Gloria Brame, Ph.D.

The Governor Who Wore a Dress

Filed By Gloria Brame, Ph.D. | September 01, 2011 12:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Gay Icons and History, Living, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: crossdressing, Famous Female Impersonators, Lord Cornbury, trans icons and history, transgender identity

One of the remarkable characters I discovered while doing some transgender history research for Lord_Cornburymy book was Lord Cornbury. He was the British Governor of New York and New Jersey in the colonial era (holding office from 1701-1708).

Edward Hyde, 3rd Earl of Clarendon, Viscount Cornbury

...Cornbury is reported to have opened the 1702 New York Assembly clad in a hooped gown and an elaborate headdress and carrying a fan, imitative of the style of Queen Anne. When his choice of clothing was questioned, he replied, "You are all very stupid people not to see the propriety of it all. In this place and occasion, I represent a woman (the Queen), and in all respects I ought to represent her as faithfully as I can." It is also said that in August 1707, when his wife Lady Cornbury died, His High Mightiness (as he preferred to be called) attended the funeral again dressed as a woman. It was shortly after this that mounting complaints from colonists prompted the Queen to remove Cornbury from office.


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I can hear that WoW player singing about how he's this uber-powerful wizard, "wondering why a man of [his] stature should have to wear a dress?"

Paige Listerud | September 1, 2011 9:05 PM

He gets an A+ for intrepid gender transgression; an F for insidious classism.

+1. Like. Whatever. Loved this. :)

Angela Brightfeather | September 2, 2011 2:09 AM

One must wonder...was the Viscount Cornbury Transgender, Transexual, a Cross Dresser and if he felt that had SRS been available at the time, if he would have opted for the surgery? Certainly, we all know that the excuse of following the Queen's example was used soley as an excuse or ruse to be able to find a way to express herself. These days, Halloween serves as the same excuse for many people to express their hidden gender diversity at least once a year. Noting the details in the picture, it is apparent that the Viscount went to great expense and detail in presentation and if not really as attractive and delicate of hand, ordered the painter to imbew herself with those qualities in the painting.
I note that I have seen other artist's renderings of the Viscount dressed as a female, but sporting a full beard and mustache.
The history of crossdressing includes many historic figures who dressed as women and enjoyed crossdressing at least.

Lord Cornbury was removed from the governorship because of allagations he was involved in a land graft scheme.