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Elizabeth I may have been non-binary, experts claim

Anna Verdon

| Last updated 

Elizabeth I may have been non-binary, experts claim

Featured Image Credit: IanDagnall Computing / Alamy Stock Photo / GL Archive / Alamy Stock Photo

Elizabeth I may have been non-binary, according to experts at Shakespeare’s Globe.

In an essay published by academics working for the theatre they refer to the female monarch with gender-neutral ‘they/them’ pronouns.

The former Queen of England is well-known to have previously referred to herself as a ‘king’ and ‘prince’ in her speeches, famously saying: “I know I have the body but of a weak feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king,” when she was rallying her troops to face the Spanish Armada.

Credit: CBW/Alamy Stock Photo
Credit: CBW/Alamy Stock Photo

And in the essay written by a ‘transgender awareness trainer’ on the decision for the Globe to stage a new play featuring a non-binary Joan of Arc, it highlighted the doubt on the Queen’s gender identity.

In the essay written by Dr Kit Heyam, who has released a new book called Before We Were Trans looking at the history of gender, it said: “Elizabeth I described themselves regularly in speeches as ‘king’, ‘queen’ and ‘prince’, choosing strategically to emphasise their female identity or their male monarchical role at different points.”

The text highlights that these women were rebels for taking on typically male tasks, and in doing so they adopted a form of male identity.

It went on to say: “Elizabeth lived in a society where military leaders were overwhelmingly male, and where clothing was strictly gendered.

“Inhabiting that social role and dressing in the clothes associated with it, while living and working among men, may not just have felt like gendered defiance: it may have had a profound impact on their sense of self.”

The essay was written in defence of the Globe choosing to represent teenage warrior, Joan of Arc, as non-binary in its new play I, Joan.

But many don’t agree and were highlighting their concerns about powerful women being written out of history.

One person wrote: “It is weird how it’s only powerful historical women are decided to be actually non binary or men … it’s as if society are deeming women as unable to be powerful … how progressive.”

Credit: MET/BOT/Alamy Stock Photo
Credit: MET/BOT/Alamy Stock Photo

Another also commented: “Enough of this! They will soon have re-written history to remove every single powerful woman!”

While someone else said: “Think it was far more that she was constantly trying to prove that a woman could be as powerful and effective ruler as any King. She didn’t marry due to the political situation it would have created.”

And Joan Smith, author of the feminist volume Misogynies, agreed. Speaking to the Telegraph she said: “Women and girls are entitled to reject stereotypes without losing our sex.

“We didn’t have enough female role models to start with, we have spent decades rediscovering women artists, authors, leaders. And now a regressive ideology is trying to take them away.”

While Shakespeare’s Globe has not commented on the claims of Elizabeth I being non-binary, it had released commenting about its new play, I, Joan.

In its statement it said: “We are not the first to present Joan in this way, and we will not be the last. Regarding the use of pronouns, ‘they’ to refer to a singular person has been traced by the Oxford English Dictionary to as early as 1375, years before Joan was even born. Regardless, theatres do not deal with ‘historical reality’. Theatres produce plays, and in plays, anything can be possible.”

It added: “Shakespeare did not write historically accurate plays. He took figures of the past to ask questions about the world around him. Our writers of today are doing no different.

“History has provided countless and wonderful examples of Joan portrayed as a woman. This production is simply offering the possibility of another point of view.”

Topics: The Queen, News, UK News

Anna Verdon
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