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Orange Order historian disputes gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell's claim that King Billy was bisexual

By David Young

Published 22/08/2015

William of Orange on his famous white horse
William of Orange on his famous white horse
Peter Tatchell

Was King Billy bisexual? Leading British gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell certainly thinks so.

Speaking on BBC Northern Ireland's Talkback programme yesterday, Mr Tatchell argued there was little historical doubt about the claim.

"Research has been building up over the centuries to suggest that King William III was bisexual - probably not gay, but he had bisexual relationships," said Mr Tatchell.

"One relationship was with William Bentinck, later Earl of Portland, and another with Arnold Joost van Keppel.

"Keppel began his career as a lowly page, and had a rapid rise to become the Earl of Albemarle, ennobled by William III.

The campaigner added that the fact Bentinck was buried in Westminster just feet away from William pointed to the closeness of the relationship between the two men.

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"There is no evidence that either of these men did anything to merit their titles and rewards from King William," Mr Tatchell added, claiming that the historical consensus was increasingly pointing to the bisexuality of King William.

But the gay activist's claims were disputed by Dr Clifford Smyth, a leading historian of the Orange Order.

He said: "There were rumours about King William's sexuality. But the difficulty is you can have rumours about anyone's sexuality once they are dead and gone.

"King William III is a controversial figure: some people love what he did and some don't like it.

"It was all a long time ago. There was no one there to take a video, and he hasn't appeared on the list of names from the Ashley Madison website.

"As no one was actually in the bedchamber at the time to bear witness, all this speculation just becomes the hot air of propaganda."

Another leading historian, Dr Eamon Phoenix, agreed With Mr Tacthell that speculation about King William's sexuality had been common during the centuries since his reign.

"Over the years a number of historians of the period have raised questions about William's sexuality" he said.

"He did marry James I's daughter Mary, but there were suggestions that he was gay.

"But I've never seen any hard evidence. However, the jury is still out pending conclusive written evidence."

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