Other headlines considered for this article include:
- Was Elizabeth I Secretly A Dude In Disguise?
- Elizabeth I Too Smart To Be Woman, Obviously Dude In Drag
- Good Fucking Christ, Elizabeth I Was Not A Dude In Disguise
Have you ever heard the one about how Truman Capote, not Harper Lee, wrote To Kill A Mockingbird? Or maybe the one about how Emily Brontë’s brother wrote Wuthering Heights? Among the utterly crazypants theories about how all achievements ever were made by men, the craziest of all could well be this one: Queen Elizabeth I was actually a dude in drag. A dude named Neville.
According to The Daily Mail, a new book by thriller novelist Steve Berry explores an old legend that the real Elizabeth died in childhood, and the Virgin Queen was actually a boy brought in to replace her.
The legend holds that Henry VIII was on his way to visit the 10-year-old princess when she died of a fever. Her caretakers were afraid that the king would kill them for letting her die on their watch, so they figured the safest thing to do would be to hide the body and replace her. Unfortunately there were no girls Elizabeth’s age in the tiny hamlet of Bisley, so they took a boy named Neville and dressed him up in Elizabeth’s clothes.
Since Henry didn’t see Elizabeth often, he was totally fooled by Princess Neville. But when the king left, the guardians thought: “Now we’ll get in even more trouble if we’re found out! We’d better just stick with the lie and raise Neville as a princess.”
Bram Stoker told the story of the Bisley boy in his book of famous imposters, which explained that local legend held that a clergyman in Bisley had found the mysterious skeleton of a little girl in noble Tudor garments and jewels. Stoker wrote that the fact that Elizabeth never married was the strongest evidence of the conspiracy, because her secretly being a man in drag was the most plausible explanation for that.
Berry said he was skeptical when he first heard the legend, but in the process of researching his Dan Brown-esque spy novel, The King’s Deception, he uncovered compelling textual evidence that Queen Elizabeth I was really Neville in Queen Elizabeth drag.
Preeminent among that evidence was a quote from her tutor who said:
“The constitution of her mind is exempt from female weakness, and she is embued with a masculine power of application … In the whole manner of her life she rather resembles Hippolyta than Phaedra.”
So a presumptuous tutor said she was as smart as a man and reminiscent of Hippolyta, the Amazon queen. (Not a dude.)
And when Queen Elizabeth famously said, “I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England, too,” it could have been a metaphor. But, Berry points out, she could have been making a weirdly timed allusion to actually being a man.
That seems like a bit of a stretch, but Berry maintains the only way to know for sure is to check the body in her tomb at Westminster Abbey.
“Elizabeth’s grave has never been breached,” he said. “Now it’s time to open it up and see what’s in there.”
Well that’s one way to dispel a crazy theory. And to promote a novel.
Via The Daily Mail/Photo: Wikimedia Commons