'How many folks know that King James (who commissioned the King James Bible and to whom it was dedicated) loved men and had sex with them?
At the age of thirteen James fell madly in love with his male cousin Esme Stuart whom he made Duke of Lennox.
James deferred to Esme to the consternation of his ministers. In 1582 James was kidnapped and forced to issue a proclamation against his lover and send him back to France.
Later, James fell in love with a poor young Scotsman named Robert Carr.
"The king leans on his [Carr's] arm, pinches his cheeks, smooths his ruffled garment, and when he looks upon Carr, directs his speech to others." (Thomas Howard, Earl of Suffolk, in a letter, 1611)
Carr eventually ended the relationship after which the king expressed his dissatisfaction in a letter to Carr, "I leave out of this reckoning your long creeping back and withdrawing yourself from lying in my chamber, notwithstanding my many hundred times earnest soliciting you to the contrary...
Remember that (since I am king) all your being, except your breathing and soul, is from me." (See The Letters of King James I & VI, ed., G. P. V. Akrigg, Univ. of Calif. Press, 1984. Also see Royal Family, Royal Lovers: King James of England and Scotland, David M. Bergeron, Univ. of Missouri Press, 1991)
- Skip Church
King James' favorite male lovers were the Earl of Somerset and the Duke of Buckingham.
- Ben Edward Akerly, The X-rated Bible
James's sexual orientation was so widely known that Sir Walter Raleigh joked about it in public saying "King Elizabeth" had been succeeded by "Queen James."
- Catherine D. Bowen, The Lion and the Throne
King James 1 was a known homosexual who murdered his young lovers and victimized countless heretics and women. His cruelty was justified by his "divine right" of kings.
- Otto J. Scott, James the First
Although the title page of The King James Bible boasted that it was "newly translated out of the original tongues," the work was actually a revision of The Bishop's Bible of 1568, which was a revision of The Great Bible of 1539, which was itself based on three previous English translations from the early 1500s. So, the men who produced the King James Bible not only inherited some of the errors made by previous English translators, but invented some of their own.
In March 1603, Queen Elizabeth died, and James was crowned king of England. Within four years, James' marriage to Queen Anne had stagnated. The king met Robert Carr around this time. Carr was a young Scot who followed the king to England. During a festival, Carr fell off his horse and broke his leg. James recognized the former page-boy and astonished onlookers by running onto the field and cradling Carr in his arms. The king saw to it that Carr received the best medical care, and was always at his side. Many writers noted Carr to be tall, athletic, slightly effeminate, and not very bright. Historian William McElwee wrote that James began to "treat Carr in public with the same exaggerated, gross affection as in private." James' contemporaries thought he was odd when he was a teenager worshiping Esme, but as a middle-aged man kissing on Carr with his arms around him, his behavior disturbed many.
According to the letters that James wrote to Carr, the king felt sexually trapped in his unsatisfying marriage and longed for a more satisfactory relationship. James also spoiled Carr with gifts and political power as he did with Esme. The king's eldest son, Prince Henry, strongly disliked Car and was probably jealous of his relationship with James. Anne was not fond of him either, for obvious reasons.
With the untimely deaths of Prince Henry and James' secretary of state in 1612, a year after James commissioned the translation of the Bible, Carr's political power skyrocketed. He became a Confidential Secretary to James, and eventually the Earl of Somerset. However, Carr fell in love with Frances Howard, Countess of Essex, and on the day after Christmas in 1613, the couple married. James supported the marriage and even paid for the wedding. He was alright with it as long as Carr remembered his obligations to the king.
Carr's sexual relations extended well beyond his wife and king. The most notable of these was writer Thomas Overbury. Their relationship was not the smoothest, but in time Overbury knew more state secrets than the Privy Council. James obviously was not having this. Whether it was due to jealousy or the fact that Overbury knew so much, James sent him to the Tower of London.
During Overbury's six-month stay at the Tower, from which he would not leave alive, he frequently wrote to Carr, urging his lover to help him gain release. Overbury's letters rang of frustration and desperation. He even threatened to out their relationship if Carr did not comply. However, Overbury would die of poisoning in September 1613. When evidence pointed to Carr and his wife having a part in the writer's murder, the couple was placed under house arrest. During this time, Carr desperately searched for letters to and from Overbury and other documents that might have proven embarrassing or incriminating.
In November 1615, the couple was formally charged in the murder of Thomas Overbury, and six months later the trial was under way. King James, who was extremely shocked by the whole thing, begged Carr to admit his guilt, to no avail. To this day, all that is known of Carr's part in the murder was that he was an accessory. His wife Frances admitted her guilt, however.
Nerves were high during the trial, as neither Carr nor James wanted their homosexual affairs to be revealed. Unfortunately for Carr, his letters were read during the trial and it was made known that not only did Carr and Overbury have an affair, but Carr shared state secrets with him. These letters provided enough evidence to condemn Carr and his wife. Both were found guilty and sentenced to death in May 1616.
The Carrs spent six years in the Tower. Although the couple did not die there, Carr's affair with the king did. The letters they exchanged vividly expressed their strained feelings of frustration at each other. Carr and his wife gained release from prison in 1622, and moved out to the countryside where they would spend the rest of their lives. Two years later, James granted Carr a pardon. Despite their breakup, perhaps James still had some feelings for the former page-boy.
King James' final male favorite was George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham. Actually, James' affair with this man ran parallel to the one he had with Carr for some time, as they first met in 1614. It seemed that James turned to Buckingham for support when others let him down. With Queen Anne disaffected from him, Carr on trial for murder, Princess Elizabeth married and living in Germany, and an air of uncertainty surrounding James' relationship with teenage Prince Charles, Buckingham was the only one James thought he could turn to.
Many of the letters these two exchanged over a ten-year period have survived to the present day. In these letters, James often addressed Buckingham as "Only sweet and dear child," "Sweetheart," and "Sweet child and wife," and signed himself "Thy dear dad and husband." It is quite clear that their relationship paralleled some modern gay romances in which one partner is significantly older than the other.
Their love intensified when Queen Anne died in 1619. James fell ill soon after and he knew he would not recover. Buckingham seldom left his king's bedside, but he was away when King James died in 1625. Buckingham would be assassinated three years later.
As one can imagine, many have tried to cover up the truth about King James VI & I. Since he is such an important historic figure, they thought his being gay would have marred the image of the British monarchy. Although James' gay relationships were extramarital, political leaders having affairs was nothing new, not even back then. Besides, he would have certainly divorced Queen Anne if they had lived in the present day.
One question remains, however. Is it the penultimate irony that a gay man has indirectly brought Christianity to the same bigots (of whom consist of only part of Christian thought today) who have oppressed homosexuals throughout the past 400 years and continue to do so? In 1617, James gave a daring address to the Privy Council, affirming his right to love men once and for all:
"I, James, am neither a god nor an angel, but a man, like any other. Therefore I act like a man and confess to loving those dear to me more than other men. You may be sure that I love the Earl of Buckingham more than anyone else, and more than you who are here assembled. I wish to speak in my own behalf and not to have it thought to be a defect, for Jesus Christ did the same, and therefore I cannot be blamed. Christ had John, and I have George."
If one were to translate this address into modern English, it would roughly sound like, "This is who I am, this is who I love. Get over it."
Bergeron, David M. King James & Letters of Homoerotic Desire. (p. 32-143).
Bingham, Carolyn. The Making of a King: The Early Years of James VI and I. (p. 129).
Harris, William. An Historical & Critical Account of the Life and Writings of James the First. (p. 73).
McElwee, WIlliam. The Wisest Fool in Christendom: The Reign of James I and VI. (p. 178).
Norton, Richtor. "Queen James and His Courtiers", The Great Queens of History, updated 8 January 200. (p. 129). http://www.infopt.demon.co.uk/jamesi.htm
Stevenson, Joseph. The Correspondence of Robert Bowes, ed. (p. 185).