ON September 21st the Religion of Antinous honors KING EDWARD II of England and his lover PIERS GAVESTON.
Although Edward fathered at least five children by two women, he was widely known to be homosexual. His inability to deny even the most grandiose favours to his male favourites (first a Gascon knight named Piers Gaveston, later a young English lord named Hugh Despenser) led to constant political unrest and his eventual deposition by his wife Isabella in January 1327.
Several contemporary sources criticised Edward's seeming infatuation with Piers Gaveston, to the extent that he ignored and humiliated his wife. Chroniclers called the relationship "excessive, immoderate, beyond measure and reason" and criticised his desire for "wicked and forbidden sex".
As the resentment against Edward's rule and Gaveston's position of power grew, some barons insisted Gaveston be banished, through the Ordinances of 1311. Edward recalled his friend, but could do little to prevent Gaveston being captured in 1312 under the orders of the Earl of Lancaster and his allies, who claimed that he had led the king to folly. He was captured murdered and his head cut off.
Edward's grief over the death of Gaveston was profound. He kept the remains of his body close to him for a number of weeks before the Church forcibly arranged a burial.
In 1326, another of Edward's lovers, Hugh Despenser the younger was brutally killed by a mob. They dragged him from his horse, stripped him, and scrawled Biblical verses against corruption and arrogance on his skin. He was then condemned to hang as a thief, be castrated, and then to be drawn and quartered as a traitor. In 2009, mutilated body parts found at an abbey were identified as those of Sir Hugh Despenser the Younger, one of the most reviled medieval courtiers and reputed gay lover of the Plantagenet king, Edward II.
Edward II abdicated and was imprisoned. A historian later described his death: "On the night of 21st September while lying on a bed the king was suddenly seized and, while a great mattress ... weighed him down and suffocated him, a plumber's iron, heated intensely hot, was introduced through a tube into his anus so that it burned the inner portions beyond the intestines."
In 1598, the almost certainly gay playwright Christopher Marlowe wrote a wonderful play called, simply, Edward the Second. It does not shy away from describing the love between Edward II and his greatest favourite Gaveston.
There is one lovely quote which we can imagine our Beloved Boy saying to Hadrian. Edward offers Gaveston gold, men at arms, his great seal or anything he desires. Gaveston responds:
It shall suffice me to enjoy your love,
Which whiles I have, I think myself as great
As Caesar riding in the Roman street,
With captive kings (in) his triumphant (chariot)