‘Le miroir de l’âme péchéresse’ (‘The Mirror of the Sinful Soul’)

Elizabeth I was taught to write in an elegant hand from an early age. This example of her calligraphy dates from when she was just eleven years old. It is her own translation of a French devotional poem by Margaret of Angoulême, sister of the French king and wife of the king of Navarre. The young princess dedicated it to her stepmother, Katherine Parr (who had a fine italic hand), as a new year’s gift for 1545, inviting her to ‘rubbe out, polishe and mende – the wordes’, and asking her not to let anyone else see it until it had been corrected, ‘lesse my faultes be knowne of many’. Tradition has it that Elizabeth was also responsible for the embroidered binding.

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In the hand of Princess (later Queen) Elizabeth (1533-1603), who also translated the text from the French

On parchment; sixty-six leaves, 188 x 140 mm

Contemporary English binding possibly by Princess Elizabeth: silver and gold stitches on a blue silk ground, the queen’s initials ‘KP’ (Katherine Parr) in the centre of each cover and heart’s-ease in each corner; later stiffened with millboard and flyleaves