Yeah, exactly, I feel like medieval household structures/the situation at court changes and shapes a lot of that and it’s just… hooboy, weird, and Saul doesn’t address it in a satisfying way at all. Combination of the writer’s own views and the inherent thorniness of that topic and the huge array of things I’m kind of equivocating when talking about loving women/having them be in your general social sphere.
Yes yes. I think the interesting thing I read about gender composition of your average medieval court/household (which I thought I’d mentioned in my reply but apparently didn’t) was by Richard Firth Green and it was about audiences for poetry rather than who’s straight or not, but it was years ago since I looked at it. I also think that Saul (and most people who’ve written about this issue) tends to make the issue way more complicated than it needs to be, since this is basically what we’ve got:
1. Richard was clearly capable of and clearly had intense emotional attachments to both women and men (although historians have argued that some or all of these were non-sexual; after all you still get historians that also don’t think Richard had sex with his wife even though not doing so would have been kind of a stupid idea).
2. Writing about medieval queerness is always a bit tricky because there’s no way to prove two men centuries ago did or did not have sex unless they were
nice indiscreet enough to write surviving letters about it (James VI/I I am looking in your direction), plus when it appears in chronicles it’s meant to be slanderous. Obviously we should not unthinkingly repeat everything chroniclers say…
3. BUT modern historians ALSO do not have to unthinkingly reproduce the attitudes of the chroniclers in this regard; undoubtedly some people “accused” of being queer actually, you know, were queer.
4. Bisexuality is a thing now and was a thing then and knowing that spares us all the embarrassment of twisting ourselves into knots about this stuff when we could just say “well, maybe he was, you know, bisexual” and get on with our lives. We could even maybe include a footnote about the differences between sexual identities then and now, if we wished (indeed, that would probably be a good idea but we would need to be careful to avoid suggesting that sexual orientation didn’t exist before we invented it).
5. As you note: being queer DOES NOT MEAN YOU HATE WOMEN, for fuck’s sake. There was a recent edition of Shakespeare’s sonnets which is pretty much devoted to making that argument and then the author goes on to say that clearly Shakespeare was such a great playwright that he was able to set aside his visceral, intense hatred of women in order to write characters like Beatrice and Rosalind and I was like
Interesting. Richard II and his sexuality is something I have to deal with since I study infertility. I’m coming at it from a slightly different angle, but it really annoyed me when my one dissertation committee member wanted to get into this big discussion of Richard’s sexuality. Since he had sex with Anne (and I can prove it), I feel as though I don’t need to suss out everyone he might have had sex with. Yet I have looked into it.
Because I’m lazy and don’t want to retype stuff, here’s a rough draft of 700+ words about Richard and sodomy.
There were, of course, sodomitical discourses surrounding Richard II. These were primarily used for political purposes and appeared both before and after the king’s deposition. In the second version of Thomas Walsingham’s Historia Anglicana, revised in the late 1390s as he became increasingly hostile to Richard, Walsingham claimed that Richard favored Robert de Vere because de Vere engaged in “obscene familiarities” (“familiaritates obscoenae”) with the king. As W.M. Ormrod has noted, this was a fairly conventional defamation strategy in late-medieval England, and Walsingham hardly belabored the point. Nevertheless, Walsingham’s conscious addition indicated a willingness to portray Richard’s political failings (his favoritism towards Robert de Vere) as moral faults. Characteristic of post-deposition attacks is a passage from Adam Usk, in which Usk attributed Richard’s deposition to “perjuries, sacrileges, sodomitical acts, dispossession of his subjects, the reduction of his people to servitude, lack of reason, and incapacity to rule.” Henry IV and his supporters never accused Richard of sodomy in the articles of deposition, but sodomy was the kind of slur people commonly attached to their enemies. Post-deposition accusations that Richard engaged in sodomy bear the hallmarks of Lancastrian propaganda, designed to delegitimize the deposed Richard and legitimize the new king, Henry IV.
But the term sodomy, which encompassed a broad range of “acts of against nature” (including male-male sex and male-female adultery), had “an impressive metaphorical power” that was often harnessed to discuss political problems (especially a king’s missteps). Courtesy of Edward II’s demise and Edward III’s attempts to repair his deceased father’s reputation, accusations of sodomy became an important component in the rhetoric of failed kingship. As Frederico argued, by the time Richard became king, the discourse surrounding unsuccessful kingship already included sodomitic discourse; Richard worsened the situation for himself by frequently invoking his great-grandfather and by pressing for Edward II’s canonization. Richard’s perceived youthfulness also tainted the king: Frederico contends that Richard’s opponents used the king’s extended youth as a way to emphasize Richard’s perversity.
Such ideas cropped up in both political and literary contexts. During the Appellant Crisis, more than one chronicler spoke of the king and his favorites (most of who were later executed) in sexualized terms, thereby tapping into discourses concerning both political and moral trespasses. Henry Knighton, writing within a few years of events , described five of Richard’s friends as “seducers” (seductores); the slightly-later Historia vitae et regni Ricardi secondi claimed that Richard was “deluded, seduced, and overthrown” by his chancellor. Although secuctores can mean “traitor,” Knighton more commonly used traditor or proditor as the words for traitor in his Latin chronicle. The use of seductores was thus a deliberate choice, specifically designed to portray Richard’s actions as politically and morally perverse.
Scholars have also suggested that certain Ricardian-era literary works can be read as linking the king with sodomy. According to Frederico, Chaucer’s “The Miller’s Tale” flirts with perceptions of Richard’s problematic sexuality. In the tale, Absolon seeks revenge on Alisoun after she tricked him into kissing her buttocks. But when Absolon returns to Alisoun’s window with his red-hot poker, it is Nicholas (Alisoun’s lover) who presents his posterior and is scalded. Although Nicholas does not die, Frederico interprets this as a reenactment and reminder of sodomitical murder – what happened to Edward II according to then-contemporary discourse. The tale’s end, by connecting with the fate of Edward II, thus warns of one fate that might await Richard. Of course, Chaucer’s work does not directly link to the king but rather “registers the popular concern with Ricardian misrule and speaks to that topic with the forms of rhetoric current in its day.”
Richard II’s connection with male-male homosexual acts thus appears to be mainly rhetorical. Richard had several close male friends that he clearly favored over the rest of the nobility; such political missteps were then symbolically linked with sexual misconduct, a common medieval practice made even more powerful by stories surrounding the death of Edward II. It is more likely that the chroniclers’ accusations or hints are part of this discourse rather than any sort of conclusive proof Richard engaged in sexual relations with other men. Furthermore, the slim possibility of same-sex relationships does not account for Richard II’s childlessness. Kings such as Edward II had children with his queen, so there is no reason to think Richard, if he possibly did experience same-sex attraction, did not endeavor to do the same. Finally, as is discussed below, a letter from the British Library offers proof that Anne and Richard had a sexual union. Explorations of Richard’s sexuality are not a path to explaining the king’s childlessness.
Thomas Walsingham, Historia Anglicana, ed. by H.T. Riley, Vol. II. (1864), 148.
 W.M. Ormrod, “Knight of Venus,” 296-7.
 Ormrod, “Knights of Venus,” 297.
 Adam Usk, The Chronicle of Adam Usk, 1377-1421, ed. and transl. by Chris Given-Wilson (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997), 62-3.
 Lollards and their opponents often lobbed charges of sodomy at one another. See Carolyn Dinshaw, Getting Medieval: Sexualities and Communities, Pre-and Postmodern (Durham: Duke University Press, 1999), 55-99.
 Sylvia Frederico, “Queer Times,” 27, 41.
 Frederico, “Queer Times,” 32-33.
 Frederico, “Queer Times,” 33.
 Frederico, “Queer Times,” 28-29.
 Richard E. Zeikowitz, Homoeroticism and Chivalry: Discourses of Male Same-Sex Desire in the Fourteenth Century (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003), 122. Get actual quotes and cite them!!!!!!!
 Frederico, “Queer Times,” 28.
 Frederico, “Queer Times,” 35-37.
 Frederico, “Queer Times,” 39. For possible links between Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde, the relationship between Troilus and Pandarus, and Richard II and Edward II, see Zeikowitz, Homoeroticism and Chivalry, 131-150.
As you point out Shreds, he could be bisexual (or pan-, poly-); I’m just not sure the “proof” is there. This is not to say Saul isn’t going about things the wrong way. That’s the other thing that bothers me: too often, Richard as queer is just based on harmful stereotypes. Oh, he invented the handkerchief! What a dandy! Oh he didn’t like war! How effeminate (and often implying gay).
I’m sort of uncomfortable talking about Richard’s sexuality. I don’t want to sound queer-hating when I discuss that we don’t have a ton of evidence, but I don’t want to embrace it wholeheartedly because, historically, it seems based in stereotypes.