Posted by: secretperson | February 18, 2008

Abbey body identified as gay lover of Edward II

is The Telegraph’s headline. Certain similarities in the manner of death and disposal of the body with descriptions at the time have led anthropologist Mary Lewis to conclude that a body buried at Hulton Abbey is that of Hugh the younger Despenser.

Edward II was widely rumoured to have been gay, due to having male favourites at court who recieved much special treatment. This led to resentment from other Barons and from his own wife! There were rumours of sexual liaisons but I don’t think there’s much hard evidence. The most famous ‘favourite’ is Piers Gaveston, who was executed by powerful barons. However it was Hugh Despenser (known as the younger) who’s influence led to Edward’s downfall.

Ruthlessly taking advantage of his standing with the King, Despenser wasn’t happy with the lands he inherited through his wife, the King’s niece Eleanor de Clare. There were many disputed land grabs as Despenser cemented his power, but his greed brought both him and Edward down.

Edward’s queen Isabella formed an alliance, and a relationship, with Roger Mortimer a rival of Hugh Despenser. They invaded England and overthrew Edward II, who was allegedly killed in Berkeley Castle (rumour has it through a hot poker inserted up the anus, though this is probably just a gory myth). The younger Despenser was hung, drawn, quartered and disembowelled. The skeleton found shares signs of this, with the head missing as expected. So it is possible that these are the remains of a man who was a major figure in the overthrow of an English King. Leaving aside lurid rumours, that is interesting enough historically.

Roger Mortimer himself was overthrown by Edward II’s young son Edward III, when he came of age. Edward III went on to start the Hundred Years War, establish the Order of the Garter, and it was perhaps in his reign that Englishness emerged from the shadow of Norman oppression. A fascinating time in English history.

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