Gay History: Kings & Queens Who Were Gay III

For much of history, LGBTQ royalty needed to hide their identities

Throughout history, kings and queens have engaged in same-gender relationships. Even in jurisdictions where homosexuality was not prohibited or proscribed by law or religious edicts, titles of aristocracy were almost always directly transferred through married heterosexual spouses and their offspring.

Some kings and queens did not hide their sexual preferences and some did. However, they all understood that having a hair to the throne was part of their “duty”

Despite a member of the Royal Family rarely having come out publicly as gay or bisexual, many well-known figures lived relatively openly with same-sex partners or lovers. The fact is that for hundreds of years monarchies had hidden gay and bisexual members. Sometimes, more often than not secretive than others.

Hadrian Named A City After His Male Lover

Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domai

Roman emperor Hadrian is best remembered for building Hadrian’s Wall, marking the northern border of his empire. And although Hadrian married around the year 100 CE, he also had a male lover. Hadrian’s partner was a young Greek named Antinous. When his lover drowned, Hadrian founded a city in Egypt and named it Antinopolis in his honor. 

The Romans didn’t care about men taking male lovers. It was only important what part a man played during sex: Older men always needed to take a dominant, active role.

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Alexander The Great Had Sex With A Eunuch

Photo: Meister der Alexanderschlacht / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

Alexander the Great conquered enough land to rule one of the largest empires in ancient history. During a whirlwind military campaign, Alexander toppled the Persian Empire and invaded India. But where did he fall on the spectrum of sexual identity? Historians still debate Alexander’s sexual preferences, but most agree he had sex with men and women.


Alexander’s most likely male lover was Bagoas, a eunuch. Being a eunuch, the Greeks didn’t see him as a man – instead, he was in a third category, between man and woman. Many also believe Alexander maintained a relationship with his companion Hephaestion. The ancient Greeks were very open-minded about homosexuality.

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James I Defended His Right To Love Other Men

Photo: John de Critz / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domai

When James I of England took the throne in 1603 after the death of Elizabeth, he had big shoes to fill. England loved Elizabeth, and they remained uncertain of the Scottish ruler with a reputation for homosexual love affairs. In his early years, his new subjects circulated a Latin phrase which translates to “Elizabeth was King: now James is Queen.”

As James rode through the streets of London, people yelled out “Long live Queen James!” James himself defended his right to love other men in 1617, in a speech to his Privy Council: 

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.

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