Curiosities of Literature, by Isaac Disraeli

Original Letter of Queen Elizabeth.

In the Cottonian Library, Vespasian, F. III. is preserved a letter written by Queen Elizabeth, then Princess. Her brother, Edward the Sixth, had desired to have her picture; and in gratifying the wishes of his majesty, Elizabeth accompanies the present with an elaborate letter. It bears no date of the year in which it was written; but her place of residence was 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 still at Hatfield. At the time of its composition she was in habitual intercourse with the most excellent writers of antiquity: her letter displays this in every part of it; but it is too rhetorical. It is here now 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 Majestie 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 ouerthrow. Of this althogth yet the profe could not be greate because the occasions hath 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 shal loke on my pictur you wil witsafe to thinke that as you haue but the outwarde shadow of the body afore you, so my inwarde 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 therūto, I shal lerne to folow this saing of Orace, Feras non culpes quod vitari non potest. And thus I wil (troblinge your Maiestie I fere) end with my most humble thankes, beseching God long to preserue you to his honour, to your cōfort, to the realmes profit, and to my joy. From Hatfilde this 1 day of May.

“Your Maiesties most humbly Sistar
“and Seruante


Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:53