Role models of greatness.

Here you will discover the back stories of kings, titans of industry, stellar athletes, giants of the entertainment field, scientists, politicians, artists and heroes – all of them gay or bisexual men. If their lives can serve as role models to young men who have been bullied or taught to think less of themselves for their sexual orientation, all the better. The sexual orientation of those featured here did not stand in the way of their achievements.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Prince Andrew of Greece

Queen Elizabeth II’s husband, Prince Philip the Duke of Edinburgh, had a mother who was born profoundly deaf and a father who was bisexual. His father, Prince Andrew of Greece (1882-1944), was a disgraced military commander, charged with treason for failure to carry out orders in the Greco-Turkish War (1919-1921) and subsequently stripped of his royal titles. Blamed for the loss of Greek territory in that disastrous war, he was imprisoned and sentenced to death. His wife, Princess Alice of Battenberg*, arranged for intervention by British King George V, who negotiated for Andrew’s release and ultimate rescue. The photo at right shows Prince Andrew and Princess Alice in 1905, two years into their ill-fated marriage.

Andrew had always lived a lascivious lifestyle, carrying on one affair after another with both men and women, so it is not surprising that he largely ignored his wife and children. After they drifted apart, Alice sent Prince Philip (at the age of nine) to England to be cared for by his relatives, the Mountbattens, while she and her four daughters returned to Germany. Prince Andrew lived out the rest of his life in exile in Monaco, all the while continuing a string of bisexual affairs. Prince Andrew, who had been near-sighted from his early days, was always seen wearing glasses, but in later years he sported a monocle as a dashing accessory. Before things fell apart, Andrew, tall and good looking, cut a fine figure with Alice of Battenberg, one of Europe’s loveliest princesses, as the photo attests. They were living in Corfu when their only son (their fifth and youngest child), Prince Philip, today's consort of Queen Elizabeth II, was born in 1921.

Andrew (shown in painting at left) had grown up the son of King George I (a German speaking Danish Prince and King of Greece) and the Russian Grand Duchess Olga Konstantinova. After his father was assassinated, Andrew’s brother Constantine became King of Greece. Unfortunately, Constantine was forced to abdicate because of his neutral stance during WW I, and Prince Andrew and his family lived in exile in Switzerland for three years, until his brother was reinstated in 1920. In the following year Prince Philip was born on Corfu.

Unfortunately, Andrew died before his son married the English Queen Elizabeth II in 1947, having succumbed to a heart ailment. He died at the Hotel Metropole in Monaco in 1944 and is buried in the gardens of Tatoi, the Greek royal residence to the north of Athens. Just before his marriage to Elizabeth in 1947, Prince Philip became a British subject, taking his mother's surname, Mountbatten, thus renouncing his right to the Greek and Danish thrones. A more detailed chronology of Prince Andrew’s life can be discerned from the video at the end of this post.

Note: The current British Prince Andrew (born 1960) was named after his bisexual Greek grandfather. It is widely known that Prince Andrew is the favorite son of Queen Elizabeth, in spite of all that scandalous Fergie business.

*Prince Philip’s mother, Princess Alice of Battenberg, was born profoundly deaf at Windsor Castle in the presence of her great grandmother Queen Victoria. She grew to become one of Europe’s most beautiful princesses, adept at lip reading and speaking German and English. At the coronation of King Edward VII in 1902, Alice met Prince Andrew, ultimately marrying him in Darmstadt, Germany, the very next year. She spent her early married life in the turbulent political arena of Greece. After being ignored by her husband and shamed by his blatant affairs and political disgrace, she suffered a severe nervous breakdown and eventually entered the Greek Orthodox Church to became a nun, founding a female religious order. She creating quite a stir as a nun who chained smoked and played canasta. Princess Alice lived out her final years in Britain and died at Buckingham Palace, where she had been invited to live after the fall of King Constantine II of Greece (her brother-in-law) and the imposition of military rule there in 1967. Upon her death in 1969 she was interred in the royal crypt at Windsor Castle, but her wish to be buried in Jerusalem was finally realized in 1988, when her remains were transferred to a crypt below a convent in Gethsemane.

Princess Alice had attended the royal wedding of Queen Elizabeth II to her son Prince Philip in 1947, but her four daughters (Prince Philip’s sisters) were conspicuously excluded, because all of them had married German nobles, three of them high ranking Nazi officers. Oddly, Prince Philip never told Princess Diana that his mother had been born severely deaf, all the more astonishing in light of the tireless work Princess Diana did on behalf of the deaf community in Britain.

In this photo a young Prince Philip is shown holding his mother's hand. Philip learned sign language to be able to communicate with his mother. Prince Andrew is shown seated and surrounded by his four daughters. Philip was the only male child in the immediate family.


Prince Philip’s German ancestry was always problematic. When his sister Cécile died in a plane crash in 1937, her funeral was attended by Hermann Göring. There are photographs of the then 16-year-old Prince Philip at the funeral, surrounded by relatives in SS and brownshirt uniforms. Philip’s sister Sophia was photographed sitting opposite Hitler at the wedding of Hermann and Emmy Göring. Sophia herself was married to Prince Christopher of Hesse-Cassel, an SS Colonel attached to Himmler's personal staff. Their eldest son, Karl Adolf (Prince Philip’s nephew), was named in Hitler's honor. During WW I the Battenbergs “translated” their name from German to the English word Mountbatten (remember that Prince Philip’s mother was a Battenberg; "berg" in German means "mountain"). Accordingly, Prince Philip anglicized his name to Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten (the German House of Battenberg was a branch of the House of Hesse), to distance himself from his actual German family name of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg (on his father’s side). Similarly, the House of Hanover (German) changed its name to the House of Windsor. The late Queen Mother was strongly opposed to the marriage of her daughter Elizabeth to Philip, but eventually gave in to her daughter’s entreaties.

Prince Philip the Duke of Edinburgh and his young bride, Queen Elizabeth 11, in 1947.


The British royal family has spent more than sixty years trying to downplay or disguise Prince Philip’s infamous heritage. Queen Elizabeth II’s own grandmother, Queen Mary, had been born a German princess, and the British Royal family’s strong German roots caused uneasiness during the two world wars. Hoping to sweep all this German business under the carpet for good, in 1960 Queen Elizabeth II decreed by special order that all of her children and grandchildren were to use the name Mountbatten-Windsor (which sounds a lot less German than Battenberg-Hanover). Thus the recently married Prince William has the official name: William Arthur Philip Louis Mountbatten-Windsor.


Prince Andrew of Greece and Princess Alice of Battenberg



Prince Philip’s cousin, Prince Charles Edward, had a career that further embarrassed England. Charles Edward was born into the British royal family at Claremont House (Surrey, England) in 1884. He accepted a German dukedom and found himself fighting for the Kaiser in World War I. Later he was deprived of all his British titles and branded a traitor. But the worst was his assistance in Hitler's rise to power, so Prince Charles Edward ended his days as a convicted Nazi. Charles Edward had been Queen Victoria's favorite grandson, and he was first cousin to three European monarchs: English King George V, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, and Nicholas II, Russia’s last Tsar. Unfortunately, Queen Victoria made a decision that ruined his life by decreeing that Prince Charles Edward would become the Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, the German principality from which Victoria’s husband Albert originated. At 16 years of age and speaking no German, Charles Edward left England to become Carl Eduard, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, with 13 castles in Germany and Austria, hunting lodges, hotels, a power station, tens of thousands of acres of farmland in Bavaria and a duchy with an income worth £17 million pounds at today's value. In no time flat the German Kaiser married him off to his own niece, Victoria. In retrospect, I’m sure Charles Edward realized that sometimes it’s better to stand up to one’s grandmother, even if she is the queen.

While things are much more progressive these days, royals are perpetual sources of scandal and gossip. Prince Harry, who for years supplied the tabloid press with ample fodder, recently married Meghan Markle (a bi-racial commoner), and just a year ago Lord Ivar Mountbatten married his male partner, James Coyle. This was the British royal family's first ever same sex wedding (held in the Mountbatten family's private chapel). Fifty-something Lord Ivar Mountbatten is a cousin of Queen Elizabeth, and like the Queen, he is a direct descendant of Queen Victoria. He is also a great-nephew of Earl Louis Mountbatten, who was Prince Philip's uncle.


Sources:

Wikipedia
Vanity Fair
http://crownstiarasandcoronets.blogspot.com/2016/07/princess-alice-of-battenberg-princess.html

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Billy Strayhorn

Out & Gay in the Jazz World

Billy Strayhorn (1915-1967) attended high school in Pittsburgh, while studying classical music on the side. His trio played daily on a local radio station, and he wrote a musical for his high school. He also wrote "Chelsea Bridge", "Take the A-Train", "Lotus Blossum" and “Lush Life,” all of which have become jazz classics. He started composing both words and music for "Lush Life" at age 16, which became a prophetic anthem for his life. He did indeed get to Paris, become a socialite and suffer from alcoholism. That such a world-weary lyric could come from the pen of a teenager is astounding.

At 23 his life changed completely when he met Duke Ellington, who was performing in Pittsburgh in 1938. Ellington was so impressed that he took him into his household, where he lived as part of the family. Ellington's nickname for Billy was "Sweet Pea." Strayhorn worked for Ellington for the next 29 years as an arranger, composer, pianist and collaborator until his early death from esophageal cancer, the result of a lifetime of cigarette use. As Ellington described him, “Billy Strayhorn was my right arm, my left arm, all the eyes in the back of my head, my brain waves in his head, and his in mine.”

Strayhorn was openly gay, but his association with Ellington helped protect him from discrimination. Until age 33 Strayhorn lived with his partner Aaron Bridgers, a jazz pianist and composer who moved to Paris in 1948. Until his death, Strayhorn then maintained a relationship with his subsequent partner, Bill Grove, who was Caucasian; however, they kept separate apartments, likely as the result of Strayhorn's higher profile and interracial prejudices of the day.

Strayhorn significantly influenced the career of Lena Horne, who recorded many of his songs. Strayhorn’s compositions are known for the bittersweet sentiment and classically infused harmonies that set him apart from Ellington.

Strayhorn to the rescue:

In a dispute over royalties in late 1940, ASCAP forbid its members from broadcasting any of their compositions over the radio. But Ellington, one of ASCAP’S most celebrated composers, needed radio broadcasts to promote record sales, which paid his orchestra’s salaries. Strayhorn rallied to save the day. During a hurried cross-country train ride to join Ellington in Los Angeles, Strayhorn (not an ASCAP member), got almost no sleep for six straight days, writing song after song after song. Strayhorn’s prolific, engaging new works kept the Ellington Orchestra afloat for months. When it was time for a new radio theme (Ellington’s own “Sepia Panorama” was still forbidden on the airwaves), Ellington chose Strayhorn’s “Take the A Train,” premiering it in early 1941. The rest is jazz history.

Queen Latifah (who lives in the Hollywood Hills with her partner Jeanette Jenkins) sings “Lush Life,” written when Strayhorn was a young, unseasoned song writer. Most performers say it’s difficult to sing and sounds like no other song in the standard repertoire.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Prince Henry of Prussia

A little-known fact of American history is that there had been a real possibility that our fledgling nation's first leader could have been a gay Prussian royal from the House of Hohenzollern.

Seriously.

Born Friedrich Heinrich Ludwig in Berlin, Prince Henry of Prussia (1726-1802) was the younger brother of Frederick the Great. Prince Henry was a distinguished soldier and statesman who in 1786 was backed by Alexander Hamilton, Baron von Steuben and other disgruntled American politicians as a cultured and liberal-minded candidate for “king” of the United States, when Americans were considering a constitutional monarchy form of government (George Washington had declined an offer to serve as "king"). Prince Henry was 60 years old at the time. In the end, a republic form of government won out, headed by a president, so the offer was not open long enough for Henry to accept, and George Washington was selected as the unanimous choice of the electors to serve as our first president.

While it might seem far-fetched that a Prussian man would be accepted by the American people as their leader, it must be recalled that without the military leadership of the Prussian Baron von Steuben, our continental army would likely not have prevailed against the British. Benjamin Franklin, while based in Paris, recommended Baron von Steuben to General George Washington, who brought von Steuben to Valley Forge. Von Steuben affected an astonishing military turnaround, whipping into shape Washington’s rag-tag band of soldiers.

Prince Henry (childless), Frederick the Great (childless), and Baron von Steuben (never married) all had one thing in common, and that is sexual relations with men (some historians promote an opinion that Alexander Hamilton's intense relationship with John Laurens included intimate physical relations). Benjamin Franklin was well aware of Baron von Steuben’s proclivity for young men but did not tell Washington that von Steuben was about to be run out of France for his “immoral” acts, which von Steuben never denied. Fellow countryman Prince Henry was also brazenly open about his sexual interest in young men. Both Prussians had advanced military skills, and Prince Henry led Prussia’s troops so successfully during the Seven Years' War that he never lost a battle. Baron von Steuben never married, but Prince Henry entered into a childless marriage of convenience, as was the custom of high-born homosexuals of the time.

Three of Prince Henry’s affairs with younger men are documented: the 17-year-old French émigré Count of Roche-Aymon, Major Christian Ludwig von Kaphengst (1743-1800) and an actor known as Blainville. It is known that Major Kaphengst exploited the prince's interest in him to lead a dissipated, wasteful life on a Prussian estate not far from Rheinsberg, Prince Henry's castle near Berlin. It was also reported that Henry often chose the officers in his regiment for their handsomeness rather than for their military competence.


After the death of his brother Frederick the Great, Henry became an advisor to his nephew, the new King Frederick William II of Prussia (regent 1786-1797), and during the last five years of his life advised his grand nephew, King Frederick William III, who reigned over Prussia from 1797 to 1840.

Sources:

Keith Stern’s Queers in History (2009)


Warren Johansson essay in Wayne R. Dynes’s Encyclopedia of Homosexuality

Wikipedia