The second part in our video series on George Boleyn answers the questions that Clare and I were asked about George’s sexuality. It was a very popular question and I hope you enjoy our discussion on this topic.

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32 thoughts on “George Boleyn – Was He Homosexual?”
  1. There is so much, lets say “artistic licence” about all the Boleyns.
    The tv series had George as gay and a rapist! That series has a lot to answer for!

    1. If u go to the Tudor page they tell what’s fact and fiction I did my research after I watched the series I loved it was entertaining and I don’t think it was wrong at all history can be very boring!! So Michael hurst spiced it up to get the viewing I watched his video and he admits he changed some of the facts !!!

  2. It just goes to show that not only does TV, film and novelist ‘interpret’ history in their own way and push it out of the realms of reality, but some historians do too, (referring to Warnicke in this instance…)
    I have never agreed with the thinking that George was gay, personally I would have thought the court gossips would have had a lot more to say, and document too, if this were true.
    What you both had to say on this question shows the realism of the matter.

  3. It’s unfair to judge people in the past against contemporary standards of behavior. Apples and oranges. Having bedmates, close same-sex friendships where the friends kiss and write letters of their love for one another were common in the past, and not a sexual orientation indicator.

    Yes, for sure some historical figures were homosexual, but honestly? Who cares? It’s nobody’s business but theirs.

    1. I think Alison Weir has made the convincing argument
      That buggery was seen as depraved and was illegal
      So if men were known to have or admitted to
      Have practiced it, then other depraved acts like
      Incest would be believable as it shows a lack of respect
      For the moral rules of the time.

      Of course, marrying the sister of a former mistress
      Was the same… 😉

      1. But there was no mention of “buggery” in the indictments or in any contemporary resources with reference to George, or any of the other men, so that just doesn’t make sense. Retha Warnicke was the first person to come up with this idea and that wasn’t until 1989.

  4. As a gay man myself, I find it hard to understand why-other than the impact of it on what actually happened at the time- George being a homosexual would matter very much except to perhaps the bigots and religious loonies. I have never believed George and Anne had a sexual relationship- I think it would have been far too much of an outrageous act for either of them to have considered it. Perhaps it( his gayness) explain his wife’s hostility?.

    1. It’s not his alleged sexuality that matters to people, it’s the way that it is used in fiction, and some non-fiction. He’s not just presented as gay, he is presented as a sexual deviant who mistreated his wife, causing her to then take revenge, and who committed incest with his sister. I don’t have a problem with the idea of George being homosexual at all, there’s just no evidence for it. If there had been rumours about his sexuality then they would certainly have been used against him in 1536. As for his wife being hostile, there’s no contemporary evidence that she was.

      I hate sources being twisted and they have been in the past.

        1. She didn’t. According to the primary sources all she did was mention that she, George and Anne had discussed the King’s sexual problems. George was found guilty of incest, adultery and plotting against the King, and that was down to Cromwell and Henry VIII not Jane. John Spelman, a judge at the trials wrote that the evidence came from Lady Wingfield. See for more on this.

  5. Why is it people always have a pop at the Tudors !! It was not history lesson was for entertainment I thought every one knew that !! We can only telly speculate any way but makes good debate obviously George did something to his wife as she sent him to the block so she must of hated him !!!

    1. The Tudors obviously wasn’t meant to be taken seriously but it backs up ideas of George from fiction and some history books. It confused some people because a lot of it was very accurate – speeches word for word for example. I receive emails every week from people whose ideas of George are based on The Tudors and fiction. I loved The Tudors but when people are asking you all the time if George really did hate Jane and rape her, then you have to handle it head on. This video was based on questions Clare and I were asked via comments on the Q&A post and by email, so we’re simply answering questions people had and not intending to have a pop at anything or anyone.

      As for his wife, she didn’t send him to the block, all she did was say that she, Anne and George had discussed the King’s sexual problems. It was Cromwell and Henry VIII who sent Anne, George and the other four men to their deaths.

  6. Without wishing to bring a libel action on myself I would venture to say that there are quite a few household names today who have ‘swung both ways’ – especially pop stars, actors and politicians, into all of which brackets George would easily fit!

    1. Definitely, but there’s no evidence that George did. The words used to back up the idea were also used to describe Henry VIII and Thomas Culpeper, and the book that Smeaton and George wrote in was also written in by Thomas Wyatt.

  7. I can’t help some of my comments I’m nuts on the Tudors I watch it nearly every day my favourite performance of Henry I love it and Elizebeth golden age !!!

    1. I think Jonathan Rhys Meyers was really good as Henry. He showed how arrogant Henry could be, but also how easy it would have been to fall in love with him. As we know, Henry wasn’t always a tyrant, he was a charming, intelligent man too.

      1. That’s why I am so fascinated with Henry I don’t believe he was all bad in a way I can’t help but admire him some people think he was a failure but I don’t . Yes he could be cruel but he suffered tremendous pain in later life so it was not all plain sailing come the end !!!

        1. Yes, a very complex man. I think people who seem him as just a monster forget that there must have been something about him that made Catherine and Anne fall in love with him.

    2. Susan, I loved THE TUDORS, too! In fact, I’m watching the series again on Amazon Prime now (Jane Seymour has just died.)

      Although many people were critical of Jonathan Rhys Meyers because he didn’t have red hair, I thought his performance was absolutely brilliant, capturing the essence of everything we know about the man as a man and as a King.

      Brilliant series!

      My only wish is that, instead of going on to do THE BORGIAS, the producer (can’t remember his name right now–HELP!) had gone on to tell the story of Mary Tudor (so brilliantly played by Sarah–oy ve! Can’t remember her last name, either! MORE HELP, please!–and Elizabeth. Although THE TUDORS seemed to correspond with all the Elizabeth movies released during that time, I still would have loved to see Mary’s story and how it intertwined with Elizabeth, which really hasn’t been portrayed, not even in Glenda Jackson’s great BBC/Masterpiece Theatre work so many years ago, which picks up just before Elizabeth becomes queen.

  8. I agree Claire. And I wonder if there wasn’t something of the little boy in him that brought out protective instincts as well as passion. Love is complex and inexplicable, not to mention irrational.

  9. The issue of the book is an easy one: books in those days were very expensive and precious things, to some people they are still, and they were passed from one person to another. The men were cousins, so it is to be expected that they may own the same book, they may have passed it through the family; they were friends and they were poets; they may have liked the same book and passed the copy as presents from one to another. The same book may have been passed from one generation to another and each owner as now puts their name in it. That the book was controversial and had some saucy things to say about marriage and relationships, well; two men owning such a book; wow; well boys will be boys!

    George Boleyn having a sexual relationship with Mark Smeaton, as in the Tudors, unlikely; his status was higher than the court singer and player. It was not a relationship he would look for and to be honest until the Tudors I was not aware he had a gay relationship. i assumed the Tudors had invented it. I forgot that it had been suggested by Retha Warnicke. It is a long time since I read her book back in the 90’s. I did not think it was necessary to the storyline and one of the things we have to do these days; have a token gay relationship in everything which is insulting to people who are gay as it demeans genuine love relations between gay partners and uses it just for base entertainment.

    I believe that there is scant if any evidence that George Boleyn had a gay relationship with anyone. I forget his exact words on the scaffold save they refere to him living an ungodly life. That could mean a variety of things, including turning away from the Gospels, but as a reformer that is not very likely, but it could refer to him being a womanizer, in fact that is more likely than anything else, although I would love to know the evidence for that as well. It could have been taken at the time to mean he was guilty of the charges of incest with the Queen, but he had denied this and historians believe he was not guilty here either. There must have been just as much speculation as to what George Boleyn was on about back then as there is now. But with scant evidence; there is nothing that can be concluded. Personally, no I do not believe he had gay sexual relations or that he was inclined that way in any event. I think he may have had a few ladies at the court and sent a few tongues wagging instead.

  10. just wondering how come there are no portraits of either George or jane or any papers documents in fact anything to do with them ,it just seems strange that nothing survives ,was everything perhaps destroyed after their deaths in a rage by henrys orders they seemed such (the boleyns)a prominent family to tjhink nothing remains.there

    1. There are no surviving contemporary portraits of Anne Boleyn either, we just have the 1534 medal. I suspect that any portraits of George and Jane were destroyed after their executions or are in private collections or known as “unknown man” or “unknown woman”, there are lots of those.
      Regarding documents, we do have documents to do with them. We have the manuscripts George had translated for Anne, we have letters written by George and we have the manuscript that George owned, the satire on marriage.

  11. Thanks for that information Claire ,so there could be “unknown man /woman portraits out there hanging in some castle or manor of these very famous people .

  12. I dont believe that George hated Jane Parker but I dont believe that their relationship was close and intimate. I believe it was more to do with duty which was what marriage really was in those days. I believe that there may have been a hint of jealously on Jane’s part regarding George’s relationships with both of his sisters. Again I dont believe they did commit incest it was fabricated and it has been said that when George gave evidence he did admit saying something treasonous about the king but other than that his defence case was very good and if it had been a true court then he probably would have been called innocent. The downfall was not to take just Anne out but her family who could have been seen as risen too high. The one thing I do want to know is whether Henry and Anne really did love each other or was it infatuation on his part and ambition on hers?

    1. no, George did not admit to saying anything treasonous. when directly asked he was silent (shock maybe?) ad when he went to deny it he was a tad late and looked guilty.

      I think he said it or something like it in jest and it came back to bite him. Some things just should never be said even when kidding and both Anne and George learned that too late.

      1. I may have misread that, I though he admitted saying that the king was believed impotent. But the rest is correct, if the trials had not been arranged that way he surely would have been acquitted. Anne was pre-judged for the earlier convictions of the men found guilty of adultery with her, therefore she stood trial before her brother. George stood trial a few hours after Anne on Monday 15 May. As Anne had been found guilty before George had stood trial he too was pre-judged because he could hardly be acquitted when his sister had already been found guilty of incest. The order of the trials had been very cleverly arranged to ensure the difficult case against George could not realistically fail. Everyone who witnessed George’s trial, including the Imperial Ambassador Eustace Chapuys, confirmed that he put up a magnificent defence and many thought he would be acquitted. Chapuys confirmed that those watching were betting 10 to 1 that he would be acquitted and the court chronicler Charles Wriothesley said that his evidence was a marvel to hear.

        I am now wondering how different history would have been and would it have been for the better is Arthur hadn’t died…or if Anne was left to marry Henry Percy?

  13. why is the degrading word “Homosexual” still being used as a label you guys talk about political correctness. The royals should be ashmed of their dirty games to gain power and keeping. Queen Mary of Scotts was the real Queen of her time. they bring shame on their Ancestors. So what if George was gay they all inperfect.

    1. OK, so you say that the word “homosexual” is degrading but then say that being gay is “inperfect”. That doesn’t make sense.
      In the Tudor period, being gay was not acceptable. Sir Walter Hungerford was executed for it in 1540. It was seen as perverted and sinful so it was a huge deal to suggest that George was. However, there is no evidence that he was anyway, which is the point of this post.

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