Following the death of Henry VIII, there were a few turbulent years and three sovereigns of Britain.
One of these was Lady Jane Gray, who only ruled for only nine days, making her the shortest reigning sovereign of the United Kingdom.
These tumultuous times subsided when Elizabeth I took the Crown. Elizabeth’s half-sister, Queen Mary, had abolished the Buggery Act 1533 that their father had implemented. Queen Elizabeth I had this reinstated, it has been stated by historians that Mary had reverted back to the Catholic Cannon law.
When Elizabeth I reinstated The Buggery Act 1533 she excluded the amendments made by her half-brother, Edward VI, who died at sixteen. This meant you could be hanged for the act of buggery and could also have your assets stripped once again. This in itself suggests to many that she was using this the way Henry VIII had; as a strategy move, if need be.
As most historians are aware, Tudor England’s mentality witnessed attitudes that by todays’ standards would be considered akin to homophobia wherein no one would actually believe that men could be attracted to each other, probably more not understanding sexuality than it being homophobia.
Later travellers were shocked to discover that in both the Americas and Africa homosexuality was widespread, Europeans thought of this as evil and barbaric, owing to their Christian faith.
You don’t have to look too far away from the Crown to witness signs of homosexual life.
Two close confidants to the Elizabethan court were Fulke Greville, and Phillip Sydney. The rumours that they were lovers were widespread amongst society at the time, Greville even planned a joint monument for himself and Sydney in St Paul’s Cathedral, it was never built. However, the simple intention alone indicates the nature of the relationship, as also its recognition by the Church and the Crown.
At 23, Greville along with Sydney resigned to attend court in 1577, with both men becoming firm favourites to the Queen. It is known that Elizabeth I valued Greville’s sober character and administrate skills.
Greville became a Member of Parliament for Southampton, but the Queen did shun him on more than one occasion for leaving the country to participate in conflicts overseas with Sydney. Interestingly, it has been suggested on more than one occasion that Greville may have wrote some Shakespeare. It is more than technically possible as Greville was confident in writing.
One thing we do know after Sydney was killed in a campaign on 17 October 1586, Greville memorialized his beloved friend in his biography Life of the Renowned Sir Phillip Sydney. He was also known for other work too, so you can understand why his name has been mentioned in regards of the rumours about Shakespeare.
After the Queen’s death, and James I came into power, Greville’s good fortune continued. He represented Warwickshire in parliament for a few terms of office. He also became Treasurer of the Navy for a while through the early years of James I. Later, he became Chancellor and Under-Treasurer of the Exchequer. This career led him to gain the title of Baron Brooke.
One of his greatest achievements was when he was granted Warwick Castle by King James I in 1604 and restored it to its former condition, spending twenty thousand pounds on it, equivalent to millions in todays’ money. Greville’s sexuality was never questioned because at this time in history no one would think of someone being homosexual. However, the laws relating to the crime of buggery did still exist. These laws were often used in association with other offences, such as use of witchcraft, until the eighteenth century.
The key to survival appears to be discretion, just the same as adultery was an offence, but if it was behind closed doors then it wasn’t really thought of as an issue at all.
Greville lived a long life at Warrick Castle as a bachelor, but sadly even his fortune didn’t save him.
His manservant turned a knife on him in a rage before committing suicide himself, after finding out how little he would be left in Greville’s last will and testament. The knife wound was not fatal, it took weeks for Greville to die. Naturally back then, surgery was in its primary stages, and it is thought the practices used would result to his fatal and painful demise.
This goes to prove the theory that homosexuality, although frowned upon, was accepted in some parts of society at least.