1574-1638

John Wilbye is a bit of a mystery, or "queery" sexuality-wise, as he was not known to have any romantic partners and he remained unmarried until his death. This fact in itself is significant to note, as it was extremely rare for men of the Elizabethan era not to marry unless they took religious orders or were physically or mentally incapacitated. Marriage enhanced a man's status in the community, and unmarried men of the time who were otherwise as successful, well-to-do and able-bodied as Wilbye was, were often assumed to be queer in nature. 

During Wilbye's lifetime, views around homosexual behaviour swung widely. Just before Wilbye's birth, Queen Elizabeth had reinstated King Henry VIII's "buggery" law, and in 1563 again made sodomy punishable by hanging. Few hangings actually took place under the charge of buggery, even though almost no material evidence was needed; possibly, monarchs used the law as a method of coercion for their subjects. Conversely, King James, who became king in 1603, had numerous openly homosexual affairs apart from his wife. King James even arranged for his male lover, George Villiers, to be buried next to him. He also sponsored the printing of the King James bible; until the printing of this version, the scriptures were practically unknown either to clergy or to people.