"Of course, we had had male impersonator turns at the Palace before"
Poster featuring male impersonator, Vesta Tilley
Public DomainPoster featuring male impersonator, Vesta Tilley - Credit: unknown

The origins of females impersonating males can be traced to late 17th and early 18th Century British theatre, when women started playing male characters – roles which were known as breeches parts. Later, the concept became known as playing en travesti.

In the 19th Century, male impersonation by women became a feature of music hall acts; cockney urchins, men-about-town and uniformed soldiers were particularly popular roles played.

Amongst the best known male impersonators of the period were Vesta Tilley, Ella Shields and Hetty King.

Today, a male impersonator is sometimes known as a drag king, the female equivalent of a drag queen.