Historian lifts the veil on cross-dressing in the English Civil War

Historians in the News
tags: English Civil War, Mark Stoyle

A new paper, published by an historian at the University of Southampton, has unearthed the story of the women who dressed as men in order to fight in the English Civil War.

The paper investigates claims that rival armies were often accompanied by women in disguise, who hoped to go unnoticed near and on the battlefield.

The author, Professor Mark Stoyle, says: “Historians often claim that it was common for women to cross-dress during the Civil War, but in fact we know very little about this subject. Now I’ve unearthed some compelling pieces of evidence which allow us to explore the practice and what people thought about it at the time.”

After exploring hundreds of original manuscripts and printed works, a handful of fascinating cases were revealed. Wives, unmarried partners, would-be female soldiers and even prostitutes were present. Some women were motivated by a desire to fight; others wanted to remain close to their husbands.

For example, the mistress of captured royalist Lord Henry Percy is documented to have been dressed in men’s clothing to hide her identity. To ridicule her, Oliver Cromwell got the woman to sing, so as to confirm his suspicions of the would-be man as a ‘damsel’. ...

Read entire article at New Historian

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