July 30th, 2014
Houghton has in its collection several letters written or signed by Elizabeth I of England. She wrote one of these letters (cataloged as MS Typ 686) in her own hand to her brother Edward VI, then King of England. It is dated April 21, but there is no given year. It is likely, however, that Elizabeth wrote it in 1552 because in it she wishes for her brother improved health, and during 1552 he was sick (possibly with measles and small pox).
To demonstrate her concern, she uses religious imagery: “Moreover I consider that as a good father loves his childe derely dothe punis him scharpely, So god favoring your Maiestie gretly hathe chastened you straitly, and as a father doth it for the further good of his childe, so hath God prepared this for the bettar helthe of your grace.”
Despite this heavy sentiment, she ends the letter on a much lighter note that underlines her affection for her younger brother: “And in this hope I commit your Maiestie to his hands. Most humbly craving pardon of your grace that I did write no soner desiring you to attribute the faute to my ivel hed, and not to my slothful hande.”
Elizabeth acknowledges Edward’s sovereignty, but she also voices her regard for his health as his sister by signing the letter “Your majesty’s most humble sister to command, Elizabeth.”
In addition to familial affection, the 1552 letter exemplifies Elizabeth’s education and intellect. Despite her gender, she received a thorough Humanist and Protestant educations through the tutoring of prominent intellectuals. One of these tutors, Roger Ascham, taught her penmanship, as is evidence in the italic script of the letter and her distinctive signature. She further proves her learning by referencing Saint Augustine’s Confessions and the Epistle to the Hebrews.
Houghton Library also has a diplomatic letter drafted, although not written, and signed by Elizabeth from during her reign of Queen in 1588 (MS Eng 711), as well as a deed that she signed in 1569 (MS Am 1304).
[Thanks to Leah Lefkowitz, Reference Assistant, for contributing this post.]