Handwriting suggests Queen Elizabeth I translated ancient Roman manuscript


Queen Elizabeth I was behind a late 16th century manuscript translation detailing the history of the Roman Empire, researchers believe.

Analysing key indicators such as handwriting and paper stock, experts determined that the monarch who ruled from November 17, 1558 until her death on March 24, 1603 is behind the translation of Tacitus’s Annales.

Elizabeth I’s translation focuses on the first book of the Annales, which sees the death of Augustus and the rise of the emperor Tiberius, based on original works by Roman historian and senator Tacitus.

Tell-tale signs such as the extreme horizontal ‘m’, the top stroke of her ‘e’, as well as the way she broke the stem in ‘d’, give researchers confidence Elizabeth I produced the translation, which was preserved at Lambeth Palace Library.

A portrait of Elizabeth I
Researchers believe Queen Elizabeth I translated the 16th century manuscript (Philip Toscano/PA)

In addition, the paper had watermarks featuring a rampant lion alongside the initials ‘G.B.’, with crossbow countermark, which those studying the record say were particularly popular with the Elizabethan secretariat in the 1590s.

These watermarks can also be found on Elizabeth I’s other translation documents and in her own personal correspondence letters.

Another giveaway is the tone and style of the translated writing, which experts, writing in the Review of English Studies journal, say match the last Tudor monarch’s known works.

Researchers from the University of East Anglia say the discovery could have important implications on our understanding of the political and cultural nature of the Elizabethan court.

“The corrections made to the translation are a match for Elizabeth’s late hand, which was, to put it mildly, idiosyncratic,” said Dr John-Mark Philo.

“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.

“We already knew she’s great with languages – Latin, French, Italian. She’s familiar with Spanish and Greek – she actually starts using some of the Greek alphabet in her own handwriting.”

Chris Price
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