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6 LGBTQ+ royals you probably didn't know about

Erin McDowell   

6 LGBTQ+ royals you probably didn't know about
Princess Isabella of Parma, Egon von Fuerstenberg, and Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil.Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images; RICH/ullstein bild/Getty Images; Renee Nowytarger/Newspix/Getty Images

"Red, White, and Royal Blue" isn't the only queer royal love story.

Many royals of the past had to keep their LGBTQ+ identities a secret. However, some modern royals like Prince Manvendra of India and Lord Ivar Mountbatten are breaking barriers by being out-and-proud members of the royal class.

Prince Manvendra has founded the Lakshya Trust, a nonprofit organization that focuses on HIV and AIDS prevention in India, as well as education, gender equity, and other philanthropic and social causes. He is also fighting to end the practice of conversion "therapy" in the country, which is still legal.

This Pride Month, here are six LGBTQ+ royals you may not have read about in your history books.

Princess Isabella of Parma exchanged hundreds of letters with her sister-in-law that implied the pair's relationship was more than friendly.

Princess Isabella of Parma exchanged hundreds of letters with her sister-in-law that implied the pair
A portrait of Princess Isabella of Parma.      Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images

Princess Isabella of Parma, who lived between 1741 and 1763, never confirmed she was bisexual, and was even married to a man, Archduke Joseph of Austria. However, speculation remains about the royal's sexuality and whether she had a romantic relationship with her sister-in-law on her brother's side, Archduchess Maria Christina.

The pair exchanged letters "constantly" back and forth over the years, according to Making Queer History, and many of them are believed to be queer-coded or romantically affectionate in nature.

"I cannot tolerate this uncertainty, I can think of nothing but that I am madly in love," Princess Isabella reportedly wrote in one letter. "If only I knew why this is so, for you are so cruel that one should not love you, but I cannot help myself."

Her marriage was rumored to be an unhappy one, though she did give birth to their daughter. After two miscarriages, Princess Isabella was pregnant for a fourth time when she died from smallpox at the age of 21 in 1763.

After Maria's death in 1798, Isabella's letters with her were later shared by Maria's husband Prince Albert. Maria's own letters were reportedly destroyed.

Philippe I, the Duke of Orléans, was known and often criticized for dressing in women's clothing, and his homosexuality was commonly acknowledged.

Philippe I, the Duke of Orléans, was known and often criticized for dressing in women
Portrait of Louis Philippe I.      Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images

The younger brother of King Louis XIV, Philippe I was negatively described by the 17th-century memoirist Saint-Simon as effeminate and "always adorned like a woman." While the terms gay, queer, or even bisexual were rarely directly used to describe the royal, his relationships with men were well-documented, and homosexuality itself was common in royal-court life.

According to Retrospect Journal, it was said around the court that no woman could ever "enflame [Philippe's] heart." It is also widely accepted that Philippe I had a number of queer relationships, most notably with the Chevalier de Lorraine, to which his brother, the king, turned a blind eye.

Philippe did marry twice in his life. His first wife, Princess Henrietta of England, died of peritonitis caused by a perforated ulcer, though an investigation conducted by Saint-Simon alleged the Chevalier de Lorraine and the Marquis d'Effiat, another of Philippe's supposed lovers, had poisoned her, according to History Today.

According to Encyclopedia, Philippe later married Princess Palatine Elizabeth Charlotte, who slept in separate chambers and was generally forgiving of what she called "the Italian vice," a colloquial term for homosexuality in that era. Philippe died in 1701.

King Umberto II of Italy was married to Queen Marie-José of Belgium, but former ruler Mussolini's secret police kept dossiers on Umberto's male lovers.

King Umberto II of Italy was married to Queen Marie-José of Belgium, but former ruler Mussolini
King Umberto II of Italy.      General Photographic Agency/Getty Images

King Umberto II reigned for only 34 days, from May 9, 1946, until June 12, 1946, after the fall of Mussolini. Shortly after he took the throne following the abdication of his father, King Victor Emmanuel III, Umberto was outed in the press as homosexual, NBC News reported. After the revelation, the Italian public voted to abolish the monarchy.

Umberto divorced his wife, with whom he shared four children, in 1946 and lived the remainder of his life in exile. He died in Geneva at 78 years old.

Prince Egon von Furstenberg, the second husband of fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg, was open about being bisexual.

Prince Egon von Furstenberg, the second husband of fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg, was open about being bisexual.
Egon von Fuerstenberg in 1994.      RICH/ullstein bild/Getty Images

The couple separated in 1973 and divorced a decade later after 20 years of marriage. After they separated, von Furstenberg told New York Magazine that he was bisexual and Diane had experimented with another woman during their marriage, but she didn't enjoy it. The designer later said that the publication of the article was the final straw in the dissolution of her marriage, according to InStyle.

A regular in New York City nightlife, nightclubs like the Flamingo and Studio 54 were among his favorite places to spend time. He also frequently partied on Fire Island, a known location for the LGBTQ+ community during the summer months.

"[Studio 54] was like a school of Southern Baptists next to what happened on Fire Island," he was quoted in WWD.

After his divorce from von Furstenberg, he married another woman, Lynn Marshall, in 1983.

The royal died in Rome in 2004 at the age of 57, leaving behind his wife, ex-wife Diane von Furstenberg, and their two children.

Lord Ivar Mountbatten is the first extended member of the British royal family to come out as gay.

Lord Ivar Mountbatten is the first extended member of the British royal family to come out as gay.
Lord Ivar Mountbatten in 2014.      David M. Benett/Getty Images

Lord Ivar Mountbatten, who is related to both Queen Elizabeth II and her husband Prince Philip, married his partner, James Coyle, in 2018, two years after coming out publicly as gay.

Mountbatten was previously married to Penny Mountbatten, a British philanthropist, from 1994 until 2011. She has since come out in support of her husband and even gave him away at his wedding to Coyle. The former couple's three daughters were also supportive of their father and his partner on their big day.

"Ivar is so much more relaxed these days," Penny told the Daily Mail in 2018. "He's so much kinder. He's become a great cook. I now call him Fanny Cradock. He probably wasn't even aware that by keeping his sexuality a secret it was really quite tormenting him. Now it's 'out' he's a completely different person. Everybody says they've never seen him happier."

Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil became the first out gay prince in the world when he came out in 2006.

Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil became the first out gay prince in the world when he came out in 2006.
Crown Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil.      Renee Nowytarger/Newspix/Getty Images

Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil, 58, publicly came out at 41 years old in a 2006 interview with a local newspaper, becoming the first openly gay royal in the country.

Until 2018, homosexuality was illegal in India under a colonial-era law that demanded up to life imprisonment for anyone committing sexual acts "against the order of nature."

"The day I came out, my effigies were burned. There were a lot of protests, people took to the streets and shouted slogans saying that I brought shame and humiliation to the royal family and to the culture of India. There were death threats and demands that I be stripped of my title," Gohil told Business Insider in April 2022.

Gohil said in the years before he came out publicly, he had been subject to cruel conversion therapy and electroshock treatments by his family.

Gohil is fighting to outlaw gay conversion therapy in India and fight the stigma against the LGBTQ+ community in the country.

"Now we have to fight for issues like same-sex marriage, right to inheritance, right to adoption. It's a never-ending cycle. I have to keep fighting," he said.

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