Colonel Barker's Monstrous Regiment: A Tale of Female Husbandry

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In an England devastated by the terrible losses of World War I, Colonel Victor Barker was a rare man indeed. Dashing, well-respected, with impeccable manners, he was a model gentleman. His wife was proud of his good breeding and fine looks, and his young son worshipped him as a war hero. But beneath the army uniform Barker hid an astounding secret. In 1929, following a sensational trial, the good colonel was sentenced to nine months’ imprisonment. For Colonel Barker was, in fact, a woman. Her real name was ...

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2002 Trade paperback New. Trade paperback (US). Glued binding. 308 p. Contains: Illustrations, black & white. *****PLEASE NOTE: This item is shipping from an authorized seller ... in Europe. In the event that a return is necessary, you will be able to return your item within the US. To learn more about our European sellers and policies see the BookQuest FAQ section***** Read more Show Less

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2002 Trade paperback New. Trade paperback (US). Glued binding. 308 p. Contains: Illustrations, black & white. *****PLEASE NOTE: This item is shipping from an authorized seller ... in Europe. In the event that a return is necessary, you will be able to return your item within the US. To learn more about our European sellers and policies see the BookQuest FAQ section***** Read more Show Less

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Overview

In an England devastated by the terrible losses of World War I, Colonel Victor Barker was a rare man indeed. Dashing, well-respected, with impeccable manners, he was a model gentleman. His wife was proud of his good breeding and fine looks, and his young son worshipped him as a war hero. But beneath the army uniform Barker hid an astounding secret. In 1929, following a sensational trial, the good colonel was sentenced to nine months’ imprisonment. For Colonel Barker was, in fact, a woman. Her real name was Valerie Lilias Arkell-Smith, the most infamous “man-woman” of them all. Among Rose Collis’ books are A Trouser-Wearing Character, K.D. Lang, and The Mammoth Book of Lesbian Erotica.

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Editorial Reviews

Times Literary Supplement
A fascinating tale… written with lively humor.
Mail on Sunday
One of the oddest true stories ever told… film producers would be mad not to snap it up.
Kirkus Reviews
Bare-bones biography of a purported WWI hero who was in fact a woman. Lillias Irma Valerie Barker, born in 1895 on the Channel Island of Jersey, was a tomboy whose father taught her cricket and boxing, though Valerie also attended a convent school and had a formal debutante ball. She married in 1918 but fled her husband within six weeks and enrolled in the Women’s Royal Air Force. At war’s end, she took up with Australian soldier Ernest Pearce Crouch and had two children; when the couple split up, Valerie gave up the daughter for adoption. In 1922, she arrived in Brighton, young son in tow, claiming to be war hero "Victor Barker." Victor met and married Elfrida Haward, supporting her and the son (who had learned to call Victor "Daddy") as a stage actor, antiques shop owner, and gentleman farmer. In 1929, after a restaurant venture failed, Victor was arrested for contempt of court, and her true identity became known. A series of lurid newspaper stories followed; Elfrida left Victor, claiming to the press she’d had no idea of his true gender. Victor/Valerie was sentenced to nine months’ imprisonment for "outrag[ing] the decencies of nature." After her release, she adopted various new aliases, including "John Hill" and "Jeffrey Norton." Plagued by financial troubles and brushes with the law, Valerie was reduced to selling her story to the press; one summer she joined a sideshow. She died in 1960 in a small village where she was known as retired shopkeeper Geoffrey Norton. Because Valerie left behind no personal papers, she remains little more than a caricature here. Perhaps due to this dearth of material, Collis (The Mammoth Book of Lesbian Erotica, not reviewed, etc.) continually interruptsthe narrative with similar tales of women living as men that derail the main story’s momentum. Heartfelt, but it’s hard to see how the end result differs from the sensationalistic contemporary newspaper accounts. (21 b&w photos)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781860498930
  • Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
  • Publication date: 4/1/2003
  • Pages: 308
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 7.60 (h) x 0.80 (d)

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