By Rayne Allinson
Queen Elizabeth I (1533-1603) despatched extra letters into extra far away kingdoms than any English monarch had prior to, and her exchanges with an ever-growing variety of rulers exhibit how transferring conceptions of sovereignty have been made appear on paper. This booklet examines Elizabeth's correspondence with a number of major rulers, interpreting how her letters have been built, drafted and provided, the rhetorical recommendations used, and the function those letters performed in facilitating diplomatic kinfolk. Elizabeth's letters did greater than authorize diplomatic motion out of the country: mostly they mirrored, and occasionally even stimulated, the course of international policy.
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Additional resources for A Monarchy of Letters: Royal Correspondence and English Diplomacy in the Reign of Elizabeth I (Queenship and Power)
Limning, a common form of ornamentation used in medieval manuscripts, was also a feature of some of Elizabeth’s most special letters—especially those intended for public display, such as charters or letters patent. The famous miniaturist Nicholas Hilliard described limning as “the drawing . . of letters, vinets, flowers, armes and imagery,” including the use of “gold and silver . . 72 However, in order to save money, Elizabeth frequently “outsourced” the responsibility (and cost) of limning royal letters to merchant companies.
74 Thus, silk ribbons provided another indication of the time and expense she was willing to bestow on her correspondent. Like limning, however, silk ribbons were expensive and the thrifty queen was keen to spread the cost. On January 28, 1595, Lake described the process of readying Elizabeth’s silk-flossed letter to the Ottoman Sultan: This morning hir ma[jes]ty hath signed the l[ett]res your ho[nour] lefte with me. indd 30 3/15/2012 4:24:23 PM My Skrating Hand 31 of the privy seale are loth to beare the Charge who will to morrow attend your ho[nour] and my lo[rd] for the Seale.
32 Popham did not state what this “course” was, but in light of his reference to multiple “synyngs” it seems likely that it was for Cecil’s use of a dry stamp. Yet even if Elizabeth did approve such methods for routine domestic documents, she did not use a stamp for her foreign correspondence. ”33 Nevertheless, Elizabeth relied on her secretaries of state (also known as “principal secretaries”) for almost everything else. Three men dominated this role during Elizabeth’s reign: Sir William Cecil, after 1571 elevated to Lord Burghley (1558–1572 and 1590–1596), Sir Francis Walsingham (1573–1590), and Sir Robert Cecil (1596–1612).