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Robert Stephenson Smyth 1st Baron Baden-Powell
(1857 - 1941) U.K.


Soldier, founder of Boy Scouts


Born in London, he was educated at Charterhouse and commissioned in the Hussars in 1876. Worldwide fame came to him after his defence of Mafeking during the South African British-Boer War. Invalided home, he was knighted in 1910 with the rank of lieutenant general.

In 1907 he had held a camp for Boy Scouts on Brownsea Island, Pole Harbour, and in 1908 he wrote Scouting for Boys. He devoted his retirement to developing the Scout movement, which rapidly spread throughout the world. From 1920 he was chosen as World Chief Scout. In 1929 he was created a peer, for organizing both the Boy Scout and Girl Guide movements, as Lord of Gillwell, and in 1937 received the Order of Merit.

No concrete evidence exists that Baden-Powell was gay (he destroyed as much of his personal correspondence as possible before his death); however, several recent biographers, like Michael Rosenthal in The Character Factory: Baden-Powell's Boy Scouts and the Imperatives of Empire (1984), argue that he was a repressed homosexual.

Much of the evidence for Baden-Powell's homosexuality can be found in Tim Jeal's monumental and definitive biography, Baden-Powell (1989), in which Jael states frankly:

"The evidence available points inexorably to the conclusion that Baden-Powell was a repressed homosexual, (... but) he managed to follow Plato's prescription glorifying the love of man for man, or man for boy, while remaining physically chaste."

Jeal gives several detailed instances of Baden-Powell's pleasure in seeing naked boys, his emotional enjoyement gained from living alongside them, and his delight in contemplating the clandestine "artistic" nude photography of boys which was at that time circulating among English pederastic public school circles.

His strongest and most enduring personal attachment was to the exceptionally handsome Kenneth McLaren, whom Baden-Powell called "The Boy," throughout their lives. His recent biographers think their relationship was sexual.

Despite preferring all-male society, Baden-Powell married a woman in 1912. He was fifty-five and she was twenty-three. He seems to have convinced himself that because she was thirty-two years his junior and outdoorsy, a leading Girl Guide, their marriage could be like his deep bonding with athletic young men. He was wrong. Immediately, he began to suffer intense headaches, which did not go away until he moved into a separate bedroom, permanently.


Source: Aldrich R. & Wotherspoon G., Who's Who in Gay and Lesbian History, from Antiquity to WWII, Routledge, London, 2001
Baden-Powell - by Tim Jeal
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