As reported by the Daily Mail, a new book called The King's Deception by Steve Berry has supposedly unearthed "the biggest deception in British history": namely that Queen Elizabeth was actually a man, and the "truth" has been covered up for centuries. Here's how the theory goes.
The "real" Elizabeth died of the plague aged 10, fifteen years before ascending to the throne.
This fact was concealed from her father, Henry VIII, by Elizabeth’s governess, Lady Kat Ashley, and her guardian, Thomas Parry.
She was then buried in the Cotswold village of Bisley in Gloucestershire. A local boy was told to dress in her clothes, and stand in for her. For the next six decades.
The evidence put forward for this theory? Well, erm, it explains why she never married.
Also Bram Stoker wrote about the theory in his book, Imposters.
She always wore heavy make-up and a wig. Obviously hiding something.
Plus some of her inner circle thought she had masculine qualities.
In her most famous speech, addressing troops before the Spanish Armada, she said: "I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England, too."
The author of The King's Deception says: "Elizabeth's grave has never been breached. Now it's time to open it up and see what's in there."
Dig up a centuries-old tomb in Westminster Abbey, just to promote your book? Think we'll pass, thanks.
I asked my brother, a history teacher specialising in the Tudors, to explain exactly why the theory is so dumb.
Firstly, it was not treason to 'allow' a royal child to die. Every child in the Tudor period, including royal ones, had a 50/50 chance of dying from disease before reaching adulthood. Everyone knew this and, as long as reasonable care had been taken over a child's welfare, there was no chance of a treason charge. For example, no-one was charged as a result of the death of Henry VIII's older brother Arthur at the age of 15, nor after the death of Henry VIII's first son, who died in 1511.
Secondly, it would have been utterly impossible for a man to masquerade as a Queen. A Queen's body was in many ways public property. Her ladies in waiting dressed her and assisted her in the bathroom. They reported on her monthly courses, in which even the Privy Council took an interest.
Finally, it would have been far more dangerous to attempt a crazy scheme like this, which really would have been treasonous, than to admit that a child in their care had died. At this stage, Elizabeth was not even that important, with an older brother and sister in line to the throne before her.