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-off kingdoms than any English monarch had prior to, and her exchanges with an ever-growing variety of rulers display how moving conceptions of sovereignty have been made occur on paper. This publication examines Elizabeth's correspondence with a number of major rulers, reading how her letters have been built, drafted and provided, the rhetorical ideas used, and the function those letters performed in facilitating diplomatic kin. Elizabeth's letters did greater than authorize diplomatic motion in another country: regularly they mirrored, and occasionally even inspired, the course of international policy.

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

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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. ”54 That Elizabeth would require a letter to be entirely rewritten for such an apparently minor change of phrasing reveals how closely she scrutinized the documents that passed her signature, not to mention how pedantic she could be when she discovered an error.

40 Yet even Cecil ultimately depended upon the queen’s signature in order to act. ” 41 The principal secretary’s role in composing the queen’s foreign correspondence was eloquently summarized by Burghley’s son and administrative “heir,” Sir Robert Cecil, in an unusually direct letter to Queen Anna of Scotland in 1602. Anna had evidently objected to receiving a letter from Cecil instead of one in Elizabeth’s own hand, and Cecil justified his manner of proceeding thus: In my dealinge w[i]th forrayne Princes, my part is to stand dombe, till I be dyrected by my souveraigne what to say or write.

11 Although such opulent writing tables were as much fashion accessories as practical instruments for note-taking, the fact that so many were presented suggests the queen made good use of them. Another indication that Elizabeth took pride in her letter-writing materials is her commissioning of two personalized watermarks for her writing paper: one displayed her crowned “E. ” cipher; the other had her royal arms, surrounded by the garter. 12 Although the dazzling variety of watermarks found in Elizabeth’s foreign correspondence shows that much of her paper was still being imported from the continent, it is clear that (like her grandfather, Henry VII) she appreciated the symbolic power of writing on paper made especially for her, and produced within her own realm.

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