Elizabeth Tudor is undoubtedly one of the most famous English monarchs.
Her life and reign have inspired many biographies, histories, novels, and dramatic works.
It is unclear to what degree these rumours were confined to Catholics alone, or were influenced by the rumours circulating about the Queen in Catholic Europe.
It is equally obscure whether the rumours were primarily a plebian tendency, or also popular amongst the elite.
It seems that slanders against Elizabeth were more pronounced in areas away from the capital.
This is perhaps suggestive about regional variation in the perception of Elizabeth, and the remoteness of her monarchy in those areas that she never visited.
If the belief that Elizabeth was secretly a man was sufficiently widespread, then it lends new interpretation to such statements as "Now I see the Queen is a woman" (3)and "Oh lord, the Queen is a woman" (4), perhaps otherwise rather strange remarks to have been made, as "Queen" by definition implies a person of female gender.
Such a belief seems to emphasise just how unnatural a woman's rule, moreover an unmarried woman's rule was, and that it should have been successful.
This perception is of paramount significance in understanding the nature of Elizabeth's early reputation.
In Catholic Europe, Elizabeth, simply by being Anne's daughter, was abhorred as "the concubine's little bastard", which became "incestuous bastard" (2) following the accusations of adultery that were hailed against her mother - a legacy that haunted Elizabeth's reputation in Catholic Europe for the rest of her life.