Discovery by Norwich researcher reveals Queen Elizabeth I’s terrible handwriting
- Credit: Archant
A 16th century paper trail has led to the discovery of a previously unseen manuscript written by Elizabeth I.
The discovery, which has also revealed the monarch's messy handwriting, was made by a researcher from the University of East Anglia (UEA) in Lambeth Palace Library, in London, earlier this year.
Dr John-Mark Philo, an honorary fellow in English Studies at the UEA, made the find while looking for translations of the Roman historian Tacitus.
He said he was able to work out that the manuscript had been written by Elizabeth I because of the type of paper she had used.
"The manuscript features a very specific kind of paper stock, which gained special prominence among the Elizabethan secretariat in the 1590s," he said. "There was, however, only one translator at the Tudor court to whom a translation of Tacitus was ascribed by a contemporary and who was using the same paper in her translations and private correspondence: the queen herself."
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Dr Philo said another big clue the manuscript had been written by Elizabeth I was her handwriting.
"The corrections made to the translation are a match for Elizabeth's late hand, which was, to put it mildly, idiosyncratic," he said.
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"The higher you are in the social hierarchy of Tudor England, the messier you can let your handwriting become. For the queen, comprehension is somebody else's problem.
"The translation itself has been copied out in an elegant scribal hand, which is itself a match for one of Elizabeth's secretaries, but the author's changes and additions are in an extremely distinctive, disjointed hand - Elizabeth's.
"Her late handwriting is usefully messy - there really is nothing like it - and the idiosyncratic flourishes serve as diagnostic tools."
Three watermarks featured in the manuscript which are also found in the paper Elizabeth I used for her other translations and personal correspondence helped to confirm the monarch had written the translation.
Dr Philo said the translation was an example of a leisure activity for the queen and also raised exciting questions about how Tacitus's politics were being understood and applied in Elizabethan England.