Queer Lives at the Tower

Things to do, Walks and tours
Queer Lives at the Tower
Photograph: Richard Lea-Hair

Time Out says

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A tour that explores the LGBTQ+ history of the Tower with a ‘raven’ drag queen

Did you know that James I was given the nickname ‘Queen James’ because of his intimate relationships with several male courtiers? I didn’t. Not until I went on Queer Lives at the Tower, a new tour of the Tower of London that shines the spotlight on the lives, loves and experiences of LGBTQ+ figures linked with the landmark.

It begins with a kind of disclaimer: because history has been documented predominantly through the eyes and actions of men, this hour-long tour won’t offer as much of an insight into the lives of queer women. That’s a shame, and one that will hopefully be rectified in future LGBTQ+ tours of London’s palaces planned for later this year.

Still, the queer stories that the tour does explore are vividly brought to life with ‘creative storytelling’ by actors and a ‘drag raven’. The wingless – but still very fabulous – raven acts as our primary tour guide as we move between rooms watching imagined interactions between several kings and their same-sex lovers.

The tour is fascinating and often funny but ends poignantly with a mini-candlelight vigil for Roger Casement. A key figure in Ireland’s fight for independence and in the Easter Rising of 1916, Casement’s homosexual activities were used by the British government to undermine his case for clemency when he was convicted and executed for high treason. That this happened just over a century ago is a crushing reminder that the push for greater LGBTQ+ rights and acceptance has been a long, hard (and ongoing) battle.

By: Nick Levine

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