Elizabeth I was Queen of England for 45 years during the late 1500s. Her nickname was the Virgin Queen.
The Queen was highly-intelligent and fluent in six different languages. Despite countless marriage offers, Queen Elizabeth never took a husband. She was the equal of any King and claimed she was married to her kingdom.
It has strangely been suggested that Queen Elizabeth was a man.
Many people would dismiss such a theory as sexist twaddle. Not according to author Bram Stoker. The man who wrote Dracula in 1897 first stumbled across the theory in the village of Bisley, England. Every May Day, their village May Queen dresses as a boy in Elizabethan clothing.
Stoker decided to investigate the curious tradition further. The villagers believe a young Elizabeth was sent to Bisley in 1543 to avoid the plague. One day Henry VIII planned to visit his child and then disaster struck.
According to the theory, Elizabeth became sick and died. Fearing the King’s reaction, Elizabeth’s Governess took matters into her own hands. She looked high and low for a girl of Elizabeth’s age to replace her. She could find no girls, but there was a boy who strongly resembled Elizabeth.
The boy was quickly dressed in Elizabeth’s clothes before King Henry’s arrival. To everyone’s surprise, the plan went off without a hitch. Perhaps because Elizabeth was notoriously shy around the king, he did not notice anything different about her.
The few people who knew about the deception faced a problem. If the King ever found out, it would cost them their lives.
They decided the truth was best buried. The real Elizabeth was hidden in a stone coffin and a small boy was condemned to live a terrible lie.
Over 300 years later, the body of a young girl in Elizabethan dress was found in Bisley. It was accidentally discovered during building work.
Stoker firmly believed that buried girl was Elizabeth and the later Queen Elizabeth was actually a man. His theory didn’t stop with the story he found in Bisley.
Queen Elizabeth refused to conform to the expectations of what a woman should be. She was subservient to no man and ruled with an iron will.
Her rousing speech to the troops at Tilbury before defeating the Spanish Armada in 1588 is a shining example.
Elizabeth declared, “ I know I have the body of a weak, feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king.”
Elizabeth’s tutor Roger Ascham declared her too clever to be a woman. He wrote, “The constitution of her mind is exempt from female weakness.”
Was Queen Elizabeth a man? Or is it sexist hogwash?
The age in which Elizabeth lived expected women to know their place. It also expected them to marry and bear children. Elizabeth did neither.
Queen Elizabeth I continues to enjoy a cast iron reputation as a fair and popular ruler. Under her rule, the arts and science blossomed and England knew a longstanding peace. She became the most powerful woman in the country. Yet she was still subject to gender stereotypes.