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