Friday 23 June 2023

Olympic Day: The First of Three Firsts

Note: As more research is undertaken and new information is made available, the information below may be subject to change. The information is as correct as possible on the date of publication. This article has been amended since it was first published.

In January 1948 the International Olympic Committee (IOC) decided to create an annual day on which National Olympic Committees (NOCs) could celebrate the founding of the modern games and promote its ideals through sport. The date chosen for this special day was 23rd June, and today is its 75th anniversary.

This date was chosen because it was the last day of the Congrés International de Paris pour le Retablissment de Jeux Olympique, during which the IOC is recognised as being founded.

My continuing research into lgbt+ participation in the Olympic Games has brought to light three individuals who are pioneers in a particular aspect of the Olympic movement. Over the next three months I will feature them individually.

Today we look at the man who was the first lgbt+ member of an organising committee, a member of the committee which organised the very first modern Olympics in 1896. He was Prince George of Greece and Denmark (1869-1957).

HRH Prince George of Greece and Denmark

Last year I mentioned that the first lgbt+ member of an NOC was Prince Aribert von Anhalt (1864-1933). He was appointed to the Komitee für die Beteiligung Deutschlands an den Olympischen Spielen zu Athen (Committee for the Participation of Germany at the Olympic Games in Athens) on its formation on 13th December 1895. Prince George of Greece and Denmark predates Prince Aribert, because the Greek NOC was founded on 3rd February 1894, even before the IOC’s first congress mentioned above, and the NOC appointed Prince George to the organising committee of the Athens Olympics in January 1895.

But why is George a prince of both Greece and Denmark? Well, George’s father was a brother of the king of Denmark who was offered (and accepted) the throne of Greece by the Greek people. His descendants are still princes and princesses of Denmark as well as Greece. King Charles III’s father was born one of them before adopting his mother’s name. In fact, Prince George was one King Charles’s godparents, and represented the King of Greece at Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation in 1952. But I digress.

Although Prince George married and has two children he is widely believed to have been gay. There’s some circumstantial evidence for this in a couple of recent books about Sigmund Freud, to whom George’s wife turned for therapy.

Prince George and his brothers Crown Prince (later King) Constantine and Prince Nicholas were heavily involved in the organisation of the Athens Olympics. Constantine was President of the organising committee, and when other duties prevented him from attending, Prince George deputised for him. George was appointed President of the Sub-Committee for National Sports, which included sailing and rowing. Unfortunately, bad weather and a mix-up over the supply of proper boats saw the sailing abandoned. George was also appointed an umpire and final arbitrator in the swimming events, and as chairman of the judges for the weightlifting events.

The one-hand weightlifting contest provided Team GB with its first ever Olympic champion, Launceston Elliott. But the weightlifting events provided an incident that has gone down in Olympic history, and it involved Prince George. The incident could have come straight out of a comedy film, or at the very least be considered apocryphal, if it wasn’t recorded in the official report of the games that was published in 1897. Here is what the report says:

Apart from his duties as a sports official Prince George also performed several civic duties as well as a member of the royal family. He took part in official receptions, visited sports events he was not directly involved with, and supported his father, the king, in royal engagements associated with the games.

In 1906 Athens hosted what is now referred to as the Intercalated Olympics. The Greek Olympic Committee had the idea of holding an Olympic games in between the main 4th-yearly events, but various circumstances led to this being the only one ever held. They were regarded as full Olympic Games until 1948 when the IOC decided to remove it, its results, and medals from their records. However, most Olympic historians, myself included, still give the Intercalated games full Olympic status.

What makes the IOC’s decision even more ridiculous is that the 1904 Intercalated Olympics were the first ones we would recognise as an Olympic Games today. They introduced the opening and closing ceremonies, an athlete’s parade, flag-raising for the medallists, an Olympic village, and athletes registered under their National Olympic Committee rather than athletics club. It was also the first Olympics to be concentrated within a short time period and not spread out over several months.

Prince George was, again, appointed as President of the judges and games referee, and he and his brother Nicholas were heavily involved in the organisation of the sports. He also fulfilled his royal responsibilities at receptions for the athletes.

The prince’s athletic abilities gained more recognition at these games. During the marathon Prince George awaited at the stadium entrance for the arrival of the first runner. That runner was Canadian Billy Sherring. As he entered the stadium Prince George ran along side him, applauding and encouraging him, on the final lap around the stadium. It should be pointed out that Prince George was in full military uniform and the lap was 400 metres in distance.

Prince George was often referred to as the Prince of Crete. He became involved in the political conflict on Crete, an island that remained in the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire after Greece gained its independence from it in 1830. After several Greek-Cretan insurrections the Ottoman Empire declared war on Greece in 1897. The major European powers sent a multinational force to defend Greece.

This force set Crete up as an autonomous state and in 1898 appointed Prince George of Greece and Denmark as High Commissioner of the Great Powers, the de facto head of state. The Ottomans were finally expelled from the island later that year. Prince George remained in office until 1908 when the Cretan assembly declared unilateral union with the Greek crown. Crete was fully incorporated into Greece in 1912. The full history of Crete between 1897 and 1912 is a lot more complicated than this and cannot be recounted with enough justice here.

There is still so much to tell about Prince George – how he saved his cousin, the future Tsar Nicholas II, from being assassinated in Japan, and how he lived with his bachelor uncle for most of his life despite never divorcing from his wife. But all that can wait for another time. On this Olympic Day, we only needed to look at his Olympic involvement.

Saturday 10 June 2023

Heraldic Alphabet 2023

Welcome to my 10th Heraldic Alphabet celebrating the annual International Heraldry Day with coats of arms in the lgbt+ community. Regular readers and fans of my Alphabets will notice several differences this year.

First, there are two letters with double entries because there are more armigers (people with a coat of arms) whose names begin with those letters.

Second, there’s an oval instead of a shield for the letter B1. This is explained in my detailed look at its owner, Bishop Eve Brunne.

Third, in England, when an armiger dies his or her coat of arms can be displayed at the funeral on a diamond shaped black wooden panel. Heraldic internet sites have used black backgrounds to commemorate recent deaths (e.g. Queen Elizabeth II). The black background I show marks the passing of Princess Abigail Kawananakoa of Hawaii last December.

Some nations still don’t allow women to use shields, only ovals or diamond lozenges. For the sake of visual uniformity I prefer to use shields, except for the example referred to above. The symbol ^ used in the list below indicates that the individual would use a lozenge.

I have chosen not to show the helmet, crest, motto, and/or animal supporters to which any armiger is entitled. These are best shown in future in-depth looks at their full heraldic achievement.

Some Quick Basic definitions

Arms of Office – arms of an institution or public office of which the person is the nominal head, used only during their term of office. Not all institutions or offices grant this right.

Assumed – arms adopted by a family where no heraldic authority exists. Also, arms that are not officially registered by any such authority that does exist.

Cadency mark – a specific symbol added to a family coat of arms to indicate the place in order of birth of the user (i.e. 1st son/daughter, 2nd son/daughter, etc.).

Family – arms usually borne by the family’s senior bloodline member. Other family members are often required to add differences (e.g. cadency marks). Some nations allow all family members to use the arms unaltered.

Marital – spouses (including same-sex couples in some countries) can chose to place their arms side by side on one shield. Heirs place theirs on a smaller shield or lozenge on their spouse’s. A person who is not an armiger can just display the arms of their spouse alone.

Personal – inherited family arms used by the individual, with or without differences and cadency marks. Also new arms granted by an official heraldic authority.

 Quarters – 4 or more divisions of a shield with a different inherited coat of arms in each. Some individuals are entitled to bear many quarters.

Without further ado, here is 2023’s Heraldic Alphabet:

A) Carl Austen-Behan (b.1972) – Lord Mayor of Manchester 2016, Mr. Gay UK 2001. Arms of office. Arms of the city of Manchester, granted by the College of Arms on 1st March 1842.

B1) Bishop Eva Brunne (b.1954) – Lutheran Bishop of Stockholm 2009-19. Arms of office. For more information see here.

B2) Hon. Toby Butterfield (b.1965) – British-American lawyer, Gay Games squash champion 2002. Personal arms. Arms granted to his father, Lord Butterfield, with Toby’s cadency mark as his 3rd son (star). The towers on either side of the lion are from the arms of Nottingham (Lord Butterfield was Vice-Chancellor of Nottingham University).

C) Benvenuto Cellini (1500-1571) – Florentine sculptor and goldsmith. Family arms. The lion is the original family arms. The fleurs-de-lys and “label” at the top is called a capo d’Anjou (see here).

D) Nils Dardel (1888-1943) – Swedish artist. Family arms granted to his great-grandfather Georges-Alexandre Dardel, a Swiss army officer knighted, ennobled and granted arms by the King of Sweden on 21st May 1810.

E) Reginald, Lord Esher (1852-1930) – Sir Reginald Brett, 2nd Viscount Esher. Personal arms. The Brett family arms are the gold lions. They are holding a fasces, a symbol of authority in the Roman Empire (where we get the modern word “fascist” - this does not imply that the family has any fascist associations). The 3 leopard faces were inherited from the Wilfords of Enfield. The bears’ heads are inherited from the Forbes of Edinglassie.

F) Laudomia Forteguerri (1515-1555) – Italian poet. Family arms. The pattern on the right side is called vair. It represents pieces of squirrel fur (“varus” is Latin for squirrel) sewn together to form the lining of a medieval cloak. Blue represents the squirrel’s back fur, white represents its belly fur.

G) Sir John Gielgud (1904-2000) – British actor. Family arms. The Gielguds are untitled Polish nobility. Sir John’s great-grandfather fled to England during Russian occupation of Poland. I have not determined if Sir John had an English grant of arms. This is his inherited Polish arms. They are derived from an older coat of arms belonging to the Dzialosza family to which the Gielgud family are related.

H) Capt. Myles Hildyard (1914-2005) – British army officer, and historian. Personal arms. The blue quarters are the Hildyard arms. The white quarters with the bugles are inherited from the Thoroton family. Capt. Hildyard was President of the Thoroton Society, a historical society named after his ancestral uncle, an antiquarian called Robert Thoroton (1628-1678).

I) Ruth Illingworth – Mayor of Mullingar, County Westmeath, Ireland, 2009-10; the first openly lgbt mayor in Ireland. Arms of office. Probably assumed arms, as I cannot find any official grant. This design is based on the town’s 18th century civic seal. The wheel represents the mill-wheel of a local landmark – the name Mullingar means “left-hand mill”. Other objects on the shield represent local heritage and families.

J) Lady Catherine Jones (1672-1740) ^ – British philanthropist and women’s rights advocate, daughter of the Earl of Ranelagh. Family arms. The objects in the corners are called pheons, representing arrow heads.

K) Princess Abigail Kinoiki Kehaulike Kawananakoa (1926-2022) – Hawaiian princess and heir to the Hawaiian throne. Inherited arms, being those of the kingdom of Hawaii granted by the College of Arms in May 1845. Had the kingdom survived, these are the arms Princess Abigail would have used as Queen. Minor changes were made when it was chosen for the state seal of Hawaii in 1959. The stripes are prominent on the state flag.

L) Ellen Lascelles (b.1984) ^ – British recruitment consultant. Personal arms. Ellen’s great-grandmother was Princess Mary, Queen Elizabeth II’s aunt. Princess Mary had her own variation of the royal arms (bottom left), making her children her heraldic heirs, including Ellen’s father who would have added the star as a third son. The yellow crosses are the Lascelles family arms. They inherited the cross with the lion from the Burkes of Clanricarde.

M) Erica Mann (1905-1969) ^ - German actor and author. Attributed marital arms. I included the Mann family in last year’s Alphabet. If her family’s German arms were permitted in England, this is how Erica’s arms could have looked as wife of author W. H. Auden (see 2016 Alphabet). They married to allow Erica to flee Nazi persecution and become a British citizen.

N) Rt. Rev. Szymon Niemiec (b.1977) – Bishop of the United Christian Church of Poland, founder of Polish Pride, and psychotherapist. Personal arms, granted by the United Christian Church. Red and white are the Polish national colours. The angels (Gabriel left, Michael right) deliberately break the heraldic rule of never putting white on white. This symbolises the angels’ spiritual nature. The chalice and disc represent Holy Communion. The “X” on the disc is also the family arms of the Niemiec family.

O) Dr. Rachel Wyndham Obbard – American Professor, and planetary scientist. Family arms. These arms were granted to Dr. Rachel’s 3-times great-grandfather, Robert Obbard, by the College of Arms on 12 February 1850. The crescent indicates her descent from a 2nd son.

P) Dennis Price (1915-1973) – British actor. Family arms. For more information see here.

R) John Randolph (1773-1833) – US Congressman and Senator. Assumed arms. John Randolph is believed to have had a form of genetic gender variation, probably Klinefelter syndrome. The first Randolphs to settle in Virginia used the arms of the Randolphs of Kent who used black stars. There’s no known link between the two families. John’s great-grandfather was the first to use red stars.

S) Mrs. Sarah Scott, née Robinson (1720-1785) ^ - British novelist and social reformer. Personal arms. Sarah and her brother became heraldic heirs to the Robinson family in 1794. The deer features in many Robinson family arms. Sarah’s marriage to George Scott was for his financial benefit and was not a happy one.

T) Ernest Thesiger (1879-1961) – British actor. Personal arms. Granted to his grandfather, Sir Frederick Thesiger, in 1844 when he was knighted. Sir Frederick’s 5th son is Ernest Thesiger’s father, hence the cadency mark of a ring.

V1) Sándor Vay (1859-1918) – Hungarian poet and journalist. Family arms. Born Countess Sarolta Vay. The original Vay arms date from 1418 and show just the deer and arrow, facing the other way. Later generations modified and added to the design. This particular design was adopted by Sandor’s paternal grandfather,

V2) Count Gottfried von Cramm (1909-1976) – German tennis player. Family arms. For more information see here.

W) Dame Veronica Wedgwood (1910-1997) ^ – British historian. Personal arms. A member of the famous Wedgwood pottery family. These arms were confirmed to Dame Veronica’s ancestor, John Wedgwood, by the College of Arms on 20 November 1576.

Y) Dame Eileen Younghusband (1902-1981) ^ - British pioneer of social work training. Family arms. These arms appear on the memorial to one of her great-uncles, and are still used by descendants of another. This implies that her grandfather could also use them and, therefore, Dame Eileen could inherit them.