Monday, January 24, 2005

Lincoln was gay? Well, New York's colonial governor was a transvestite.

A history lesson from the strangest place...

What a drag! The New-York Historical Society is covering up the identity of cross-dressing colonial governor Lord Cornbury.

The NYHS has a famous oil portrait of the gender-bending Cornbury, who was appointed governor of New York and New Jersey in 1701. But you wouldn't know it from the plaque mounted next to the painting, which identifies New York's original transvestite as an "unidentified woman."

Lila Luce, wife of NYHS benefactor Henry Luce III, whose Center for the Study of American Culture houses the portrait, tells PAGE SIX she noticed the omission only recently: "We were looking forward to seeing Lord Cornbury and there it was, but it said it was a portrait of an unidentified woman, which is absolutely extraordinary. He's got a five o'clock shadow! If they said this was the bearded lady, that would be one thing..."

Cornbury's lurid legend began one night in the early 1700s, when a constable arrested what he presumed was a prostitute walking along Broadway. But when the suspect was brought to the stockade, it turned out to be the governor, who enjoyed taking evening strolls in his wife's clothes.

Cornbury also had a fetish for ears, and told visitors to state functions that they were free to fondle those of his wife.

Cornbury's wacky ways eventually cost him his job. He was removed from office by Queen Anne in 1708, and was later thrown into debtor's prison until receiving a sizable inheritance from his father's estate. It enabled him to buy his way out of jail and return to England, where he served in the House of Lords.

Apparently he enjoyed not only strolling in his wife's clothes but also sitting for portraits in them. A model from history for the Christopher Street crowd.

[There is another side to the Lord Cornbury story, but this one's the most fun.]