29 NOVEMBER 2003, Page 44

Gay Lionheart?

From Katie Grant Sir: On what facts does Paul Johnson base his assertion that Richard the Lionheart (one illegitimate son, one marriage) indulged in homosexual practices with 'rough trade', or, indeed, any trade at all (And another thing, 15 November)? Roger of Howden's assertion that 'Philip [Philip II of France] so honoured him [Richard] that every day they ate at the same table, shared the same dish and at night the bed did not separate them' hardly indicates 'rough trade', and anyway Howden is almost certainly trying to illustrate trust and friendship, not any kind of sexual partnership. The entire myth of Richard the Lionheart's homosexuality is, so far as I know, based entirely on this one sentence, John Gillingham reminds us that Henry II often shared a bed with William Marshal. Should we add him to the list of homosexual monarchs? Furthermore, as Gillingham also points out, if Richard had been homosexual, is it remotely possible that Gerald of Wales, the most bitter and scurrilous gossip of the late 12th century, would not have delighted in telling us?

Katie Grant Glasgow