KING EDWARD II OF ENGLAND (d. 1327); By the 14th century, as John Boswell illuminated in the brilliant Christianity, Social Tolerance and Homosexuality, the Church had radically altered its attitude towards “sodomy.” If, in the 12th century, the king of France could elevate his lover to high office and live to tell the tale, such was more than impossible two centuries later. Among the earliest victims of this changed attitude, and certainly the most important, was Edward II, King of England.
His love affair with Piers Gaveston, which had begun ten years before his marriage and lasted for thirteen years, ended in the death of Gaveston at the hands of hostile barons. It is now believed that Gaveston, who appears in literature in Marlowe’s play Edward II (and, no surprise, wildly inaccurately in homophobe Mel Gibson’s execrable Braveheart) was in actuality a composite character of many of the king’s “favorites” a term which implied intimacy at the time.
Edward’s next friendship, with Hugh le Despenser, resulted in the murder of both lovers. In a grisly application of the punishment fitting the crime, and in a manner clearly revealing the sexual roles of the king and his friend “Hugh’s genitals were cut off and burned publicly, and Edward was murdered by the insertion into his anus of a red-hot poker.”