Was george Boleyn gay?

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The theory of George Boleyn's sexuality stems from a biography of Anne Boleyn by Retha Warnicke in 1989, which was also picked up by Alison Weir in another Boleyn biography. Most historians feel this interpretation of George Boleyn's sexuality is unsubstantiated.

Warnicke's theory has been used in various works of fiction, including The Other Boleyn Girl, by Philippa Gregory and the television series The Tudors. Because of these fictional portrayals, many assume this characterization is accepted by historians.

However, extant contemporary texts show a different picture. There were no rumours relating to homosexuality or bisexuality during George's life or at the time of his death. That particular theory has only come about in the last twenty years due to Warnicke's writings and the subsequent portrayals in fiction.

Warnicke's theory is based on three pieces of evidence. Firstly, she suggests that a poem relating to George by George Cavendish covertly implies that George was a homosexual. However, most historians feel that Cavendish was actually criticising George Boleyn for being a womaniser, and he makes no mention, covertly or otherwise, of homosexuality. Secondly, Warnicke suggests that on the scaffold George covertly admitted to homosexual activity. Again, this is not substantiated by other historians, and seems a stretch as far as interpreting Boleyn's exact words. George simply said on the scaffold that he was a sinner deserving of death, thereby following the convenctions of the day. Thirdly, Warnicke suggests that George may have been the lover of Mark Smeaton, using as the sole piece of evidence the fact that at some stage they both had accesss to the same book. Again this seems a stretch of interpretation of extant evidence.

If George Boleyn had been a homosexual it would have been difficult for such a high profile person to have kept it secret. For us to acccept the theory we most also accept that Cavendish knew about it, and if Cavendish had have known about it then so would everybody else. Yet in the case of George Boleyn, no one ever raised the allegation, not even Boleyn enemies, of which there were many. It would certainly have been used at his trial as proof of his perverse nature, yet again, it was never mentioned.

There is no extant evidence to suggest that George Boleyn was anything other than heterosexual. This is merely a theory with no realistic evidence to support it. In the sixteenth century homosexuality was considered a capital crime and an offence against God, so if Boleyn had, indeed, been homosexual, this charge would undoubtedly have been used against him in the trial that led to his execution.
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