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Original Letter of Queen Elizabeth

IN the Cottonian Library, Vespasian, F. III. is preserved a letter written by Queen Elizabeth (then Princess) to her sister Queen Mary. It appears by this epistle that Mary had desired to have her picture; and in gratifying the wishes of her majesty, Elizabeth accompanies the present with the following elaborate letter. It bears no date of the year in which it was written; but her place of residence is marked to he at Hatfield. There she had retired to enjoy the silent pleasures of a studious life, and to be distant from the dangerous politics of the time. When Mary died, Elizabeth was at Hatfield; the letter must have been written shortly before this circumstance took place. She was at the time of its composition in habitual intercourse with the most excellent writers of antiquity; her letter displays this in every part of it; it is polished and repolished. It has also the merit of now being first published.


“LIKE as the riche man that dayly gathereth riches to riches, and to one bag of money layeth a greate sort til it come to infinit, so me thinkes, your Maiestie not beinge suffised with many benefits and gentilnes shewed to me afore this time, dothe now increase them in askinge and desiring wher you may bid and comaunde, requiring a thinge not worthy the desiringe for it selfe, but made worthy for your highness request. My pictur I mene, in wiche if the inward good mynde towarde your grace might as wel be declared as the outwarde face and countenance shal be seen, I wold nor haue taried the comandement but prevent it, nor haue bine the last to graunt but the first to offer it. For the face, I graunt, I might wel blusche to offer, but the mynde I shall neur be ashamed to present. For thogth from the grace of the pictur, the coulers may fade by time, may giue by wether, may be spotted by chance, yet the other nor time with her swift winges shall ouertake, nor the mistie cloudes with their loweringes may darken, nor chance with her slipery fote may overthrow. Of this althogth yet the profe could not be greate because the occasions hathe bine but smal, notwithstandinge as a dog hathe a day, so may I perchaunce haue time to declare it in dides wher now I do write them but in wordes. And further I shal most humbly beseche your Maiestie that whan you shall loke on my pictur you wil witsafe to thinke that as you haue but the outwarde shadow of the body afore you, so my inward minde wischeth, that the body it selfe wer oftener in your presence; howbeit bicause bothe my so beinge I thinke coulde do your Maiestie litel pleasure thogth my selfe great good, and againe bicause I se as yet not the time agreing theruto, I shal lerne to folow this sainge of Orace, Feras non culpes quod vitari non potest. And thus I wil (troblinge your Maiestie I fere) ende with my most humble thankes, besechinge God longe to preserue you to his honour, to your cofort, to the realmes profit, and to my joy. From Hatfilde this I day of May.
            Your Maiesties most humbly Sistar
                        and Seruante,

Editor’s Notes

 ¶ This article is here repeated almost verbatim from its original in early (1790s) editions of the Curiosities.