Friday, August 31, 2012

Happy Labor Day! More Pics!

More Vintage Photos of Gay Couples

What's an 18th Century Lesbian to do?

Mary East, a Breeches-clad Brawd

 In 1731 Mary East donned masculine clothing, assumed the name of James How, and took a small public house at Epping for "himself" and "his" consort, another woman. Here, and subsequently at the White Horse public house at Poplar, the two women lived together as man and wife for eighteen years – "and raised a considerable sum of money". Though relatively wealthy, with £3,000 to £4,000, they kept no servants, and entertained no friends at home, presumably to keep the husband's real sex a secret. As "James How", Mary served on all the parish offices, and was occasionally a foreman on juries, establishing a very good reputation with "his" neighbors. 

"The Tavern Scene" by William Hogarth 1732

 But the secret of Mary East's real gender was discovered by a woman who had known her in her youth, and the couple became the victims of an escalating extortion. Ultimately the price for silence became too much to bear, and in 1766 East, now dressed as a woman, brought the matter to court. She boldly prosecuted her blackmailer, William Barwick, for extorting considerable sums of money from her for concealing her sex; he was convicted and sentenced to stand four times in the pillory and four years' imprisonment. 

 This public disclosure, however, made it necessary for the two women to abandon the White Horse, and the couple went into retirement. Mary boldly returned to the parish to settle her affairs and collect her property. "She was dressed in a riding habit, with a black hat and feather: so that her acquaintance could hardly believe her to be the same person, she having generally appeared in an old man's coat, woolen cap, blue apron, etc."

"Mrs. How" died after a total of 39 years of "matrimony"; Mary East survived her partner for a long time, but never took another "wife". Our historian claims that both women adopted this arrangement as a result of both their husbands-to-be having been hanged for highway robbery. They probably fabricated this explanation in an effort to account for what would otherwise be inexplicable for the conventionally-minded; surely they were lesbians.

From Homosexuality in Eighteenth Century England, a sourcebook compiled by Rictor Norton.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

More Vintage Gay Couples

Here's my latest batch of Vintage Gay Couples!

It takes me a hours and hours online to find vintage gay photos that I haven't seen before. Once I've collected a decent sized batch, I try to clean them up a bit before posting. I don't do any heavy restoration, I don't want them to look brand new. Mostly I just correct the contrast, remove damage from faces and try to minimize any distortion from bad photo scans.  Here is an example of a before and after. Notice that I left the damaged background and just restored the faces. Lightening up the photo and adjusting the contrast made a huge difference too.

 I thought about restoring the photograph below, but I'm no Photoshop expert and it would take me hours to get rid of all the blemishes on this pic! If anyone wants to take a crack at it, be my guest!

Support Gay Marriage, get involved with Gay Rights!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Ludwig II of Bavaria

Ludwig II of Bavaria, the queen who was king.

Ludwig II was born on August 25th,1845 to Maximilian II of Bavaria (then Crown Prince) and his wife Princess Marie of Prussia.The eldest son, his parents intended to name him Otto, but his eccentric grandfather, Ludwig I of Bavaria,  insisted he be named after him. Young Ludwig would have a much closer relationship to his grandfather than with either of his distant unloving parents. Later in life Ludwig would refer to his mother as “my predecessor’s consort.” Ouch,  soooo cold! 

His father died unexpectedly when he was just 18; leaving Ludwig ill-prepared to handle the responsibilities of the throne. Looking back in 1873, he described the situation as follows:
"I became king much too early. I had not learned enough. I had made such a good beginning … with the learning of state laws. Suddenly I was snatched away from my books and set on the throne. Well, I am still trying to learn" 

One of the young Ludwig's first acts as king was to summon his idol, Richard Wagner, to court. On 4 May 1864, the 51-year-old Wagner was given an unprecedented 1¾ hour audience with the king. Wagner wrote, after meeting the young king: 
… Today I was brought to him. He is unfortunately so beautiful and wise, soulful and lordly, that I fear his life must fade away like a divine dream in this base world … You cannot imagine the magic of his regard: if he remains alive it will be a great miracle!

 Ludwig was completely smitten with Wagner, as this letter to him reveals:
... Love has strength for all. You are the star that shines upon my life, and the sight of you ever wonderfully strengthens me. – Ardently I long for you, O my presiding Saint, to whom I pray! I should be immensely pleased to see my friend here in about a week; oh, we have plenty to say! If only I could quite banish from me the curse of which you speak, and send it back to the deeps of night from whence it sprang! – How I love, how I love you, my one, my highest good! . . .
          My enthusiasm and love for you are boundless. Once more I swear you faith till death!
          Ever, ever your devoted

Richard Wagner

 Ludwig had always had an attractive to handsome men, but his religious upbringing made it difficult for him to accept his sexual orientation. While in his teens, Ludwig became best friends/ lovers with the handsome aristocrat Paul von Thurn und Taxis.  They rode, read poetry, staged scenes from the operas of Wagner and probably did a lot of other stuff behind closed doors.

Paul von Thurn und Taxis
A letter from Paul to Ludwig:
"Dear and Beloved Ludwig! I am just finishing my diary with the thought of the beautiful hours which we spent together that evening a week ago which made me the happiest man on earth... Oh, Ludwig, Ludwig, I am devoted to you! I couldn't stand the people around me; I sat still and, in my thoughts I was still with you... How my heart beats when, as I passed the Residenz, I saw a light in your window."  
 Ludwig and Paul seemed to be having a great time, but Paul decided to follow his families wishes and find a suitable bride.  Paul's wealthy and powerful family wanted an heir and the same pressure was soon on Ludwig.  Every ambitious mother was trying to force her daughters on the handsome young King, but they met with now success. 

King Ludwig briefly experimented with heterosexuality, at least superficially. On New Year’s Day in 1867, to the delight of all Bavaria, young King Ludwig announced his engagement to Princess Sophie. The wedding was to take place in August, but by early summer it had been postponed to October. Just two weeks before the wedding, Sophie received a letter canceling the engagement. Ludwig writes in his diary:
"Sophie written off, the gloomy thoughts are gone. I long and thirst for freedom."
Now he would have time for his true love!

Poor Sophie Charlotte with her fiance King Ludwig II of Bavaria

Eventually King Ludwig formed a very deep relationship with Richard Hornig, a groom employed at one his many royal stables. This sounds like a porn movie scenario to me! Hornig was a dashing blond and blue eyed Prussian, five years older than the king who shared Ludwig's passion for riding (or perhaps being ridden?)  Very quickly, and not surprisingly, Hornig was promoted to the office of Crown Equerry and Master of the Horse. This made him a much more respectable companion for the king. Hornig was in charge of all the royal stable, coaches and 500 horses. It's interesting to note that this affair started the summer that Ludwig was to be married to Sophie… so now we know why she was dumped and Ludwig never married!

 Richard Hornig in 1911, such a stud!
 This is a passage from Ludwig’s diary:
 November 21th, 1867
….I have not received any letters from R, and I feel so sad. My heart is but popping out from my chest, and twice I have cried. Foolish me, for doing so, for I must know that he is unable. I hold his letters to my face, and kiss the signature he's given me, and hold the letters to my skin, closing my eyes and believing he is with me. I wish to have no other men, though I am tempted, and Gott, have I met beautiful boys in Berlin, but they have not his eyes and their voice do not resemble his. I can see him in his bed, naked and perhaps tearful, his long, yellow hair over his smooth back, and I bite my lips, for I hate that he is so far away from me. So far.

A Letter from Richard Hornig to Ludwig:

  October 29, 1871
The morning is crystal clear today, compared to the drizzle of rain that was falling yesterday during both day and night. I welcome the sight of green fields covered in morning dew and the warm sun that enters through my window. The other servants have run off to their chores, but I lingered behind just so I could write you just for a few minutes. The rooms are empty without you, and I cannot bring myself to speak, because my lips thirst for you. When will we be able to be together again? I find myself missing the quite evenings we used to share together and your uneasy temper. I pray that as I close this letter and send it away, you are done with your business, and are contemplating your return. I must leave you now, for already they knock on my door, and I must tend the horses.

From the diary entries and Hornig’s letters, it obvious that their relationship was more than just a casual roll in the hay for either of them. King Ludwig and Richard Hornig traveled together in a four horse carriage to the king’s remote castles and private chalets.  It all sounds very romantic; they dined alone by candle light, waited on by Ludwig’s servants outfitted in 18th century style livery. Soon Hornig was acting as a go-between for Ludwig and his ministers which caused quite a scandal in royal circles.
Hornig was not Ludwig’s only lover, he was obsessed with beauty and so he had a succession of handsome and stylish young men in his life. Two of them were actors; the Hungarian Josef Kainz and Alfons Weber. Ludwig showered them with expensive gifts, vacations and inviting them to stay in his castles with him. They were the gay equivalent of his royal concubines; we all know what sluts actors can be!
 Josef Kainz
Back to Wagner: Ludwig  had a huge unrequited crush on the composer Richard Wagner, a known womanizer. Ludwig generously paid off all of Wagner’s debts and even built a theater and a villa for him.  Without Ludwig’s patronage, Wagner might have never been able to get out of debt or complete many of his greatest works. Reports are that Wagner knew about Ludwig’s attraction to him; there were many passionate letters. Wagner cautiously played with Ludwig’s affection in order to keep the money rolling in. He was a cock-teaser and apparently never “put out.” It must have been Ludwig's love of Wagner's music that blinded him to the fact that Wagner was kind of ugly compared to his other male friends.

 Richard Wagner
  When not busy falling in love, chasing stable boys or throwing money at Wagner, he commissioned the construction of two extravagant palaces as well as a spectacular castle, the most famous being Neuschwanstein (the inspiration for Disney’s Cinderella Castle.) 

 Neuschwanstein under construction,
 Construction began on his Schloss Linderhof in 1874 and it was modeled it after the modest little palace of Versailles which had been built for King Louis XIV, the Sun King. The young King Ludwig II considered himself the Night King, a title that most young gay man can relate to. Ludwig loved to sleep through the day and stay up all night. When reading or entertaining at night, he would use his Hall of Mirrors so that the candle light would be reflected and amplified infinitely between the mirrors.

Although Ludwig funded all of his projects with his own money, it’s still a common misconception that he squandered the country's money and drained the Bavarian treasury. On the contrary, his personally funded building projects hugely benefited the economy by employing hundreds of local worker and artisans.

top to bottom: Neuschwanstein, Linderhof and Herrenchiemsee
In 1880, Prussia launched a campaign to unify and control the different kingdoms of Germany. The Prussian King Wilhelm I won the power struggle and Ludwig was left as only figurehead. Ludwig grew increasingly withdrawn from politics and public life. He became more eccentric, enjoyed spending most of his time hidden away at his royal residences in the country. His servants were instructed to hide when they heard him coming, or to stand silent and motionless like a statue so that they wouldn't distract him. He wasn’t completely anti-social; he liked to ride through the countryside on a sleigh, sometimes even stopping to chat with the peasants, even though he complained that they were boring.

One of Ludwig's sleighs
Ludwig planned to dismiss his entire cabinet, who he no longer trusted. Unfortunately, they found out his plan and plotted to depose him before he could act. They had him declared insane without any medical examination; none of the four psychiatrists had even met Ludwig.  Still, their report contained “bizarre” stories of the king ordering his hot young grooms to strip naked and dance for him!  Hey, if I was king that might have happened too! Homosexuality was not illegal in Bavaria at that time, but producing a royal heir was considered his duty, a duty in which Ludwig had no interest.  

On June 12th, 1886 Ludwig was deposed. Escorted out of his beloved Neuschwanstein castle and taken to Schloss Berg at Lake Starnberg, Ludwig was shattered. The next day Ludwig’s lifeless body was found floating in knee high water along the shore of Lake Starnberg . The autopsy found no water in Ludwig’s lungs and yet his death was still declared a drowning.  Dr. Gudden, one of the corrupt psychiatrists who had declared him insane, was also found dead next to Ludwig. His body showed signs of a struggle and attempted strangulation. The Empress Sissi, said of her beloved cousin "the King was not mad; he was just an eccentric living in a world of dreams. They might have treated him more gently, and thus perhaps spared him so terrible an end."

 A marker where Ludwig's body was discovered

 Today, Ludwig is best known as an eccentric ruler who created some of Germany’s most extravagant castles. His passion for building extravagant castles still benefits Bavaria with huge tourist revenues… so who’s the crazy one now? 

One of his most quoted sayings is "I wish to remain an eternal enigma to myself and to others." The poet Paul Verlaine called Ludwig II the "only true king of this century" If you’d like to read more of Ludwig’s passionate letters to his boyfriends or sneak a peak at bits of his diary, check out these websites:
(While researching King Ludwig II online, I read at least a dozen different articles about his life. Some were very open and honest about his homosexuality, other disputed it or talked about it as if was a dark spot on his character. The most shocking is the Wiki-war between those who want to post about Ludwig's homosexuality and those that delete all those posts. Even as we speak, there are people out there that would like to delete all references to notable gay figures in history. Don't let them win!)