Frederick William Park|
(1847 - ?) U.K.
On April 28, 1870 Lady Stella Clinton and Miss Fanny Winifred Park - otherwise known as Ernest Boulton, age 22, and Frederick William Park, a 23-year-old law student - attended a performance at the Strand Theatre, London, in full evening frocks. The police had been keeping an eye on this pair since 1869, and they were arrested, together with another man, while two more of their associates escaped.
All of the men lived at separate addresses, but they kept a house on Wakefield Street, off Regent Square, where they would dress up before going out of an evening, and where they stayed with friends for a day or two at a time.
The police made an inventory: sixteen dresses in satin or silk with suitable lace trimmings, a dozen petticoats, ten cloaks and jackets, half a dozen bodices, several bonnets and hats, twenty chignons, and a variety of stays, drawers, stockings, boots, curling-irons, gloves, boxes of violet powder and bloom of roses. Their landlady described their dresses as "very extreme."
Boulton and Park played female parts in amateur theatricals in legit theatres, country houses and elsewhere. Earlier that month Fanny and Stella, as "sisters," attended the Oxford and Cambridge boat race, dressed as women. They also frequented the theatres and Burlington Arcade dressed as men, but wearing make-up, winking at respectable gentleman, which initially attracted the attention of the police.
Boulton and Park were initially arrested for appearing in public in women's clothes, a misdemeanour, but after a police surgeon examined them they were charged with "conspiracy to commit a felony" (i.e. sodomy).
Their initial appearance in the dock was startling; Boulton, with wig and plaited chignon, wore a cherry-coloured silk evening dress, trimmed with white lace, and bracelets on his bare arms, while Park, his flaxen hair in curls, wore a dark green satin dress, low necked, trimmed with black lace, and a black lace shawl, and a pair of white kid gloves.
The court was besieged by an enormous crowd through the committal proceedings, and the trial - called The Queen v. Boulton and Others (Boulton, Park, Fiske, Hurt, and two others in absentia) - continued throughout most of May the following year.
One full day during the trial was spent reading out more than a thousand letters by the defendants, most of which still exist in the Public Record Office. But conviction of conspiracy to commit a felony could not be sustained without proof of the actual commission of the felony; even the prosecution came to feel that all the evidence merely pointed to disgraceful behaviour.
It has been argued that the jury either did not comprehend the existence of the gay subculture (they certainly missed the meaning of the gay slang in the letters), or that they wilfully blinded themselves to the subversive facts of life. All the defendants were acquitted, to loud cheers and cries of "Bravo!" from the gallery.
Source: excerpts from: My Dear Boy: Love Letters through the Centuries (1998), Edited by Rictor Norton