Exploring... LGBTQ+ in the City


Princess Seraphina (otherwise known as John Cooper)

Otherwise known as gentleman’s servant John Cooper, Seraphina was seen as the country’s first drag queen in the 18th century. She was a regular in the Vauxhall Pleasure Garden. Princess Seraphina appeared in court at the Old Bailey in the City of London during the Sessions of 5–8 July 1732, when she prosecuted Thomas Gordon, an unemployed servant, for having assaulted her in Chelsea Fields and stealing her clothes and money.  

You can read the full trial transcript here, including a descriptive account of the Princess by Mary Poplet;

"I have seen her several times in Women's Cloaths, she commonly us'd to wear a white Gown, and a scarlet Cloak, with her Hair frizzled and curl'd all round her Forehead; and then she would so flutter her Fan, and make such fine Curt'sies, that you would not have known her from a Woman: She takes great Delight in Balls and Masquerades, and always chuses to appear at them in a Female Dress, that she may have the Satisfation of dancing with fine Gentlemen."

One theory of the origin of the term 'drag queen' is that it came from men who performed female roles in the theatre and had to 'drag' their long dresses along the stage...

Pride Inside

Amnesty International, UK Black Pride, Stonewall and ParaPride have joined to bring 2020 celebrations online, as Pride Inside.

Pride Inside will see artists, musicians, comedians, DJs and activists come together for a series of performances, talks and workshops taking place from 28 June to 5 July, continuing the celebration after ‘Global Pride’ on 27 June.

Take a look back at highlights from UK Black Pride 2019 for a flavour of what's in store this year.

First Muslim Pride Festival

London's first-ever Muslim Pride was supposed to take place on 11 April 11 but has been postponed to 12 December 12.

In 2019, Muslim LGBTQ+ charity Imaan successfully raised over £10,000 to make the event happen. Speaking to TimeOut, a spokesman for Imaan said:

‘We as LGBTQI Muslims often find ourselves isolated, without community and frequently facing homophobic, biphobic, transphobic AND Islamaphobic abuse. The event will build on the incredible events we organised in the past and feature panels, discussions, speakers, arts, culture and history – a first for LGBTQI Muslims.’

Sir Dirk Bogarde

Sir Dirk Bogarde is regarded as one of the most popular film stars in the UK in the 1960s. During his career he made courageous choices, like starring in the movie Victim in 1961. The film tells the story of the blackmail of a respectful member of society for his sexuality. Victim was the first British movie ever to use the word ‘homosexual’. The film raised public consciousness over the topic and six years later, on 21 July 1967, the Sexual Offences Act passed Parliament, which is considered a milestone in achieving homosexual law reform.

Bogarde always publicly denied he was a homosexual, though later in life he confessed that he and his manager, Anthony Forwood, had a long-term relationship. In 1984 Bogarde was asked to serve as president of the jury at the Cannes Film Festival, becoming the first Briton ever to do so and in 1992 he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II. Sir Dirk Bogarde was made Knight Bachelor, whose ‘spiritual home’ is in The Chapel of the Imperial Society of Knights Bachelor in St Paul’s Cathedral, which is also known as St Martin's Chapel.

Dirk Bogarde

City of London Pride Parade

The City of London Corporation joined the annual Pride in London parade for the first time in 2018 to show its support for the LGBTQ+ community. Around 50 elected Members and staff from the Square Mile’s governing body took part in the march through central London along with students from the City of London’s schools and academies. Representatives from the City of London Police and the City Corporation’s staff networks also joined the march.

Tim Hailes, the first openly gay Sheriff of London, said:

“Pride is the name and proud is, undoubtedly, what we are to be taking part in this wonderful celebration of LGBT+ people, and what has been achieved, in particular, over the last 25 years. Society is more accepting, the LGBT+ community is more visible and vocal than ever, and championing diversity is now firmly on the agenda of City businesses, but it would be naïve to suggest that prejudice no longer exists. The City of London Corporation’s involvement in Pride is our way of celebrating the growing diversity in the Square Mile, while also standing shoulder-to-shoulder with those working in communities to promote acceptance and tackle homophobia.”

Around the Corner

Since December 2019, visitors to London’s Culture Mile - which stretches from Farringdon to Moorgate - have been guided through the streets by a quote from Virginia Woolf’s novel Jacob’s Room: ‘What are you going to meet if you turn this corner?’

The installation titled ‘Around the Corner’ by Karsten Huneck & Bernd Truempler (KHBT) begins at Millennium Bridge, with each word of this quote located at points along the route from the bridge to the Museum of London.

Virginia Woolf was part of the liberal Bloomsbury Group which included E. M. Forster, John Maynard Keynes and her lover, Vita Sackville-West. After her death, Woolf was inspirational for 1970s feminists, and while her writing was progressive in many areas - anti-colonialism, pacifism and women's rights - she also held controversial views on race and class which divide her critics today.[1]

©Culture Mile

Sarah Churchill and Queen Anne

Princess Anne was just eight years old when she first met her future aide, Sarah Jennings (later Sarah Churchill, the Duchess of Marlborough, an ancestor of Sir Winston Churchill), who at 13 had just begun serving as a lady-in-waiting to Anne’s stepmother, then the Duchess of York.  

Anne certainly loved Sarah, although there is no tangible proof of the nature of their love. She gave Sarah the powerful positions of Mistress of the Robes, Groom of the Stole, Keeper of the Privy Purse, and Ranger of Windsor Park when she became Queen in 1702.

Sarah went on to become one of the most powerful women in the country during her time as Queen Anne’s favourite. Sarah’s story and her relation with Queen Anne returned to the modern spotlight when 2018 period film The Favourite came out. The film examines the personal relationships between Queen Anne and her two “favourites”, Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough and her cousin Abigail Masham.

A statue of Queen Anne can be found outside St Paul’s cathedral as she was the monarch on the throne when St Paul’s was rebuilt after the Great Fire.

London Metropolitan Archives

Queer Lives at the Tower

“Queer Lives at the Tower” was a new immersive tour exploring 700 years of LGBT+ history at the Tower of London in February. The tour, written by Chris Bush and directed by Tom Latter, explored untold stories of the Tower;

“We’ll take you on a journey of queerness through history, combining creative storytelling with performance to explore the lives, loves and experiences of LGBT+ figures linked with the Tower of London, from the 14th Century to the present day. Under the cover of darkness, guests will be co-hosted by a glamorous drag artist, dressed in fabulous attire inspired by the Tower of London’s ravens, and be taken on a journey across battlements and through historic archways. Along the way encounter a host of fascinating characters from King James I, to Piers Gaveston, a close favourite of the Medieval King Edward II.”

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virginia_Woolf