An extract from the book 40 Strange Groups

This society, known familiarly as the “The Eight Wives”, is an umbrella organisation for groups who believe a number of conspiracy theories regarding English history, including the theory Henry VI had eight wives, a record that Henry VIII tried to break without success. Other theories include one where Elizabeth I was really a man called Ethelbert, which is why she/he never married as she/he didn’t want her/his secret to be revealed. Another interesting theory is that Alfred the Great was really called Alfred the Grate and was a baker who killed Alfred the Great when he burnt the cakes and assumed his identity.

Roger Evans is the co-chair of the society and believes that it provides a valuable outlet for people’s doubts about history: “We never suggest to any proponent of a new theory that it is total rubbish. We ask how this idea came about and suggest ways its case can be further improved. Alfred the Grate is an interesting one because the skeleton people are searching for will be of the impostor baker, not the real king, Alfred the Great. The descendants of the real Alfred the Great will provide DNA samples, which come from the king’s line, not the baker’s line, so how will we ever find a match with any of the skeletons found near Winchester, when one of the skeletons is of Alfred the Grate and none of the skeletons will be of Alfred the Great, because according to the theory, Alfred the Grate threw Alfred the Great into a river and drowned him – his body floated off downstream? The longer no match is found, the more the theory gains credence.”

The secretary of “The Eight Wives” Heather Randall talks about Elizabeth I and the theory about her being a man: “We believe she was a man and that’s why there were no babies and no records of her ever having intercourse with another man. The heavy white makeup covered any remaining bristles after shaving. A woman’s body was substituted in the coffin after he died, just to preserve the myth of Elizabeth. We are combing through the records trying to find proof, but people have been very careful in the past to cover the tracks. We will keep searching until we find something proving our theory.”