Who were 'Stella' and 'Fanny'?
'Stella' and 'Fanny' hit the headlines in 1871, as the defendants in a highly publicised court case. But who were they, and why did their trial cause such a stir in Victorian Britain?
The defendants in a controversial Victorian cause célèbre, ‘Stella’ and ‘Fanny’ were the alter egos of Ernest Boulton and Frederick Park. They were two androgynous young men who delighted in donning silk and satin dresses to cruise the theatres and arcades of the Strand, and were put on trial in 1871.
At their trial, Boulton and Park were charged with “conspiring and inciting persons to commit an unnatural offence”, one of the witnesses against Boulton describing how he had kissed “him, she or it” under the impression he was canoodling with a woman. During the six days of the trial, prurient public interest was aroused by the revelation of Boulton and Park’s transvestite lifestyle but the two were eventually acquitted because there was little evidence that men dressing up as women were actually breaking any law.
This Q&A was answered by writer Nick Rennison.
This article was first published in the print edition of BBC History Magazine