A Monarchy of Letters: Royal Correspondence and English by Rayne Allinson

By Rayne Allinson

Queen Elizabeth I (1533-1603) despatched extra letters into extra far away kingdoms than any English monarch had sooner than, and her exchanges with an ever-growing variety of rulers demonstrate how moving conceptions of sovereignty have been made take place on paper. This booklet examines Elizabeth's correspondence with numerous major rulers, reading how her letters have been built, drafted and awarded, the rhetorical suggestions used, and the position those letters performed in facilitating diplomatic family. Elizabeth's letters did greater than authorize diplomatic motion in another country: commonly they mirrored, and occasionally even stimulated, the path of overseas policy.

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Extra resources for A Monarchy of Letters: Royal Correspondence and English Diplomacy in the Reign of Elizabeth I (Queenship and Power)

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62 English was the least common language used in Elizabeth’s foreign correspondence, and was mainly used for correspondence with the Scottish rulers Mary, Queen of Scots, and James VI—although, curiously, several English letters were also sent to Tsar Ivan the Terrible, perhaps to reciprocate the letters he had sent in his own vernacular. English letters appear to have been subject to different bureaucratic protocols than those in foreign languages: instead of being produced in the secretariat (along with Latin and French), English autographs were produced in the signet office.

7 What is less frequently noted, however, is that Elizabeth also received a range of elaborately ornamented writing materials, showing that Elizabeth’s subjects not only expected her to be a reader, but a writer too. Many of these writing gifts were exquisitely ornamented. ”9 Elizabeth’s acceptance of such accessories showed that she embraced and encouraged her subjects’s expectations of her as a letter-writing monarch. One of the most popular writing-related items recorded in the New Year’s gift rolls are “writing tables”: small, palm-sized notebooks with erasable leaves (made with a concoction of glue and gesso), usually accompanied by a metal stylus or “pen,” which the queen could use for jotting down thoughts while walking in her garden, on progress in her litter, or anywhere else she pleased.

52 Windebank was frequently frustrated at not being able to get letters signed, but he occasionally noted small triumphs: “almost out of hope of dooing any thing, yet w[ith] that poore co[n]ning that I could deuise, I got accesse to her ma[jes]tie. . ”53 Elizabeth’s involvement in the drafting or dictation of autograph letters is often difficult to ascertain, but it is clear she often read through drafts attentively and sometimes made corrections to their phrasing. At 4 o’clock in the afternoon on March 17, 1596, Windebank was about to send off a letter for Cecil’s approval when suddenly Elizabeth sent for him and made him “read the co[m]mission” he had presented to her earlier that day.

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