King James I Was Gay? How Did I Miss This?

Wikipedia, where I got this image, doesn't say that King James I was gay, though it does have a section on speculation over his personal relationships.

For as long as I’ve been doing this, people have wanted to discuss whether Shakespeare was gay. And Christopher Marlowe (although I think there’s more agreement there). Then there’s the debate about whether half the individual characters in Shakespeare’s works were trying to tell us something. But I seem to have ultimately missed the idea that Queen Elizabeth’s successor, King James I was gay.

I guess there’s some new TV series, Mary & George, that looks more closely at this particular side of history. I’ve only just heard of it; people are starting to write articles that are showing up in my newsfeeds. I don’t have STARZ, so I’m not sure I’ll be able to watch it.

When In Doubt, Ask The Historians

I started googling around for information on the subject and got plenty of hits dating back years. They didn’t all come from “wishful thinking” sites, either. Because, let’s face it, I’m in the blogging business, not the research business; I can’t just grab a link to a random article and say, “Here’s your proof.”

That is, unless Reddit’s famous Ask Historians group has tackled the question. I love this group. They’re legit historians who hold themselves up to a particular academic standard. They don’t editorialize or go off on hypotheticals. They only tell it like it is when they have documentation to back it up. They even helped me research the whole Starlings / Shakespeare connection years before these folks got all the credit.

So, let’s see what they had to say about King James, shall we?

TL;DR Too Long, Didn’t Read

How many people clicked on that link? How many people read it all? That’s the only real problem with that group. This is the internet. People don’t want an academic answer to their question, with citations. They just want the answer. So, let me see if I can sum it up. I’m not promising I won’t use AI to help me with this.

(A) The article starts with a reminder that terminology is essential as it changes over the years. The word homosexual is not even recorded until 1890. So we are left to search for terms like sodomy, which was a different and very specific (criminal) thing. Other, broader terms were also used, but more in the sense of leading a sinful life. None are very confident indicators of what we would think of today as sexual identity.

(B) Independent of what term you apply, evidence does exist that King James was sexually attracted to both men and women. The article goes on to identify the “candidates,” with detailed documentation about why people have come to think as they do.


It seems to be that there’s no real debate, other than perhaps what terminology is fair. I trust the word of the historians on Reddit (mostly because they cite all their sources, even if I never do go check those). King James I likely had romantic relationships with men. Whether or not it’s fair to reduce that down to King James I was gay, that’s a different story.

3 thoughts on “King James I Was Gay? How Did I Miss This?

  1. Yup, it’s fairly well known (I studied Tudor/Stuart era literature in college and grad school, so may be a bit biased but still) that James I had male favorites/lovers, and was well known contemporaneously as well. He also did have several children with his wife, so his sexuality may have been fluid or gay–he wasn’t known to have female lovers, unlike basically every other king of that era.

  2. well, i think James definitely was. F.E. read about his love story with Duke of Buckingham (the very duke from “The Three Musketeers”).

  3. You need to read about how anthony weldon started the rumour king james was a sodomite because he got kicked out of the kings court and after that he had an enmity against the was years after the king died he found it ” safe” to start the rumours and since then supposed historians have followed suit.if people read his writings they would learn the truth not depend on lies ..

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