Sunday, August 23, 2009

Question from Chuck - Identification of signature

Hello and thanks in advance for a minute of your time! I have a very old vellum signature which, to me, seems to be penned "Pax la Royne, Regina". Does any one have any suggestions on which Queen this may be? I am happy to provide a scan.



kb said...

I'm pretty sure we'd need to see the scan as there is no name. Do you only have the signature? No other writing or clues?

PhD Historian said...

I agree with KB: We need to see the actual signature, plus any other writing it may be attached to. Lara can provide you with my direct email address. I'm quite good at paleography ... reading old handwriting (as I'm sure KB is as well).

Anonymous said...

just wanted to ask if you can please post any results here also? I'm very interested in this question! Thanks.

PhD Historian said...

Chuck has now forwarded to me a scan of the signature, which is a fragment cut from a larger document.

The handwriting appears to be post-Tudor (after 1600), and probably dates to sometime after 1700, in my opinion.

The phrase "Pax La Royne" is of course French, with a literal meaning of "Peace The Queen." The phrase is undoubtedly idiomatic, and might perhaps best be translated "Peace in the name of the Queen." That the phrase is in French should not be taken to indicate that the document is also necessarily French in origin. French was considered the language of culture and diplomacy in the 18th and 19th centuries, and was especially popular among women as a mark of refinement. The document might therefore originate from anywhere in Europe.

It would have been redundant to use the French word "Royne" and the Latin word "Regina" back-to-back. I therefore suspect that the second of the two is not "Regina." I believe it is instead the name "Ge[or]g[ia]na." The first letter of the name is not comparable to the "R" in "Royne," and the pen's direction of movement in forming the letter suggest instead an upper-case "G." And it was not uncommon for person's with longer names to abbreviate their signature by eliminating certain vowels, and by using commonly accepted symbols for combinations of vowels. I believe the mark between the "g" and the "n" may be just such a symbol.

The real problem lies in the script that follows. The full structure clearly indicates a name in addition to the rather unusual penmanship flourish. The writing is not decipherable, however. Without the remainder of the the document from which this fragment has been cut, we cannot establish context and thus have no clues to the person's identity.

I am also suspicious that all of the writing other than the portion that is so heavily flourished may have been produced by a secretary, and that only the flourished portion is the actual autograph signature of the individual. Certainly the handwriting changes dramatically between the word "Ge[or]gina" and the flourished portion.

IF the beginning of the signature is indeed "Georgina" or "Georgiana," as I suspect it is, the document is most probably English/British in origin. Georgina was a common English name for girls in the Hanoverian period (1715-1837), in tribute to the first three kings named George, but uncommon outside of Great Britain. It was also an uncommon name even within Britain prior to 1715, again suggesting that the document is 18th century in origin.

I will be curious to see what KB thinks....

kb said...

PhD Historian has kindly forwarded me this scan.

I agree almost entirely with his assessment. The writing is most likely post-Tudor, possibly mid-late 18th century, most likely that of an elite or noble person (the flourish). Although I doubt it is much later than late 1700's - again because of the final signature/flourish.

It was common across a couple of centuries for nobles to have secretaries write their letters including the noble's name and then to add some symbol, flourish and/or seal to signify their, the noble's, 'authorship'. This scan fits this model.

The second line definitely starts with a G and I am also reading it as Georgiana with abbreviations although I would like to look at it again tomorrow when I have had a bit less wine. Another clue to the word not being Regina is the shape of the letter after the second g. That is most definitely not an i.

Idiomatically, Pax la Royne could also mean something like - 'Peace to the Queen' as well as 'Peace in the name of the Queen'.

Wouldn't it be lovely if there were something more to this document to help with context?

kb said...

I'm also wondering if the ending flourish is an indication of a last name/title as opposed to the personal mark of 'Georgiana'.

It would be lovely to get a date for this signature. Unfortunately, I don't know enough about post-Tudor queens to be able to identify women who were especially close to their queen and therefore would have chosen this particular 'Pax la Royne' sign-off - which might help with dating this.

It's a wonderful fragment though and must have some special significance to Chuck and his family as well as to historians.