The Old Myths Regurgitated – The Bisley Boy and More

I wasn’t able to watch the National Geographic Channel’s “Secrets of the Virgin Queen” but many people have contacted me to let me know what “secrets” it looked at. It sounds like it was a programme concentrating on the salacious rumours and myths that surround Elizabeth and her personal life – can’t they come up with anything new?! Anyway, here are a few articles I have written on these very subjects:-

Do let me know what else it covered and why you think they keep regurgitating the old rumours. Have we become a generation of people who like nothing better than celebrity gossip and scandal? I don’t think so.

19 thoughts on “The Old Myths Regurgitated – The Bisley Boy and More

  1. I watched it last night and didn’t learn anything new–not even a new scandal! But they took Arthur Dudley a little more seriously than I’d read before so….I do think they were trying to sensationalize things, though what they said happened as far as Seymour, etc. I seems to me people are still such chauvinists they can’t believe a woman in power would want to keep that power and to marry, even today, means compromise. Our husbands influence us, even though we live in modern times! So, that, plus her fears from childhood, are completely reasonable. I was a little disappointed in that nothing new was discovered or mentioned. But it was still a good show–I just like hearing all that stuff anyway!

  2. Claire, I’ve got a recap coming in an hour or so; it will cover all the things the show discussed. There were indeed some ridiculous “secrets”!

  3. Claire, I don’t think it’s just this generation that are scandal-mongers…remember these stories were around in Elizabeth’s time. As I said on my Facebook post: it’s just the continuing inability of far too many to see a strong woman in a leadership role. Thatcher, Meir, Ghandi, etc., to the contrary, strong female leaders trod on too many long-lived assumptions. I don’t mean to take a feminist view totally, but we see the same attitudes repeated generation after generation. In the U.S., the public treatment of Hilary Clinton and Sarah Palin are but the most recent examples. The attitude is so ingrained I’m not sure it’s not genetic.

    And congratulations on a fine series of thoughtful articles lately (and earlier),
    Jeane Westin
    The Queen’s Lady Spy, Penguin/NAL, TBA, 2012
    His Last Letter, Penguin/NAL, Aug. 2010
    The Virgin’s Daughters, Penguin/NAL, Aug 2009

  4. Claire, I saw that program the other night. I hadn’t heard about the Bisley boy theory before, but thought they were really reaching on that one. I can’t imagine something like that being kept a secret! i was really annoyed that people just can’t believe that she didn’t want to marry and have children. Many women, myself included, have chosen to remain single and childless. That doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with that. But it was still interesting to see what they wold say about each theory. I don’t know if anyone watched, Inside the Body of Henry VIII, it was really interesting!

  5. I was initially excited to watch Secrets, but as I was watching it I was more dissapointed. I had heard of all of the rumors except the Bisley Boy, but I thought it was more of a sensational show rather than being worth my time. I agree with Sharon above, Inside the Body of Henry VIII following was very interesting. I could see many of the ideas brought up as viable.

  6. Hi, I coudn’t watch the show, and I generally am not so keen on TV history. But as regards rumours and gossip, we must see that there was indeed so much of that sort even without tabloid papers. Historians abide to certain habits of picking and choosing them, dismissing others, mostly without mentioning them in the first place. While this is generally a good thing (you can’t write any history at all without choosing…), we consumers tend to overlook that in this way history aquires certain biases it doesn’t necessarily have in the original sources. In a sense historians create history rather than reconstruct it.

    For example there really are quite a lot of people who mention that ER had children, they are not always hostile to the Queen and sometimes believe she was secretly married; it simply reflects that many people believed these things. Of course historians do not take this seriously, as they normally don’t reports that someone died of poison or “sent his wife poison” etc. But if they want to prove Amy Dudley was murdered this gossip suddenly becomes highly significant.

  7. P.S. Re Arthur Dudley, I personally think he was a secret son by Robert D., although not by ER (but she was terribly jealous which would explain a lot).

  8. I watched it after seeing your post and I thought it was bit naff frankly. Didn’t really learn anything new and frankly I think some of the speculation is ridiculous. She died and was replaced by a boy? Puh-lease.

  9. Queen Elizabeth I was no virgin queen – and had two sons who lived into adulthood. I am a Baconian – firmly believing that the plays attributed to William Shagsper are written by Francis Bacon who was the LEGITIMATE child of Elizabeth and Dudlley – they married in Hackney when she realised she was pregnant – Francis was placed with Anthony Bacon and raised as his child – her second son was Essex – who she had to murder because he was willig to overthrow her. Both boys knew their parentage – but Francis kept quiet and although never King was raised to great privilege under James I – Bacon then wrote the plays and in code and through a cypher (which was discovered in the 19th century) revealed the true history of Elizabeth. Happy to write a larger article if anyone is interested

  10. I once had to present a wacky historical myth, and everyone thought I’d made the Bisley Boy up. I honestly don’t know why it’s so hard for some people to accept a strong, level-headed woman who was ahead of her time.

  11. I saw a documentery called Blackadder where it was proved that Prince Ludwig the Indestructible of Bavaria(AKA Greasy Greasy Spot Spot and Flossie The Sheep inter alia)was really Queen Elizabeth….

  12. Claire:
    As someone who has studied history since childhood, and fell in love with Tudor history when I was about 7 or 8, it remains amazing to me that there are so many — included alleged historians — who either want to concoct these tales or who wish to perpetuate them. I’ve heard these stories about Elizabeth for some time (although that Bisley Boy one was new when I first read about it on this site, and it was the most preposterous of the bunch), especially about her having male sexual organs — as someone else mentioned, that one seemed to have been floated about quite a lot by her contemporary enemies. But you would think we today would have a bit more sense, (I mean those that consider themselves the experts such as this Bakan), but then write these papers and essays and go on TV shows and throw out this salacious material because it sounds more “interesting” than the fact that she came from an amazing and often intelligent line of people (Tudors, Plantagenets, Beauforts, etc). Many of these “experts” might as well go on Jerry Springer or one of those type shows for what it’s worth (not sure what they have in Great Britain that would be equal).

    Since I just read the article this morning as I’m having my coffee (nothing like Tudors over coffee 🙂 ), I’m afraid I can’t add much more to what others have said for most of them have repeated my own thoughts. I just don’t know why there are these few won’t accept that Elizabeth was simply a strong, intelligent woman who decided not to marry — and I’m sorry, but to tell me not to try to think of psychological reasons because of our “modern eyes”…sometimes it can’t be helped. (Don’t some children of divorce decide not to wed because they feel their own marriages might fail? Don’t some children of abuse have understandable problems with intimacy?) This is a woman who saw her father go through SIX wives, not just one or two, and at least 4 of these were at a time when she could sort things out, even if it was with a child’s thoughts. One was beheaded, one died in childbirth, one was divorced (and had a much happier life when she wasn’t married to Henry), and the one who managed to “survive” was nearly imprisoned and might have been executed for heracy, but by the skin of her teeth got through that by submitting to her husband’s will; his first two marriages ended in abandonment and divorce, and abandonment, lies and execution. Let’s not even get into her having a mother who was considered the scandal of Christendom, a witch, a harlot and compared to the worst women in history. You can’t tell me that this didn’t have an effect on her on some level.

    Anyway, Claire — thanks for bringing us these articles. It’s always nice to know what’s going on out there and that Elizabeth, like her mother, continues to fascinate.

  13. John Field:

    Elizabeth managed to become pregnant, and marry without anyone noticing? Puh-lease.
    Do you think that nobody would investigate the Queen’s suspicious 9-month disappearence?
    Do you think that she would murder herr “son” without anyone actually noticing?

    Please revise your “facts”.

  14. This program was the biggest load of rubbish and historically inaccurate trrash I’ve ever watched, it should never have made airtime, there are people who actually take information purported in these programs as fact which is awful!!!

  15. I believe Queen Elizabeth I and all her heirs be DNA tested to find out the truth.
    If she had children it would surely be found in her heirs. Would it not?
    Perhaps all these questions could be answered in seeking this truth.

  16. Anyanka: good one! 😀 I enjoyed Blackadder all 4 of them and the supplementals as well. I was going to write a tongue-in-cheek myself, then spotted yours written many months before I got here. 😀 Rock on!! I know why Liz didn’t marry. She had her heart broken young, and never loved again. I did too, made it to age 46 without a man thanks very much. Then I found him again and we’re together again. There have been strong women ruling and no one said they were men – Hatshepsut, Cleopatra, Ramses’ wife Nefertari after his death… C’mon! Let jealousy not lead us astray!! But it IS a fun story to play with and someone should write a hilarious book about it – it’d sell billions!

  17. I personally am sick to death about the rumors of Elizabeth having a child with Dudley. Mary had spies everywhere and it would have meant certain death for Elizabeth. When she was living with her stepmother after the death of her father, he stepfather was always intruding & showing up in her bedroom trying to “tickle” her and what did they get her–interrogation & suspicion and a visit to the Tower. She learned her lesson quickly. He brother Edward was a religious fanatic and he didn’t have a problem with declaring both Mary and Elizabeth illegitimate so a pregnancy would not have gone well in her youth. That would declare her a traitor. She was surrounded by women all the time and I am sure a few spies were in those ranks. How the heck would she have gotten away with being pregnant? Impossible! She was a healthy normal woman but her situation was always precarious and a pregnancy would have been the biggest scandal & would have put her in a terrible position. She wasn’t about to take that big of a risk for any man.

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