Young, Michael. “King James and the History of Homosexuality”, Fonthill Media, 2016.
Favorites of the King
James VI & I, the man responsible for the King James Version of the Bible, was known to have a series of notorious male favorites. Michael B. Young looks at political history and recent scholarship on the history of sexuality to try to see whether the king’s relationships with these men were sexual. He also shows that James’s favorites had a negative impact within the royal family, at court, in Parliament, and in the nation at large. Those of the time worried that James would bring about a “sodomitical court and an effeminized nation” and therefore some urged James to engage in a more virile foreign policy by embarking on war. Queen Anne encouraged a martial spirit and molded her oldest son to be more manly than his father. Then there were serious repercussions that continued after James’s death that detracted from the majesty of the monarchy and contributing to the outbreak of the Civil War. England, it seems, became a world of political intrigue colored by sodomy, pederasty, and gender instability.
Writer Michael Young discusses both the personal history of King James and public perception of homosexuality during 16th and 17th Century England. King James’ history is established in the first chapter making it easy to follow the rest of the book. Following that are chapters that look at the evidence that the King had sex with his male favorites and how the people reacted to this as well an introduction to James’ contemporaries and a bit of information about sex between males. Young also discusses the relationship between homosexuality, effeminacy and pacifism vs. heterosexuality, masculinity and war and how James’s homosexuality affected the reign of his son, Charles. We also read what contemporary and later writers said about James’s sexuality, concluding with comments on the general history of homosexuality. It is important to note that there are claims here that are very thoroughly footnoted and annotated. We are given the evidence but ultimately it is for the reader to decide as to whether or not the sex did happen.
The “legal definition [of sodomy] was then very concise and narrow. It specified only one sex act between men, anal intercourse, and excluded all other genital sex acts.” History shows James to have been and Young says that he was “a notorious hypocrite where swearing and drinking were concerned; he could simply have been the same where sodomy was concerned.”
In reading what others have to say about the book, I found several detractors who claim that Young did not take into account “the customs of Stuart England, or the political situation, in order to slander a deeply religious man who is no longer alive to defend himself. A historian with his own agenda is capitalizing on insults by James’ contemporaries to twist the facts. Even today, calling someone gay is considered an insult (what?), so why would anyone accept such a claim without question? Throughout history, political figures have been insulted by their detractors; just consider the myriad insults directed at Barack Obama!” This reviewer goes on to say that assertions of the King’s sexual behavior were biased by those who did not find favor with him. Have a look at what this reviewer has to say:
“I believe Professor Young is blinded by his own bias. An academic career is based “publish or perish.” It doesn’t matter WHAT one publishes, all that matters is publishing SOMETHING. However, a degree doesn’t make a scholar infallible. The fact that this book appears to be self-published tells me that other authorities don’t believe Professor Young’s view carries any weight, at least in this case. That hasn’t stopped others from jumping on the bandwagon and spreading this gossip, unfortunately”.