The King In An Open Closet
By J.R. Ensey
In the tumultuous world of religion and politics that is America today, the Bible has again been set in the spotlight. Over the centuries men of the cloth have instigated wars, unseated kings, martyred their relatives, and threatened to overturn society itself in order to maintain their view of the written Word. There are vest pocket wars even yet being fought for particular versions of the Christian Bible. This or that version should be used exclusively and the reasons are laid out—some of which are legitimate while others are not. Let us look at one facet of this tug of war, which is a particularly touchy point of contention—the character of those who participated in the process of translating the Bible into the English language.
In Medieval Europe it was anathema to translate the Bible into the common language of the people. In fact, only clergy were allowed to possess a copy of the Scriptures, and that only in the Latin version. Pressure mounted as the people hungered for the Word so they could decide for themselves what God had decreed. Having a Bible in the common language was an idea that helped form the foundation of the Protestant Reformation. Some defied the edicts of popes and kings and began the process. Wycliffe and Tyndale led the way at great personal sacrifice and others bravely followed. As new Greek texts were produced in the early 1500s, a rash of new English versions followed—the Coverdale Bible, Matthew’s Bible, the Great Bible, Cranmer’s Bible, the Geneva Bible and the Bishop’s Bible. In 1604 King James I of England (also known as King James VI of Scotland) approved the development of a new version, which was finally published in 1611 and became known as the King James Version (KJV hereafter). Because of several factors, some religious and others social and political, it ultimately became popular and soon supplanted others in general use.
After two and a half centuries, following the discovery of many new manuscripts in the original languages of Scripture, textual critics and scholars began to publish new versions to the dismay of those who preferred the language of the KJV as well as the traditional textual base of that version. Skirmishes were mounted about new wording and variant readings. With a couple of exceptions, over the next one hundred years these were mainly kept among the clergy and the academic types. When the New International Version (NIV) was published in 1978, it soon caught on and in a few years sales had begun to exceed those of the KJV. It seems apparent that when the KJV only advocates could not be fully discredit the new version by textual criticism alone, they began the ad hominem argument, attacking the publishers and translators rather than the text itself.
THE ASSUMPTION OF CONSPIRACY
One of the primary charges against the NIV was that it seemed “softer” on homosexuality than the KJV because of its choice of words describing that particular perversion. The translators chose to use the term “male shrine prostitute” (Deuteronomy 23:17,18) rather than “sodomite,” and “homosexual offenders and male prostitutes” rather than the KJV’s vague “effeminate…abusers of themselves with mankind” (I Corinthians 6:9). When opponents of the NIV discovered that someone associated with the translation process was a homosexual, they assumed they had uncovered a conspiracy to change the Bible to make homosexuality more acceptable and perhaps even justifiable.
Who was this “conspirator”? She turned out to be Virginia Mollenkott, an English stylist and feminist theologian whose background was in the Plymouth Brethren, a conservative evangelical group. She studied at Bob Jones University, received her doctorate at New York University and taught English at Shelton College in Cape May, NJ. When the NIV was being prepared during the late 1960s and early 1970s, she was consulted as to some of the English phraseology after it had been translated. She was sent bits and pieces of English phrases already translated and assisted with their styling. Her testimony was this: “So far as I know, nobody including Dr. Palmer [Dr. Edwin H. Palmer who served as Executive Secretary of the NIV Committee on Bible Translation] suspected that I was lesbian while I was working on the NIV; it was information I kept private at that time. Dr. Palmer always sent me the batches of translating to review, and I always returned them (with my comments) to him. I have not kept track of which of my suggestions made it into the final version; I am a busy person, and it was a labor love in the Scriptures. I do not think anything concerning homosexuality was in any of the batches I reviewed. I do not consider the NIV more gay-friendly than most modern translations, so I do not understand why anybody would want to bash the NIV because a closeted lesbian worked on it. I was not a translator; if I were I would have argued that the word/concept ‘homosexual’ is too anachronistic to be utilized in translating an ancient text. But I was a stylist and nobody asked me.”1 So, by her own testimony she did not suggest wording of any passages that dealt with homosexuality. Her lesbian leanings were completely unknown to those working on the NIV. So where is the conspiracy?
By this standard of judgment, many conservative pastors and churches would have to be consigned to being “from the pits of hell.”2 As a personal experience, I had a woman who turned out to be a lesbian holding a prominent position in a church I pastored. Should that church have been condemned for not knowing or having proof of such activity at that time? Was its doctrine and worship tainted as a result? Was its pastor a compromising fool for using that person (until her sin was uncovered) who was already on the staff when he assumed the pastorate? Did the church soft pedal the sin of sodomy because of it? By the standards used to condemn the NIV for being soft on homosexuality the answer would have to be in the affirmative on all counts.
This accusation against the NIV has been frankly addressed in James White’s book, The KJV Only Controversy.3 White quotes Dr. Kenneth Barker, Executive Director of the NIV Translation Center: “It has come to my attention that false rumors are circulating, in both oral and written form, that the NIV is soft on sodomy (that is, homosexual sins). The alleged reason for this is that some NIV translators and editors were homosexuals or lesbians.
“Here are the facts. It is true that in the earliest stages of translation work on the NIV (in the late 1960s and early 1970s), Virginia Mollenkott was consulted briefly and only in a minor way on matters of English style. At that time she had the reputation of being a committed evangelical Christian with expertise in contemporary English idiom and usage. Nothing was known of her lesbian views. Those did not begin to surface until years later in some of her writings. If we had known in the sixties what became public knowledge only years later, we would not have consulted her at all. But it must be stressed that she did not influence the NIV translators and editors in any of their final decisions.”
In September 2002, while in the process of writing The Book We Call the Bible, I made a personal inquiry with a current official at the International Bible Society’s headquarters in Colorado Springs, CO. A prompt written reply was received confirming what Dr. Barker had already said years ago—that Ms. Mollenkott had never been on the translation team but been consulted in the late 1960s as an occasional English stylistic reviewer. When she began publishing rather militantly feminist articles, no further materials were sent to her. This was well before she articulated her lesbian views. She had no influence on the translation. The official stated, “We believe the quality of the NIV is completely untarnished by this episode, inasmuch as homosexual practices are condemned just as clearly in the NIV as in any other English version. See Leviticus 18:22; 20:13; Romans 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; 1 Timothy 1:10 and Jude 7.”
White continues: “Dr. Barker then went on to note some facts regarding the accurate rendering of terms in the NIV regarding homosexuality, and concluded by saying, ‘I want to go on record as affirming that the NIV translators are among the most spiritual and godly scholars I have ever had the privilege of knowing and working with.’ The accusation of homosexuality on the part of KJV Only advocates shows us yet once again the obvious double standards that are characteristic of the entire movement. Scholars who are not involved in the entire Bible translation issue have noted the many facts that point to the conclusion that King James himself was a homosexual. (See Otto Scott, James I: The Fool as King (Ross House: 1976), pp. 108, 111,120, 194, 224, 311, 353, 392) Is this supposed to demonstrate that the KJV is somehow a perverted translation that is soft on homosexuality? One might point out that the term itself nowhere appears on the pages of the KJV. Isn’t this proof enough? Using KJV Only standards it is. But, of course, James’ sexual behavior had nothing to do with the translation of the KJV, just as Virginia Mollenkott’s views had no impact upon the NIV.”4
Such explanations have not quieted the shrill voices that wish to discredit the new versions of the Scriptures, particularly the popular NIV, in any way possible.
As a response to these attacks, I included in the book mentioned above information about the sexual appetites of King James, the name that appears on the cover of every KJV Bible. After reviewing a number of public documents, articles and papers, here was the summary: “James had very little contact with women in his youth. In early adolescence, one of his French cousins, Esme Stuart D’Aubigny, a much older man (about thirty-eight years old), became his homosexual partner. He later had many such partners, even granting a pardon to one of his consorts who was convicted of murder. As king he financed lavish masquerade balls, covered himself with jewels, and showered expensive gifts of land and fineries upon the attractive young men known as his ‘favourites.’ The king [lived] in open immorality. ‘I am neither a god nor an angel, but a man like any other. Therefore I act like a man, and confess to loving those dear to me more than other men.’”5 Although these particular quotes came from only one source, a number of others could have been quoted, as we shall see. Having already submitted the information published about James’ perversion, the book later stated, “While the accused woman’s name appears in no NIV Bible that I know of, on the very cover of every KJV Bible is the name of a notorious homosexual—King James himself!”6
I have been challenged a couple of times by KJV Onlys (those advocating use of the KJV only; KJVOs hereafter) on the historical accuracy of James’ homosexuality. It is said that the information should not have been published, or should have been softened by some kind of less absolute statement like, “It was reported, or rumored, that King James was involved in homosexual activities.” If those who write about historical events and personages must always use such language (“because who can be totally sure?”), or a lengthy list of references on every statement, then our already thick history books would have to read like, “Lewis and Clark reportedly rafted up the Missouri River to the Mandan Indian villages in North Dakota.” Or, “It was reported that General Washington and his men crossed the Delaware River at night to confront the English troops at Trenton.” (What if some disgruntled soldier who had been “unjustly” discharged had later written, “It was actually at first light when Washington crossed the river”?) Or, “It was commonly reported, although there are no living witnesses who heard the conversation so we can’t be for sure, that General Lee outright rejected General Longstreet’s suggestions during the battle of Gettysburg, opting for the fatal charge by Pickett’s troops across the wheat field into the direct fire of the Union soldiers.” Or some might feel it necessary to give anyone’s opinion that differed with the generally accepted view. While reports alone cannot confirm events with absoluteness, who would have any true sense of history if every statement had to be weighted down with disclaimers? Can we no longer quote from reputable encyclopedias, such as the Encyclopedia Americana: “[King James] disdained women and fawned unconscionably on his favorite men”? References do need to be provided in most cases unless there is a preponderance of evidence and a general acceptance of the situation as stated.
In this essay a number of references will be provided to show that there is a preponderance of evidence that James was not the moral, upright and godly person that the KJVOs insist that he was. In order to use the example of Virginia Mollenkott to condemn the NIV, they must hold the KJV translators and King James himself in high esteem. They cannot let any charge sully these men or they would have to drop the references to Mollenkott. The king and the translators were mere men, subject to moral and spiritual failure like other men. The truth is, they were not saints, nor did they claim to be. I have yet to hear any KJVO discuss the well-documented chronic drunkenness of at least one of the translators. It is not my intention to trash the translators, or even King James himself, but since my statements have been challenged, I present the following to allow objective and fair minded persons to make up their own minds about the historical accuracy of the king’s morality.
THE HISTORICAL RECORD OF KING JAMES
Responding to the charge that the article by Karen Wojahn (cited above) did not reference her statement about the homosexual bent of King James, it is obvious she did not feel the necessity to quote the numerous available sources since it is fairly common knowledge among readers of history. She could have taken the time and space in the magazine to do that, yet that was not the major thrust of her article. Following is a list of some of the books that describe this aspect of the king’s life from which supporting citations could have been made by both Wojahn and me:
Otto Scott, James I: The Fool As King (Ross House: 1976), pp. 108,111,120,194,200,224,311,353,382
Antonia Fraser, King James-VI of Scotland/I of England (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1975); pp. 36,37,38,123
David Harris Willson, King James VI and I (Oxford: Oxford Publications, 1956), pp. 36,99-101, 336-337, 383-386, 395
Robert Ashton, James I By His Contemporaries (London: Hutchison of London, 1969); p. 114
Samuel Rawson Gardiner, A History of England, 1899; Vol. 4, p.112.
Geddes MacGregor, A Literary History of the Bible (Nashville: Abingdon, 1968) MacGregor devoted a whole chapter entitled, “QUEEN” JAMES.”
David Moysie, Memoirs of the Affairs of Scotland (Edinburgh: Wal. Ruddiman Junior and Co., 1830)
Caroline Bingham, The Making of A King (New York: Doubleday Publications, 1969); pp. 128-129,197-198
Will and Ariel Durant, The Story of Civilization 7, The Age of Reason Begins (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1961); p. 136
William McElwee, The Wisest Fool In Christendom (Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group, 1974); p. 216
[It is interesting to note that the above books were all published prior to the publication of the NIV in 1978 and before the “outing” of Virginia Mollenkott; hence, were not published as a response to her involvement. That is not to suggest that the others listed below were published as a response.]
Justo L. Gonzales, The Story of Christianity, Vol. 2 (New York: HarperCollins, 1985); p. 152
Jon E. Lewis, The Mammoth Book of Private Lives (Berkeley, CA: Publishers Group West, 2000); pp. 62,65,66
Michael B. Young, King James and the History of Homosexuality (New York University Press, 1999)
David M. Bergeron, King James and Letters of Homoerotic Desire (University of Iowa Press, 1999); p. 126 and throughout
Carrolly Erickson, Royal Panoply: Brief Lives of the English Monarchs (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2006)
Catherine D. Bowen, The Lion and the Throne (New York: Little, Brown and Co., 1990)
Even the staid Encyclopedia Britannica (1911 Edition), noted for it’s historical accuracy, put it discreetly: “His undignified appearance was against him, and so were his garrulity, his Scottish accent, his slovenliness and his toleration of disorders in the court, but above all, his favour for handsome male favourites, whom he loaded with gifts and caressed with demonstrations of affection which laid him open to vile suspicions.”
(Some of the above books may be referenced below by author only.)
It was expected of kings in those days to sire sons who could succeed them. James was married and sired eight children by his wife Anne of Denmark, although only three of them lived beyond infancy: Henry, Prince of Wales (1594-1612), King Charles I of England, Scotland and Ireland (1600-1649), and Elizabeth Stuart (1596-1662). This fact does not preclude his innocency of the charges of homosexuality. A number of contemporary persons have been outed (openly confessed or caught) who were married with children.
“One area of the life of King James that for many years remained clouded in controversy was allegations that James was homosexual. As James did father several children by Anne of Denmark, it is actually more accurate to say that he was allegedly a bi-sexual. While his close relationships with a number of men were noted, earlier historians questioned their sexual nature, however, few modern historians cast any doubt on the King’s bi-sexuality and the fact that his sexuality and choice of male partners both as King of Scotland then later in London as King of England were the subject of gossip from the city taverns to the Privy Council. His relationship as a teenager with…Esmé Stuart, Earl of Lennox was criticized by Scottish Church leaders, who were part of a conspiracy to keep the young King and the French courtier apart, as the relationship was improper to say the least. Lennox, facing threats of death, was forced to leave Scotland.
In the 1580s, King James openly kissed Francis Stewart Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell. Contemporary sources clearly hinted their relationship was a sexual one. When James inherited the English throne from Queen Elizabeth I in 1603, it was openly joked of the new English monarch in London that “Elizabeth was King: now James is Queen!” If there is still any doubt, it should be noted that George Villiers, also held an intimate relationship with King James, about which King James himself was quite open. King James called Villiers his “wife” and called himself Villiers’ “husband”! King James died in 1625 of gout and senility. He is buried in the Henry VII chapel in Westminster Abbey, with one of his favorite male suitors on his right, and another on his left. (http://www.greatsite.com/timeline-english-bible-history/king-james.html)
Fraser recounts a poem James wrote to Esme Stuart:
“And shall I then like bird or beast forget
For any storms that threatening heaven can send
The object sweet, where on my heart is set
Whom for to serve my senses all I bend?”
Those who insist on casting King James as an honorable and upright man point out that he even wrote a tract entitled “Counterblast to Tobacco,” written to help thwart the use of tobacco in England. He also wrote something called Basilicon Doron, addressing the issues of kingship and general morality. He addressed comments to his son in which he inveighed against “witchcraft, willful murder, incest and sodomy” and “effeminate ones.” During his reign the Parliament reaffirmed the Anti-Buggery Law, which had been on the books since 1533 and remained there until the 19th century. This was done on more than one occasion over the years as public resistance to homosexuality grew. These steps encourage supporters to resist any effort to mar his character with accusations of immoral conduct. To allow this charge to stand would somehow sully the name “King James Version,” the “perfect English Bible.”
The most oft-quoted advocate of King James’ godliness and innocence is King James VI of Scotland & I of England Unjustly Accused? by Stephen A. Coston, Sr. (St. Petersburg, FL: Konigswort, Inc., 1996). He claims to have found no absolute “proof” of James’ homosexuality, yet he gives no indication of what would constitute “proof.” Today, one must catch a person in the act, or have a video, or something of that nature to provide incontrovertible proof of one’s immoral activity. What proof could be brought forth that would stand in a modern court of law other than witnesses who spoke of it, and suggestions of it in his own letters and personal testimony before the Privy Council? There were no cameras then. Coston insists in principle that his public persona as titular head of the Church of England is what should be considered—his pronouncements against gross immorality, his quoting of certain Bible passages, his admonition to his son to avoid sodomy, and his authorizing of the development of a new Bible. Do we not know of modern kings and princes whose private lives did not reach the level of their public show of faith? James would be expected to publicly condemn such perverted acts even if he practiced them in private. KJVOs promote Coston’s book as being “filled with facts” and with “proof,” making all the other biographers’ tomes nothing but blatant lies. The criteria he cites as basis for “proof” he disallows for James’ detractors. He justifies James’ (French) kissing of his courtiers as common for that day. Then why did it cause such a stir? He dismisses a lover’s written hope to soon have his arms again around the king’s legs as referring to a common gesture of the greeting of royalty. (Citations, please.) He also cites as evidence of innocence that no one brought formal charges against the king. How foolish that would have been! Would that fact provide proof of innocence in modern times?
Most apologists for James’ purity of character point to former courtier Anthony Weldon as the instigator of a vicious rumor that James I was homosexual. This is said to stem from a tract printed by Weldon during the reign of James that cast aspersions on the people of Scotland, James’ birthplace. It was deemed “racist” and he was subsequently dismissed from court. In 1650, twenty-five years after the death of James, he wrote another tract called, “The Court and Character of King James I,” in which he referred to James as a homosexual. KJV supporters declare that it was said to exact vengeance for being expelled from court.7 His tract quickly became a best-seller. Some claim that this is the foundation of the idea of James’ homosexual philandering. However, it seems that if one of James’ political enemies casually remarks twenty-five years after his death that James is at least bi-sexual it would have had little effect unless there were others who had knowledge of the same. I have been unable to find the exact words of Weldon making the accusation of buggery (the British equivalent of homosexuality), but I did find these: “[James’] tongue [was] too large for his mouth, which ever made him speak full in the mouth, and made him drink very uncomely, as if eating his drink, which came out into the cup of each side of his mouth. . . . That [weakness in his legs] made him ever leaning on other men’s shoulders. . . . He would never change his clothes until worn out to very rags. . . . [He was] the wisest fool in Christendom.”8 Even supporters confirm such behavior and say that his social skills were extremely few.
If advocates of King James’ virtues use the king’s own writing to elevate his morals, others use it to confirm their claim of perversion. In King James and Letters of Homoerotic Desire, David Bergeron shares excerpts of seventy-five letters between King James and his lovers turned up in recent years during his extensive research in the British Library, the National Library of Scotland and the Bodleian Library at Oxford. He reveals the “gripping biographical sketches of the king’s ‘sweet hearts.’” One of the letters of James to George Villiers, the Duke of Buckingham, has this line, “For protest to God I rode this afternoon a great way in the park without speaking to anybody and the tears trickling down my cheeks, as now they do that I can scarcely see to write. But alas, what shall I do at our parting?” On another occasion he penned, “I had rather live banished in any part of the earth with you than live a sorrowful widow’s life without you.”
In other letters the content was more “saucy,” to use Villiers’s term. A good example is his own letter to the king: “All the way hither I entertained myself your unworthy servant with this dispute, whether you loved me now...better than at the time which I shall never forget at Farnham, where the bed’s head could not be found between the master and his dog. —Your majesty’s most humble slave and dog, Steenie.”
According to Richard Rambuss, “David M. Bergeron’s King James & Letters of Homoerotic Desire affords us a long look into James I’s passionate, unmistakably amorous relations with three markedly handsome male courtiers—Esmé Stuart, duke of Lennox; Robert Carr, earl of Somerset; and George Villiers, duke of Buckingham—as each in turn emerged as the king’s ‘favorite.’ The terms of these relations are most richly and intimately divulged, Bergeron argues, in the private correspondence that passed between the king and his men. This study thus presents itself as an unlocked cabinet or closet, a secret storehouse of familiar letters that not only ‘opens the interior space of the king’s private life in unparalleled ways.’”9 (Italics his)
During a protracted separation of the king and Villiers in 1623 a spate of letters were exchanged. Some commentators classify them as indecent or repulsive. The letters explore themes of absence, the pleasure of letters, and a preoccupation with the body. Familial and sexual terms become intertwined, as when James greets Buckingham as “my sweet child and wife.” Villiers was generally regarded as the most handsome man in Europe, with his dark chestnut curly hair, a pointed beard of golden brown, clear skin, fine chiseled features, dark blue eyes, and the graceful carriage of the ideal courtier. The king, naturally enough, was George’s constant companion, and his love was without qualification, as he says in a letter to Buckingham:
I naturally so love your person, and adore all your other parts, which are more than ever one man had, that were not only all your people [i.e. Frenchmen and relatives] but all the world besides set together on one side and you alone on the other, I should to obey and please you displease, nay, despise them all.
The affectations and their outgrowths evidently became so pronounced and obvious that James was kidnapped in 1582 and forced to issue a proclamation against his first love, his older cousin, Esmé Stuart, and send him back to France. It is said that the Spanish ambassador wrote home to say, “The king goes to Newcastle today, much as another monarch went to Capri.” The insinuation was that the king went to Newcastle for the same reasons Tiberius went to Capri (suggesting a homosexual liaison.)10
While riding through the bustling streets of London from 1603 to 1621, one was liable to hear the shout “Long live Queen James!” King James I of England and VI of Scotland was so open about his homosexual love affairs that an epigram had been circulated which roused much mirth and nodding of the heads: Rex fuit Elizabeth: nunc est regina Jacobus—“Elizabeth was King: now James is Queen.”11 Catherine Bowen in The Lion and the Throne said that James’ sexual orientation was so widely known that Sir Walter Raleigh joked about it in public saying “King Elizabeth” had been succeeded by “Queen James.” James would have laughed his more prudish biographers to scorn, for, like Oscar Wilde addressing the jury, in 1617 James addressed the venerable Privy Council (dealing with morality) with an official affirmation of his right to love men:
I, James, am neither a god nor an angel, but a man like any other. Therefore I act like a man and confess to loving those dear to me more than other men. You may be sure that I love the Earl of Buckingham more than anyone else, and more than you who are here assembled. I wish to speak in my own behalf and not to have it thought to be a defect, for Jesus Christ did the same, and therefore I cannot be blamed. Christ had John, and I have George [Villiers].12
This could hardly be construed to mean anything but a confession of his attraction to men. As the Scottish chronicler Moysie delicately put it, “He conceived an inward affection to the Lord d’Aubigne [French courtier Esmé Stuart], and entered in great familiarity and quiet purposes with him.” A more fervid clergyman put the matter more bluntly: “The Duke of Lennox went about to draw the King to carnal lust.” Be this as it may, Lennox, who, according to a contemporary description, was a man “of comely proportion, civil behaviour, red-bearded, and honest in conversation,” and brought charming French manners, music, and gaiety into James’s austere Highland surroundings. Whether Lennox loved James for himself or for his royal patronage we do not know, though inevitably there is some fawning in all regal love affairs. Like Sir Francis Bacon much later, Lennox rose to wealth and power and nobility, and inevitably aroused the jealousy of others who coveted his position. A conspiracy of nobles was formed against him, and in 1582 James was abducted by his would-be protectors, Lennox was ordered to leave the country on pain of death, and the two lovers never saw each other again.13
Medieval royal philandering was matched only by the political intrigue that accompanied it. James arranged for George Gordon, sixth Earl of Huntley to marry Lennox’s sister, Lady Henrietta Stuart, in 1588. This marriage of convenience was convenient because it made it easier for Huntley to be elevated to the rank of Captain of the Guard, and he proceeded to lodge himself in the King’s own chamber (as bodyguard, of course). Another Scots chronicler, Fowler, commenting on this irregular barracking, concluded, “It is thought that this King is too much carried by young men that lie in his chamber and are his minions.”14 James was not particularly monogamous, and Fowler adds that “the King’s best loved minion” was Alexander Lindsay, Lord Spynie, the boy nicknamed “Sandie” whom James appointed as his Vice-Chamberlain. Another minion of the early 1580s was Francis Stewart Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell, whom James nonchalantly kissed and embraced in public, causing great scandal. After a time, however, Huntley took advantage of the King’s kind generosity by plotting to capture and dethrone James—for which he was convicted of treason and executed.15
Robert Carr was a Scottish lad who came to London in 1607. After a fateful fall from his horse in front of the king’s viewing stand at a festival, James rushed to his side and cradled him in his arms, ordering the finest medical care for his broken leg. He recognized him as a former pageboy in his court. The king visited him during his recuperation and later appointed him “Gentleman of the Bedchamber.” A courtier later wrote of their relationship: “The Prince constantly leaneth on his arm, pinches his cheek, and smoothes his ruffled garment. Carr hath all favours; the King teacheth him Latin every morning [and Greek every night?]. I tell you, this Scottish lad is straight-limbed, well-favoured, strong-shouldered, and smooth-faced, with some sort of cunning and show of modesty.”16 In one of Bergeron’s letters is one from James to Carr after Carr had ended the relationship. The king intones, “I leave out of this reckoning your long creeping back and withdrawing yourself from lying in my chamber, notwithstanding my many hundred times earnest soliciting you to the contrary...Remember that (since I am king) all your being, except your breathing and soul, is from me.”
But James was fickle, and soon found another favorite in George Villiers, whose rise in court affairs was nothing less than spectacular. This son of a penniless Leicestershire squire was introduced to James in 1614. It is now believed that their first sexual union took place in August 1615 while they were spending a few days together at Farnham Castle. Many years later, Buckingham wrote to James asking “whether you loved me now . . . better than at the time which I shall never forget at Farnham, where the bed’s head could not be found between the master and his dog.” (This event was referenced in the personal correspondence between these men above.) Villiers became the Earl of Buckingham, and was often just called “Buckingham.” He jokingly called himself James’s dog, as in a letter addressed to “Dere Dad and Gossope” (gossip, from godparent, meaning chum) and closing, “Your most humble slave and servant and dog Steenie.” He began as a royal cupbearer, and became a Viscount in 1616, and the Earl of Buckingham in 1617. His relationship with James resulted in the 1617 moral debate in the Privy Council. Sir John Oglander testified before the Council that
The King is wonderous passionate, a lover of his favourites beyond the love of men to women. He is the chastest prince for women that ever was, for he would often swear that he never kissed any other woman than his own queen. I never yet saw any fond husband make so much or so great dalliance over his beautiful spouse as I have seen King James over his favourites, especially Buckingham.17
Another contemporary witness to all these peccadilloes and liaisons was a Frenchman named Theophile de Viau (1590-1626). Years before Weldon’s claims of James’ perversion, de Viau composed an obscene poem called “Au marquis du Boukinquan,” relating that
Apollo with his songs
Debauched young Hyacinthus
Just as Corydon ------ Amyntas,
So Caesar did not spurn boys. [an obvious reference to Tiberius]
One man ------ Monsieur le Grand de Bellegarde [a friend of Viau],
Another ------ the Comte de Tonnerre.
And it is well known that the King of England
------ the Duke of Buckingham.
(The familiar slang terms representing sexual intercourse were used where the dashes appear above.)
Another contemporary of James, Francis Osborne, observed this: “In wanton looks and wanton gestures they [James and Buckingham] exceeded any part of womankind. The kissing them after so lascivious a mode in public and upon the theatre, as it were, of the world prompted many to imagine some things done in the tyring house [i.e. attiring or dressing room] that exceed my expression no less than they do my experience.”18 Biographer Carrolly Erickson informs us that James’ fawning over his paramours caused a “new level of outrage, especially when he compounded his offense, in the view of many, by heaping Buckingham with costly jewels, lands and lucrative offices.
By 1607 James had stopped living with his wife Anne, and from then to 1620 he cavorted with Villiers and “minions” brought into court to comfort and humor the king. Corruption was duly noted by the nobles and members of Parliament and at times the country was on the verge of civil war, partly precipitated by the power exercised by Villiers and the wantonness pervading the entire administration. When he became ill in 1620 with gout and a “nervous illness” from which he would not recover, he encouraged Villiers to marry Lady Catherine Manners. He expressed his hopes that offspring might come from that union “so I may have sweet bedchamber boys to play with me.”19
Not only was James viewed as a homosexual lover of men, he was ruthless in his treatment of his perceived enemies. His “divine right of kings” doctrine placed him above the law in his own eyes. He victimized countless “heretics” and women, according to biographer Otto Scott. Official torture (some of which he was said to be personally involved in), murder and mayhem were quite well known during James’ tenure as king. But those episodes that expose him as little better than unscrupulous kings before him or contemporaries with him are not the point of this essay. All of Europe bled as a result of the religious wars and ethnic cleansings of the late Middle Ages. The divine right of kings gave him justification for both his mistreatment of others and his perverted sexual appetites.
Some kind soul wrote: “Sinners need God, even when He uses them.” King James is proof of the principle that God uses, not just saints and reverends, but sinners as well. King James, this self-imagined pedant from Scotland, notwithstanding his profligacy and luxury, notwithstanding his scandalous homosexual appetence and his unquenchable lust for the same, was used by God to bring the Bible in English to the Anglo-lingual world. And that is not all. Churchill acknowledges King James sexual addiction, and lists a few of the most notorious love affairs (Robert Carr, Earl of Somerset, the good-looking, quick-witted, extravagant youth, George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, etc).20
King James died in 1625 of gout, grief and senility. Buckingham (Villiers) was removed from power and sent to foreign wars and was assassinated in 1628. The affection between him and James is expressed in the fact that his body lies beneath a bronze effigy on one side of the king’s tomb in the Henry VII Chapel at Westminster Abbey, normally reserved for royalty. On a tablet attached to his tomb is an inscription describing him as “The Enigma of the World.” On the other side of the king lie the entombed remains of Ludovic Esme Stuart, Duke of Richmond and Lennox. King James was responsible for the restoration of the Henry VII Chapel, presumably to celebrate his love for those two men.
I take no joy in the reports of King James’ obvious sexual perversions. They lend no credibility to the Bible that bears his name; however, they do not deter me from any trust in the KJV. I find no reason to believe that he usurped the place of the translators when it came to references to homosexuality, although some others do feel that their choice of words in the relevant passages reflected a desire to not embarrass the king. I personally consider that unlikely.
My point is that it is not possible to completely discount every reference to James’ sexual involvement with certain courtiers, especially those by authors who have no obvious reason to point it out. History is history regardless of whose deeds—or misdeeds—are spotlighted. I do see, however, the reasons that the KJVOs must come to the king’s defense and paint the accusers with a broad brush of bias and personal agenda. The argument waxes thin in view of the mountain of evidence that points to the guilt of the king.
The evidence is quite clear that Weldon did not plant the idea of James’ homosexual philandering but that he only watered the already thriving vine. To claim otherwise would be historical revisionism at its worst. The contemporaries of James avowed it, his own letters intimated it, the dismissal of his wife to live apart for the last eighteen years of his life gives it credence, and his personal testimony before the Privy Council confirms it. Historians without depending on Weldon as a source corroborate it. Even in the face of all of these witnesses, some naïvely cling tenaciously to his innocence: “There is no recorded objective documentation that King James ever practiced or promoted sodomy, the historical record only knows of King James’s heterosexuality and condemnation of sodomy.”21 Advocates seem to hold that no one can truly know of his guilt, but everyone should be aware of his innocence. Sorry, but they can’t have it both ways. Nor can his religious training and interest in the Scriptures cannot erase the facts. We know those today who are very religious but caught up in that perversion. Many of them have wives and children—and, doubtless would not prefer the gay lifestyle for their own sons, and even encourage them away from it as did James.
Regarding his publication of the KJV, it was commissioned within a year or so of his taking office as King of England. Rather than a profound interest in distributing the Word of God, it was fairly obvious that he wanted the Geneva Bible displaced since he disdained its marginal notes that did not seem to support his “divine right of kings” theory.
No, I wasn’t there to witness the sins of King James personally. Nor do I know anyone who was. But when we cite history with a preponderance of evidence, we do not in all cases have to add a disclaimer that “this may or not be totally accurate.” To some degree, that should be understood, at least by the criterion of personal knowledge. Each of us will have to make the choice as to whom we will believe. That being said, let me repeat that I do not personally hold that the KJV was tainted by the king’s preferences (although some do, and it may have been), nor do I believe that a homosexual or lesbian on the NIV project corrupted its translation and is therefore “straight from hell.”22
Let us conclude this essay with the words of Abraham Lincoln: “Fellow citizens, we cannot escape history. We…will be remembered in spite of ourselves. No personal significance or insignificance can spare one or another of us. The fiery trial through which we pass will light us down in honor or dishonor, to the latest generation.” History is indeed inescapable. It bears no respect of persons.23
3. James R. White, The King James Controversy (Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1995), p. 245,246
5. Karen Ann Wojahn, “The Real King James,” Moody Monthly, July-August 1985, p. 87
6. J. R. Ensey, The Book We Call the Bible (Willis, TX: Advance Ministries, 2002); p. 163
7. Had he said this publicly and in writing during the reign of James, the king would have had his head, of course. If those who had known the king as possessing pure and upright character had read his tract, he would have been persecuted or laughed out of the country, along with the printer, if there was no substance to his claim.
8. http://av1611.com/kjbp/articles/sorenson-ch10-2.html. If anyone can provide the actual words used by Weldon in his accusation, please inform me.
9. Richard Rambuss provides an overview of Bergeron’s book in the Shakespeare Quarterly, Volume 52, Number 1, Spring 2001, pp. 145-148; published by The Johns Hopkins University Press. This excerpt is taken from his review.
10. See Seutonius re: the sex life of Tiberius on Capri; www.libchrist.com/other/homosexual/kingjames.html;
11. Rictor Norton, “Queen James and His Courtiers,” The Great Queens of History, http://www.infopt.demon.co.uk/jamesi.htm
12. Ibid. A reference to George Villiers.
22. While I can make this statement with a clear conscience, it is also reasonable to say that if either the King James Version or the New International Version was tainted by the homosexual leanings of those not directly involved in the translation process, it would have to be the KJV. The medieval translators were certainly beholden to their king by whose pleasure they served. They acquiesced to his wishes on other issues, such as his insistence on a Bible without marginal notes, the exclusion of particular terms, and dependence on specific former versions. To embarrass the king would be the last thing on their minds. On the other side of the coin, by her own admission, Virginia Mollenkott did not deal with any biblical passage, even in English, which concerned the subject of homosexuality.
23. Quoted in Distilled Wisdom: An Encyclopedia of Wisdom in Condensed Form, Alfred Montapert, Editor (Englewood, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1964); p. 198
“On March 24, 1603 James I succeeded to the throne of England, and by virture of this act became spiritual head of the Chruch of England. That Church had already enjoyed the honor of having the grossest of voluptuaries for its supreme head; it was now to enjoy the honor of having the greatest liar, and one of the greatest drunkards of his age, in the same position.”
At a meeting to discuss church polity and practice at Hampton Court in January of 1604, where he would hear the Puritan appeal for reform, James “took a conspicuous and most undignified part.” This was because he was “anxious to display his proficiency in theology...Church writers, in dealing with the subject, have felt compelled to employ language of shame and indignation at the conduct of the king...[The parties knew] that they were dealing with a dissembler and a fool.”
It was at the Hampton Court meeting that Mr. Reynolds, a Puritan, of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, suggested that a new translation of the Bible be undertaken “by his majesty’s special sanction and authority. The vanity of the king was touched and the great work was ordered to be executed.”
The king also assumed a “ridiculous” attitude on the observance of the Sabbath. Catholics looked on it as a holiday; the Puritans as a day of rest. “To counteract these efforts, James published a ‘Book of Sports,’ advising the people that Sunday was not to be a day mainly for religious rest and worship, but of games and revels.”
“Severe as may have been some of the historians who have written the fate of this king, none can be said to have exaggerated the many despicable features of his character...[He was] a nervous, driveling idiot who acted.”
All of the above quotes came from Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical literature, McClintock and Strong, Eds.; [Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1981], Vol. 4, pp. 761-763. While they do not directly address his homosexuality, they do demonstrate a degenerate mindset open to potential immorality and a personality capable of pushing a personal agenda.