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Renly Baratheon and Loras Tyrell have been in a stable romantic relationship for many years prior to the beginning of Season 1.
Renly Baratheon is the youngest brother of King Robert Baratheon and serves on his brother's Small Council as Master of Laws. Loras Tyrell is also one of the more prominent noblemen of the realm, as his father Mace Tyrell, who is the ruler of the Reach, the most populous administrative region of the Seven Kingdoms.
- Tourney of the Hand in "The Wolf and the Lion"
- Tournament near Storm's End, and bedroom, in "What is Dead May Never Die"
In the books
Loras became Renly's squire some years ago and they have apparently been having an ongoing romantic relationship for some time. Renly and Loras are actually one of the most stable romantic relationships in the entire novel series, based on mutual love and affection, and with no other major complications. Most nobles are in arranged marriages not based on love, though they can find love in them over time - such as Eddard and Catelyn, but their relationship had the complication of Eddard's bastard son Jon Snow. A few nobles sometimes marry for love, but Tywin's wife Joanna died years ago, while Prince Doran Martell and his wife Mellario later fell out of love and separated, after which she moved back to the Free Cities. Jon Snow and Ygritte are romantically involved but they are star-crossed lovers on opposite sides of a war. The only other truly "romantic" relationship in the narrative of reasonable stability is that between Samwell Tarly and Gilly - as much as a relationship between a soldiers sworn to a vow of celibacy and a girl pregnant by her own father can be said to be stable (they care about each other, but Samwell is too ashamed about breaking his vows of celibacy to seriously push for a long-term relationship).
The books implied that Loras and Renly were in a homosexual relationship, but didn't outright state it - simply due to the plot mechanics that they aren't POV narrators in the novels. Many of their scenes in the second novel are told from Catelyn's POV narration interacting with them, for example, and logically Catelyn wouldn't be present for scenes set in their private chambers. There are many hints in the characters' conversations and thoughts about their relationship, for example:
- Renly tells Stannis "You'll be pleased to know she (Margaery) came to me a maid". Stannis replies "In your bed she's like to die that way".
- While Loras escorts Sansa, she tells him "How terrible for your poor sister", referring to Renly's death. He reacts angrily, since Renly's death saddened him much more.
- Olenna tells Sansa "The Baratheons have always had some queer notions".
- Garlan tells Sansa "Loras is valiant and handsome, and we all love him dearly... but your Imp will make a better husband".
- When Loras threatens Brienne, Jaime intervenes and tells him firmly "Now sheathe your bloody sword, or I'll take it from you and shove it up some place even Renly never found". This is perhaps the most blunt of the hints in the books about their relationship.
- Littlefinger tells Sansa that adding Loras to the Kingsguard "relieved him [Mace] of the difficult task of trying to find lands and a bride for a third son, never easy, and doubly difficult in Ser Loras's case".
- Cersei wonders if Maragery is a virgin. She figures that Margaery might have had sex with Renly (despite his sexual preference) because "A man may prefer the taste of hippocras, yet if you set a tankard of ale before him, he will quaff it quick enough".
The TV series had more freedom for the camera to show events beyond the confines of POV characters from the novels, including what both Loras and his sister Margaery were doing "off screen". Thus many of the scenes between Renly, Loras, and/or Margaery didn't directly appear in the novels, though they probably "occurred" in some form, just "off-screen". Author George R.R. Martin did outright confirm when the TV series created romantic scenes for Renly and Loras in private for Season 1 that he fully intended them to be a romantic couple in the novels.
After Renly was killed, Loras took his body away and buried him in secret somewhere in the gardens of Storm's End so no one would ever disturb it (i.e. he was worried that Joffrey might order Renly's corpse desecrated as he tried to usurp the Iron Throne from him).
Following Renly's death, Loras becomes despondent. Eventually he joins the Kingsguard, in part to guard Margaery from Joffrey. When reminded that the Kingsguard swear never to marry or even love another but remain totally dedicated to service, Loras responds (without directly mentioning his love of Renly in public) that he is unconcerned, because once the sun of one's life has gone out, no candle can replace it (he knows he will never love again).
The TV series showed Loras having sex with the male prostitute Olyvar in Seasons 3 to 5 after Renly died, creating some consternation - writer Bryan Cogman later explained that the intent was just to show that Loras is "drowning his sorrows" with casual sex, as it were, and he is still deeply mourning his loss of Renly. To Cogman's deep regret, however, these scripted lines of dialogue were cut for time - they never intended to convey that Loras is "loving" again following his loss of Renly. While all of this wasn't directly stated on-screen due to time restraints they hoped it was at least still implied.