Was Edward IV gay and/or bisexual? Dr John Ashdown-Hill thinks maybe so….


What follows was written entirely by Caroline Tilley, Senior Reporter of the Daily Gazette/Essex County Standard

Secret marriages, scandalous affairs and one of the best-kept secrets in English history….

WHEN you have helped to unearth arguably the greatest historical find of the 21st century, some people might decide to put their feet up.

Not Dr John Ashdown-Hill.

Not satisfied with finding the bones of Richard III, arguably England’s most notorious king underneath a Leicester car park, Dr Ashdown-Hill has now been riffling through the secrets of his elder brother Edward IV.

King of England for two periods in the 15th century, Edward Plantagenet’s life seems about as far removed from his brother, Richard’s, as conceivably possible.

A notorious womaniser with illegitimate children scattered across the country, scandal plagued his reign with secret marriages.

Yet all is not as it seems, as Dr Ashdown-Hill has explored in his new book.

The historian, who studied at the University of Essex and now lives in Manningtree, has unearthed evidence which appears to show Edward IV had a relationship with one of his military rivals.

He said: “In the summer of 1462 he met Henry, Duke of Somerset. Contemporary accounts tell us Edward loved him.”

If true, the claim would be one of the most explosive facts to come to light about a king renowned for his womanising.

There is certainly evidence, with a chronicle written at the time reporting how the two shared a bed.

Dr Ashdown-Hill said: “I don’t know why it’s been ignored.

“No-one has really picked it up. I think history is very surprising.”

Dr Ashdown-Hill made the headlines when, thanks partly to his painstaking work, the lost bones of Richard III were uncovered under a Leicester car park.

The notorious king has intrigued historians for centuries after allegedly killing off his nephews, the so-called princes in the tower and Edward IV’s sons, to take the throne.

His death at the hands of Henry VII, father to Henry VIII, marked the end of the famous Wars of the Roses.

It had been believed Richard’s bones had been thrown in a river by an angry mob a myth perpetuated by local legend, 50 years after his death at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485.

The lesson not to take evidence at face value is something Dr Ashdown-Hill is now applying to his work on Edward IV.

He said: “I had always been interested in Edward IV because of what he had to show about Richard III and his claim to the throne.

“A woman called Jane Shore was said to be his mistress for a long time. In fact, I have shown there is no evidence of this.

“It’s extraordinary. Even historian Rosemary Horrox said there was no contemporary evidence of it, yet she didn’t come to the obvious conclusion.”

Dr Ashdown-Hill added: “It was said Edward IV was a great womaniser and he had numerous bastards.

“In fact, Edward IV only recognised one illegitimate child, which he called the Lord Bastard.

“Henry VII then recognises another of his so-called children called Arthur Plantagenet. So it seems he might have had two or three illegitimate children.

“But so did Richard III and yet no one calls what he did outrageous. So why did they say this of his brother?”

Dr Ashdown-Hill believes the secret is tied up in an Act of Parliament which made Richard III king in 1483, after the death of his brother.

While the throne was meant to pass to the eldest prince in the tower, Richard claimed they were illegitimate and instead took the throne for himself.

But the two princes weren’t the only of Edward IV’s so-called legitimate children to be cut off. In fact, there were seven altogether.

Dr Ashdown-Hill believes it was this which has caused the confusion and led to historians believing Edward IV had so many illegitimate offspring.

Edward IV is not the only project Dr Ashdown-Hill is working on.

His work on Richard III led to the discovery of today’s Plantagenet female line through DNA.

He also uncovered somewhere along the line adultery had appeared, with at least one so-called father being displaced.

Dr Ashdown-Hill does not know whether this adultery happened in more modern or medieval times.

He is now trying to get his hands on the bones of Thomas of Lancaster, a relative of Richard III, whose bones were sold at auction in Colchester 1942.

It is not known where the bones are now but if he uncovers them, Dr Ashdown-Hill hopes to be able to pinpoint more accurately if the adultery happened before or after the birth of Richard III.

So after recovering the bones of Richard III and untangling the web of Edward IV, what’s next for Dr Ashdown-Hill?

As well as chasing possible living descendants who could give him DNA to pinpoint the elusive princes in the tower, he is next turning his attention to Richard III and Edward IV’s mother.

He said: “Cecily Neville seems to have spent a lot of her time being pregnant.

“I’m hoping a book might come from looking at her.”

See the article at http://tinyurl.com/z3m2clp


  1. As sharing beds with kings was considered a great honour, there are many examples of two males sleeping in the same bed without there being a same sex relationship. As Edward IV has a reputation of being a womaniser, it would seem very unlikely that he was in fact, gay.


    1. The pertinent point is ‘…if John is right…’ and like much of his recent work, it seems to rest largely on assumption rather than evidence. There is a modern trend to try to retrospectively decide that historical personages were gay, despite the fact that there is little or no evidence, but a lot of modern reinterpretation and assumption. It is a fact that for a male who slept in the king’s bed, it was a mark of honour, rather than a sexual act. Ladies often shared queen’s beds – does that make them gay also or was it merely a common practice at the time?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Some of the ladies who shared queen’s beds and queens in question may in fact have been gay or bisexual – women having sex with each other (which does not endanger any bloodlines and legitimacy of heirs anyway) would likely go completely under the radar (especially with how normal it was for women to spend time together and sleep in the same bed, with no suspicions raised), which is why there’s so little historical evidence of any same sex relationships between women, as opposed to powerful men, who could have same sex relationships more openly. But the majority of those ladies and queens were no doubt heterosexual (since the statistical majority of people in general are heterosexual, so it would be surprising if every queen and lady in waiting just happened to be LGBT – though it would also be surprising if absolutely none of them were).

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Edward already has in his biography the far more interesting and definitely true fact that he executed his own brother for treason. There’s no need to try to manufacture more drama (which would be less dramatic than the truth anyway) based on wild speculation and very little actual evidence.


  2. A reputation as a womaniser doesn’t necessarily preclude same-sex relationships. Maybe Edward had more than enough to go around. And I think that tucking up in bed at night with men would at the very least raise eyebrows. I don’t believe that anything Edward IV did between the sheets was innocent. Just sleep? I would need a lot of convincing.


    1. I am afraid, having read the relevant chapter in John’s book, I would need a lot of convincing that Edward was a sexual predator who slept with anyone, male or female, who shared his bed. We should not translate 21st century attitudes to other periods and assume they are the same.


      1. Shall we agree to disagree amicably, Jasmine? I didn’t say Edward was a sexual predator, which suggests he would corrupt others. More do I mean that he was enthusiastic and no doubt found equally enthusiastic partners. Nor do I think that women sleeping with the queen is as likely to have sexual connotations as men sleeping with the king. If that is a 21st century attitude, well, I’m a 21st century creature – and a 20th century creature before that. But try as I will, I can’t say I’m a 15th century creature. The human condition doesn’t change much, though.


  3. Yes, Vicountessw – we will have to agree to disagree. My comment about 21at century values was not particularly aimed at you, but to many who write on medieval matters – you know, Richard married Anne – they must have been in love because he knew her as a child, whereas medieval noble marriages were about land, wealth, heirs and a whole range of things, other than modern ideas of ‘love’. Given the current attitude towards LGBT people, many try to translate that to the medieval period – yet their social attitudes and customs were quite different – the human condition notwithstanding.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Sometimes makes me wonder too, halfwit36. Perhaps that’s why we have such a modest world population now…? I mean, we’d all be squashed cheek-by-jowl if it weren’t for those historic gays!


  5. JAH would be a really great historian if he didn’t let his imagination run wild at times and then let confirmation bias rule his research, getting a little bit too in love with his speculation, to the point where he treats it as truth. His works have always been at their weakest when he starts speculating about people’s (possible) sexual relationships.

    There’s no evidence that Jane Shore was Edward’s mistress? So the contemporaries were in some sort of mass delusion that she was, and she was just… reading him bedtime stories maybe? While there’s some sort of evidence Somerset was his lover, but no one noticed? The reasoning is so contrived it’s funny.

    Even if we assume that Edward may have had some sort of sexual relationship with Somerset, and that he was bisexual or bi-curious, we have ample evidence that he most certainly wasn’t gay. You know why Edward had the reputation of a womanizer? Very simple explanation: because he was one. Everything about him points in that direction, and there’s nothing to contradict it.

    Most importantly, Edward’s most disastrous and controversial decisions were made because of how eager and determined he was to get certain attractive women into his bed. JAH himself holds the position that Edward married Eleanor Talbot in secret in order to get her into bed, just as he certainly did to with Elizabeth Woodville. So why is he undermining his own previous work now with wild speculation that completely contradicts that?

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Another point: There is a great deal of difference between “acknowledging” a bastard, in the sense that ‘everybody knows about that, and he didn’t deny it,” and officially acknowledging one. Medieval/early Modern monarchs did the latter only when they had no living legitimate children, (Richard III) or only girls (Henry VIII).
    This may have been, but was not necessarily, a precursor to having them declared legitimate. At any rate, Edward never referred to any son as ‘Lord Bastard.’ That was Richard.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. He acknowledged them both before Edward’s death. John was knighted at York on the occasion of Edward’s investiture as Prince of Wales. Katherine became Countess of Pembroke on 29th February 1484. I think both were known of and acknowledged before these dates. Edward died 9th April 1484.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I was thinking “official” acknowledgment. Henry VII knighted his (supposed) bastard son, Roland de Velville, after the battle of Blackheath, but never ‘owned up’ to him.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Well, I know that John of Gloucester was referred to (by Richard) as “our dear bastard son” when the boy was appointed Captain of Calais on 11th March 1485, but that, of course, is after the death of Edward of Middleham. I can’t recall if there is any formal acknowledgement prior to that. Same goes for Catherine. In her marriage contract (29th September 1484) with William Herbert, Earl of Huntingdon, in which she is referred to as “Dame Katherine Plantagenet, daughter to our said sovereign lord [Richard]”. Again, this is after Edward of Middleham’s death. So, after all that, I don’t know, halfwit36.


  8. I would have thought if john was knighted at the investiture at York then that is some acknowledgment!!!! People must have known who he was…..

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Whatever the status of RdeV was, it just shows that being knighted didn’t prove anything.
      On the other hand, there was Arthur Plantagenet, who was ‘acknowledged’ by Elizabeth of York (he was in her household), was allowed by Henry VII to use the name Plantagenet, and was ennobled by Henry VIII (as Lord Lisle). But during his father’s reign he was known as Arthur Waite.
      Again, we’re talking official acknowledgement, not just what ‘everybody knows.’


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