I have to admit, the idea that Elizabeth I was a man is a very intriguing idea for a novel. (As an aside, isn’t it quite a strange coincidence that the novel in question is by Steve Berry, who I just recently wrote about?) This epically long article on the Daily Mail (yeah, yeah, I know it’s a rag) explains why some have said that Elizabeth I was actually a man.
According to the theory, the actual Elizabeth died as a child of the plague or some other foul disease. Fearful of Henry VIII’s wrath, her governess and guardian found a boy in a local village and dressed him up as Elizabeth. Of course, once the deception began, it had to continue, or else the governess and guardian would suffer a terrible fate, and therefore the boy lived his entire life as a woman, ruled England as a queen, but was actually a man.
The author of the article claims the reason why Elizabeth never married was because she was actually a man. (In actuality, I am pretty certain that she didn’t want to marry due to the way laws were at the time: had she married, her husband would have had power over her and her property and she didn’t want to give that up.)
I don’t believe this theory because it has too many potential issues. For example, there are other, simpler ways of explaining Elizabeth’s quirks, as described in the article, that are not predicated on the idea of her being a man. (Case in point: the fact that she did not like to be seen in public without heavy makeup and a wig could just mean that she was a tad vain, or simply liked to look her best around other people. I mean, I don’t leave my house without makeup, ever, so I can relate.)
I also don’t want to believe this theory. Growing up, I read everything I could about Elizabeth and I adored her. I loved how she was able to accomplish so much in what was a very male-dominated world, when women had so few opportunities. If it were proven beyond a doubt that she was a man (and that would be quite simple to prove by exhuming her remains), I would be disappointed. An essential part of my conception of Elizabeth is the fact that she was a woman. It just wouldn’t be the same if she were a man.