What a Drag, That Queen!

1543 AD: ten-year-old Elizabeth Tudor was England’s most valuable child in many ways. So valuable, in fact, that Cate Blanchett had to be called in to play her in Elizabeth (1998 movie)! So valuable, that it’s claimed that she is the biggest conspiracy in English history!

Optional: a crash-course on the real Game of Thrones.

Photo: The Guardian
Cate Blanchett as Elizabeth (Photo: The Guardian)

Elizabeth was born a princess, daughter to King Henry VIII. Unfortunately, he didn’t prove a very good father as he had her mother, Anne Boleyn, executed a couple of years later. So, Elizabeth was declared a bastard and her half-brother Edward became king. The half-brother passed the crown to Cousin Jane (who ruled for 9 days!). Jane quickly gave up and Elizabeth’s half-sister Catholic (or Bloody) Mary came to rule. Mary quickly had the greedy cousin killed and Elizabeth jailed. In many ways, Elizabeth was like Jon Snow – relegated to irrelevance in a royal game of pillow-passing by a slew of half-siblings!

Elizabeth (the First) became Queen Regnant (not a just a trophy, but a queen who wears the pants) at 25 and heralded what’s been called the ‘Golden Age’ in English History. Over her 44-year reign, economic prosperity and religious tolerance flourished. Church of England was reformed. The Scottish were befriended. Shakespeare got his break. Sir Francis Drake sailed around the world. A sense of national identity was forged. Here the history ends.

But what’s recently gotten Elizabeth on the news, is strange. It’s a claim that she was a queen alright …but a drag queen! In fact, it had been a dude in a queen’s clothing all along and not Elizabeth at all. The story goes that Elizabeth, about 10 at that time, had been trying to avoid the Plague and died in the process. So her governess Lady Ashley whipped a wig on a lanky, androgynous boy and presented him as the princess. It was this lad who ruled England and Ireland for 44 years, dubbing himself ‘The Virgin Queen’.

Dan Brownesque author Steve Berry is an American, a professor and a former attorney (what a lethal combo!) and presents the theory in his book ‘The King’s Deception’. Before Berry, Bram Stoker (of ‘Dracula’ fame) had called the hoax too – narrating a lore that the skeleton of a young girl dressed in Tudor finery, even with gems sewn onto the cloth had been found in Bisley (the Gloucestershire village where Elizabeth had gone to avoid the Plague).

Some things make more sense if there really had been an impostor. As the last Tudor Queen – Elizabeth’s first instinct and duty should’ve been to bear children, not take an unprovoked vow of celibacy. Her decision to not marry into other European Royalty had also been a mystery – because it made sense to forge alliances. And there were the puzzling speeches: Elizabeth was fond of proclaiming that she was more of a king than a queen. ‘I have the heart of a man, not a woman, and I am not afraid of anything,’ she would declare. Most paintings of the Queen also show her as an angular, androgynous person – with a face painted a deadly-white.

No, I am NOT Billy Crystal at 22!
No, I am NOT Billy Crystal at 22!

In deathbed, she outlined her inheritance saying: ‘I will have no rascal to succeed me, and who should succeed me but a king?’ Was that a hint that for 44 years the Queen herself been a ‘rascal’, playing a part? Author Steve Berry believes there is only one way to the Truth (and some publicity): dig up her remains.

After Elizabeth died in 1603, there was no autopsy.

W Abbey

At in Westminster Abbey, Elizabeth shares a tomb with her half-sister, Catholic Mary – who had forced a Protestant Elizabeth to attend Catholic Mass and had long imprisoned her. On their tomb, it’s says: “Consorts in realm and tomb, here we sleep, Elizabeth and Mary, sisters, in hope of resurrection”.

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6 comments

    • Haha …in the post, I’ve indicated where the ‘history’ stops. Then the fiction begins. Even I, a non history major, am quite skeptical 😀 But it IS quite crazy, right?

      • What’s cool about studying the past though, is that these sorts of suspicions can occur, because our understanding of history is flexible. So who knows, maybe we’ll come across some hard evidence that queen really was a man in drag.

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