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Episode 2217

Boulton and Park
Wed, 2023-May-31 00:57 UTC
Length - 3:33

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Welcome to featured Wiki of the Day where we read the summary of the featured Wikipedia article every day.

The featured article for Wednesday, 31 May 2023 is Boulton and Park.

Thomas Ernest Boulton and Frederick William Park were Victorian cross-dressers. Both were homosexuals from upper-middle-class families, both enjoyed wearing women's clothes and both enjoyed taking part in theatrical performances—playing the women's roles when they did so. It is possible that they asked for money for sex, although there is some dispute over this. In the late 1860s they were joined on a theatrical tour by Lord Arthur Clinton, the Liberal Party Member of Parliament for Newark. Also homosexual, he and Boulton entered into a relationship; Boulton called himself Clinton's wife, and had cards printed showing his name as Lady Arthur Clinton.

Boulton and Park were indiscreet when they cross-dressed in public, and came to the attention of the police. They were under police surveillance for a year before they were arrested in 1870, while in drag, after leaving a London theatre. When they appeared at Bow Street Magistrates' Court the morning after the arrest they were still clothed in the women's dresses from the previous evening; a crowd of several hundred people were there to see them. The two men were subjected to an intrusive physical examination from a police surgeon and held on remand for two months. They were charged with conspiracy to commit sodomy, a crime that carried a maximum prison sentence of life with hard labour. Just before the case started Clinton died, possibly of scarlet fever or suicide; it is also possible his death was faked and he fled abroad. The case, along with Boulton, Park and three other men, came before the Court of the Queen's Bench the following year. All five were found not guilty after the prosecution failed to establish that they had anal sex. The judge, Sir Alexander Cockburn, the Lord Chief Justice, was highly critical of the police investigation and the treatment of the men by the police surgeon. Boulton and Park admitted to appearing in public dressed as women, which was "an offence against public morals and common decency". They were bound over for two years.

The case was reported in all the major newspapers, much of it in lurid terms. Several penny pamphlets were published focusing on the sensational aspect of the case. The events surrounding Boulton and Park are seen as key moments in the gay history of the UK. The arrest and trial have been interpreted differently over time, from innocent Victorian sentimentalism to a wilful ignoring of the men's sexuality by the courts to ensure they were not convicted. Recent examinations have been from the perspective of transgender history. The case was a factor that led to the introduction of the 1885 Labouchere Amendment which made male homosexual acts punishable by up to two years' hard labour. Boulton and Park both continued performing on stage after the trial, and both worked for a while in the US. Park died in 1881, probably of syphilis; Boulton died in 1904 from a brain tumour.

This recording reflects the Wikipedia text as of 00:57 UTC on Wednesday, 31 May 2023.

For the full current version of the article, see Boulton and Park on Wikipedia.

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