Author Topic: Was Grand Duke Ernst really gay/bisexual?  (Read 51689 times)

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Offline grandduchessella

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Re: Was Grand Duke Ernst really gay/bisexual?
« Reply #15 on: May 16, 2004, 11:42:52 PM »
As the original poster, I would like to thank everyone (especially bookworm and Greg King) for their thoughtful responses. I was also thrilled to hear that Greg & Penny are working on a bio of the Grand Duke whom I feel is shamefully overlooked by history.

As to Rodger, I'm sorry if you found my query "prurient", I certainly didn't intend it to be so. Perhaps I didn't phrase the heading right (it's hard to sum a question up sometimes in a brief space). I didn't care so much _whether_ the GD was gay/bisexual or not or any details relating to his sex life. My question was mostly based on curiosity as to any independent sources since so many books about various members of the family state it as FACT and not rumor,yet all information seems to flow from one main source--his ex-wife. I was a history major in college and one of the main things we learned was about corroboration and verification of sources. GD Ernest is actually a long-standing favorite of mine (along with all the Hesses) and I've always thought the whole issue of his was he/wasn't he HAS overshadowed the great work he did and the affection with which he was held.

Bookworm, I agree with you about Ileana--she was certainly NOT a spiteful person (and another favorite of mine) but I wondered about her being a reliable source if she just took her aunt's word as the truth and then repeated the story. I also was unsure of the timeline of when VM started telling the "stableboy" story--how long after the divorce, etc....Even her sister, Marie admitted that VM had an "unforgiving" nature and mightn't latent bitterness still have been there following the death of her daughter while she was with her father and VM didn't reach her in time? If she didn't have some bitterness, why spread the story at all so long after the marriage ended (and far past just telling Ileana).

Anyway, this was all I was trying to get at--a variety of opinions since I think there are so many intelligent and well-informed people on the board who possess a wide range of opinions on things. I love getting all the different perspectives and the question was answered SO much better than on the other board. Thank you again!
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Offline LisaDavidson

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Re: Was Grand Duke Ernst really gay/bisexual?
« Reply #16 on: May 16, 2004, 11:44:37 PM »
A couple of points here -

I have said many times, but frequently am drowned out by those more strident than self, that it is anachronistic to refer to a late 19th century person such as Ernst of Hesse as "gay" or "bisexual". Those terms were simply not in use then, and their implications would be incomprehensible to someone of that time. Yes, there were those who preferred members of their own sex as romantic partners during this time. But, there was no opportunity to be a couple in a modern sense, and no chance to grow a committed loving relationship in the way contemporary gays may have the chance to do.

My point - one must be very careful to consider such questions in the proper historical context.

As to Victoria Melita, I entirely agree with Rob that an ex wife cannot necessarily be soley relied upon as a source for sexual information on an ex spouse. And let's be clear here - so far as I know, VM is the only source for Ernst's alleged homosexual affair. There was gossip at the time, but gossip is not always true.

What is very salient here - VM had a very strong reason to be less than truthful about the reasons her first marriage broke up. Divorce was scandalous at that time and she was tainted by it for the rest of her life. A lie such as this, even if told only to her sister and niece, would nonetheless have won her sympathy within her family that could have eased the taint of divorce.

This more than anything else makes me take all of this with a grain of salt. I do agree with Greg that true or not - nothing takes away from Ernst Ludwig's accomplishments.

Offline bookworm8571

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Re: Was Grand Duke Ernst really gay/bisexual?
« Reply #17 on: May 17, 2004, 12:47:36 AM »
"Gay" and "bisexual" are probably terms that they wouldn't have used, but the sexual preference has always been there. I don't entirely agree that the chance to form relationships wasn't there either. They just had to be far more secretive about it when they were in the closet. I have a book of photographs from the late 1800s and early 1900s that are an absolute revelation. They show lesbian "couples" -- several of a woman in drag (suit, tie, mustache) and a woman in a dress standing side by side like a married couple. There are stories about female couples who lived as husband and wife, with the "husband" living as a man so they could appear as a normal married couple. This was during the 1890s or 1900s, the same period that Ernie and Victoria Melita were married. I'm not certain if it would have been as easy for male couples to live in such a fashion, but I'm certain they existed. They were probably just "roommates" or some other euphemism that made it easier for them to live together. I think our ancestors were far more modern than we think they were.

The biographies of Victoria Melita I have don't strike me as the best researched books. Both say she told Marie the story some point after the divorce -- it doesn't give a date -- and that she told Ileana the same story when her engagement to a German prince was broken up. Ileana was interviewed in about 1980 and this interview is cited in the footnotes of the Sullivan biography. I still tend to believe it's more likely to be true than not. A divorce was scandalous, but I doubt Victoria Melita would have made up a story that was equally scandalous to explain it. It didn't make her look any better than Ernest.

Offline Greg_King

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Re: Was Grand Duke Ernst really gay/bisexual?
« Reply #18 on: May 17, 2004, 06:22:56 AM »
With regard to Victoria Melita: as I intimated earlier, her statement is but one piece of circumstantial evidence, and there is indeed much more.  On the flip side, there are several well-known stories about Ernie fathering some illegitimate children with a couple of well-born women and actresses in Darmstadt.  The point is, the issue-all sides-has to be not only looked at but thoroughly researched and analyzed.

Where Ducky's charge is concerned, though, I think it's important to take note of the fact that she only made it in private, to her sister.  At the time of the Hessian divorce, Ducky was thoroughly excoriated by nearly all members of her extended family and blamed for the disintegration of the marriage.  Surely, had her assertion been groundless and simply the result of bitterness, she would have voiced it then, in her defense-and yet there is no record of her having done so, and her royal relatives blamed her completely.  To me, her silence on the issue, at that difficult time-when she would have been most inclined to defend herself and lay blame on her former husband-speaks volumes about her motives in telling Marie, and undermining accusations that it was all part of some hidden agenda.

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Offline princessalice

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Re: Was Grand Duke Ernst really gay/bisexual?
« Reply #19 on: September 03, 2004, 06:27:41 PM »
I believe one's sexual orientation is decided at birth and, even though I am a fairly conservative person, i do not judge either way.  that, i believe, is the final work of God.  but, whatever, i believe the Grand Duke Ernest did a lot of good for his small area of Germany and that he was a very sensitive, loving person.  i was always so happy that he found apparent joy in his second marriage and had the family he seemed to have longed for.  i believe the loss of a child's mother at such a tender age is a huge turning point in their lives and affects them in ways that are even now being discovered.  i was 37 when i lost my beloved mother very suddenly, she was 59 and died after a 4 months illness.  it changed the course of my life, i can honestly say that, and made me a person i would not have been if she had lived.  i think maybe Ernst might have been the same way.  
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Offline masha

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Re: Was Grand Duke Ernst really gay/bisexual?
« Reply #20 on: September 04, 2004, 08:47:22 PM »
O.k., here's my 2 cents worth......it seems to me the male members of all these royal families - including the Romanovs, but more especially those of the English and German sides - were all really effeminate - yes? (sorry if the spelling sucks). Compared to regular working joes they really seem like a bunch of flowers who occassionally came out of the hothouse for display. And somehow it seems to be more than a coincidence that a lot of these royal fellows ie. GD Kyril, Serge,  George & Alexis Michailovitch, Prince Leopold, Prince Albert Victor, Prince Walemar, Prince George of Greece, Kaiser William, along with GD Ernie  have all been described at some point as being homosexual. It all just seems to have been part & parcel of court life, where socializing on that scale exposed one to meeting so many people and where alternative relationships were perhaps derived out boredom from the same old thing. Not to mention the fact that as they are in today's English palaces, one can imagine how a good many of the royal household (servants & such) back then were gay. So it could be argued that the whole atmosphere was pretty ripe for all concerned, especially when one considers how someone like Alexander III - who by all accounts seemed like a fairly normal red-blooded male - stuck out like a sore thumb for his lack of grace and decorum. But that's just my theory, and I would be pleased for Penny and Greg and everyone else who are much more in the know to correct me.
Anyway, I think the topic would make an interesting book. And sorry for being so sporadic with my comments - just too much going on offline to keep up with everyone here online!

Masha
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by masha »

Offline LisaDavidson

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Re: Was Grand Duke Ernst really gay/bisexual?
« Reply #21 on: September 05, 2004, 11:38:16 PM »
Masha: having just returned from a lovely wedding of two people who truly love one another - who both happen to be men - I must take exception to the stereotypical depiction of gay men as "effeminate". There are certainly men who do fit this stereotype but I know many gay men who do not.

Please, let's stop this craziness. As Greg King says, historians must certainly deal with the sexuality of their subjects, and Ernst is no exception. But please don't refer to the admitedly heterosexual Alexander III as "Normal". This man was very likely an alcoholic who hastened his own death through excess drinking.

It would be refreshing if we could please look at the entire person - and stop trying to categorize others based on what happens in the privacy of one's own bedroom.

Offline Michelle

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Re: Was Grand Duke Ernst really gay/bisexual?
« Reply #22 on: September 06, 2004, 12:23:32 AM »
Whatever happens in the bedroom should stay in the bedroom in the case of homo/hetero sexuals.  Unless those people are long dead and historians must research them.  But as for the present day, some of us don't want to know about that kinda stuff because, quite frankly, it can appear disgusting and highly sinful to some like myself.  I'm sorry if this offends anyone on this board, but I think gays/lesbians/bisexuals should stay in the closet in public.  There's no need for ANYONE to be expressing explicit sexual acts/preferences except in the privacy in their own homes.

Offline Martyn

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Re: Was Grand Duke Ernst really gay/bisexual?
« Reply #23 on: September 06, 2004, 09:28:04 AM »
Michelle I am quite simply astounded by your comments.  To reduce this discussion to the level of something that "happens in the bedroom" is baffling.
There have been many intelligent remarks made in this thread; it has been another interesting  journey for those of us who are interested in discussing and attempting to understand the lives and characters of Ernie and all his relatives.
Sexuality is an important part of most people's personalities and if one day we do receive proof that Ernie was homosexual (I won't use the word "gay" since other people have refused to accept that term as a legitimate definition), then it can only lead to a better understanding of his achievements, life and loves.
As far as I am aware, in most civilised societies, people are free to enjoy same sex relationships; I think that perhaps your views should maybe remain where they belong - in your closet.
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Offline Louise

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Re: Was Grand Duke Ernst really gay/bisexual?
« Reply #24 on: September 06, 2004, 09:45:31 AM »
Michelle, I am more than astounded at your comments. As an out of the closet gay woman (I'm ok with the term gay ;) ) and a woman that has been in a commited relationship for 25 years, your comments are derogatory and bigoted.

If you choose to study the art of history and associate with men and women who are also on this board and in the world, your views had better change. You will find gays and lesbian in every walk of life, and believe you me, we won't be discussing what occurs in the privacy of our homes.

If Ernie, Sergei, KR, Felix were gay, then that small part of their lives should and will be studied. Just as Sergei's decisions affecting Moscow will  and should be studied; KR's poetry, and Ernie's love of art.

Michelle, please keep your comments confined to the topic at hand, which is the Romanovs. Please try to remember that this is a very public board that is read and also researched by many people around the world.
It would be detremental to this board to have someone click off this site, due to your bigoted comments.

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Re: Was Grand Duke Ernst really gay/bisexual?
« Reply #25 on: September 06, 2004, 09:49:59 AM »
Quote
Whatever happens in the bedroom should stay in the bedroom in the case of homo/hetero sexuals.  Unless those people are long dead and historians must research them.  But as for the present day, some of us don't want to know about that kinda stuff because, quite frankly, it can appear disgusting and highly sinful to some like myself.  I'm sorry if this offends anyone on this board, but I think gays/lesbians/bisexuals should stay in the closet in public.  There's no need for ANYONE to be expressing explicit sexual acts/preferences except in the privacy in their own homes.


Michelle, if I remember right you're still a teenager. I might have said something similar when I was 16. I was raised in a fairly insular community, by strongly religious parents and any gays I knew were not "out." This still isn't a state where people are that open about it. They tend to move to the big city as fast as possible to get away from this type of attitude.

Imagine how Ernie must have felt 100 years ago, when the stigma was even greater, if he really was gay and with the pressure on him to marry and produce an heir. If you're born with an attraction to the same sex and cannot change it, no matter how you try, how frustrating it must be to live in a world where you're told to shut up about it, stay in the closet, not expect the same rights that everyone else has. You can't legally marry, can't have children, can't see your life partner if he's hospitalized because you're not a legal spouse and his family disapproves of you.

All I can say is that your perspective might change as you gain some more experience and maybe have friends or relatives who you learn are gay.

Offline Martyn

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Re: Was Grand Duke Ernst really gay/bisexual?
« Reply #26 on: September 06, 2004, 11:59:12 AM »
Good points Louise and Bookworm.  As someone who is slightly older and coming from a provincial town I can remember a time when life was less enlightened.
If Ernie was homosexual life was probably a lot easier for him than anyone from a less exalted background.  Having said that, Ernie did enjoy a very happy second marriage and was completely capable of being a father, and a good one in every sense.  All of this is not incompatible with him being either homosexual or bisexual and he would not be the first man of his age to have these inclinations and yet be married with a family.
I can't quite remember where I read this (or it may indeed have been a TV program) but I am pretty sure that Pce Waldemar of Denmark for many years enjoyed a relationship with Pce George of Greece ( I think that it was George) - both married with families.  Do we think that the rest of the family knew and discreetly looked the other way?
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Offline LisaDavidson

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Re: Was Grand Duke Ernst really gay/bisexual?
« Reply #27 on: September 06, 2004, 01:14:15 PM »
Michelle: as a teen, I can understand how hearing about any kind of adult sexuality can be disgusting to you. I have a 16 year old daughter, so I know this is to be true.

However, my points on this thread have been that there was no way for a gay person to be "out" 100 years ago. Please find some compassion in your heart for this. And, we should not stereotype any people - gay or not - based upon one characteristic - in this case, sexual orientation. I was arguing that we should look at GD Ernst as a whole person - not as just a gay or bisexual person.

It may shock you to know that my husband and I attended a wedding this weekend between two of our dearest friends. It may shock you that we fully recognize and support this marriage, even though there were two grooms involved. It may shock you that many of the posters on this board are gay people - some in relationships, and some not - and are for the most part, really terrific people. I'll leave it at this for now.

Offline Forum Admin

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Re: Was Grand Duke Ernst really gay/bisexual?
« Reply #28 on: September 06, 2004, 01:39:17 PM »
OK, I was leaving this thread alone, but I think a little historical background is needed here.

First, in the Victorian era, there was no concept of "gay" or straight as we know it today. No one would really have ever identified themselves as such, it never would have occurred to them to do so. "Out" as a homosexual was something a Victorian person would not have even understood. The term homosexual did not even exist in 1895.

It was the duty of all men "of a certain social standing" to marry and father children. Now, it was common that many such marriages were simply for the sake of appearances. Husbands had many mistresses (like Edward, Prince of Wales) wives knew, and often had lovers of their own.  Husbands did have male partners too, it simply was the way things were. The "lifelong confirmed bachelor" who lived with a "close friend" was common (look at Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson).  Many many young upper-class men had male lovers and intimate male relationships at University; there was nothing really new or scandalous about the world described by Evelyn Waugh in "Brideshead Revisted". These men simply "grew up" and married. Public overt homosexuality was frowned upon, and illegal in England, but most people simply did not CARE what was done behind closed doors, so long as discreet.  Oscar Wilde was tried in court and public opinion not so much because he was homosexual per se, but because he was quite public about it.

In Germany, male homosexuality was illegal under Article 175 of the Prussian Code (tho not female!).  However, one could only be prosecuted if the police actually caught someone physically in the act.  The German Court was filled with homosexuality, known full well to the Kaiser, starting with his close friend Furst Philippe zu Eulenberg.

Should a possible bisexual or homosexual nature of Grand Duke Ernst be discussed? Yes, as one can not fully understand the nature of the man in order to explore his motivations and feelings. HOWEVER, I agree fully with Greg that the man's achievements must not be colored or judged by this aspect of his life, and far more importantly, one CAN NOT and MUST NOT impose 21st Century beliefs, morality or values on the behavior of someone living in the 19th or early 20th century.
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Offline Martyn

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Re: Was Grand Duke Ernst really gay/bisexual?
« Reply #29 on: September 06, 2004, 01:56:03 PM »
Rob, I think that we all agree with what you say.  I think that it is difficult for us to look back with our modern lives and values and for us not to apply those to this particular issue.  I think that we try hard to understand what life was like and is safe to say that we will never be able to grasp it fully.
This is an interesting discussion however; I look forward to reading more views on the subject.


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'The important things is not what they think of me, but what I think of them.'......QV