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local legends

local legends

... the bisley boy

Bisley’s most famous legend is that of The Bisley Boy which, if it is to be believed, means that Queen Elizabeth I was not as she - or he - seemed.

The story goes that in 1542, Henry VIII was on his way to a hunt at Berkeley, and left his 9 year-old daughter, Elizabeth, at Overcourt in Bisley (now a home, but once a royal hunting lodge), where she would be safe from the plague which was prevalent in those days. Unfortunately for Elizabeth and her temporary guardians, the princess - according to the legend - died, but the courtiers, ever fearful of their royal master, devised a cunning plan. A substitute for the princess had to be found before the king returned, but alas, no girl could be found who closely enough resembled the recently deceased Elizabeth. So they opted for Plan B - and found a red-headed boy in the village instead.

If the legend is to be believed, Master/Mistress Elizabeth must have been very convincing, as history tells us that Elizabeth went on to be a great queen, reigning for 45 years.

So what evidence is there to support the legend?

The starting place is with the Rev. Thomas Keble, the then vicar of Bisley, a man not known for his humour, who told his family that during renovations at Overcourt, he had found an old stone coffin containing the skeleton of a girl of about nine, dressed in Tudor clothing.
History also tells us that:

  • Queen Elizabeth never married which, in an age when royal marriages were created for alliances, was very unusual
  • She was completely bald, covering her shiny pate with wigs
  • She had left explicit instructions that no post-mortem should be carried out on her body after her death
  • The Rev. Keble apparently had the remains reburied nearby, but no-one knows where, and no grave has ever been found.

So Princess Elizabeth's body may be lying at rest in Bisley, and Queen Elizabeth I, the Virgin Queen, may indeed have had 'the heart of a man'.
Anyone wishing for a far more in-depth background to the legend should read 'Famous Imposters' by Bram Stoker, published by Sidgwick & Jackson (available at Stroud Library).

... the gunpowder plot

A direct connection to The Gunpowder Plot lies just outside Bisley.

Lypiatt Park, on the road to Stroud, was once the home of Sir John Throckmorton, who was related to the plotters Catesby, Tresham and Winter.

Lypiatt Park house is connected with the Gunpowder Plot by a cryptic note addressed by Lord Mounteagle to Robert Catesby at Lypiatt and in the early 18th century a room in the house was known as the Plot Room from its supposed use by the conspirators.

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