Sometimes we hear about an historical figure whose sexuality has become controversial, from Greece antiquity’s Alexander the Great to French national hero Saint Jeanne d’Arc.
As contemporary people, we cannot claim to understand the sexualities of history, out of legitimate context (we weren’t there, how can we claim to know for certain?). We can no more assign sexuality to historical figures as we can dismiss that sexual diversity is often deliberately hidden and mystified in the recounting of human history.
We offer the below information as food for thought about the life of Lord Kitchener, which speculates about his sexual identity, as a part of reclaiming some part of our shared community history; a debate about the sexuality of the man whose name is now donned by one of our cities.
If indeed Lord Kitchener was a homosexual, bisexual, or sexually fluid individual, we celebrate the discovery of that heritage!
Join us as we celebrate all kinds of families in Waterloo Region, including sexually diversity!
This information is taken in whole or in part from Wikipedia, with academic references cited below. Images used were found in the public domain and whose age now exceed any copyright law.
The City of Kitchener (Ontario, Canada) was named the Town of Berlin from 1854 until 1912 and the City of Berlin from 1912 until 1916. In 1916, following much debate and controversy and after the first world war, the name of the city was changed to Kitchener; so named to commemorate the life and significant accomplishments of a central figure in the first world war, Field Marshal Horatio Herbert Kitchener, 1st Earl Kitchener, who died that year while serving as the Secretary of State for War in the UK.
“…Some biographers have concluded that Lord Kitchener was a latent or active homosexual, though this is not universally accepted. Writers that make the case for his homosexuality include Montgomery Hyde, Ronald Hyam, Dennis Judd and Richardson. Biographers who make the case against include Cassar, Pollock, and Warner. Pakenham, Magnus and Royle hint at homosexuality, though Magnus is said to have later recanted.
The proponents of the case point to Kitchener’s friend Captain Oswald Fitzgerald, his “constant and inseparable companion,” whom he appointed his aide-de-camp. They remained close until they met a common death on their voyage to Russia. From his time in Egypt in 1892, he gathered around him a cadre of eager young and unmarried officers nicknamed “Kitchener’s band of boys.” He also avoided interviews with women, took a great deal of interest in the Boy Scout movement, and decorated his rose garden with four pairs of sculptured bronze boys. According to Hyam, “there is no evidence that he ever loved a woman”. However, he was apparently in love with, and may have been engaged to, Hermione Baker, the beautiful young daughter of Valentine, commander of the Egyptian gendarmerie, but she died from typhoid in January 1885, aged eighteen. In 1902 he unsuccessfully courted Lord Londonderry’s daughter, Helen Mary Theresa; she married Lord Stavordale instead. He was friendly, in her old age, with the courtesan Catherine Walters.
A contemporary journalist remarked that Kitchener “has the failing acquired by most of the Egyptian officers, a taste for buggery”.
According to another writer, his interests were not exclusively homosexual. “When the great field marshal stayed in aristocratic houses, the well informed young would ask servants to sleep across their bedroom threshold to impede his entrance”. His compulsive objective was sodomy, regardless of their gender.
J. B. Priestley noted in his book on The Edwardians that one of Lord Kitchener’s personal interests in life included planning and decorating his residences. He was also known to collect delicate china with a passion (such allusions to an ‘artistic temperament’ were a common code for implying homosexuality at that time).
- Cassar, George Kitchener London: Kimber, 1977
- Magnus, Philip Kitchener: Portrait of an Imperialist 1958 (reissued 1968) New York: E.P. Dutton
- Montgomery Hyde, Harford The Other Love: An Historical and Contemporary Survey of Homosexuality in Britain London: Mayflower Books Ltd, 1972
- Pakenham, T. The Boer War (1979) ·
- Pollock, John Kitchener: Architect of Victory, Artisan of Peace Carroll & Graf Publishers (27 April 2001), ISBN 0-7867-0829-8
- Royle, Trevor The Kitchener Enigma (1985), a standard biography
- Warner, Philip Kitchener: The Man Behind the Legend Cassell; New Ed edition, May 2006, ISBN 0-304-36720-6
- 24. Empire: The British Imperial Experience from 1765 to the Present; Dennis Judd, pp.172–176
- 25. H. Montgomery Hyde, The Love That Dared not Speak its Name; p161
- 26. Empire and Sexuality: The British Experience, Ronald Hyam; pp.38–39
- 27. Patrick Barkham Navy’s new message: your country needs you, especially if you are gay The Guardian 21 February 2005
- 28. Niall Ferguson A walking, talking ramrod? 19 February 2001
- 29. A.N. Wilson, The Victorians (2002) p598