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How Tea Parties Got Their Start—and How to Hold One Like a Victorian

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This summer marks 150 years since Alice in Wonderland was first published. As most English speakers over the age of 10 are aware, the book contains the most beloved tea party scene in literary history—so why not use its anniversary as an excuse to hold a Victorian-style tea party of your own?

First, impress your guests with some history. The modern European tea party began about 20 years before the publication of Alice in Wonderland, at which point it was still extremely fashionable. Although there are scattered references to fashionable ladies drinking a cup of tea mid-afternoon in the 17th century, most sources trace the tradition back to the 1840s and Anna Maria Russell, the Duchess of Bedford, a lifelong friend of Queen Victoria’s. In the Duchess’s day, most British people ate two main meals: a huge breakfast served early, and an 8 p.m. dinner (there was a light, informal luncheon in between). The Duchess complained of getting a “sinkful feeling” during the long, snackless gap in between, and started taking a pot of tea and some light treats in her boudoir around 4 p.m.

Tea consumption in Europe had increased dramatically in the early 19th century, especially after Europeans learned the secrets of tea cultivation and began establishing their own plantations, instead of relying on China. The idea of an afternoon tea-based snackfest caught on after Anna began inviting friends to meet her for a cuppa (as Brits now call it) and “a walk in the fields.” Other high society hostesses imitated her party idea, creating intimate afternoon events that usually involved elegant rooms, fine china, hot tea, small sandwiches, and plenty of gossip. The custom really caught on when Queen Victoria attended some of these gatherings, adding her royal imprimatur.

The middle classes followed suit, discovering that tea parties were a relatively economical way to host a gathering. There were garden teas, tennis teas, croquet teas, and more. Eventually, the custom of taking a mid-afternoon tea break became standard across British society, although it diverged into two traditions: “afternoon tea,” for the leisured classes (tea and light snacks) and “high tea” or “meat tea,” a heartier workingman’s dinner that would be served when laborers arrived home after work.

If you’d like to hold a Victorian-style tea party, consider following some of the guidelines for various kinds of teas dispensed in 1893’s Etiquette of Good Society by Lady Gertrude Elizabeth Campbell or Etiquette: What to Do, and How to Do It, written by Lady Constance Eleanora C. Howard in 1885. Both are freely available on Google Books in case you need more information about which spoon to use with your clotted cream.

LADY GERTRUDE ELIZABETH CAMPBELL’S TEA TIPS

Campbell says: “a tea, of whatever kind, may be made one of the most agreeable of meals; for tea always seems to produce sociability, cheerfulness, and vivacity.”

She offers the following guidelines for a country-based high tea, perhaps after some archery or lawn tennis in summer, or music, card games, or charades in winter: 

  • Cover the table with a white tablecloth and line the center with flowers or, if it’s summer, with fruit. “Nothing looks more tempting than bowls of old china filled with ripe red strawberries, and jugs of rich cream by their side,” Campbell notes.
  • Adorn the table with glass dishes of preserved fruit and jams, and cakes of various kinds (Campbell suggests plum, rice and sponge cakes), as well as hot muffins, crumpets, toast, and little tea cakes. More substantial fare, such as cold salmon, pigeon, veal and ham pie, should go on the sideboards. If it’s a “hungry tea,” Campbell says, you may add roast beef and lamb “for the gentlemen.”
  • Place the tea tray at one end of the table, and a tray with coffee at the other.
  • Servants should be experienced, since they’ll have plenty of work to do passing around cups of tea, cream, and sugar, and keeping an eye out for empties. There should be one servant for carving up the meats, one to change the plates, another to hand out the bread and butter, plus several more to spare just in case.
  • However, after the fruit has been passed out, the servants should leave the room so that the guests can enjoy themselves without fear of being overheard. (Again, gossip is pretty much the point of a tea party.)
  • The meal may be followed by dancing on the lawn or in the drawing room, with music, charades, or some other kind of parlor entertainment. If there’s no entertainment, guests repair to reception rooms to chat.
  • Furniture arrangement in the reception rooms is key: groups of tables and chairs should be placed so that the guests can form little groups that make the room look full, but not too crowded. “A room stiffly arranged will destroy all the wish for conversation and mirth, and also the power of producing it as well,” Lady Campbell notes.
  • The absolute worst idea, she says, is to let the guests form themselves into one big circle. This leads to an “immediate depression,” since “few people have the sang froid to talk, much less freely and well, when everyone can hear their remarks.” The hostess must keep an eye out to prevent this catastrophe. If she does not, “a gloom pervades, hilarity ceases, only an occasional remark is ventured upon, and the party is converted into a Quaker’s meeting.”

Campbell shares these tips for a light afternoon tea, also known as a “small tea,” usually served around 5 p.m., where things are less formal:

  • Invitations are sent out indicating that the lady of the house will be “at home” on such and such an afternoon (no reply from the guest is needed).
  • Guests are ushered into the hostess’s drawing room. Tea equipment—usually a specially designed set—should be placed near the lady of the house, who pours the tea herself.
  • Cups and saucers should be small and dainty, as should spoons, sugar basin, tongs and cream jug. Plates of cakes and bread and butter should be brought into the room.
  • Gentlemen should offer their services handling the cake and pouring the tea, but should not be too anxious to do so, since “people do not assemble at these 5 o’clock teas to eat and drink.”
  • Larger afternoon teas, however, will require servants to pour and pass out the tea, but at “little teas,” servants should be excluded if possible.
  • Tea may be followed by whist, music, or a dance on the carpet, which “finds favor with young people.”
  • You should “on no account stay later than seven o’clock.”

LADY CONSTANCE ELEANORA C. HOWARD’S TEA TIPS

  • At a country tea, you might add a patterned tablecloth, perhaps one covered in poppies or cornflowers. Adding meat is a welcome touch for those who have come from far away, as is adding a tray with sherry, brandy, or seltzer for those who prefer it to tea. Always include salt, since some people sprinkle it on their bread and butter.
  • Knives should only be used for cutting the cake, and not by each person, unless toast, butter, jam, etc. is being served. Hot water can be sent up in an urn, kettle, or jug, but using a silver jug isn’t a good plan, since the water gets cold quickly. Teaspoons, however, should be silver, while china or colored Venetian glass dishes are best for butter and jam.
  • Hostesses pour the tea themselves, asking each guest if they take sugar, cream, or milk, and then handing the cups to the gentlemen, who in turn hand them to the ladies, who are clustered around the room in little groups. Gentlemen also pass out the cakes, muffins, etc.
  • Howard notes that plates must always be used at a 5 o’clock tea, and that to place cake or scone in a saucer or on the table would be “very vulgar.”
  • Serviettes (also known as napkins) should never be used.
  • The butler and footman can arrange the room and set the table, but then should leave the room, since servants don’t usually wait on guests at teas. Instead “they wait upon each other, who is far less formal and much more agreeable.”

Howard offers the following advice for a formal 5 o’clock tea in London, noting “ladies like it extremely; gentlemen, as a rule, detest it most cordially.”

  • Invitations are given verbally, or on an ordinary visiting card. A request for RSVPs may be added on the right corner, although they aren’t usually (if they are present, an immediate reply is required). If there will be entertainment, that should be noted. Note that “5 o’clock tea” is not the right term for an invitation—the hostess merely says she is “at home.” The host’s name is never added to the invitation, only the hostess’s.
  • Two weeks’ notice is usual for more formal teas, although invitations can be sent out only a week in advance for smaller ones.
  • Formal teas—or “ceremonious teas”—can include from 50 to 200 guests, at which point it’s customary to produce some light entertainment alongside the tea-sipping. “The music should be as good as possible,” notes Howard, “though not important enough to actually be a concert.”
  • The “semi-ceremonious tea” numbers 40 to 100 people, and requires less formal entertainment, perhaps recitations or “good amateur talent, vocal or instrumental.”
  • At even less formal teas, of 10 to 25 people, general chatting or tête-à-têtes can take the place of entertainment or instruction.
  • Never station a servant at the door to announce guests; they should walk right in, since they know the hostess is at home.
  • Never use red cloth at any party unless royalty is present.
  • Tea and coffee should be in silver urns, and the buffet prettily decorated with flowers that are in season, as well as fancy biscuits, brown and white bread and butter cut very thin, and cakes (plum, seed, pound, and sponge). Sherry, champagne, claret, lemonade, ices, fruit, potted game, sandwiches, and (in the summer) bowls heaped with strawberries and whipped cream should be placed on the center table.
  • More formal teas should be served in the dining room, smaller teas in a boudoir or anteroom.
  • It is polite to greet your hostess before taking any tea, coffee, or sweets. The hostess should stand just inside the doorway of the room at a more formal tea, and at a small tea, she receives guests inside the room, advancing a few steps to greet each arrival.
  • Unless a hostess is lame or very old, etiquette requires that she should move about the room among her guests to make sure they have someone to talk to and have enough tea at all times. Her daughter or daughters should help her. Guests, too, can move around the room—there is no need to stay in one spot unless the conversation is “very absorbing.”
  • Formal, general introductions are not needed, although the hostess may introduce two people if she thinks that one, or both, would value her doing so.
  • Punctuality is not necessary at 5 o’clock tea, and guests should feel free to come when they like and leave when it pleases them.
  • Ladies may ask for a second cup of tea if they are thirsty, but it would “look peculiar” if they ask for chocolate, milk, soda, cider, or some other beverage not usually served at a tea.
  • Ladies intending to eat ices, cake, bread, etc. should take off their gloves, but gloves can stay on if one is only drinking tea or coffee without eating.
  • Conversation should be in a low tone so as not to disturb those who are doing their best to amuse the guests, and guests should at least try to look as if they are listening to the performances.
  • Never tip the servants.
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This Mysterious Underground Building Still Baffles Everyone

This Mysterious Underground Building Still Baffles Everyone
Word spread, and a local schoolteacher soon volunteered his young son, Joshua, to be lowered into the hole with a candle. If you think dipping your child into a mysterious cavern in the Earth seems a bit, well, unsafe, we do, too. Luckily, Joshua was fine, and what he saw underground was a breathtaking mystery.

When Joshua was pulled out, he described rooms filled with hundreds of thousands of carefully arranged shells.

Needless to say, the adults were a bit skeptical, but when the hole was widened and they saw if for themselves, they were stunned. There was a passage, a rotunda, and an altar chamber, and the whole thing was covered in a mosaic of shells.

Joshua’s father, the schoolteacher, immediately thought of the financial benefit that this place might have. He quickly bought up the land and began renovating the grotto, making it suitable for visitors. Two years later, in 1837, the Margate Shell Grotto opened to the public for the first time. And he was right; it did catch on with the public, and it’s still open and enjoying visitors today. Today, it’s also got a museum, gift shop, and cafe.

But there’s still a major question hanging in the air: who built this, and why?

With all these shells so carefully arranged, it’s clear that someone spent a lot of time — and money — on this creation. The shells are arranged in sun and star shapes, and vaulted ceilings and altar-like spaces lead some to believe it once had religious significance. Yet no one knows for sure, and no one is even sure how old the structure is.

Theories about its origin place it as being built as long as 3,000 years ago.

Other theories also run the gamut between ordinary and totally out there. Some think it was created as an aristocrat’s folly sometime in the 1700s. Others think it might have been used as an astrological calendar, or that it’s connected with the Freemasons or the Knights Templar. Still, others maintain it is connected to a mysterious Mexican culture that lived some 12,000 years ago.

Shell grottoes were actually quite popular in Europe in the 1700s among the wealthy.

There’s only one catch: the Grotto’s location was on farmland, and that land has never been part of a large estate, where follies would have been built. Even in 1835, there was no record of its construction, which would have been a major undertaking. People have been so stumped by this that in the 1930s, people held seances in the hopes of contacting the spirits of whoever built it.

Visitors from the 1930s left their mark on some scallop shells in the grotto.

The shells in the grotto, which include scallops, whelks, mussels, cockles, limpets, and oysters, can all be found locally. Only the flat winkle shells had to be brought in from elsewhere.

The arrangement of the shells must have taken countless hours of painstaking work.

In all, there are over 2,000 square feet of shell mosaic in the grotto.

Many of the shells in the grotto have faded over time and lost their luster through water damage. This recreation shows what they might have looked like at the time the grotto was built. It would have been full of dazzling color.

(via Kuriositas, Wikipedia)

To determine the age of the shells, they could be carbon dated. However, on the Shell Grotto’s FAQ page, it’s stated that this process is very expensive, and other conservation issues are currently prioritized. Perhaps one day, we’ll at least know when this was built. For now, our imaginations can run wild with all the possibilities of the Shell Grotto’s mysterious past. Was it a smuggler’s hideout? A secret temple? An underground party room? The life’s work of a madman? Whatever it was, someone obviously cared about it enough to decorate it like this.

Read more: http://www.disclose.tv/news/this_mysterious_underground_building_still_baffles_everyone/118943#ixzz3ehCnw7IJ

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Researchers say Richard III dined on exotic birds, drank heavily

King Richard III remains 2.jpg

Feb. 4 2013: The curved spine and other long lost remains of England’s King Richard III, missing for 500 years. Richard was immortalized in a play by Shakespeare as a hunchbacked usurper who left a trail of bodies including those of his two young nephews, murdered in the Tower of London on his way to the throne.AP Photo/ University of Leicester

What did it mean to eat like a king in the late-15th century? For Britain’s Richard III, immortalized by Shakespeare as a “poisonous bunch-backed toad,” it meant dining on exotic birds like swan, crane and heron, all washed down with a bottle of wine.

New research carried out by scientists in Britain has shown that Richard’s consumption of alcohol dramatically increased after he became king in 1483, allegedly ordering the murders of his two young nephews along the way.

“Richard’s diet when he was king was far richer than that of other equivalent high status individuals in the late medieval period,” Dr. Angela Lamb of the British Geological Survey told Sky News. “We know he was banqueting a lot more, there was a lot of wine indicated at those banquets and tying all that together with the bone chemistry it looks like this feasting had quite an impact on his body in the last few years of his life.”

In analyzing the remains of England’s last Yorkist king, researchers measured the levels of certain chemicals in Richard’s bones and teeth. Chemicals such as nitrogen, oxygen, carbon and lead correlate to a person’s geographic location and diet. In the case of Richard III, the analysis showed that he consumed a variety of exotic meats, as well as freshwater fish like pike.

Richard III became the last English king to die in battle when he was killed in 1485 during the Battle of Bosworth Field, the decisive encounter in the Wars of the Roses. He was hastily buried in the city of Leicester, where his remains were rediscovered in 2012. He is due to be reburied in the city’s cathedral on March 26 of next year.

Click for more from Sky News.

Click for more from The Independent.

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1879 Darby Steam-Digger

c. 1879 The Darby steam-digger

Darby-Steam-Digger

“Image with consent of the descendants of Robert Hasler.

“The Darby Steam-Digger, a light traction engine, was invented circa 1879 by farmer Thomas Darby and built at Lodge Farm Pleshey, near Chelmsford in Essex, England. Robert Hasler, seen driving the Digger, helped to build this first prototype.

“In effect the machine was an early tractor designed mainly for ploughing, and could accomplish 1-acre (4,000 m2) an hour (1 m²/s) to a maximum depth of 14 inches (360 mm). This first digger was constructed on pedestrian principles and had six “feet” and really did walk over the fields. Unfortunately it jumped too much to be really successful. The digger was later modified to have wheels in place of the legs.”

– Wikipedia

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X-ray technology to reveal secrets of ‘unreadable’ 15th century scroll

3D X-ray technology to reveal secrets of ‘unreadable’ 15th century scroll

Published December 03, 2013

FoxNews.com
  • 15-century-manuscript.jpg

    The Bressingham roll. (NORFOLK RECORD OFFICE)

  • unrolled-most.jpg

    The Bressingham Roll as unrolled as possible. The section to the right of the image is stuck together. (NORFOLK RECORD OFFICE)

For decades, a 15th century Norfolk, England scroll was believed to be forever unreadable. The water-damaged parchment from Bressingham Manor was thought to be too fragile to be opened and read without causing the scroll to disintegrate.

Now using 3D X-ray technology typically used in dentistry, the scroll is set to be read virtually.

“Having the chance to unlock a part of Norfolk history which has been closed to us for maybe hundreds of years feels very special,” Gary Tuson from the Norfolk Records Office (NRO) told the BBC.

The X-ray system scanned the scroll and created approximately 40,000 images which when pieced together will reveal the text.

The process, called microtomography, process scans the iron and copper in the text’s ink to create a high contrast image of the scroll.

“We have documents from Bressingham Manor dating back to 1273, but when you get to the 15th Century you just can’t get at what it says on the inside of this roll,” said Tuson.

Researchers hope the document, which has been under the supervision of the Apocalypto Project, an effort between the NRO, experts at Queen Mary University of London and Cardiff University, will shed light on everyday life for Norfolk villagers in the 1400s.

“To be able to unlock documents like this, to be the first person to read them in hundreds of years, is fascinating,” David Mills, from the Apocalypto Project said. “As you start to delve through the image you start to see the outline of letters come together – it’s a great feeling.”

The results are expected to be released by Christmas.

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Stonehenge Path Offers New Clues To Site’s Age-Old Secrets

Stonehenge Path Offers New Clues To Site’s Age-Old Secrets

The Huffington Post  |  By Posted: 09/14/2013 8:26 am EDT  |  Updated: 09/15/2013 12:25 pm EDT

 
Stonehenge Path
Modern researchers have puzzled for centuries over the striking stone construction known as Stonehenge. But now researchers have discovered new aspects of the site, including a processional road, that may eventually help unravel some of its mysteries.

There are many theories about why ancient peoples constructed the prehistoric megalithic monument, which is estimated to have been built between 3000 and 1520 B.C. Located outside Salisbury, England, Stonehenge is the focus of ongoing research projects coordinated by English Heritage, a cultural preservation agency.

One of those projects recently uncovered previously hidden sections of an ancient pathway that researchers believe led directly to the site from the Avon River in the nearby town of Amesbury.

Known as the Avenue, the pathway is believed to have been built sometime between 2600 and 2200 B.C., according to English Heritage. Over time, parts of the road were obscured, and a modern road called A344 was built across it, reports LiveScience. The new road has made it almost impossible for researchers to confirm the purpose of the Avenue, according to LiveScience.

In an effort to answer some of these questions, researchers carefully began removing the paved A344. While the banks of the original path had long since eroded away, archaeologists were excited to find traces of two parallel ditches that once ran on either side of the path. These ditches connected segments of the Avenue bisected by A344.

“And here we have it –- the missing piece in the jigsaw,” Heather Sebire, properties curator and archaeologist at English Heritage, said in an interview with BBC History Magazine. “It is very exciting to find a piece of physical evidence that officially makes the connection which we were hoping for.”

While the purpose of the Avenue is not exactly clear, Sebire told LiveScience she believes it was involved in ancient processions to and from the site.

“It was constructed in 2300 BC so is a later addition to the stone circle, but people would have processed along it to the monument,” Sebire told BBC Magazine. “It’s quite a dramatic finding.”

At least one researcher unaffiliated with English Heritage believes the excavation could help confirm a theory that the Avenue leading to Stonehenge was built along the solstice axis. As archaeologist Mike Parker Pearson told National Geographic, this means that the direction of the Avenue moving away from the monument points toward where the sun rises on the midsummer solstice, the longest day of the year. But if you turn, the path leading back toward Stonehenge points toward where the sun sets on the midwinter solstice, the shortest day of the year.

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Conspiracy Theory – Was Queen Elizabeth I a Man?

Is this proof the Virgin Queen was an imposter in drag? Shocking new theory about Elizabeth I unearthed in historic manuscripts

By CHRISTOPHER STEVENS

The bones of Elizabeth I, Good Queen Bess, lie mingled with those of her sister, Bloody Mary, in a single tomb at Westminster Abbey. But are they really royal remains — or evidence of the greatest conspiracy in English history?

If that is not the skeleton of Elizabeth Tudor, the past four centuries of British history have been founded on a lie.

And according to a controversial new book, the lie began on an autumn morning 470 years ago, when panic swept through a little group of courtiers in a manor house in the Cotswold village of Bisley in Gloucestershire.

Cate Blanchett as Queen Elizabeth in the film 'Elizabeth: The Golden Age'. Could the virgin queen be a part of the biggest deception in British history?Cate Blanchett as Queen Elizabeth in the film ‘Elizabeth: The Golden Age’. Could the virgin queen be a part of the biggest deception in British history?

The king, Henry VIII, was due at any hour. He was travelling from London, in great discomfort — for the 52-year-old monarch was grossly overweight and crippled by festering sores — to visit his daughter, Elizabeth.

The young princess had been sent there that summer from the capital to avoid an outbreak of plague. But she had fallen sick with a fever and, after weeks of bleeding, leeches and vomiting, her body was too weak to keep fighting. The night before the king’s arrival, his favourite daughter, the only child of his marriage to Anne Boleyn, had been dangerously ill. In the morning, Elizabeth lay dead.

Elizabeth’s governess, Lady Kat Ashley, and her guardian, Thomas Parry, had good reason to fear telling the king this awful news. It would cost them their lives. Four of Henry’s children had died in infancy and, of the survivors, one — Edward — was a sickly boy of five and the other an embittered, unmarried woman in her late 20s.

The ten-year-old Elizabeth was Tudor England’s most valuable child in many ways. She could surely be married to a French or Spanish prince to seal an international alliance — and her own children would secure the Tudor dynasty Henry so desperately craved.

Now she was dead, and when the king discovered it, Parry and Lady Ashley would surely be executed. Their sole duty had been to keep the princess safe: failure was treason. The penalty would not even be beheading, but death by the most gruesome torture imaginable.

They would be bound and dragged through the mud for a mile to the scaffold. There they would be hanged, cut down and disembowelled. Their entrails would be hauled from their bodies and held in front of their faces as they died, and then their limbs would be hacked off and displayed on spikes, to be picked bare by the birds.

Helen Mirren pictured as Elizabeth I in a Channel Four mini-seriesHelen Mirren pictured as Elizabeth I in a Channel Four mini-series

Their only chance of concealing the truth, and perhaps buying themselves a few days to flee the country, was to trick the king.

Kat Ashley’s first thought was to find a village girl and dress her up in the princess’s robe, with a mantle, to fool the king. Bisley was a tiny hamlet, however, and there were no female children of Elizabeth’s age.

But there was a boy, from a local family called Neville. He was a gawky, angular youth a year or so younger than Elizabeth, who had been the princess’s companion and fellow pupil for the past few weeks. And with no time to look further afield for a stand-in, Parry and Lady Ashley took the desperate measure of forcing the boy to don his dead friend’s clothes.

Remarkably, the deception worked. Henry saw his daughter rarely, and was used to hearing her say nothing.  The last time she had been presented in court, meeting the new Queen Catherine Parr, she had been trembling with terror.

The princess was known as a gentle, studious child, and painfully shy — not a girl to speak up in front of the king who had beheaded her mother.

So when ‘she’ stood at Bisley manor, in the dimness of an oak-beamed hall lit by latticed windows, it was not so surprising that the king failed to realise he was being duped. He had no reason to suspect his daughter had been ill, after all, and he himself was tired and in pain.

But after he left later that afternoon, the hoax began in earnest. Parry and Lady Ashley realised that if they ever admitted what they had done, the king’s fury would be boundless. They might get out of the country to safety, but their families would surely be killed.

On the other hand, few people had known the princess well enough to be certain of recognising her, especially after an interval of many months. This boy had already fooled the king, the most important deception.

Meanwhile, there was no easy way to find a female lookalike, and replace the replacement. As the courtiers buried the real Elizabeth Tudor in a stone coffin in the manor grounds, they decided their best hope of protecting themselves and their families was to teach this Bisley boy how to be a princess.

Attributed to painter William Scrots, this portrait is of Elizabeth I as a Princess in 1546-7Attributed to painter William Scrots, this portrait is of Elizabeth I as a Princess in 1546-7

Of course this entire theory sounds absurd, given that every child grows up with tales of our glorious Virgin Queen, celebrated by Shakespeare and venerated in innumerable plays, songs and films over the centuries.

And yet the many corroborating details around this extraordinary tale about the Bisley boy were enough to convince the 19th-century writer Bram Stoker, most famous as the author of Dracula. He included the story as the final chapter in his  book, Imposters.

Stoker had heard persistent stories that a coffin had been discovered by a clergyman at Bisley during the early 1800s, with the skeleton of a girl dressed in Tudor finery, even with gems sewn onto the cloth.

It seemed to chime with local legends persisting for centuries that an English monarch had been, in reality, a child from the village.

Above all, Stoker believed, it was the most plausible explanation  why Elizabeth, who succeeded to  the throne in 1558, aged 25,  never married.

Her most urgent duty, as the last of the Tudor line, was to provide an heir — yet she described herself as a Virgin Queen, and vowed she would never take a husband, even if the Emperor of Spain offered her an alliance with his oldest son.

She stayed true to that oath, provoking a war which almost ended in Spanish invasion in 1588. But Elizabeth did not waver — and never even took an acknowledged lover.
She 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 declared.

Her most famous speech, to her troops at Tilbury as the Spanish Armada approached, was cheered to the skies as she roared: ‘I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England, too.’

American author Steve Berry believes Elizabeth could have been telling the literal truth — that she had the heart of a man, because her body was male. He has spent 18 months researching the conspiracy for his novel The King’s Deception, a Dan Brown-style thriller set in 21st-century London.

Could the real reason the 'Virgin Queen' never married was that she was secretly a man?Could the real reason the ‘Virgin Queen’ never married was that she was secretly a man?

For Berry, who has written 12 thrillers, the trail began with a chance question during a tour of Ely Cathedral in Cambridgeshire three years ago. ‘I always ask if there are any secrets or mysteries, and the guide told me: “There’s nothing at Ely but I’ve heard an incredible rumour in the Cotswolds.” ’
Sceptical at first, Berry uncovered tantalising hints and references in books and ancient manuscripts.

When the ‘princess’ reached her teens, for instance, she was assigned a tutor named Roger Ascham, who was puzzled by her behaviour.

‘The constitution of her mind,’ he wrote, ‘is exempt from female weakness, and she is embued with a masculine power of application … In the whole manner of her life she rather resembles Hippolyte than Phaedra.’

That last, classical allusion was quite venomous: Phaedra was an ancient princess driven mad by her lust for men, while Hippolyte was queen of the Amazons, who lived without any need for men at all. Most convincing to Berry were the contemporary portraits, which are reproduced in his novel.

One picture exists of Elizabeth as a child, attributed to the court painter William Scrots. She had slender shoulders, a delicate neck and a heart-shaped face with ginger hair and eyebrows.

In the next known portrait, shortly after she was crowned queen, her broad shoulders and neck are disguised with heavy furs. She is wearing a wig, and her eyebrows are plucked bare. Her jaw is heavy and square.

All subsequent pictures of the queen were painted to an ideal, showing Elizabeth as she wished to be seen, not as she was.

Even the official portrait commissioned after her death by her chief adviser, Sir Robert Cecil, conformed to what was known as ‘The Mask Of Youth’ — the idealised face of the monarch, which never aged.

Many Tudor courtiers suspected that Elizabeth had a deep secret. Lord Somerset was the power behind the boy king Edward VI’s throne, after Henry VIII died in 1547 when Elizabeth was just 13.

One of his spies, Sir Robert Tyrwhitt, wrote to him: ‘I do verily believe that there hath been some secret promise between my Lady, Mistress Ashley, and the Cofferer [Thomas Parry, the principal officer of the court] never to confess to death, and if it be so, it will be never gotten of her, unless by the King’s Majesty or else by your Grace.’

In modern English: ‘I am certain Lady Ashley and Thomas Parry have a secret, and that there is a pact between them to take it to the grave. If that’s the case, the only people who could force them to divulge this secret are you and the King.’

Those were ominous words: only Somerset and the King had the right to put a suspect to the rack, using torture to extract information.

Bram Stoker believed it was the sheer scale of the deception that made it possible. When Elizabeth returned to London from Bisley, more than a year after she first left the court, it would have been treason for any sceptics to suggest ‘she’ was not the king’s daughter.

‘It is conceivable,’ Stoker remarked drily, ‘that in the case of a few individuals, there might have been stray fragmentary clouds of suspicion.

This portrait of Queen Elizabeth I is by an unknown artist and is from the period 1580-1590This portrait of Queen Elizabeth I is by an unknown artist and is from the period 1580-1590

‘After a time, even suspicion became an impossibility. Here was a young woman growing into womanhood whom all around her had known all her life — or, what was equivalent, believed they had.’

Any differences in her appearance were dismissed as the natural effects of growing up. Elizabeth had been a timid child — now she was a bold and imperious adolescent.

As a little girl, she was exceptionally bright, poring over her books and learning as quickly as her tutors could teach her; now she was slower at her lessons and, though far from stupid, more academic plodder than prodigy.

Her tutor was warned to make her lessons shorter. Roger Ascham commented that the girl who had been said to soak up facts like a sponge was now more like a shallow cup — if wine was poured in too quickly, it would simply splash out again.

Kat Ashley and Thomas Parry — the pair who are suspected of carrying out the deception — remained loyal to the sovereign throughout their lives, as England’s political pendulum swung wildly after the death of Henry VIII.

During Edward VI’s reign, they were Elizabeth’s closest friends, and they stood by ‘her’ during her years of imprisonment in the Tower when her Catholic sister Mary was queen and decided the safest place for Elizabeth was under lock and key, where she could not threaten the throne.

When Mary died at the age of 42, one of Elizabeth’s first acts as queen was to make Lady Ashley her First Lady of the Bedchamber.

For the next seven years, she controlled all access to the young monarch. Elizabeth was devastated when Ashley died in 1565, and went into heavy mourning. Thomas Parry was knighted, and made a Privy Counsellor and Comptroller of the Household — the richest rewards Elizabeth could bestow.

He was a bad-tempered man who made many enemies, and few at court grieved when he died in 1560 — one wag said he expired ‘from mere ill-humour’.

Steve Berry believes the queen must have confessed her secret to her chief minister, William Cecil. The politician had a reputation for an almost supernatural ability to read people and discover facts: she needed Cecil to understand that a marriage would not just have  been pointless, it would have  been ruinous.

This painting by an unknown artist is known as the 'Darnley portrait' after a previous owner, and is from around 1575This painting by an unknown artist is known as the ‘Darnley portrait’ after a previous owner, and is from around 1575

If her secret was betrayed, the country could be plunged into civil war. There was no obvious heir, and Mary’s former husband was now Britain’s greatest enemy, Philip II of Spain. Certainly, Cecil was surprisingly stoic about the queen’s determination never to wed.

Publicly, Elizabeth sometimes claimed that people needed to feel their monarch was wedded to the whole country, rather than one man. On other occasions, she hinted that the debacle of her father’s six wives, and her mother’s death at the block, had put her off marriage for life.
If those reasons sound flimsy, the queen’s determination to control her image was iron.

She wore thick make-up and heavy wigs at all times: no one was permitted to see her without them. And she controlled her succession with equal ruthlessness.

On her deathbed, she commanded that the crown must go to her cousin’s son — James VI of Scotland, whose mother was Mary Queen of Scots. But the command itself was cryptically worded: ‘I will have no rascal to succeed me, and who should succeed me but a king?’

Was there a hint in those words that for 45 years the figure on the throne had herself been a ‘rascal’, playing a part? Author Steve Berry believes there is only one way to discover the truth. After Elizabeth died in 1603, there was no autopsy.

Instead of a magnificent state funeral for the monarch the nation called ‘Gloriana’, the queen’s bones were interred with those of her sister in Westminster Abbey.

Berry points to the recent DNA analysis that proved that remains discovered under a Leicester car park were those of Richard III, who ruled a century before Elizabeth.

Such high-tech methods would not even be necessary to establish whether the bones in the Abbey tomb were all female, or whether a male skeleton was buried there.

‘Elizabeth’s grave has never been breached,’ Berry says. ‘Now it’s  time to open it up and see what’s  in there.’

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2337774/Is-proof-Virgin-Queen-imposter-drag-Shocking-new-theory-Elizabeth-I-unearthed-historic-manuscripts.html#ixzz2VrJ2vkiy
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