Centuries-Old Manuscript Has a Surprising Author

Queen Elizabeth I's messy handwriting was the big giveaway, historian says
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 29, 2019 8:45 AM CST
Centuries-Old Manuscript Has a Surprising Author
Stock photo.   (Getty Images/FotoDuets)

In what the Daily Express is calling a "royal bombshell," a centuries-old manuscript recently unearthed in a UK library turns out to have been penned by someone rather unexpected. The 42-page text, a translation of a book by the Roman historian Tacitus, has taken up residence at London's Lambeth Palace Library since the 17th century. But it was only recently that literary historian John-Mark Philo started more closely examining it while researching Tacitus translations, per the BBC. The long-secret author of the historic document, per Philo? Queen Elizabeth I. He notes that a special kind of paper used in the 16th-century Tudor court, the queen's known obsession with performing translations, and three distinct watermarks found on the manuscript that were also often used by the queen in personal correspondence were major hints on the manuscript's origins.

The Guardian reports Elizabeth was also the only recognized person from the court during that time period who made efforts to translate Tacitus works, which often focused on tyrannical rule. But "the clinching argument was the handwriting" in which the manuscript was scrawled, notes the BBC. "The corrections made to the translation are a match for Elizabeth's late hand, which was, to put it mildly, idiosyncratic," Philo says, adding the queen may have been examining the Tacitus text for insight on how to rule (or on how not to rule) her own people. "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." Philo's find has been published in the Review of English Studies journal. (More discoveries stories.)

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