Tory MP and Daily Mail launch sickening attack on memorial for executed gay men
Anti-gay Tory MP Andrew Bridgen has sickeningly lashed out at a memorial for men executed for being gay.
The powerful exhibit was unveiled by the National Trust this week at Kingston Lacy, a property in Dorset.
The house’s former owner William John Bankes dedicated much of his life to restoring the property, but was forced to flee the country when authorities discovered he was gay, which at the time could lead to the death penalty.
As part of a range of new exhibits at the property based on Bankes’ tragic life story, the Trust commissioned art piece ‘In Memoriam’, a powerful tribute to the 51 men who were hanged under laws that criminalised same-sex acts during Bankes’ lifetime (1786-1855).
The piece includes 51 ropes, and stands as a reminder of the brutality of the times.
But shockingly one Conservative MP has lashed out at the exhibition, continuing a media campaign waged against the Trust by anti-LGBT Tories.
Speaking to the Daily Mail, Tory MP Andrew Bridgen insisted it was “totally inappropriate” for the Trust to include a memorial to persecuted gay men in the house of a man persecuted for being gay.
He said: “This is totally inappropriate. It’s not what people visit the National Trust for. If I want moral guidance I go to church – not the National Trust.”
Meanwhile the Daily Mail branded it a “PC stunt”.
The Tory MP had lashed out at the Trust previously over other parts of its LGBT history campaign, Prejudice and Pride.
He said: “I’m beginning to lose trust in the National Trust, and I think so will many of their members.
“It’s clear with recent revelations the direction the management wish to take the organisation. They are in danger of leaving their volunteers behind.”
Unsurprisingly Bridgen is a long-time opponent of LGBT rights.
He bitterly opposed same-sex marriage in 2013, launching an attempted coup against then-Prime Minister David Cameron over the issue.
He claimed: “By pressing ahead with gay marriage and delaying a promise on an EU referendum until he was forced to do so, Mr Cameron has fuelled the rise of UKIP. We have created our own nemesis.
“I believe the prime minister has blundered by forcing through the gay marriage vote. This was something we did not have to do. The PM marched us on to the guns over this and it has cost us a lot of support.”
His attempt to remove Mr Cameron garnered little support within the party.
The MP also backed attempts to amend the law to allow registrars to ‘opt out’ of performing marriages for gay couples
The house’s former owner, William John Bankes was an explorer, scholar, art collector, and Tory Member of Parliament. He inherited Kingston Lacy in 1834 and set about transforming the house into a Venetian Renaissance palazzo.
Bankes sunk much of his time and money into the house, travelling the world to add to its unique collection of antiquities.
But in 1841 he was caught with a soldier in ‘an indecent act’, which at the time could be punishable by death.
Bankes, who had already had a scrape with the law over a similar escapade, was left with no choice but to flee, leaving the home he had dedicated his life to restoring.
He lived out his remaining days in exile in France, and later Italy.
Bankes shipped Italian marble pieces, paintings and many other objects back to the property, each with detailed instructions for how they were to be displayed in the house.
He was never able to publicly return to Kingston Lacy, though experts believe he could have made incognito trips back to inspect the property.
He died in Italy in 1855, 14 years after fleeing the UK.
The programme has been researched and developed by the University of Leicester’s Research Centre for Museums and Galleries (RCMG) in collaboration with the National Trust and with support from Stonewall.
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John Orna-Ornstein, National Trust Director of Curation & Experience says: “Kingston Lacy holds a story that deserves to be known more widely – as with all those we have researched and shared through our ‘Prejudice & Pride’ programme.
“These stories show how deeply and widely LGBTQ heritage goes back into our shared history and how this resonates with our lives today.”
Professor Richard Sandell of the University of Leicester’s Research Centre for Museums and Galleries says: “Historic sites hold enormous potential to tell stories that not only illuminate our understanding of the past but which also offer us opportunities to look differently at the world today.
“Our collective aim in researching and developing EXILE has been to offer visitors an enhanced appreciation of the house and its beautiful collections but also the chance to reflect on how that history is entwined with a bigger, ongoing story about the law and LGBTQ equality.”