On January 28 1936, numerous gay and bisexual royals followed a grumpy old homophobe to his grave. Newspapers lauded the funeral procession of George V, King of the United Kingdom and British Dominions and Emperor of India, as among the most impressive ceremonies ever seen in the English capital.
The 2019 Downton Abbey movie portrayed George V and Queen Mary as a kindly and regal Mrs and Mrs Claus. But soap operas and fairy tales are inclined to sanitise royals. The real George V was many things, among them, a homophobe.
As royal intimate Chips Channon recalled in his diaries, George V made one of the most famously clueless remarks of queer history.
“I thought men like that shot themselves.”
The king was responding to news that the 7th Earl Beauchamp enjoyed numerous homosexual liaisons. George sent emissaries to the Earl demanding he flee the country that night to avoid prosecution. Beauchamp then remained in exile until after the king’s death.
But if he’d had eyes to see, George V could have found living breathing ‘men like that’ much closer to home. Bisexual and gay royals abounded in his immediate and extended family.
Dancing on graves is, of course, tasteless – and also, in the case of royalty, difficult to get past security. George lies at eternal rest, as certain believers are wont to say, in St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle alongside numerous of his forebears. An unfortunate Tripadvisor review of a place jammed to the rafters with dead bodies: “You can almost smell the history.”
Anyway, on to the gay and bisexual royals.
Edward VIII and Prince George, Duke of Kent
George’s son Edward VIII famously abdicated the throne for the love of an unsuitable woman. However, over the years, some suggested his affair with the twice-divorced Wallis Simpson was contrived to cover up his homosexuality. Not much evidence ever surfaced to substantiate the allegation. But notorious Hollywood ‘Male Madame’ Scotty Bowers claimed he pimped guys and girls to the Duke and Duchess of Windsor – the guys for the former king and the girls for his wife. Despite initial widespread media scepticism of Scotty’s claims, many incidents he related, have since been proven true.
But, we’re on much firmer ground with another of George V’s sons.
George’s fourth son, the Duke of Kent, also named George, was a bit of a party animal and his bisexuality was well known. Among Prince George’s reputed lovers Noel Coward and the bisexual son of an Argentinean ambassador. He also lived next door to, and spent a lot of time drinking with, Nazi-adoring royal sycophant Chips Channon. The Duke of Kent died in a plane crash during WWII in circumstances some consider curious. Brisbane’s Princess Alexandra Hospital is named after his daughter.
During WWI, George V changed the family name from the German Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to Windsor. A few days later, his cousins the Battenbergs changed their name to Mountbatten. Prince Louis Battenburg became Lord Louis Mountbatten, better known to his family as Dickie. A stalwart of the royal family in his later years, Mountbatten was the last Viceroy of India and First Sea Lord (Head of the British Navy.) His matchmaking resulted in the marriage of Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip of Greece. He also mentored the young Prince Charles.
Mountbatten once said of his marriage, “Edwina and I spent all our married lives getting into other people’s beds.”
However, he never mentioned that in his case, that sometimes included other men. A former driver stated he used to drive Mountbatten to a gay brothel on Malta and the FBI maintained files on his homosexual activity. There are also substantial but unsubstantiated allegations he was a pedophile.
Read more: Earl Mountbatten of Burma — “I am lonely and sad and drunk… Hutch has a prick like a tree trunk, and he’s f_cking my wife right now.”
King Ghazi of Iraq
The Melbourne Age included young King Ghazi of Iraq as an attendee at the funeral but he actually sent a prince in his place. Ghazi inherited his throne just three years before from his father. King Faisal, a direct descendant of Muhammed, was a friend of Lawrence of Arabia and placed on the throne as a puppet of the British. Young Ghazi, despite his British education and embrace of British culture, proved more sceptical of the British rule in the Middle East than his father.
The British spied on him, noting his gay love affairs with staff members. The spies described one young Nubian servant as ‘the King’s boon companion in debauchery’. That young man died when his gun – according to the palace – accidentally discharged while he was sleeping. The British believed Ghazi’s wife in fact organised the servant’s murder.
Ghazi died in 1939 when his car ploughed into a power pole near the palace. Numerous Arabic sources attribute his death to a conspiracy between the British and locals who benefitted from the death.
Read more: King Ghazi — died mysteriously despite the protection of a retinue of young muscular Nubians.
Paul of Yugoslavia
Prince Paul became regent to his underage cousin King Peter II of Yugoslavia in 1934. Educated in England, Paul once shared a house with his lover Chips Channon and another of Channon’s lovers Lord Gage. Paul counted as his closest friends Channon and… Prince George, Duke of Kent. An incestuous bunch.
The Crown Prince of Italy
Prince Umberto represented his father King Victor Emmanuel III at George’s funeral. He was a cousin of Paul of Yugoslavia and like Paul, married for the sake of the dynasty but secretly enjoyed gay sex. However, unlike Paul, his sexuality did not remain hushed up until the publication of Channon’s diaries. Umberto opposed fascism which put him in opposition to Mussolini. After his father abdicated and Umberto became ‘Acting’ King, fascist newspapers outed him, calling him the Ugly Starlet and reporting on his relationships with men.
Umberto himself abdicated in 1946 and lived in exile for the rest of his life.
Two others of George’s relatives never made the funeral. Kaiser Wilhelm probably wouldn’t have been welcome anyway following that little unpleasantness known as WWI. And he was restricted from travelling more than 10 kilometres from his Dutch home in exile. So the former Emperor widely acknowledged as a deeply repressed homosexual probably raised a lonely glass to having outlived his dour cousin.
King Gustaf V of Sweden also never made it. He perhaps chose to play tennis instead. Or, more likely, he sent his son to the coronation and stayed home to deal with a blackmail situation that would continue throughout the remainder of his reign.
No doubt, other gay, lesbian and bisexual dignitaries attended the funeral of George V. But that’s enough to have the old homophobe rolling in his marble grave for now.
Read more: January 27 <— On this day —> January 29
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