and bronze, making him the most decorated GB diver in history (added to his medals from previous games).

Tokyo saw the most athletes making their Olympics debut at one games – 103. This is higher (by more than 30) than previous games and a remarkable achievement. Incidentally, they were an additional 71 athletes who competed in Olympic qualifying events, national selection trials or Olympic qualification rankings who didn’t make it to Tokyo. Combined with those who did make it to Tokyo this is also a record number, over 250 known lgbt athletes chasing their Olympic dream since Rio 2016. This is mainly because of the trend in more athletes coming out at a younger age and during their early careers. All these records are likely to be broken in successive future games.

Finally, a personal note. I don’t often cheer out loud when I’m watching the Olympics, but there were several times when I did. Once was when Tom Daley won his gold medal, and the other times were during events in track and field on 1st August. First was when Yulima Rojas made her last amazing jump to clinch the triple jump gold medal and a world record. Added to this was the men’s high jump when the two athletes agreed to share the gold medal, and then the men’s 100 meters and the celebrations of the two Italians who had won gold in each event. I’ve watched it several times.

Because of the volume of information I have to go through I haven’t been able to complete some of the other non-Olympic articles I had planned for this week and next week. They will be appear in due course.

Next week I’ll bring you a proper analysis and review of Tokyo 2020 with an updated Tokyo medal list. We already know that Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi have jumped up to joint third place, but what about the others? Who has managed to maintain their position? Who has gone up in the table and who has gone down? And how many Olympic debutantes have made it into the top 20? You’ll find out next week.

Tuesday 3 August 2021

Homohoax: The Non-Confession of a Long Distance Runner

[Homohoax: A hoax, prank, scam, confidence trick, deception or fraud committed by, targeted at, or attributed to the lgbt community]

Even as we marvel at the achievements of the Olympians let’s not forget that some athletes cheat. Russia has been the “bad boy” of sport for several years with its use of performance-enhancing drugs, but there have also been individuals who cheat in other ways.

In fact, the first case of cheating at the modern Olympics occurred at the very first one in Paris in 1896. A Greek marathon runner finished in third place, but he was disqualified after it was discovered that he had travelled most of the course in a horse and carriage (incidentally, he wasn’t stripped of his bronze medal because only first and second place received them in 1896). As we shall see, history will repeat itself.

One of the most famous sporting hoaxes occurred in the 1980 Boston Marathon, and to her dying day the lgbt runner responsible denied any wrong-doing.

On a hot, sunny morning on 21st April 1980 thousands of people lined the streets of Boston, Massachusetts, to watch one of the biggest marathons in the USA. There were 5,471 entrants – 5,015 male and 456 female. It was very much a standard marathon throughout, until the last mile.

Spectators and commentators were caught off-guard by the sight of the lead female runner, Rosie Ruiz. She seemed to be running a record race, and everyone cheered as she crossed the finish line in a time of 2 hours 31 minutes, 56 seconds. This was the fastest time for a woman at the Boston Marathon and the third fastest in the world at that time.

The media instantly hailed Ruiz as the new hero for female sport. But fellow runners were questioning her achievement. The two women who finished in second and third place had been told when they reached mile 17 that they were in the lead, and neither of them saw Rosie Ruiz pass them.

No other runner could remember seeing her until the last half mile, and with her bright yellow shirt she would have been noticeable. It was also noticed that after supposedly running a full marathon Ruiz was hardly sweating and her shirt was virtually dry. It was also not a regular running vest but a short-sleeved shirt. So it wasn’t long before people began to question her result.

In an after-race interview Ruiz didn’t seem to show any knowledge of standard marathon training techniques when asked how she trained. Ruiz claimed she had trained herself. Nobody believed her. No-one at any official check point remembered seeing her. These questions over her finish soon alerted race officials and an investigation was started.

As the rumours of Rosie Ruiz faking her marathon run grew some eye witnesses came forward who said they had seen her moving out of the crowd of spectators and begin running on the route. Film footage of the marathon, or as much of the route as was covered, was poured over to see if Ruiz and her distinctive shirt could be spotted. She was not.

While this was going on, organisers of the New York City Marathon began looking at their own race results. Ruiz had competed in their race in the previous October. Her finish time was what had qualified her for the Boston Marathon. Ruiz was asked after the Boston Marathon how she could have cut half an hour of her New York Marathon time. Again, she said she just trained. Everything about both marathons looked suspicious, so the New York organisers launched their own investigation.

Ruiz’s New York application was suspicious enough. She put in her application after the closing date and it was turned down. However, Ruiz claimed that she had a brain tumour and had two operations. Without asking for medical verification the organisers gave her a special dispensation to enter.

Several witnesses at the came forward who said Ruiz had also faked her New York marathon run. A photographer remembered travelling with her on the New York subway during the race. Ruiz claimed to have injured her ankle and was on her way to a medical station further along the route. On getting to the medical station Ruiz just joined the runners.

New York voided Ruiz’s 1979 marathon results and disqualified her on 25th April 1980. A couple of days later, Boston voided and disqualified Ruiz as well.

The controversy carried on over the following years. Rosie Ruiz continued to protest her innocence and expressed her intention to continue marathon running. It was obvious that no-one was going to believe in her innocence and after a year of two Ruiz seemed to disappear from public view.

The only time Rosie Ruiz’s name returned to the headlines were in references to her as the hoax marathon runner, though she only exacerbated her reputation when news appeared that she was arrested twice – once for embezzlement, and once for involvement in a cocaine deal.

Despite her widespread notoriety Rosie Ruiz managed to retreat into obscurity. It is known that she married Aicaro Vivas in 1984 and divorced in 1987. Nothing much else was known about her until 2019 when an obituary notice in Florida noted the death of one Rosie Vivas at the age of 66. Was this Rosie Ruiz? All the details in her obituary matched exactly those of Ruiz (except that there was no mention of any marathon running!). Journalists double-checked the details and confirmed that the Boston Marathon hoaxer had indeed died.

Rosie has been battling cancer for the previous ten years, no faking it his time. Her obituary mentioned her life partner Margarita Alvarez, who has expressed her lasting love for Rosie every year on the anniversary of her death. Rosie was also survived by three step-children.

No-one will ever know why Rosie Ruiz tried to hoax the world with two fake marathon runs. She wasn’t the first to do so, as the first modern Olympics has shown, and she won’t be the last, but because her hoaxes were uncovered in such a high profile race and manner it will be the only thing the world will remember her for.