SIGHT­SEE­ING

Two his­toric palaces are proud to mark the 50th an­niver­sary since ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity was de­crim­i­nalised, with after-hours LGBT+ themed tours, says Sarah Riches

Where London - - Contents -

The Tower of Lon­don and Hamp­ton Court Palace are mark­ing a mile­stone in gay rights.

This year marks the 50th an­niver­sary of the 1967 Sex­ual Of­fences Act, which de­crim­i­nalised ho­mo­sex­ual acts be­tween men over 21 in Eng­land and Wales.

To cel­e­brate, His­toric Royal Palaces (HRP) is host­ing night-time tours that delve into the LGBT+ past of the Tower of Lon­don and Hamp­ton Court Palace. The tours bring to­gether sto­ry­telling, per­for­mances and ex­pert talks that ex­plore ideas of gen­der and sex­u­al­ity from across cen­turies of royal his­tory.

Founded in 1066, the Tower of Lon­don peels back its his­tory in Pride ,Power and Pol­i­tics (26-27 May;p.29), a tour that ex­plores the chang­ing at­ti­tudes to gen­der and sex­u­al­ity from the 12th cen­tury to the present day.

As you’re guided around Traitors’ Gate, the Bloody Tower, the Chapel Royal of St Peter ad Vin­cula (‘St Peter in chains’) and Me­dieval Palace, you’ll learn about King Ed­ward II’s close male friend­ships, how he treated his favourites – and how his be­hav­iour re­sulted in the re­bel­lion of the earls.

Learn about how King Henry VIII first made ho­mo­sex­ual acts a crime by in­tro­duc­ing the Bug­gery Act of 1533 – the first piece of leg­is­la­tion on sodomy – which was fu­elled by a pe­riod of re­li­gious up­heaval that saw the king re­place the Pope as the head of the church.

You’ll also dis­cover the dan­ger of gay sex­ual slan­der and how the al­leged ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity of a 20th-cen­tury pris­oner, Roger Case­ment, was used in Par­lia­ment to build a case against him. The tour ends in the Jewel House.

Hamp­ton Court Palace is host­ing Pride at the Palace (p. 35), a se­ries of evening tours for over 16s. As you stroll through the palace’s court­yards and clois­ters, as well as the Tu­dor, Queen’s and King Wil­liam’s apart­ments, you’ll learn about for­mer in­hab­i­tants, from the Ge­or­gian courtier John Her­vey and his ru­moured royal gay lover to the in­ti­mate re­la­tion­ship be­tween Queen Anne and her mistress of the robes and her ‘favourites’ Sarah Churchill and Abi­gail Masham. The 1885 Crim­i­nal Law Amend­ment Act was in­tro­duced dur­ing Queen Vic­to­ria’s reign, re­in­forc­ing male ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity as a crime while not ac­knowl­edg­ing fe­male same-sex de­sire. It was thought that Queen Vic­to­ria didn’t be­lieve les­bians ex­isted – while more re­cent his­to­ri­ans be­lieve women’s ex­clu­sion from the act says more about the monar­chy and par­lia­ment – but you’ll have to at­tend the tour to find out why. A free HRP pod­cast is avail­able to down­load from July, which will ex­plore Henry VIII’s views on ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity as a crime and an­a­lyse the im­pact his views had on so­ci­ety.

This im­age: Tower of Lon­don Below: Hamp­ton Court Palace’s Haunted Gallery

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