Thursday, October 09, 2008

Question from Alison - Elizabeth I's signature on MQOS' death warrant

Can anybody please tell me, with Elizabeth 1's signature, she always signes ELIZABETH, but why on Mary Queen of Scotts death warrant she signs it
ELYZABETH?

Thank you

3 comments:

PhD Historian said...

The original document actually signed by Elizabeth with her own hand no longer exists. The sole surviving copy, now owned by the Church of England and held at Lambeth Palace, the London seat and library of the Archbishop of Canterbury, is a copy made by a clerk.

The signature on the document is clearly not in Elizabeth's own hand. Instead, the signature affixed to the document is what historians call a holographic signature ... that is, it was signed by the clerk or secretary who actually copied out the body of the document, but using Elizabeth's name. That clerk or secretary used an alternate spelling of her name.

This was actually common practice. The volume of documents produced daily at court made it virtually impossible for the monarch to sign all of them. Both Henry VIII and Edward VI allowed their secretaries to use "dry stamps" that perfectly imitated their autograph, much like modern rubber stamps. Elizabeth occasionally did the same. But she also allowed secretaries to sign her name, and that proxy signature was then verified by application of the royal seal, usually either the signet or privy seal (as opposed to the Great Seal), so that recipients would know that the document represented the genuine wishes of the monarch. This is why there was an officer at court known as the Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal, who was responsible for guarding the seal and for seeing to it that it was not mis-used to create forged documents.

Also, spelling was not yet standardized in the 16th century, including the spelling of names. The clerk or secretary used an accepted alternate spelling of the name "Elizabeth." This, too, was fairly common practice.

kb said...

As usual phd historian has provided wonderful and specific information.

I just want to reiterate that spelling was extremely flexible. I have worked with letters where the author has used 2 different spellings of the same word within one document.

The emphasis seems to have been on phonetic spelling not consistent use of letters.

TudorRose said...

Mary Queen Of Scot's death warrant was sold to the church of england for 150,000 but then it was sold and given to lambeth palace library.A Copy of a lost original that is all that exists.At the time leading up to Mary's execution when she was imprisioned Elizabeth could not bring herself to sign the death warrant because Elizabeth always did take her time when it came to certain things especially when signing death warrants but one of her masters/officials persuaded and told her that she should sign the warrant in the end Elizabeth aggreed that this was the right thing to do.I am not to sure if it was Elizabeth herself or one of her men who actually signed the name Elizabeth at the bottom but the reason why Elizabeth was written with a y and not an I was because this is old english that is how Tudor people wrote in them times. For example you had Y instead of I and E at the end of other words like the word old it would have an E on the end or the name Catherine would have a Y instead of an I.This is Tudor language.
I think Elizabeht signed the original copy and one of her men signed the copy.