From prisoners at the Tower to the extravagant Stuart masques at Banqueting House and the love affairs of Kensington Palace and Hampton Court Palace, our six historic royal palaces have seen over 1,000 years of LGBT+ history.
Explore LGBT+ royal history at our palaces
Edward II and the Medieval Palace
Medieval Palace, Tower of London
As King, Edward II used the Medieval Palace at the Tower of London. During his lifetime he had been much criticised for being unduly influenced by royal favourites including Piers Gaveston, and later Hugh Despenser the Younger.
After Edward’s deposition and mysterious death, rumours began to circulate that he had had sexual and emotional relationships with these men.
Edward had often flouted royal protocol by rewarding both men with honours and gifts, some of which were reserved for those of royal blood. This earned them the hatred of very powerful men at Court, and ultimately cost both men their lives.Learn more about Edward II on our LGBT+ royal history page
James VI and I's favourites imprisoned
Bloody Tower, Tower of London
James VI and I had a succession of intensely emotional, and probably physical, relationships with men. These favourites were often younger and attractive members of the nobility.
James VI and I first met his favourite Robert Carr, Earl of Somerset in 1607 and made him a gentlemen of the bedchamber. Carr's involvement in a plot to poison his unpopular political advisor, Thomas Overbury, saw him imprisoned in the Bloody Tower.
After publicly opposing Carr's marriage to Frances Howard, Overbury refused the King's orders of an assignment abroad. As a result, he was imprisoned in the Bloody Tower and poisoned to death on Frances' orders.
When her plot was discovered, Frances was placed on trial with her husband. At the trial, Carr was flanked by two men who were prepared to muffle him with their cloaks should he begin to divulge anything that would embarrass the King.
Carr and his wife were sentenced to death but were instead imprisoned for around seven years, in fact in the Bloody Tower where Overbury had been murdered. Both were later released and lived out their remaining lives under considerably more strained financial circumstances then they had been used to.
"I had rather live in a cottage with you than reign empress of the world without you."
Queen Anne to Lady Sarah Churchill, 1692
Love at the Stuart court
Kensington Palace and Hampton Court Palace
Sisters Mary II and Queen Anne exchanged passionate letters with other women. Mary addressed Lady Frances Apsley as her 'husband', while Anne had a long and volatile relationship with Lady Sarah Churchill.
Anne and Sarah Churchill had their last heated argument near the King's State Apartments at Kensington Palace. The relationship between the two women had deteriorated after Anne had started to show favour to Abigail Masham. Anne lavished gifts on Abigail, including a luxurious redecoration of Abigail's apartments at Kensington Palace.
Anne, Sarah and Abigail's volatile relationship was the subject of major feature film The Favourite, which was filmed in the Cartoon Gallery, Henry VIII's Kitchens and Fountain Court at Hampton Court Palace.
Anne later died at Kensington Palace in 1714.
A Maharaja's daughter at Hampton Court Palace
Catherine Duleep Singh and her sisters, Sophia and Bamba, were granted Grace and Favour accommodation in Faraday House, Hampton Court Palace by their Godmother, Queen Victoria.
At the age of 15, Catherine met Lina Schäfer, a German governess who would become her lifelong companion. In 1908, Lina acquired a house in Kassel in Germany and Catherine left England to join her.
Their neighbour wrote, that 'The old Princess [Catherine] would always walk on Fraulein Schäfer’s left, out of respect for her teacher'.
Lina said of their relationship, 'We are like two little mice living in a little house'. When Lina died in 1938, she left all her belongings to Catherine.
Princess Catherine soon had to leave Germany because of the racist attitudes of the Nazis. On her return to England, she used her wealth and connections to rescue and house Jews fleeing Nazi persecution.
Image: (Clockwise, from top) Catherine, Sophia and Bamba Duleep Singh at the 1895 Debutants Ball. © Peter Bance.
A wartime rebel in the Tower
Battlements and Mint Street, Tower of London
Roger Casement was an Irish-born civil servant and human rights activist. He was knighted in 1911 but, just six years later, he was imprisoned in the Tower accused of high treason.
Casement was deeply affected by his experiences of imperialism abroad and wanted Ireland to gain its independence from the United Kingdom. During the First World War, he sought German support for Irish independence, and he travelled to Germany to recruit Irish prisoners of war to form an Irish brigade and help raise a rebellion in April 1916, now known as the Easter Rising.
During Casement's trial, the government circulated copies of diary entries that described his sexual encounters with other men, which was considered unacceptable and scandalous at the time. Casement’s supporters then argued that the journals were forgeries, designed to discredit him, but most modern historians agree that they are genuine.
Casement was found guilty of high treason and executed at Pentonville Prison on 3 August 1916.
"Self-government is our right, a thing born in us at birth, a thing no more to be doled out to us, or withheld from us... surely, it is a braver, a saner and truer thing to be a rebel."
Roger Casement, at his trial in 1916