Was Elizabeth I a Man?

Posted By on June 10, 2013

Elizabeth ILast Friday The Daily Mail published an article with the title “Is this proof the Virgin Queen was an imposter in drag? Shocking new theory about Elizabeth I unearthed in historic manuscripts”. The article was about “a controversial new book” by Steve Berry who believes that when Elizabeth I told the troops at Tilbury that “I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England, too”, she was speaking the literal truth because she was a man.

Bang! Yes, that is the sound of my head hitting my desk!

This is not a new story. Even The Daily Mail concedes that the Bisley Boy legend was written about by Bram Stoker in his 1910 book “Famous Imposters”, but it’s salacious, isn’t it?

Never heard of the Bisley Boy legend? Well, I wrote about it on The Elizabeth Files back in 2009 and it’s been one of my post popular posts because it gets lots of traffic every time “Secrets of the Virgin Queen” is on TV because this programme also discusses the Bisley Boy legend. You can read all about it in my article “The Bisley Boy Legend” but the premise of the story is that sometime around 1543/44 the young Elizabeth was staying at Bisley in Gloucestershire when she died. Her household panicked because Henry VIII was on his way to visit his daughter, so Kat Ashley, Elizabeth’s governess, searched the local village for a suitable girl to take Elizabeth’s place. Unfortunately, there was not a suitable girl, but there was a red-haired boy who had been one of the Princess’s playmates and so knew the Princess and the household. The boy was dressed in Elizabeth’s clothes and presented to the King, who did not notice anything. The plan worked so well that the boy stayed as Elizabeth and became the famous Virgin Queen, Elizabeth I.

In my opinion, the story is complete rubbish and you can read the arguments for and against in my article over at The Elizabeth Files, but what really annoys me is that The Daily Mail article refers to “Shocking new theory about Elizabeth I unearthed in historic manuscripts”. Erm, no, you might want to read Bram Stoker’s book to find that he discusses the very same evidence. I don’t believe that you can call something written in 1910 “new”. Grrrr!

Sources and Further Reading

113 thoughts on “Was Elizabeth I a Man?”

  1. Sarah says:

    Oh yes, because god forbid an actual woman wield the power, strength, grace and fortitude that Elizabeth I did. Can’t have been possible. Must have been a man. Sigh…

    1. Beth says:

      Nicely summed up!

    2. Mario says:

      Well said! What absolute bollocks of a claim. Literally 🙂

    3. Esther says:

      well said!

    4. Carlton says:

      Eh, you’ve all kind of missed the point for the sake of patting yourselves on the back so you could feel good about your anti-patriarchy comment. You go girl!

      But no, the theory existed more to explain my she didn’t marry and why she claimed so often to be manlike, not because everyone is a big bad sexist trying to keep Elizabeth I down.

      1. Carlton says:

        For the record though, the theory is still complete rubbish.

        1. Jon says:

          You people should actually read the book.

          I’m with the original poster in spirit: society often downgrades the accomplishments of great women to support patriarchy. But I don’t think they propagaters of this theory are doing that.

          The book points out primary sources (i.e. people who actually knew elizabeth before she went to Bilsey. Before, she was extremely studious and shy to the point that she was considered agorophobic and never spoke a word before her father, Henry XIII, because he had her mother beheaded. The Elizabeth that returned to court was extroverted and simply lacked the attention span to replicate the studiousness of the younger version.

          Even if you take her constant oratorical references to the fact that she was as strong as a man and not as weak and fragile as a woman (her words, not mine) as circumstantial, the fact that she never married is difficult to ignore. Marrying Spain or a Habsburg would have avoided a war at a time when her nation was facing annihilation. William Cecil, her most trusted advisor and a political genius by his contempories’ views, at first was adminent that she marry and then later changed his position without explanation (persumably, she shared her gender with him).

          The truth will never be clear until them exhume her bones from the Abbey and test the DNA. It doesn’t change anything about what she did or stands for, but it should matter for anyone who cares about history.

        2. King Bob says:

          Petrol?….no…..penguin?….no…..pen wiper?….no…..OH PENIS ENVY….probably a 16th century attempt at reverse psych.Not very becoming for one divinely ruling…oh yes they did! James actually propagated that concept…they all thought they were divinely righted to rule…standing on the bloody bodies of relatives, nephews, cousins, The only true royalty on earth is lf the line of Judah, via sons of David ; Nathan ( read Jeremiah 30 ;22) until the line was stripped from the progeny of Solomon.

          So these Transylvanian parvenues….. renamed/repackaged Saxe Coburgs are no more ordained by GOD than I am…..Bloody vampire descendants ruling an empire, or at best thickheaded inbred Slavik refugees/Rothschild lackeys ruling the world…..was…. Excuse me I have to go and regurgitate.

          So many Chavs the world over; so little realistic know;edge of factual history. Present company excluded. The ignorance of the masses results in 6 generation all living in one house paid for by the taxpayer.It also results in pedophiles occupying positions of remarkable authority and responsibility with “divinely inspired” protection….Jersey…..Guernsey…..that’s not even touching on the big island nor the highlands nor the Emerald Isle.
          That’s OK though…since there are no firearms in he UK you should be safe from the imported “End of the Empire”.or any violence.

          I got to go watch Torchwood and Graham Norton and maybe catch a Benny Hill rerun..compliments on Monty Python’s reunion too.
          So farewell from a son of Cheshire, Devonshire, Yorkshire, Lancashire,,Leicester, and the house of Plantangenet, Lancaster and Charlemagne….he’s kind’a a D**K too. Holy Roman and Empire my my royal keister…..,
          You know…Tony Richardson or is it Robinson has a wonderful video explaining the illegtimacy of Edward IV which probably speaks volumes to why Edward V never reigned….there was much to support his mother doing an archer in the father’s absence. It turns out a man in Australia is actually king….or maybe me…..TA.

      2. CK3 says:

        Elizabeth didn’t get married because of the bad experiences is he had with men in her life as a child. Her father behaded her mother for goodness sake and treated her step mothers appallingly. She maybe would have married Robert Dudly but he was already married and when his wife died in suspicious circumstances it would have been too risky to marry him anyway. Elizabeth is occasionally referred to as “manlike” but she was also very elegant and feminine too.
        I hate to say it but I think you’ll find it is actually a sexist matter. The theory has no reason to explain why she never married etc because we already know why. Sarah was correct – heaven forbid a woman be England’s greatest ruler!

      3. Julian says:

        Considerring he fact that her mother was beheaded along with other women stupid enough to get involved with Henry, it’s little wonder she may have associated marriage with death.

  2. Azaria says:

    The whole article was hilarious from start to finish – and not a single source cited!

    I particularly enjoyed:
    – The thought that Henry might go all the way to Oxfordshire to visit his daughter in a tiny hamlet for a single afternoon when he was sick himself
    – The suggestion that Elizabeth was his favourite child
    – The suggestion that Elizabeth was England’s most valuable child, because she could be used for a marriage alliance (never mind the prince who would inherit the kingdom – a bastard daughter to create a tenuous alliance is far more important!)
    – The idea that he might execute the nannies (by hanging, drawing and quartering, no less!) because Elizabeth died – bit extreme, even for Henry
    – The idea that this peasant boy from the tiny hamlet was Elizabeth’s companion and fellow pupil
    – The suggestion that Elizabeth was gentle and painfully shy
    – The thought of the adult ‘Elizabeth’ getting up at the crack of dawn every morning to shave ‘her’ face after ‘she’ hit puberty!

    Also loving “Of course this entire theory sounds absurd, given that every child grows up with tales of our glorious Virgin Queen, celebrated by Shakespeare and venerated in innumerable plays, songs and films over the centuries.”

    No, the entire theory sounds absurd given that it’s completely implausible and demonstrably not true.

    1. Claire says:

      “No, the entire theory sounds absurd given that it’s completely implausible and demonstrably not true.”

      Yes, definitely.

    2. Gayle says:

      I feel for the Earl of Leicester – good job they never married. How cheesed off would you be after arranging for your sick wife to have a ‘fall’ and then finding out your intended was a bloke

      1. Janet says:

        That was my first thought – what of her extremely close relationship with her “dearest Robin.” I’ve not seen a word about that at all.

    3. Angel Singer says:

      Re: fear that Henry would execute caretakers if his child died…I do not recall reading that anyone was executed or otherwise punished following the deaths of his first son with Catherine of Aragon, nor with Henry Fitzroy, his son by Bessie Blount. Not to mention the many miscarriages of his first two wives. Why, then, would anyone believe he would do so if Elizabeth took ill and passed on?

      1. King Bob says:

        Would you take the chance that the rather ruddy drunken and volatile Henry would NOT remove your innards outward. Maybe his behavior of late or some magpie like courtier would have been ready to point iut anything out of the ordinary.
        When I, a descendant return across the pond , as a descendant of Henry III, the Percys. Dudleys, Mortimers, Vavasours, Nevilles,Gascoignes, Beauforts, Plantangents ( separate from Henry III, Greys, Wentworths, La Poles, Lancasters, Fitaalans, Fitzwilliams, Bruces an Stuart as well as Charlemagne; I WILL kick some arse and chew some bblegum…..I am, however, almost out of bubblegum. Ta.
        I haven’t forgotten my Grewat Grandfathers, Percys, Mortimer, Wentworths who were behaeded before and after death. England has a reckoning. I willbring Obamacare an d disenfranchised urban yutes to the UK to teach the somewhat pompous parts of the population a celebration and appreciation of diversity. Long live the UN ; Long live the EU.Just kidding. Also if Henry executed anything that remotely smelled like a Plantangenet up to and including an elderly orlate middle aged “last remnant” of that once mighty house.If he would be prone to murder so many people, like an Archbishop of Canterbury for failing to obtain his divorce or swear an oath to him as the new POPE of England….he should have done anything…More, Cranmore the list is endless including An Boleyn and 4 others including her brother? What a psycho.. Never mind…..your next “Monarch” will probably be Roma, Muslim or Malluccaan…….Or Obama of we can ship him that way….how about Piers Morgan? LOL, Rue Brittania.Don’t forget the lunacy and arrogance of Henry Beaufort #8 You got the Roman Catholic Church with a megalomaniac running it. Wow….that’s all better now…. LOL

  3. Michelle says:

    This was one of the Daily Mail’s regular attempts to make an advert into news!

    It was all about promoting a fictional book so I don’t know why they felt the need to make out it had any basis in fact.

    1. Claire says:

      I used to like The Daily Mail many years ago but it’s awful now.

      1. Angel Singer says:

        It has become almost an equivalent of “The Enquirer” (over here on my side of the pond.)

  4. God forbid we should believe what’s written in the newspapers! Stop me while I roll around laughing at this salacious conspiracy theory with nothing but local gossip as its source!

    It must have been a slow news day, or another attempt to keep the masses entertained while something really serious happened in the wide world that the government doesn’t want us to know about.

  5. Alison says:

    I was thinking when I read that ” is it April 1st?” and all fool’s day. How ridiculous.

  6. James Harris says:

    “Painfully shy” Tudors? You really do learn something new every day from reading our national newspapers !

    One wonders who on earth the Mail could have been using as a basis for comparison …

    1. Claire says:

      Yes, I really have given up on The Daily Mail as an actual newspaper.

      1. Marilyn R says:

        “The bones of Elizabeth I, Good Queen Bess, lie mingled with those of her sister, Bloody Mary, in a single tomb at Westminster Abbey.” One has to wonder how this mingling of the bones came about – revenge of James I on his late mother’s behalf, perhaps? Actually, that seems like a good theory to me, I shall auction the film rights to the highest bidder straight away and we can have ghosts and sobbing children, and a reincarnated Richard III and Queen Victoria could put in an appearance ….

        I love The Daily Mail – friends refer to it as ‘your comic’; I did actually read The Beano avidly until I was about 50, but The Daily Mail is much more fun.

  7. miladyblue says:

    Did this author study his Tudor history under “Professor/Doctor” Philippa Gregory?

    I heartily second Sarah’s opinion – that ONLY a man could wield that sort of power with the grace, fortitude and cunning Elizabeth did. That was proven to be idiocy even before Elizabeth’s birth, with the likes of powerful women such as Queen Isabella of Castille, Katharine of Aragon, Mary Tudor (Elizabeth’s half sister, not her aunt) Margaret of Austria, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Louise of Savoy. Not a single one of them were ever doubted to be women, nor viewed as less than womanly wielding the power that was rightfully hers.

    Even Elizabeth’s own grandmother, Margaret Beaufort, though not a Queen, was able to wield a surprising amount of power first as a conspirator to put her son on the throne, but also as an influence in Henry VII’s reign.

    1. miladyblue says:

      Whoops! I forgot to add to the list of powerful women, no less than Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth’s own mother!

      1. Jan says:

        I whole heartly agree!

  8. Elizabeth Smith says:

    I’ve heard this one before, I can remember reading a novel about it years ago: embellished by the idea the substitute child was a child of Henry VIII by a servant girl.

    More recently, though, Michael Bloch has identified a number of characteristics the Duchess of Windsor shared with Elizabeth. It’s quite a list! He has suggested that Wallis was not quite normal, and this has been further developed by others to suggest that she suffered from an Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome. Of course, the conspiracy theorists on Wikipedia suggest both the Windsors were so afflicted, but there you go.

    PS The puzzles in the Mail are quite good.

  9. jamie says:

    isnt there a famous document where an ambassador says she gets her breasts out in public no offence but i know no skinny blokes with breasts as described lol

  10. Gayle says:

    Did Eliazabth I not submit to various intimate examinations over the years. I know Tudor doctors were pretty hopeless, but even they could identify the difference between make and female reproductive organs

    1. BanditQueen says:

      Yes, sbe regularly had to under go medical tests and her ladies had to report to Cecil about her functions, especially about her periods and if she still bled, in order to prove that she was able to have children. Kings and Queens had no secrets, not even when they went to the loo. It would have been noticed by her doctors and the female version of the groom of the stool as to her health and if she was a woman or not. Tuned in to read about something else and this article is there: great entertainment this evening.

      1. Mel says:

        This comment made me some what… amused! Do no be fooled even some doctors today are incompitant of knowing.

  11. Anne Barnhill says:

    Oh, how I love conspiracy theories but this one is really off the charts! I’ve read about it before on TEF as well as other places. and yes, all those exams to see if she could bear children might have given them a clue! What the papers won’t do!

  12. Edie says:

    I must complain…I had surgery just a couple weeks ago and it hurts to laugh and now I cannot STOP laughing over this!! And of course everyone’s comments are adding to the pain!!! But at the same time, thank you for posting this as I don’t generally see The Daily Mail and would have missed this…ahem….highly informative article!

  13. MrsG says:

    oh my goodness! what utter bollocks! what a way to string together opinions into a fantasy theory. funny thing-wouldn’t they have noticed when she died and the body was prepped for interment? and that ER I did have various physical examinations over her life, most notably to prove her ability to bear children for her sham courting with the Duc of Anjou. Infuriating how some people pick up one string and weave it into a blanket.

  14. Lynn Donovan says:

    Why do people feel the need to pull down a woman who was a great leader. Just because she learned to function in a man’s world. Why does the world feel a woman cannot be an effective ruler? Let’s look at this most of Great Britian’s most effective monarchs have been WOMEN! The Iron Lady herself should be mentioned. Beside don’t you think with all of Elizabeth’s examinations to see if she could bear an heir someone would have noticed?! Nice story but complete rubbish!

  15. Maria Jose says:

    I can’t even begin to descibe what total nonsense this article is! Her guardians would certainly not have been ‘hung, drawn and quarted’, since Henry had several children who died in infancy and none of their nurses were executed, even when his baby son died. Plus the fact that Elizabeth was the second daughter so her much older sister Mary would have been earmarked to marry to continue the dynasty, not to mention she had a brother who was heir to the throne anyway! Elizabeth wasn’t even a Princess since Henry made her illegitimate when he divorced and beheaded Anne Boleyn! Secondly, Elizabeth was not a shy child, she was precocious and applauded for her learning and was remarked on when she was a toddler how she had such gravity when speaking, so that’s nonsense too. Just can’t imagine where this rumour has started. Perhaps some people just don’t like to acknowledge that our greatest monarch was a woman?

    To cited Cher Horowitz in Clueless: “As IF”. Also the article lost me when they mentioned that the book was a “Dan Brown style novel”.

  16. bridgett says:

    Things like this always make me groan in almost physical pain. Why are people so silly? It makes my head hurt! lol
    And for a newspaper to perpetuate things like this without proper research is just wrong. Specially when it really doesn’t take hat much digging.

  17. Courtnie says:

    I have to agree with Claire that this story is rubbish.

    It would have been known if Elizabeth had died and was replaced with a boy. She was known to have her mistress’s but they were men. Someone would have found out if she was really a boy. This could be easily checked with an x-ray machine and her grave. I have been wanting to go to school for anthropology. Just by counting her ribs, and looking at her pelvic bone can you tell that Elizabeth was really a female. A DNA sample from her bones (one test i know we wont b able to do), would finally prove if she is Henry’s daughter which i fully believe she is.

    1. Brigitte says:

      Umm excuse me??

      1. Lisa H says:

        Brigitte, if you’re asking about Courtnie’s last statement, there were/are those out there who swear Elizabeth was not Henry’s daughter. Bets get laid on the idea that her father was George Boleyn, Mark Smeaton, and I’ve even heard Francis I suggested!

        Utter rubbish. Much like the Daily Mail’s article.

    2. Veronica Fitzrandolph says:

      “counting her ribs”? Well, yes, of course. All males have one less rib than females because God removed one of Adam’s to create Eve. Everybody knows that.

      Now, the pelvic bone comment is correct. Women’s pelvises are wider and flatter so the baby’s head can get through.

  18. Lisa USA says:

    This is awful but we all know we can believe everything we read !!! Its real easy to solve the mystery!! She lye’s in a tomb ! go look. And for that matter did they not try to marry her off time and time again the doctors keep watch on her whole being don’t they think they would have seen the one thing that is not girl like lol. and the lady’s in waiting they kept record of her monthly cycle? No disrespect to Elizabeth I, I have admired her since I can remember. She alone In a time of strictly a mans world stood her ground and didn’t back down I don’t know why anyone would want to tarnish her memory and her great place in history.

  19. Sonetka says:

    It’s like that with a lot of famous historical people — women, particularly — who didn’t have children. People really, really want for there to be either a secret child or some big dramatic reason why they didn’t have, not some bog-standard reason like “She never slept with anyone”. I saw this the other day and thought it was hilarious. I wonder how the Bisley Boy managed to acquire all the learning Elizabeth had at that point? He must have been cramming an awful lot during the next few years :).

  20. Wendy says:

    I’m pretty sure that the ladies who dressed her every day would have noticed if she were a man. Utter rubbish.

  21. Gina says:

    So funny that I open up my email box today and see this today. I was actually going to send you a message Claire. Someone emailed me a link to a video on YouTube about this yesterday. I just laughed and thought, ‘Seriously?????’ Oh, and now we’re going to quote something from Bram Stoker? Grotesque fiction, albeit good story telling, is the first and pretty much only thing that comes to mind there. What next????? Oooooooh, wait….. SHE WAS AN ALIEN!!!!! Lol =)

    1. BanditQueen says:

      The present royal family are meant to be lizzards! May-be she was a changling or alien? lol

  22. Tamar says:

    “I have but the body of a weak and feeble woman.” Those are the words that precede the “but I have the heart of a king” passage the Daily Mail writer makes such a big deal about. So how does he account for the first part of the sentence? (Probably he never even read it.)

  23. Jeannine says:

    Every time this theory surfaces, I just cringe! Want to sell a book about the Tudors? Forget historical facts, and go with the most outrageous imaginings possible.

  24. Harriet says:

    As the cast of Monty Python might say, “Stop that. It’s silly!”

  25. BanditQueen says:

    This is nothing new! There has been on the Discovery and National Geographic Channel some months ago a documentary called the Secret Life of Queen Elizabeth and it looked at a couple of weird theories about Elizabeth I, one being was she a man? Premise for this the legend above that as a child Elizabeth died suddenly and they got a boy to play her so as the King would not find out. Load of rubbish of course but I guess it brings in the tourists at the house in the legend.

    Do you suppose or could these servants have really supposed that Henry VIII would not find out that his daughter had tuned into a boy? Did they really think he would not find out that Elizabeth had died and a common servant had given a boy to take her place? What idiots these servants must have been!

    Henry VIII was a fairly astute man and would have noticed that his Elizabeth was not a girl. He may also (Lol) have rejoiced that she was now a boy! And he would have asked a few questions. Had Elizabeth got sick and died it would have been much safer to have told the King the truth than to try to pass her off as a boy. Henry would have been angry that she had died, but would I am sure have prefared the truth and will have mourned her loss. Had Henry been deceived, however, he will then have believed that the servants had killed his daughter and may have reacted rather badly. The entire legend sounds like something cooked up for the tourists.

    The fact that Elizabeth was a little butch and did some stuff that a man may have done does not mean that she was a man. This all sounds like the she wolf syndrome thing as a woman acting like a man is not acceptable in the time that Elizabeth lived. She had a lot of courage and it took all of that courage to muster her troops and herself to address them, in armour at Tilbury. However, there is some evidence that by the time Elizabeth did this famous speach that most of the danger had indeed passed and she was no longer in any danger.

    Whatever the truth of the courage behind many of the actions of Elizabeth I, there is no evidence to say that she was not a woman and could not do any of these things as a woman. One idea that the documentary pointed to was that Elizabeth was often ill and hidden away. They claimed that she may have been using these periods to hide some changes she went through as a man and that the reason she refused to marry was that she was a man and did not want the truth to come out. The same documentary also claimed that she had a secret son by Robert Dudley called Author who turned up in Spain some years later. So much for her being a man!

    There is much that I do not agree with about Elizabeth: I do not accept the legend of the Golden Age; but I am quite sure that she was a woman and think that the Daily Mail and other papers enjoy these new theories as they sell papers. I will look at the book with an open mind, although I doubt that I will buy it. A library copy will do for this purpose. No, she was definately a woman: and a stroppy and determinded one at that!

  26. Kathy Swartz says:

    I cannot believe this, again!! Get serious, Elizabeth I being a man? This claim is ridiculous. I heard about this already about 3 times from some others on Facebook. I told all of them that is the most untrue statement I have ever heard. If that was the case, If She had been a he, There would have been a future King of England to succeed King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn would have lived. I agree with a woman on this site that said some Newspapers will do anything to sell a story. In My opinion, I think Elizabeth I was an amazing Queen and very strong. She did what she had to do and with much opposition from Men. She meant in her speech that She was as strong as a King, not a Male King.. Crazy talk…

  27. Miranda says:

    Hi my name is Miranda L Reed. My opinion this article. Elizabeth could have been a tomboy. but yes i think this new rumor that elizabeth the first was a man playing as elizabeth tudor/boleyn is really stupid and retarded. elizabeth the first was a woman not a man at all. I hope i am making sense right now everyone?

  28. Linda Saether says:

    This is just a ridiculous rumor probably created by men who couldn’t fathom why Elizabeth wouldn’t want to partake in the apparent joys of a 16 th century marriage, when she had some truly wise and valid reasons not to.
    Strong, smart women have always been a mystery to men!

  29. SteveJ says:

    This theory, at its source, sounds suspiciously like it was merely part of the usual Catholic v Reformist propaganda wars. Perhaps the story was originally meant to undermine Elizabeth’s rule?

  30. M'Lady says:

    Ha ha ha ha! Seriously?! I love how people find or hear something fantastic and just run with it! lol!

  31. jed says:

    This story is part of Bisley folklore and has been handed down through the generations. In fact, if my memory serves me well, The villagers have a anniversary parade where they dress up a boy up as Queen Elizabeth I.

    1. Angel Singer says:

      Which is not unusual, as all female roles were played by men in Elizabethean times.

  32. Lynne says:

    The Daily Mail regularly recycles old stories and pretends they are new and shocking. Not a newspaper to be taken seriously!

  33. Sarah Rooke says:

    What a complete load of rubbish! How can it be then, that Elizabeth was regularly examined by her physician’s (barber surgeons) about her menstrual cycles to confirm that the Queen was still fertile and able to conceive?

    I think if ‘she’ had been a ‘he’, they might have noticed something!

  34. The Queen says:

    So if I’m understanding our corrupted, wrong world now Mark Smeaton and Elizabeth 1 are both gay. Why is EVERYONE SOOOO STUPID!!! Elizabeth is NOT a boy and she is NOT gay and neither is Mark Smeaton. I am really NOT impressed.

  35. Dawn 1st says:

    Unbelievable and nonsensical paparazzi tripe…nothing more I can say really.
    Which Comic book did you say this was featured in? 🙂

  36. Angel Singer says:

    Another point I take issue with: the idea that the boy looked the part because he was Henry Fitzroy’s illegitimate son. I think if young Fitzroy had fathered a child–a son, no less–it would have been noted. This would have been Henry’s first grandchild…a grandson. I do not believe such a birth could have occurred without Henry openly celebrating it (as he did for Fitzroy’s birth). We would have some record of the Duke of Richmond’s son. It is also quite improbable that such a child would be raised unremarked and without position in a small village. Nor is it likely that such a child would be assigned the lesser role of playmate to the Lady Elizabeth!

  37. Angel Singer says:

    I originally posed this question on “The Elizabeth Files,” and I will repose it here: if this story is true (which I strongly doubt)…what happened to the girl in the Stone coffin with her fine Tudor clothes? If it was believed this was a royal child, where was she reburied? What happened to both coffin and corpse?

    I distrust so-called smoking guns that appear to “prove” the story and then promptly disappear before scientific evidence can be collected and tested. That sort of “proof” is all too common in the world of urban legend. It makes for great stories, but poor evidence.

  38. Gena says:

    If only the Seymours had thought of this when Edward became ill and died, they could have subbed in another child!!! I keep thinking of Mark Twain’s Prince and the Pauper – could that be the idea behind this crazy idea of Elizabeth dying and them swapping in another child.

  39. kipper says:

    Isn’t this just another version of ‘The Prince and The Pauper’? Obviously crap, but can’t wait to read the book!

  40. Madame de Merteuil says:

    The Daily Mail are getting desperate for big ridiculous nonsense. Now they’re digging into the past because the ‘Downing Street Affair’ rumored last week does not come with enough juicy material to print more.
    As you said, the ‘Elizabeth was a man’ theory is hardly new and it is hardly worthy of discussion. The word absurd springs to mind.
    It’s easy to see how some people would champion the idea of Elizabeth being a man: after all, how could a woman do so well by herself…? That old male chauvinistic chestnut.
    We’re in 2013….those who still think like that have some serious intellectual / social updating to do.

  41. margaret says:

    maybe she was a bisexual or lesbian

    1. Claire says:

      But that doesn’t make sense when she loved Robert Dudley. This legend is about her being replaced by a boy when she died and there is no evidence that Elizabeth had any relationships with women. What makes you say that?

      1. Angel Singer says:

        I agree with Claire: Elizabeth’s obvious love for Dudley, as well as the ill-fated flirtation with Seymour, point to a woman who likes men…but prefers power.

        Many writers point to Catherine Parr as an influence in this matter. Personally, I have always wondered how the Two Annes figured into her decision to remain unwed. She grew up knowing of the downfall of her mother Anne Boleyn…juxtaposed against the life of Anne of Cleves: a woman with position, luxury and even happiness. She was honored and lived a life of her choosing, whilst unwed.

        Elizabeth was in a singular position to observe the legacy of Henry VIII’s wives. Love of a King had brought down Catherine of Aragon and her lady mother; defiance of a King brought down Catherine Howard; and bowing to a king’s will transformed Anne of Cleves from a Queen to a sister. Then finally, she had ringside seats to watch how love of a powerful man could break you, in the case of Catherine Parr.

        Deaths by execution, deaths of a broken heart…I do not think it is unreasonable to suggest that young Elizabeth saw Anne of Cleves as the model to follow.

  42. Carole Rae says:

    So many snarky things to say about the people who actually believe this…but I shall pick one….
    I think Robert Dudley would have been a wee bit upset if Elizabeth was a man…..

  43. Lisa H says:

    Don’t get too fussed – next week the Daily Mail will rerun the old stories that Elizabeth had an illegetimate child by either Seymour or Dudley – take your pick.

    This will be printed the week after the Daily Mail runs its recycled article that THIS time the new Doctor Who will be played by an actual SPACE ALIEN. How silly is that?? Everyone knows space alien actors zealously guard their privacy and would never reveal their secret identity!

  44. Heather says:

    I am probably in the minority but here goes. I am a Steve Berry fan and I love his Cotton Malone series. If anyone of you have read any of his books……………..you would see that he takes lots of theories that have been around for ages and turns them into wonderful books. He never professes to be an historian with his books. I believe he writes to entertain those of us who love his books. I am one book away from reading The King’s Deception. I can’t wait to see the story unfold before my eyes. I don’t read it to pick it apart saying his theories are flawed………..I read it to be entertained…………………which he always does in his books. (and this book has definitely brought a lot of attention to Elizabeth l and Henry Vlll. I think that is a good thing.)

    1. Lisa H says:

      There’s a coincidence: I downloaded a sample of Steve Berry’s “The Tudor Plot” about a week ago but I haven’t had time to read it yet. It did look very interesting!

      When an author tells you up front that this book is utter fiction and they don’t intend to stay close to the known facts, that’s fine, that’s entertainment. I treat that sort of like reading a book that a movie was based on; sometimes the movie is so different from the book that it’s like reading a wholly different story, so rather than get ticked off at the differences every 3 pages I just treat it as a different story that uses the same characters and setting and I can enjoy both.

      Thanks for the recommendation of Steve Berry books – I saw there are over a dozen available on Kindle when I decided to try “The Tudor Plot.”

      1. Heather says:

        I have read most of his books…….The Cotton Malone series is awesome. I am hooked on his writing and the theories he uses are interesting.

        The book I am reading right now is The Columbus Affair…….and it has all kinds of interesting theories about Christopher Columbus.

        I hope you read one of them. I am glad that I found them.

  45. Sondra says:

    Off the subject a bit…. but I just love reading what you have to write about British history. I read This Day in Tudor History every day and just have it all marked up. I even put together a small ‘personalized’ index of people, places, and subjects of interest to me. I’m currently reading about Richard III and when I read in your book about the Neville’s or the Woodville’s…. I get all excited since I now understand better their impact on England.

    Thank you so very much.
    A fan,

    1. Claire says:

      Thank you, Sondra, I’m so glad that you enjoy using my On This Day in Tudor History book, I thoroughly enjoyed researching it. Thank you!

  46. Charlene says:

    Knowing the Daily Mail, its intent was doubtless to explain why Elizabeth never married. After all, women who fail to catch a man by a certain age are without exception worthless, lonely, pitiful, subhuman losers, so how could the great Elizabeth be one?

    1. Dawn 1st says:

      It seems that attitudes towards ‘Spinsters’ has hardly changed at all in the 400plus years, there are times when some show themselves to be still in the mode of the Medieval age…so much for progress in our modern world and thinking Charlene.

    2. Azaria says:

      Actually, knowing the Daily Mail, its intent was doubtless to sell as many papers as it can, by hook or by crook. Why let facts get in the way of a good, paper-selling story?

  47. Heather says:

    I think that a lot of people are taking the book by Steve Berry as a History book…………….its not…… it is historical fiction………..taking a legend that appeared years ago and making it into a book. I am reading it now…..and it is a very well written book……meant not to teach you your history……………but to entertain…………just like movies.

    I think some people that are history buffs……………..take it much too seriously…when someone writes historical fiction. I read for pleasure…..to enjoy a book……….not to pick ALL the historical facts apart.

    And if a book gets people taking about HISTORY then that is a good thing.

    I for one am a Steve Berry Fan…………..I have read most of his books………….and thoroughly enjoyed them. Maybe you should read one and see what he is all about, before you criticize his books.

    1. Claire says:

      I don’t think so, I don’t think that people are against Steve Berry but they are against the idea that Elizabeth was a man. Bram Stoker was not presenting the legend as just a myth or as fiction, he actually seemed to believe it and wrote of Elizabeth as an imposter. I certainly wasn’t criticising Berry, I was criticising the fact that the newspaper report was calling it a new and controversial theory when it’s been around over 100 years.

      Historical fiction can be a wonderful vehicle to get people interested in history but it is a double-edged sword. Some authors present their fiction as an accurate retelling of history and that confuses people.For example, Philippa Gregory in her author’s notes for The Other Boleyn Girl writes about Anne having committed at least one murder. She states that as fact and so readers believe that. When an author is also an historian and writes things like that, people will get confused as to what is fiction and what is fact. Things should be picked apart if they are presented as fact, as Bram Stoker did with the Bisley Boy legend.

      1. Angel Singer says:

        I just finished reading a book of historical fiction regarding the life of Sancha, wife of Joffre Borgia (youngest son of Pope Alexander VI). In the notes at the end of the book, it states as fact that Lucretzia Borgia committed incest. Most historians do not believe any such incest occurred and the accusations were meant to inflict political harm on Alexander (not unlike what happened to Anne Boleyn.)

        I love historical fiction, but when an author chooses to finish the work by listing urban legends, unproven rumors, propaganda and/or outright historical inaccuracies as FACT…the author has then lost the poetic license defense.

        I wonder how many times false accusations of incest were used in the later Middle Ages. We’ve seen it with Anne Boleyn and with Lucretzia Borgia. Something tells me they weren’t isolated incidents.

      2. Moh says:

        I am so glad this conspiracy theory came to light because of Steve Berry’s book The Kings Deception ,at least now we are all learning British History which I could never get a Grasp of. Now I am hooked to it and want to see all these wonderful palaces in England. I have lived in England but was never interested in its history . Historical Fiction is great and to open the tomb where she is buried would answer all questions. Yet the people who are buried should be allowed to rest in peace. So lets have fun debating and arguing. Read Steve Berry’s book ! Great !

  48. Mel says:

    What a load of… anyone who believes this utter rubbish probably believes in santa too. She was an amazing and talented woman who is the best monarchy we have seen.
    We know this is not true and nor do I think tests should be carried out! Yes it would prove that moron wrong but we know from history that she was in fact a woman and it should be left at that.

    Information and actual FACTS show that she had to be checked and privy told every month of her mc and let’s not forget her love for robert either. She was checked a few times to see if she was pregnant. She was betrayed by the man she loved there for she was then well known to be the virgin mary.

  49. Frito Baggins says:

    Educate this Yank of Anglo-Irish origins: is there some reason not to just dig her up and analyze the DNA?

    1. Suzie Q says:

      Yes, reason is that the DNA might show that she was not only a he, but also not the child of Henry VIII.

  50. Anne FitzAlan says:

    Even if we were to argue within the context of the story, upon the conclusion of the initial deception, where a boy played the role of Elizabeth Tudor, would you not immediately then seek out a suitable girl? Don’t go digging up bones please.

    1. Fritz Baggins says:

      I respectfully ask: is there some reason NOT to exhume and do molecular testing? Seems to me one could resolve at least the rumors of a “drag” Queen. If the remains are female, compare the genetic signature with descendants, and one gains more certainty. But if the remains are male, res ipsa loquitur. Perhaps, though, it’s just more fun not to know?

  51. Azaria says:

    Elizabeth is buried in Westminster Abbey, which is a Royal Peculiar – directly under the sole jurisdiction of the Queen. She has made it clear that she’s not going to go around disrespectfully digging up people who have been decently laid to rest just to satisfy idle curiosity. And it is just idle curiosity – whether man or woman, the acts and accomplishments remain the same.

    I’m also not sure that it is a case of just ‘digging up’ the bodies – they’re in sealed vaults deep under the Abbey, possibly inaccessible.

  52. Frito Baggins says:

    Good response. Good enough, I’d say. I’m a pathologist with some forensic training, so I’m curious about this story. I’ll admit my curiosity is “idle”.

  53. Victoria says:

    This is the first I had also heard of Queen Elizabeth to be a man. My first reaction was “WTH” and second I was like no way even possible. She reigned for over 40 years and with her chambermaids. ladies in waiting and her council you can’t hide that for forty years and not have other rumors. Noone even with fear of beheading keeps their mouths closed forever. Plus with all the descension in her court the early years this would have been an easy way to get her off the throne. Wonderful storyline for Steve Berry, but preposterous otherwise.

    1. FabNayNay says:

      Good point Victoria! There surely would’ve been ‘whispers’ amung her ladies-in-waitng, if Elizabeth had a, well, we all know the body part! LOL! Surely, they would’ve wanted to know if the others had noticed what they noticed! So, while they are going around whispering, “Did you notice that ‘thing’? What is it?”. . .when people start whispering stuff, it always get around! So, I think its just utterly ridiculous for any credence to be given to this notion that Elizabeth was a man!

      1. Suzie Q says:

        I have seen the insinuation that the substitute boy was castrated, which would have prevented him from growing a beard, big muscles, and all that other male stuff, besides removing his “stuff”.

  54. Peter says:

    If the British readers here want to assume that this book is an attack against their history, I suppose I can understand that – though I think they are kidding themselves with what they “know” from 600+ years ago.

    However – and I read the book, and found it fascinating – to draw the assumption that Berry, or anyone else, is suggesting that Elizabeth, as a successful ruler, HAD to be a man, because god forbid, how could a WOMAN rule successfully, is ABSURD. Nobody has ever made that suggestion, and to infer that is as much rubbish as you claim his theories are.

    You know what they say about “where there’s smoke…”

  55. lovehistory says:

    I guess Elizabeth got up at 3 AM, with all her women’s clothes and her razor to get ready so no one could see her stick and balls.

    No Monarch I know of had privacy in the bedchamber. Are we to actually believe that every person who ever attended Elizabeth during her reign, never saw her undressed ? Maybe, she did not want sex or ankle biters LOL


    1. King Bob says:

      I don’t think , for the most part that anyone in that royal mindset would have considered NOT leaving a progeny….they were fanatical and the reformation onslaught continued and without an ironclad heir….well who would ever think that the throne would NOT pass or stay within a family line.Richard II, Richard II ( maybe he WAS legit if he knew Eddie V was invalid cause Eddie IV was a bastard) and born in 1441 NOT 1442. There is much evidence to that fact? Henry Beaufort…..his claim was shadowy and without ublic outrage against Ricie II he would have had no chance. The very tacky and disgusting portrayal in White Queen ( I KNOW…it’s not that accurate) but “Margaret’s skullduggery, manipulation and outright brigandesque behavior got her what she wanted, her son as King of England…I rather wished Edward would have discovered her and removed her cranial assembly. What a tart,,,so full of religion bit ignorant of the fear and knowledge of GOD……Hail Mary…i bet it don’t help her now…I think that are all disgusting and all abominations and would just as soon NOT be a descendant of them. I prefer the tiny drop of Wampanoag blood I got thorough the Mayflower passengers but that’s a whole ‘nuther post.

  56. Alexander says:

    The idea of a man acting as Elizabeth I could have been to prevent another civil war, or to prevent Catholicism becoming dominant in England after Queen Mary had gone down that road. Queen Mary died young, but not of illness. Could she have been removed – secretly – to stop Catholicism taking over England?
    We may also ask why Mary Queen of Scots was executed? Most probably because she was Catholic.

    Why was the Scottish King James elected as King James I of England? Because he was NOT Catholic?
    Let’s not forget that King James II, when it emerged he was Catholic, was dethroned.

    So if Elizabeth had died young – and perhaps the circumstances were entirely different to those proposed in the Daily Mail article and the mentioned book – it could be feasible that the people at Court chose an actor in her place in order to make sure England did not become ruled by a Catholic nor fall into civil war.

    Of-course this is a theory, but it could stand considering that Elizabeth I did not ever marry nor had any desire to do so.
    It could also stand in view of the unusual clothing that was introduced to the English Court exactly at that time: high neck collar, padded dress, powdered face …. to disguise the figure of a person and even their features.

    Still a theory though, and as such presented.

  57. IvoryPrincess says:

    I believe that the whole article was rubbish as mostly everyone else has stated. But, they mainly suspected that she was a man not only because she didn’t marry but it’s also because she wasn’t concerned with leaving an heir to the throne.

  58. rea says:

    This cant be true as Henry wanted a king and why would he change her sex

    1. Claire says:

      I’m not sure what you mean, Rea, the Bisley legend is that Elizabeth died and was replaced by a child who was really a boy. Nothing to do with Henry.

  59. Carrie says:

    I know this is going to tick off some Brits, as I am American, but can I state the obvious? She looks like a man. Maybe that’s why the rumor got started, if it is just a rumor. Every time I look at a picture, I think, “No way that’s a woman.” Doesn’t prove anything, but c’mon, ya gotta admit it’s true…

  60. Kirsten says:

    Er…have we all forgotten that Steve Berry is a writer of FICTION and in the authors notes offers what we know of the real story and the legend.

    1. Claire says:

      I don’t think anyone is criticising Berry, but Bram Stoker believed the legend.

  61. Tracey says:

    Only evidence will determine the truth … Peoples beliefs have no value … If you non believers are so confident then let’s defend our history by putting the theory to rest and do DNA …… It’s our history and our right ….. Not just the Queen …. Who may not be legitimate …. May be that’s what she is worried of ??

  62. Joy says:

    Who can ever know for sure? It is just unbelievable enough to be real….that said, I certainly have my doubts about Elizabeth being a man. How can it be she had a “romance” with her dear Robin. Was it a ruse? She never did marry, she wore thick makeup and wigs…then, again, what about the whole Thomas Seymour thing?

    I don’t know if she was a great ruler. She surrounded herself with great thinkers and advisors. Man or woman, I believe Elizabeth’s driving ambition was just to stay alive and on the throne.

    As far as her innermost ladies’ sanctum, if you and your family were threatened with drawing and quartering, or burning or whatever tortures they inflicted in those days, you’d keep your mouth shut.

  63. King Bob says:

    PS. Miss. Blanchett who portrayed Elizabeth I twice in 9 years is most certainly NOT a man. She, except for those horrific wigs, would never be mistaken for homely old Good Queen Bess, ( Blanchett? isn’t that French?)….OK…OK 1/2 the kings of old Blighty were French including my Plantangents as well as Gascoignes ( Gascony) Beauforts, Nevilles. Orleans and Bretagne and Normandie where the Merseaus also came from after Louis @ 14 showed his royal bum…. only to the Hugenots though…no to the Mackeral Snappers.
    But as should be evident, that Kate could never be mistaken for poor old Mr TV Neville and as beautiful as she is. sadly, in Lord of the Rings it was Eowyn, Miranda Otto’s line to say ” I AM NO MAN” while killing the smartass witch king….It should have been Kate’s line though Miranda is clearly not an man either…what with those cute little dimples….
    Next time get Ellen Degeneres for that part…Sounds French too oy?….those atrocious red wigs would not matter then…
    As for examinations of ones royal person…I would say that the king/or queen had Zebra stripes, hidden leathern wings had an udder and teats if it kept me head on me shoulders, me eyeballs in their sockets and me limbs attached…. Just like slavery in the US some 150+ year ago…nobody was ever told what they did not wan to hear. I might add that the concept and term “Kill the Messenger”has it’d origins in rather ancient and archaic times.

  64. marianne says:

    Elizabeth I has always been my favorite historical person. I even did an in-depth essay on her when I was a junior in high school, many years ago. I very much admired (and still do) her strategies (as good as any mans), and her strength to carry them out. Everything she did, she did for the betterment of England. I do not believe that Elizabeth I was actually a man. She simply ruled as one would expect a King to do. She showed the world that she deserved every ounce of respect she was given. Queen Elizabeth I was, as we would say today, AWESOME!

  65. Faithy says:

    Given what we know today why is this so impossible? I believe that there may be some credibility as claimed.

  66. Bob McLachlan says:

    Interesting! Could be but probably not. But, only yesterday I was reading an old copy of the National Geographic magazine (Vol. 145, No. 6, June, 1974) which I have had for some years and on Page 851-852, in an article on the Cotswolds of England, I read the story of the Bisley Boy. As I said, could be true, but probably not. But I have heard and read from different sources that History is generally a lot of lies made to show the writers’ country in a good, unsullied light. Interesting!

  67. Christine says:

    I saw a programme on the Bisley Boy some years ago and the basis for the legend seemed to be as Bram Stoker said ‘her masculine features’, her features were not masculine although like her mother she was not delicate looking, rather she had strong features which some women have, she had a narrow frame and you only have to study the full length portrait of her done when she was about twelve to see that she was clearly female, her shoulders are slim and she holds a book in a pair of slender delicate hands, I really can’t see why Stokers theory came to be regarded as fact by so many but you do get people who love to embroil on things and make an issue out of a silly story that really has no credence to it at all.

  68. Anonymous says:

    Was Elizabeth I possibiliy bisexual? She was close to some men but never married any man. Could she have had same sex relations or experiences and probably kept it hidden in the closed closet or secret? It might be a very neutral question to really bring up. It might be true in some cases and not in other term but questionable. Queen Elizabeth I also had a female servant by her bedside for comfort. So many things happened centuries ago that many answers will be unknown. If my answer in uncertain, or neutral meaning a there is no yes/no, then it was some degree of high possibility. People in those days couldn’t say that she was gay or lesbian because she was the lady that was Queen.

  69. Rebecca Everest says:

    If they found a well-dressed decomposed corpse in Bisley, why not do DNA trsting in her?

Please note: Comment moderation is currently enabled so there will be a delay between when you post your comment and when it shows up.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap