|Creator:||Elizabeth I, Queen of England, 1533-1603.|
1591 May 10
|Type of Resource:|
This manuscript, a unique specimen of dramatic composition by Queen Elizabeth, represents the only surviving piece of stage property from the Elizabethan theater. It was passed from player to player during the great Theobalds Entertainment of 1591, and it is the only surviving original manuscript of any part of that Entertainment.
Elizabeth was entertained by her Lord High Treasurer, Lord Burghley, at his Hertfordshire house, Theobalds, between 10 and 20 May 1591. In a contemporary manuscript text of the entertainments at Theobalds (British Library, Egerton MS. 2623), there is preserved a fanciful speech by a "Hermit," delivered to the Queen on Burghley's behalf, in which, pleading for royal permission to retire from public life, he requests her to restore to him his "cell," namely, Theobalds. The present document was prepared as an answer to Burghley's request and grants the "Hermit," her "woorthely belooved Coounceloour," the right to retire to his "cave," his "own houus," with "full & pacifik possession of all & every part thearof," and to be henceforth free from public duties if he so wishes.
The text of the "charter" was printed in John Strype's Annals of the Reformation (1709), where it is described as having been "drawn up by the queen herself in a facetious style, to cheer the said treasurer." A highly characteristic example of Elizabethan wit, it has the form of a formal charter, certified and signed by Lord Chancellor Hatton, who is known to have taken part in a number of court entertainments. It bears the Great Seal and was no doubt read out and presented to Burghley, or to an actor representing him as a hermit. Instead of giving a simple answer to Burghley's request to retire from public life, Elizabeth evidently chose to enter into the spirit of the Hermit's request and frame her reply accordingly having this charter drawn up by one of her chancery scribes and passed by Hatton under the Great Seal, as part of a prearranged performance for the amusement of the court on the first day of her visit to Theobalds.
The entertainment at Theobalds are described by E.K. Chambers in The Elizabethan Stage (II:247-248), Sir Walter Greg in the Review of English Studies (I:452-454), John Payne Collier in his History of English Dramatic Poetry (I:276), Alexander Dyce in The Works of George Peele (III:161-169), and John Nichols in his account of The Progress and Public Processions of Queen Elizabeth (III:74).
ca. 26.5 cm.
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|Curatorial Area:||Elizabethan Club|
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