The Oscar nominated film The Favourite opened the public’s eyes to the fact that the royal family are not quite as straight-laced as we might have thought.
The film captured Queen Anne’s close relationship with the Duchess of Marlborough and her cousin Abigail Masham.
However, Anne was not the only royal believed to have had same sex relations as the Historic Royal Palaces hopes to point out.
The charity, which helps to maintain six royal residences, will be offering LGBTQ+ tours at some of their sites so visitors can learn more about the same-sex relations of royals past.
Matthew Storey, curator at the HRP, has spent over a year researching lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender stories in order to develop the tours which will run later this year.
Here we share just a few of the stories from the palaces’ queer history…
THE WOMAN WHO ENTRANCED CHARLES II AND HIS DAUGHTER
Hortense Mancini (portrait pictured) was the mistress of Charles II but also bedded his illegitimate daughter Anne the Countess of Sussex
Among those to feature on the tour is a woman named Hortense Mancini who managed to entrance both Charles II and his daughter.
Storey tells the Times that the king became besotted by Mancini when in exile during the Commonwealth.
While her family rejected his offer of a marriage proposal she became his mistress but is said to have bedded his illegitimate daughter Anne, Countess of Sussex also.
Storey says that the king was likely to have been ‘amused’ by his mistress’s trysts.
He told The Times: ‘These are very sexually sophisticated settings. Different relationships form across the court and it is always related to power.’
This attitude is not all surprising as while same-sex relationships between men were banned at the time ones between women were not.
THE COURT MUSICIAN WHO MARRIED HER CROSS-DRESSING GIRLFRIEND
However, same-sex marriages were of course still a long way off, but one court musician attempted to find a loop hole.
Arabella Hunt served at the court of Queen Mary II and taught Queen Anne to sing.
Arabella married James Howard on 12 September 1680 and they lived together for six months in Arabella’s mother’s house.
Arabella Hunt, who taught Queen Anne to sing (pictured in a lesson), married James Howard, who later turned out to be her lover Amy Poulter dressed as a man
However, it later transpired that James was a woman called Amy Poulter, who dressed in male clothes, and had courted Arabella dressed as a man and as a woman.
In addition Amy had also married to a man called Arthur Poulter when she married Arabella.
KING JAMES VI AND I AND THE ‘HANDSOMEST BODIED MAN OF ENGLAND’
King James is said to ‘have loved men throughout his life’ according to the HRP and initially feel for athlete Robert Carr, Earl of Somerset, at a joust in 1607.
But after Carr fell out of favour following his imprisonment at the Tower of London James’ wife Queen Anne of Denmark set about looking for a replacement for her husband, taking the form of George Villiers in 1614.
King James VI and I (pictured in an engraving) is said to ‘have loved men throughout his life’
George Villiers is thought to have won the affections of the king and was described as the ‘handsomest bodied man of England’
Bishop Godfrey Goodman described Villiers as ‘the handsomest bodied man of England…and so sweet of disposition’.
Villiers rose to become Duke of Buckingham, and with the favour of the King, was a powerful man.
James wrote in a letter to Villiers:‘There is this difference betwixt that noble hand and heart, one may surfeit by the one, but not the other, and sooner by yours than his own; therefore give me leave to stop, with mine, that hand which hath been too ready to execute the motions and affections of that kind of obliging heart to me’.
QUEEN ANNE’S ‘DARK DEEDS’
It comes as Hampton Court Palace, one of the Historic Royal Palaces, introduced an exhibition dedicated to the costumes used in The Favourite last month.
The gorgeous collection was designed by three-time Oscar winning costume designer Sandy Powell.
The designer worked with charity Historic Royal Palaces to create the exhibition in the atmospheric Cartoon Gallery – which eagle-eyed viewers will be able to spot throughout the film.
Queen Anne, who is currently depicted by Olivia Coleman in The Favourite, is thought to have enjoyed sexual relationships with two women
Lady Sarah Churchill, the Duchess of Marlborough (pictured in portrait), life-long friend and political adviser of Queen Anne and is thought to have had ‘intimate relations’ with her
Queen Anne is thought to have also been involved with Sarah’s cousin Abigail Masham. Pictured: Sarah confronts the Queen and Abigail in this sketch
The film, directed by Yorgos Lanthimos, explores Queen Anne’s intimate relations with her life-long friend and political adviser Lady Sarah Churchill, played by Rachel Weisz, and Sarah’s impoverished cousin turned chambermaid Abigail, played by Emma Stone.
While the nature of Anne’s relationships with Abigail and Sarah will never be crystal clear – a pamphlet circulated in 1708 certainly gave a clue.
Sarah’s secretary Arthur Mainwaring, circulated political pamphlets against the Queen, talking of the ‘sweet service’ and ‘dark deeds at night’ between Anne and Abigail.
The film, directed by Yorgos Lanthimos, explores Queen Anne’s intimate relations with the two women. Pictured: Rachel Weisz as Sarah Churchill and Olivia Coleman as Queen Anne in The Favourite
It comes as Hampton Court Palace, one of the Historic Royal Palaces, introduced an exhibition dedicated to the costumes used in The Favourite last month
A letter addressed from Anne to Sarah ahead of this also seems to shed light on their affections.
It read: ‘If I could tell how to hinder myself from writing to you every day I would…but really I cannot…when I am from you I cannot be at ease without enquiring after you’.
Anne and Sarah had a terrible, final argument in the Queen’s Apartments at Kensington Palace in 1710 after which they never spoke again.