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Tuesday 11 April 2017

What if the Prince is gay?

Posted in: Features
By Jacqui Stanford - 23rd July 2013

Kate and William have welcomed a baby boy
As the global media fixates on the birth of the new Prince, we couldn’t help but wonder, what if he is gay? Are there precedents? Would he be accepted? And what if he wanted to marry a man one day? We explore the idea with Monarchy New Zealand’s Chair Sean Palmer.

The news the prince was born was heralded in our inbox this morning in the form of a press release from UK gay rights group Stonewall, which has found 83 per cent of people in Britain would be ‘very comfortable’, ‘comfortable’, or ‘neutral’ if the first child – and heir to the throne – of Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge grows up to be lesbian, gay or bisexual.

“Millions of people will be celebrating today’s news, just as millions last week celebrated the news of equal marriage in England and Wales. Happily, since last week every child born in Britain is born into a society where gay people are now equal in law,” exclaimed Stonewall Chief Executive Ben Summerskill.

Monarchy New Zealand Chair Sean Palmer is confident that such feelings towards a gay heir would be reflected here, pointing to the broad public support for marriage equality recently.

“I think, in terms of if this baby was to be gay, I don’t think the New Zealand population would have any problem with that.”

The child’s late grandmother Lady Di was of course a friend to our community, and her sons appear to be following in her footsteps. Palmer thinks the Royal Family would be just fine with a gay heir.

“They are very modern in a lot of ways. In fact in many ways they seem to be a little bit ahead of their time,” he says.

“I think if we look at William, Harry and Kate, they would take the idea of a gay member of the royal family very much in their stride. And actually I would say, I think you could probably go so far, as to say the palace has for a long time been quite accepting of gay staff. Even in the first half of the 20th Century, and that was a difficult time. There was no problem. They maintained close friendships with people like Noel Coward. Edward VII was known for moving in the same circles as Oscar Wilde at various times, if I recall correctly.”

Of course, logically, there must have been some gay or bisexual members of the Royal family in the past. Historians agree.

Edward II
Way back in the 13th Century, Edward II may have been married with children, but he was also quite famous for his liaisons with men. “This was a source of much upset to his wife. He preferred their company to hers,” Palmer says. “We have to look at how historians over the centuries have interpreted that, but there is a fair amount of I evidence I would say that he was certainly involved with other men.”

Then there’s James I, who was also well-known for his ‘favourites’. Both he and Edward II were of great concern to social authorities at the time. “In both cases there are a lot of parallels,” Palmer says. “I think one would have to say that they were surely bisexual if not gay.”

In the early 18th Century there was Queen Anne. “There were some questions about how close she was with a number of her female friends,” Palmer says. “We can’t say with any sort of certainty, short of a time machine, but just statistically speaking, if we have had 50 monarchs or something over the last thousand years, the odds are that there are going to have been some.”

Fast forward to a much more open time, and logistically, say the new prince was gay and wanted to marry a man, it would be new ground. Palmer thinks it’s likely a King’s husband would become a Prince Consort, because having two ‘Kings’ would make it unclear who wielded the authority.

“I think I could see, if it went that way, a King and a Prince Consort, and probably a Queen and Princess Consort … there will be precedents that we simply have to look for and adapt to the modern situation.”

While the opposite is often argued, Palmer makes a case for the monarchy being extremely egalitarian, particularly now it’s moving to wipe the gender aspect of sexuality laws.

“When we say that the next person who is born in this family will be our head of state, we’re saying that whatever their strengths and weaknesses, whether they are male or female, gay or straight, tall or short, good health or bad health, shy or outgoing – all the different traits that go into people – we don’t care about any of that,” Palmer explains.

“We don’t care what this child will be born, as long as they are prepared to give their all for their role in service of the countries that they work for. And that is fantastically egalitarian. It doesn’t matter.”

Palmer thinks if there was a gay monarch, the attitude would be “well, let’s see you give everything you can to the role that you have. Do with it what you can and we will base our judgements on that, because we think those other details are not the most important aspects.”

Jacqui Stanford - 23rd July 2013

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