It should be no surprise that during the cultural awakening of the European Renaissance, many also felt free to leave the closets of the Dark Ages and explore their sexuality. Such forbidden desires underpinned some of the greatest art of the day, from Shakespearean sonnets to great Italian sculpture. Love letters and contemporary accounts reveal some of the gay romances that prudish historians would later forget, ignore, or actively conceal.
1. King Edward II and Piers Gaveston
The affairs of King Edward II have delivered gossip fodder for centuries. The historical rumors get famously used (in a very historically inaccurate fashion) for homophobic propaganda in Mel Gibson’s Braveheart. But the true love of Edward’s life wasn’t a military adviser thrown from a window. It was the first Earl of Cornwall, Piers Gaveston. King Edward I, a.k.a. “Longshanks,” first assigned Gaveston to serve his son. But when the relationship grew too close, Gaveston was exiled. After Longshanks's death, however, Gaveston returned to “advise” King Edward II. Historians document a tremendous love between the two men, though it’s one that ended when enemies, upset at Gaveston’s preferential treatment, hunt him down. He was eventually run through with a sword and beheaded.