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General Gayety: Our royally gay history

By | 2018-01-16T04:42:52-05:00 February 1st, 2007|Opinions|

By Leslie Robinson

I stumbled across quite the juicy tidbit the other day. Well, juicy if you like your gossip 200 years old.
A “Today in History” item on noted that a very young United States almost installed a king. Somewhere in my head a bell rang. I dearly hope this indicated an unearthed memory and not tinnitus.
I may’ve once known about this plan for a potentate, but it came as a total surprise to me that the potential monarch, Prince Heinrich of Prussia, was gay.
Just imagine if the father of our country had been 1) royalty, and 2) not the least interested in the mothers of our country. High school history class would’ve been a mite more colorful.
After the Revolutionary War, the new nation operated under the Articles of Confederation, a wildly inadequate framework of government. Alexander Hamilton, George Washington’s chief aide during the war, believed America needed a king. Unable to see into the future when America would have a lot of kings, ranging from King Kong to The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, Hamilton and his compatriots wrote to Prince Henry of Prussia in 1786 and offered him the job.
The prince dithered, and the next year Americans decided to scrap the Articles of Confederation for the U.S. Constitution. King out, president in.
It’s hard to say what sort of King of the United States the Prussian would’ve made. Prince Henry had a talent for the military, leading Prussian troops so successfully during the Seven Years’ War, according to Wikipedia, that he never lost a battle. Apparently he was also famous for butting heads with his brother, King Frederick II of Prussia, better known as Frederick the Great.
And I don’t know if he was famous for it, but it seems to be a foregone conclusion that Prince Henry was gay. We almost had a queen for a king.
The authors of the book “Outing” maintain Prince Henry was “exclusively homosexual.” That’s in contrast to his bisexual brother. I guess Frederick the Great could also be called Frederick the Flexible.
In “Who’s Who in Gay & Lesbian History,” Prince Henry is “a gay blade,” the perfect term for an eighteenth century homosexual military man.
The prince was married, which we know has never been a guarantee of heterosexuality. The “couple” produced no children, so if Prince Henry had become king of this country, there would’ve been a battle royal over his successor. We could’ve wound up with the Marquis of Moldavia.
Actually, I don’t find it very hard to imagine a past leader of this country being gay. What I find hard to imagine is that leader being a monarch, which seems downright unpalatable to little old republican (small “r”) me.
Of course, to some the idea that gays had anything to do with our national beginnings is unpalatable. Which is why what I read about a few Founding Fathers while researching Prince Henry would make such folks impressively nauseous.
Alexander Hamilton, Washington’s wartime aide and temporary pen pal of Prince Henry, is today hailed as one of the most important Founding Fathers, having co-authored the Federalist Papers and served as the first treasury secretary.
But oh my, “Who’s Who in Gay & Lesbian History” suggests he had loving relationships with men, and that Washington was an unhappy fella when Hamilton married. “Outing” notes that Hamilton is suspected “at the very least of having exploited the Commander in Chief’s infatuation with him.”
Now, let me clear my conscience by saying I get very nervous about ascribing gayness to historical figures. But if these books are correct, we had ourselves some Founding Faggots.

About the Author:

BTL Staff
Between The Lines has been publishing LGBTQ-related content in Southeast Michigan since the early '90s. This year marks the publication's 27th anniversary.