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Elizabeth I: Collected Works


It only took me three months to read, but I read the volume of Queen Elizabeth I's letters, prayers, and speeches. It was dense, it was in 1500s royal language, but it was also very illuminating. This was, in many ways, the immediate record of her reign as it happened in her own words. It might be loaded with a tad of propaganda and spin for royal court eyes, and yet it was also oh so very human and honest.

It's striking, that while the language is different in many ways and the times alien to ours, how the same things affected her and those she loved/worked with. Her earlier letters, and only one to her father that has survived, show a compassionate and intelligent girl that would evolve into a intelligent and powerful woman. They were marked with concern and love for her brother Edward, caution in dealing with her elder sister Mary and affection for her last step mother Katherine Parr. Not surprisingly, her mother Anne Boleyn, never comes up. She was always careful to mention her father and drill that image home, but never her mother.

The historical record in this primary source captivated me, even when I had to reread a sentence or paragraph to grasp the language at times. I felt her struggle with the issue of her never happened marriage and her later frustration with the Question of Mary, Queen of Scots. I sensed her grief when they had finally beheaded Mary, all before she could put forth yet another stay. I sensed her anger with Dudley when he overstepped or Essex when he betrayed. Underneath the royal pageantry is wit and humanity and I'm glad I read it through.

I also sensed another loss in reading it. That is the loss of letter writing. Not emailing, not a quick memo, actual letter writing with careful thought and personal touches. In this rush, rush, rush time we live in, faster comprises the thoughtful and heartfelt sometimes. I'd like to think we can perhaps try to write letters again, even if they do take time to get there and the news they contain may be already known. Make them personal, not day to day, I suppose.

After all, language is beautiful and should be given the space to shine.

Far Away Eyes