Blatherings

Wonders, Curiosities and Found Facts: A shocking case of deception

Wonders, Curiosities and Found Facts. An occasional series exposing the dimly lit recesses of history. In the course of writing books set in various historical periods, I continually come across remarkable details known only to a few people.

Today: The British Empire learns of an astonishing case of deception in the Army.


IT WAS A STORY THAT ECHOED round the world and raised many unanswerable questions. How could a woman pass herself off as a man and live her entire life in disguise? And not only live but rise to a position of eminence in the exclusively male worlds of the Army and the medical profession? Those questions are only now being answered in detail; when the news first broke, they presented an insoluble mystery.

On Monday 14 August 1865, newspaper front pages in Britain and Ireland were taken up with Queen Victoria’s visit to Germany, an impending financial crisis (some things are with us always), a mysterious double murder at Ramsgate, and a devastating “Cattle Plague” which was baffling veterinary surgeons. However, across the Irish Sea in Dublin, Saunders’s News-Letter and Daily Advertiser carried another remarkable story, nestled in a corner of its front page, which nobody else was yet reporting.

© Jeremy Dronfield 2017