Tuesday, October 16, 2007

King James Version of the Bible

One thing that I always find ironic is that one of the favorite versions of the Bible among Christianist is the King James Version. Despite the shrieks of the Christianists to the contrary, true history - not their rewritten version - pretty much confirms the James I of England was about a gay as they come. In 1604, King James I of England authorized that a new translation of the Bible into English be started. It was finished in 1611. This website (http://www.infopt.demon.co.uk/jamesi.htm) pulls together some good information on James I's loves and sexual orientation. None of it would be pleasing to Daddy Dobson. Here are some highlights:
While riding through the bustling streets of London from 1603 to 1621, one was liable to hear the shout "Long live Queen James!" King James I of England and VI of Scotland was so open about his homosexual love affairs that an epigram had been circulated which roused much mirth and nodding of the heads: Rex fuit Elizabeth: nunc est regina Jacobus—"Elizabeth was King: now James is Queen."

Very few official biographers still tenaciously maintain that there is no "real" evidence that James's friendships were merely intimate. The question of whether or not James actually slept with his favourites is dealt with by Lady Antonia Fraser in her biography of King James in an eminently reasonable manner: "In sexual matters, it is generally better to assume the obvious, unless there is some very good reason to think otherwise." And for Lady Antonia Fraser anti-gay prejudice is no good reason to think otherwise. Her biography is a sympathetic reappraisal of James's personality and statesmanship. She quite simply accepts James's homosexuality and never regards it in itself as a detriment to either himself or his country, though she reasonably regrets that his favourites were not always the wisest of counsellors. Her assessment that most of James's life was a "search to recapture the golden youthful quality of his early passion" for Esmé Stuart, the only bright spot in an otherwise bleak childhood deprived of affection, is probably quite accurate, and she is certainly correct that his dominant quality was "an inability to resist love." I
n 1617 James addressed the venerable Privy Council with an official affirmation of his right to love men:

I, James, am neither a god nor an angel, but a man like any other. Therefore I act like a man and confess to loving those dear to me more than other men. You may be sure that I love the Earl of Buckingham more than anyone else, and more than you who are here assembled. I wish to speak in my own behalf and not to have it thought to be a defect, for Jesus Christ did the same, and therefore I cannot be blamed. Christ had John, and I have George.
George Villiers, whose rise was spectacular. This son of a penniless Leicestershire squire was introduced to James in 1614. It is now believed that their first sexual union took place in August 1615 while they were spending a few days together at Farnham Castle. Many years later, Buckingham wrote to James asking "whether you loved me now . . . better than at the time which I shall never forget at Farnham, where the bed's head could not be found between the master and his dog." Buckingham jokingly called himself James's dog, as in a letter addressed to "Dere Dad and Gossope" (gossip, from godparent, meaning chum) and closing "Your most humble slave and servant and dog Steenie." He began as a royal cupbearer, and became a Viscount in 1616, and the Earl of Buckingham in 1617. His relationship with James resulted in the 1617 moral debate in the Privy Council. Sir John Oglander testified before the Council that:

The King is wonderous passionate, a lover of his favourites beyond the love of men to women. He is the chastest prince for women that ever was, for he would often swear that he never kissed any other woman than his own queen. I never yet saw any fond husband make so much or so great dalliance over his beautiful spouse as I have seen King James over his favourites, especially Buckingham.
Despite the remonstrations of the Council, in 1618 Villiers became a Marquess, in 1619 Lord High Admiral, and finally in 1623 the Duke of Buckingham. Buckingham was generally regarded as the most beautiful man in Europe, with his dark chestnut curly hair, a pointed beard of golden brown, clear skin, fine chiselled features, dark blue eyes, and the graceful carriage of the ideal courtier. The King, naturally enough, was George's constant companion, and his love was without qualification.
Buckingham died in the prime of life, aged thirty-six; his heart and brain were placed in urns, and buried at the Cathedral of Portsmouth, where there is also a monument to him in the chancel. His body was entombed in the Henry VII Chapel at Westminster Abbey, hitherto reserved for royalty, where it now resides beneath a recumbent bronze effigy near the tomb of his beloved King James. The magnificent Buckingham tomb is on James's left; on his right is the tomb (with bronze figures representing Hope, Truth, Charity and Faith) of his other lover, Ludovic Stuart, Duke of Richmond and Lennox. King James was responsible for the restoration and remodelling of the Henry VII Chapel—presumably to celebrate for eternity his love for two men.

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