The problem with the terms homosexual or gay as used in the modern parlance, is that it is awful hard to tease out primary attraction for many of these folks, let alone sole attraction ( i.e. they slept with wives only as a chore ). For example that Alexander the Great’s greatest love was a guy is near-certain. But he also had a politically unimportant affair with a woman that produced a bastard son, so he probably wasn’t a Kinsey 6.
But just to throw out another English example, William II Rufus is a better attested than Richard I. Whether bisexual or truly gay is hard to figure, as above. But that he slept with guys seems pretty likely based on contemporary criticism and that he died at age 40 unmarried and without bastards is fact. By contrast his younger brother ( Henry I ) was just the opposite - a true monarch among bastard-producers.
It seems to me, and I may be mistaken, that homosexual behavior back then was not considered the defining identity of somebody the way it is now. By which I mean, a man who had homosexual affairs with other men would be thought of not as “a homosexual” but as a libertine and deviant whose sexual acts were just one of his many dalliances. It was considered what we might now call a “kink,” and not an “orientation.”
There’s some letter by King James where he calls the Duke of Buckingham his “sweet child and wife” and himself “dear dad and husband.” That sounds a little extreme even for a “favourite” relationship. And his contemporaries joked about his sexuality; one wag remarked that “we had a King Elizabeth and now we have a Queen James” and another that “it is well known that the King of England fucks the Duke of Buckingham.” It’s true that close relationships between men were not necessarily sexualized back then, BUT considering what people said about him during his own time, there was probably something more.
Of course, it all can be disputed, since, as others pointed out, sexuality was looked at differently back then.
Two other possibilities:
Henry III of France. Back in college, the belief was that his mother worked to make him more effeminate so that he wouldn’t be a threat to his older brother on the throne. He actually left France to rule Poland for a few years, but returned when his brother died.
In this case, at least one of his modern biographers largely dismisses the idea:
So close did the association between the two become that in circles hostile to them it gave rise to allegations of homosexuality. Almost certainly these allegations were baseless. De Vere was in reality something of a womanizer, and in 1387 abandoned his wife, a woman of royal birth, in favour of Agnes Lancecrona, a lady-in-waiting of the queen. His relationship with the king is most likely to have been one of close friendship and no more.
From Richard II by Nigel Saul ( 1997, Yale University Press ). He also cites a 1984 paper by G.B. Stow on the topic.
It is certain that Richard II was unusually ( for a medieval arranged marriage ) devoted to his first wife and was devastated by her death. It has been argued that his lack of the normal run of royal bastards was based in part on his unflagging loyalty to her, though I suppose one could always argue it was merely close friendship and she functioned as a beard. They certainly never conceived. However she reportedly never took outside lovers ( that we know about ) either.
Quite true. I don’t accept Saul’s ( or Stow’s, one presumes ) take as the last word. It’s just another data point. But it shows, once again, just how difficult it is to figure out how much truth there is in such rumors.
I mentioned William Rufus, for whom we have a fair bit of circumstantial evidence. But the strongest and most direct of these rests with the comments by three chroniclers - Eadmer of Canterbury, William of Malmesbury and Orderic Vitalis. All pious and celibate churchmen and all three quite hostile in their own way to William. But their charges re:William’s own behavior ( as opposed to the court in general, where they were very loud in their condemnation of purportedly widespread sodomy and effeminate manners ) is deliberately vague. They charge debauchery in general and insinuate, rather than directly accuse. And William is nowhere identified with any particular favorites that could reasonably be correlated with lovers ( Frank Barlow notes his closest associate Ranulf Flambard, often associated with William in these general charges, was apparently strictly heterosexual ). All in all, summing up all the available evidence, Barlow concluded that WR was probably at least bisexual and I think he makes a good case. But it is still, at the end of the day, circumstantial.