“I have the heart of a man, not a woman, and I am not afraid of anything.” - Queen Elizabeth 1
Bram Stoker wrote a book in 1910, “Famous Imposters” to very small acclaim. Though doing relatively well in America, this last published collection was, by all accounts, a forgettable work of historical fiction that British audiences largely panned. As stated, the last chapter, “The Bisley Boy,” was surprisingly well received in America - being published a total of seven times in local papers during 1911 under the title “Was Queen Elizabeth a man?”
The legend, according to Bram Stoker, is thus…
Elizabeth I’s reign was one of the most celebrated in British history, spanning four decades from 1558 to 1603. Known as the 'Virgin Queen', Elizabeth I was infamously childless and unwed.
In 1542, the 9-year-old Princess Elizabeth was taken to Bisley with her Governess, Kat Ashley, to avoid an episode of plague in London. They remained for some time at an old hunting lodge down in the Gloucestershire open country known as Overcourt House - a structure present in Bisley today.
It's here the rumors are formed… Princess Elizabeth unceremoniously died of infection and, fearing for their lives in the face of incompetence, her caretakers appointed and groomed an imposter - a small, ginger haired boy from the village - to take her place. For 500 years, rumors swirled about Elizabeth’s illegitimacy: that no woman could be as she was - brilliant, savvy, artistic, steadfast; that she was childless because she did not have the “proper” equipment; that each failed suitor was a result of some “horrible secret” she possessed. The simplest conclusion: she MUST be a man. Why else would a woman of royalty refuse to be married or have an heir?
In the 500 years since her reign, Bram alluded that with the use of weighty make-up and hairpieces, high trim ruffs worn around her neck, and layers of grand clothing, it would be deceptively simple to hide any indications of maleness. Elizabeth I was reportedly never seen in public without her full regalia and no autopsy or examination was documented upon her death - in fact, Elizabeth I famously refused medical care or examination. To this day, her remains lay in a sealed tomb in Westminster Abbey… or perhaps in the grave of a 9-year-old young lady in Bisley?
According to some sources, and of course Mr. Stoker, a body was recovered in the town of Bisley in a Tudor-style dress hundreds of years later. The body of a young girl about 9 years old…
During the early 20th century, inspired by a trip to see the May Day festivities in Bisley, Bram Stoker was fascinated by the folk custom of dressing a young boy in Elizabethan garb as the "May Queen." Perhaps drawing from his own infirmed youth, the pantomine customs of the time, or something deeper and closer to his vest, Bram would explore and embellish the legend, scandalously intimating that Queen Elizabeth I was an imposter.
There is some speculation, in the absence of a memoir or any truly personal or biographical content of substance, that Mr. Stoker’s works are, like “Dracula” and “The Lair of the White Worm,” steeped in psychosexual symbolism and veiled autobiography. The story of a man tempted by seduction, sexual ambiguity, desire, stifled by the customs of the time. Drawn to theater, Mr. Stoker escaped Ireland to live in the company of actors and entertainers leaving behind his wife and child for a reason. Maybe “The Bisley Boy” isn’t a true story on its face - but the fantasy of a life that could have been written by a man who realized his could not.
"What Secrets Do
Elizabeth's secretive nature– Her actions during her lifetime made an appearance to suggest, that she had a closely guarded secret.
Elizabeth's close connection with Kat Ashley. She always treated her with preference and kept her near to her.
Elizabeth's refusal to get married.
Rumors that Elizabeth couldn’t get pregnant–
Elizabeth's huge stock of wigs– Had been they to hide men's baldness?
Elizabeth's refusal to see other doctors– Elizabeth was ill during her house incarceration. Apparently, her usual doctor was not available and Elizabeth refused to see any other doctor.
Elizabeth still left instructions for no post-mortem autopsy on her body.
She enjoyed decorating big dresses and high necklines, which could have concealed her male body.
She used thicker drag queen- like makeup.