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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The queer histories of Edward II and Richard II of England Fulghum, Allen


Beginning during their reigns, kings Edward II and Richard II of England developed “queer” reputations that have been perpetuated and renegotiated through the present day. Scholars continue to debate how best to understand these elements of Edward and Richard’s legacies, sometimes focusing on possibilities of gender transgression and intimacy between men, and sometimes dismissing such lines of inquiry as stemming from the unfounded allegations of politically-motivated chroniclers. This debate overlaps with a broader conversation about how scholars should reckon with the empiricist, historicist approach that has heretofore been dominant in work dealing with issues of gender and sexuality in history. Drawing on Jonathan Goldberg and Madhavi Menon’s notion of queer unhistoricism, as well as Carla Freccero’s work on queer spectrality, this thesis uses an expansive definition of queerness to move past “were-they-or-weren’t-they” disputes about Edward and Richard, and engage more fruitfully with the presence of queerness in both medieval and modern texts about these kings. Two late medieval poems written in praise of the currently-reigning king, Adam Davy’s Five Dreams about Edward II (c. 1308) and Richard Maidstone’s Concordia facta inter regem et cives Londonie (c. 1392), are similar in their creation of a textual intimacy between the king and the author—a socially-imbalanced intimacy that mirrors the highly-criticized relationships between the kings and their male favorites. I examine these poems in relation to fourteenth- and fifteenth-century chronicles that disparage Edward, Richard, and their relationships with their favorites, linking bad kingship with the feminization of men and excessive intimacy between men. Expanding on Claire Sponsler’s reading of Froissart’s chronicles, I look at a modern British docudrama’s depiction of Edward II and Hugh Despenser’s deaths, suggesting that the series follows Froissart in presenting the queer man as a figure to be denounced in order to suppress the possibility of improper intimacy between men. Finally, I take Richard’s attempt to canonize his great-grandfather Edward as an opportunity to look at how Edward II and Richard II’s legacies as queer kings intersect and reflect each other.

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