Steve Berry reignited interested in an ages long theory that Queen Elizabeth I ( 1533 – 1603 ) was in fact a man. We believe that the theory has merit and are inclined to accept it, as we have our own case of a man in drag in the person of “Michelle Obama.”
It is this latter case which gives us plausible affirmation to deviate from our American chronicles to consider the case of fraud in British history. In fact we have another article on deck discussing another royal deception to bolster this one.
For those who have internet searched this subject, we do not have any new factual details, but we assemble the evidence in its most cogent form. And while we admit that smoking gun evidence is unavailable, the counter arguments are equally flimsy. One writer wrote, for example, that surely an autopsy would have revealed the truth of the matter. We would point the reader to the word surely to evaporate the essence of such argumentation – it is surely sophistry at its best.
Part of the justification for the thesis is its persistence throughout history during which the subject stirs anew, under the principle of where there is smoke there is fire. For example, Berry points to Bram Stoker, author the Dracula story, who wrote about Elizabeth’s deception in his book Imposters, though neither affirming nor denying it.
He in turn based his story upon the discovery in the early 18th century of the remains of a finely dressed child in Gloucestershire who could not have been a local resident. The citizens of Bisley have for centuries dressed up a boy as a girl to celebrate the event of a boy being impressed into royal service as its future queen.
The original occasion for the deception was the death at about the age of 12 or 13 of Elizabeth, the surviving daughter of Anne Boleyn, the second wife of the ill tempered Henry VIII. Fearing that the returning father would fly into a vengeful rage, something for which the King is well known, upon the discovery of his daughter’s death, the princess’ attendants, Catherine Ashley, and Thomas Parry, conspired to conceal her death by dressing up a boy as the king’s daughter. Later, during her reign, Elizabeth elevated them to positions not commonly given to individuals of their stations.
While it may seem most implausible that a father would not know his own daughter, one has to recognize that royal family relationships were frequently distant with children being sent hither and yon while the parents attended to affairs of state or of the heart, or lust.
With Henry’s poor health, and the rapid changes associated with adolescence, it is entirely plausible that Henry would not have noticed the substitution. In addition, Henry’s concern for Elizabeth was quite disdainful, for he had at one point disinherited her. In short, there seems to be no love lost between the two, meaning that familiarity under these conditions would have been superficial.
The primary issue which instigates the speculation about gender is that Elizabeth refused to marry, thus ensuring the demise of the Tudor dynasty, a thought considered absolutely sacrilegious among royalty. History is replete with monarchs attempting to ensure succession, Elizabeth’s alleged father being a prime example.
Therefore, her abandonment of the prime directive of royal hereditary continuity indicates strongly that something was not right with Elizabeth.
Some researchers have noted a marked difference in the development of Elizabeth, citing her dramatically changed prose which suddenly shifted from dull to florid. Her royal instructor, Roger Ascham, noted that she had the mind of man, rather than that of a woman. Perhaps the great accomplishments of Elizabethan England were the handiwork of a man’s mind rather than that of a woman’s.
Elizabeth was also known for her athletic capabilities which far surpassed not only all of the royal women, such as in horseback riding, but even besting many of the male courtiers. It also seems out of place in the gender conscious medieval world that a woman would have such a heart for hunting as did Elizabeth.
Contemporaries and historians alike have noted that Elizabeth governed more as a man, with her own confession, that she had the heart of a man, sounding a blaring concession to the truth. Some attribute this phenomenon more to a strong woman than to true masculinity, but this is only conjecture or excuse making. On its own, it doesn’t prove anything, but we would aver that only a man can think and act like a man.
Berry also notes that Elizabeth’s portraits were carefully managed, with a preference for a youthful Elizabeth throughout her long reign. But one characteristic we note in the paintings is a distinctly non-feminine mystique. Elizabeth grows grizzlier over time, something which not even her heavy make-up and wigs can hide. We note that her hair recedes in a masculine fashion, due of course to male baldness.
Elizabeth also refused to allow doctors to examine her below neck – what was she hiding? Her courtiers were never allowed to see her undressed or without her heavy pasty makeup. She always wore high frilly collars to hide “her” Adam’s apple. While high collars were the fashion of the time, they served well to conceal evidence of masculine anatomy.
Finally, Elizabeth ordered that no embalming or funeral be performed, a final act in maintaining the big Lie of her 45 year reign.
While individually each of these details could be explained as innocent, non-determinative facts, we believe that taken as a whole they create a strong case that Elizabeth was really a man.
However, there are reasonably strong arguments against the case. One such argument against Elizabeth being a man was her relationship with Robert Dudley, about which many rumors swirled, and have persisted based upon her surviving correspondence with him. On the other hand, was it a cover or a groundless event whipped to great lather? Or, even more sinister, was it a homosexual relationship?
Finally, what is one to make of the scenario which takes a country Bisley boy who turned out to be the equal of any royal? Is it reasonable? Most would say not.
Ultimately, the only way to settle the debate is to examine the bones of Elizabeth. Should they prove to be those of a man, it would be another example of history’s deceits, and the conceit of the arrogant British royal family which claims that it has an unbroken line of royal blood. Barring any conclusive evidence, we are strongly inclined to accept the theory that Elizabeth was indeed a man.
National Geographic, Secrets of the Virgin Queen, 2010, accessed YouTube 8/8/2014
Christopher Stevens, Is this proof the Virgin Queen was an imposter in drag? Shocking new theory about Elizabeth I unearthed in historic manuscripts, Mail Online, June 7, 2013, accessed 8/9/2014
Copyright 2014 Tony Bonn. All rights reserved.