Gay Hero or Traitor to His Country?
The Story of Roger Casement Part II
Roger Casement may have been gay but is that important to his accomplishments? He was hung by the British for being a traitor. Some thought it was his homosexuality that tipped the scales of justice. Casement did admit being gay at his trial which probably did not help his case. Today we probably would not care.
Did you know there was a time in British history that sodomy was punishable by hanging?
That would be a whole new post wouldn’t it?
There is the fact of whether he was a traitor or not? But to which country?
Lets look at the facts
Because Ireland was still part of the British Empire, Roger Casement’s activities promoting an insurrection were categorized as sedition, rebellion, and treason. But what does Ireland think? Other rebels during the Easter Rising were probably gay too. Are they traitors as well?
Irish Revolutionary Accomplishments of Roger Casement
- he was a member of the provisional committee of the Irish Volunteers
- member of the Gaelic League
- attempted to raise an Irish Brigade from prisoners of war in Germany. He even went as far as trying to persuade Irish officers in America to head his brigade. Sadly only one officer , Robert Monteith agreed which is one reason Germany did not feel confident in sending troops to Ireland.
- met with Joseph Plunkett in Germany to discuss what would become the Easter Rising. Plunkett hid their secret plans for the insurrection inside his cane.
- wrote a permanent record on the topic of Chivalry for the official Fianna handbook which was also written by Constance Markievicz. (for more on the Irish boy scouts go here)
- successfully convinced Germany to donate machine guns, ammunition, and explosives to Ireland for the Easter Rising
Friends an family did not abandon Casement at his trial
WB Yeats wrote a poem about Casement calling him a gallant gentleman. You can read it here.
Alfred Noyes, a wartime propagandist published a letter denouncing Casement and his own version of the Black Diaries which he called ..
“an insult to a pig’s trough to let the foul record touch it.’.
Later, Noyes was lecturing on English poets in America a young lady stood up and shouted,
“This man is a blackguard scoundrel. Your countryman hanged my brother, Roger Casement.”
The lady was Roger Casement’s sister, Nina. Stung by this attack, Noyes wrote a letter to the Irish Press stating he may have been misled by the diaries.
In 1957 he published The Accusing Ghost or Justice for Casement in which he admitted that Casement may have been the victim of a British intelligence plot. In other words, he was set up. A little too late!
A victim of a British conspiracy?
When Casement was working as British consul in South America, he translated another private diary of one Armando Normand, a cruel man who inflicted torture, slavery, and vicious brutality on native rubber plant workers. These notes may have been incorporated into Casement’s own private diaries.
Was Casement a victim of a British conspiracy? Did the fact that he was a gay man have anything to do with it?
A little Half Affair.
Perhaps the most loyal friend of all to Roger Casement was Eva Gore Booth, younger sister of Constance Markievicz. Casement’s favorite cousin, Gertrude Parry convinced Eva to frequent his trials in Bow Street Police Court each day.
She wrote that he presented a well-groomed and distinguished appearance. He smiled when he saw her and sent notes through his cousin, Gertrude, who claimed, “they had a little half affair.”
Eva did everything she could to help Casement’s court case including
- Pleading with the editor of The Manchester Guardian to organize press support.
- Convinced Lord Carew, the Foreign Minister to influence the cabinet on Casment’s behalf, saying he was trying to stop the Rising.
- She tried to convince President Taft to sign a petition to gain a reprieve
- She also had an audience with King George V to gain an appeal. The King claimed he was powerless to act.