Ernest Boulton and Frederick Park

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Boulton and Park depicted in Police News
Ernest Boulton (known as "Stella", 1848–1903) and Frederick William Park (known as "Fanny",1848–1881) were transvestites and suspected homosexuals who appeared as defendants in a celebrated trial in London in 1871, charged "with conspiring and inciting persons to commit an unnatural offence". After the prosecution failed to establish that they had had anal sex, which was then a crime, or that wearing women's clothing was in any sense a crime, both men were acquitted.

Boulton, son of a stockbroker, and Park were great friends who liked to cruise round London night-spots in drag and were often mistaken for women. Boulton had liked wearing female clothing from childhood and was encouraged in his impersonations of maids and other women by his mother; he used the nickname "Stella". Park, for his part, went under the soubriquet of "Fanny Graham". A third person involved in the affair was Lord Arthur Clinton, who had lived with "Stella" as his/her "husband" and had exchanged love letters with him.[1][2]

Boulton and Park were arrested at the Strand Theatre on 28 April 1870[3] and subject to an intimate examination by a police doctor in order to establish whether they had had anal sex. Despite this and a subsequent examination proving inconclusive both men were committed for trial.

Fanny resting on the shoulder of Lord Arthur Pelham-Clinton, son of the Duke of Newcastle, at one time the lover of Stella, sitting on floor
The indictment was against Lord Arthur Clinton, Ernest Boulton, Frederic Park, Louis Hurt, John Fiske, Martin Gumming, William Sommerville and C H Thompson. The last three absconded before the trial. Lord Arthur died on 18 June 1870, the day after receiving his subpoena for the trial, ostensibly of scarlet fever but more probably a suicide.[4]

The trial was presided over by Sir Alexander Cockburn, the Lord Chief Justice. At the hearing Boulton and Park's lifestyle attracted great public interest, especially when a trunkful of their dresses was brought in as evidence. However, the unreliability of the witnesses and the breach of human rights involved in their physical examination by the police without higher authority swayed opinion in their favour. The prosecution was unable to prove that they had either committed any homosexual offence or that men wearing women's clothing was an offence in English law. Cockburn's summing up was critical of the prosecution case and the police's violation of the defendants' rights. After deliberating for fifty three minutes the jury found them not guilty.

The case demonstrated the relative freedom of the Victorian homosexual sub-culture at this time before the Labouchère Amendment later in the century made it easier for the authorities to prosecute homosexual men, as in the celebrated trial of Oscar Wilde.

Boulton and Park appear as characters in The Sins of the Cities of the Plain (1881) a pioneering work of homosexual pornographic literature. In this story the cross-dressing narrator recounts how he meets Boulton and Park dressed up as women at Haxell's Hotel in the Strand with Lord Arthur trailing along behind. Later on the narrator spends the night at Boulton and Park's rooms in Eaton Square and the next day has breakfast with them "all dressed as ladies".[5]

Boulton and Park appear in the play Lord Arthur's Bed (2008) by English playwright Martin Lewton. The play premièred at the Brighton Festival on 14 May 2008. It subsequently toured nationally in 2008, and transferred to Dublin in 2009.


Based on a Wikipedia article.

  1. H G Cocks (2003) Nameless offences: homosexual desire in the nineteenth century. I B Tauris. ISBN 1-86064-890-8
  2. Ronald Pearsall (1971) The Worm In The Bud: The World of Victorian Sexuality. London, Penguin
  3. Robert Aldrich, Garry Wotherspoon, Who's who in gay and lesbian history: from antiquity to World War II, Routledge, 2001, ISBN 0-415-15982-2, p.66
  4. Laurence Senelick, "The changing room: sex, drag and theatre", Gender in performance, Routledge, 2000, ISBN 0-415-15986-5, p.303
  5. H Montgomery Hyde (1964) A History of Pornography. London, Heinemann: 140-1